Big Bird Day 2014 – Punjab, Pakistan

Big Bird Day - Arthur Anab Shams

Big Bird Day 2014

Big Bird Day 2014 in Pakistan was a propagation of the annual event initially started by the Delhi Bird group to celebrate the joy of bird-watching, the first of which was arranged on February 22, 2004. The main objective of this activity is not just bird-watching it also provides for counting the species seen in a particular area. By doing this activity on a fixed day we have better chances of reaching to a more accurate population of at a particular time. More over with such activities we have a p

Big Bird Day 2014

ossibility of re-discovering a particular species which was not seen for a long time. Recording the confirmed sightings across the country on the same day would provide the essential and realistic data which will show the actual diversity of Bird Life in an area. A great advantage of this activity in Pakistan came out to be that it brought Pakistan on the international map of Birdwatchers.

We had an opportunity to go to a place called kala khatai in Punjab close to Pakistan India Border for bird species count. A team of six members was formed by us and we made our best efforts from dawn to dusk to count the maximum birds of the said locality. We were able to spot 52 species in total and another one as a probability.  A summary of confirmed sighting was compiled and submitted to the ebird website Species that we were able to locate were as follows. Graylag Goose Bar-headed Goose Ruddy Shelduck Gadwall Mallard Northern Pintail Green-winged Teal Common Pochard Gray Francolin Black Francolin Great Cormorant Little Cormorant Gray Heron Purple Heron Little Egret Indian Pond-Heron Black-crowned Night-Heron Eurasian Spoonbill Black-shouldered Kite Eurasian Marsh-Harrier Eurasian Moorhen Eurasian Coot Black-winged Stilt Red-wattled Lapwing Common Ringed Plover Common Sandpiper Eurasian Collared-Dove Yellow-footed Pigeon Greater Coucal White-throated Kingfisher Indian Roller Eurasian Hoopoe Long-tailed Shrike Black Drongo House Crow Crested Lark Barn Swallow Red-vented Bulbul Ashy Prinia Common Babbler Jungle Babbler Black Redstart Pied Bushchat Bank Myna Common Myna Asian Pied Starling European Starling Western Yellow Wagtail White Wagtail Red-headed Bunting House Sparrow Nutmeg Mannikin Participants of the Activity: Bilal Qazi
Abel Griffen
Ali Shah
Arthur Anab Shams
Awais Ali Sheikh
Yawar Khan Looking at the current response from our country (Pakistan) we expect a higher turn over from passionate Bird Watchers to join us in this activity. It was a wonderful experience and a great learning opportunity.

I can still feel the smell of coal

Hannah Lake - Quetta 1982

Hannah Lake – Quetta 1982

Mild smell of burning coal coming out of chimneys, cool breeze, dry air. We had just come out of train to join our father in Quetta, who was already there a month ahead of us to do his staff college. My first step out of the train, with a haversack on my back, which contained toys more than my clothing. Moving out of the railway station and going towards the cantonment was an entirely different feeling for us.

“Papa!, why do they have that cloth wrapped on water pipes of all the buildings”, was my first question to my dad. Papa was excited to hear the question from his 4 years old boy. He told it was very cold there and the water would freeze in the pipes which could block the flow of water and damage the pipes too.

I can still recall the very pleasant morning when I came outside to witness my first ever snow fall. Small flakes of snow falling on the ground just like if someone was spinning a quilt made of cotton. The feeling to walk on snow in the lawn was just like walking on a carpet placed in the garden. Making snow man was a common thing, but I had to do something unusual. I started rolling a small piece of snow. Towards the end of ground the snow carpet rolled into a round bundle. A few more bundles and I had made a lion with the snow. The cones from the pine tree and pieces of broken wood provided the finishing touches. I wish digital photography was available in those days too. I had the pleasure of riding a snow-lion for almost a month till the snow melted.

Getting lost and on the verge of being kidnapped is another (now interesting) memory from my early childhood. Urak – a nearby picnic spot; some 20kms from where we lived, was commonly visited by our families. A time when we used to pick up apples directly from the trees in the farms and owners used to say – “eat all you can, all free”. On a certain occasion our family shifted from one picnic spot to another within Urak. I somehow lost my way and when the family realized that I was missing. They started to look for me. I was found in the surroundings of the place being taken away by some men, who claimed they were planning to hand me over to the local management.

Last year in 2011, I had a chance of visiting Quetta again on a cousin’s wedding. More than 3 decades had passed and I was anxious to locate something I was familiar with. Every thing was different now. Couldn’t find the same smell of coal. Quetta was not as barren as I saw this time. The fear of violence was in the air and the fragrance from my childhood was no more there.