Amreli (Gujarat): Calls of birds such as bar-headed goose, plum-headed parakeet and a flame-throated bulbul are among over 500 avian species from different corners of India recorded by Amreli-based naturalist Viral Joshi, who has put them on an online database dedicated to sharing bird sounds from all over the world.
Joshi advocates the concept of looking at birds through their calls, songs and other sounds.
“I was attracted to birds through their calls. Often it is difficult to see birds perched high up on trees or places difficult to see with your naked eyes. But if you can identify their calls it is easy to identify them,” says Joshi.
Scientists across the world have been using bird calls to keep track of bird species by recording their calls using often expensive equipment, including acoustic devices worth lakhs of rupees. However, Joshi who says he has been an avid birder for almost a decade has fashioned his own recording equipment at minimal cost.
Joshi has created his own recording gear that includes a parabolic dish, recorders and amplifier, at a total cost of Rs 300. The bird enthusiast says he is comforted by recording the calls of birds and people have also dubbed him ‘Acumen Acoustic’.
India has around 1200 species of birds and till now Joshi says he has managed to capture the voices of 520 birds including from areas like the Western Ghats and Uttarakhand apart from Gujarat.
According to Joshi to live a prosperous life in the future it is essential to take care of nature today. “When people know about birds they will be able to preserve them,” he says.
“The best teachers of biodiversity are birds. Did you know that a little bird called Sykes’s lark can mimic the voice of 24 other species? It is very astounding to see that this very small bird can produce a range of sounds to keep off predators and other threats,” says Joshi.
The Sykes’s lark is found in large numbers in central and western India.
For the experienced birder, who has been watching and listening to birds for over nine years, recording calls are not a mere hobby but a passion which has helped him to identify and catalogue even difficult to identify birds.
“I travel to different parts of the country as India is a biodiverse area and bird species found in the south of India is different from those found in the Himalayan regions,” he says.
For Joshi, merely spotting a bird is not enough. “Sometimes the bird does not call out it remains silent. then I have to return to the spot again and hope that it sings or makes a sound, only then will recording be possible,” he says.
Only a few species of birds have no voice and many birds are restricted to vocal sounds rather than songs or calls.
For now, the ornithologist has catalogued his bird sound recordings at xeno-canto, a global birdsong online database.
In the past, Joshi says he has worked on vulture conservation programme for the Bombay natural history society (BNHS) and as a researcher at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER). Although he has no formal education related to the field, his experience and interest have led him to volunteer in several surveys and studies on birds.