I’ve been birding now for about four or five years. However, last year, owing to my being in the tenth grade, my birding trips significantly reduced in number and duration. I thus made a resolution to make up for this lack of birding the next year.
That summer (the one after tenth grade), I volunteered at Valparai with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), an amazing and inspiring experience, which in itself should equate to two or three write ups alone. Here was where I discovered a marvellous app for the mobile phone, e-Bird. This initially started off as a website, a wonderful initiative by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, but soon grew to be a mobile app, which proved to be extremely useful for on-the-spot birding, and I found this to be a much-needed development. I did, in fact, have an account on the website, but this was when there was no app. Although I had tried to use my account effectively, the process of data entry after birding proved to be rather cumbersome. This problem, as well as many others, were solved by the introduction of the app.
Unfortunately, although eleventh grade is indeed less hectic than the tenth, it does not offer much respite, so my elaborate plans of birding trips fell flat. I did not want to be bogged down by this, so I planned to go on ‘mini birding trips’, so to speak. I decided to put my time to good use by uploading bird lists onto e-Bird every time I went birding, just around my apartment.
It was later that I found out that what I was doing is called ‘Spot Birding’. It is, essentially, what its name suggests – birding over a period of time in a single patch or spot.The vicinity of my apartment is certainly not lacking in trees, and this made it a perfect spot for spot birding.
I have seen various species (and heard still more), but some regular encounters include the Pale-billed Flower-pecker, the ever-chirruping Purple-rumped Sunbirds, the gurgling White-cheeked Barbet, and the raucous parakeets. It goes without saying that crows and pigeons are spotted regularly. Those familiar with e-Bird may sympathise with me when I say that I am, unfortunately, forced to choose the ‘X’ option for the number of individuals counted when I record pigeons, for the sole reason that there are far, far more than I can count.
I have learnt, in a few weeks, more about the area around my apartment than I could have hoped to learn in the fifteen years I have stayed here. For instance, I soon realised that the Singapore Cherry tree nearby attracts flower-peckers, barbets, and, as I also observed at night, Short-nosed Fruit Bats. As for that park nearby? I discovered that Shikras could be found there. The canal (although an immensely polluted one) has proven to be the hunting of ground of kingfishers and Brahminy Kites. I found out that Scaly-breasted Munias do indeed exist in this area of Bangalore. One of the many very interesting things I caught sight of was the entire nest-building process of a White-cheeked Barbet pair. I observed them drilling a hole into the trunk of an African Tulip tree over a period of three months or so.
This, I believe, is what truly defines spot birding. Spot birding is not necessarily birding regularly in a lush green forest reserve. Spot birding can even be you walking out of your apartment in a crowded, jostling city, and saying “Hey! I’ve seen that one before!”