Finally, I attended the much sought after Naturalist Training Program conducted by Karthik @ the Jungle Lodges & Resorts campsite at Bannerghatta National Park, Bangalore recently.
Any person interested in being a naturalist or rather anyone interested in nature and its secrets need to attend this workshop conducted by Karthik. It's conducted couple of times a year and the list of people wanting to do it is ever growing and the no of participants is limited to 16 odd per workshop.
Who is a Naturalist?
A person who studies natural history is a Naturalist. Someone who studies nature in totality, not limited to a specific species.
JLR has started this unique program way back in 2005 to involve people, to create awareness, basics of birdwatching, all about flora, fauna and the hidden secrets of nature. This workshop is conducted by S Karthikeyan, Chief Naturalist at JLR who knows in and out of the subject who worked with WWF for 17 years prior to this.
Bannerghatta Nature Camp, run by JLR inside the herbivore park. There is a dormitory, tents and cottages for day visits and overnight stay.
The 3 day program had sessions and topics on role of a Naturalist, Biodiversity in India, Introduction to birds and birdwatching, bird behaviour, nature trails, plant-animal interactions, Urban wildlife along with nature trails in the morning and evening for that 'field experience'.
In the evenings, the David Attenborough's 'The Life of Birds' was played over the 2 days. Also we met Sandeep, Sumanth and Krishna murthy - people who were part of the earlier workshops and who are into conservation and wildlife awareness activities.
I first got into photography and then into birdwatching and learnt it absolutely the wrong way. I never used to observe them 'keenly' (i never knew what i missed till now), see, click, move. I used to refer my clicks for identifying birds using the Salim Ali's book as reference. In sense, I was more of a photographic birder till this workshop happened.
All of the participants were asked to choose a name of a bird / animal starting with the first letter of their names and we were called by the same names over the next 2 days. On the nature walks with Karthik, we would cover about 1/2 or a km in distance in probably 2-3 hours looking out for each and every interesting thing in the surroundings - that may be flies, butterflies, plants, shrubs, trees, flowers, fruits, birds, reptiles, mammals etc etc... When the group spotted a bird, everyone were asked to sketch it on their pads highlighting the important features like the beak colour, rumps, patterns, size, wing patterns etc. Then all were asked to identify the bird from the book based on these features.
Bird behavior was another important activity we did - that is observing them! I was tempted to shoot whenever i saw a bird on the first day, but subsequently I used my binoculars more and less of my camera which was another revelation for me, I learnt the joy in observing the nature around me (compared to always being worried about not getting a good shot and opportunity)! A simple question from Karthik made us realize this - Does a Myna hop or walk?
Overall it was a wonderful learning experience for me, learning to appreciate all forms of life and everything in our surroundings. I got to know some real good interesting people and there were these discussions, exchange of ideas and learning togetherness among us. Mr Karunakar was the oldest member in the group at a grand old age of 74 and Mr Bharadwaj was the youngest who has just completed his PU course.
List of birds that we sketched, discussed and identified-
3.White breasted Kingfisher
4.Red Whiskered Bulbul
5.Red Vented Bulbul
6.White cheeked Barbet
11.Oriental White Eye
14.Red rumped Swallow
15.Tickells blue flycatcher
16.Asian Paradise flycatcher
19.White rumped Munia
20.White Bellied Drongo
21.Racquet tailed Drongo
23.Golden fronted Leafbird
24.Bay backed Shrike
27.Red wattled Lapwing
28.Black Shouldered Kite
29.Oriental Honey Buzzard
33.Golden Flameback Woodpecker
34.Green Bea eater
Four horned Antelope
Well, I will not end this learning with this single post, I have plans for couple of posts for some interesting things that I picked up, it time and patience permits.
Few interesting things that I learnt:
1. What makes a bird a bird? - Flight (wings, feathers, modified bones), Beak and Warm blood.
2. Fig trees are the Keystone species
3. Interesting features of Touch me Not plant
4. The small worms you find in books are Silverfish ( they feed on cellulose - books)
5. The delicate, intricate 'Web of Life'*
6. Biodiversity of India and Species distribution
7. The case of missing Sparrows (still remains unresolved)
8. The rise of the Rock Pigeons and Black Kites
9. 'Gubbi Goodu'
10. Body care behaviors, Feeding strategies, Social displays of birds
11. Types of Forests
12. Differences between few similar species (Ex:difference b/w a Pigeons-Doves, Hares-Rabbits etc..)
13. E.H. Aitken, David Attenborough, Salim Ali and others
14. Truth About Tigers
15. Sketching a bird in your book is very simple (but I'm very bad at it :))
Thanks to Karthik, JLR and the other members, I'm looking forward for the Level 2 program :)