Please tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do and where do you live?
I am Avinash Sharma, born and brought up in Mumbai. Since 2015, I have been living in Pune. I am into Project Operations. I’m fun-loving and humorous by nature. Wildlife is something that I always liked and fascinated by. I grew up spending all my vacation time playing cricket in clubs and later also played at the district level. Apart from cricket, I grew up watching Animal Planet and Discovery Channel.
Birding is something that I started very late but now addicted to it!
When and how did you get interested in birding?
My interest in bird watching developed by accident. We had visited Gir National Park in May 2014 to see Asiatic Lions. We had planned 4 safaris and were so unlucky that we couldn’t see the lions on 3 safaris. It was only on the last ride we saw them from a distance. Looking at our miserable faces our guide Bachhu Singh asked us, “Would you like to see birds?” and we happily said yes.
Indian Paradise Flycatcher as I clearly remember, was my first Lifer. A full-grown male (white morph). If flew over me and I stupidly asked my naturalist, if it was carrying some strip of cloth or plastic? To this, he smiled and said: “No Sir, it’s his tail”. I was starstruck. And that’s what got me started watching birds.
Do you have any favourite birds? Why are they your favourites?
Yes, Rock Eagle-Owl (IEO, as we call it) and Great Hornbill are my favourite birds. I absolutely love owls and like to collect as many souvenirs/showpieces I can. There are so many characteristics that make owls so special that one goes crazy for them! Same with Great Hornbill. Majestic and one of its kind.
Where do you enjoy birding the most?
I have mostly birded in and around Pune and Thane District (especially Dombivali) in Maharashtra. I enjoy the variety of habitats of both the places, but the ultimate dream would be birding in North-east India!
Do you have a birding partner or a group you enjoy birding with? How is birding alone different from birding with others?
I started serious birding with my mentors Avinash Bhagat and Manish Kerkar. I am thankful to them for everything. Some of my birding partners with whom I really enjoy birding are Ritesh Dighe and Abhijeet Rasal (both from Pune) and of course my Dombivli-Mumbai gang.
Birding alone is something I never enjoyed but at times you need to do it due to some unavoidable reasons.
Anything on the birding bucket list?
Has eBird changed how you bird? How?
Yes, absolutely! I have targetted many lifers using various features of eBird (exploring hotspots and probable sightings). The amount of smart information this intelligent database has is insane! I keep telling my friends and beginners how eBird has helped me and how it can be a powerful backend birding friend. I enjoy browsing eBird features in my free time.
Have you set any birding goals for the coming months?
No such goals as of now! But would love to do some beach birding in summer.
What is your message for fellow birders?
Lately, I have seen many beginners jumping onto bird photography from bird watching. A record shot of any lifer is priceless and gives you immense pleasure. So don’t run behind photography and don’t get depressed if you don’t get good shots!
Secondly, start going through eBird, orientalbirdimages (OBI) and Indian Birds for bird images. These might help you in understanding and identifying species. Don’t seek easy IDs. Try yourself, its fun. Start exploring your backyard and you will be rewarded.
And my last message to everyone is to keep birding, keep sharing. Spread the knowledge about birds and yes, don’t forget to use eBird. It is equally important and interesting!
Header image: Rock-Eagle Owl (Indian Eagle Owl) Bubo bengalensis by Bimal Modi/Macaulay LIbrary