19th Mumbai BirdRace, a non-competitive event that sheds light on birdlife, is at hand
Representative Image. Pic/iStock
Bird lovers in the city and Mumbai Metropolitan Region have reason to celebrate as the long-awaited 19th Mumbai BirdRace will be held on Sunday.
The event has been conceptualised with a focus on the avifauna of urban areas and surrounding habitats and seeks to popularise birdwatching.
India BirdRaces—a popular series of birding events of which the Mumbai Bird Race is a part—are held across 13 to 15 cities between November and March.
Sunjoy Monga, a wildlife conservationist, photographer and writer, said, "Birds are often the foremost attraction for anyone interested in exploring the natural world. And the increasing popularity of the HSBC India BirdRaces, ever since they began one wintry morning in December 2005 in Mumbai, bears testimony to this simple truth. From that single city one-off event, it has expanded to a pan-India programme."
He added, "Human-influenced landscapes such as towns and cities and their immediately impacted surroundings have become another habitat, home not just to an increasing human population but also an exciting laboratory of sorts where the drama of birds and humans is endless and evokes every kind of imagination and expression."
The dawn-to-dusk India BirdRaces events allow teams of enthusiasts to spend a day birding in and around a city, up to 50 km or so around the urban perimeters.
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This is followed by an interactive evening get-together. With nearly 3,000 people collectively participating, directly and indirectly, across India.
Monga added, "Though non-competitive in nature, the event has been retained as a race to try to spot as many birds and explore every site in and around the city. Invaluable data has been gathered, which reflects all that is good and bad about how our urban areas are impacting the natural scheme of things. Also, as of last season, we have been slowly expanding the Mumbai event into a pan-Maharashtra event on the lines of what we have managed to successfully achieve with the help of local birdwatching communities' support in Gujarat and Kerala."
The Mumbai BirdRace has helped experts accumulate interesting and illuminating data on the region’s birdlife, including on specific families and species, over the years. There continue to be ups and downs in terms of species sightings and bird numbers across sites and habitats, with grass and scrub landscapes having been most affected, followed by wetlands.
"The India BirdRaces also serve to highlight local issues and in the context of the Mumbai region, the plight of deteriorating wetlands continues to be of utmost concern," said Monga.
He added, "Tragically, on the eve of the 19th Mumbai BirdRace, the distressing news of the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority giving in-principal clearance to a golf course over the bird-rich wetlands of Seawoods completely offsets the hollow proclamations of the finance minister on wetland conservation during her Union Budget address on the very same day. What a mockery of our understanding of wetlands it is."