<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>JA Baker, in his book, The Peregrine, writes how “binoculars and a hawk-like vigilance reduce the disadvantage of myopic human vision”. Mumbai-based naturalists and photographers Prakash Dubey and Sunjoy Monga, agree. As we go about our daily jaunts through the city, seeing it as mere concrete safaris, we continue to be unaware of the oases of bird-dotted spaces in the city.For starters, “keep an eye out for every bird, instead of fixating on a particular species,” says Monga. While the commonly spotted house crows, blue rock pigeons, black kites, Indian mynas, and sparrows may not excite you, chances are, with a vigilant eye, you’d also run into rose-ringed parakeets, coppersmith barbets, white-throated fantails, red-vented bulbuls, tailorbirds and purple-rumped sunbirds, koels, Indian cormorants or cattle egrets.Then there are the visitors. Dubey remembers a chance encounter with “the lovely Golden Oriole, a bright yellow bird with splashes of black and beautiful eyes,” on a peepul tree in his housing compound at Nepean Sea Road.Many other winter migrants or passage migrants park themselves in the city for a few days between late-September and March, as they escape the cold northern winters. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking at some exotic-looking species like the Eurasian roller, amur falcon, Eurasian wryneck, blue-tailed bee-eaters or even the paradise fly-catcher. How to recognise these beauties, you ask?Dubey suggests some background reading before you set out for your maiden bird excursion. Pocket-sized books by Salim Ali or Bikram Grewal are a safe bet, or you could turn to Sunjoy (Mongia)’s Birds of Mumbai.”Dubey says that birds, like human beings, have distinct personalities that can be understood only on close observation. Take the case of introverted birds like sparrows, thrushes, bulbuls and robins, who are often ousted from their territory by bigger bullies like mynas, crows or pigeons.Your chances of bird spotting depend on many things, says Dubey, especially the time of sighting. “Chances are, you’d get a better look at that beautiful plumage or the shiny beak at early morning before the sun is out, or towards late noon, when the birds are out hunting for sustenance and flitting in and out of their home,” he says.Monga recommends frequenting Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Karnala, Tungareshwar, stretches along the Uran-Palm Beach Road and the Bhandup Pumping station environs (along Thane Creek) for birding. Other sites include Elephanta, Lokhandwala Lake, Manori-Gorai belt, open lands along Thane creek and specific pockets in Aarey. Dubey says there are enough sites in Central and South Mumbai too, “Dongardwadi for peacocks and Sewry for flamingoes; Mahim Nature Park, stretches around the Byculla Zoo, Colaba Woods (Cuffe Parade), Sagar Upvan Hanging Garden, Five Gardens and parts of Navy Nagar are also ideal for bird spotting.” Monga says, “In these areas, you can have a fairly rewarding session on a quiet morning, especially if you can pick up a few bird calls over the Mumbai din.”To bring in more birds to the city, it will be nice to have authorities and housing societies replace exotic flowering plants with Indian trees like mango, peepul, kadam and ashoka tree, or the Indian fig tree, says Dubey. Using native bushes like lantana or local berry bushes instead of the usual bougainvillea hedges to mark boundaries can work wonders in attracting babblers, thrushes, bulbuls and robins, providing the smaller birds with a steady diet of insects. “What gives a city like Delhi an edge is its cover of permanently green tress, mostly the large, indigenous kind that provides shade to human beings and birds alike,” he says.
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