Shimla: It turned out to be a treat for birdwatchers as they claimed at the first ever specie count of the city to have spotted as many as 126 winged resident species in the hill capital. A Hugh Whistlerâ€™s list had recorded 90 species in 1946.
What surprised the professional and amateur ornithologists was sighting of birds that usually are not seen at such altitudes.
â€œSighting of the Asian Koel was certainly a surprise,â€ says Sumesh Goyal, founder president of the Himachal Birds. â€œThese Koel are generally not sighted at this altitude but its presence definitely indicates changes in the environment and warming of the Shimla hills,â€ he said.
The one day survey undertaken under the Himachal Birds group involved about 40 professional and amateur bird watchers. The city was divided into 8 segments and teams set out before crack of dawn to spot some birds which are only seen in the early hours.
Bird watchers KB Singh and Rima Dhillon, who had travelled uphill to be part of the unique survey, were adequately rewarded by being able to sight rare and shy Koklass pheasant in the Shimla catchment area. â€œOther rare pheasants seen in the region include the Kaleej and Cheer,â€ he said.
Besides wildlife officials and other enthusiasts bird watchers and nature conservationists from Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh also participated in bird count exercise.
The survey has been able to provide a baseline data of contemporary relevance, says Goyal. Subsequent surveys and bird-walks will build on it to arrive at comprehensive bird species lists of Shimla, he added.
The president also announced that Himachal Birds would turn the bird count exercise into an annual affair preferably in the month of March when spatial and altitudinal migration of birds is more.
Students from schools and colleges freed of board examinations would be encouraged to join bird walks conducted on Sundays to inculcate bird watching among them.
No bird lists of Shimla in the past have recorded so many species. Hugh Whistlerâ€™s list which dates back to 1946 records only 90 species claimed Goyal, who also happens to be a senior police officer.
To increase the ambit of the organization and also to document a current list of birds in the state, plans are being drawn up to open two new chapters of Himachal Birds at Mandi and Dharamshala, the founding president stated.
The birders who participated in the survey that was sponsored by Vodaphone included, KB Singh, Chandrima Roy, Vinitha, Rima Dhillon, Sarabjeet Kaur, Narbir Kahlon, Navjit Singh, Prabhat Bhatti, Dr. Chatha(a doctorate in forestry) Dr. ML Thakur(HP Univ), Dr Sanjeeva, Dr Shubh Prem, Dr Chetna, Anil, Sunil Aurora, Vinita Dixit, Sunila Kumar, Pramod Kumar Gupta, Sanjeev Gautam, Sanjeeva Panday and DS Dadhwal.
Photos by Amit Kanwar