Know the birds in your backyard

On an unusually cold mid-February morning in Chennai, I arrived at IIT Madras’s main gate to count birds. My ride was short as I was travelling from inside the campus. A group of birders had assembled at the venue at 6 a.m.

As we started walking into the woods, we were training our ears to birdcalls. “Did you hear that call?” Susy Varughese, a professor at IIT-M and an avid birdwatcher, asked the group. Before I could check my phone to see if it was ringing, she replied, “that’s the Indian Pitta whistling!”

She is part of Prakriti, the Wildlife club of IIT Madras, that was launched to recognise and to protect biodiversity on the campus. IIT Madras was carved out of a natural forest that formed part of the Guindy National Park. This birdwatching session is part of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), now in its 23rd year. It is organised every year in mid-February to nudge citizens to head outdoor and know about the birds in their community.

Looking in another direction, Varughese added, that one is an Asian Koel “calling out.” Then, it was a Magpie Robin’s turn to lend its voice to the growing symphony of birds chirping and tweeting on the campus.

“Please note the call and the time,” Varughese told a volunteer, as we were walking along the trail spotting a White Breasted Water Hen.

The undergrowth in the woods sustain small migratory birds that come to Chennai during October, and fly away as far as the Himalayas in March. The Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher is one of those small birds, about 13-15 cm in size, including its tail, that flies over a thousand kilometres every year from the Himalayas in the North to the coastal towns in the south.

Varughese called our attention to the call of Coppersmith Barbet. Its call was similar to a coppersmith striking a metal with hammer. Unfortunately, we couldn’t spot the bird. But the volunteer showed our group the bird’s picture from the Book of Indian Birds. It’s a book Varughese strongly recommends for birding enthusiasts and amateurs. It helps one to know about the birds in the country and their ecosystem.

As we walked along, Varughese explained how the Mynas, Woodpeckers and Parakeets make their nests on top of dead palm trees. She said that after palm trees come to the end of their life span, small birds make use of them by building their nests on top of the stumps.

Talking about nests, the campus is home to the Tailor Bird, a song bird that weaves leaves together to make nests for its young ones. These tiny birds can sit easily in the palm of your hands.

Our trail led us to a pristine lake in the campus, where we spotted Pelicans, Indian Cormorants, Spot-billed ducks and many more that I’m still trying to remember.

These are the birds in my backyard, now what’s in yours?

Head out, spot them and list them in the eBird application. Its an open-to-all app that helps in conservationists keep track of the bird ecosystem globally.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 7:25:01 AM |

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