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Winter baseline count of avian biodiversity in Haryana shows promising results: Experts

By Prayag Arora-Desai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 29, 2020 10:34 PM IST

Birders from Delhi-NCR and nearby areas, with assistance from the state forest and wildlife department, have created the first-ever baseline winter count of avian biodiversity in Haryana. The Haryana Bird Count and Winter Baseline of Avian Biodiversity, 2020 (HBC 2020), as it has been called, recorded a total of 330 species of birds across the state this winter.

A total of 130 birders, divided into 28 teams, conducted two bird counts on January 12 and January 19. This exercise yielded a record of 309 species of birds in Haryana’s 22 districts, with Gurugram reporting the highest biodiversity with 213 species observed, followed by Jhajjar with 186 species and Faridabad with 150 species.

“Additionally, about 21 species were reportedly sighted by other birders in Haryana between December 2019 and January 2020, based on data available on eBird, an open-source repository for aggregating bird sightings in India. We have added this to our record of 309 species to arrive at a baseline figure of 331 bird species for the current winter season,” said Balbir Arora, a Delhi-based birder and member of the HBC 2020 organising committee. Arora, who conceived and organised the exercise, said, “This is the first time that such a definitive baseline count has been attempted.”

This baseline figure, experts said, shows Haryana as a promising birding destination, particularly in the districts beyond Gurugram and Faridabad, which are still largely unexplored. “For logistical reasons, areas close to Delhi and Chandigarh, such as Gurugram, Panchkula and Faridabad are familiar territory for birders. This is why these districts have reported high biodiversity, but that’s not necessarily true in reality. Other interior districts are likely to have richer biodiversity, which can be uncovered through more such counts,” said Pankaj Gupta of the Delhi Bird Foundation, who assisted with the HBC 2020.

Among other districts that recorded significant biodiversity of avian species are Sirsa, which recorded 115 species, eight more than the historical record of 107, and Rewari, which recorded 164 species, i.e. 14 more than the historical count of 150. “Palwal, Panipat and Bhiwani also registered remarkable improvement from the past records,” says the official HBC 2020 document, which was shared with Hindustan Times on Wednesday.

The HBC 2020 also recorded a significant sighting of the Himalayan Swiftlet in Jhajjar, which has not been seen before in the state, from Kalesar in Panchkula. This takes the total count of all bird species recorded in Haryana to about 506-507. “Of the 1,321 odd species of birds, which have been recorded in India so far, at least 500 can be seen in Haryana. There’s definitely potential to discover more species in districts that birders have so far covered very scarcely,” said Pankaj Gupta, adding that, if such counts were to be held every quarter, Haryana’s recorded avian biodiversity might even touch 550-560 different species by the year-end.

“Districts (other than Gurgaon, Faridabad, Jhajjar and Panchkula) hold ample opportunity to improve the species count of the state if they are visited by the experienced birders more frequently. This will be possible if the bird watching is promoted as an activity of recreation and promotion of tourism by the state government,” the HBC2020 report notes.

One of the reasons for the state’s rich avian biodiversity, experts suggest, is the rich variety of habitats it offers to birds, both resident and migratory. “There are native forests like Mangar Bani and Aravalli Biodiversity Park, wetlands in Dighal and Jhajjar, and open scrub forests in further away districts that are all important bird habitats,” said Gulshan, drawing attention to the need to protect these native ecologies, which are presently under immense biotic pressures.

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