BNHS completes first pan-India common bird monitoring progamme

CBMP is a citizen science project, which needs a vast base of volunteers willing to observe common birds in their own backyards and neighbourhoods.   | Photo Credit: Nandkishore Dudhe/ BNHS

Data compiled from the first pan-India Common Bird Monitoring Programme (CBMP) organised by the Bombay Natural History Society's (BNHS) for all three seasons in succession will soon be available in the public domain. However, participation remained almost entirely centred in Maharashtra where BNHS, founded 1883, runs several outreach initiatives from its landmark headquarters in Hornbill House, named after the bird that is its mascot.

Responding to keen interest from birding enthusiasts, the summer count for Maharashtra, which drew the most participants, has already been released. Planned as an annual exercise, the monsoon count was launched on September 11, 2016, followed by the count for winter on January 15, 2017, ending with the most recent summer bird count tabulated on any one day over the week from April 9 to 16, 2017, since it was found that a single date forced many volunteers to drop out unavoidably.

“The compilation is a crucial task. It takes a long time to collect the data sheets and collate all the details as this is a volunteer-based programme and bird watchers send data sheets according to their convenience,” says Nandkishor S. Dudhe, research assistant with the BNHS' Important Bird Area (IBA) programme. “The project is in its pilot phase and we are continuously upgrading the methodology to make it easier for participants. Currently, we are focusing on Maharashtra but simultaneously extending the programme to other States as well.” Only a handful of responses came through from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Jharkhand and Odisha in the baseline study.

Brahminy Starling

Brahminy Starling   | Photo Credit: Nandkishore Dudhe/ BNHS


The CBMP is a citizen science project, which needs a vast base of volunteers willing to observe common birds in their own backyards and neighbourhoods. Volunteers will be required to return to the same site annually on near-identical dates that will be notified thrice a year, although surveys might be called off due to heavy rain, strong wind or poor visibility, when birds retreat to shelter. Ideally, the observations have to be tabulated around 7 a.m., when sightings are the best, and certainly not later than 9 a.m., after which birds become quiet and inactive.

Maharashtra was divided into two square kilometre GIS-enabled grids distributed to birdwatcher groups across the State, after participants sent their Google Earth coordinates to BNHS. Ornithologists, NGOs, forest officials and birdwatchers from 13 districts, including Yawatmal, Bhandara, Latur, Washim, Jalgaon and Usmanabad, submitted 56 checklists of sightings on email, which were tabulated to arrive at a count of 19,624 birds across 189 species.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret   | Photo Credit: Nandkishore Dudhe/ BNHS


If the terrain in the selected grid does not permit a line transect — walking along a predetermined route at a fixed pace to survey birds on or near the line, not behind or beyond — BNHS sends a new grid nearby to the participant. The CBMP offers an alternative approach if computers cannot be accessed, and the compact and self-explanatory field recording data sheets are designed to avoid tedium. Volunteers also use their broader knowledge of the site to note potential threats to birds along their transect in a summary sheet. BNHS acknowledges participation only after data sheets for all three seasons are submitted.

The CBMP's 2017 summer count for Maharashtra shows more Red-vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus cafer: the highest count at 1,518 sightings), house sparrows (Passer domesticus: 1,275) and Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri:1072) than house crows (Corvus splendens: 689). A trends analysis will be possible only after some years of data collection, when year-to-year and longer-term changes in population levels for a wide range of birds across a variety of habitats in India emerges.

Common birds are particularly vulnerable to anthropogenic pressures of industrialisation and urbanisation. “Monitoring birds is important because they act as indicators of a region or habitat's ecological health,” says Mr. Dudhe.

Eurasian Collered Dove

Eurasian Collered Dove   | Photo Credit: Nandkishore Dudhe/ BNHS


Additionally, BNHS' pan-India weaver count programme, held for the first time last year on June 5 and 12, and soon due again from June 4 to 11, 2017 (to participate, click here), monitors the rapid decline of the four species of highly social and skilled nest-weaving bayas endemic to India. Results from data sheets submitted from 19 States in 2016 are also expected soon. One of India's best known biodiversity non-profits, BNHS struggles with modest staffing for several important conservation projects.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 11:18:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/bnhs-completes-first-pan-india-common-bird-monitoring-progamme/article18730989.ece

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