In Lower Parel’s fast changing skyline, with its glass-and-chrome office complexes and high-rises, one apartment stands out. Parakeets, bulbuls, sparrows and even kingfishers find way to the apartment, which is a perennial source of food and water.
Arundhati Mhatre, 36, a resident of Hanuman Cooperative Housing Society and an IT professional working in Powai, has set up 10 bird shelters and feeders on the balcony of her seventh-floor flat. In four years, she has nurtured hundreds of birds while managing her work and family.
If that is not enough, she has reared 350 butterflies on her balcony. It is home to a variety of plants such as West Indian Jasmine (ixora), lemon, curry leaves, lantana and other citrus plants, which attract butterflies to lay eggs. Some butterflies which she has reared include the common mormon, red pierrot, plain tiger, tailed jay, lime and swallowtail.
“While the rest of the city is moving at a faster pace with the advent of technology and the need for more in life, I chose a simple lifestyle where my interests lie in reducing carbon footprint and doing my bit for nature,” said Mhatre, who is done a course in macrophotography and is currently pursuing a course on sustainable living and nature conservation from Ecological Society in Pune.
Her interests and sensitivity towards nature sparked after she began bird watching at Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivli, and Yeoor forest range in Thane in 2008. “The experience opened up a window for me and all I wanted was to sensitise others like me, to create and protect a habitat for nature’s gifts,” said Mhatre.
In 2013, along with her husband Yatish, she began a social enterprise Arenya, an initiative where households could contribute to the well-being of birds, by using shelters and feeders. The duo procured a variety of shelters made from bamboo, coconut or clay, made them into different sizes and started conducting workshops and exhibitions to share their interest with the city.
With time, she got better equipped with food for birds visiting her home with the likes of sun dried rice and sunflower seeds that attract rare ones like sunbirds, barbets, swifts and even Alexandrian parakeets and Golden orioles. “We adopted sustainable living and our lifestyle changed in a way where there has been no television for six years now. We do not use toothpaste or soap because of the chemicals in them, but only organic stuff,” said Yatish, an interior designer by profession. “We chose a school that specialises in environmental studies for our five-year-old son.”
The family gifts surplus feeders and shelters to friends and relatives. “It all boils down to happiness when it comes to my son’s curiosity about birds, butterflies and nature,” said Mhatre. “You can conserve nature in your own way while living in a city and doing your job.”
In 2015, Mhatre was awarded by wildlife conservation magazine Sanctuary Asia for her conservation efforts in the urban sphere. Today, she conducts regular workshops at schools like American School of Bombay, Bandra, and is connected with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) for conservation efforts.
“It is clear from her efforts (Arundhati) that one does not need a garden or a backyard to conserve nature, especially for Mumbaiites. If we have the drive, we can attract birds and butterflies even at our window sills by planting the right plants and creating the right environment,” Isaac Kehimkar, deputy director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
“The Mhatre family has managed to balance their lives and ensured an immediate balance to contribute to nature in their own way. The lesson we learn from them is that if you believe in something, live it to the fullest without worrying about the consequences,” said Anand Pendharkar, environmentalist and wildlife biologist.
Bird shelters and feeders
- Shelters and feeders are used by birds, since there is degradation of their habitat (especially the sparrow)
- In the plastic era, machine packed foods have been replaced openly available gunny bag grains. There is minimal spillage of grains and there is a shortage of food for birds.
- Shelters of different sizes are available for different birds
- Small sized holes ensure that larger birds like crows and pigeons have restricted entry into small shelters and small birds along with their eggs are safe and secure
- Shelters should be placed at a height to ensure the birds are protected from bad weather
What should feed the birds?
- Broken rice and bajra are the grains preferred widely. Water can also be kept in the feeder
What you should know?
- Shelters do not attract birds –the shelter should be placed only if there are birds around
- Birds using artificial shelters is not a natural phenomenon
- Shelters are made up of natural material and hence subject to deterioration
News Source: Hindustan Times