Bangalore BirdRace - 2012

A Report on Bangalore BirdRace 2012 

This year’s BirdRace, organized by the India BirdRaces under the able stewardship of Sunjoy Monga, who started the initiative, took place in Bangalore on the 15th of January, 2012. Registrations opened on January, and 44 teams registered in all. The Race was sponsored, as always, by Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC).

This was a good number of participants, considering the fact that it was Sankranti day and many people had to celebrate the festival.

The rules, as always, were that people could form teams, and check off the various species of birds that they found in a 60 km radius around Bangalore. In this radius, Nandi Hills is included, as it continues to be one of the birding hotspots of the Bangalore area. All teams had also to visit at least one water body, and do a census of both the water fowl, and conditions in and around the lake.

Another highlight of the BirdRace, started last year, was the inclusion of Green Teams, who would use only public transportation to get around. This year, there were 7 Green Teams, all of whom made it with very respectable totals.

All the teams met by about 6.30 pm at Hotel Paraag, where the organizers had arranged for coffee and biscuits for the tired birders, and dinner after the prize-giving ceremony.  Having spotted as many birds as they could, participants now gathered to spot as many of the experienced birders of Bangalore, as they could! It was a thrill for “L-birders” (as beginners call themselves, a spoof on the “L-board” one uses when learning to drive) to meet, not only Sunjoy Monga and Dr S. Subrahmanya, but luminaries like Mr S C Neginhal,  a retired officer of the Indian Forest Service (IFS) who has pioneered a census of the heritage trees of Bangalore, among many other achievements, and Mr  T N A Perumal, wildlife photographer extraordinaire. Dr Joseph George, who is one of the pioneers of bird-watching in our city, also attended. So, for birders, it was like a star-studded firmament. The judges, too, were noted ornithologists and naturalists: S. Karthikeyan, Chief Naturalist, Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR),  Prashanth Badrinath of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), and Dr M B Krishna.

The participants also enjoyed meeting up with others of their community, exchanging notes about what they saw and enjoyed during the day.  For example, teams who went to Manchanabele Dam were turned away by the police, and could not bird at the location. 

Puttenahalli Lake, which has been rescued and rejuvenated by the PNLI Trust, was one of the venues that yielded a lot of bird sightings, including those of migratory water fowl like Garganeys  and Northern Shovellers. 

The prize for the Green Team went to Team Masked Booby (yes, that is really the name of a bird!), with a count of 106 species.

The bird of the day (the rarest sighting, in the judges’ view) was the Western Reef Egret, which was a record sighting for the city. The prize for this was won by Team Whitethroat (Jayaram Jahgirdar, Balasubramanyam, Hemanth Kumar, Vinay Subramanya, and  Vinaya Kumar Thimmappa), who also won the third prize, with 140 species recorded. 

The second prize went to team Black Stork (Deepa Mohan, Anirudh Kannan,  Kannan A S, Poornima Kannan, Saandip Nandagudi, and Yashpal Rathore), with 153 species. 

The first prize went to Team Flowerpecker ( Vaibhav Choudhary, Apoorva Managoli, Chandrashekar M,  Deepak T M, and Sanjeev Managoli)...they recorded 155 species. 

Apoorva Managoli, who is 12, says she enjoyed the day very much. “This was the first time I was allowed to bird non-stop for 12 hours!” she exclaimed, when the compere for the evening, Swarna Venkat, asked her how her day went.  An avid birder who’s got her father hooked to the pastime, too, Apoorva can identify about 300 species of birds, and is a good nature  photographer as well. She was cheered to the echo as she received the first prize along with her team-mates.

Paavan, 11, was a part of Team Flycatcher. He too spoke very well about the bird-watching that he enjoyed...though apparently the team had to skip lunch! 

The members of Team Kaanu Baruva (which means “Shikra” in the Soliga dialect) were all from ATREE,and they used cycles throughout. .The participants of the green teams  who used public transport did, however, say that they walked for miles, and were very tired by the evening!

Swarna Venkat did an excellent job of compering the evening get-together, asking participants for their reactions, and making sure that the gathering was an interactive one. One participant said that her BirdRace closed with a crow depositing “waste material” on her head, and the gathering had a good laugh, saying that it was the bird’s blessing.

Dr. Subrahmanya, Sunjoy Monga, and Mr Neginhal all spoke, stressing different aspects of the event. Mr Gopi Sunder, who is an authority on Sarus Cranes and is with the International Crane Foundation; Mr Raghavendra, who sighted the Lesser Florican in the  Bangalore area, after a gap of a hundred years; Ms Usha Ramiah, the Himalayan mountain-climber, who’s been active in educating children about nature and conservation through her NGO, Kids For Tigers....they were all felicitated, and when they each said a few words, the audience cheered their untiring efforts.

Swarna then called the three judges to the stage. Prashanth mentioned that it was quite a tough job, and Karthik spoke briefly about the process, too. Dr M B Krishna also talked about the evolution of the process of participation. He, however, sounded a warning note about the fact that the participants are bound by the honour system, and that trust is an essential, and fragile, component of the race.

The prize-winners were then announced, and once they had accepted their prizes, had their photos taken, and said a few words about the way the bird-watching had gone for them, the gathering adjourned for dinner. Everyone dispersed in a spirit of bonhomie, enjoying the fact of being part of a single, unified group, that enjoys bird-watching and being out in the lap of Nature, and utlizes the BirdRace as a great opportunity to bond together.

This article was originally published in Citizen Matters
Article by Deepa Mohan
Cartoon by Rohan Chakravarty