Bird flu won’t scare away avid birders

Birdwatching has gained popularity over the last year as Nature took centrestage amid the lockdown. And as India is abode to a variety of resident birds and migratory ones in winters, this is the ideal season for birdwatching. Even the recent bird flu outbreak hasn’t significantly dented the enthusiasm of bird watchers, who are also taking precautionary measures.

“There hasn’t been much of an impact (of bird flu scare) in terms of birders going out because we are aware of the situation. There hasn’t been human transmission of the flu till now, but we need to take safety measures. Sanctuaries were shut, but we went to other places such as Najafgarh Jheel, Yamuna bank, etc.,” says Pankaj Gupta, from Delhi Bird Foundation, who adds that there hasn’t been a dip in queries for walks from professionals, but newbies are a little hesitant.

Abhishek Gulshan, nature educator and founder Ninox – Owl about Nature, which conducts nature walks and workshops says, “We’re still conducting walks. One doesn’t have to be so worried. There are certain precautions you need to take. We’re wearing masks already, so that helps. Concerns do come and we address them. The motive is to not increase business but as an educator, it is my responsibility to provide adequate information.” He shares that one photo walk was cancelled last week amid the outbreak, but he “wanted to collect information, educate the participants, give a clear picture as we can’t jeopardise lives”.

Gupta and Gulshan advise maintaining distance from birds and roosting spots, avoid touching dead/dying birds and request attendees to inform authorities about the same.

Participants, too, are being cautious. Ishita Sachdeva, an avid birder who recently returned from Bandhavgarh National Park, says, “As long as we don’t come in contact (with birds), it’s fine. We don’t go too close anyway…”

Wildlife researcher Roshan Puranik cautions, “It’s a great time to spot migratory birds, but if you see a rare one, don’t run carelessly. Maintain social distancing, wear a mask. Make sure everyone in the group has their own binoculars, water, eatables, etc.” To beginners, he suggests a good pair of binoculars and getting familiar with calls of common birds at least.

Interact with author/sanchita_kalra.

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