We often come across articles and programmes that go on about climate change, habitat destruction and environmental degradation. But how do scientists and researchers determine this? They don’t always need swanky high-tech instruments that measures trace chemical compounds in the soil and water or the temperature to 0.00000001 degree accuracy. This is because they can also rely on natural indicators to determine the health of an ecosystem – insects, amphibians, birds, to name a few.
Birds especially are a good indicator because depending on the type of bird present in an area, one can get a fairly accurate idea about the prey animals present and kind of ecosystem that exists. Your everyday Rock Pigeon, for one, is everywhere and quite at home in the urban jungle dominated by sky-scrapers.
But the Spotted Dove is pretty much the country cousin, preferring farmlands and open forests. There is no need to visit hotspots like forests and wetlands to study birds and their habits. Keep an eye on your own backyard and see which winged wonders come to visit. In fact, the WWF-Kerala and the Social Forestry wing of the state’s Forests & Wildlife Dept India are embarking on a four-day exercise on a survey of common birds in Kerala - the Common Bird Monitoring Programme - and have invited the public, including students, to participate.
Here’s what you have to do. Spare a minimum of 30 minutes a day, preferably in the early morning or late evening, and note down the birds in your garden, school campus, street or neighbourhood along with the count. The observations and data should then be submitted after creating an account at the site www.ebird.org, which is an online repository of biodiversity data. This exercise is to be done everyday from February 14 to 17. The pdf copy of the same is to be sent to email@example.com for them to compile and publish the data.
The exercise, its organisers say, is meant to fill the lacuna of avian information from the midlands of Kerala. So go ahead, keep your eyes peeled for the russet-red of the Greater Coucal or a flash of the brightest yellow from the Black-hooded Oriole; listen out for the raucous calls of the Rufous Treepie and the whistling notes of the Oriental Magpie Robin. How many can you spot?