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Birdman claims a new record.

A REMARKABLE feat has been achieved in the history of Indian ornithology with a Mumbaikar having travelled almost the entire country, 80,000 km, to record 1,128 bird species. This includes rarest ones like the Himalayan Forest Thrush, Tibetan Lark, Nicobar Jungle Flycatcher and Chinese Francolin.

Thirty- two- year- old wildlife biologist, Shashank Dalvi, was on a project called the ' Big Year.' Under this challenge, promoted by United State's Cornell University, birders take up a geographical location, often an entire country, to record its bird diversity in one year. Dalvi has become the first Indian to map the country's almost entire coastline, rainforests, sanctuaries and deserts to record bird species.

The much- awarded photographer says such exercises are important in view of the shrinking wild habitats and climate change. " With temperatures rising, a few years down the line, these avian species may be lost forever. Also, the data collated through such efforts can inform us of their changing migration and distribution patterns through seasons," he says.

India is among the 12 ' mega- bird diversity countries of the world' with an estimated 1,314 species. Over 13 per cent of the world's birds are found in India, as per Asad R Rahmani, former Director, Bombay Natural History Society ( BNHS). Of Shashank

the 1,314 species, 150 are considered ' vagrant' or seen only once or twice in the history of bird- sighting in India.

Dalvi undertook this feat from 1 January- 31 December 2015. The alumnus of WCSNCBS programme says he spent four months in India's Northeast alone. " This belt is the richest. It houses close to twothirds of India's bird diversity." He spotted several species here like Lord Derby's Parakeet and Gould's Shortwing in eastern most parts of Arunachal; Burmese Shrike in Nagaland and Chinese Francolin in Manipur. Other border areas of the country threw up beautiful surprises.

In Kargil, Dalvi spotted the Longbilled Bush Warbler which has not been seen in a breeding ground in India since 1977. He saw the Tibetan Lark in Hanle village ( Ladakh) and the Rufousvented Prinia at Harike Lake of Punjab near the border.

The other largest bird reserve Dalvi found was in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Among his catches were: the Nicobar Jungle Flycatcher, Central Nicobar Serpent Eagle, Nicobar Megapode, Arctic Warbler etc. A certain category of birds called ' Pelagic' or ' offshore' birds needed him to travel beyond the beaches of Kerala and Karnataka. Here he sighted Storm Petrels, Skuas and Shearwaters.

He says, " I made it to the Desert National Park, Rajasthan, just in time ( September) to spot seven- odd species of migratory birds. These include the Spotted Flycatcher, Rufous- tailed Scrub Robin, Red- backed Shrike, Red- tailed Shrike, European Nightjar and the Great White Throat." He added, " Several birds I saw are in the ' IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.' With this documentation, we will certainly understand them better and they are sure to be a part of our memories." Shashank Dalvi

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:May 30, 2016
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