The amateurs and the experienced,the young and the old but bird lovers all,came together for the eight edition of the Mumbai BirdRace on Sunday with the winners spotting a whopping 169 bird species between daybreak and sunset.
The event,organised every year since 2005,requires bird lovers to spot as many birds from daybreak to sunset out of the 407 species recorded to be found in and around Mumbai. The team spotting the maximum number wins. This year,two teams,Black Bittern and Grey Headed Lapwing,shared the first prize with a count of 169 species while Greater Spotted Eagle came in with the next highest total of 160 species. Ashy Minivet,a bird considered highly rare around the Mumbai region and spotted by the Greater Spotted Eagle team,was declared the bird of the day.
Interestingly,both winning teams worked together and travelled to as far as Murbad,three hours away from Mumbai,the previous night. We began at night itself and it was a fantastic experience. The highlight for us was to spot eight pairs of a rare bird called Malabar Grey Hornbill,which is endemic to India, said 22-year-old Prathamesh Desai,captain of Grey Headed Lapwing. Their team also had 12-year-old Swapnil Kulkarni,one of the youngest participants at the event. The captain of the other winning team Black Bittern was 19-year-old Kiran Kadam.
Over 74 teams and around 400 people participated in the event. Birders braved the scorching heat and traversed forests and wetlands alike with cameras in one hand and Salim Alis field guide in the other. Some teams,such as Mask Booby,even went 12 km from the shore in search of Pelagic birds,which are found in deep oceans. We hired a fishermans boat at Uttan and made our way into the deep waters. But we recorded only 10 species before we encountered stormy conditions and had to turn back, said 31-year-old Mayuresh Khatavkar. Others such as team Indian Pitta had three first-timers out of four but still managed to spot 109 species. Many of the birds I saw today; I did not even know they were in Mumbai, said 21-year-old engineering student Kartik Chandramouli. Another first timer,Dhaval Raja,21,from ‘Blue Throat’ said,The best part was to see the flight of flamingos sweep over the wetlands.
For others like Dr Ashish Nanabhai,who has been birding for the past 25 years,it was all about having a great experience. We did not come here to win. Its just our love for birds and nature, he said. Pravin Subramanian,one of the organisers of the event,said,This event aims at collecting scientific data every year so that we can assess whether issues such as deforestation,urban development and climactic changes are affecting birds. We are glad to see participation in such great numbers every year.