Urban wildlife

by Gauri Gharpure

With the rise of city life, we have lost touch with nature. Elders in the family often talk about how they used to pick fruit from the trees directly, or how they used to cycle on roads lined with such tall shady trees on both sides that the road remained dry even in the heavy monsoon rains.

All these now seem like utopia when we see what has become of the cities now. The choking traffic, narrow lanes, constant flux of people moving on roads and public transport is really exhausting and maddening!

Yet, wildlife manages to thrive in such situations too, in tiny pockets of green in the chaos of the city. Have you ever stopped for a while and looked at a random tree? At a cursory glance, it might look like just like a tree, standing alone in the sun. But wait, go closer, go near the trunk. Do you see ants crawling around? There might even be different kinds of them. If you follow their trail, you may find where they are coming from. Maybe it’s a dead butterfly. Maybe it’s a flower. You might see more insects near the flowers: honey bees, stingless bees, hoverflies, butterflies, phytophagous beetles, bugs and whatnot. There might be a few more buzzing around, looking for nectar and pollen, or maybe even a place to rest nearby.

This picture is from a Sterculia tree on our campus that flowered a few weeks ago and had a variety of insects like these. Have a look, how many can you find?

(P.S. you can grab a quick afternoon nap under it, while you are at it!)

If you stay longer, you might hear some bird calling. Just sit quietly some time and let it get used to your presence. You might get to see it come closer, flitting around from branch to branch. One can easily see a number of birds like the common purple and purple-rumped sunbirds, oriental white-eyes, black drongos and bulbuls (red whiskered and red vented) very easily, and you are patient enough, some other beauties like Asian Paradise Flycatcher and Spotted Owlet among a few.

For information about our wildlife, you can follow some of these resources on their social media accounts and get to know more about the diversity of life around you:

  1. Nature Conservation Foundation is deeply involved with education and public engagement along various fronts with trees and birds. Visit their website (https://www.ncf-india.org/education-and-public-engagement) for more details or follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  2. India Biodiversity Portal hosts a repository of India’s biodiversity in the form of documents, maps, photographs etc. Their website (https://indiabiodiversity.org/) has a number of such resources and you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.
  3. Other portals for animal taxa like butterflies (https://www.ifoundbutterflies.org/), moths (https://www.mothsofindia.org/), cicadas (https://www.indiancicadas.org/), odonates (https://www.indianodonata.org/), reptiles (https://www.indianreptiles.org/), amphibians (https://www.indianamphibians.org/), birds (https://www.birdsofindia.org/) and mammals (https://www.mammalsofindia.org/) have a lot of such information and references.

So, what are you waiting for? Do some nature watching from your window or in your backyard. The first few days you might not find much, but don’t lose hope! As you get better at spotting insects, birds and other critters, you will be amazed at the variety literally in your own backyard! The happenings in the past few months have really brought forward the need to appreciate and respect nature in all forms. So, go on, stop and smell the roses. Who knows what you might find!

Pictures by Gauri Gharpure

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