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Be the author of change for the Sparrows!

If a man happened to come from the distant past into our present era, he would certainly be taken aback by the concrete jungle that has substituted the serene wilderness of the pre-globalization era. The cities and towns shriek the entire day through the noisy vehicles of the roads. So much so, that we have almost forgotten to listen to and enjoy the melodic chirpings of the birds around us. One such bird that has been nearly wiped off from the urban areas is the famous House Sparrow.

House sparrow has always been a very vital part of our civilization. Talking about religion and mythology, Aphrodite is said to have often perched on this bird. In contemporary era, Chairman Mao included them as part of his Four Pests Campaign in 1958, which helped lay the groundwork for China’s Great Famine. House sparrows have long been considered the barometer of human environments. But it is pitiable to find that their population in the last two decades has dipped sharply and unabatedly. The rise in vehicular pollution due to noise or toxic gases, along with soil pollution has said to have contributed the sparrow population to decline by 70% from 1977 to 2008 in UK.

So, who is the one that has to redress all the harm done to our avian companions? Well, it is none other than “us”. Yes, this is time to reflect on the possible measures to help the sparrows. Wondering where to take the first step? Nature Forever Society has come up with its unique initiative called World Sparrow Day, where all are asked to join the bandwagon to celebrate the beauty of the biodiversity along with conveyance of a strong message that of protection and conservation of House Sparrows.

World Sparrow Day has a much broader vision to provide a podium where people who are working on the conservation of the House Sparrow and other common birds can network, collaborate and exchange ideas for conservation, which will lead to improved results. It aims to bring about a confluence of people from different parts of the world and help them form a force that can play a significant role in advocating the need of conserving common biodiversity or species of lower conservation status.

This year, World Sparrow day will be celebrated over a week’s time in Mumbai via a myriad type of events; ranging from a presentation with students at Rachna Sansad College of Applied Art & Craft on 14th March to a conference at Godrej industries in Mumbai. The event will also have interactive activities for people of all ages at Oberoi Mall in Mumbai on the 15th and 16th of March. Besides, Sparrow walks in the Fort area, WSD would also hold organize a workshop on Environmental journalism, emerging media and policy at Press Club, Mumbai. The event will conclude on 20th march with Sparrow awards ceremony at Maharashtra Nature Park, Mahim.

You can celebrate WSD at your homes, offices and schools too. Check out, this page for some interesting ideas.

If you love Sparrows, lend a helping hand to WSD team. If you also like to engage with people, spread awareness or are good at public speaking and events management, then this is just the right opportunity for you. And you also get a chance to win experience certificates.

Time is running out! Be a part of the one of its kind event.

Earlier post on volunteering details: http://www.natureforever.org/blog/2014/02/20/world-sparrow-day-team-invites-volunteers-year/

To volunteer, shoot an email to arpita@natureforever.org with your area of interest, event, skills and contact number.

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The need to save birds

For the past few years the population of House Sparrows has been declining rapidly. While being able to survive in wild easily enough, House Sparrows have well-casted their life style in accordance with human towns and cities and lived among us as our friendly next-door neighbours or forced visitor-cum-residents in our own house as far back as we can remember. Not only is it easier for them to find good food sources around humans but it is also much secure to built nests away from wild predators in human houses where humans either do not bother with them or befriend with them. And, yet even after having sparrows around us they don’t seem to be as happy as they used be in their halcyon days.

There was a time when watching huge flock of sparrows performing sky acrobatics in evenings was a favorite pass-time of folks in villages, towns and cities. But, now all we get to see is a few sparrows tweeting meekly behind bushes and branches. In fact, it’s not only House Sparrows that we should be concerned about; our common Indian birds don’t seem to be as common anymore as they used to be. Why is it so? Their decline can’t be attributed to a single factor. While, the natural habitats of birds are destroyed at large scale every year to construct roads, apartments and the like, it’s also said that the increasing use of mobile networks hugely affect birds. The excessive use of pesticides in crop fields affects birds too, because crops act as an important food source to many species. Thus, it’s important to not only identify the causes that challenge the survival of different species of birds, but also to come up with solutions that people can apply at both individual as well community level.

For example, setting up bird feeder in gardens, parks, balconies and such places can attract different species of birds. Bird feeders may become their prime food source and play an important role to their survival. Similarly, bird baths can be set-up in localities for birds to have access to water easily in scorching summer. People can also put ‘ghada’ and such for medium-sized birds such as Common Pigeons, Spotted Doves or they can build or buy wooden nest-boxes that come in variety of sizes for House Sparrows, Rose-ringed parakeets, Common Pigeons etc. In public places such as clear-grounds, people can litter rice grains or bread crumbs for birds. There are many, many other ways to help birds that we can come up with, if only we are keen enough to save them and watch them soar sky in huge flocks again.

–Fatima Humaira

Fatima can be reached at her blog http://pakshiblog.wordpress.com/

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The Healer called Sparrow

When I was young my mum had hung a mirror beside a window. A pair of House Sparrow used to come daily to inquire the obscurity of that mirror by pecking it, sometimes furiously, and at times lazily. It was a strange object to them that they could play with, without getting bored. And, it was not just the mirror that intrigued them so much, there was a treat to allure them too. We had come to love those birds so dearly that we used to sprinkle rice grains around the window sill every day. They used to come every morning, and if windows were latched they demanded us to open it by pecking it as if knocking a door to be opened with familiar authority, a thing we do so often when we return home. After some time, I don’t remember after how long, when a violent storm hit our hometown, that mirror fell and cracked. The birds still came often to pay us a visit, playing around ceiling fan or just flying around the room chirping in and out till evening (freaking my eldest sister with their sudden entrance and departure, much to our amusement) as if trying to tell us that they loved to be around us regardless of that worthless mirror.

Their memories are still fresh in my mind. Whenever I close my eyes to recall those birds I feel warm and love flowing through me. They remind me of home, of comfort. If you find a house echoing with chirps of House Sparrows and find their nest in one of its nooks or crannies, that place can suitably be called a home filled with love, warmth, comfort, peace and security because even after being not-so-afraid of humans sparrows do not trust us easily enough to build nest in our house. They are gregarious birds alright and a family of house sparrows can create a great commotion to your great annoyance, but you will bear with them and love them all the same; because they also know how to be mellow and sweet and simply keep you company when you want silence and peace. But, they can’t help tweeting or chirruping once or twice because it is as if they can’t refrain from asking you of your well-being. Once you are aware of their presence around you, whether it’s a nest in one of the mango trees near your veranda or their nestling twittering on top of one of your cupboards, you start getting amused with their activities. Soon your curiosity gets better of you, and you try to know more about them; you try to befriend them by littering broken rice or chapatti crumbs to attract them and see them peck ‘n play that you can easily watch for hours and hours. Personally, as I have spent so much of free, lousy childhood time watching these birds, I have come to believe that House Sparrows are healer. They pass on their vibrant, warm energy to you with their mere presence that can heal your heart of unknown ailments. All you have got to do is to realise their presence and that is all it takes to be loved, to be filled with warmth and to be healed.

–Fatima Humaira

Fatima blogs at http://pakshiblog.wordpress.com/

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Lessons in parenting from Sparrows

It was my father who bought a birdhouse from the NFS Exhibition Stall at the InOrbit Mall in Mumbai and we fixed it the very next day outside my bedroom window on the seventh floor.

To my surprise it hardly took a few hours for the sparrows to come checking out a brand new accommodation in a space starved city like Mumbai. It just goes to show that it is not only humans, but even birds need a roof over their heads in this city.

We were glad that our new ‘investment’ gave shelter to sparrow couples helping them in raising their little ones in a safe environment.

It was around the same time that we were expecting a baby and my husband and I would often watch how relentlessly the sparrow parents worked hard to first set up their new home and make it as  comfortable as possible before their young ones arrived – just like any ‘human’ parent would want for their newborn.

We were humbled, one worm at a time the parent sparrows took turns to feed their hungry babies. These parent sparrows made stories of ‘sleepless nights and nappy changing’ feel so petty and small to would be parents like us.

It didn’t matter to the sparrows whether they had a boy or a girl as they gave equal attention to both. As parents they were a perfect team working unanimously towards raising their children into fine young sparrows. The parents never cribbed or complained, took turns in feeding their children and protected their little ones against crows, pigeons and common mynahs who tried to bully them.

It just goes to show that no matter how big or small you are, being a parent makes you so brave and strong that you can take on any challenges in life to protect your family.

Finally when our little one arrived and we brought her home, we ‘introduced’ our newborn to the sparrow parents. We brought her to my windowsill while the couple sat perched watching the baby with great intent as if blessing our little one that she too grows up to be a fine offspring.

Tanya Munshi

The images are a copyright of the author.

Sparrow sitting on the croutons plant in the rain

Sparrows in my Kharghar home

Today the sparrow’s population has come down drastically and in Mumbai, city side they have become a rare sight. There are groups in Facebook for saving the sparrows and everyone is posting their comments but I doubt if there’s any outcome. I used to live in Anushakti Nagar before and there we hardly got to see the sparrows. Crows and Mynas were abundant and so were monkeys. Crows and monkeys destroy the sparrow’s nest and eat the eggs. Hence the sparrows are rare in areas where these are more. When we shifted to Kharghar a few months back we were thrilled to see many sparrows.

Sparrow in our garden

Sparrow in our gard

A sparrow and it’s family have their nest in the first floor of our building.

Sparrow in our building

Sparrow in our building

Every morning we wake up to the chirping of sparrows and the purple-rumped sunbird. Occasionally, the red-whiskered bulbul visits our house.

A red whiskered or red cheeked bulbul on our window

A red whiskered or red cheeked bulbul on our window

Nowadays during the monsoon it has become a regular visitor. It sits outside our window and knocks on it with its beak, keeps dashing against it and playing.  Since we have brown tinted glass on our window (we can see from inside but outsiders can’t see inside during daytime) the bulbul sees its reflection in the glass and pecks at it. It’s very cute to watch!

A pair of Bulbuls in our garden

A pair of Bulbuls in our garden

A pair of bulbuls outside our window

A pair of bulbuls outside our window

The sunbird always sits on the cloths line outside our window and preens and it’s fun to watch it. Initially I didn’t know which bird it was. When I posted the photos in Facebook group Andalucia Bird Society it was identified as purple crested Sunbird by Mr. Peter Jones and Mr. Berge. Mr. Kanwar Singh of Indian Birds group mentioned that it was purple rumped Sunbird.

Sunbird drinking nectar in the garden

Sunbird drinking nectar in the garden

The purple crested or purple rumped Sunbird has a light yellow belly( lower body) and It’s upper body is dark brown. It has a hint of blue at the crown. It has a thin, long, curved beak. It makes sound from the throat without opening it’s beak.

Sunbird on our clothesline

Sunbird on our clothesline

We keep water in a gas trolley and a small mug for the birds in our garden. Ours is a ground floor flat. Sparrows, sun-birds, pigeons, etc.drink water and bathe in the gas trolley since it’s shallow like a bath tub.

Husband-wife pair relaxing in water bath

Husband-wife pair relaxing in water bath

Watching these birds cheers the mind and makes you forget your worries. They sit on the tulsi plant in groups.  

Sparrow eating tulsi seeds from the tulsi plant

Sparrow eating tulsi seeds from the tulsi plant

sparrows in our garden

sparrows in our garden

Navi Mumbai and especially Kharghar is truly a bird watcher’s paradise!

In monsoons these sparrows sit on the window grill under the comfort of the sunshade and protect themselves from the rain. They warm themselves by puffing themselves up. They look like furry little balls.

Sparrows near the 'Tulasi Maadam' on a rainy day

Sparrows near the ‘Tulasi Maadam’ on a rainy day

Sparrow sitting on the croutons plant in the rain

Sparrow sitting on the croutons plant in the rain

All citizens should keep water for the birds in summer. Wooden shelters should be placed in nook or corner of the house and building so that sparrows can build their nest. One can also take a cardboard box, fill it with cotton and twigs and place it on the attic or drying area or verandah – any place which is accessible to sparrows. Spary neem based preparations and avoid chemical pesticides. These harm the sparrow’s reproductive system when it eats the seeds. I request everyone to do their bit to save the house sparrows.

Post has been published from the author’s blog with due permission from the author: VijayaLaxmi Narayanan. All images are a copyright of the author. 

Sparrow sitting on the croutons plant in the rain

How the Sparrow got it’s black patches

When I was in school we used to have a textbook on fables and folk lore in English as a part of our syllabus (CBSE Board). Has anyone wondered why the male sparrow has black patch on the chest, throat and eyes? As I click the photos of the sparrow which I have uploaded in my album on Facebook, I recollect this story.

According to a fable, when God created the sparrows both male and the female looked the same. They married and lived happily together. After sometime the female sparrow got pregnant and she laid the eggs after few months. The male sparrow would search for food and bring it to her. When the eggs hatched both the husband and wife were delighted to see their little babies. The wife said , “Dear, our children are so beautiful. I have a small wish. I want to apply kajal in my eyes so that when the babies open their eyes they should see how beautiful their mother is.” The male sparrow wanted to fulfill his lovely wife’s wish and searched all places for the kajal. But it was not available with anyone.

In the evening when he was returning disheartened the koel asked him what was the matter. He explained his predicament to the Koel. The koel took some of the black from his body and applied it on the sparrow’s throat, neck and eyes. The sparrow thanked him and flew off to his nest. His wife quickly took some of the black and applied it in her eyes. The babies opened their eyes and the sparrows rejoiced.

Later the sparrow went to wash off the black colour from his body but it didn’t go. It became permanent. That’s the reason the male sparrow has black patches while the female sparrow looks like it has applied kajal.

Post has been published from the author’s blog with due permission from the author: VijayaLaxmi Narayanan. All images are a copyright of the author.