Posted by Mahima Sharma, Independent Journalist
The Little Green Bee-eater and the Blue Sunbird love to perch on my balcony which opens to a row of densely-leaved trees in our otherwise mainly-concrete colony. Their sweet calls make our mornings the Good Ones and my husband loves to have tea while watching them hop from one branch, from one tree to another. In fact it is his daily ritual in monsoon and winters.
At times I wonder how many of his friends, let alone others would be doing this. I asked a few last time I met them over a social gathering. None had a positive response. Why? Because none knew the benefits of backyard birding or for that matter even balcony birding if you don’t have that much space at your current residence.
Thus, I decided to open this piece with the help of a few experts, who are avid birders from India and abroad. And would be giving their experts advice in the text to flow along-with valid proof, of how birding is not just an activity at leisure, it is way beyond what meets the eye.
1. Ornithophily or Pollination
Do you love a green, flower-full balcony or a backyard garden? Then do host a bird feeder in your green zone. And the next time when the flowers bloom match the photos with those of last year.
“Hummingbirds, Orioles and other birds that sip nectar are efficient pollinators of garden flowers. And this gives the flower an extra colour, an extra bloom and longer lasting one. The nature’s phenomenon that serves the best, when left to natural pollinators!” informs Dr Sadhika Menon who is an Ornithologist in South India and is doing her second PhD on the birds of the Nilgiri Hills.
More color, more bloom will obviously attract more winged beauties to your green zone! And I am game about it, are you?
2. The Next Generation Learns to Respect Nature
As a child I remember my grandpa used to take us early morning to feed birds in various green region of Jaipur, my hometown. How many of us do it with our children?
“All we do is complain the lack of time. We forget that this is taking our children away from the empathy they need to nurtured into. Bird care, proving them food and water, arranging the same in our balcony, is just a small step to teach them the bigger thing – RESPECT NATURE. Only when we involve them in such activities, which hardly take ten minutes, that they will be closer to nature, closer to humanity and its actual meaning,” opines Dr Joana Pauline Emanuel from Manchester. She is a child psychologist who treats child-stress through bird-watching. Yes, you read it right. Child-stress is the latest fad in a tech-driven world, which is drifting our children away from mother nature. Choice is yours…
3. PEST & INSECT CONTROL, WEED KILLERS
This point I will validate through no expert but my own experience. Let me tell you that my landlady warned me not to keep a water-pot for birds since she is of the belief that it attracts mosquitoes more than birds! But let me tell you, it has been more than a year that we shifted to this new place and I can vouch for the fact while her house has a swarm of mosquitoes attacking them in evening, mine has only rare visitors!
Why? Because birds are important links of the food chain and they are natural pest controllers. Wild birds help manage insects and pests like mosquitoes, cockroaches, beetles, etc. In Fact whenever I manure my plants, the dung-beetles are mostly taken away the birds that come to perch at my balcony. I never use pesticides for my plants, which now are about to bloom soon.
“Some birds feed upon the weeds in the garden. And you don’t need pesticides, weedicides etc. We talk a lot about organic crops. Where was the need to have pesticides if we had allowed birds in our farming system? They would have taken the invaders away naturally. By adding these chemicals we are only adding poison to the soil and bringing the same in our food chain. Our late ancestors never knew about such chemicals. It is like we ruined it all and now going back to it. It is better we speed up the process of bringing farm-useful birds, before it is too late. And it applies to our kitchen garden, our balcony, our backyard, everything,” warms Simi Sinha who is a soil scientist from Bihar doing her research on the same topic.
4. Natural Stress Buster
When I return from work, its is early evening. The time when birds are also returning to their nests. As soon as I dump my bags in my closet, I run to my balcony. Watching birds, interacting with the squirrel that visits me at a sharp time, listening to the bird-songs…gives me so much if relief. So much so, that I scowl at the thought of buying a house in a high-rise, as per the suggestion of my friends. Where will I find such a natural stress buster, if i move there?
“Taking time out for bird-watching, for raring birds in the green zone of your house, helps relieve stress naturally by helping the endocrine glands secrete the right hormone. Being with the winged-beauties promotes well-being in a very natural, medication-free manner. Also when you are outdoors, the Sunlight you absorb is a great source of Vitamin D and detoxifies the body through fresh air you inhale. So birding has not just one-point health benefit, but many more which are linked in someway or the other to your well-being,”
5. Pure Joy – An Alternative to Pets
Many of us live in nuclear families where we do not have time or wavelength to take care of a full-time pet. And also there are others who are allergic to cat/dog fur. So how do they experience the joy of having pets?
“Well, by feeding backyard birds, you will get regular visitors. So you are taking care of them and at the same time not confining them to your homes. Seeing a free-bird attached to you, is a joy that you will experience only once you start this practice. And don’t worry, even you have migratory ones as your flying buddy, it will return to you at the right season. They will respond to your love, like they respond to mine. I have six species that alternate throughout the year in my balcony, all because I interact with them and my child feeds them nuts!
Nature responds to Love, and my child needed some after her mother passed away in 2016!” tells me an elated 40-year old Jolie Bean Thomas, a single father from Sydney.