Nature Quest: Go birding in Purbachal
On holidays Purbachal is a few minutes' ride from the northern residential areas of Dhaka city. But the contrast between the claustrophobic concrete jungle of Dhaka's residential areas and the expanse of Purbachal is as stark as you can imagine. You feel the difference in the air quality as soon as you leave the Airport Road, heading east for Purbachal. The wide new road that takes you there is still unnamed but is popularly called "300 Feet Road".
Within a kilometre along the way the landscape changes magically. Suddenly, there are no high-rise buildings blocking the sun and soon you actually get to see the sky touch the ground at the horizon. On holidays you may come here only to take in the fresh air and enjoy the vastness of the horizon. But like us, you too will probably wish to do a little bit of nature watching. It is irresistible.
You are at Purbachal once you cross the river called Balu Nodi, meaning the sand river. Then the road winds through an enormous expanse of land to be turned into a residential area. Brand new bitumen roads radiate through the grassland on both sides. Countless concrete poles stand like match sticks all over the place. The poles will presumably support the electric lines when people begin building homes here. Now they serve as the perching posts for the eagles, buzzards and falcons. The untrodden grass fields down below are now an undisturbed feeding ground for small birds, rodents and insects. These happen to be the staple for the hungry raptors sitting on the poles or circling endlessly in the warm air over the fields.
In the grass fields of Purbachal, the game of hide and seek continues endlessly between the aerial hunters and the clever little creatures on or near the ground. It is easy to observe here how evolution works; how it helps the hunters to hone their weapons while also strengthening the defence strategies of the hunted. Here you will also see a Kestrel apparently meditate on a pole when the sun is warming up the morning breeze. But soon you will know that the meditative look on the Kestrel was a sham when it suddenly swoops down on the ground to take some unsuspecting insect or an inexperienced munia bird in its talons.
The raptors being big and bold are easy to be spotted at Purbachal. The dainty and colorful birds could be seen in the morning hours. Farmers from nearby villages are growing vegetables over a large part of the land here. The vegetable gardens provide suitable perches for the beautiful munias, orioles, rollers, shrikes etc. Even dry grass provides a lot of insects for the larks, pipits and lapwings. The strange looking yellow-wattled lapwing is easily seen at Purbachal although it is considered a rarity everywhere else in Bangladesh.
We can confidently recommend a short walk through Purbachal on a holiday or any time before the owners begin constructing another concrete jumble there.
The writer is an ornithologist.