Sivasish Thakur

GUWAHATI, Feb 7: A group of birdwatchers active in documentation and conservation of birds conducted an innovative bird monitoring exercise titled ‘Bihu Bird Count’ during the recently-concluded Magh Bihu festivities.

The period of Magh Bihu coincides with the annual visit of migratory birds in large numbers and varieties from across the globe congregating in the State.

The study, done mostly outside protected areas, significantly yielded a total count of 418 bird species, of which 81 species were long-distance migrants. Among the five zones, Upper Assam documented a species count of 298, while Lower Assam showed the highest submission of checklists (517).

Common myna was the most commonly sighted species during this Bihu Bird Count for all the zones, followed by spotted dove. The bird count also documented some of the rarities such as Abbot’s babbler, white-tailed Robin, etc.

Additionally, 19 species of threatened birds such as greater adjutant, oriental darter, ferruginous pochard etc., were recorded. Certain species which are endemic to the Brahmaputra Valley like the marsh babbler, swamp prinia and black-breasted parrot bill were also observed during the count.

“The study was mostly conducted outside protected areas (PAs) even though some of the birding activities took place in Kaziranga, Manas, Dehing-Patkai, etc. It shows that we have diversity of bird habitat outside the protected areas too. Migratory water fowls such as northern shoveler, northern pintail and tufted ducks, and migratory terrestrial species such as shrike sp., warbler sp., and wagtail sp. were all very well documented by the birders and uploaded to eBird.org,” Jaidev Mandal from among the organisers told The Assam Tribune.

The event, hosted under the banner of Bird Count India, was organised during January 14 to 17. It emphasised on the use of eBird for documentation, a citizen’s science platform for the birders to register their observation of birds in a systematic manner.

“Other than documenting the diversity of avifauna in the State, the initiative also aims to disseminate information and spread knowledge and awareness on the importance of birds around us, as well as promote the association of the festival with nature,” he added.

This was the second edition of the event. Fortunately, participation was much higher compared to that of last year. It was for the first time that documentation of birds was done in all the districts of Assam at the same time at several locations.

For ease of analysis, the State was demarcated into five zones – Upper Assam (Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Charaideo, Majuli), Lower Assam (Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Goalpara, Baksa, Chirang, Barpeta, Nalbari, Kamrup, Kamrup Metro, South Salmara-Mankachar), North Assam (Udalguri, Darrang, Sonitpur, Biswanath, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji), Central Assam (Dima Hasao, East Karbi Anglong, West Karbi Anglong, Nagaon, Morigaon, Hojai) and Barak Valley (Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj).

“The emphasis and goal of the Bihu Bird Count was to document birds and their diversity in Assam, although those residing outside the State could also participate. Bihu Bird Count followed simple steps of documentation. The participants went birding in areas of their desire and uploaded their observations to eBird.org. The event was distinctive from the earlier year as this time the initiative proceeded with the agenda of documenting birds in each and every district of this State,” Mandal said.

To ensure this, at least one coordinator was assigned from each district, with their role being conducting bird count and coordinating with anyone interested in birding from their respective district.

“A total of 928 checklists were uploaded to eBird with a total count of 418 bird species, of which 81 species were long-distance migrants. The other benefit about submitting these observations to eBird is that the data is available in public domain where everyone is free to access it,” he said.

“The expansion during the second edition of Bihu Bird Count has led to a fair documentation of the bird species in the State. The exercise will lead to better understanding of the seasonal and temporal distribution of birds in Assam across different terrain as well as imbibe the sense of attachment towards Nature within people,” he said.