City joins global effort, gives bird count a flying start

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The Great Backyard Bird Count, coordinated by the Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology in the US, began in the city on Saturday morning. At least five groups of amateur bird-watching enthusiasts and experts began the counting of birds in their natural surroundings in various parts of Pune.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird-watchers of all ages across the world in a contest to count birds and create a real-time bird distribution snapshot.

The count in India has been supported by members of the activity group called Migrant Watch at the National Centre For Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore. This year the count will be done from February 15 to 18.

City-based environmental scientist Dharmaraj Patil, a member of one of the groups from Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR), that did the counting at Taljai Hill, said, "As per rules of counting, any individual can start the count from anywhere and has to do it for at least 15 minutes. The data will definitely not be foolproof. But it will definitely give a snapshot of the condition of the birds."

The participants have to create an account on www.birdcount.org and submit their check-list every time they take a count. The participants are expected to identify the bird and count them. The data of the birds across the world is thus collected on a map-based system.

Patil said, "The idea is also to create awareness among citizens about conservation of birds and ornithology. It is now a proven notion that wildlife photography and bird-watching, if done in an unscientific way, is a threat to birds. So the objective of the activity is to create awareness among people and make them adopt ways of bird-watching that are least harmful to birds."

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