Bangalore Bird Race, 180115: Organizing a group 6 teams, and how the day went

The Bangalore Bird “Race” is an annual event, where teams of birders scour the quadrants of the city and its outskirts (up to 60 km radius) and try to spot as many birds as they can, until sundown. Since last year (2014), the “race” is just a race against time; the competitive element has been removed.

Every year, even when the race was competitive, my goal is to take as many people as possible, and show them as many birds as possible.

Here

is my account of last year’s event.

Our group (Kiran Kashyap has not yet arrived)at the MCS(Mandatory Chai Stop, where everyone introduces themselves, and the conversational ice is broken), Bannerghatta Circle.

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Sunrise at Gulakmale.

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I must say, it’s quite a challenge to organize a group of 30+ (last year it was 38, this year it was 33) people, many of them newbies (new to birding), not all of them knowing each other (or me), and organize a birding trail, lasting through the day, that would provide an at least satisfactory birding experience for them all.

Pale-billed Flowerpecker with the fruit of the Singapore Cherry tree.

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I like to minimize the number of cars taken, and I like to plan for the many details that seem minor before the day, but become quite important at the time…

1.”Nature break” opportunities where there would be toilets available, especially for the ladies (not just the bushes!). I factored in the toilets at Valley School and in the zoo area.

2.Organizing breakfast and lunch stops, finding the space for all of them to sit comfortably and eat (last year, we ate at a Thatte Iddli Darshini on the way back from Ramnagara, at Bidadi; this year, my route was different, so I decided that everyone would bring packed breakfast and lunch…a good decision). I knew the chai/biscuit shed at Gulakmale near where we’d park our cars would not be open by 9am, and it had stone benches, so that was our breakfast venue.

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I knew it also had two waste bins..they came in handy!

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For lunch, this year, it would be too hot to eat in the zoo parking lot, so I decided to buy a few extra masala dosas at the Mayura open-air restaurant in the Zoo area, which would allow all of us to sit and eat our food, as well. Both places worked very well indeed!

Lunch at the zoo area.

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Sighting the Ultramarine Flycatcher.

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3. Organizing seating in the cars for those who didn’t have cars, didn’t want to drive, or couldn’t bring their cars. With no less than 3 people who were supposed to bring the cars, suddenly developing problems, this was one part of the organizing that did take a lot of effort. But friends willingly responded to my call for replacement cars, and we finally used 7 cars.

Arun showing other visitors to the Zoo, the fact that there are several colourful birds out there while they are looking at the caged ones!

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Seating in the cars had to be done keeping several factors in mind. Families, of course, needed to stay together; as did people who’d brought friends along. Every lady needed to have another lady in the car, as well as at least one person that she knew from before, to make her feel comfortable. I played “musical car seats” with the names and cars quite often, sometimes coming close to having no hair at all as I tore it out, and I just hope I managed creditably! I left one family with a free seat so that their 6-year old son would have the space to have a nap in the car, as it would be a long and tiring day for him. I also made the sole exception for them; we “acquired” them as we went past from our starting point, giving them a half-hour leeway in which to get ready. I must say, the young man, Soham Sinha, kept up magnificiently with the rest of us, and spoke at the dinner venue about seeing his favourite bird, the Pied Kingfisher!

Saji Yunus of HSBC, Sanjay Gubbi, and Dr M B Krishna, on the podium in the evening.

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4.Keeping to a time schedule. Knowing that most of the group were keen on photography, I had to build in some slack, and ultimately, dropped the last venue on the list (my route was Gulakmale, Valley School, Zoo area and Puttenahalli Lake) in the interests of everyone getting back to our starting poing (Shoppers Stop on Bannerghatta Road) at a reasonable time and not have to battle too much traffic to get to the dinner venue (Hotel Infantry, on Infantry Road.) Lunch was certainly a little later than I had budgeted, but it wasn’t too bad.

Youngsters sharing their experiences. Swarna, the compere, had her son Shiva literally attached to her!

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The big plus…the incredibly tasty home-made food and the great variety of it, which we all enjoyed as much as the birding! By asking late-comers (there was one) to join at the MCS, I avoided too much of delay, and we left our starting point just 8 minutes late, as the retired Naval officer pointed out! (Last year, one person succeeded in delaying the whole group by 45 minutes…I learnt my lesson!)

Here are some of the birds:

White-throated Fantail Flycatcher.

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Common Sandpiper.

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Can you spot the Paddyfield Pipit in the reeds?

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Here’s the Paddyfield Pipit:

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The Golden Oriole:

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The Blue-bearded Bee-eater:

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A Jungle Crow drinking puddled water.

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The Asian Brown Flycatcher:

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The Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher:

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The Asian Paradise Flycatcher (rufous male)

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A greedy pig of a Black-crowned Night Heron, which flew into the Cayman’s enclosure and was trying to swallow a large fish whole!

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With its reflection:

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The lane that I call Flycatcher Avenue lived up to its reputation, and we sighted 6 kinds of Flycatchers there!

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Other interesting things:

Ipomoea (batatas? Not sure)

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Jewels of the Peepal leaves:

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Collating our sightings before winding up for the day:

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A promise to myself to visit this temple next time:

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Pot-balance:

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A perfect rain of raptors interrupted our breakfast!

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Butea monosperma, the Flame of the Forest or the Palash:

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Close-up of the flower:

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Birding in Valley School:

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A magnificent Ficus in the Valley campus:

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A Solitary Hunter (Pompiliid) wasp, looking for both prey and a place to nest:

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A Baronet:

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The beautiful spreading Banyan on the outer path of the Valley, through which the path goes:

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Croc in the Herbivore Safari area (we were looking across the fence)

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The youngest birder (all of 4 years old!) speaking in the evening:

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Kumkum tree,

Mallotus philippensis

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This leopard will definitely not change her spots, she’s in captivity at the Zoo:

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The birders list…every single person made it a very enjoyable day!

Andrew Underwood *Lela
Anuradha Krishnan *Brinda
Aravind AM
Arun P V
Brinda Y S
Deepa Mohan
Devaiah KR
Dhananjay Rao
Dipayan Chakraborty
Harish Chandra
Harish Kumar V
Indira Raghunath *Raghu
Janhvi Vyas
Karunakar Ramarao
Kiran Kashyap
Kumuda’s mom *Kumuda
Kumudwathi.V
Lela Roy *Andrew
Mani K
Mohammed Rafiq
Nachiketha M V *Vasuki
Prem Prakash Garg
Raghavendra Joshi
Raghunath M S
Ravindranath E H *Harish Chandra
Ruma Sinha *Sneha
Sajid Yunus
Snehasis Sinha
Soham Sinha *Sneha
Valli Iyengar
Vani V *Vasuki
Vasuki B K

The birds list, on eBird:

Gulakmale,

here

Valley School,

here

Zoo area,

here

(Consolidated list for my team, Black Stork,from all 3 venues, was 134 species.)

More photos on my FB album,

here

Let me close with this shot of the beauty of the rising sun, sparkling in the wavelets on Gulakmale kere:

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And this pic of Srihari Kulkarni, who works very hard before, during and after the Bird Race each year, and whom we must thank for being able to enjoy the event!

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