Aim for the stars, the skies and seas
If you miss the outdoors, train your eye on it. You’d be surprised how much you can still see. You can do some bird-watching, star-gazing, insect-studying and even dolphin-spotting, all from within your home.
“Air and light pollution are both down and that’s allowed me to spot constellations and planets more easily,” says Neeraj Ladia, an astronomer and Chennai head of Space India, an institute for astronomy and space sciences education and tourism. “I spotted the Pleiades star cluster near Venus. That was quite a sighting of a rare alignment.”
Early morning, from 4 am to 5 am, is the best time to stargaze, he says. There’s a higher chance of spotting planets.
Ladia is conducting online sessions on the things easiest to spot. Space India also runs astrophotography contests. “We did one during the last super moon,” he says.
Apps such as Sky Map, SkySafari and Star Walk can help tell you what you’re looking at too. “Put your location in and you can zoom into the sky on your phone screen. Some apps give you real-time views,” Ladia says.
IS IT A BIRD, IS IT A FISH?
With human activity at a low, a wide range of birds is more easily visible too. Samriddhi Nandi, a student at Manipal University, has begun bird-watching, usually in the afternoons. “Initially, I would be reading or sipping tea by the window, and I kept seeing birds I’d never seen before,” she says. “So I began to look them up online, and so far I’ve spotted a yellow-wattled lapwing, a kingfisher, an oriental magpie robin and peacocks.”
Darshan Khatau, a wildlife conservationist from Mumbai, is also spending his afternoons by the window, but he’s spotting dolphins from his seaside home in Mumbai. “More than anything else,” he says, “I think we now have more time to observe the wildlife around us. I’m spending more time looking, and looking more carefully.”
Arati Kumar Rao, a journalist and photographer from Bengaluru, has a photo series running on her Twitter and Instagram accounts that she calls #BackyardSafari.
Rohan Keshewar from Mumbai has begun insect-spotting in his building compound too. “I was into bird-watching but one day, an insect with a dazzling blue lower body caught my eye. The colours were amazing. In the sun, it reflected shades of green,” he says. He had often considered moths and insects ugly, but after seeing that one up-close, he began reading up. “Now I am totally loving this,” he says. “I spot some bugs, bees, then look up their names and characteristics. The difficult part is getting close enough to observe. But most days it’s just me in the garden, and I ensure I don’t scare the moths away.”
Darshan Khatua, a wildlife conservationist, is spending his afternoons dolphin-spotting from within his home in Mumbai.
Tasmai Dave from Jaipur has taken to bird-watching from his balcony. His favourite sightings include two owlets at night, and this purple sunbird.