Enjoy greatest rendezvous with Mumbai's featherfolk - The 14th Mumbai BirdRace

Published: Jan 31, 2018, 19:03 IST | mid-day online correspondent

The day activity format was conceptualised by Mumbai-based naturalist-writer Sunjoy Monga, while Pravin Subramanian and Ravi Vaidyanathan help coordinate the BirdRace programme, with help from local bird enthusiasts in every city-venue

The cuckooshrike is commonly found in the Kharghar hillsRepresentational picture

The day activity format was conceptualised by Mumbai-based naturalist-writer Sunjoy Monga, while Pravin Subramanian and Ravi Vaidyanathan help coordinate the BirdRace programme, with help from local bird enthusiasts in every city-venue."

Since 2013, the event has become non-competitive but we have continued to use the term race after all that's what it is, to try spot as many birds as possible. The biggest gain has been the sheer number of people who have become interested in birds, and the BirdRaces could be the single greatest exercise to have roped in so many beginneers and new-comers into the captivating folds of the bird-world.

It is a platform that has given beginneers an opportunity to come together with the experienced and a platform of interaction in field and at the evening get-together. Above all, the BirdRaces have been for the cause of birds, and the environment, in the urban context, getting that much more support, and awareness. There is a fun element but there are strict rules and its findings contribute to serious stuff about birds and our environment.

There are teams from several institutions and colleges, and there are also 4 Children’s teams, with some 20 kids participating this time, as well as a couple that will use only public transport to move around. The Mumbai BirdRace Organising team helps with suggestions on places to visit and related information. We even organize special BirdWalks for the sponsor and co-sponsor personnel.

The India BirdRaces help look at the avifauna (birdlife) of these urban areas and their surroundings and serve to popularize bird-watching and from thereon a better understanding of other aspects of our biodiversity and so that support and awareness for the cause can be increased.

This is the 14th Edition of the Mumbai BirdRace. With well over 350 bird species recorded over the years in and around this city, lying as this does at a critical point not just on the avifaunal migration route but is also flanked by a vast landscape of habitats, Mumbai is a birding hotspot. As with many other regions, here too, over the years, new species continue to be sighted, from rarities to vagrants, and there have been some exciting observations, mostly of one-off vagrants, in recent times. That’s the magic of birds, the power of their flight that can land anything that can fly from anywhere to right here in my backyard in Mumbai.

Explanation of the Habitat:
Forest: All types of forests, from lowlands to hills
G-S-A: Grass-Scrub-Agriculture; includes secondary growth, forest-edge
Wetlands – Freshwater: Inland lakes, ponds, tanks, wet cultivation, reed-beds, rivers
Wetlands – Coastal: Sea-shore, sandy/rocky, mangrove creeks, estuaries, brackish water-bodies
Urban Parks/Ave: Gardens & Parks, Avenues, Built-up areas, incl secondary growth, creek-edges immediately within urban settings

Most seen birds during Mumbai BirdRaces (not in any order):
House Crow, Black Kite, Blue Rock Pigeon, Coppersmith, Koel, House Sparrow, Little Cormorant, Indian Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Pond Heron, Common Tailorbird, Red-vented Bulbul, Red-whiskered Bulbul, White-throated Kingfisher, Green Bee-eater, Black Drongo, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint, Black-winged Stilt, Red-rumped Swallow

Some birds/bird-groups with very few and declining sightings during BirdRaces (some have not been sighted during past few years):
Red Spurfowl, Ashy Woodswallow, White Stork, White-naped Woodpecker, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Rufous Treepie, Plum-headed Parakeet, Verditer Flycatcher, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Loten’s Sunbird, Spangled Drongo, White-bellied Drongo, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, Large Cuckooshrike, Black Redstart, all the lark species, Pied Avocet, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Blue-capped Rock-thrush, most wagtails, Nakta or Comb Duck, Common Kestrel, several other raptors (birds of prey)

SOME SPECIES/BIRD GROUPS NOT SIGHTED/HEARD ACROSS THE REGION DURING BIRDRACES 2015-17:

  • White Stork
  • Black Redstart
  • Ashy Woodswallow
  • Most Quail species
  • Most Lark species (except at 2 – 3 sites). Rufous-tailed lark and Black-bellied finch lark were the two lark species most reported
  • No Vultures

SOME SPECIES NOT SIGHTED/HEARD IN SGNP & FRINGES DURING BIRDRACES 2015 - 2017:
Large Cuckooshrike, Ashy Woodswallow, Loten’s Sunbird, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Yellow-crowned (Mahratta) Woodpecker, White-naped Woodpecker, Heartspotted Woodpecker, No quail species

Bird Habitats most affected in Mumbai area over past decade:
Grass-Scrub-Agriculture – or what we call openlands. These have declined alarmingly across the region or have had their overall quality declined. It is estimated that up to 75% and perhaps more of this habitat-type has either been lost or seriously impacted. The resultant decline in sightings of typical species of such habitat are clear pointers.

Freshwater and Coastal Wetlands: Numerous sites have disappeared and/or deteriorated alarmingly, including several freshwater bodies. Most are choked with refuse or suffer from serius pollution. The last reasonably good such sites remain in the belt north from Bassein, along the Bassein – Virar corridor, which alas is the new domain for large-scale developmental expansion as the city speeds northwards.

Some of the rarely/uncommonly sighted/reported species in the region that were seen during the 2017 Mumbai BirdRace:
Darter or Snake-bird – On Powai Lake, within Greater Mumbai. This was a significant sighting within Greater Mumbai of this species that appaers to be slowly expanding its range in the region. On the 2016 BirdRace Day this species was the Bird of the Day, with 03 birds sighted near Kalyan.

  • Nilgiri Wood Pigeon - A solitary bird in the Naneghat area forests
  • White-bellied Sea-eagle – Sighted Gorai area and Alibaug
  • Malabar Trogon – Sighted and photographed in the Naneghat area, where also it had been reported in 2016
  • Caspian Tern – Sighted and photographed Uran area. Has been sporadically seen on previous BirdRace days in Uran, Navi Mumbai, along the Vasia-Datiwere coast.
  • Ultramarine Flycatcher – Karnala Bird Sanctuary
  • Ruddy Shelduck – Uran area
  • Black Eagle – 01 sighting, Karnala

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