సోమవారం, డిసెంబర్ 18, 2006
Participants registering at the end of birdrace
HSBC should be congratulated for supporting an event that spreads the joy of and popularises birding - through the Bird Races they sponsor. All the more as they have spread the Bird Race beyond Mumbai to several other Indian cities this year. The first such was held in Hyderabad on 26 November 2006 and was locally coordinated by the 26-year-old Birdwatcher's Society of Andhra Pradesh.
In all, ninteen teams participated in the dawn-to-dusk event, spotting 178 species. Being a fun event, the participants comprised of people from all walks of life and included 38 men, 26 women and 14 children. The youngest was six year old Jahnavi Kapadia. Several people, completely new to birding, read about it in the local media and telephoned to join the race. There was a team comprising entirely of women, all new to birding. They accompanied another car that had at least one experienced birdwatcher.
Prizes for three teams that chalked up the most number of species (110, 104 and 98) were given away by animal activist Amala Akkineni. She also awarded prizes for 'bird of the day', 'dip of the day' (a species that is conspicuous by its absence - given to a team that named the Tailor Bird), and youngest participant.
Amala, who heads Blue Cross, promised to work with BSAP for popularising birding among children. A sumptuous dinner culminated an eventful day.
Sunjoy Monga, who's brainchild the bird race is, deserves our thanks for bringing this joyous event to Hyderabad.
The news that the Birdwatcher’s Society for Andhra Pradesh (BSAP) was organising a Bird Race in Hyderabad drew quite a few puzzled frowns. “You guys are going to race pigeons?” we were asked, “or falcons?” BSAP members hastily disclaimed and explained: the racing would be done exclusively by humans.
The idea was simple: to form teams of four or five persons and try to see as many bird species as teams possibly could in twelve hours from dawn to dusk. The area outlined was a 60 km radius around Hyderabad. Teams could choose their own route and allocate whatever time they saw fit to any location as long as they reported at 6.30 pm at Hotel Green Park.
Registrations poured in, and on the day, there were close to 65 participants making up 15 teams. The turn up was motley, ranging from the pros and birders with more enthusiasm than experience, to absolute newcomers. Briefings were made, team names were allotted, T-shirts and breakfast hampers distributed and at 6.30 am, the HSBC Hyderabad Bird Race began.
There are many popular birding spots around Hyderabad but there is one campus that is a positive bonanza: ICRISAT campus. Sprawling several unending acres, with a variety of habitat, this campus offers easy pickings. Many teams started here and almost all made it a point to spend at least a few hours here. Teams reported that it wasn’t a ‘good day’ by ICRISAT standards, but that may just have been impatience talking, for apart from the usual suspects, Indian Coursers were seen here, as well as Marsh Harriers, Yellow-wattled Lapwings and a River Tern. ICRISAT also yielded a parliament of eagles and several pipits.
However, it was not at ICRISAT that the Bird of the Day was seen. That privilege went to Narsapur forest, a lovely reserve that is a favourite with Hyderabadi birders. The bird in question was the rare and exquisite Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher. Narsapur forest, predictably, plumped up numbers to the satisfaction of teams.
Another popular spot was the much-wooded campus of the Hyderabad Central University (HCU). Highlights here were the Bronze-winged Jacana, the Brown Flycatcher, and Peafowl, a species that would have been a shame not to see. Water bodies like Manjira Barrage and nearby lakes disappointed birders. The usually vast numbers had disappeared on the day and the unusual heat of the day only added to the frustration.
Aasheesh Pittie welcoming the guests
And so it was that exhausted birders winded their way at 6.30 pm into Green Park Hotel in Begumpet and turned in their log books. Refreshments were thankfully consumed and it was then to wait for referees Mr Siraj Taher and Mr Aasheesh Pittie to do their bit and announce the final tallies. The winners were Team Geese headed by Rajeev Mathew, who totted up an enviable 110 birds, followed by the Falcons, captained by Humayun Taher, who saw 104. Sachin’s Bulbuls won the third prize with a tally of 98 species.
Teams spoke of their experiences. Enthusiasm was high in spite of a gruelling day and it was heartening to see many new converts to birding. BSAP members were happy to be introduced to Mr Sunjoy Monga, the man and force behind the Bird Race, who has already conducted it twice in Mumbai and intends to carry it to several more Indian cities.
Guest of Honour Amala Akkineni
Also present were representatives of HSBC Bank, who deserve BSAP’s fervent thanks for sponsoring the race and making it possible to spread both the concept and the joy of birding. Guest of Honour was animal lover and activist Amala Akkineni, who manages to lend grace to any proceedings she is part of.
A section of the audience
In the final analysis, it was an immense success for such a fledgling venture. Happily, it seems as if the Hyderabad Bird Race is going to be an annual affair.
- Sheetal Vyas
Posted by cbrao at 12/18/2006 11:15:00 AM