The Bird Race

First of all, I must mention that a pall was cast on the event by the untimely and tragic death of Krishna Narain, or KN, one of the veteran birders of Bangalore, on the eve of the race. His farm was a favourite birding spot for many, and it was, I think, touch and go whether the event would be held or not. All teams were ultimately SMS-ed not to visit the farm, and the event was held.

After our monthly family quiz on Saturday, (ah, that will be another post!) I got to sleep at 2.30 am…and so it was rather difficult to drag myself out of bed early! However, my teammates, Amoghavarsha, Prashanth, and Anirudh, were kind enough to allow me to brush my teeth, and off we went.

There were about 44 teams in all; each one of us was free to either follow the route guidelines that the organizers had set, or follow our own path. All birding areas had to be within a 50 km radius of Bangalore, and this ruled out places like Ranganathittu. Each team was assigned a bird name; ours was “Kingfisher”. Vijay Mallya would, no doubt, be horrified to see us!

We decided to visit the Manchinabele Dam area first, and then go on to the Valley School area. None of us are expert birders, and so we really took our time, took photographs, and thoroughly enjoyed it was rather a surprise when, at 4 pm, we realized that we had quite a respectable tally of about 87 species! At this point, competitiveness got the better of us, and we decided to visit Madivala Lake and see how many species we could add to the total. And we made a final tally of 97, which, given our level of expertiise, was pretty good!

I must state here the difference in the attitude with which birders approach this event. Some, keen-eyed and full of enthusiasm, went all out to get the best total; others decided to do an hour or two of birding because their hearts were not in it that day (and of course many of them still got amazing totals!) and some, like us, went blithely to see what they could see, enjoying the opportunity of being with friends, and in the open air the whole day.

We all met at the Royal Orchid, Manipal Centre, by the evening, and handed in our log books. The organizers, HSBC, (helped by Swarna Venkat and her friends) had appointed S.Karthikeyan, Shyamal, and Dr M B Krishna as the judges, and they had a busy time trying to collate results while we enjoyed a welcome cup of coffee. Alas for us, two of our teammates couldn’t get into the tees that were distributed; “S” is not a size for young men who are 6 feet tall!

We gathered in the hall and Zafar Futehally, that doyen of birders, and Ramachandra Guha, addressed us. The results were then announced, and we cheered the winners, though we were rather surprised that some of the teams we knew didn’t win a prize. There were prizes for “bird of the day” (it was the Eurasian Wryneck) and “dip of the day” which was a bird that the team would almost certainly think they would see, and didn’t. (Our choice was the Pied Kingfisher; with our team name, we thought we would definitely see some!)

It was good to put faces to some of the distinguished names that I have seen on the Bangalore Birds egroup, and meet several other people and exchange notes. We wound up with an excellent dinner, and went home content.

However, I would certainly agree with one of the winners, Mike Prince, who said that people who came birding for the first time on the Race Day might get a wrong impression of what birding is about….it’s not just trying to spot the maximum number of birds; to me, birding is trying to learn more about birds and their behaviour and enjoy Nature as a whole, while birding.

In fact, birding is an activity that is normally done at a leisurely pace, and quality takes much greater precedence over the quantity that the Bird Race mandates! Birding is generally associated with photography and meticulous note-taking, which cannot be done in a rush.

It’s only that human beings do love numbers, and once a year, probably it’s good to see how many different species one can spot…and it was a revelation to several of us that even today, with depleted green cover and rapid urbanization, Bangalore has such a wealth and diversity of avian fauna.

1 Comment so far

  1. Thejesh GN (unregistered) on February 13th, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

    Thanks for the commentary

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