The 4th Annual HSBC Mumbai Bird Race was held yesterday. Missed last years event due to some unforeseen last minute changes, so was determined to take part this year. For the uninitiated, the bird race is a dawn to dusk competition for birding enthusiasts. It is a team event , with the challenge being to identify (by sight or sound) the maximum number of bird species found in the demarcated Mumbai zone.

My team was called Jungle Owlets. We had decided to start at Powai Garden and work our way through to IIT, Powai for the morning. Then we decided to head off to Palm beach road and head back via Airoli to Powai to end our Journey. As some of the other team members had prior commitments, we decided to wrap up our day after that in the afternoon.

We started about 15 minutes late in the morning (I’m largely to blame for that, kind of overslept way past my alarm). Powai garden is surprisingly a nice place for birding. In a short while we spotted some Glossy Ibis, Purple Herons, Common Kingfishers, a golden oriole and a host of other species.

IIT Powai was also a nice place. We added cormorants, babblers, purple moor hens, spot billed ducks, white breasted water hens, Drongos (Ashy and Black), grey headed starlings, bee eaters etc. Our tally had reached a tidy 50 species by the time we left IIT. Besides spotting birds, we were also saw a group of boisterous Langurs jumping from tree top to tree top.

Palm beach road in Vashi is a haven for bird watchers. One can spot several species here all throughout the year. However we couldn’t really make any significant additions to our tally here. Though in spite of this we did see some spectacular birds. Chief among them was an Indian Roller who very graciously came and sat very close to where we were (to our delight). We also spotted a raptor in the sky, which Sunjoy Monga later confirmed to be an Osprey. Other birds we spotted here included a common stonechat and common hoopoe.

On our way back we stopped at the Airoli mud flats and Airoli bridge. We could see the token waders (godwits, sandpipers and stints) and the flamingos.

On the way back we stopped at Powai lake again just to try our luck. Guess what ? We got lucky, spotted both the bronze winged and pheasant tailed jacanas as well as some lesser whistling ducks and a cotton pygmy goose. The icing on the cake for me however was the two large crocodiles that we spotted basking in the sun. Now I know that crocodiles in the lake aren’t just an urban legend.

Our final tally for the day: 69 species. And if you thought that is a big number , hang on. At the closing event at the Maharashtra Nature Park, the winners were announced… and the winning tally was a mind boggling 176 species. To put that in perspective, thats about 13% of India’s bird species spotted in a single day!

It was great event overall with the highs for me being spotting all four species of bulbuls found in Mumbai, both species of jacanas as well as the crocs.

To sum up, had a great time, hope to do this again next year.

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