Birds of India
Big Bird Day
Full Day Birding in Kolkata and West Bengal
~ a report
February 13th 2011 I Sumit K Sen

Bengalbird and Bird Photography India egroup members participated in the first 'Full Day Birding Event' in eastern India on 13th February 2011.Full day birding' events are popular worldwide, where teams compete against each other to establish a winner - the team that logs the most number of bird species in a day. Aside from the thrill of competition, such events play a vital role in popularizing birding as a hobby amongst newcomers and school children. Many of these events are sponsored by environment-conscious organizations and may include evening dinner events. But the main pull of the day, from a birding perspective, is the snapshot of local avifaunal richness that such an activity generates. Not only does it establish base data, it also provides an index for comparison across geographies.
For the members of our egroups, the focus was on content rather than the competition
- and that philosophy neatly tied up with our sister egroups in New Delhi, who had originally planned their "Big Bird Day" on the 13th, and had invited us to join.

Bird & Participants List

Despite a rather unplanned and late start, the call to participate in the inaugural event drew good response from members. A total of 41 participants spread across Kolkata, South 24 Parganas, Midnapore, Birbhum and North Bengal formed 12 teams (some represented by only one individual) and birded for much of the day covering diverse habitats. 203 bird species were recorded by the teams in West Bengal, with the Kolkata teams managing to tally 137 local species in the metropolitan area. Predictably, North Bengal came next. Only 5 individuals in two teams managed to record 115 species from the bird-rich Himalayan foothills. Of special note was the father-and-son team of Anup Dey and Spandan who covered the Birbhum area and recorded 64 species (including 9 species recorded nowhere else), and the mother-and-son team of Chaiti Banerjee and Abhijit who went around their neighbourhood in Jodhpur Park and the Rabindra Sarobar area. Subhankar Patra's team of 10 birded the Boshipota grasslands in Howrah from dawn to dusk and came up with 103 species - the most by any single team on the day.

The 'star bird' of the day has to be the extremely rare Slender-billed Oriole (Oriolus tenuirostris) photographed by Debasis Nandy from the Jalpaiguri area. Other good birds seen in North Bengal included a Dark-throated Thrush, Collared Falconet, Black-backed Forktail and Sultan Tit. The Kolkata area also registered some good sightings. These included a Pied Harrier, Black-winged Cuckooshrikes, Abbott's Babbler, Orange-headed Thrush, Black Bittern, Darters, Swinhoe's Snipe, Brahminy Starling, Emerald Dove, Black-headed Gull and Eurasian Wryneck. Birbhum reported 14 species of wildfowl, including both wintering geese species and the stunning Red-crested Pochard. Somdatta Ghosh's sighting of a Collared Kingfisher near Midnapore was another highlight of the day.

13 species of birds were seen by almost all teams across the state. These were:

Spotted Dove, Black Kite, Cattle Egret, Indian Pond-heron, Rufous Treepie, House Crow, Asian Pied Starling, Common Myna, Red-vented Bulbul, Common Tailorbird, Purple Sunbird, House Sparrow, White Wagtail.

It is easy to see that there is a commonality amongst the 13. All these birds are adapted to survive in an urban environment and their success is, perhaps, a reflection of increased urbanisation all around us. Only one, the White Wagtail, is a migrant the rest are sedentary residents.

Kolkata area:


       Areas birded around Kolkata on 13/2/11

10 teams comprising of a total of 31 individuals birded across 13 locations for much of the day. Of the 137 species reliably recorded, 32 were single team sightings (other species were reported by multiple teams)  and 36 (26%) are winter migrants to the area. A break-up of habitat-usage points at the strong draw the Kolkata area has for water-dependent birds, with 32% of birds observed being found on or near water. Grassland birds took next place with 29% of the recoded species having dependencies on open habitats. To an extent these results are influenced by the areas visited by the teams, and the ease of observing birds in open spaces versus finding birds in hard-to-observe habitats. But the results are useful as a start.

Other places in West Bengal:

North Bengal: Two teams comprising of 5 individuals visited semi-urban and forested areas in the foothills.
Of the 114 species observed, 25 (22%) are winter migrants and one, the Lesser Adjutant, is considered threatened.

 

Birbhum: Of the 64 species observed 28% are winter migrants and waterfowl accounted for 22% of the list.

The list of birds seen and teams participating can be found here

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