In this series, we bring you the journeys of young ornithology researchers, as written by them. Read on to find out what got them interested in birds, the challenges they faced and what advice they have for students who wish to pursue ornithology or ecology as a career. If you have questions for them, you can leave comments at the end of the blog or email them personally.
"On one of the nights, we went for a night trail to experience the forest after dark. We stopped by the lake and were quietly listening to all of the forest sounds around us. All of a sudden, we heard this really loud scream, almost identical to a woman screaming. We all were terrified! Later, we were told that it was a Brown Fish Owl which had a nest on a tree right next to the lake. The whole experience, with the dark forest, its sounds and this sudden scream, was absolutely surreal!"
"Even a tiny drop of water contains a diversity of organisms which are often ignored, but they play a vital role in shaping our world. Most of the oxygen we breathe comes from the microscopic cyanobacteria and algae living in water. It will make anyone wonder how a microorganism is able to support a large bird like a flamingo which weighs about 2 - 3 kg. The answer lies in the fact that cyanobacteria (Arthrospira) which is just 10 microns in size, contains 50-60% protein by mass."
"Growing up in the city of Mumbai I spent a lot of time at the zoo and in nearby gardens. I also used to look forward to visiting my grandparents in Kerala and meeting the local temple elephants. In hindsight, I understand the complexity of keeping wild animals in captivity, but it was a learning experience, nonetheless."
"After a while, I could see that one after another, the whole group was falling into the net. The 15 meters long mist-net was full of Babblers and it was giving us thrill and excitement. There were around 12 babblers in a single net out of which 4 were recaptures and all were making whining calls. The cacophony of calls was so loud that it would almost puncture my eardrum."
"During my PhD field work, I mistakenly entered a private property (as there was no demarcation between Government land and private property) and the consequences were not good. The owner came running towards us, cursing us on the top of his voice. So much was their anger that the lady owner even tried to throw sharp knives at us, assuming we were trespassers. It took us almost an hour to calm them down and make them understand our work."
" I also remember that summer of 2016, where in a month I was lucky to hear elephants and see Malabar trogon for the first time! I ended up sighting Malabar trogons again a couple of times, and immediately after, we saw some dhole adults and pups who were feasting on a sambar by the river. I was torn, where do I look? Up at the canopy, or down towards the dholes! I did a bit of both."
"After several flocks flying above or away from the net, eventually, a flock flew almost through the net and the first bird got trapped. Our trapping expert Ganibhai ran into the water and carefully removed the crane from the net. It was a healthy Common Crane, totally fit for tagging. After weeks of effort, we tagged our first crane! It was an amazing experience and learning for me. The learnings during the 2020 winter season helped us in successfully tagging six more cranes during our expedition in 2022, but the first tagging will always remain special for me."
"Observing birds and their surrounding nature every day in the field helped me develop a curiosity about the birds: what are they eating, why some are vocalizing while others are not, why a particular call makes the whole group fly and seek shelter even if it is not the call of its own species, and so on. This innate curiosity expressed itself naturally and that is how the decision to follow a career in the field of ornithology was made for me."
"I never knew anything about bird watching until my Masters. Before that, I knew some local names of common birds like sparrows, mynas and crows; all the other birds were just a ‘yellow bird’, ‘brown bird’ and ‘green bird’ for me. Most people go birding to their backyards, forests or wetlands. Well, my birding journey started from Guwahati garbage dump yard (not a great place to be at, unless you are a birder!!), observing the foraging and feeding of hundreds of endangered Greater Adjutant Storks!"
”I got her to my field station in a hat filled with dry husk to keep her warm. She was there in my room for the next three weeks until she had developed feathers all over her body. We named the chick “Shimsha”, after the river which flows through the village. I used to keep her covered with cotton, layers of cloth and inside a wooden box of dry husk and eucalyptus leaves. During those three weeks, I got to know about the different versions of her vocalisations, when she was hungry, when she required attention and when she was feeling too hot inside the box. We used to spend hours and hours together, sitting outside the room ensuring she gets sufficient sunlight to grow her feathers. Our bond grew stronger with each passing day as I was witnessing the different stages of her life.”