It is very rare to see house sparrows and bulbuls in the India’s metropolitan cities now. While habitat degradation is considered a major cause of wildlife loss in urban areas, there are a few people who are making extraordinary efforts to conserve nature through innovative ways.
Arundhati Mhatre, a software professional working in an IT company in Powai, Mumbai, whose passion lies in nature conservation has set up 100 bird shelters and rears 350 butterflies in her apartment balcony. She is not only providing food and water but also providing secure nesting places to the sparrows, parakeets, robins, sunbirds, and different species of butterflies.
The Logical Indian had a conversation with Ms Arundhati recently. She said, “Urban people are losing connectivity with nature and she is trying to rejuvenate their relationship with nature.” So, bird feeders and shelters installation in the apartments are key highlights of her initiative ‘Arenya’, started in the year 2013. In the last four years, she has nurtured hundreds of birds and butterflies.
What inspires her?
“My friend had gifted me a shelter which was occupied by sparrows. This in turn led me to become a bird watcher. Later, I started rearing butterflies and learnt about the plants and trees around which butterflies breed. After getting so much from nature, I thought it was time to give something back to the nature. So, if a shelter-box can give me happiness, why not to gift similar experiences to other people? So we started promoting bird feeders and bird nest boxes.”
To understand different plant and animal species, she has been roaming in the forests from past eight years. She has also done a one-year PG course on Sustainable Management of Natural Resources & Nature Conservation from the Ecological Society, Pune and a Field Botany course from Fern, Thane.
Balcony as a garden
In her balcony, Arundhati has different varieties of plants species like shoe flowers, ixora, sadaphuli, marigold, plumbago, and nectarine for sunbirds.
For butterflies to lay eggs in her balcony, she has plants like lemon, citrus plant, kadipatta, bryophyllum, krishnakamal (passionflower), rui (calotrophis), and mimosa.
Arundhati buys around 100 shelters and feeders every year; these are made from clay, coconut, and bamboo. Shelters are made into different sizes and shape to accommodate different species of birds and provide them with safe nesting. Her husband and friends are helping her in her efforts. “We get the shelters and feeders made in local communities and rural areas,” she adds.
Arundhati told The Logical Indian, “These feeders have broken rice, bajra, jowar, and sunflower seeds. The grains have to be washed in the way we wash our grains before cooking. The grains are washed and sun-dried.”
Sunflower seeds and grains can attract a different variety of birds. She further said, “Butterflies reared on different plants and they are feeding young leaves or flowers in the balcony which is specific to specific species. The Guava Blue Butterfly only feeds on the flowering parts of Gardenia.”
She has different varieties of flora in her balcony which are attracting butterflies in her seventh-floor garden.
Birds use very selective materials to build a secure nest and hay, jute or cotton balls are being provided to birds. The important thing to be noticed here is birds should find nest secured and it should be least disturbed.
Arundhati said, “The best way we can help nature is by not interfering. But since we are destroying their habitats, it’s our duty to provide them alternatives. So we provide them food and water and create secure nesting places for them. We can’t help them build a nest but can provide nesting material like hay and jute or cotton balls. But birds are very choosy and will accept them only if they feel secured. Also, occupying a nest box by a bird requires lots of patience and one has to wait for years for the bird to accept it or we have to change the shelter box location after studying bird patterns.”
Sharing work with society
Under an initiative, ‘Arenya’, Arundhati is creating awareness and a culture where every second household will be contributing in the form of bird shelters and feeders placed at appropriate locations.
She says, “We exhibit our products in exhibitions and we organise workshops in schools on how to make feeders from recycled products.”
The Logical Indian appreciates Arundhati Mhatre for work of conservation and hopes that others will follow her example and provide shelters, protect ecologically important varieties of flora and fauna, and play an active role in nature conservation.