Is there anyone in India who doesn’t see at least one bird a day? Probably, not. We see many birds of different species in our day-to-day life, but we never bother to record or document them. If you think you have to be an expert birder to do that, then you are wrong. Here’s what you have to do.
The Pongal Bird Count (PBC), an annual bird monitoring programme for Tamil Nadu, will take place from January 14 to 17. Coordinated by the Tamil Birders Network and the Bird Count India, the event is part of a worldwide effort to document birds around the globe and to make bird watching popular. The participants can go birding for 15 minu tes (at the least), list and count all the species they see and upload the lists into eBird, an online database of bird observations, during the Pongal Bird Count.
Considering the current COVID-19 situation, the organisers have given a bunch of guidelines to be followed strictly by each and every participant.
“Like last year, we have to follow some guidelines due to the pandemic this year as well. Watch/list birds from home or nearby places. Try to watch and list birds from your terrace, balcony or places not very far from your residence. Everyone should keep their optics to themselves. Don’t share your scope, binoculars, or camera with others,” says P Jeganathan, one of the organisers of the PBC.
There are more than 530 species of birds found in Tamil Nadu. In 2021, at least 340 people from various parts of Tamil Nadu participated in the PBC, and they had reported 356 species.
While Barn Swallow, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Blue-tailed Bee-eater and Brown Shrike subsequently topped the list of ten migrant birds found in Tamil Nadu, Common Myna, House Crow, Rose-ringed Parakeet and Black Drongo, led the list of the top 10 common birds found across the state.
At least 1,907 lists were submitted, out of which 1,592 were complete. The participants spent 940.2 hours involved in birding at the PCB held in 2021.
“In January, 2021, we were just back to normalcy after the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic. But still many were at home so the number of participants were high compared to the previous years. We expect more people this time as well, but we advise them to do it with all the precautions due to the pandemic,” Jeganathan said.
The participants will be acquainted about listing birds in eBird and are being trained to identify our feathered friends.
eBird is a global internet-based checklist programme for gathering observations of birds for birders to maintain their personal records. It is used by more than 20,000 birders, holding over a million lists, comprising over 20 million observations. It is estimated that there are at, least 2200 birders across India who use eBird each month.
The idea of PBC is to create awareness among people about our winged visitors and their habitat. “Initiatives like PBC will definitely help get an idea about the species of birds around us. Although more than 530 species of birds are found across Tamil Nadu, many face threats to their life due to their habitat destruction. There are other reasons as well. Bird counts like this will create awareness among people about our birds. This will also help us maintain a record of them,” says Jeganathan.
It doesn’t matter if you can’t identify every single species — what you can identify is good enough.
You can log onto eBird’s website and submit your species list. For those new to eBird, there is a beginner’s guide. If you own a smartphone, you can create an account in eBird first and then find the eBird app for iPhone/Android users, install it and submit your bird list into eBird through that app.
If you are planning to coordinate a birding event during the Pongal Bird Count and would like to introduce college/school students and general public you can do it here. You can also pick up the basics from the birdcount portal.
Jeganathan, who has been organising the PBC as part of the Tamil Birders Network since 2015, says the participants must follow precautions to ensure their well-being as well as those around them.
“Our local authorities probably haven’t issued guidance specific to birding, so we are issuing some precautions to ensure your birding activities align with current health recommendations. eBird Mobile users should avoid passing phones to review checklists for the time being. Confirm lists verbally before submission and if you need to make changes after you submit, it is easy to share and correct lists on the eBird mobile app,” points out Jeganathan. Happy birding.