School students in Police Boys Club can identify upto 120 species of birds

A group of boys assembles in Thoraipakkam on Rajiv Gandhi Salai at the crack of dawn on Sunday, armed with binoculars, books on birds and a notebook. “What are you going to do?” asks an elderly gentleman. “We are here to watch birds, sir,” replies Krishnakumar, a senior ‘bird watcher' among the young boys.

The boys are from the Police Boys Clubs in R.K. Nagar and Sembium. Except for M. Rajkumar, a student at Presidency College, the others are all still in school, in classes between V and XII. Once they all arrive, they quicklysplit into four teams, travelling in as many different directions.

The boys take turns in acting as the ‘spotter', which involves identifying the different species of birds and noting down their names and approximate numbers. In a matter of minutes, they are able to identify a dozen species. The list grows longer in a couple of hours.

“The most common birds are egrets, night and pond herons. But there also many other species such as openbill storks, pelicans, cormorants and stilts,” says S. Hemanth, who will be writing his supplementary class XII examinations in October this year. “I want to be a wildlife biologist,” he adds. For Hemanth, it was his stint at the Police Boys Club that led to his interest in bird watching and re-ignited his desire to complete class XII. The boys can identify as many as 120 species of birds, in wetlands such as Pallikaranai, Pazhaverkadu, Perumbakkam, Malani Jheel and many other lakes and tanks in Tambaram and Ambattur Taluks. They know the names of birds in both English and Tamil.

“The bird population is very rich in Chennai. Sadly, even people living around the wetlands are not aware of these winged wonders. I plan to dedicate my life to creating awareness on the need to protect birds,” Rajkumar says.

The boys are guided by K.V.R.K. Thirunaran, of The Nature Trust.

“These boys belong to less privileged sections and are all studying in government schools,” he says. “This activity is not just about sighting birds and identifying them. It also deals with learning about their habitats and the nature and characteristics of their respective wetlands,” he says, adding that he was hopeful their interest in birds would continue well into the future.

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