The sunrise at the Ameenpur lake is a spectacle to behold, thanks to the winged visitors this season. Here’s how to do it, along with helpful tips from the bird watching experts themselves
The nippy mornings of this festive season can become even more enjoyable when you take bird watching as your weekend activity near water bodies or forests. Also known as birding during winter times, it becomes a double treat as a lot of migratory birds flock to Indian sub-continent and Hyderabad is no different.
Since there are many water bodies in Hyderabad many birds flock to Himayat Sagar, Osman Sagar, Ameenpur Lake, Gandipet Lake, Nehru Zoological Park and ponds in universities like Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANNU) and Hyderabad Central University (HCU). Starting from Flamingos, Rosy Pastors and Pinktails myriads of birds fly to these water-bodies, forests and dense parks. These birds come from the coldest regions like Canada, Russia, Iceland and other countries.
Salim Ali, better known as the ’Bird man of India’, did a survey of birds in 1935 by a grant given by the Nizam. Now, there are around 600 birdwatchers in the city. The main birdwatching organisation is The Birdwatchers Society of Andhra Pradesh (BSAP) was formed in 1980.There are 375 members in BSAP alone. Birding Pals is another new birding club that has come up recently in the city. Some members of Great Hyderabad Adventure Club (GHAC) also go for birding as part of their other activities.
For the last 10 years Flamingos have been regularly coming to Hyderabad. Because of this Gandipet has become the hot-spot for the birdwatchers. Some algae that these birds survive on is now found in the lakes. “And scientists are doing research on this,” says birdwatcher Azam Khan.
The flamingo is clearly the star of the year. Informs Shafaat Ullah, the honorary secretary of BSAP, “These birds as usual were sighted at the water-bodies of the city. We went to Himayat Sagar and saw Flamingos. Less rains and shallow water-bodies bring these birds to the city during winter time.”
Equipment and online resources
The basic items that you require are binoculars, a guide, pen and paper to note down the colours and features of the birds you sighted. And those photogs can always carry their Nikons or other high range cameras with high focal length. So, do they need any other equipment other than this? “No. These are enough. Not very high-end equipment are required. Too much of camera clutter disturbs the birds,” informs Abhishek Saroti who has been doing bird watching for the past six years. On the other hand there are a lot of apps like BirdGenie, Audubon Birds, iBird Pro, National Geographic Birds, Peterson Birds, Sibley eGuide to Birds and Merlin are some of the latest smartphone apps to identify bird calls and help in digital field guides as well.
So what else helps birdwatchers? Books, of course. Birdwatcher and blogger Humayun Taher, who has been into bird watching for the past 30 years suggests, “I recommend The Book of Indian Bird and Field Guide to the Birds of the Indian sub-continent. These books provide an insight into their behavioral study.” Other books that can be bought for birdwatching are: Kingbird Highway written by Sandy Komito which is a compilation of 745 bird species found in the world; another popular book is ‘Birds of Heaven: Travels With Cranes’ written by popular nature writer, Peter Matthiessen. Those focusing just on migratory birds can buy ‘Living on the Wind’ written by Scott Weidensaul, which was shortlisted for Pulitzer Prize.
How can any sport or hobby these days be complete without online resources? There are plenty of portals that provide you each and every detail necessary for bird watching. For example there is allaboutbirds.org, birdwatching.com, birdlifecyprus.com etc. Says Azam Khan another bird watcher and member of BSAP, “With regular visits and a keen interest one can start differentiating slowly between two species. ebird.org that can show you the exact pictures of birds that you want to see. For example, if you type show me bird the size of a sparrow or bird with water-blue feathers. The website gives you exactly those pictures only.”
The migratory birds that travel to warm regions in groups have features as unique as red beaks, pink feathers, blue collars or even orange coloured rings round their necks. Humayun Taher, a bird-watcher and also a member of BSAP informs, “Greater Flamingos are beautiful migratory birds. They feed in shallow waters like Gandipet Lake. They have pinkish beaks which is thick like a boomerang. They have long pink legs and usually fly in large groups.” Other birds that he lists out is: Pregrine Falcon has hawk like features. To this list Abhishek adds, “Birds like Northern Shoveler have a very long beak. Another unique bird is Bar-headed Goose with two-stripes on its head. Other birds to watch out for are: Brahminy Starling, Comb Duck, Small Pratincole and Indian Grey Hornbill.
Venugopal, a birdwatcher and an engineer by profession, says, “SLRs are perfect for clicking the pictures of the birds. Entry level and mid level cameras are best. One can go for Nikon or Canon. 300 mm zoom is fine.”
His favourite birds that are worth a click are: Indian Roller Skater, Spotted Owlet, Asian Koel (female), Common Hoopoe and Flamingoes.
— Saima Afreen
Birding and other activities
Bird mapping is done by 30 teams. The participants move within 50 kms radius of forests, lakes and parks where they are taken for bird-mapping. They are given a log book. Whenever they see a bird, they tick mark it in the book. Each team gets a bird name. The winner is decided based on who saw maximum number of species of birds.