Ornitho-eh what?

There is precious little time I have left at college. People around me know me well enough but for one thing – I tell them I am an Ornithologist and they either stare at me wide-eyed or smirk and change the topic. So, I thought I might as well take time off to pen it down if nobody is willing to hear me out.

Ornithology is, for those who haven’t looked it up on Wordweb yet, the study of birds. It is the study of their behavior, habits, migration patterns, habitat and everything else related to the feathered bipeds. It sounds boring at first glance, but it is an immensely captivating hobby. I was a practicing bird watcher before I came to college. In fact, the first thing that attracted me to this place was the prospect of being able to come into close proximity of a near-wild habitat. Unfortunately, I never quite found the time to commit myself to remaining a birder through my college life. Most of my bird watching now is limited to watching the Rosy Starlings gather on the bamboo in the middle of the hostel every evening at 6:30 pm and to walking past egrets foraging in the sodden grass.

Not everyone here at DA-IICT realizes the richness of the campus around us. Those who do fail to see beyond the shady trees and behind the flowering bushes. Although purely artificial, the campus in itself provides a plethora of habitats for bird life. In this parched landscape, our campus sticks out like a pearl in a stack of coal and almost seduces winged visitors to set up camp here. The Rosy Starlings in fact have, amazingly, changed their migratory pattern owning to the campus. They are not known to be found in Gujarat in the summer months; they migrate north. But for some reason, the flock that greets us with their chirping every evening and every morning at 6:30, seems to have given up the desire to move further north. Even more amazing is the presence of egrets throughout the year on campus. They too, are migratory birds and tend to venture north for the summer months, but they seem content in lazily wandering through the grasses on campus.

Perhaps the most secretive and rare birds to have been spotted on campus by me were the Pied Crested Cuckoo, the Golden Backed Woodpecker and the Golden Oriole. Of these, the Pied Crested Cuckoo belongs to the list of endangered birds and the other two are not far away; their numbers dwindling every year. If I were to have a favorite among the birds I have seen on campus, it would have to be the Fan-Tailed Flycatcher. It is a delightful little bird that hops across the paths that wind around our campuses. It should not be hard to spot one of them clinging on to a tree in front of the RC, pecking away at spiders that reside there. If you are lucky enough, you might find a Little Cormorant perched on the edge of the lotus pond, drying its wings after a dive into the water. If you luckier, you might actually get to see it dive.

There are about 30 species of birds that reside on campus and about 20 others that routinely visit in the course of their migration. If you are observant enough, you might get to see each of the species. I don’t intend to make ornithology a hobby for any of my readers; it is perhaps a little too late for that to happen. But I wish people would take a better look at the next bird that hops out from the bushes or take a step back to spot a bird perched on a tree. More importantly, I hope people don’t just breeze through life; I hope they have time to stand back and admire nature.