Sunday, January 22, 2006

HSBC Bird Race'06 - Report from team "Flamingos"

Hi All,

January 2006 had been a very exhaustive birding for me. It all started from the 1st day of the year itself..…….I thought that I would be concentrating on my new Job…..the birdies, however kept me busy all thro'out the month and with the 2 nd HSBC Bird race 2006 fast approaching, I knew it would be a birding frenzy all over……

Plenty of last moment changes found myself accommodating in a Thane team, infact my original team had to be moulded almost 11 times in 10 days. Anyways I am glad that I had an opportunity to bird with new people……Our team consisted of Dr. Nyayate as our team captain, Mrs. Subhadha Nyayate, Mrs. Seema Ketkar & myself. Our contact point was the forest check post at the base of Yevoor at 7.00 am (22nd Jan'06). I got up half asleep (what with the hectic week before the bird race, juggling with all permutations and combinations)….but Riding by bike all the way from Sion to Thane in the early chilly hrs made me forget all about my sleep…..…

I was meeting my team colleagues for the first time, but thoroughly enjoyed birding with them all thro' the day…..their enthusiasm and zest percolated in my tired soul which gave me enough energy for the entire day (I was all the time on my bike moving from diff. places)…….

Yevoor: Our first location was Yevoor, Thane. It is a part of the north-eastern side of SGNP and quite rich in Birdlife and we were hopeful of catching up plenty of Forest species here. We not only saw many species (39 nos.) but came out satisfied more than just listing. …….The Bird Race prompted many people (almost all) to reach the locations very early in the morning and am sure most (particularly the newcomers) must have realized the importance and logic to start early…….

In a forest where the foliage limits the visibility, one has to be really attentive to the bird calls….infact it is safe to conclude that in a forest habitat, it is "Birding with Ears" more than the eyes. This helps not only to identify but also to trace that particular bird at exact locations (Habit wise… in woodpecker on tree stumps, Minivets on tree tops, Ioras in tree foliage etc.), to be more attentive, learn to concentrate etc ……..our team was well disciplined and deeply attentive and we sure were rewarded with ample no. of calls and sightings.

Our first bird for the day was a Greenish leaf warbler with its unmistakable call, followed immediately with a Crow pheasant… it was a good omen …..followed by Chestnut shouldered petronias, E.Golden & B.Hooded Orioles, Purple & P.Rumped sunbirds, W.Browed bulbuls, S.Green beeeaters, and very clear "wut wut wut" calls of the Collard Scop's Owl……….The drongos were everywhere and we were able to spot 5 out of the possible 6 species of drongos (except Bronze), dominated by Ashy, but the highlight was a magnificent Spangled drongo thro' the S.scope……

After my Dandeli visit, the call of Vernal hanging parrot had embedded in my mind permanently and I was surprised to hear this call in Yevoor…..this bird has this characteristic 2 note call that it gives in flight. Since we had not seen it, I thought, It was just my imagination and excitement……but then I heard it 3 more times and on the fifth occasion could sight it as it dashed through the canopy…..The sighting was special because its rarely seen in Mumbai region and a thorough lookout is needed for this otherwise perfectly camouflaging bird…..It was surely my "Bird of the day" …..And, the call helps!!
Our luck continued with calls and we traced the Brown capped pigmy woodpeckers near the broad stream where we had other wonderful delights waiting for us including C.woodshrikes, O.Honey Buzzard, C.Serpent eagle, R.Treepies, Malabar whistling thrush (calls), Redbreasted flycathers (call)…Only "I" had a glimpse of a Black rumped flameback…….but could not list it as per the rule…..

We had sightings of Scarlet Minivets at very close range. Looking at the gorgeous colours of both male and female S.minivets was enjoyed with some "Oohhs" and "Ahhs" and was enough reason for our team captain to declare it as our "Bird of the day"……On the way we meet another team (Hope-Thane)…shared our sightings and moved on… was nice to learn about their commendable activities on awareness towards nature….many children's and teachers had joined one of their regular nature trails that day.

Airoli: We were late to reach Airoli, our next location, but fortunately the low tide helped us to see many waders……this spot (thanks to Parag Damle from Mulund & Julius Rego from Airoli) is now frequented & reported regularly. Huge numbers of waders greeted us and we got all the sandpipers (except Broadbilled) here i.e. Terek, Common, Curlew, Spotted/wood, Green and Marsh sandpipers. Also Black tailed godwits, B.W.Stilts, Common Red & Green Shanks. Gulls were a plenty too and with the S.Scope it was easy for us to separate the Slenderbilled gulls from Black & Brown headed gulls (and mobilescope too)…….Further down we also added Common babblers, W.Cheeked bulbuls, E.Marsh harriers, S.Breasted munias, A.Pied starlings and L.tailed shrikes to our now swelling list.

IIT, Powai: Our 3rd Location was IIT Powai. With Dr.Nyayate (he is a professor in Gyansadhna College, Thane), we didn't have problem with permission to enter the campus and near the wonderful Powai lake. I had birded around Powai on many occasions, but never had the opportunity to bird from inside the campus. Thanks to the Bird Race, I got my first chance to appreciate the beautiful IIT campus and the road bordering the lake. Two teams lead by Dr.Ajay Pradhan and Sanal Nair were also present there and we had some wonderful time Birdwatching with these equally wonderful people. Amongst the new species added in our list were Purple herons & Swamphens, Common & W.Throated Kingfishers, Both Phesant tailed & Bronzewinged Jacanas, Glossy Ibis, Common Coots, Spotbills & Lesser whistling ducks, C.Pigmy goose, Indian & Little cormorants, Whiskered terns and a very acrobatic Osprey that delighted everyone with his diving prowess to catch his prey.

Sewri: It was already 3 pm and we still had one more location to cover-Sewri and though the teammates were tired, all had enough strength and zeal to continue……after refreshing ourselves with tea at one of Mr.Nyayate's relatives (One Dr.Wangikar, who won the President's Junior scientist award for 2005- truly inspiring) we proceeded towards Sewri, that we intended to reach before the high tide (at 5.08 pm) and catch up those marvelous birds on which we had named our team (Flamingos) …… Sensing too much crowd near the main jetty and also the fact that the high tide reaches there first we diverted towards the Colgate factory, only to find almost 7 teams there…….It was wonderful to see so many birding colleagues and especially new birders together ( wearing the wonderful HSBC T-Shirts) along with the curious people that thronged the place………

The sheer sight of the flamingos helped us to forget about all the fatigue of the day. Both lesser and Greater flamingos were close to the shore along with some other waders, Gulls & Terns. Grey plovers, Eurasian Curlew, Gullbilled terns, Little ringed plover and a lone Pacific golden plover gave good scope views…whereas the Slender billed gulls were appreciated by all……….The private BPT road (Toll Rs.20/car) that joins Sewri to Chembur RCF colony is another good place to bird and we added Paddyfield pipits and Common Mynas to our final tally of 111 birds.

All throughout the day surprisingly….and quite surprisingly we didn't sight a single wagtail of any species… Powai, Airoli or Sewri and hence our "Dip of the Day" was Wagtails……..Many people saw them though…but the overall numbers seem to have declined this year.

The evening function was held at a convenient location- Maharashtra Nature Park and it was heartening to see so many birders (almost 180+) on one platform and coming from all over the region, some as far as Pune, Chakan, Badlapur (and that too present, after a long & exhaustive full day birding) ……The arrangements were well done, thanks to Mr.Avinash Kubal (Dy.Director of MNP) and the short presentation well given, especially the Kids from Udayanchal school, Godrej and the children from Chakan…….I am sure the poem and presentation by them have inspired many, who were present……….moreover their keen observations on bird behavior, taught us some lessons on how to observe birds.

Though there were only 4 prizes, there was never a hint of Losing ….everyone had won, everybody had enjoyed ……it was a day not just for listing down birds that were sighted, as many people have been unfortunately making out……but a step forward, in making "Birdwatching as a Hobby" more popular, To know more about the avain data of the region, To sensitize more people towards birdwatching, that no doubt is a door to enter the wonders of nature, an opportunity for many (especially team captains) to lead a small group, so that they lead larger groups in future, To bring the birders on a single platform and share their knowledge……………and much much more………

A very Big Thanks to HSBC, who have being supporting the event for the last 2 years and for those T-shirts and caps….those were lovely and attracted many people's attention towards our cause.

A huge thanks to Sunjoy Monga who, as always have been taking initiatives to organize such events and encouraging many people….and Mandar Khadilkar for helping out.

It was a great opportunity to interact with so many birders on a single day and appreciate their passion for the hobby from a 7 yr old to 70+ yrs young….its infectious. I hope more people would join in next time, most importantly, to share their knowledge with the novices and to motivate new people….this year there were 175 participants, but I hope to see 175 teams next time.

And Finally, my deep gratitude to the Birds who delight and motivated me as always …………….

Happy Birding,
Addi The Birde

Complete list of the Team "Flamingos"

1) Jungle babbler
2) Brown-headed Barbet (large green)
3) Coppersmith Barbet
4) Small Green bee-eater
5) Red-vented bulbul
6) Red-whiskered bulbul
7) White-browed bulbul
8) White-eared (white-cheeked) bulbul
9) Oriental honey buzzard
10) Common Coot
11) Indian cormorant
12) Little cormorant
13) Coucal, Greater (Crow pheasant)
14) House crow
15) Large-billed (jungle) crow
16) Eurasian Curlew
17) Laughing (little brown) dove
18) Spotted dove
19) Ashy drongo
20) Black drongo
21) Greater racket-tailed drongo
22) Spangled drongo
23) White-bellied drongo
24) Spot-billed duck
25) Booted eagle
26) Crested serpent eagle
27) Cattle egret
28) Great egret
29) Intermediate (median) egret
30) Little egret
31) Greater flamingo
32) Lesser flamingo
33) Pale-billed (tickell's) flowerpecker
34) Thick-billed flowerpecker
35) Asian paradise flycather
36) Monarch, black-naped
37) Red-throated flycather
38) Tickell's blue flycather
39) Gargeny teal
40) Common Greenshank
41) Black-tailed Godwit
42) Cotton pygmy(cotton teal) goose
43) Black-headed gull
44) Brown-headed gull
45) Slender-billed gull
46) Eurasian marsh harrier
47) Grey heron
48) Indian pond heron
49) Purple heron
50) Glossy Ibis
51) Common Iora
52) Bronze-winged Jacana
53) Pheasant-tailed Jacana
54) Common kingfisher
55) White-throated kingfisher
56) Black kite
57) Asian Koel
58) Red-wattled lapwing
59) Rufous-tailed lark
60) Golden-fronted leafbird (Chloropsis)
61) Scarlet minivet
62) Scaly-breasted munia
63) Common Myna
64) Black-hooded Oriole
65) Eurasian golden Oriole
66) Osprey
67) Collared Scops Owl
68) Alexandrine Parakeet
69) Plum-headed Parakeet
70) Rose-ringed Parakeet
71) Vernal Hanging Parrot(Lorikeet)
72) Chestnut headed petronia
73) Blue Rock Pigeon
74) Paddy-field pipit
75) Grey Plover
76) Little ringed Plover
77) Pacific, golden Plover
78) Ashy Prinia
79) Grey-breasted Prinia
80) Plain Prinia
81) Common Redshank
82) Indian Robin
83) Oriental magpie Robin
84) Common sandpiper
85) Curlew sandpiper
86) Green sandpiper
87) Marsh sandpiper
88) Terek sandpiper
89) Wood sandpiper
90) Shikra
91) Long-tailed Shrike
92) House sparrow
93) Asian-pied (pied myna) starling
94) Black winged stilt
95) Purple sunbird
96) Purple-rumped sunbird
97) Barn Swallow
98) Red-rumped Swallow
99) Wire-tailed Swallow
100) Purple Swamphen
101) Asian palm Swift
102) Common Tailorbird
103) Gull-billed Tern
104) Whiskered Tern
105) Malabar whistling Thrush
106) Rufous Tree-Pie
107) Booted warbler
108) Greenish warbler
109) Brown-headed pygmy woodpecker
110) Yellow-crowed (Mahratta) woodpecker
111) Common wood-shrike