The Bhubaneswar Bird Walks

First published in Sanctuary Asia, Vol. 34 No. 6, June 2014

By Anirudh Nair

Located on the eastern coast of India, Odisha has a rich history of researching, documenting and protecting birds. Chilika, Bhitarkanika, and Similipal are justifiably famous worldwide for their incredible avifaunal diversity. The Mangalajodi wetlands, the Kuldiha forests, Chandipur and Barbara Forest Reserve too are must-visit destinations for birders from around the world. But community birdwatching had few takers in Odisha not so long ago; a situation that Panchami Manoo Ukil was determined to redress. A birdwatcher herself, she and some like-minded individuals launched The Bhubaneswar Bird Walks (TBBW) as recently as March 2013 and received an overwhelming response from the public.

“When Panchami informed me of TBBW’s formation, it was the perfect way for me to liberate the photographer and nature lover in me after 37 years of a corporate career. The walks have opened up new horizons of knowledge and is primordial to my life purpose now.”
– Bijaya Padhee, TBBW’s most senior member 

TBBW raises awareness about birds around Bhubaneswar, highlights their depleting numbers, documents sightings and works with others to implement conservation programmes. Thus far no less than 41 bird walks have been conducted, involving over 100 serious birdwatchers. Each month five to six new members from all walks of life are added and many have begun to conduct independent bird walks after picking up their skills through TBBW. Birds have learned to colonise areas dominated by humans and locations such as the Dhauli Hills, Jaydev Vatika, Ekamra Kanan, Nandankanan Wildlife Sanctuary, the State Botanical Gardens, Shikharchandi Hills, Chandaka forest, Deras, Munduli, Buddha Park, and the Forest Park are only some of the most popular birding spots frequented by TBBW’s groups. Of course, the Mangalajodi wetlands and Saptasajya Hills are hugely popular and the group has begun documenting these areas systematically. 

Photo: Panchami Manoo Ukil

Expectedly, the initiative has won support from the research and academic community. “TBBW serves as an excellent platform for exchange of knowledge between veteran and novice birders. It has also helped in documenting birds in and around the city,” said researcher, teacher and wildlife enthusiast Swetashree Purohit, to Sanctuary.  

In just one year the movement and habits of over 150 species has been documented, including resident and migratory waterfowl. Some outings have thrown up particularly memorable sightings, such as that of the Pale-capped Pigeon Columba punicea on August 18, 2013. Ramki Sreenivasan, of Conservation India, had sighted the bird in the Similipal forests in May 2013, and it was he that alerted Ukil to look out for the rare pigeon, five of which were sighted by the group atop a tall tree in the Regional Plant Resource Centre (RPRC) campus at Ekamra Kanan adjoining the Chandaka forest. Returning to the site over the next few days they observed as many as 12 in a flock, suggesting that a site-based conservation strategy for the pigeons was in order. 

TBBW intends to focus on school children to sow seeds of passion for birdwatching and photography. Birdwatching trips organised for schools including the Delhi Public School, Kalinga, received very positive responses and birding will soon be part of the regular curriculum at the institution.

TBBW draws focus on the need to protect forest patches and wetlands, located outside Protected Areas as these are vital for the survival of birds. That these are located across the state makes it easy for the love of nature to be planted in the minds of impressionable youngsters in whose hands the future of India’s wilds ultimately rests. 

How to Support

TBBW members are also a part of two other organisations - Odisha Wildlife Lounge (OWL) and Birds of Orissa (BOO). Recently, OWL organised a photoexhibition on the Mangalajodi wetlands to raise funds for its protection and management, which was supported by TBBW and BOO. TBBW also supports OWL in an initiative to revive the sparrow population in Odisha, wherein nesting boxes are distributed to provide the birds safe homes to raise their young.

For more information contact: The Bhubaneswar Bird Walks, 12/A Forest Park, Bhubaneswar - 751009, Odisha.
Panchami Manoo Ukil: +91 78945 77490
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