Dolcy D’CruzHow long can one wait to click a photograph of a bird? If it flies away, there is no point in waiting but if one is as passionate as Prasanna Parab, you will have to sit still for hours without making a move. That is how he clicked the photograph of the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon which is the cover photo of his first book, ‘Forest Birds of Goa’, a comprehensive photographic guide into the world of forests birds of the state. “I had spotted this species on an earlier trip to Netravali and as it came closer, I moved and it flew away. I made a trip again and I sat from 5.45 am to 2.30 pm in the same exact spot with moving at all. I didn’t even drink water as I didn’t want the bird to fly away. I knew it would come to this exact spot to drink water from the stream. This particular photo was clicked around 3-4 feet from the bird,” Prasanna Parab shares his experience of clicking the photograph of one of the 114 forest birds species that he has written about in this new book.Working with the Department of Posts, Government of India, Prasanna dedicates time to his passion for researching about birds. While working on this book since 2009, he has also been documenting butterflies in the Western Ghats of Goa and North Karnataka and has provided data for management plan of Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa. This fascination for the wild sprouted in the mind of Prasanna as a school student. Born and brought up in the city of Margao, he was curious to know what is out there in the forest. While most children of his age would be playing, Prasanna would be heading to city libraries to read National Geographic magazines and books written by Dr Salim Ali, also known as the ‘Birdman of India’. “Curiosity does help. As I was growing up, I always wondered why there were no books on birds that are found in the forests of Goa. This led me to explore this section and I am happy to fulfil my dream of completing the book. I just hope that some young mind too gets inspired by the book,” says Ponda-based Prasanna. Travelling to the forests in the regions of Sattari and Sanguem and even in the south of Goa to the Curtorim and the plateaus edges of Chandreshwar Temple, the book complies birds that rarely seen by most Goans. He was not alone on this journey as co-authors, Paresh Porob and Omkar Dharwadkar have been with Prasanna through every step of completing the book. Paresh works with the Forest department as an ACF and Zoo Manager of Bondla Zoo. A recipient of the Wildlife Service Award by Sanctuary India and the Prani Mitra, Wildlife Service award by the Government of Goa, he has written the book, ‘Biodiversity of Goa - A Concise Field Guide’. Just like Prasanna, Omkar is also a founding member of Goa Bird Conservation Network. For over a decade, he has been documenting the wildlife of Goa and has several first reports for birds, butterflies and dragonflies for Goa for India too to his credit. “Forest Birds of Goa was conceptualised in 2009. I met Paresh in 2008 and I shared this idea of a book that I had since 2005. Through him as an RFO in Cotigao, I gained a lot of exposure and this book required a lot of research and getting the facts right and also getting into the forests and finding the birds that many are not even aware that make a journey to Goa. These birds had been mentioned in literature but there was no photographic proof to show whether these birds still exist in these forests,” says Prasanna, an Honorary Wildlife Warden, Goa. He further adds, “Besides the 114 forest bird species, we have also given emphasis on the local names of birds, important plants that these birds feed on, with the local names of the plants, latest International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Wildlife (Protection) Act (WPA) status of birds and distribution maps for each species. We have limited the scope to bird species which have been observed to be highly dependent on forest habitats.” The authors have also described the voice and calls of the birds and how it sounds to them. Their every trip to the forest was with a sound recorder and a camera and head lights or touches if they wanted to capture nocturnal birds. “You have to listen to the call. The birds will not come and sit in front of you but you have to proceed in the direction of the calls. Birds are most vocal during the breeding season. Two of the birds that I really wanted to feature in the book were owls, Sri Lanka Bay Owl and Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, which were the last two birds to be photographed. Since owls are nocturnal, we had to spend nights in the forests till we finally got the photographs. It gives a different sense of satisfaction,” says Prasanna. Following the birds for over a decade, Prasanna did see a change in the pattern of the birds. “Habitat loss is the primary threat that is affecting bird life in general and Goa in particular. Uncontrolled growth in human population and more purchasing power has resulted in a recent shift in land-use pattern, wherein land conversion, unplanned development and construction is steadily threatening the already dwindling forest habitats. Large-scale mining along the peripherals of protected areas has been a major cause of habitat fragmentation as well as air and water pollution. River-diversion and hydel projects by neighbouring states, wherein considerable tracts of prime forest have been cleared, threatening fauna and flora along with human habitation downstream. Clear-felling in remote areas for monoculture plantations either for cash crops like cashew, areca nut or commercial species like teak has been a major cause of concern,” he explains.
The book, a photographic guide to the ‘Forest Birds of Goa’ will be released on January 25 at 4 pm at Goa Science Centre Auditorium, Miramar in the presence of Rohan Khaunte, Minister of Tourism and Dr S Subramanya, a bird researcher. The book will also be available at the 6th Bird Festival of Goa from January 27 to 29 at Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary.