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Monday, February 13, 2012

Big Bird Day 2012

" Kya aap birthday party ke liye aye hain?", asked a young guard posted at the campus gates, as we asked for directions. Another car joined the queue, with similar query, and the guard was puzzled by the  group gathering for some crazy early morning birthday party. The time was 7 am, on Sunday 5th February morning and a group of 10-15 people had collected at JNU gates for the event.


White Wagtails
"Arre birthday nahin, Big Bird day ke liye aye hain saab", quipped another senior and experienced guard. The occasion was Big Bird Day, an annual event of active bird watching community in the country. At least 10 or more teams start birding at different places around Delhi. Jointly, by the end of the day, the teams try to watch as many species as possible, tabulate the list of each team and arrive at the total number of bird species collectively seen during the day. My sister and me were part of JNU team headed by Dr. SP, a veteran birder.


Indian Silverbill / Munia
Soon a security jeep escorted all visitors to the location where Dr. SP was waiting. After quick introductions interspersed with occasional spotting of a bird species, we headed of to explore the campus and ridge area around JNU. Within few minutes common birds like parakeets, mynas and pigeons were sighted  and ticked away in the official bird count list. A spotted owlet took keen interest in our group, puzzled by early morning human activity in its surroundings.



Yellow wattled lapwing

 To locate more birds, we moved away from human civilization towards ridge forests around JNU campus. By 10 am, the bird count had reached fifty five however many common ridge area birds like larks and pipits had not been seen. I had learned to differentiate between warblers, bushchats and stone chats and learned that all small brown birds are not sparrows.



Black winged Stilt

Breakfast in the campus guest house created opportunity for casual chats and we got to know a bit more about our fellow team-mates. It was a mixed group of amateur and seasoned birders from different professional backgrounds. Few had taken up this as hobby after retirement, the senior most being a 77 year old gentleman. The youngest in the group, aged 7 -12 years were also enthusiastic birders who had memorized the Grimmett guide to Birds of Indian Subcontinent.



Long Billed pipit
Shankar Vihar, was the second location to be visited by our team. It is a huge stretch of wasteland between Mahipalpur and Vasant Kunj, where sewage water from a nearby treatment plant has accumulated. Delhi birders discovered that the spot has been functioning as a wetland for the last few years. Black winged stilts, gadwalls, northern shoveler and lapwings were spotted there in huge numbers. The urban wasteland has been embraced by migratory birds as a winter home.
Brown headed Barbet


Bhatti mines was the third and last birding location for the Big Bird Day. We hoped to find ridge area birds like vultures and eagles. The afternoon half however did not yield expected results, as only a long billed pipit, a long tailed shrike and 4-5 more birds were added to the bird count list. It was sunset by the time we headed home. In Delhi NCR, 155 species of birds had participated in the day long bird birthday celebration. Hoping the next year will see increase in the number of participants.

Common Kestrel hovering midair

Let each day be a "Bird Day" celebration.

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