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Manipal’s Most Elusive – Bird Watching in Manipal


Early every Sunday morning, when most of Manipal lies in slumber, a dozen people gather outside the AB5 gate. Furnished with binoculars, DSLRs, and a couple of handbooks, the group embarks on its weekly trip to the less-frequented areas of town.

Today, Mr. Shaurya Rahul Narlanka, Assistant Professor (Department of Civil Engineering) leads a bunch of bird enthusiasts through the streets of Eshwar Nagar for the outing. The bird activity is at its peak early in the morning, and the watchers are determined to make most of this.

“Jewel of Indrali”, the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher as captured by Prateik Kulkarni © 2015

As the first birds fly out in search of worms, Prof. Narlanka opens the e-bird app on his phone and creates a checklist. The sightings of all birds are recorded on the app and information is uploaded to the e-bird servers. The local experts then take over and vet the data for uncommon activity. The information serves to make distribution maps of the birds and keep track of their migrations.  The database acts as a resource for biodiversity data, and every bird-watcher contributes to its growth.

Courtesy: Google Maps. (Via: Maphill – Detailed Map of Manipal)

Manipal owes its rich avian life to a favorable location between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea. Within its small area, it is also endowed with a range of habitats – from laterite grasslands to the Manipal Lake – each with its own type of wildlife. Eshwar Nagar, Indrali, Dasharath Nagar, the TAPMI campus, and End Point are some of the best birding spots in Manipal.

A Birdwatcher’s Stroll through Manipal

Here are snapshots of some of the amazing species that can be seen in Manipal. For a more detailed guide, you’re welcome to use the eBird database that is constantly updated by dedicated birders from MIT and beyond.

Oriental Honey-buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus)

Courtesy: Mr. Narlanka

Black-rumped Flameback (Dinopium benghalense)

Courtesy: Sanket Warudkar

Nilgiri Flowerpecker (Dicaeum concolor)

Courtesy: Mohanram Kemparaju (2007)

Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis)

Courtesy: Clement Francis

Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach)

Courtesy: Vinay Darbal

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus)

Courtesy: Nitin Srinivasamurthy

Purple-rumped sunbird (Leptocoma zeylonica)

Courtesy: Anantha Murthy


Need of the Hour?

The Sunday expeditions go beyond photographing birds. They serve to address a greater need of environmental awareness. With a rigorous academic regime in a society abuzz with media pings, the adage of having “no time to stop and stare” rings true.

For years, Manipal’s landscape has evolved to house students and technology from around the world. Steady development must be sustainable, and every new construction should account for depleting green cover. Much of the land that hosts these birds is privately-owned – which means that they could, at any time, be cleared of the vegetation. It’s our job to do what we can, where we can.

“We birders really care about the environment,” says Dwiref Oza, a 6th semester student of MIT, “We can’t say no to development, but it’s all about sustainability. People need to be sensitive about their harmful activities. Sensitive areas have to be marked off so people can be careful about what’s done in those parts.”

Dwiref is a member of Manipal Birder’s Club, which filed a petition on to the Swamiji of Admar Mutt. The petition centers around safeguarding the ecosystem of the Indrali Temple Area, and has gathered over 200 supporters.

“White Breasted Kingfisher”, can be sighted in Indrali. © T H Su

The Indrali temple has around it a native bush plantation that could soon be destroyed if the land is used for construction. This would adversely affect the 140 species found here. Among these are the rare varieties of the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Brown-breasted Flycatcher, Grey-headed Bulbuls, Malabar Whistling Thrush, and the Orange-headed Thrush. Hope lies in the fact that the temple property is community-owned; hence the people have some say in what happens to the land.

Birding shares a close bond with the environment, and the watchers can sense ecological damage when migration patterns change. By maintaining an online database of avian life, they use precise cataloging to keep a check on the ecosystems they explore every week. They’re a forthcoming team of enthusiasts who meet for expeditions on Sunday mornings, and they’ll be happy to have you on board.

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