Birder Profile: Renuka Vijayaraghavan
1. Please tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do and where do you live?
Born and brought up in Coimbatore, I was a distributor of telecom services until 2011 and now I make handmade soaps on order basis. I love to travel and explore places mostly relating to wildlife and heritage. When I was 8 years old my uncle took my cousins and me to Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, wildlife has been my passion since then.
2. When and how did you get interested in birding?
I have been regularly visiting Mudumalai National Park at least 3-4 times every year since 2000. In 2003, after the morning wildlife safari, I was sitting outside in the resort balcony when I saw some activity in a nearby tree. Eager to know what it was, I grabbed my binoculars and started observing. I found some bright green coloured birds feeding on the fruits of the tree. Fascinated by its colour I kept looking for more birds on that tree not realizing that I had spent more than an hour. Excited to know more about the bird, I approached the resort manager who introduced me to the Books of Indian birds by Dr.Salim Ali. I found that the green birds that I saw were Coppersmith Barbet! Further browsing through the pages I was absolutely amazed to find that there were so many fascinating birds in India. That was the beginning of my birding expedition. Though I got passionate about birds and wildlife until 2013 I didn’t have much time as I was busy managing my work. Birding was only during my vacations so I could identify only very few birds. By 2014, birding became a regular activity. Gradually I started learning to identify them. I started photographing birds and also went birding with known friends. In 2015, I was introduced to the Coimbatore Nature Society (CNS) who had been organising field trips every Sunday. I went along with them on many such trips after that. It was such a big eye-opener for me, discovering hotspots in and around the Coimbatore city, identifying birds and butterflies through pointers, and many other aspects, especially being introduced to the eBird tool. Thanks to CNS members for all their guidance and support as always.
3. Do you have a favourite bird or birds? Why is it/are they your favourite?
I’m fascinated with birds in general, more specifically the colourful ones, some birds for their features and of course the Owls!
4. Where do you enjoy birding the most?
I enjoy watching birds anywhere and everywhere. I love to explore in and around Coimbatore and the Western Ghats because of easy access with so many nature spots in close proximity.
5. Do you have a birding partner or a group you enjoy birding with?
I used to go birding alone in my earlier years and then I went birding with the CNS group on many occasions. For the past 3 years, I have been birding regularly with Mr.Rajinikanth Kasturi and Mr.Rangaraj. l also go birding with other birders whenever time permits. For better concentration, I prefer birding in smaller groups. The advantage of birding alone was that I could go birding whenever I wanted to, with no prior planning. But it’s different when birding with friends, time management is the major constraint but nevertheless it is pleasure because one gets to learn, share knowledge and you have more sets of eyes to spot birds and other wildlife. Also, in a way it is much safer.
6. Anything on the birding bucket list? (Doesn’t have to be a bird, could be a place, witnessing a phenomenon, etc)
Wanderlust! I love to travel all around the globe given the opportunity and time. I want to visit and explore every wildlife and birding hotspot in our country and worldwide. It would be a blessing to see all the lovely wild creatures and also document their behaviour.
7. Has eBird changed how you bird? How?
eBird is really a wonderful tool that changed my birding passion for the good. I found so much to explore, learn, and share about birds-everything on one platform which was otherwise a distant dream and a difficult task. I can see myself as a better birder, trying to identify and document birds in different and better ways. For the entire world, from birding hotspots, bird photographs, bird calls, bird alerts, maintaining all the database to many more advantages, eBird is always a boon to any birder in my opinion. The only disadvantage I see is disclosing the exact location of certain sensitive species for example like owls or nesting birds which might be a disturbance or post a threat to them.
8. Have you set any birding goals for the coming months?
I want to explore more places and document as many species as possible. I also want to try pelagic birding sometime.
9. What is your message for fellow birders?
Enjoy whatever you do without harm to anyone or anything. Fame is short-lived, self-satisfaction should be the key. Always make a self-effort to identify birds or any species before seeking help from others. Explore, document, and share your findings on any of the educational or conservation platforms. Be responsible, sharing only what’s necessary with the others and also educate, interact with the younger generation, local tribes, guides, and forest staff whenever possible. Last but not least be humble to everyone remember we are a mere droplet in the vast ocean.