HSBC Bangalore BirdRace - 2015

HSBC Bangalore BirdRace 2015 - A Report

We dispersed, chattering happily, after the Bird January 2014.

A year passed by "swift"ly, to use a birding pun.... and it was That Time again. Registrations for the bird "race" (only a race to record more species, it's been a non-competitive event since last year) opened, and before we knew it, it was early morning on  the 18th of January, 2015...and 28 teams (3 teams had to drop out) of happy and hopeful birders, newbies and experienced ones, fanned out across the city and its outskirts, looking for their feathered friends.

White-throated Fantail Flycatcher

White-throated Fantail Flycatcher, Valley School, on the day of the event.

Very, very few of us are such old hands at this activity that there are no "lifers" left in Bangalore! I had two lifers from our (I'll explain the term "our" a little later) day...a Yellow Bittern at Gulakmale, and an Ultramarine Flycatcher from my favourite lane, that I have christened "Flycatcher Avenue", in the ticketed area of the Bannerghatta Zoo, though not inside the actual Zoo walls. (We got 6 Flycatchers and a Blue-bearded Bee-eater there!)

Different people like to bird in different ways. Some like to keep to their own team,and concentrate on the birds. Some like to go in a larger group, and...concentrate on the birds!

Our group consisted of 34 people, comprising 6 teams: Black Drongo, Black Stork, Bluethroat, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Spotted Owlet,and Verditer Flycatcher. For us, part of the satisfaction was that every team recorded 90+ species (from just 3 venues) which meant that our collective effort, to ensure that everyone saw as many of the birds as they could,was quite successful!

Six teams about to start.

It was also a privilege for some of us to be able to take along visitors to our shores. Our group were lucky enough to have Andrew Underwood and Lela Roy, two wildlife scientists from the US. They were excellent company, and I only wish the pursuit of the birds had not prevented me from learning more about them.

At the end of the day, we all gathered at Hotel Infantry on the eponymous road, still discussing about our lists (and what we might have added if we had visited just one more venue!), and chattering over cups of coffee/tea and biscuits, handed over physical lists (alas, more work for the Bird Race team) or shared our mobile records.

We had to wait a while as the Chief Guest, Sanjay Gubbi, battled traffic snarls to get there...but we whiled away the time as the compere for the evening, Swarna Venkat, did her usual great job (this time with her little son Shiva literally attached to her!)

... passing the microphone around for birders' reactions. The Green teams were cheered to the echo by those who could not emulate their example. Four teams, Barred Buttonquail, Black-shouldered Kite, Nuthatch, and Unventured Kingfishers, also took the green route.

Getting the children's reactions was definitely the high point of the evening's gathering. Soham Sinha spoke about sighting his favourite bird, the Pied Kingfisher (at age 6,he can already identify several species.) Several other children (the youngest was 4!)  spoke from their hearts and were cheered, including Paavan, who is now a veteran with his 4th bird race under his belt.

Sanjay Gubbi arrived and took the podium, along with Sajid Yunus of HSBC, and Dr M B Krishna, noted ornithologist and naturalist.

At Swarna's invitation, Sajid welcomed everyone on behalf of HSBC, the sponsors of the event. Dr Krishna made an appeal to the audience to respect and cherish the "usual" in Nature as much as looking for the "unusual", as he said that it is usually the "common" that sustains the life of an activity or pursuit. Sanjay Gubbi made an excellent presentation on the work that he and others are doing in the field of conflict mitigation, and spoke with deep passion of the different perspectives that people may have, and the different ways everyone can pitch in to help in this regard.

All of us  then adjourned for a delicious dinner. With the sweetness of the dessert adding to the sweetness of a day spent with the birds, and good company, we dispersed, looking forward to being in the midst of the birds once again...probably the very next weekend!

Text and  pictures by Deepa Mohan

Numbers and Stats

Bangalore Bird Race, organized by India Bird Races, 18th Jan 2015.

Sponsors: HSBC

Number of teams that submitted sightings: 24 
Number of green teams : 4

Total number of species seen by all teams (confirmed) : 198
Total number of species seen by all teams (unconfirmed) :15

Number of species seen by a single team : 20
Number of species seen by all teams : 10

Average number of species seen by a team : 87 

Complete list of sightings