Sunday, February 16, 2014


Shreya  Sikder

A first year English Hons Student, Shreya is an avid nature lover and enthusiastic photographer. Though she is still learning the technical aspects of photography , specially with high end equipments, but the inborn aesthetic sense helps her in producing some great frame. Here she shares her first BBD experience.

          The Big Bird Day (BBD) is a voluntary initiative of the thriving Delhi Bird Club. The first BBD was held in 2003 and since then it has been held every year in January or February including a bird observation in which teams and several individual birders farm out to pre-determined areas to try and sight as many species of birds as they can between dawn and dusk. Each state has a chief co-ordinator who collect the results from various individuals/teams, the results are vetted and formalized and the verified consolidated list of the birds are sent to central committee which collates and tabulates the figures and announces the BBD results. Almost every state and union territory is represented by huge number of individuals, while West Bengal fielded the largest number of teams in 2013.
           I was introduced to the world of bird photography not more than a year ago and to me it was a mere hobby or passion whatever I say. At that time I had no idea of what this Big Bird Day is all about until last year I saw some really beautiful pictures of the observation and after I got to know about this expedition, the whole thing became much clear to me. But truly speaking, I never considered the thought of taking part in this initiative as I did not have a standard equipment to take pictures of the birds and to join the great birders was like a day-dream to me. So when I was given the golden opportunity by Mr. Sumit Chakraborty to take part in the Bengal Bird Day observation 2014, it was like a dream come true.
          It was the winter morning on Sunday, 19th January. Unlike the other days I woke up early with the excitement and at about 6:30am reached the spot where our team was to be gathered before the observation. Our team at Halishahar in the district of North 24 Parganas consisted seven bird enthusiasts from various walks of life – teachers, doctor, engineer, neurophysiology technician and of course me, a student.But inspite of having differences in age and professions there are lots of commons among us.In addition to a zeal for nature photography we all are member of a Facebook group Wildwights which   has broken the barrier of virtual relationship  and brought several like minded people into the world of serious nature photography.For birders, the Sunday morning was already paying rich dividends ; the weather less chilly, less foggy unlike other days. On four bikes, seven of us kicked off for our first destination. Instead of lazing on couch or waking up late in the Sunday mornings, it felt refreshing and soothing being in the embrace of nature, breathing the early morning intoxicating breeze and treading on the dew-soaked grass –being a “nature person”.
              Armed with cameras, copies and spotting scopes, our group members –Mr. Sumit Chakraborty, Mr. Prasun Kumar Chakraborty, Mr. Guruprasanna Mitra, Mr. Tapash Kumar Dutta, Dr. Riju Bhattacharya and Mr. Rathindra Chanda including me had arrived at about 7am at Railway Cutting, a large pond used for fishing. Common Myna, Pied Myna, Jungle Myna, Spotted Dove, Red Whiskered Bulbul, Red Vented Bulbul, White throated Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Common Crow were the common sighting as a treat to our curious eyes. Surprisingly the most common House Sparrows were very less seen. Observing closely we found around 30 bird species and after that we headed towards our next destination.
             Anglers Club, as locally known is a large water body famous for fishing. According to last year’s checklist of birds, there was a huge gathering, almost 7000 of Lesser Whistling Ducks, a migratory bird species crowded in the single water body, even making it difficult to spot water amidst of them. But this year, the number of species alarmingly decreased to about 2000. Besides there were also Cormorants sunbathing. A Jungle Crow and a Black Kite flew over and surprisingly a Purple heron was sighted as well. The Cormorants and the Lesser Whistling Ducks were so far from us that I found it almost impossible to get a clear noise-free picture of them and so I casually asked Mr. Sumit to let me use his Canon 7D and he agreed without hesitation! After a number of efforts when I was almost fade up, I realized that I was pressing the wrong key for clicking. And soon after realizing the stupidity I readily started to focus and click pictures, almost forgetting that I was using someone else’s very very expensive camera! Here we approached a local resident and he clicked our group photo. Well, it was amazing to be clicked while holding the attractive camera.

Our Team at Anglers Club 

              Our next observation was at Phoolpukur field area .There was hardly any path visible but our bikers knew no bound and made their way in the muddy path with other members on the pillion. Great number of Palm Swifts, Barn Swallows, Zitting Cisticolas, different species of Munia, White Wagtails and Citrine Wagtails were fluttering here and there. We walked ahead. On a large tree, Asian Open Bill Storks were sunbathing. Mr. Guruprasanna Mitra had brought some food, after having some we divided into sub groups and walked to different directions for birding. Suddenly Mr. Sumit spotted something moving on the grass, he took his camera and in no time lay down on the ground and started clicking. It is always great to see someone so enthusiast, the birds he found there was a Paddy field Pipit couple.

Paddyfield Pipit

             After covering the field area, we zoomed towards our last spot at Phoolpukur. It is a farm cum picnic spot headed by Bablu Ghosh. The place is very calm and serene with only the chirping of birds but the frequent turning up of the people for picnics, playing loud music and polluting the area is very much alarming as the number and variety of birds are rapidly decreasing. Pond Herons, Grey Herons, Black crowned Night Herons were seen with their nests on the tall bushy trees. A large number of Cormorants and Night Herons were flying over. One can get a couple of flight shots of these birds if spends about half an hour there. We divided into sub groups and after covering our respective areas of that spot, we met at a common place. Mr. Prasun had found a long feather of a Night Heron and a beautiful feather of Asian Koel (female) with brown and black striped patterns. I took them as a souvenir of the Big Bird Day. A Rose Ringed Parakeet couple was playing on a branch of tree and we all halted there to capture some beautiful moments. Common chiffchaff, Blyth's reed warbler, clamorous reed warbler were other important findings there.  

Common Tailor Bird

             Now it was the time to return. We decided to take some rest for some time and head back. But a last finishing was to be done; just as we were about to exit, tweeting of a Black throated Tailor Bird and Purple Sunbird caught our attention. Our group members got some splendid shots there as an adieu.
 Purple Sunbird(Male)
            But it was alarming to see that the huge variety of birds are slowly and steadily decreasing in those places where the chirping of birds penetrated the silence even the last year at this time. The excess loss of greenery due to rapid urbanization and also the change in environment has taken its toll. As a result Purple Heron, Common Chiffchaff, Purple Swamphen, Tricolor Munia, Yellow footed Green Pigeon, Spotted Owlets were some of the birds less seen this year and among the relatively rare birds were Eurasian Wryneck, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Black throated Tailor Bird etc.

 Zitting cisticola
               “One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls” –going out for birding was never an option for me, I only knew that there are many varieties of birds in my district but I had never seen so many birds on a single day being in the lap of nature. This Big Bird Day was a perfect treat for me –some lovely captures (with that wonderful camera of course!), visiting some unknown places full of varieties of birds and the company of these amazing birder friends made my day.

 Taiga Flycatcher ( Female)

      White rumped munia 

Plain Prinia

The Bird checklist is given :

1.      Purple heron
2.      Common Myna
3.      Pied Myna
4.      Red vented bulbul
5.      Red whiskered bulbul
6.      House crow
7.      Palm swift
8.      Spotted dove
9.      Jungle myna
10.  Bronze winged Jacana
11.  Plain prinia
12.  Pond heron
13.  Brown shrike
14.  Common Moorhen
15.  Greater Coucal
16.  Common Tailor Bird
17.  White breasted kingfisher
18.  Red Wattled lapwing
19.  Common Chiffchaff
20.  Open billed stork
21.  Little egret
22.  Asian koel
23.  Little cormorant
24.  Great cormorant
25.  White wagtail
26.  Magpie robin
27.  White breasted water hen
28.   Cattle egret
29.  Black drongo
30.  Purple swamphen
31.  Collared dove
32.  Black crowned night heron
33.  Stork billed King fisher
34.  Purple sunbird
35.  Bengal bushlark
36.  Paddy field pipit
37.  Zitting cisticola
38.  Green bee eater
39.  Indian silverbill
40.  Citrine wagtail
41.  Scaly breasted munia
42.  Tricolour munia
43.  White rumped munia
44.  Eurasian wryneck
45.  Great egret
46.  Long tailed shrike
47.  Baya weaver
48.  Common kingfisher
49.  Black hooded oriole
50.  Median egret
51.  Jungle babbler
52.  Clamorous reed warbler
53.  Greater flameback woodpecker
54.  Jungle crow
55.  Taiga flycatcher
56.  Lesser whistling duck ( almost 2000 in a single waterbody)
57.  Cotton pigmy goose
58.  House sparrow ( utterly surprising only one sighting)
59.  Pheasant tailed jacana
60.  Blue throated barbet
61.  Wire tailed swallow
62.  Common hoopoe
63.  Rufous treepie
64.  Purple rumped sunbird
65.  Black kite
66.  Little egret
67.  Rose ringed parakeet
68.  Grey Wagtail
69.  Yellow footed green pigeon
70.  Hack cuckoo
71.  Common snipe
72.  Blyth's reed warbler
73.  Black throated tailor bird
74.  Barn Swallow