Metroplus

A bird in hand

Come July 16 and approximately 50 bird watchers, novices and experts, will embark on the exciting Kerala Bird Atlas Project, being held for the first time in Ernakulam District by the Cochin Natural History Society (CNHS). It is conducted twice a year - the Wet Season (July 16- September 13) and Dry season – (January 16- March 15). Bird Atlas for Thrissur and Alappuzha Districts were done last year.

“Kerala has different geographies- wetlands, plantations, rivers, farmlands and kayals…we have varied habitat supporting more than 530 species. The atlas survey will help us get a big picture of the birds in Kerala and this time in Ernakulam District too. The data collected is invaluable,” says

Vishnupriyan Kartha, Secretary, CNHS. The group met recently at Manglavanam to discuss the project.

Dileep K.G., sociologist at the Sree Sankara University, Kalady has been in the field for the last 30 years. He says that identifying birds has become easier now than before when they would make notes on sighting a bird for identification, and of course, click photographs. “We depended on local know how. Now it has become scientific, we upload photos on eBird.org.”

Greening of the city, he says, will definitely attract more birds but some parochial varieties will not come to artificial forests. His most exciting spotting has been the Purple Backed Starling, of the Mynah family.

Cuckoo Sebastian, a birder for the last six years, became a part of the group and its activities as she lives close to Thattekad Bird Sanctuary. She joined in for a day programme conducted by CNHS. “I love it,” she says, and sees her role as an amateur birder contributing significantly to scientific survey and research on data. “I hope the message goes out that birds are precious and so are trees and that trees should not be cut.” Her best sighting has been the Sri Lankan Frogmouth, just two years into the activity.

Premchand Reghuvaran, a software engineer at Infopark is pleased that the survey this time will enable a new picture of the bird diversity and distribution. He began participating in 2014 in moffusil areas of the city like Kadamkudy, Kalamassery and Puthuvype. What began as a hobby for him has developed into a passion.

He is happy to be a part of Citizen Science, which any layman can become, he says, and contribute precious information on birds and living creatures to a common platform. He claims to have spotted more than 110 species in a year from one location, which is Mathiripadam, Ellukkara.

The area is 16 acres of open land. Even locals who live there find his claim strange but Premchand says we need to spread awareness about the many species of birds present in locations close to the city.

“There is a need that every citizen becomes sensitive to the rich avian diversity that is present around us,” he says.

So as the excitement builds up volunteers in teams will be out in the field from six a.m. to 10 a.m. with binoculars, mobile phone apps and cameras waiting to hear bird calls and get a glimpse of the elusive rare birds or the common ones.

Methodology

The entire geographical area of the Ernakulam district is divided into 6.6 sq km grids and each grid is then divided into 1.1. sq km Sub Cells.

Then using software algorithms 10% of the entire Sub Cells is randomly selected .

Thus we have around 240 Sub Cells of 1.1. sq km each spread over the district covering various habitats This will be surveyed by teams of 2 to 5 volunteers with the help of modern navigational tools such as Google Maps and Locus Free etc.. Each team leader will be the expert in identifying.

The protocol is to do intensive bird watching of four 15 minutes duration, thus a total one hour birding in each of the Sub Cells and the checklists of birds thus generated will be uploaded in to the ornithological data base -eBird.org.

This data will then be reviewed, by experts and analysed using various tools to generate the maps and Atlas of the birds. Some links to the project:

>https://www.facebook.com/groups/ 1589790677962448/, >http://cochinnaturalhistorysociety. blogspot.in/

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2020 9:21:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/the-kerala-bird-atlas-project-2016/article14481605.ece

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