Bangalore BirdRace - 2011

Bangalore BirdRace 2011 - A Report

By Deepa Mohan

The actual 2011 BirdRace may have started at the break of dawn on the 16th of January, for the registered teams...but in actuality, the beginning was when the first email from Subbu announcing the BirdRace went out to everyone! There was, obviously, an immediate flurry of activity amongst the birders of Bangalore (and, it now transpires, the birders from not-too-distant cities too!) people called, sms-ed each other..."shall we form a team?" and then went ahead and registered.

One of the firsts for this year's BirdRace was the concept of Green Teams, where the birders would only use public transport throughout the day...and amazingly, seven teams registered! I'll be giving the names of the winners at the end of this post, but the Green Team deserves a special mention at the very

Ruta Kale, Chaitra Hegde,Rohit Katti, Kshitij Thorat, and Amrita Tripathi, who made up  the Owlets.. here are special Green Cheers to you, for returning with 69 species!

On the evening of the day prior to the Race, the BBR team asked all team captains (or their representatives) to come to the venue (Royal Orchid, in Manipal Centre) to collect their logbooks. And since they had 49 registered teams, there were precisely 7 rows of 7 chairs! However, not all of us could make it to the venue in the evening fact, on the way back, three of us could not get an auto to return, and took the green route...a "Big10" bus back home. Though it did feel good to meet each other, perhaps we could avoid having so many people having to converge on a venue at a very crowded time on a working day, by allowing everyone to download the checklist and logbooks, with those who have questions, clarifying their doubts over the phone.

We started at 6am on the BirdRace day...but I learnt later that some of the  other teams started at 5 am! Were they looking for nightjars, I wondered....Mike and the others will let us know how many were sighted.

North, South, East, West...the birders combed the various well-known, and the lesser-known, birding locations of Bangalore (remember that a Shaheen Falcon was sighted on the balcony of a housing complex in south Bangalore a couple of months ago!), looking for the well-known, and the lesser-known, species of birds...and I think every team would have a funny and odd incident to narrate! Several of us saw crows and cattle egrets only later in the evening...which we would not have thought possible.  Of course, a few of us saw some really "rara aves", such as the Orange-breasted Green Pigeon on the IISc campus, and the Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher (which became the Bird of the Day) in the Bannerghatta Zoo area. We all also had our "dips" of the day...common birds that we never saw. We, for instance, never saw a single roller, or woodpecker. At regular intervals, we also sighted other teams, instantly id'd by their binocs, their cameras...and the intent upward looks!

Some of us stopped for tasty breakfast, and lunch, or ate food that we'd brought with us (or as in our case, all of the above!)...some of us, in the excitement of the species chase, skipped one or two meals altogether...but one thing that was unanimous was that all of us enjoyed ourselves tremendously.

In our case, we had Dr Sudha Ramakrishna, a physician who lives in Dallas, Texas, and her brother, along with us. They both seemed satisfied with the several birds that they were able to see...and she's extended us a warm welcome to go birding with her in invitation which I have every intention of taking up, soon. Another team was also supposed to come with us, but personal reasons forced them to drop out at the last minute.

I must include the story of one team member's personal BirdRace. Chandrashekhar Bandi was supposed to be on my team like last year, but he suddenly got the news that his wife would have a C-section the next off he rushed by bus to Tirupati, and thence by cab to his home town. But in his personal race with the stork...the stork won! His son arrived in his home town before he did. And now, we all call him the "son"bird!

As the day
wore on, sms and calls were exchanged between birders about "what did you see", "where did you go"  and "how many did you get"....I must say that we spent quite a lot of time observing birds (especially the performance of some Pied Kingfishers at the Bannerghatta Zoo area!)...and finally started totalling our count only at about 4pm. We got quite a respectable total, and upped that in our closing venue, Valley School.

We crawled through the evening traffic to Manipal Centre, tired but satisfied, and assembled with welcome cups of coffee, to find that alas, several Green Teams had not been able to make it back to the venue at all. Perhaps, next year, Green Teams can be given an earlier cutoff time in order to reach the post-meet venue....and also, to have a venue more easily accessible by public transport. Since I regularly take buses, I can appreciate the difficulty of getting to a venue like Manipal Centre....and getting back home afterwards.

Other teams, which did come back, also had to go off as there were children in the team who had to go to school the next day. In spite of this, there were quite a few children, and several youngsters, in the hall, and that was very heartening to see. We all met a lot of known faces, and it was also an opportunity to meet new ones...and spending the day together was a great way of cementing friendships. Truly, birds bring birdwatchers together.

Subbu opened the proceedings by asking a few people for their reactions to the day's events, V. Manoj Kumar,Senior Vice President, Regional Head - Personal Financial Services, HSBC, then spoke. Sunjoy Monga, whose brainchild the India BirdRaces are, mentioned that this year, they'd be having races in 14 cities...quite an exciting number! Following that, Theodore Baskaran spoke a few words about his experiences, too.

Several people who have worked for the cause of nature and conservation were recognized and cited....amongst them, Mr Gundappa, who's been working for the Slender Loris in Tumkur, and Geetanjali Dhar, who's worked tirelessly to popularize the third Sunday outing to various parts of the Bannerghattta forest area. Then, of course, MBK cited Subbu himself, for all the work he's done over the decades!

Finally, it was time to announce the winners.....

Here's the data about the participants :

49 teams registered and 47 actually took part. 232 people registered for the event in total, inclusive of team and individual registrations.

6 teams participated as Green Teams, but only 2 teams returned their log books at the end of the day.
The two teams that returned were:

The Owlet, mentioned above,  and
Great Pied Hornbill: Sridhar A Blesson, Paul Skariah, Arvind Sridhara, Kaustav Baruah, and Pratheesh P.

Owlets returned 69 species while Great Pied Hornbill returned with 53.

Note: The announcement of  Crested Bunting as the Green Team winner, was  incorrect - they later confirmed they weren't a green team.

Bird of the Day: Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, sighted by two teams: White-throats (Jayaram Jahgirdar, Vinaya Kumar Thimmappa, Vikram Subramanyam, Kumar Subbaramaiah) and Goobegalu (Sainath Vellal, Ramya V Kumar, Ashwini Bhat and Roshan Kadaramandalagi)

All prizes were  sponsored by HSBC. Green Team prizes were sponsored by AdventureWorx. One “Bird of the Day" team got the books that were displayed outside.

Third Place: Caspian Tern (Vishnupriya Hathwar, Srinath Herur, Advyth Herur, Kesava): 128 species
Second Place: Indian Robin (Raghu, Dhurga, Ekshikaa): 132 species
Winning Team: Pied Harrier (Nitin S, Supriya S, Manjunath P, Clement Francis): 152 species


The Green Teams

Manoj Kumar, Senior VP, HSBC addressing the audience

Theodore Bhaskaran, the Chief Guest addressing the gathering

Mr. Gundappa being felicitated by the Chief Guest

A special thanks to the judges - Mike Prince and Prashanth M B

The evening function saw a packed house

Congratulations to everyone...whether they won a prize or not...we are all winners because we had a great time! We really missed Swarna Venkat, who could not be there, due to personal commitments. Hats off to her, and to  Subbu, Srihari, Mike Prince, Prashanth Badrinath, and everyone else who worked very hard to make the event a success.

And so we all straggled home after a great dinner, satisfied and happy..but for some of us, the task is just beginning.... Mike will be carrying out a detailed analysis of the log books and will post the details at a later date. So..if you get an email from him seeking more respond as fast as possible.

I’ve put up some pictures from our day, on FaceBook, at!/album.php?aid=271770&id=587058877

and Saandip Nandagudi has put the photographs of the evening meet  online at

So...thank you, HSBC (which, in Bangalore, must stand for Highly Sociable Birding Community) and the organizers, once again...and we're looking forward to January next year!

Cheers, Deepa Mohan