Talk Abstracts of Symposium 2021

Talk Abstracts of Symposium 2021

Anthony Gaston

Birds in the Himachal hills: tracking a century of changes

Surveys of birds in the Himachal front ranges were carried out intensively by an International team in 1978-1980 and similar surveys have continued sporadically since then, mostly in Chamba, Mandi, Kullu and Rampur districts. My presentation gives an overview of available information and includes a comparison with earlier work in Kangra District by Hugh Whistler who kept careful note of altitude distributions. A few changes in species occurrence are obvious, but there is evidence that altitude ranges have also changed, a factor that could affect ongoing monitoring of hill birds.


Aparajita Datta

Nature Conservation Foundation

Changes and patterns in hornbill breeding and fruiting phenology: insights from long-term monitoring

The timing of breeding in birds is known to be crucial for nesting success and is associated with seasonal peaks in food abundance. There is evidence demonstrating shifts in timing of breeding among insectivorous bird species in temperate regions due to climate change, which is associated with phenological changes in insect food abundance. Phenological shifts in breeding by tropical bird species and especially of large-bodied frugivorous birds is scarce. Our long-term data (20 years) on the nesting dates, nesting cycle and nesting success of three hornbill species shows some changes or ‘anomalies’ in breeding patterns in recent years. We present some evidence to show that these anomalies may be related to fruit availability patterns linked to the El Niño phenomenon and climate change.


Ashwin Viswanathan

Nature Conservation Foundation

State of India’s Birds: insights from long-term bird monitoring by birdwatchers

Since 2014, thousands of birdwatchers in India have documented their observations of birds on eBird, an online citizen science portal. Birdwatchers have even gone back to their diaries and uploaded historical observations, thereby generating a long-term bird dataset that dates back to 1965. With such a nationwide long-term bird dataset being available for the first time in India, several Governmental and non-Governmental organizations came together to analyze this data and produce the first State of India’s Birds report. My talk will take you through the analytical methods and highlights of this report that assesses the conservation status of 867 species of India’s birds.


C. Sashikumar

Malabar Natural History Society

Long-term monitoring of birds in Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala

Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary (AWLS), Kannur District, Kerala is a protected area situated in the Western Ghats. As many as 14 globally threatened species are recorded from this sanctuary, and 18 of the 24 endemic bird species of the Western Ghats are found here. A team of bird watchers with the support of Kerala Forest Department and Wildlife started a long term monitoring of the birdlife of Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary in 2000 and this has continued for the last 21 years, except for 2018 and 2020. The annual bird survey is usually scheduled to take place in the second weekend of March every year so that both migratory and resident species are covered. A proper design and plan of birding effort, birding routes, and methodology was adopted for the long-term monitoring. AWLS was divided into five blocks based on habitat types. The census method selected was a mixture of fixed width line transect with time restricted search standardised with one kilometer long transect to be completed in one hour. The transects were pre-planned and marked in the field. A team of a minimum of four knowledgeable birdwatchers were deputed to survey each block. All the bird sightings were recorded in a prescribed datasheet. Eight samples were taken each year from one block and 40 from the Sanctuary. Periodical analysis of data – the first after five years and the second after 10 years – and the results were brought to discussion for the birding community and for the use of the forest department. This data of bird population collected over 19 years gives many insights on the bird population of the Sanctuary and also regarding the need for the long-term monitoring of bird populations. Apart from the scientific output, Aralam Bird Survey has benefited a number of beginners as a place to meet and interact with experienced birders and to gain first-hand field experience.


Farah Ishtiaq

Tata Institute for Genetics and Society

Monitoring birds and parasite diversity across an elevational gradient in the western Himalaya

Understanding bird population dynamics and how this influences their parasite diversity is fundamental to disease ecology. I used mist-net captures to estimate the relative abundance, species richness and community similarity in resident and migrant species across an elevational gradient in the western Himalaya. Birds were sampled from five sites (600-3200m) in the breeding season (April-May). In total 2353 individuals were ringed representing 169 species with 64 recapture events. I will discuss the importance of using standardized mist-netting and its relevance in disease ecology.


Ghazala Shahabuddin

Centre for Ecology, Development and Research (CEDAR) and Kalpavriksh Environmental Action Group

Nine-year record of wetland birds in Sultanpur Jheel, Haryana: Studying responses to long-term habitat change

Over 400 bird species have been recorded from Sultanpur Jheel (Jheel: lake), a popular birding spot near Delhi. The Jheel, a shallow lake and the surrounding land, covering only 142 hectares, became a National Park in 1991. Members of Kalpavriksh, an NGO in Delhi, undertook monthly (exhaustive) counts of both wetland and terrestrial birds, in and around the Jheel using a fixed route from December 1985 to May 1994. Since then, several habitat changes have occurred in Sultanpur Jheel such as shrinkage of water spread and expansion of the invasive tree Prosopis juliflora into the lake-bed. Such biophysical changes have been accompanied by management measures (such as lakebed excavation and fencing). All of these anthropogenic changes have visibly altered the types and availability of wetland microhabitats in the Jheel over the years. In this talk, I describe the bird assemblages and the nine-year data set. I also explore the potential of the data set for understanding the influence of long-term habitat changes, and possibly climate change, on wetland birds.


Kulbhushansingh Suryawanshi

Nature Conservation Foundation

Lessons from the teenage years of a long-term bird monitoring program: A case study from Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh

Our long-term bird monitoring project in the Trans-Himalayan region of Spiti valley will complete 20 years of continuous sampling in 2021. We have monitored bird density using line transects within the distance sampling framework across four different habitats: agricultural fields, grazed meadows, grazed steppe and ungrazed steppe. I will present patterns in density of individual bird species, species diversity across habitats, and bird community assemblage based on primary data. I will also share our experience of running a bird monitoring project for nearly two decades.


Parveen Shaikh

Bombay Natural History Society

Birds and Badlands: Monitoring of Indian Skimmer population in the National Chambal Sanctuary

National Chambal Sanctuary is one of the riverine habitats that host the maximum breeding population of Indian Skimmer Rynchops albicollis. Madhya Pradesh forest department has been carrying out a decade long population monitoring of Indian Skimmer by an annual census method. We continued the population monitoring by the annual census method and started monitoring the nesting status in 2017. My talk will take you through the long-term population trend of Indian Skimmer on River Chambal and the changing nesting success pattern.


PO Nameer

Kerala Agricultural University

Asian Waterbird Census as a tool for conservation of wetlands: a case study from Kole Wetlands, Ramsar site, Kerala

Long-term bird monitoring programmes are very important in generating useful baseline information which could be useful in the conservation of the birds and the habitats. Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) is one such bird monitoring programme that has been in place since 1987. It is also interesting to note that AWC has been one of the earliest Citizen Science initiatives in the country. In this paper I summarize the three decade long bird monitoring activities that we have been doing at the Kole Wetlands, a Ramsar Site in Kerala. We discuss here the population trend of the waterbirds at Kole Wetlands and the conservation challenges being faced by the waterbirds as well as the wetland habitat and some conservation recommendations.


Prachi Mehta

Wildlife Research and Conservation Society

Forest Owlet Research in Central India – the importance of long-term monitoring

Owls, among other birds of prey, are poorly studied groups of birds in India. However, the rediscovery of the Forest Owlet in the 20th century, generated considerable academic interest in the species. From 2006 to 2008, our organization, the Wildlife Research and Conservation Society, initiated a simple presence-absence survey for the Forest Owlet over a large landscape spanning 5 states in Central India. This survey helped in yielding an initial understanding of broad distributional range and habitat preference of the Forest Owlet in Central India. Based on this survey, we could identify sites for intensive ecological monitoring of the species in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. From 2013 onwards, we are studying the ecology of the Forest Owlet in the Central Indian landscape. We are using systematic-grid based site occupancy surveys to determine the occurrence and relative abundance of the species. For population monitoring, we used the mark-recapture method. We find color-banding a useful technique as it helps in identifying individuals and understanding the extent of local movement by the Forest Owlet. A study of other ecological co-variates includes examining the dietary composition, nest and nesting habitat and the factors impacting the breeding success of the Forest Owlet. The findings generated from our study indicates the importance of long-term and continued monitoring for gaining meaningful insights into the ecology of the species and suggesting strategic conservation actions for the Forest Owlet in the project sites.


Priti Bangal

Nature Conservation Foundation

India Long Term Ecological Observatories (India – LTEO)

Long-term ecological studies are crucial for monitoring populations and examining trends in response to climate change. In India, there is no formal system to monitor ecosystems and examine changes over time. Identifying this gap, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has sanctioned a project to start long-term monitoring of several taxa across the country. The India – Long Term Ecological Observatories is a country wide program that aims to set up monitoring for Forests, Grasslands, Soils, Fresh-water fish, Arthropods, Herpetofauna, Marine ecosystems, Animal movement and Birds along six different climatic and topographic gradients across the country. In this talk, I will provide an overview of the India LTEO program and a brief description of the plan and goals of the bird monitoring team.


S. Balachandran

Bombay Natural History Society

Major Changes observed in waterbird population from the wetlands of Tamilnadu through Long-Term monitoring

BNHS has been monitoring the population structure and movement of migratory birds from several wetlands in Tamilnadu through bird ringing and bird count for the last four decades. Generally, most of the coastal wader species population are on declining except with a few exemptions. The arctic breeding waders such as Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea, Little Stint Calidris minuta, Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, Ruddy Turnstone Areneria interpres, are most affected. Over 70% decline in Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus population was observed along the east coast of India. Among the migratory duck species, the population decline was more conspicuous in the most common species Northern Pintail Anas acuta at Point Calimere than several other inland wetlands. The relative increase in numbers, and range extension of migratory species like Common Pochard Aythya ferina and Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope are noticed in recent years. Numbers for many local migratory and resident species namely Common Coot Fulica atra, Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha, and Little Cormorant Microcarbo niger are increasing dramatically.


Sai Vivek

Perur Lake Forum

Common Water Birds: Indicators of Wetland Ecosystem

Perur Lake Forum (PLF) was started in early 2014 by a group of volunteers to start a monthly bird count in Perur Lake located Southwest of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Our emphasis during this almost seven year monitoring is on waterbirds. We will present a few examples to illustrate that the population changes of “Common Birds” are true indicators of ecosystem health. A brief observation will also be about the various threats that wetlands face. We will also highlight our other bird counts in the Greater Coimbatore area.


T. Ganesh

Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment

Monitoring harriers at their roost for long-term trends and citizen involvement

Several species of harriers that winter in India predominantly roost communally on the ground. We from ATREE monitored three species of harriers from 2015 onwards at various sites across India. These roost counts not only helped us estimate the number of birds in the area but also determine the composition and age structure of the population. We discuss the results and the utility of such a method for long-term monitoring and how citizens can involve in such initiatives.


T R Shankar Raman, Akshay Surendra

Nature Conservation Foundation, Yale University

Two decades apart: monitoring rainforest birds in Mizoram and the Anamalais

Shifting agriculture in northeast India creates a landscape mosaic of fields, fallows, and secondary and mature forest. We studied the effects of shifting agriculture on birds in Mizoram in 1994-5 and returned after 19 years to resurvey the same sites to document trajectories of recovery. Patterns of recovery predicted based on the initial study were only partly supported. In a contrasting landscape in the Western Ghats, to study the effects of habitat fragmentation and restoration, we surveyed rainforest fragments embedded within tea plantations between 2000 and 2005 and again in 2018-2020. In both landscapes, long-term monitoring indicated that mature forests hold more diverse and stable rainforest bird communities, while conserving secondary forests, fragments, and restored sites is an important complementary strategy for landscape-level bird conservation.


Taej Mundkur

Wetlands International

Joining the dots – linking local monitoring to national and flyway conservation

Monitoring of birds at local sites is critical and helps conservation of these habitats and of species across their ranges. Improving analyses and reporting from ongoing monitoring helps inform local and national policy/priorities and to further site level prioritisation for designation as areas and landscapes of national/international importance. Monitoring is critical in monitoring implementation of habitat and species management actions. As India is the terminal of the Central Asian Flyway, monitoring is integral to conservation of large numbers of migratory birds of the Central Asian Flyway. These actions link well to initiatives of the Convention on Migratory Species, management and restoration of wetlands linked to the Ramsar Convention and commitments being developed in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. This presentation aims to join these dots.


Trevor Price

University of Chicago

Bird population changes assessed by mist-netting, line transects, and breeding bird surveys

Assessment of avian population changes requires (1) an objective method repeatable across years and observers, and (2) assessment of context, notably land use alterations. Our data collected in the Eastern Ghats, Andhra Pradesh (1976-1978, 2018), Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra (1994-2018, intermittently) and the Himalaya (1985 onwards) can be used to assess population changes, but only the Mahabaleshwar study was specifically designed to do so. Here, I (1) show how monitoring of wintering warblers can be successfully achieved using a line-transect method, and demonstrate strong correlations between arthropod and bird abundance across years, (2) use mist-netting to provide an objective assessment of wintering bird abundances in the Eastern Ghats, (3) describe the distribution of 38 5ha grids established across the Himalaya, which are surveyed following the method adopted by the British Trust For Ornithology’s breeding bird survey, linked to both habitat and arthropod abundance.


Umesh Srinivasan

Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science

Surviving forest degradation and climate change: insights from a decade of monitoring bird populations in the Eastern Himalayas

The spectacularly species-rich birdlife of the Eastern Himalayas is under threat from both forest loss and from rapid climate warming. As in tropical mountains across the world, species in the Eastern Himalayas are shifting their ranges to higher elevation forests to adapt to rising temperatures. However, as birds move upslope, they encounter not only primary forest, but also human-modified habitats such as agricultural lands and degraded forest, which can hinder their ability to remain resilient in the face of climate change. I will present results from a decade of continuous bird population monitoring in both primary and selectively logged forest using mist-netting and bird ringing. Our results indicate that the responses of species to the joint impacts of climate change and forest degradation can be variable, but that unbroken expanses of primary forest spanning entire elevational gradients are likely to be necessary to enable species to survive in a hotter and more degraded world.