It started out as a gloomy morning because of rain and low visibility in some parts of the city but the day turned out to be an ecstatic one for birders. Teams who participated in the Big Bird Day 2015 on Sunday not only spotted a great variety of species but also some extremely rare ones. A team that was birding in Jhajjar's Bhindawas spotted Smew, a European sea duck that was last seen in NCR between 1920 and 1925.

After close to a century, the birders were thrilled that the small duck species that breeds in northern Taiga of Europe and Asia continues to be seen around Delhi.

Another team that went to the Sultanpur bird sanctuary spotted a White-bellied drongo which is also an important sighting as its population is declining. However, Smew was the highlight of the day. "It was spotted in 1881 by AO Hume, who was a great birder and the founder member of Indian National Congress. In 1922, it was seen near the capital by Basil-Edwardes. Recently, there were also reports of it being spotted in West Bengal's Gajoldoba," said Bikram Grewal, one of the organizers of Big Bird Day.

Suresh Sharma, who was part of the team that spotted the Smew, said they also saw a Peregrine falcon and an Indian spotted eagle, thanks to their powerful binoculars. "We spotted 178 species on Sunday. Officials are apathetic towards Bhindawas Bird Sanctuary," said Sharma.

About 300 people, divided in to 12-14 teams, participated in this year's Big Bird Day. It is one of the largest birding events in the country where people spend a day birding and then upload a list of their sightings on an online portal called eBird. It was started by the Delhibird group—created by Nikhil Devasar and Bikram Grewal—as an informal event held in February or March every year. The first Big Bird Day was held on February 22, 2004, when 236 species of birds were recorded in NCR. The results for this year will be collated in a week.

At Yamuna Biodiversity Park, a team of 20 participated and spotted 109 species between 8am and 10am. A flock of small Pratincole was also seen in the flood zone of Yamuna. At Aravalli Biodiversity Park, counting started early in the morning. A team of six birders participated and listed 69 bird species.

Source: 9 March, 2015, The Economics Times