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An extraordinary naturalist celebrating bird life

Monday, July 09, 2012

PIGEONS, Brahminy kites, wagtails, painted storks, pintails, spotbills, honey suckers, cormorants, sparrows, mynahs, parrots, hoopoes, the pied crested cuckoo, greater owls, pied kingfishers, Jacanas, Waaks, bulbuls, a bustard quail, falcons and bee-eaters. And finally, two “shawks” that are worshipped as saints in this small temple on a hill near Mahabalipuram.

These are just some of the birds of India captured in print forever by a man who was a naturalist born and bred, and who could conceive of no other life but observing them and writing about them. Birds and Birdsong by M Krishnan is actually the second collection of his work edited by wild-life cinematographers, writers and photographers Shanthi Chandola and T N A Perumal. And to come to them for the first time is to discover riches indeed.

To say that Krishnan writes well is to toss off the information that Shakespeare wrote successful plays! A man in love with his own subject, he brings an equal love to the craft of writing about them.

Evocative,  absorbing, engaging, he has been called the finest naturalist and nature writer in the land by historian and writer Ramchandra Guha. E P Gee, the great English naturalist writer and observer of Indian wildlife, has said that he (Krishnan) has no equal as a writer.

Birds and Birdsong tends to make us agree with both. His prose is liberally laced with beautiful descriptions of nature, literary allusions are sprinkled throughout, he makes his bird friends come alive for everyone, so that from seasoned naturalist to complete amateur, there is something for everyone. Best of all, Krishnan creates in one a hunger to know more, read more about this rich aspect of India that most of us ignore.

For 46 years, Krishnan wrote a column called Country Notebook in the Sunday Statesman. Two posthumous books of photos and writing have appeared after his death in 1996. However, Birds and Birdsong is the first collection that focuses exclusively on birds. We hope there will be more.

Of Birds and Birdsong
By M. Krishnan

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