Grey Hornbills at Dusk by Bulbul Sharma
Bulbul Sharma – can you have a more appropriate name for a person who writes a book on the birds that she sees around the year in her home city of Delhi! Her passion and compassion for birds come across so clearly in her writing that you almost feel that it is one of the birds who is telling you the story.
In Grey Hornbills at Dusk, Bulbul Sharma talks about the four major seasons of Delhi. And the birds that you can see in these seasons. Bird watching, of course, cannot be de-linked with the weather. As birds migrate long distances to be in their chosen weather. She also talks about the habitats that they love – be it the trees and their berries. Buds or flowers, be it the shrubs or the dark corners of ruins which the birds find so easily in Delhi. She does not restrict herself to the political geography of Delhi. She includes Sultanpur in Haryana, Bharatpur in Rajasthan and Kasauli in Himachal too in her explorations. Of course, the most often mentioned hub remains her very own garden.
Any bird watcher or anyone with a curiosity about the birds should pick up this thin volume. Mainly to know the basic details about what birds to look for where and when? Sometime Bulbul Sharma also tells you how to behave around certain birds. She describes the seasonal changes that the birds go through, their nesting, their mating, their calls and their flights. She brings in the historical and mythological references for the birds and the trees. And you remember little stories that you might have heard from your grandmother – I recalled a lot of them. If you are a parent, these are good stories to pick up to tell your children. And teach them about the birds without being preachy.
Bulbul Sharma sprinkles the book with personal anecdotes and humorous incidents she faced while watching birds. These anecdotes make the whole narrative alive. Without these anecdotes, the book would have been a dry field guide kind of book. I loved her comparison of some birds with some of her family members. At places, she describes the interactions between birds just like humans. And sometimes she creates a dialogue between herself and the birds.
Having spent all her life in Delhi, she has seen it from a rather green- times when a lot more birds and animals were around. But thankfully she never gets into that rhetoric of nostalgia for old times. She tells you about the abundance of birds that you can still find. The green spots that still exist and the plants that still attract birds. Almost giving you a choice to create habitat for birds if you want.
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