Birds Of Goa
Bittu Sahgal reviews Birds of Goa by Heinz Lainer and Rahul Alvares.
Author: Heinz Lainer and Rahul Alvares
Published by: The Goa Foundation
Large format, soft cover, 240 colour pages
Price: Rs. 800
Best known for its beaches, rock music shows and its iron ore mining, very few people are even aware of the incredibly rich Western Ghats biodiversity heritage that is rightfully a part and parcel of all that is ‘Goa’.
Heinz Lainer and Rahul Alvares set about to change this image in the most effective way imaginable – by showcasing the bewildering diversity of forest, wetland and coastal avian life along the Sahyadri ranges that run north to south through the sunshine state of Goa.
Well researched, catalogued and presented, the book adds great value to a state that is beset by environmental problems, primarily on account of the false notion put forward by developers that the people of Goa face penury unless they allow Goa’s natural heritage to be excised and sold to the highest bidder… more recently, China and other nations scrambling for cheap iron ore.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Richard D’Souza, Chief Wildlife Warden and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Goa puts it thus: “Eco-tourism can offer a much-needed diversion from the present, almost exclusive, focus on beaches. Ornithology and birdwatching can lead to the creation of an excellent, environment-friendly tourism industry that will benefit all while destroying none.”
The book travels through history and cherry-picks nuggets of natural history to present birders with a visual canvas of the distribution of different species of birds, coupled with a tight overview of birding options. Both authors are passionate birders whose love for Goa finds expression through their sharing of the value and worth of Goa’s threatened forests. They have used personal observations to list the sequence and nomenclature of birds according to Sibley and Monroe (1993) in keeping with the listings published by Inskipp, Lindsey and Duckworth (1996) and Grimmet (1998).
Particularly useful to readers will be the listing of sites where the birds of Goa can be watched and photographed, such as the Socorro plateau, the Nerul grasslands, the Neura wetland, or the Protected Areas of Bondla and Mollem where Malabar Pied Hornbills and Indian Pittas are possibilities. When coupled with the recent emergence of expert birders whose livelihood comes from escorting visitors through Goa’s surprisingly beautiful and unexplored wildernesses, this book with its updated information and practical advice should help establish Goa as a global destination for birders.
Given the lengths to which the authors have gone to make birding easy in Goa, one thing I missed was a good map that might enable me to plan visits to the many birding spots listed. Of course, in this age of connectivity, every smart phone can help make this happen!
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First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXV No. 2, April 2014.