My First Experience: Birdrace 2021

Aaryan Bhalla
14 min readFeb 26, 2021

By Aaryan Bhalla

I’m Aaryan Bhalla a student in class 8. I am a new entrant to the world of birding and extremely keen. You may wonder about which first experience I am talking about?

Thanks to God, who has given me the chance and welcomed me to this chirping world. yes, that was the 11th Annual Bird Race coordinated by eminent bird watcher Rima Dhillon, the general secretary of Chandigarh Bird Club, which was organized on February 21, 2021, by the Chandigarh Bird Club.

‘Bird Race 2021’, in which 13 teams from the region took part. The name of our team was Magpie and four members were there- I, Rima Dhillon Ma’am, Saroj Gulati Ma’am, and Ridima Gangrade and her parents. The team which spots and clicks the maximum number of birds and species the winner of the competition is declared the winner.

As the cold rises, icy areas, rivers, streams, and lakes all freeze. In such a situation, migratory birds look for low-winter areas in search of food. Chandigarh Sukhna Lake is a favorite destination for such migratory birds. Every year hundreds of birds of different species arrive here.

To find out which species of birds have reached Chandigarh, the Chandigarh Birds Club conducts a bird race before and after the onset of winter every year in February. in which the species and number of birds are ascertained.

Way to Jangeshuparwanoo mountains… Kalka-Shimla highway

India’s BirdRaces, which is supported by HSBC, has become the largest and most popular birdwatching activity across the country. For the current season, the event had been held in 13+ cities across India.

These bird races are organized all over India.

These bird races are dawn-to-dusk events wherein teams of birdwatchers — from beginners to experts and from children to elderly — spend the day in and around the Inter-State Chandigarh Region to spot the species of birds as if possible in the whole day.

for the first time when I met Saroj Madam with whom I was chatting on WhatsApp only for 2 years. I met Rima Dhillon ma’am and A girl Ridima Gangrade and her parents too who was a member of our team too.

They set a time frame for the teams, and it required them to select spots to count the birds as species as much as possible.

They decided the route to go to Chakki Modh and Jangeshu. The first birds at which we glanced were Cattle egrets, Black kites, Himalayan bulbuls, and Red-vented bulbuls on the Kalka-Shimla highway.

Himalayan Bulbuls

Ma’am said there’s a tree Bombax ceiba (Silk cotton Tree) with red flowers where probably most of the birds were found and we saw several Himalayan bulbuls and red vented bulbuls feeding on it maybe if enjoying the taste of the petals of flowers.

Bombax ceiba tree with red flowers

Red-vented Bulbul

Credit: Ridima

I also brought my camera — was unable to capture photos as it doesn’t have a nice zoom or resolution. So, other birders — Saroj Ma’am and Ridima were only capturing the birds. I was only spotting them with my monocular.

Large-billed Crows

The large-billed crow formerly referred to widely as the jungle crow

Ma’am was driving slow. So that if you see any Birds, you can write in on the list. House crows are ubiquitous in Chandigarh. But in the mountains these Large Billed Crows are common, they are fully blacked without any gray patch on them. The calls of the Indian jungle crow are not unlike that of the house crow and but are harsher.

Black Bulbuls

It was the first time I saw a Himalayan black bulbul in my life. A very pretty bird with a whole-body black and gray, a red beak, and red hands with stylish erected combed and beautifully arranged hair.☺️

We recorded all three types of bulbuls at Jangeshu and decided to go ahead with our journey. The condition of Jangeshu was very discontented as each person was making their own establishments such as dhabas, pools, and restaurants. The worst thing was that people carried their scruff with them and just threw a there only.🤨😡

Great Barbet and Blue-throated Barbet

Beautiful Great Barbet — Credits: Saroj Gulati

We could not capture both of the barbets this time. Suddenly, Rima Ma’am only heard calls of a blue-throated Barbet, and Saroj Ma’am saw a Great Barbet on the Bombax ceiba tree. Unfortunately, others could not see the barbet, but, no problem, we have a beautiful capture of this bird by Mrs. Saroj Gulati.

Beautiful Blue-throated Barbet — Credits: Saroj Gulati

Alexandrine Parakeets

There are 4 types of Parakeets- rose-ringed Parakeets, Alexandrine Parakeets, slaty-headed parakeets, and Plum-headed parakeets which are common. The difference between the rose-ringed Parakeets and Alexandrine Parakeets is just that Alexandrines have red patches on their feathers, the beak is also large, Males have a black ring in necks while females do not have a ring.

Old World Sparrows

Several sparrows were there. Now, because of the construction of towers, Broadband, and Wi-Fi Towers, these small home resident sparrows are seen less in the populated cities. But there, in the hilly regions, they were in vast flocks.

A female sparrow on the wire.

Red-Billed Leiothrix

This bird is small in size. But, it is very colorful. It has bright red bills and a dull yellow ring around its eyes that extends to the beak. What beautiful birds, This bird is very active and an excellent singer.

Their backs are dull olive green, and they have a bright yellow-orange throat with a yellow chin and an orange shading on the breast.

The edges of the wing feathers are brightly colored with yellow, orange, red, and black and the forked tail. The cheeks and side of the neck are a bluish-gray color.

Don’t worry, we were all taking precautions by wearing masks and social distancing and spotting birds with cameras and binoculars.

Chestnut-bellied rock thrush

Credits: Saroj Gulati (old photo) — Bird was not captured that day

We saw this bird at the edge of the road before opening the camera to capture it flying away. Birds are always happening when playing with us.

Rufous Tree pie

We could only see the Rufous tree pie, not the gray tree pie which is very common in the upper altitudes of Himachal Pradesh.

White-crested laughing thrush

These are very high social, and vocal birds found in forests and scrubbed from the Himalayan foothills. I always wanted to see this bird as if it was wearing a pair of black spectacles and a white crown with brown fur.

Streaked laughing thrush

The second capture of Laughing Thrush is only found in the northern parts of India. It has different shades of brown color.

Rusty cheeked scimitar babbler

The first time I saw this bird shouting and calling having brown and red rusty coloring on the sides of the face, head, thighs, and flanks. The belly is mostly white. The beak is a long, decurved, backward-curved, single-edged sword with a thickened, unsharpened back edge in a scimitar shape.

White-capped Water Redstart

This bird is exquisite as God has given it three different colors- Red, Blue, and White which always roam near the rocks of a stream. They have a larger white pattern on top of their heads, as if wearing a white cap with brown or red spots under their wings, a red tummy, and blue plumage.

Gray Wagtail

The first time saw a gray wagtail thinking that it was a yellow wagtail which was continuously up and down its tail as their tails are an enormous benefit to them in identifying and catching food because their tails will be seen wagging and snapping up and down or even to the sides, apparently to flush insects.

Plum Headed Parakeets

As we went near the Jangeshu- Kasauli road. we saw a pair of Plum-headed parakeets on a peepal tree usually found in flocks. The males have a pinkish purple head and the females, a gray head.

See how people do these things and pollute their precious environment. They brought their bottles, juices, chips, packets and don’t take them back and throw them away. No one follows Swachh Bharat Mission.

The bad thing which Rima Ma’am didn’t like was that there was a stream flowing through rocks and we wanted that if we find any bird there. But we were unable as that was someone’s private property of someone and because of a fence, it was difficult for birds to cross it.

Black-Chinned Babbler

Not only these, but we also captured red-billed blue magpies, common chiffchaff, Hume’s warblers, grey-hooded warblers, cinereous tits, Indian brown rock chats, spotted dove, brown-headed barbets, and dusky Craig martins.

Finally! Team Magpie captured the Red-Billed Blue Magpie.
प्यास तो सबको लगती है

We went back to our journey to Chandigarh and couldn’t go to Chakki morh and then decided to go to Thapli and Sukhna lake as the Indian express reporters were waiting for some members of the club to take their photographs.

Black Kite

Moved towards…Thapli, Jallah and Mallah

Black Kite Credits: Ridima

Verditer flycatcher

This one too…First time I saw this light-colored bird with sky blue color plumage which was flying from one branch to another. It has intense blue on all areas of the body, except for the black eye patch and gray vent. It is named after its distinctive shade of copper-sulfate blue solution and has a dark patch between the eyes and above the bill base.

Little Egret

We also saw this little egret with a black beak thinking that it was an intermediate egret and also saw a little cormorant just opposite the bird which was spreading its wings. They were very far away from us enjoying their day in a water body.

We went inside a village called Mallah near Thapli, Panchkula, Haryana. We were seeing if we could find any birds in the fields and farms of the village.

Black-rumped flame back Woodpecker

Credit: Ridima

This was the second time I saw this wonderful bird that is always restless but, today it seems as if it is resting on the tree. It was the first and last woodpecker we saw, whereas I was expecting that we would various kinds in higher longitudes.

Greater Coucals

Credit: Ridima

As we moved back to the Malpur bridge. Suddenly, we saw a pair of greater coucals (which same as the size of a crow) in the fields feeding on something. The first time I saw this bird was from the cuckoo family.

Spotting birds at Malpur Bridge, Thapli near Panchkula, Haryana.

We were hoping for kingfishers to see as they are mainly found near the water bodies only. But, couldn’t. Positioned as a fun event, it is aimed at generating awareness on bird life surrounding the region and support for nature conservation and the environment.

Yellow-Eyed Babbler

Firstly I saw this bird thinking that it is a plain Prinia. But, ma’am said that it’s a Yellow-eyed babbler. Our team was off this Bird for the most awesome capture of the day. The first time I saw this bird was as if it was wearing a pair of yellow- orangish spectacles.

This is Plain Prinia captured by Ridima.

One can see how beautiful the yellow- orangish eyes of these birds are the same as the Indian white-eye bird which has a white-colored ring around the eyes.

Ashy Prinia

It is also a small bird just the size of a Tailorbird. But the difference was just that tailorbird has green and Ashy Prinia has brown plumage. Unlike many small, shy birds, the Ashy Prinia is happy to show itself, so non-birdwatchers can spot it easily in gardens and backyards.

Pied Bushchat

Basically, Pied means having two or more different colors or Black and white. This is a beautiful Pied Bushchat which was seen in the fields of the village.

At first sight, I was confused by the Oriental Maggie robin Male. But then it became known that it was a pied bush chat male as female has brown dull and faded plumage.

These were the most beautiful 12 captures captured by our team, especially Saroj Ma’am And Ridima. By evening, I came to know that team Black Baza spotted the Rare bird Northern Lapwing at Mote Majra, which was declared the “bird of the day.”

Kindly click these links for the full checklist of birds species our team Magpie saw during the Bird race.

Northern Lapwing at Mote Majra, which was declared the “bird of the day.”

The club’s president, Mitinderpal Singh Sekhon, said that each team was given a name on the bird, and teams Kestral, Black Baza, and Falcon were announced first, second, and third respectively based on spotting of birds. Team Kestral spotted 189 birds. Team Black Baza spotted 186 birds and Team Falcon spotted 160 birds.

In-state Chandigarh Region

The (In-state Chandigarh Region) ISCR covers the area of Chakki Mord in Solan, Morni Hills, and Saketri in Panchkula, Chhatbir, water bodies including Mote Majra, Siswan Dam, Mirzapur Dam in Mohali, Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh, besides the other areas.

It was really fun taking part in the Annual HSBC CBC Bird race 2021 with Chandigarh Birds Club Members — Saroj Gulati Ma’am and Rima Dhillon Ma’am. It was my first experience which was very nice for them spotting birds and visiting places taking breaks to see the different species!!..

The Birds that were spotted were by us:

1.Cattle egrets

2. Intermediate egret

3. Indian Peacock

4. Laughing doves

5. Spotted dove

6. Common pigeons

7. Black kites

8. Himalayan Bulbul’s

9. Red-vented bulbuls

10. Ashy Prinia

11. Blue whistling thrush

12. Large-billed crows

13. Alexandrine parakeets

14. Black bulbuls

15. Red-billed blue magpie

16. Chiffchaff Bird

17. Great barbet

18. Fantail

19. Oriental white-eye

20. Hume warbler

21. Grey-hooded warblers

22. Red-billed leiothrix’s

23. Plum-headed parakeets

24. White capped redstart

25. Streaked laughing thrushes

26. White-crested laughing thrushes

27. Rufous Treepie

28. Gray wagtail

29. Indian Brown Rock Chats

30. Brown-headed green Barbets

31. Rusty Cheeked Scimitar Babler

32. Dusty Craig Martins

33. Blue-throated barbet

34. Rose-ringed parakeets

35. Chestnut-bellied rock thrush

36. Black-Chinned babbler

37. Grey-breasted Prinia

38. Plumbeous water redstart

39. Cineous tits

40. Jungle Babblers

41. Common Mynas

42. Lemon rumped warbler

43. Khalij Pheasant

44. Gray bush chat

45. Red-wattled lapwings

46. Wire-tailed swallow

47. Pied bush chat

48. Little Cormorant

49. Verditer flycatcher

50. Black-rumped flame back woodpecker

51. Greater Coucals

52. Yellow-eyed babbler

53. Plain Prinia

54. Indian gray hornbills

A city-based bird watcher said, “The annual competition is a very good initiative to cultivate this hobby in children and birds and nature lovers.” It had a fun-filled Sunday participating in the annual bird race. The event, hosted by Chandigarh Bird Club, witnessed the participation of people from a wide age group starting from 8-year-old to senior citizens. Birdwatchers not only from the city but also from Delhi and Punjab took part in the race, which involved finding the maximum species of birds.

A Common Starling

After that ma’am dropped me off at the Madhya Marg of Sector 9 Panchkula. After 3 hours a message popped up on the mobile screen on WhatsApp by Saroj Ma’am.

Ashy crowned sparrow lark Male spotted by Saroj ma’am.

They also spotted and captured several species like common pochard, Night herons, Bluethroat, Paddy field Pipit, and Ruddy shelduck, etc. at Sukhna lake regulator end and at Saketri fields too. Our team spotted 94 species of birds. I am feeling proud as I was a part of the team during the Bird race and was in charge of making the list👍 I love birding because it lets me discover new things that I didn’t even know about.

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Aaryan Bhalla

Nature and birds Lover, Traveller, & musician..☺️☺️