Misty mornings and tree-lined roads — that was the Bangalore I knew as a schoolboy.
Those were very much the pre-Internet days when people visited libraries. And it was my habit of picking up books from the racks that led my interest in birdwatching. The British Library (then the British Council Library) had a children's section that had many books on wildlife and birds that kindled my interest. The interest turned into a hobby and the hobby turned into a vocation. When I started out, I got in touch with the only birdwatching group, then the ‘Birdwatchers' Field Club of Bangalore', and I was perhaps the youngest in the lot by at least a decade.
Lalbagh was a favourite haunt for birdwatching. It was easily accessible and a fair number of species visited it. Misty mornings are particularly significant for a birdwatcher. It signals winter — the time birds migrate from the northern latitudes — and determines visibility. For instance, a birder knew better than to visit the Lalbagh lake early in the morning because the visibility would be so poor.
One, of course, took these things for granted then. Little did I know that Bangalore (and even Lalbagh) would become the ugly ogre that it is now. And misty mornings are something you yearn for now.
I remember an incident that occurred when I was in high school. There I was, standing on the Lalbagh lake embankment, staring into a tree canopy when I saw a man and a woman walk up to me and ask whether I was “a botanist, a zoologist, or what?” I happily told them that I was neither, and that I was a birdwatcher. Today, birdwatching is no longer an odd, incomprehensible pursuit.
When I stroll around Lalbagh with my binoculars, I often hear people point and say I am a birdwatcher. Over these three and a half decades that I have been interested in birds, I have noticed a growing awareness and knowledge about birds.
No longer is birdwatching seen as a cliché. It is recognised as a stepping stone to more serious pursuits for instance, the study of ecology.
Every year, more and more youngsters are getting into research in the fields of ecology and the environment.
The Internet has literally brought the world closer, and made us all great travellers in the virtual world, just as the birds have been in the real world always.
And birdwatching continues to provide the adventure it did in the past. But yes, it involves much more travel now, with the need to find pristine spots outside the city.
M.B. Krishna is an ecologist and ornithologist from Bangalore.