Guwahati has become the latest place in India to form its own city-based bird atlas. The Assam Bird Monitoring Network (ABMN) formally unveiled its intention of starting the Guwahati Bird Atlas (GBA) at the day-long AVICON-2022: Assam Ornithology Meet on Saturday, 28 May. Unlike the bird counts, a bird atlas will monitor the frequency and diversity of birds in the city over a fixed period of time and seasons over a few years. Currently, Pune, Mysore and Coimbatore are some of the cities that have an ongoing bird atlas, a citizen science initiative to map the distribution and abundance of birds in that particular city.
“We have standardized the protocols and method. The idea is to make the recordings (of the sightings) homogenous. We will be reaching out to the public and use their help in getting more data that will help in bird diversity analysis,” said ABMN co-founder Rupam Bhadhuri.
The city will be divided in 142 grids – each grid is less than 500 metres in distance. It’s the first step towards forming the Assam Bird Atlas, Bhadhuri added. Within Guwahati, the GBA has looked at a few hotspots where birders sight a lot of birds – for example, Deepor Beel (a Ramsar wetland site), Rani-Garbhanga Reserve forest, and the city itself. To ensure its success, the GBA will be mentored by Bird Count India and Kerala Bird Atlas (the first and the only state-level bird atlas in the country at the moment).
Since 2018, ABMN has been laying the ground for GBA by monitoring and fine-tuning the reporting protocols with the help of students from Cotton University’s department of environmental biology and wildlife sciences. During this preliminary work, over 200 species of birds were recorded by the students. The network then began the festival-based Bihu Bird Count in 2020, a state-wide four-day event, where participants had to submit checklists of at least 15 minutes duration and record only wild birds.
From the five Bihu Bird Counts held till now, the data seems encouraging. A total of 324 birders participated from 27 districts, 581 bird species were reported and 1866 checklists were submitted on the eBird app. Some of the species that were frequently spotted were Common Myna, Spotted Dove, Red-vented Bulbul, Black Drongo, Cattle Egret and Asian Pied Starling.
“Bird watching is relatively new here as compared to Kerala, where people have been birding for decades. So, through the Bihu Bird Count, we have been trying to raise awareness about the variety of birds in our neighbourhood in general, and how to identify them. Basically, we are bringing the basics of ornithology knowledge in a practical form,” Bhadhuri added.
Meanwhile, the AVICON conference, organised by ABMN, Cotton University’s environmental biology and wildlife sciences department and Bird Count India, aimed at bringing together birders, researchers, photographers, bird guides, government officials and students under one roof and share their experiences and expertise.