A photographer’s abiding romance with the avian world
Till about seven years ago, birds for photographer Prerna Jain came in various shades of black and grey and generally created a lot of noise and a mess. It all changed when she started viewing the avian world through her camera lens and discovered a vast spectrum of colours.
“I have spent all my adult life in New Delhi but it was not until about seven years ago that I started to observe how many beautiful birds shared my immediate environment as their home. “Up until then, I had only noticed pigeons, crows and mynas and I judged them for being noisy and messy in public areas. However, when I started to see the world through my camera lens, I felt like I had been given new eyes,” Jain, whose photo exhibition “Birds of Delhi” was on view at the Indian Habitat Centre, told in an interview.
“I suddenly found myself faced with vibrant purple, green, blue, golden yellow - colours that one can hardly expect to miss, especially when they are on birds which routinely fly past or perch within one’s regular eyeline. I noticed the variety in size - birds smaller than my fist, as well as birds the size of a basketball. Not just the colours and the size, I started hearing beautiful songs that birds sang at all times of day,” Jain added.
She began to wake up early every morning and go to her terrace to observe birds and photograph them.
“I was staggered by the sheer diversity of the different species of birds that visited my home across the seasons and at various times of the day. Initially, I had no idea what any of these beautiful winged creatures were called, and I gave my picture folders names like “the mustard bird” or “the sparrow with a shiny beak”, Jain explained.
Asked where she finds the birds, Jain listed multiple sites. Some shots have been taken in her own backyard in Greater Kailash, where a variety of birds nest often temporarily. Jain also photographed in Okhla Bird Sanctuary in south Delhi and in the Sultanpur National Park on the national capital’s fringes.
Today, after photographing some 40 species of Delhi’s birds, Jain’s collection includes birds like starlings, mynahs, tailorbirds, storks, herons, vultures, flamingoes, cuckoos, kingfishers, owlets, woodpeckers, cranes, parakeets, sunbirds, waterhens and sparrows -- Delhi’s state bird.
Admitting that she still doesn’t know a lot about birds, Jain said she had certainly learnt the names of many birds and has gradually started to understand more about them by observing and reading about them. To that extent, the exhibition is not about documenting the birds of Delhi, she said.
“My purpose of exhibiting these pictures is to make people aware of the beautiful world around us which we seldom take time to observe and acknowledge in our busy lives. Once we start observing, we will realise that the bird population is dwindling at an alarming rate. It is said that healthy bird populations are an indication of a healthy environment.
“Delhi is one of the most polluted cities in the world, yet we have so many different species of birds. It’s time we appreciate our feathered friends and create a conducive environment for them so that they can flourish,” Jain maintained.
As per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List data, as of 2015, it has been established that, globally, 1,375 bird species (13 per cent of the total, or roughly one in eight) are threatened with extinction.
India, in particular, is home to over 1200 avian species, out of which 87 species are globally threatened. This means they could be Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered or Extinct in the Wild.
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