From the hills of Tungareshwar in Vasai to the mudflats in Sewri, around 350 participants armed with binoculars, cameras and log books, traversed the city to track as many species as possible during the 10th edition of the ‘Mumbai Bird Race’ Sunday.
Indian Blue Robin and Malabar Trogon, birds that are usually difficult to sight, were spotted in Karjat and the on-the-decline Rufous-tailed Lark was the highlight of this year’s race. Team ‘Common Kingfisher’, led by Avinash Bhagat, spotted the highest number of bird species at 166, followed by team ‘Peregrine Falcon’, led by Prathamesh Desai, which spotted 162. Six of the 70 teams spotted more than 100 species of birds this year.
Teams of bird-watchers, ranging from school-going children to senior citizens, participated in the race. “I spotted a brown-headed Barbet, a Coppersmith Barbet and a Purple Sunbird in Goregaon. Walking all day was tiring, but spotting different birds was great fun,” said Tridha Haritwal (nine), who participated for the first time. Five-year-old Rohan Redkar, the youngest participant, said he spotted a Drongo. According to the organisers, around 40 school-going children were part of different teams.
This year, the race saw the trial of Android app Birdr, developed by Srihari Kulkarni from Bangalore. The app allows a participant to record the bird on an e-logbook. “We wanted to discourage people from padding their numbers just to win. The information from the app can be directly transferred, saving time and paper,” said Pravin Subramanian, core member of the Mumbai Bird Race. Around 10 per cent of the teams used the android app this year, said city-based naturalist and conservationist, Sunjoy Monga, who conceptualised the bird race, organised in the city every winter.
Most participating birders’ favourite track was Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in Borivali, where around 75 per cent of the birders went. This was followed by Aarey in Goregaon and the Bhandup pumping station area, while some even travelled as far as Alibaug.
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Monga said it was heartening to see a rise in the number of young birders, especially children, but adds that there are fewer birds spotted each year. “While the presence of a large number of fast-growing non-indigenous trees, besides unplanned construction, are reasons behind the city’s dwindling bird population, providing bird-boxes and planting the right kind of trees would go a long way in bringing them back,” said Monga.