Here is the next in our irregular series of updates: Bird Count happenings. The previous update was in October last year, and it’s time to take stock of what has happened over the last nine months and to look at what the future holds.
The Bird Count India Partnership
Bird Count India is a collective of a large number of groups that share our goals. The partnership conducts workshops, organizes monthly birding challenges, and coordinates birding events. Our new logo was designed by Rohan Chakravarty: our thanks to him!
Our partnership of groups and organizations has grown bit by bit, and now stands at over 34 organization and 25 online groups and websites. If you’d like your institution or group to join, please let us know. All you need is a passion for birds and an interest in documenting and monitoring their populations.
Workshops and outreach
In December 2014, we embarked on a series of workshops on bird monitoring and using eBird. So far, sessions have taken place in Amravati (Dec), Nagpur, Pune (both Jan), Ahmedabad (Feb), Guwahati, Aizawl (both March), Kolkata, Gangtok and Jalpaiguri (all three in May). In all, about 300 birders have taken part in these events. Our sincere thanks to our partners who helped organize these events: Wildlife and Environment Conservation Society, Wild-CER, Nature Walk Charitable Trust, Bird Conservation Society of Gujarat, Aaranyak, Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Network, Pachhunga University College, Prakriti Samsad, Sikkim Ornithological Society, Sikkim Forest Department, and Society for Preservation and Awareness of Wildlife and Nature.
We continue to run our monthly eBirding challenges to provide that little bit of extra fun and motivation to the daily birding that we all do. The targets for these challenges change every month, and include making 20 birdlists from a single location, twenty ‘shared’ lists, 25 days of birding in a month, and so on. Each challenge focusses on the effort spent in birding rather than the number of species seen or the rarity of species. All birders who reach the monthly target are recognized on the website and one among these is selected at random to receive a small bird-related gift. Roughly 10-25 birders from across India manage to meet the target of the challenge each month — congratulations to them!
In addition we have a menu of birding challenges that run throughout the year of 2015. Do take a look.
Various birding events took place over the past winter, designed to document our birdlife and to reach out to new birding audiences. Here, we list those events where the bird sightings were documented on eBird, and thus collated for public access.
Newly-initiated events included the All-Goa Waterfowl Count (18 & 25 Jan), Pongal Bird Count in Tamil Nadu (15-18 Jan), Manipal Bird Day (1 Feb) and Endemic Bird Day (9 May, coincident with Global Big Day). Other events were repeated, on their annual schedule, from previous years: Uttarakhand Spring Bird Festival (4-8 Feb), Bengaluru Bird Count (15 Feb), Kerala Common Bird Monitoring Programme (CBMP, 13-16 Feb), Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC, 13-16 Feb), and Big Bird Day (8 March). Highlights of these include a great performance by Indian birders in the Global Big Day, and record participation in the GBBC and Kerala CBMP. Indian birders constituted 6 of the 10 top birders worldwide in terms of the number of checklists contributed during the GBBC, and 4 of the 10 top birders in terms of number of species seen!
A special mention must be made of the inaugural Campus Bird Count, which took place alongside the GBBC. An amazing 84 school, college and other campuses from 17 States took part in this event, contributing over 2,300 lists containing over 400 species. You can see a google presentation of the GBBC/Campus Bird Count results here.
The Mysore City Bird Atlas, run by the highly motivated and coordinated Mysore Nature group is now completing its second year. Results from the first two repetitions, in Feb and June 2014 can be seen here. This year again, the atlas surveys were repeated in February, and June is also complete! See the section Coming up soon, below for an example of how this superb effort is motivating others.
The eBird-India database
The eBird database for India continues to grow rapidly, although there is still large variation across the country, with many parts being poorly represented.
Since the database crossed 1 million observations in February, it has continued to grow at roughly 1 lakh observations per month, and now stands at just over 1.5 million. This has been driven by an increase in the number of birders using eBird, and also by historical records being uploaded in bulk. For example, nearly 8,000 observations from L. Shyamal’s BirdSpot database were uploaded in December, and BirdSpot users who have eBird accounts have had their observations ‘shared’ with them.
Participation from India in eBird is also gradually rising. Since October last year, 1,400 new users have contributed to the database, bringing the total number to 3,500. In this period, the total number of users per month has ranged from 350 to 600 (excluding February, when 1,060 birders used eBird). Of these, an average of 130 people per month are new to eBird (the exception is February, when 550 birders contributed lists for the first time, mostly during the GBBC). Like in most citizen science projects, participation in eBird is highly uneven, with just 100 participants contributing a full 50% of all observations.
Despite increasing participation, information on birds from across the country is far from uniform. A recent analysis shows that although eBird database now contains over 80,000 hours of documented birding effort in the country, 182 districts (covering 20% of India’s land area) are yet to see a single effort-based list in eBird. The districts with the most birding effort are North Goa, Idukku, Thrissur, Bangalore and Pune, all with more than 2,000 hours of birding so far.
Coming up soon
Several interesting things are planned for the coming months.
In Kerala, the Onam Bird Count will happen in August; but the big news is that Kerala is embarking on the first systematic and planned State-level Bird Atlas in India! The atlassing will begin this year in Thrissur and Alappuzha districts before spreading to other districts in subsequent years. More details are available here, and we wish Kerala birders all the very best in this ambitious and wonderful endeavour!
A very significant development is the upcoming creation of an India Portal on eBird. eBird has a number of regional portals that are customized for birders from a particular region. We are happy to announce that Bird Count India is partnering with eBird to create a separate portal for India. Once this is done, the landing page for birders in India will be http://ebird.org/india (link does not work yet, of course), and we will have news and events that are India-specific, together with a number of other small customizations that will make eBird easier and more useful for all of us. More news about this soon!
If you are planning a bird documentation or monitoring event/project, please do let us know so that we can feature it on the Bird Count India website and help spread the word about it.
Do join us!
If you are interested in birdwatching and in helping better document and monitor the distribution and abundance of India’s birds, please do join us. There are several ways in which you can make a difference.
To get updates from Bird Count India automatically into your email inbox, you can sign up here. If you are on Facebook and would like to join our discussion of bird listing and monitoring in India, do join our Facebook group.
To add your organization’s name to the list of Bird Count India partners, please email us at birdcountindia |at| gmail.com. And please do get in touch if you have any questions or comments about what we are trying to do.