February 15, 2021

Birder Profile: Irshad Thebha

For Irshad Theba, an interesting childhood incident sparked a life-long tryst with birds. Here is more about him and how he started his journey in birding.

1. Please, tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do and where do you live?

I am a wildlife enthusiast and a birder from Gandhinagar, Gujarat. As a part of my profession, I work with Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation in Indroda Nature Park, in their bird breeding projects.  As a part of the research projects held by the GEER Foundation, I’ve also got opportunities to work in almost all the sanctuaries and national parks in Gujarat. Other than the waterbird census I have also participated in the census involving Sarus Cranes, Vultures, Bustards. I also work as a nature educator and so far have conducted over 1000 programs including appreciation training programs on bird ecology and conservation; nature education camps that were attended by more than 40,000 people from all walks of life. I have also volunteered at programs organized by various NGOs that work towards nature awareness. For example- BCSG in Ahmedabad, Savannah Nature Conservation Society in Surendranagar, Ride for Wild and Serenity Library & Botanical Garden in Gandhinagar, and Loris Associates in Ahmedabad.

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

The liking for nature and wilderness was deeply rooted in my childhood days by a few revered people at my native place in Hingolgadh, Rajkot. But my true inspiration was my father Mr. Noormohommad Theba, who cultivated this affection for nature. I will never forget that experience that became a turning point in my life. This was when I was in class 8. At home, we used to offer food to several birds and one day along with some Baya Weavers, Red-vented Bulbuls, House Sparrows, and robins, I found a different bird, enjoying the grains. This bird intrigued me and I asked my father what it was. He was a forest officer and he knew the name, but instead of giving me a direct answer, he handed me The book of Indian Birds by Salim Ali. After 3-4 days of continuous observations and going through the book, I found that the bird was a Blue Rock- Thrush. That identification exercise filled my heart with the joy of achievement and also remained my lifelong motivation.
In 2003 at the age of 15, I got involved in nature-based activities for nature camps organized by Lt. Shri Lavkumar Khachhar at Hingolgadh Wildlife Sanctuary.

3. Do you have a favourite bird or birds? Why is it/are they your favourite?
I have been in forests and woodlands, riverine ecosystems to marine ones, learning about various species and their role in the ecosystem. Hence, I love each and every wild bird. However, I have a special liking for birds adapted to the desert eco-system. Not only they camouflage well with the surroundings but also have interesting ways to survive in the harsh climate. For example, Greater Hoopoe-Lark in the summer, in the sweltering heat when there is no water around, I’ve seen it feeding on the early-morning dew left on the leaves.

4. Where do you enjoy birding the most?

I enjoy birding in any kind of habitat. However, birding in the dense forest is fun and challenging as one has to identify birds based on the various calls coming from dense canopies. During such times your birding skills need to be at the peak. One of the most exciting experiences was to record Brown-rumped Minivet (Swinhoe’s Minivet) from Indroda Nature Park which is the first record of this bird from Gujarat and addition to the avifauna of the state. A few other places that I enjoy birding are at Thol, Nal Sarovar, Little Rann of Kachchh.

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

As such I enjoy birding in any group or with a partner but when I have to achieve a specific or challenging target, then I prefer going alone. As far as groups are concerned, I enjoy training them for better birding.

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

I would like to visit some of the biodiversity hotspots such as north-east India and the Himalayas. To be more precise, I want to explore Himalayan Monal and other pheasants. Since I have observed almost all the species in Gujarat, I want to test my birding skills to the next level at a different place. I am exploring the birds de novo, by recording bird calls in the natural environment with appropriate instruments. Therefore, it’s my wish to complete this bioacoustics study for as many birds as possible.

6. Has eBird changed how you bird? How?

Yes, I have been using the eBird platform for a long time. The thrill to update what I see, and making the information available to a large number of birders, motivated me to put more efforts in a systematic way. Secondly, the new records that get featured on the eBird website, encourages me to explore my own area more vigorously. This platform also helps me retrieve my own data quickly which is an advancement over the older conventional diary keeping.

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

As I am a bit engaged in my professional assignments as well as considering the COVID-19 pandemic, I have not set any such goals, but I will not miss any opportunity if I get time and scope.

8. What is your message for fellow birders?

I would strongly urge all birdwatchers and wildlife photographers that any wildlife sighting is not anyone’s personal property. Wildlife is for everyone to explore, enjoy, and share, and hence, one should be open about sharing sightings with others. Also, sharing your sightings on a platform like eBird can help in contributing towards scientific understanding and conservation about our precious birds. Along with this, it is also advisable not to disturb birds during their nesting season.
And my last message is  “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”- Aldo Leopold.


Cover Image:  Greater Hoopoe-Lark Alaemon alaudipes © Vipul Ramanuj/ Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab from this checklist

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Bhavik Dutt
12 days ago

પ્રકૃતિ તો પહેલેથીજ બહુ ગમત હતી પણ બહુ બધા કારણો થી થોડો દૂર હતો એક દિવસ મારા દોસ્ત એ મને કીધું ઈન્દ્રોડા પાર્ક માં કોઈ ઇવેન્ટ રાખી છે મે અને મારી બહેન ફોર્મ ભર્યું ત્યારે પહેલીવાર સાહેબ સાથે પહેલી મુલાકાત થઈ એજ જીવન નો નવો વળાંક હતો. જે રીતે નવા નવા લોકો ને પ્રકૃતિ વિશે સમજાવવો છો તે દરેક માટે એક લહાવો છે.

Satish ahir
Satish ahir
12 days ago

આપનો પક્ષીઓ પ્રત્યે ખૂબ લગાવ છે આપણે બે થી ત્રણ મુલાકાત થઈ છે જેમાં પક્ષીઓ તથા ફોટોગ્રાફી માં મને વધારે રુચિ તમેજ જગાડી છે.

Author Vaghela Arvind Nalin
Author Vaghela Arvind Nalin
11 days ago

ઘણા સમય થી આપનું ફક્ત નામ જ સાંભળતો હતો પરંતુ TRC Camp શરૂ થતાં તેમાં આવવાનું થયું અને ઈન્દ્રોડા પાર્ક ખાતે પહેલી વાર આપની સાથે મુલાકાત થઈ. અને એ પછી તો જયાં સુધી Camp શરૂ રહ્યા ત્યા સુધી આપની સાથે મુલાકાત થતી રહી. તેમજ આપની પાસેથી ઘણું બધું શીખવા મળ્યું એ સૌથી આનંદ ની વાત છે. બસ આમજ આપની સાથે મુલાકાત થતી રહે. : વાઘેલા અરવિંદ “નલીન”

Janki Teli
Janki Teli
11 days ago

An avid birder, a go to person for many identification queries, but more than anything an avid learner and down to earth person. Wishing you all the best

Chetan sitapara
Chetan sitapara
11 days ago

I m a guide and started photography of birds at jamnagar gujarat last five years i m very much familiar with some of the important species like indian skimmer, crab plover, oyster catcher, Bartailed godwit, great knot, whimbrel, curlew etc. Also i have attended bird tagging program at jamnagar coast with mr Dishant Parasharya and Madhumitaji from bnhs and i want know more about birds habitat.

Alap Pandit
Alap Pandit
11 days ago

He is a Living Bird Encyclopaedia. I am very happy to see the space he got here. He is an inspiration for me.. Congratulations and best wishes.. Be blessed..

Dipak
Dipak
11 days ago

પેલ્લી વાર નળ સરોવર મળેલા એ યાદ છે પછી તો વારંવાર મળતા રહ્યા નવું નવું ઘણું બધું મળ્યું ઈવન સાહિત્ય પણ …….અમને ભૂલી ન જતા બસ….

Ketan Shah
Ketan Shah
10 days ago

You are an inspiration Irshad bhai. Salute to you passion and dedication. Wishing you good luck and hope all your dream come true.

Dr Rajkumar Yadav
Dr Rajkumar Yadav
10 days ago

Mr Irshad Theba is very popular person due to his expertise in bird identification. He is one among great birders of Gujarat state. I am botanist but from Irshad Theba i have learned many birds identification tricks. Wish you all the best

Tarun Parmar
Tarun Parmar
10 days ago

નમસ્કાર ઇર્શાદસર મારી વાત કરું તો હું પ્રકૃતિ પ્રેમી પહેલાં થી જ છું, પરંતુ 2017માં પ્રથમ વખત તમારી સાથે નેચર કેમ્પમાં ભાગ લીધો અને તમારા પાસેથી વિવિધ પક્ષીઓ, વનસ્પતિ અને તેના ઉપયોગ વગેરેની માહિતી મેળવી તમારા જ્ઞાનનો અમુલ્ય લાભ લીધો. આજે પણ આવી કોઈ માહિતી મેળવવી હોય ત્યારે વોટ્સએપ પર તમને મેસેજ કરીએ છીએ અને તમે પણ અમારા પ્રશ્નોના સંતોષકારક જવાબ આપતા રહો છો.તમારો સરળ અને મિલનસાર સ્વભાવ, મિત્રભાવ અમને યાદ આવે છે.તમે તમારા આ ક્ષેત્રમાં પ્રગતિ કરતા રહો એવી ઈશ્વર પાસે પ્રાર્થના.

Dr. Hetal Parekh
Dr. Hetal Parekh
8 days ago

Well from where to start????
A person who is teacher, frnd and now my field guide. He is a encyclopedia of birds. Great to see you recognize here.
Best wishes md congratulations dear

Dr. Vibhuti Raval
Dr. Vibhuti Raval
8 days ago

He is passionate birder as well as grounded person and his work dedication play crucial role to inspire young ecologist to be a part of the Nature and its Conservation aspect.

Abhay Hule
Abhay Hule
6 days ago

Excellent biography…and Thanks for sharing life stories. We all must thank both of you and Ebird team to provide this excellent platform reaching not only in India but outside world too.
Inspiring….

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