The Bombay Natural History Society is all set to conduct the bird census once again – an annual activity called Asian Waterbird Count (AWC). This bird census, organized in association with Wetlands International, is meant to monitor the status of waterbirds and wetlands in India, and is a part of the global programme called ‘International Waterbird Census’.
The census aims to increase public awareness on issues related to wetland and waterbird conservation and it is carried out every year in January as a voluntary activity. Thousands of wildlife enthusiasts participate in AWC, collating information on waterbird population during non-breeding season. The process goes on for two weeks and three weekends, and this is the 30th year of the census. Wetlands International is a global, not-for-profit organisation, dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wetlands.
This year, AWC will be conducted in India from January 9 to 24.
“With changing times and increasing anthropogenic pressure, monitoring of wetlands is essential. Initiatives like these encourage mass participation and hence result in better data generation,” said Director of BNHS, Deepak Apte.
All those interested in participating in the census can send the information they collect to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. The data can also be submitted through www.ebird.org, which is a real time online checklist programme. Birdwatchers can use eBird to record the birds they see, keep track of their bird list, share sightings, and get access to a large pool of data and information about birds.
The waterbird count data and site information are recorded on standardised census forms.
AWC participants can download the forms available on the websites of BNHS, Indian Bird Conservation Network and Wetlands International. They are expected to cover the most important waterbird sites in their areas, and have to visit all the sites that were visited last year, using the same site names. Their job will be to report about the presence and absence of waterbirds at a wetland. They can also add some information about the reason behind the decrease in the number of birds if they find something like frozen or dry wetlands.
This information is submitted to the National Coordinators and Regional Coordinators of AWC. After collation and validation, the data is forwarded to Wetlands International South Asia office to be collected for the International Waterbird Census database.
Wetlands include rivers, lakes, reservoirs, ponds, freshwater swamps, mangroves, mudflats, coral reefs, rice fields and sewage farms. And the counted species include waterbirds like pelicans, herons, egrets, storks, flamingos, ducks, geese, swans, and many more.
The AWC has been undertaken at more than 6,100 sites in 27 countries since 1987.
Thousands of volunteers actively participate and the information collected by them is available to many government and private agencies and organisations.