Bird Watching



--A S Bishnoi and Shakti Bishnoi

1. The Nal Sarovar Lake is in a lowest-lying area between the Central Gujarat and East Saurashtra and is a Bird Sanctuary, spread in the area of 120.82-sq-km Lake, a serene marshland with shallow waters (4-5 ft) which contains 36 small islands. Nalsarovar-Ahmedabad distance is about 60 km located near Sanand Village, in Gujarat. Mainly inhabited by migratory birds as their wintering ground.  Nalsarovar wetland is the largest wetland bird sanctuary in Gujarat, and one of the largest in India. Nalsarovar is a Bird Sanctuary since April 1969 and also  a Ramsar site since 24 September 2012.

2.  More than 200 types of birds mainly waterfowl inhabit this lake and come from as far as Siberia. Nalsarovar in Gujarat is a bird watcher’s paradise, one can find rosy pelicans, lesser and greater flamingos, crakes, brahminy ducks, purple moorhen, herons, white storks, various species of bitterns, grebes etc in the lake. Best time to visit Nalsarovar is in winter between November to February. However, migratory birds starts arriving in October and stay until April but their population reaches its peak in mid winter. 

Garganey and spotted bill ducks resting

Our Visit. 

3.  We were en-route to Ahmedabad from Gir Sanctuary and Nalsarovar was one of the destination I wanted to halt and make my daughter see flamingoes and other migrants. So we took diversion from National Highway and headed towards  Nalsarovar. The last visit to this paradise of birds  was in 2004 and now after 15 years I am visiting along with my extended family members. Daughter and my wife were equally excited.  We were short of 10 km from Nalsarovar , we spotted Sarus Crane family, all time favourite to watch them and this time with young one as a family. We clicked few photos and as day was coming to an end, we headed straight to Nalsarovar. One of the surprising thing I noticed was locals have maintained strict cleanliness policy and one can find the water so clean that u can clearly see the sheval plants grown inside the lake. Sheval plant is food to the birds as well as the fish inside the lake.


4.  Generally guide charges are Rs. 400 to Rs. 500 but as we both are ornithologists (We attended course from BNHS, RISHI valley, ELA foundation) and visited several bird sanctuaries, we headed directly to interiors of village and took responsibility on us to teach our daughter. I am well versed with Gujarati so I could converse and found our way to reach the point where, paradise is just to be felt. The best time to reach there is just before sunrise as the lake is calm and quiet and flocks of birds having their food or sunset if you have specific thing in mind to click the particular photo. 

5.   We sat near the sand dune to make us not visible to flock of birds enjoying their food. We took our positions and  slowly marched ahead like Army person crawling to have the first glimpse of Flamingos. They are shy and with little disturbance, they fly and it becomes difficult to sight them. We saw first flock and it was amazing sight with our binoculars and then I took out my camera to click them. That day was cloudy and it was boon for eyes, but photos were not as against the blue sky background. Still managed to click few and headed towards the other end to have a  closer look. To my surprise, there was drastic reduction in birds count. Lot of land nearby lake was converted into irrigation land /encroachment and water being continuously pumped regularly for the cash crops in and around the lake. Extensive exploitation of water for personal usage and finally our guests i.e birds suffer. With our little brain we are yet realize that we are because of them. There was a time, if little disturbance near the lake being sensed by birds, the sky was dark with blanket of birds around you. But now after a decade, the picture painted by migrants is different. They are not happy or comfortable with the existing mind set of humans and governance also. I even visited THOL, the birds count in Thol was more than the is stark reality.  


6.  Nalsarovar wetland is facing a tough competition by another nearby wetland named Thol. Birds count in Thol is almost double the  Nalsarovar. Estimated number of birds per sq km in Thol is around 9000. While in Nalsarovar is only approx 2500 birds per sq km and the most birds are local and not migratory.  
The reasons are many but prominent are as appended below:- 

(a)Fishing. Extensive fishing  by locals as their livelihood. 

(b)   Poaching. Poaching in today era by the locals has major role in scaring birds away from  Nalsarovar sanctuary. Everyone is aware of this fact till up the governance.  Poachers lay nets to trap exotic birds of Nalsarovar, Gujarat. It is a bitter truth that locals of at least 15 surrounding villages are (said to be) involved in illegal fishing and poaching activities. Only seven to eight foresters and guards combined safeguards Nalsarovar. Locals take advantage of this staff scarcity to poach birds and sell them into the black market.

(c)   Lack of Guards at Lake. Ideally, for every 10 sq km there should be one person to guard the lake. Nalsarovar’s guard count should be of eight guards, six foresters and two rangers but these posts remain unfilled since long. Moreover, there are some watchtowers but the guards lacks the basic equipment such as binoculars. Nalsarovar Forest department also lack adequate boats and are not the expert enough rovers to chase the poachers.

(d)  Narmada Water. Diversion of excess Narmada waters to Nalsarovar Lake. This is happening since the past few years is probably another reason for it. The excess Narmada water in Nalsarovar Lake has altered water quality of the marshland and has led to consistently high levels of water in Nalsarovar. It is a turnoff for migratory birds. Especially the birds like greater and lesser flamingos that thrive in shallow waters of about 2ft, which Nalsarovar once used to be. The water is for irrigation, to earn at the expense of life of migratory birds. 

(e)  Thol the Competitor : It is  an artificial lake near Thol village in Kalol area of Mehsana District in Gujarat, India. It is a reservoir made for irrigation in 1912. It is a fresh water lake same as Nalsarovar and is a marshland. Thol is a Bird Sanctuary since the year of 1988. 
Crested Larks
Urgent Actions  Required to Regain Glory

7. The grass inside the Nalsarovar Lake is more than 10 feet high. And it is easy for a person to hide behind it and go undetected. One of the solutions is to trim the grass. Trimming the grass is so effective that this alone can make life difficult for the poachers. 

8.  Nalsarovar forest department can only take care of the few things. It is time the government does something for the people who live in and around Nalsarovar sanctuary. Blame is on Padhar community that lives in villages around the sanctuary and Nalsarovar city for Poaching in Nalsarovar, Ahmedabad. It is also a fact that from centuries they have killed the birds for food and business. It is difficult for them to leave their way-of-life and stop without the government providing them with parallel lifestyle.
9.   Nalsarovar Forest department had plans to grade the boatmen based on their education and the quality of service they provide. For example, one grade of boatmen, would only offer exclusive services to big groups like schools. But the authorities did nothing after a single guide-training program. Most of the guides are poor but educated and unemployed, providing them with a job opportunity would have ensured that they do not indulge in poaching activities.
The classic example is Chilika should be followed where erstwhile poachers became the savior and guides with enough to earn for their livelihood in just four months. Chilika model should be adopted for overall success. 

10.  Creating in-depth awareness by government/forest officials  or campaign by and NGOs to explain the importance of Nalsarovar and impact on environment will bring everlasting change. The change has to start from lower level and it will be boon for migratory birds and once gain they will revisit to Nalsarovar. For generations it gets registered in their brain and once it is fixed, it  will be too late. Chilika took one decade to gain its glory. We need to start now before the fusing of data in their brain (migratory birds) takes place. It is do or die situation now or never. Our next generation will only read in books about Harappa and Mohenjedaro…so action is needed today. 

Sarus Cranes
 Mr A S Bishnoi is a post graduate in Electronics. Apart from wildlife photography, he is qualified ornithologist and has been contributing by participating in bird census of Chilika lake for the last 10 years and also BNHS related activities.
 Mrs Shakti Bishnoi is a postgraduate from London School of Business Management. She is qualified and experienced ornithologist, participates in bird census and child counselor. Believes in increasing green cover and has taken initiative at ground level. Marathon runner for a cause.




-A S Bishnoi and Shakti Bishnoi

1.   The wonderful creations of God are seen everywhere. Ever since life came to existence the world was surrounded by colourful and charming winged jewels to honour mother earth. The prime quality initially created was with prominent colours than today. With rapid deforestation and industrialization, hardly open space is left for their survival and existence. Pure air, food and nectar plants in the wilderness are some of prerequisites for their survival. Some of the species have become extinct and more will follow their path in the near future, till the time we wake up to see the remnants, which is in fact an irreversible process. Little, we can do is to offer conducive environment for their survival. Let our coming generation see their existence and appreciate the world of vibrant colours. It is our conscience, which is still missing in the domain of initiative. 

Striped, Plain and Blue Tigers

2.Plants in the ecosystem are the main source for our survival. Living beings depend on nature for survival. It is our prime duty to maintain the ecosystem in its prime condition. Herbivorous and carnivores are mutually dependent for their survival. All fruit bearing plants except few depend on birds/insects/butterflies for pollination. One of the missing link in the ecosystem will lead to void, which cannot be created again. Butterflies, the colourful winged jewels are performing the most important task in assisting the pollination of plants and yet are one of the harmless class of species. Looking at the pace at which the deforestation is consuming the earth, the day is not far to look for these miraculously beautiful flying angels in books and video recordings. 


3.From time immemorial, butterflies have always fascinated humankind and no group of insects is more charismatic than the butterflies.  Among insects they are certainly the most popular, and that is probably why they are among the most studied insects. There was a time when butterflies were collected by hobbyists like postage stamps. Much information was generated during that period on their taxonomy, migration, variation, mimicry, speciation and evolutionary biology. Today several species of butterflies are used by conservation biologists as indicator species to identify habitats that are critical and need to be protected. 

Mormon with pupa

4.Their size ranges from the tiny jewels to gorgeous bird wings with a wing span as great as eight inches. Almost all Indian butterflies are under threat, and some are critically endangered. Large areas, once forest or wasteland, full of wild plants that caterpillars eat, have now been cleared for agriculture, besides their habitat loss the widespread use of insecticide has drastically reduced numbers. But a butterfly lover and nature lover finds its way and so did we. We created  ?The butterfly garden?, one of its kind, wherever we got posted as part of Armed Forces requirement. Both of us were born in a family “BISHNOI? which are world's first environmentalists and believe in conserving/preserving the nature. So it is in our sanskar and genes  to contribute in whichever we way can,  journey  still continues  even in MILIT, Pune

5.  Butterflies choose untouched green/clean area and wild plants for their caterpillars to row. Their  very existence indicates that the environment is  conducive for humans to survive. They are the indicators of clean environment. With this apt  information and our quest to know more about them,  we started exploring the wild fauna and flora in search of butterflies. We use to spend our free time in collecting caterpillars and rearing them at home by planting their food plant or bringing the leaves of food plant and feeding them till it is adult butterfly.

6.   We ( Cdr A S Bishnoi,  Mrs Shakti Bishnoi and Daughter Kanan Bishnoi)  are continuously working   towards adding numerous winged jewel(Butterflies)  to our mother earth for further pollinations of life,  giving life to plants. We both used to observe these wonderful creations viz birds, butterflies and visited several  wildlife sanctuaries being inquisitive about wildlife and food plants of winged jewels.  Our journey began in 2009, when we were in Mumbai. We used to admire  these colourful butterflies at the same time  were inquisitive as how do they come into this world and how long do they survive etc. Our inspiration was Fighter Pilot Sqn Ldr Girish Dantale now Gp Capt Dantale. Very soon, nature bestowed us with  an opportunity to have a closer look of these mysterious winged jewels on this earth. We witnessed lime butterfly laying eggs on lemon plant and thereafter there was no looking back and rest is history.

Bishnoi with common mormon

7. In 2011 we got transferred to Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh). We were offered vintage house (1955) and had  enough space for garden, wherein  we made our butterfly garden by planting the food plant viz. Lemon, Curry leaves, Calotropis Gigantea(milkweed) , Wild creeper ,Palm leaves etc. Very soon I was transferred to Delhi, it was bit disappointment (as rarely open space is available to continue my hobby and pollution was other concern), but we still managed to create small terrace garden with food plants. Too our surprise, winged jewels made their presence in dust and contaminated air of Delhi against the belief that they are indicator of clean area. Life still thrives amidst the chaotic situations.

8. Our journey from Western-Ghats to Eastern-Ghats and vice-versa continued and today we are amidst Western Ghats. Butterfly species are unique to their native place but they do migrate from Western Ghats to Eastern Ghats and it is documented. We have, till  date reared/nurtured 600 butterflies of 5 different species and journey continues in MILIT as well (F-12 Block)?.

9.  Their existence is endangered and  survival is critical. Their habitat  needs to be protected as day by day the large areas, once forest or wasteland, full of wild plants that caterpillars eat, have now been cleared for agriculture, deliberate forest fire, stubble burning, besides their habitat loss the widespread use of insecticide/pesticide to increase yield has drastically reduced numbers and few are extinct from earth. Concrete jungles, afforestation and rapid urbanization is taking a toll, unless we create forest which is  self sustaining eco-system, human existence  is distant dream. Exploring other planets for transporting elite humans is not the solution. 

How to save them

10. Awareness and creation of more wild space consisting of adequate wild flowers and food plants of butterflies. Every citizen is responsible for it. We even land up clearing our backyard grass, some species lay eggs on them as well. 
Educate children they are the future of this nation. Nowadays every child is well versed with how to use the gadget(moble, android, Laptop etc), but no body takes time to go outside the house and wander in jungle or backyard of their house and appreciate them. 

11. Let us start giving life to these species. If one in 10 can be nurtured, the balance in the ecosystem will increase the survival rate of other species.  Little, we can do is to offer conducive environment for their survival. Let our coming generation see their existence and appreciate the world of vibrant colours. It is our conscience, which is still missing in the domain of initiative. We all are born out of nature, but only few contribute to enhance its glory. We think  of searching/exploring life in our galaxy, but  are least bothered about our own earth and  keep on  killing the species. Our existence is cause of environment.

Mr A S Bishnoi is a post graduate in Electronics. Apart from wildlife photography, he is qualified ornithologist and has been contributing by participating in bird census of Chilika lake for the last 10 years and also BNHS related activities.
 Mrs Shakti Bishnoi is a postgraduate from London School of Business Management. She is qualified and experienced ornithologist, participates in bird census and child counselor. Believes in increasing green cover and has taken initiative at ground level. Marathon runner for a cause.

Climate Change

A wasted decade Should the earth slip into ruin by default?

A wasted decade
Should the earth slip into ruin by default?

The Paris summit of 2015 saw 192 nations of the world get together to find ways to limit global warming and stave disaster. This was to follow up the Copenhagen accord of 2009 and the Cancun meet of 2011, where 42 developed and 44 developing countries confirmed pledges to keep warming down to 2°C, and to try for 1.5°C.
Niklas Höhne, Michel den Elzen, Joeri Rogelj, Bert Metz, Taryn Fransen, Takeshi Kuramochi, Anne Olhoff, Joseph Alcamo, Harald Winkler, Sha Fu, Michiel Schaeffer, Roberto Schaeffer, Glen P. Peters, Simon Maxwell and Navroz K. Dubash, from institutes in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, UK, USA, Norway, Brazil and India, in a paper in the journal, Nature, have reviewed the progress made over the last ten years.  They find that window of 30 years, which was available in 2010, has shrunk to just 10 years. And the extent of reduction in emissions that needs to be achieved in this short period has increased. “…even if all unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement are implemented, we are still on course for a 3.2°C temperature rise,” says the 2019 review by the United Nations Environment Programme.

As late as 2015 and the Paris summit, scientists were speaking of a 2°C rise in global temperature being acceptable.  But we now know that 2°C would be too high and we need to achieve the target of 1.5°C. During the last 10 years, since we committed to the 2°C limit, however, the world did not work towards the target, it moved away and increased the task at hand.

The task, of course, is to rein in the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, which became alarming when it rose beyond 400 parts per million – corresponding to 3,132 Giga-tonnes (billion tonnes) of CO2. The level has been rising and was reported to be at 415 parts per million, or 3,250 Giga-tonnes in 2019. It is estimated that since 1959, some 350 Gt of CO2 have been emitted, of which some 55% has been absorbed by the processes on land and the sea. Once in the atmosphere, however, CO2 stays put, till it is absorbed or fixed as carbohydrates by vegetation and sunlight. While the capacity of these CO2 sinks stays nearly unchanged, the emission has been rising, and studies have shown that business as usual would take CO2 levels and the rise in temperature so high that human life as we know it may be impossible by the end of the century.
Hence the series of international conclaves, to create the awareness and impose on States the obligation to find ways, mainly of reducing the use of fossil fuels and the pressure of land, to retard, and then reverse, the rising load of CO2 in the atmosphere. What the world thought in 2010, the paper in Nature says, was that we had till 2040 to reduce to half the level of emissions. But we now need to do it by 2030, and there is more to do in the shorter time we have.

“Had serious climate action begun in 2010, the cuts required to meet the emissions levels for 2 °C would have been around 2% per year, on average, up to 2030,” the paper says. But in place of reduction, the levels of emission have steadily risen (see table ). Against even the annual 43.1 Gt CO2 equivalent estimated for 2019, the paper cites the UN report that says emissions are at 55.3 Gt a year in 2018. The current estimate is that if we plan to limit temperature within the window available, the “emission cuts required cuts from 2020 are more than 7% per year on average for 1.5 °C (close to 3% for 2 °C),” the paper says.

The study in Nature is an analysis of the data that the United Nations has been collecting every year, since 2010. This data, the Emissions Gap Report, is the comparison, by UN Environment Programme, of the action that the nations of the world have taken, individually, against what they should have, collectively, and the excess of emissions that we need to eliminate to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.  

From the UNEP report
“If we rely only on the current climate commitments of the Paris agreement, temperatures can be expected to rise by 3.2°C this century. Temperatures have already increased by 1.1°C, leaving families, homes and communities devastated.”
“We need to close the ‘commitment gap’, between what we say and what we need to do, to prevent dangerous levels of climate change. Governments cannot afford to wait. People and families cannot afford to wait. Economies must shift to a decarbonisation pathway now.”
“We have to learn from our procrastination. Any further delay brings the need for larger, more expensive and unlikely cuts. We need quick wins, or the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement will slip out of reach”
            -Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP
The annual review, over the last decade, has clearly not served its purpose as a means of monitoring progress.  The review, and the idea of the ‘gap’, however, the paper says, has helped keep UN summits adequately informed. But “the past decade of political failure has cost us all dear,” the paper says in its opening sentence.  And its synthesis of the ten annual reports since 2010, in preparation for the review to take place in Glasgow later this year, hopes to get nations to overhaul their promises. And then, crucially, to keep them — “if the yawning gap between ‘talk and walk’ is going to close by 2030.”

To build on earlier accords and mark out the course for their implementation was also what the summit of 2015 had intended.  If the meet in Glasgow is to have any meaning, it is essential that more forces come into play than just the UN resolve to get governments together.  The world cannot afford to let politicians fiddle while the earth, quite literally, gets ready to burn. This country has seen the courts of law being moved to enforce several provisions that are of public interest. Could there be a more human rights issue than the need to control global warming? Could mass awareness force the hands of governments, so that the voices of Greta Thunberg and Licypriya Kangujam do not go unheard?

[the writer can be contacted at]

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