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Bird-watch feather in his cap

- Forest officer clicks common & uncommon winged friends to pen book

Ranchi, Dec. 28: If you tell him that people will call him Jharkhand’s Salim Ali, he will laugh off the sobriquet.

But Seraikela-Kharsawan divisional forest officer (DFO) A.T. Mishra is a rare bird. A self-confessed bird-watcher, he is working on a book on Kolhan’s feathered friends, replete with photographs and detailed observations, that he is funding himself.

Before taking on East and West Singhbhum districts, Mishra has started right in his workplace. Armed with binoculars and a camera, the newbie ornithologist is exploring the green lungs of Seraikela-Kharsawan that luckily for him are chirping like never before this winter.

“Birds have always inspired me. But I didn’t have proper opportunity to explore my interest in my earlier postings. Seraikela-Kharsawan to my surprise has so many winged visitors and yet not many know about them,” Mishra said when asked about his new passion.

He added that in less than a month this season he had come across at least 100 different species of birds.

From streams, small water bodies to patches of Sal trees, colourful and rare birds dart about in the region. Mishra cites just two picturesque places — Kerketta dam and Akarshani — where birds throng as they are completely off the tourist map.

“There are dense, virgin forests and no one to scare birds away,” he said, citing a native species of Jharkhand, the coppersmith barbet.

“It’s a tiny creature and very shy. Up close, it looks colourful, with a crimson patch. But it likes to hide in dense foliage. That’s possible only with greenery,” says Mishra.

He has seen many uncommon finds — the blue verditer flycatcher, the striking black and white ibis, the golden oriole — on his ramblings, as well as the less rare whistling duck and wagtail.

“I’ve caught most on camera,” he enthused, adding he shot on Sony SV 50. “But now, I’ll get a little more ambitious and shoot on an on SLR or single lens reflector camera soon,” he said.

Once Seraikela-Kharsawan is exhausted, he plans to move to twin Singhbhums.

“The project is really inspiring. Not many bird-related studies have happened in our state. And whatever limited information is available is mostly textual without pictures. My book will have photographs of birds and descriptions to make it attractive for everyone, from students to environment experts,” Mishra, who has started writing his first draft, said.

Once done, Mishra will try to explore opportunities to establish bird-watching clubs.

“You can say I am trying to be an all-rounder. I’ve chased wild herds, now I am tracking birds,” he chuckled.