December 19, 2017

Birder Profile – Prasad JN

Prasad JN is a keen birder and bird educator. He is also amongst those who have contributed valuable historical data about birds to the eBird database. Always learning and always teaching, he is an inspiration to new and experienced birders alike! 

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where do you live? What do you do?

I work from home in Bangalore as an independent wellness consultant involved in Herbalife Nutrition business.

When did you start watching birds?

Being fascinated with all aspects of nature since childhood, I spent most of my time in backyard, giving my own names to birds that visited our garden while never being aware of the wonderful hobby of birdwatching. I was actually introduced to a more formal way of watching birds after I accidentally stumbled upon a little book in Kannada by HR Krishnamurthy on identifying common birds, and that is where I got to learn the correct names and heard Salim Ali’s name for first time. The search for his book led me to the British Library which did not have a copy at that time. My first field guide was the Collins Handguide to Birds of Indian Subcontinent by Martin Woodcock which had beautiful illustrations. Few of our friends got together to learn more about the birds around us, and this took us to places and the thrill caught on. It was a lot more challenging and quite a lot of fun to watch birds without binoculars or through a camera zoom lens.

Has birding changed for you over the years? Has eBird changed birding habits?

One thing is for sure – the more I learn about birds and the more I watch birds, the more I want to share with others. The biggest satisfaction I get is sharing with others whatever little knowledge I have acquired from this vast world of birds. Since 1984, I have been going birding in groups – learning and helping others to learn about birds.

Bird diversity has changed over the years and the topography of Bangalore has changed a lot due to urbanization. We used to see a lot more numbers of the individual species than what we observe at present. Bangalore used to have a lot of agricultural fields, open areas, rocky habitats, grassland, and scrub forests. These used to be the times when we would see over 80-90 species of birds in a span of 3-4 hours and count migratory ducks in excess of 20,000.

Yes, eBird has helped me to discipline the way of record keeping and sharing with other fellow birds as soon as possible. I started to use eBird more seriously only recently, especially after the tragic experience of losing over two thirds of my field notes due to a termite infestation. So better the notes and data can outlive me and be of some use to someone rather than die with me.

Notes on a Blue-bearded Bee-eater in 1991 from this checklist

Has uploading your records to eBird been helpful?

Yes it is really helpful. Initially it took me some time to get going due to taxanomical changes in names of birds including scientific names. Also, there was a hesitation to use eBird initially because some of the reviewers’ comments were premature as they perhaps did not know the birds and their abundance as the old Bangalore was much much different from the current one; and often there was a lack of photographic evidence to prove the sightings.

I still prefer using the field note book and pencil to jot down which gives me more time for observation than using the mobile app. Whenever possible, am using the mobile phone to record the audio calls, and I try and get some pictures from the box camera if possible.

So many years of birding, what continues to excite you?

Teaching how to watch birds especially to children, teachers and public alike has given me the greatest satisfaction and I would love to continue to do that. I rarely miss an opportunity to go out with them. For me, there is more joy in showing a bird to a newcomer than in me seeing a new species.

Yellow-throated Bulbul by Mohith K Shenoy/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab

What is/are your favourite birds and why?

Bulbuls have been a favorite after we took up the status survey of Yellow-throated Bulbuls. I am particularly fond of their calls. Magpie Robins, Cinereous tits and Barn Owls are other species that have a special mention after we did the nest box projects. It is thrilling to see them successfully occupy the nest box and raise their young.

Have you had a local birding patch? Can you tell us about it? OR What is your favourite place to watch birds?

Yes, I watch birds from my second floor terrace every day, especially the birds that get attracted to the bird bath. Besides my terrace, I have enjoyed going to favorite places such as Lalbagh Botanical Gardens, which provides easy access to teaching/introducing newcomers, and Valley School, for habitat and bird diversity, for over 3 decades.

Do you have any advice for beginning birdwatchers and naturalists?

Please take field notes, sketches, and learn more about birds, bird habitat and behaviour rather than just photographing them as you would not only learn more about them but it would immensely add value to science. Even when you upload your checklist on to ebird please add, additionally, notes about what you observed in the field. We have lots of gaps in information and field guides are not updated. If people earlier than us had not done that we would not even have this much information available to us. Our next generations will benefit only if we add notes to the earlier data. Just sharing your pictures on social media does not help much and its not available for the researcher who is searching for it. Please be generous to share pictures and referenced material to sources like wikipedia etc, you would be amazed how many students and teachers make use of them.

Anything else you’d like to add? – Please feel free to tell us, we’d love to learn 🙂

It’s sad to learn that people use ebird just for selfish purpose, to see which bird has been sighted and where so that next trip can be planned, but seldom contribute back to ebird or other useful places for public. Be open minded to learn and share. Most important is to enjoy the process.

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Vidhya Sundar
Vidhya Sundar
3 years ago

Nice article. Had few opportunities to go birding with him. He shares so much information that we cannot get in books.

Vinod.V Diwanji
Vinod.V Diwanji
1 year ago

Prasad has vast knowledge of birds. Experienced good moments with him in my childhood. Good teacher. Very enthusiastic to share his knowledge.

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