Backyard Birding in Central India to Beat Lockdown

“Wherever there are birds, there is hope”

Mehmet Murat Ildan

As a nature explorer and photographer, I am missing my daily morning outings during the COVID lockdown. But I am lucky enough to have a good backyard garden, which provides an opportunity to connect with nature.

I live in Central India, in the city of Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh state. I am leading a Nature Conservancy riparian habitat restoration project nearby. This city of 125,000 people is situated on the northern side of the central Narmada river valley and the Satpura biosphere reserve. The surrounding habitat of this river valley and biosphere reserve was my regular and favourite birding place.

But during COVID-19, I am severely missing these places.

A male purple sunbird. © Ashok Biswal

The Nature Conservancy in India has been engaging with the local communities and working closely with state government authorities since 2017 to undertake and facilitate cost-effective and pragmatic riparian restoration activities in the selected patches of Narmada riverbank. The Narmada river is forest fed, and it’s the sixth-longest river in India.

India is a paradise for bird watchers. The versatile geography of India harbours around 1,300 bird species and preserve 72 critical bird habitats as bird sanctuaries. These sanctuaries attract many birders and serve the wonders of birding through wildlife safaris or birding tours operated by both private and government entities.

Also, many birds are seen in urban and rural areas, which engages many birders like me.

A spotted owlet peeks out from its perch. © Ashok Biswal

The Joy of Common Birds

My day starts with the smooth, simple, mesmerizing melodies of my brilliant feathered orchestra followed by a beautiful sunrise. My feathered band includes the house sparrow, sunbirds, munia, silverbill, myna, francolin, pirnia, cokoo, bulbul and parakeet.

Each day, I am treated to a live three-dimensional view of nature in addition to the charming background sound.  It is one of the positive side effects of being forced to stay in my own home.

Before lockdown, usually, I overlooked these common bird species in my compound. But now it is an integral part of my life and it matters. I am grateful to my winged friends.

An Indian robin. © Ashok Biswal

Nature gives us a lot and the birds are one of the greatest gifts to humankind.  The species that visit my home garden welcome and inspire me to stay positive and hopeful.

It is easy to imagine they are here to entertain us in this stressful time, even if the birds do not care about the trials of humanity.

For me watching and listening to birds is a great way to relieve stress. It’s a great pleasure to see the brilliant colour and various behaviors like singing, perching, preening, flying, pairing up, nest building and so on. It is very intricate and fascinating. Now my home garden has become my personal bird sanctuary.

Birds are one of the significant indicators of a healthy ecosystem. Some birds eat dead creatures, insects, worms, and vegetable garbage, and help in cleaning the surroundings.  They are nature’s cleanup crew. It helps in balancing the local environment. My backyard garden has numbers of native flora, and it offers as a safe and secure environment for them.

A shikra (Accipiter badius) feeding on prey. © Ashok Biswal

Sharing a Love of Nature

My neighbors were always curious about my passion for photography. Now that we are in lockdown together, they have become especially interested in my pursuits.

The curious children usually ask me from their balcony and window about the bird species. To answer their query, I started sharing bird photos in our colony ‘WhatsApp’ group. I have begun a BIRDS OF THE DAY session in the group. It includes posting photos and relevant details like the bird’s common name, its food, songs and colour.

A brahminy starling. © Ashok Biswal

It encourages them to look for birds around their home. I feel this is an excellent interactive medium to raise awareness of nature and the importance of conservation.

Also, I have also requested all members to sharing their bird observations from their balconies. To date collectively we have observed more than 50 species of birds. Several of my neighbors have asked to accompany me on bird outings when the lockdown is lifted!

An ashy pirnia. © Ashok Biswal

In my view, connecting with nature can ease anxiety and provide an all-around mood boost and the science supports this assertion. With depression at an all-time high, and fears and palpable tension growing as an uncertain future looms, we can all benefit from this calming influence.  So, look around and spot the birds. Beat the lockdown!

Beauty awaits. Happy birding!

An Indian robin chick. © Ashok Biswal

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  1. Ann Schara says:

    Lovely article. Now I want to go to India and explore your birds!

  2. Jeanette Moorman says:

    Your article made it all the way to the southern part of Georgia in the United States. I enjoyed reading it and share your passion. Several of my friends have turned to me to help them identify birds they see in their yards and to discuss the best ways to feed and care for them. So much more awareness of our surroundings.
    Thank you.

  3. Penny and Bob Campbell says:

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful photos. We live inMiddlebury, Vt and watchable few birds from our window. We see Gold finches, Blue Jays, Robins, some wood peckers, cat birds, American Blue birds. wWe have been avid bird watchers for a long time. First an Oriole made a nest in one of our elm trees years ago before the Elms have become endangered. That started our love of birds.

  4. Janet Lutz-Smith says:

    Thank you! It’s very good and interesting to know about your Backyard Birding. Being able to identify so many birds is amazing! Conservation is the way to preserve this beautiful species! And, your pictures are beautiful!


    It is so interesting to see birds from other countries that are so beautiful and very different from ours in the U.S. Ex. the Indian robin! Now I can see how one species has many different appearances and I won’t call a robin just a robin but an American robin! Thank you for sharing and also learning more about your living environment. I prefer that this commentary does not generate other Conservancy emails.

  6. Laura Miller says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Joanne Gibbs says:

    I would love to hear a recording of your morning birdsong!


    Very interesting….. During lockdown period also you are fulfilling your ambition.
    These photographs with concept are giving a positive energy and connecting to the nature. Good day

  9. Jaideep Patanker says:

    अशोक जी, लाकडाउन समय का बेहतरीन उपयोग किया है आपने । बहुत सुंदर आर्टिकल…

  10. Abhinav sen says:

    Wonderful article, Ashok! Great to know that you’re inspiring others in your vicinity too. Keep it up