29th Pakshi Mitra and Sawantwadi
29th Pakshi Mitra Sammelan and Sawantwadi seemed like a good combination.
I became a Life Member of the Maharashtra Pakshi Mitra at the 25th Sammelan held in Mumbai , in 2012 at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. It was a wonderful peep in this world of ‘friends of birds’ over two days. I still remember ‘murmuration’ of Rosy Starlings, a prize winning image from Jamnagar and the sheer excitememnt when we witnessed this incredible natural phenomenon during our own visit to Jamnagar in 2013.
We decided to attend the Sammelan. Mr. Kishor Thakur was also to attend, he is a keen birder, a great friend of TheUntamedEarth … additionlly ahis hometown is close to Sawntwadi.
Now that we were attending the Sammalen it seemed logical to share some of our experiences from the world of birding. As I thought about my possible presentations, one thing stood out and that became one presentation for the Sammelan. The title was very aptly ‘Sakkhe Shejari’ – ’सख्खे शेजारी’ or ‘True Neighbours’. It was an account of the life cycle of three different bird species which we happened to witness right next to us, at our residence in Dadar, in the heart of Mumbai. For us, it was a presentation of a very different kind and therefore quite special . Kishor’s presentation highlighted the thriving Red breasted Parakeets population, a record of observations and documentation of more than five years … remarkable indeed !
Sawantwadi or Sunderwadi, an erstwhile princely state is a scenic town nestled in the Sahyadris and is spread around a central lake – Moti Talav or Lake, under the Narendra Dongar or mountain, a biodiversity hotspot. This entire region is dotted with greenery and there is a significant forest cover… but most of the land is in private hands and with time, a lot of this land is changing colour - the green is yielding way to residential zones or commercial plantations. The diversity of the original vegetation, like old large trees, is diminishing and it is certainly affecting the bird life … the biggest sufferers are the hornbills, notably the Malabar Pied Hornbills.
The Sammelan was solidly backed by the Sawantwadi Municipal Corporation and the active participation and the presence of the corporators, as well as the Mayor was tangible. The well attended Sammelan was inaugurated by the Rajmata of Sawantwadi . The addresses of the dignitaries highlighted the role that Sawantwadi or such places could play in taking birding to masses and smaller towns of Maharashtra. To me this was one very important aspect of the Sammelan. The forest department was also present, in fact the DFO Mr. Ramesh Kumar was the Guest Of Honour and spoke quite well, touching on certain key issues of conservation and surprised everyone by talking in wonderful Marathi.
The Essay competition , the photo competition , the Birds Dindi or procession of the school children added to the grandeur.
The theme of the Sammelan was Bird Tourism and various pros and cons of this aspect were discussed.
The presentations of numerous bird lovers from different corners of Maharashtra, touching from simple observations to serious scientific studies were our window to a different world.
The chairman for the Sammelan , Mr. Sharad Apte has to his credit the recordings of most of the bird species of the country and his data is open to anyone interested in research.
The endangered vultures and the novel approach of ‘Vulture Restaurants’ in some centres, the Vulture census were quite Interesting. There were amateur birders to subject experts including a contingent of veterinarians. Presentation on ’Pelagic Birds’ added a different dimension to the proceedings.
It was heartening to see some young participants. And it was a sheer delight to meet Ms. Shweta Desai, the amazing artist behind the bird paintings … they were so life like. Looks like the legacy of the greats like Carl DSilva will and can continue…..
For us the Sammelan introduced us to a different world, a world beyond glossy bird images … a world of meaningful dialogues, new friends, renewing bonds with old friends and a newly found purpose.
Profs Dhirendra Holikar, Ganesh Margaj of Wild Konkan - वाईल्ड कोकण, सावंतवाडी, Subhash Govekar of Nisarga Premi Mandal – निसर्ग प्रेमी मंडळ, सावंतवाडी and Bhau Katdare of Maharashtra Pakshi Mitra – महाराष्ट्र पक्षी मित्र, चिपळूण ,सह्याद्री निसर्ग मित्र, चिपळूण among others were the chief architects of the Sammelan.
We were happy to be a part of the Sammelan and look forward to more of such events.
Drs Ujwala and Sanjeev Shevade