Access to information....

February 1, 2012

I posted to my birding egroup:

A lot of people ask me where I "see all those birds and mammals" in the Bannerghatta Zoo area. So here is a detailed reply. But....please..... some conditions. 1. Do not rush to take photographs. Enjoy what you see, and observe first. There is a lot to be learnt, before, during, and sometimes instead of, photographic documentation. 1a. Regarding documentation, do make a list of what you've seen, with the date. Add notes (and sketches if you can.) One of the things I loved about Sangeetha Kadur's ongoing wildlife painting exhibition was her meticulously kept notebooks of sketches, notes and bird-lists! 2. Try to disturb the creatures as little as possible. Wear dull-coloured clothes and move without jerking or sudden movements. Keep your distance from young ones and nests, and indeed, from all creatures. Observation is much better when this is adhered to. 3. There is already plenty of litter from the Zoo visitors, so please don't add to it. 4. If Forest Dept or JLR personnel warn you about wild elephants in the area...respect their warnings, and do not go any further. There is a wild tusker which the Forest Dept people have named Siddu, who keeps trying to join the camp elephants, and he is dangerous and unpredictable. that we are agreed on ethical and careful "trailing"....there are several areas: 1. Come out of the Bannerghatta bus terminus, facing the windmill and Hill View restaurant, come down the stairs, and go left, take the path to the immediate left of the terminus wall. (You will often see a family of three mongoose here.) This will take you to the public parking lot (where you will always see a Rufous-tailed Lark couple!). Go into the area behind the car park (to the east) and you will find a large quarry pond, a citrus orchard, and further, a large banyan tree. A lot of birds will reward your efforts! I've seen Spotted Owlets, Shikras, Common Hawk Cuckoos, and so on, in this area. 2. Go down from the main gate of the Zoo towards the Herbivore Safari Park gate. The Zoo wall will be on your right. I call this the Flycatcher Avenue...I have seen Asian Paradise, Tickell's Blue, Brown-Breasted, Asian Brown, White-browed Fantail, and Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers in this area. Go down to the (often algae-covered, and sometimes litter-covered) Kingfisher pond. You will find the White-breasted, Small Blue, and Pied Kingfishers here. If you walk around the pond, you can look across the fence into the Herbivore area, and see the crocs sunning themselves, and sometimes Nilgai and Chital. Sometimes, at the last bit of the enclosure, you can see Bhima, the Gaur who killed a man, and who's been sequestered there. I also see Francolins there. 3. Go down behind Hill View restaurant and walk around the sheet rock area. Often, you can see Oriental Honey Buzzards in the air, and on Jan 15, a very memorable day, we saw a Eurasian Sparrow Hawk! 4. Next to the Butterfly Park there is another quarry pond (go up the bund before you reach the Butterfly Park gate) which has Pied Kingfishers and Waders. Beyond this, it is No respect that. 5. Best of all....take me with you if you can :)))))

Sumeet Moghe replied (and it’s a very big compliment he paid me!)

Thanks so much for this Deepa. This is one of the most useful pieces of information I've seen on the group. Now when I go birding to Bannerghatta (and it'll most probably be with you), I have all the intel. Now for the part of my response unrelated to your post (in a way). I wanted to send this only to you, but then decided that I should send it to the rest of the group as well. This post is an example of the several reasons I admire you. Let me explain. When I went to Goa last week, I was in the car with our guide Pramod. Being one of the two people with a camera in our rather large group, Pramod mentioned to me how he is amazed by some of the photos that people take and publish on their websites but how one thing was still his pet peeve. He mentioned that while the photos he saw were excellent, several photographers hide the location of their photographs from their viewers. He asked me if this was because these birders want to be the only people that have taken such photographs? I had no answer, but to say that in my personal view sharing a photograph without location is of value from a photography perspective, but of zero value to the birding community. For example I know what a Booted Eagle looks like, we have... whad'ya call them... field guides for the purpose. To show me a photograph without telling me where you saw the bird itself doesn't do me any good as a birder. (By the way, by no remote measure of imagination is this a reference to the Lesser Florican report - I understand the need to possibly withhold information there.) This is where you've always helped me and others out. I remember when I suddenly had a desire to see the Mottled Wood Owl - you not only told me where I could find it in Lalbagh, but you also took me (and a bunch of others) to see it. I don't forget how you described to me in detail where we could potentially find the Black Eagle near Bannerghatta - though I perhaps need to go there with you to really find it. These are just a few examples of how you've happily guided rank amateurs like me. I am still perplexed at how secretive some birders can be about where they've spotted certain birds. I'm even more perplexed by the lame (lame to me at least) reasons I hear for not disclosing locations. In addition, I think some of us give ourselves way too much credit and believe ourselves to be the apostles of responsible birding. I remember Kalyan's words from the Ink Conference where he mentioned something along the lines of "When you give people freedom, they appreciate it and use it responsibly." I hope other birders are as open and trusting of the community as you are. I hope we don't make this wonderful hobby of observing nature a way of JUST showcasing photographic prowess. There's something out there about sharing openly which I learn everyday from people like you and I hope everyone takes inspiration from this. Thanks again for being the wonderful spark in this community.

And my response to him

I'm touched, and honoured, and feel totally inadequate of being worthy of this (to me) deep compliment. But...let me play the Devil's Advocate for a bit here. There are many reasons why Bangalore has so much of "outskirts" in photograph locations :) There was (many years ago, I'll admit, this was before I took to birding and wildlife) where someone gave the location of a group of Bee-eaters and a stampede destroyed the whole site. Certainly, there is a very valid worry about disturbing sites in which rare and endangered animals can be found. For this reason, perhaps, information is withheld. I've made my share of mistakes, and probably continue to make them. I once approached too close to the Long-billed Vultures, and was told what was the right thing to do (get away fast and keep my distance in future.) But...I feel that this was because I was not told, emphatically, the do's and don'ts of birding *before* I went to such I believe that if each of us firmly dins the do's and don'ts into new enthusiasts, we are bound to improve our methods of going into the field. I believe in the openness of information, and I believe that if information (especially about publicly accessible locations) is withheld, the whole thing sort of goes underground, with everyone asking the "I know"s in whispers, and only the newbies and the meek ones never getting the information. Several whisperers have asked me for (and, of course, got) the Mottled-Wood-Owl-in-Lalbagh location. But I never make the mistake of asking them back...because I know that I will not get the info I ask for. Unfortunately, the "don't tell" group is also a very strong one, and no doubt there are big cluckings going on about my last email. But one good thing is that it was allowed to be posted (I had a little doubt about it!)...and the other is that everyone knows I cannot shut my mouth, and no one can shut it for me, either. But send out emails like "I want bird droppings for research...please go and collect the droppings, but don't look up at the bird..." to's the height of ridiculosity! We will have the delicious situation of non-birding walkers looking at a bird, and all birders not looking at the middle of a public park! But we have (not just wildlife, but in general) this culture of hiding information and being opaque. Knowlege is always esoteric, and the high priests like to keep it that way. So...all we can do is to propogate the info we have, along with warnings about how-to. Of course, this ensures that no one will ever tell me where I can see the will remain, forever, the Florican't be seen! I thought of sending this to both the egroups but after a little consideration, decided to send it only to you :))))