The team – named Yellow Throated Bulbul, led by Manoj Kumar Vittapu, topped the chart with 190-plus bird species. Red-necked Falcon, led by Sriram Reddy and Mottled Wood Owl team, led by Fareed Mohmed won the second and third spots respectively.
Big Bird Day (BBD) is an annual national level event of watching and documenting birds, held every February or March. Started in 2004 by “Delhi Bird” group, as an informal event, it has now become popular among all the bird-lovers in India. Every year, self-organised volunteer birders cover the hotspots from dawn to dusk to document the birds.
The data collected is submitted to ebird.org – a bird listing website. Over the years, this data has revealed the changing trends in habitat condition, bird diversity, migration and related ecological issues. HBP has been participating in BBD since 2014. Incidentally, HBP also won the Big Bird Day 2017 by reporting more than 260 bird species and in 2016, finished as a runner-up.
For the event, Manoj and his team visited Amrabad and Nallamala forest area, which involved more than a 100 km drive and about a 10 km trek in the forest area. “The day started with the sighting of Brown Hawk Owl which is one of the rare finds,” says Abhishek Ravindra, a teammember.
The groups first targeted owl species – which are seen only during the twilight. “It was a dark sun rise and we were there around 6 am,” he mentions. The list of birds spotted include Emerald dove, Malabar whistling thrush, Brown cheek pulveta, Jungle bush pulveta among others. “Yellow throated bulbul is found in pockets where granite is found. However, unabated quarrying has left the species vulnerable. Now, only few pockets remain where granite is found, but not mined are available,” he says.
The group covered Mallela Theertam, Bramhanapalli reservoir, Dhindi reservoir and other areas. “A lot of development activities are happening. While it will attract a lot of tourists, this will not go well with avian members as they lose their habitat,” explains Ravindra.
Manoj, who visited the same places last year too, says that out of the seven or more water bodies present in the area, only one –Rushula Cheruvu -had adequate water to support birding. Last year, Manoj’s team recorded 204 species on BBD. This year, the number has reduced, but it still stood first nationally in the BBD event.
“We were lucky to see the pug marks of a leopard and its cub,” says Manoj about the findings during the trip. Experience from previous visits came handy and a forest guide assisted with the route planning. The two students accompanying the team also contributed with their inputs.
Manoj lists Indian yellow tit, Imperial green pigeon, Yellow-footed green pigeon, White trumpeted shama among the difficult to find birds, the group spotted on BBD.
“The forest department has taken up some plantations to serve as food for birds in the summer. Water storage points are also being planned,” he says. The team is very happy that all three top spots were awarded to HBP. “It is a big achievement for HBP,” says Fareed Mohmed, whose team earlier topped the list and stood third this time.
In all, HBP won four slots in the top five. About ten teams have been deployed, according to HBP members Phani Krishna Raavi and Hari Krishna Adepu. Senior IPS officer Tejdeep Kaur Menon also helped the team members with permissions and logistics issues.