Pongal Bird Count starts from January 14 to 17

Spot-billed pelicans   | Photo Credit: Surendhar Boobalan

Birding enthusiasts in Puducherry hope that the rarely spotted red-necked falcon keeps its date during the annual Pongal Bird Count (PBC) that is on from January 14 to 17. “We have been seeing the bird regularly for the last five years. We hope to see a breeding pair this time,” says Surendhar Boobalan, a Government school teacher in Puducherry, who has been into bird watching for over eight years.

Bird watchers at Oussudu Lake near Puducherry

Bird watchers at Oussudu Lake near Puducherry   | Photo Credit: Surendhar Boobalan

The PBC is an annual bird monitoring programme where people across Tamil Nadu observe birds for a minimum of 15 minutes and upload the sightings, listings and documentation on an online platform (ebird). The event is coordinated by Tamil Birders Network and Bird Count India. It was during the first annual PBC, six years ago, that Surendhar and his team first spotted the falcons at Bahour Lake, the second largest lake in Puducherry. “We have documented the bird’s nesting on Palmyra trees. Ospreys can also be seen wintering here now,” he says.

How to get started ?
  • From January 14 to 17, look for birds around you for 15 minutes from anywhere, be it the banks of a pond or a lake, on the terrace or the balcony of your home.
  • List all the birds you spot on ebird.org/india/home. You can also download the ebird app on your phone and submit your list there.
  • To know more, visit the Tamil Birders Network YouTube page
  • To know about Bihu Bird Count, visit https://birdcount.in/event/bihu-bird-count-2021/

Eurasian Coot family

Eurasian Coot family   | Photo Credit: Surendhar Boobalan

They plan to cover 40 lakes (of the total 86 lakes in Puducherry) in four days. “We club it with the Asian Waterbird Census, and visit as many wetlands as possible where we also assess the health of wetlands and the threat they face from plastic waste, encroachment, poaching, and pollution. We record migratory birds like garganeys, ducks, northern shovellers, godwits and terns, as well as resident birds like egrets and herons. We also cover urban birds like house sparrows, house crows and mynahs en route to the wetlands,” Surendhar adds.

For the record

Members of Salem Ornithological Foundation will also do the same. “In the past, we have recorded 185 species and submitted more than 2,000 checklists which were the most by any district in Tamil Nadu. Due to the pandemic, we will split into smaller teams of three to four birders and will do the count across the district,” says Angeline Mano, bird educator and the foundation’s executive coordinator.

Black-capped Thrush

Black-capped Thrush   | Photo Credit: Angeline Mano

Naturalists say the bird count is a great way to encourage beginners in birding. The final data provides valuable information on distribution and abundance of the birds of Tamil Nadu. It also covers a variety of habitats including coastal regions, hilly terrain, as well as urban areas.

P Jeganathan, wildlife biologist at Valparai-based Nature Conservation Foundation, draws a parallel to the holiday tradition of annual Christmas Bird Count in the USA, where birders start counting birds in the neighbourhood.

Greater Adjutant spotted in Assam

Greater Adjutant spotted in Assam   | Photo Credit: Jaydev mandal

“It was started in the early 70s in the US. The information gathered by citizens helped track and study the population of the Eurasian collared doves that were nowhere to be found in the early 1990s. Such regular monitoring always contributes to scientific data. It was the Onam Bird Count in Kerala that inspired us to do something similar for Pongal in Tamil Nadu.”

The citizen science initiative has now encouraged birders in Assam to organise the Bihu Bird Count (BBC). It happens around the same time and documents the diversity of birds in Assam. “It is an excellent opportunity for people to understand birds in a systematic manner,” says Jaydev Mandal, an Assam-based birder as he gears up for the BBC’s second edition this year.

“Bihu is an important harvest festival for Assam. It is that time of the year when the land hosts several migratory bird species from across the globe. Last year, we recorded over 300 species. The spotted dove was the most commonly-sighted species. We also observed the lesser white-fronted goose after several decades. We want to promote the association of the festival with Nature.”

Green bee-eater

Green bee-eater   | Photo Credit: Surendhar Boobalan

Jeganathan, who spearheads the activity across Tamil Nadu, says the objective is to encourage scientific inquiry among the public. “It builds interest and sets the tone for the forthcoming Global Backyard Bird Count in February. Eventually, it makes them aware of conservation,” he adds.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 7:20:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/pongal-bird-count-starts-from-january-14-to-17/article33551226.ece

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