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My Travel with Birds of a feather

It was Day 2 of our ride through East-West Godavari. We were in fact headed for a dear friend’s wedding in the West. That as reason enough to head out on our loyal motorcycles from our hometown Visakhapatnam.

We had a simple itinerary and had plans to visit Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, as it was en-route. We were expecting a very minimal turnout of birds here, as we were disappointed with our visit to Kolleru just few weeks before. The number of birds, and also the variety of species has greatly dwindled there, probably due to the illegal fish ponds and encroachments. However, at Coringa, we were in for one surprise after another, and we spotted nearly 10 new species of birds, we had never recorded earlier. It was by all means an extremely satisfying visit. Coringa is a must visit for bird lovers. The only disadvantage is that the sanctuary opens only after 9:00 AM, so the best time to visit it is after 3:00 PM.

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Anyways, after that extremely satisfying trip, we set out next day from Yanam towards Amalapuram, Narsapur towards our friend’s village near Pallakollu. By the time we were near the our friend’s village, it was nearly 5 pm. And just when we zipped past a tiny rice mill go-down, Vivek, pillion riding, jumped up and screamed as if I had just hit someone. I hastily stopped and was about to shout back at him, when he screamed “50 parrots sitting in one place”. We turned back and headed back to the spot, when we got to see this amazing picture of not 50 but nearly 100 or more parrots, perched up on rice bags, and feeding. It was a sight to behold. From afar, it appeared as if the rice bags were covered with leaves. The nearer we got, the louder the cackling got. They were having a field time. There were mill workers nearby, but none of them shoo’ed away the birds. That was even more heart warming to watch. It also shows that there are compassionate people and maybe people who still revere parrots (Hindu mythology states parrots as auspicious and holy).

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I could barely sustain myself. I was jumping around and ran off with the camera to get as close as I could to the birds. I had a tough time, because there were too many birds doing too many things. Alexandarine Parakeets, Rose ringed parakeets, pigeons, were present in plenty. Each one different from the other, in plumage and appearance. Some of them, busy pecking at the bags, while some were cozying up on the nearby coconut trees. Some of them hanging upside down on the coconut leaves, while some having an evening chat perched on the nearby power cables. Someone or something disturbed them and then all of the parrots took flight. It was a sight to behold.

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In the background were lush green paddy fields and the foreground now was hundreds of parrots in flight. The sun was behind us and the colors we saw are indescribable in words. After about 45 minutes, we were reminded of time, by the constant calls from one of our co-travelers, who was left stranded a little ahead. We had to bid adieu to the lovely sight, one which we never grew tired of, for it is rarely we find such scenes of hundreds of birds in a flock. In the days of the restless and fast, it reminded me that it’s great to take a break now and then, sit back and enjoy nature at its work. Such sights are going to be a rarity if we do not take actions towards protecting them, and consequently us, humans.

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Let the birds of freedom, fly free, in the winds, non-contaminated with the selfishness of humans.

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one who cries

He who cries the loudest, gets all the attention!

The little time and experience  which I have in the field of conservation and the little that I have seen, witnessed or experienced is that we have an army of people today who like to call themselves birdwatchers, nature photographers and researchers. This army of people travel across the country and the world watching and photographing nature and wildlife. However, except a small section of these individuals, most people stay away from openly speaking up, taking a stand and supporting vital conservation issues at local, national and international level.

Nature and environment today is under tremendous pressure from habitat destruction, poaching, land grabbing and pressure from Corporates with regards to identification of forest tracts for mining, hydro power plants etc. Besides these, even forests, wetlands and other natural habitats are under tremendous pressure from agriculture.

In such times, it’s not plausible for few organisations or individuals to take up issues with government agencies and policy makers as advocacy costs money, expertise and time. Conservationists should take a leaf out from animal activists working mainly for dogs and cats.  The way the latter take up animal right issues with great conviction united against people who indulge in animal abuse with police and other government agencies is tremendous.  These organisations and individuals have a large and active network of people who get into action the movement any incident is reported.

For instance, few days back, a boy’s video of kicking a dog went viral and in less than 24 hours, he was identified, traced, FIR registered and booked.  Such strong conviction is rare in the field of wildlife crime where it takes years of efforts to bring to justice people like Sancharchand or even get an FIR registered.

It so often happens that on various photo sharing groups on social media, we see photos of birds and animals being openly sold, hunted or people engaged in wildlife crimes openly. Unfortunately, no one really takes the lead in making sure that these people are brought to justice. Taking up issues with law enforcement agencies or taking legal help is never even considered an option.

Even though conservationists, birdwatchers, photographers and conservation organisations are an extremely small minority in our country, there are tremendous walls built on ego and other vested interests which prevents from putting forth a unified force that can act together to conserve wildlife.

It is high time that we all come together and debate so that when crimes are done by people, state or government agencies, we all can come together and raise a unified voice as the saying goes he who cries the loudest, gets all the attention.

The Indian law in the form of Wildlife Act of India and The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 offers a number of options. What is needed is implementation which can only happen by actively speaking up! All this will not happen if a small group of individuals or only few organisations take up the issue it will only happen when we all come together.

Its high time that if a crime is committed against a bird not only organisations working for birds speak up but also the ones working for Tigers, Plants and other life forms should not keep mum. It’s high time we start using our democratic rights by forming a network of Environmental Lawyers across the country to advice and take up these issues legally, have advocacy groups creating pressure on the government agencies along with help from social, print and electronic media in regards to environment and wildlife issues.

Whether we are photographers, birdwatchers or researchers, we all need to speak up in a unified voice; else most of nature and wildlife that we all love, get inspired from and appreciate, will only remain in photos, books and movies.