Society

Checklists of birds drawn up just for their gated communities

The cover page of the eBook; the opening page of the PPT resource; and an exhausted Asian Koel that was rescued. Photos: Special Arrangement  

Around a month ago, A.M. Aravind shifted to a gated community in Velachery, turning his back on an independent house in Madipakkam. As a resident of a community that is likely just 10 minutes' flaps away from the Pallikaranai Marsh, Aravind can choose to replicate an initiative he launched successfully when he had put down temporary roots in Bengaluru.

While there, he designed an eBook for birding novices, and gave it away free to residents at his community, Janapriya Lake View (JPLV). Illustrated with avian photos, this eBook — Birds of JPLV: A Beginner’s Guide to Identifying Neighbourhood Birds — is essentially a 132-page birding checklist specific to the community. It however has the trappings of a full-on publishing exercise, including a foreword by an easily recognised name in the metro's birding circles.

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“Besides making the eBook, I also made a presentation about the bird life around them, for the residents’ benefit,” says Aravind, adding that the exercise even brings a macro focus to specific areas within the community, magnifying them for the frequency with which certain species flock there.

“I have listed more than 150 bird species, out of which, over 100 can be seen from the terrace which marks the apartment's fifth floor,” explains Aravind.

Careful not to pigeonhole birding into what is largely a concrete space, he has provided enough information that should encourage a good number of residents to explore birding spaces outside the community.

“With the Madiwala lake situated right next to it, the community is set in an area rich in bird life. Within a radius of four kilometres around it, there are other lakes, and there are parks too, and the eBook covers the birds found in these spaces,” he explains.

One-and-a-half years later, he returned to the exercise, e-publishing the book’s second edition by listing additional species.

First level birding

At the beginning of the lockdown, Sundaravel Palanivelu created a PPT for his gated community, Sai Surya, throwing light on 25 bird species that make use of the trees on the premises. The community situated in Kamakotti Nagar, which nestles close to the Pallikaranai Marsh, Sundaravel had to resist the temptation of creating an exhaustive list. A surfeit of information including birds that could be sighted only along patches close to the Marsh would have made the exercise too cloying to be savoured. It could also set residents up for disappointment, as birding is about waiting. As every birder knows, being in the right place at the right time is still no guarantee that birds would not stand them up.

Checklists of birds drawn up just for their gated communities

There is reason to believe that Sundaravel’s initiative led his neighbours to bird at their own pace, and tick off a checklist without stirring from their homes.

Bird rescues

A birding checklist can be etched in people’s hearts, without ever using a digital publishing tool. Just birding for everyone to see would do — Charlie’s experience bears this out.

Checklists of birds drawn up just for their gated communities

Charlie moved out of his community — DLF Garden City in Semmancheri — a week ago, and he recalls how during his stay, he had been contacted multiple times by residents to help them rescue a bird in distress.

Around four days ago, Charlie received a call from a young resident, Pranay Umesh, who was looking for information on nursing an Asian Koel back to good health.

Checklists of birds drawn up just for their gated communities

“The boy, who must be 14-years-old, had noticed the bird lying on the ground, unable to move. He and another youngster, Dhaanya Keshav Kumar, had discovered the bird and rescued it. Pranay took it home, and placed it in an open-topped cardboard box and kept it in a cosy space in the balcony. The next day, the Koel walked out of the cardboard box, looked and around, and flew away. It was most likely a case of exhaustion,” says Charlie.

Charlie believes among a vast section of the community, particularly the youngsters, there is a culture of empathy towards birds. He attributes it in part to modelling behaviour. During morning walks, Charlie and his wife Jayashree and sometimes, along with two other birders at the community, would actively look for the birds around them. Not only that, they would informally introduce other residents to the chirrups around them. In time, there was quiet understanding among many residents that Charlie and friends could be reached, when a suffering bird crossed their path.

“Before the lockdown, when a barn owl had to be rescued, I was called. I drove to the Forest Office in Guindy and left the bird with them,” he says.

When Pranay called the other day to find out what he should do to have the distraught Koel up and flying, Charlie was glad he had not reserved birding for nature hotspots, but practised it every day at home, in the midst of his neighbours.

Printable version | May 6, 2021 1:34:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/checklists-of-birds-drawn-up-just-for-their-gated-communities/article33316924.ece

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