Enthusiastic bird watchers make Salim Ali bird count a success

Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has stated that the Salim Ali Bird Count, an initiative recently re-launched by BNHS-India in association with Bird Count India, was successful, with active participation by people from across India.

As a part of this initiative, the activity was conducted on November 15, to commemorate the birth anniversary (12th September) of Late Dr Salim Ali. Enthusiastic bird watchers uploaded their observations on the eBird website. A total of 15,638 observations were recorded by over 280 people from 22 states covering a total of 514 species during the day. The observations were collated from 549 lists, since each individual was required to prepare different lists for different locations covered.

Among the various lists, 383 were unique lists, since they were uploaded by single individuals; whereas the rest had multiple contributors in each list. A total effort of 805 person-hours was utilized in bird watching. Since early morning is the best time for birding, maximum number of people (284) ventured out in the early hours between 6.00 am to 9.00 am, with the enthusiasm holding strong till noon when 104 people continued their bird watching. Though evenings are also said to be good for bird watching, enthusiasm faded through the day with only 73 bird watchers participating in the count during the fag end of the day.

Out of the 514 species of birds spotted during the bird count, 30 species were from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Birds 2015. White-rumped Vulture was the only bird spotted from the ‘Critically Endangered’ category, whereas four birds from the ‘Endangered’ category were spotted, viz. Black-bellied Tern, Egyptian Vulture, Great Knot and Steppe Eagle. The latter two were recently uplisted (increase in threat level) to ‘Endangered’ category from ‘Vulnerable’ and ‘Least Concerned’ respectively.

Commenting on this initiative, Dr Deepak Apte, Director, BNHS said, “Sálim Ali Bird Count is one initiative which connects every common man walking on the street to the world of birds. This presents an opportunity to not only involve common people in bird watching, but also make them ambassadors for bird watching. We are very happy to revive Sálim Ali Bird Count and aim to scale it up further on the pan-India level through our existing network."

State-wise break up

Birders from 22 states covering 99 districts of India participated in the count. Maharashtra ranked first with a total of 123 lists, followed by Kerala with 59 lists and Karnataka and Tamil Nadu with 40 lists each. The observations were divided across four regions in order to understand the region-wise distribution.

Dr Raju Kasambe, IBA Programme Manager, BNHS-India, said “Indian ornithology needs help of each and every bird watcher based in the remotest locations of the country. If everyone contributes their observations on citizen science forums like eBird, in coming years we will have good understanding about the temporal and spatial distribution of birds found in India. Slowly, we will get an idea of the impact of climate change and other factors on the birds in India. So, we request every bird watcher to encourage bird watching among the general public and share data for the benefit of science”. The count will now be organized every year on the Sunday succeeding 12th September to encourage bird watching and spread awareness.

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