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.
"I like the fact that when studying birds, I also get to understand the ecological and social underpinnings of the wonderful avian biodiversity. In places like Assam and Arunachal Pradesh where I work, the diversity of birds is not supported just by the diversity in habitat, but also by the years of protection accorded by local communities, for whom biodiversity is also an identity."
"As I took the next turn, I was surprised to see dust clouds ahead of me, obscuring some kind of vigorous activity. Eventually the dust settled down, revealing a Bonelli’s eagle struggling to hold a female bustard in his talons! They became still as soon as they saw the vehicle. I was very confused about my next step. On the one hand it was a rare natural history moment which was happening in front of me; and on the other hand, a female bustard (an important individual of just a few remaining GIBs) was dying before my eyes."
"What amazes me the most is that every new place I visit, I hear some new aspect of the story and it appears like the more I learn, the less I know which keeps me going even further. It seems like Barn Swallows know their humans and humans know their swallows. For instance, in a small vegetable and fruit shop in Nainital, which is invariably always packed with customers, I regularly see two pairs of swallows busy feeding their hungry chicks, by flying past and sometimes cutting across the humans standing in the shop."
“We had been anxiously sitting on treetops at the grassland edge, camouflaged and (hopefully) away from the bird’s view. Our hopes of trapping the bird to safely put a satellite transmitter on its back to track its hitherto unknown movements were fast dimming. The setting Sun had by now painted the sky with a light orange hue mixed with purple streaks, signalling time to remove traps to try another day. But then, against all odds, we saw the male Bengal Florican uncharacteristically trying but failing to take off. We had managed to capture the bird!”
"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."
Nilutpal Mahanta, PhD
"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."