A bird’s eye view
Meet Vikas Madhav, 15, the birdman of Chennai, who can identify over 1,000 species in the Indian subcontinent. The budding ornithologist shares his birding adventures with GT.
How many species of birds can you currently identify?
There are about 990-1,100 species of birds from the Indian subcontinent which I can name. Few of my rare spottings are the Indian Skimmer from Chennai; while in Uttarakhand, I have had the luck to spot the Amur Falcon from Tehri Dam and Monal Pheasant from Chopta.
Of my two best sightings are the Green-tailed Sunbird and Osprey. The former is a Himalayan species found in higher altitudes. It has a yellow belly and a long green tail. You can also spot it in Sikkim. The Osprey is a type of fish-eating raptor seen almost throughout India. It is a pied appearance bird which can be best seen along the River Kabini in southern India during winters.
Since when have you been passionate about observing and photographing birds?
I was interested in wildlife since the time I was a toddler. At the age of 6, I started noticing birds around me, although my parents discovered about my passion a year later. It’s really fascinating to see birds of diverse colours. It was only as recent as 2008 that the photography bug caught on with me.
What else do you like to do as a wildlife enthusiast?
Being a member of the Madras Naturalists’ Society, I often lead nature walks for visitors. Since the last three years, it has been a lot of fun to participate in the Great Himalayan Bird Count. It is a bird census exercise carried out by the NGO Action for Research & Conservation in Himalayas (ARCH). We identify rare species of birds in the region.
How do you juggle between school and your passion?
Thankfully, I have managed to secure 92 percent during boards. But after coming in grade XI, I do not get much time to step out for bird spotting. Hence, now I have started identifying butterflies in my surroundings. In my home town Chennai, I can recognize species like Painted Brush Swift, Shiva Sunbeam, Madras Ace, Rounded Pierrot, Tricolour Flat, and more.
What advise would you give to other budding ornithologists?
Keeping a notepad always helps. I always make notes on my bird sightings. Referring to books and reading up on wildlife will aid in identifying rare species.