April 1, 2022

Birder Profile: Adithi Muralidhar

A raptor hunting a snake or a lark mimicking calls of other birds, or a honey buzzard raiding a beehive—these are some of the most interesting natural history phenomena that Adithi looks forward to witnessing while birding. Read on to know more about her and her journey to birdwatching…

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live and what do you do?

I work in the space of education research and am based out of Mumbai, Maharashtra. I was born in a green pocket in a crowded and polluted city and that probably set the background for my unconditional love for all things wild. My habit of journaling and documenting my sightings also led me to start my own nature blog called “Earthly Notes” and contribute to this interactive education resource on birds which aims to initiate conversation around nature observation.

Adithi in KMTR. Photo taken by K Ramnath Chandrasekhar

2. When and how did you get interested in birding?

I have been interested in birdwatching for as long as I can remember. I have memories of observing birds with my mother even back when I was in kindergarten. I remember being drawn to birds all through my school and college life. For example, the windows of my biology laboratory in junior college opened up to a wooded patch and I often found myself drifting away outside even though I was physically still inside the lab apparently studying mitosis! A Hoopoe would occasionally visit our building and I remember eagerly looking for it as each month passed, as it was the most spectacular and peculiar bird I had seen back then. As a kid, I used to even try and make mnemonics of bird calls I heard around me and had convinced myself that Iora was calling out my name.

3. Do you have a favourite bird or birds? Why is it/are they your favourite?

I feel guilty about naming favourite birds for I like all birds. I might be a little more fascinated by Wallcreeper, Asian Fairy-bluebirdFire-breasted Flowerpecker, and leafbirds. This is probably because as a kid, these birds caught my attention the most in the field guides and their images remained etched in my mind long before I even saw them in real life.

4. Where do you enjoy birding the most?

I love birding anywhere and everywhere. I find myself looking out the window when I am at home, at work, during meetings or gatherings- all the time. I love birding in forests, wetlands, shores, deserts, creeks, etc. I am partial to forest birding and secretly keep wishing that I stumble on mixed hunting parties!

5. Do you have a birding partner or a group you enjoy birding with? How is birding alone different from birding with others?

Mostly my birding partner is my husband Ashwin Mohan. I also bird with small groups of friends occasionally. One can travel to places with friends, but even there you can find time to bird alone.

6. Anything on the birding bucket list? (Doesn’t have to be a bird, could be a place, witnessing a phenomenon, etc)

I don’t have a bucket list. In general, it would be great to observe (well documented) phenomena and behavioral ecology episodes like different bird species feeding cuckoo chicks, a honey buzzard on a beehive, a raptor hunting a snake, birds (like larks) mimicking calls of other species, etc. Even observing something different about a common species like House Crow or Coppersmith Barbet is exciting for me.

7. Has eBird changed how you bird? How?

eBird helps to keep track of birds I have observed over the years. I still use a notebook and pen on the field (I don’t like to use Apps on the go, even if they are handier) and later enter the data on eBird. eBird helps to track your sightings over a long period of time; you can get to know more about similar sightings, distributions, compare notes, and lookup for anecdotal notes put up by other birders as well.

8. Have you set any birding goals for the coming months?

I neither have birding bucket lists nor birding goals. I think having that would easily distract me from the very essence of what birding is for me. For example, I am perfectly content with not spotting the crowd-puller species in a unique habitat. My lifelong goals related to birding include an attempt to constantly improve my skills of observation and documentation.

9. What is your message for fellow birders?

One, figure out what birding means for you and work on those lines. You need not become an expert birder to be part of the birding community. Second, work on your own skill-set when you get the time. Listen intently, train your eyes to see mild movements, train your ears to capture and filter calls/sounds, all these are wonderful life skills. Third, and most important, always be mindful and conscious of your impact as a birdwatcher on the environment and local culture.

Header Image: Heart-spotted Woodpecker Hemicircus canente ©Wilbur Goh/ Macaulay Library


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