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On May 14, birdwatchers in the Himalayan regions of India, Nepal and Bhutan will come together to document as many birds of the mountain range as possible. From the westernmost Ladakh to the easternmost Arunachal Pradesh, this is the first edition of the Himalayan Bird Count (HBC), which aims to celebrate the incredible bird diversity and bring attention to the threatened habitats in the Himalayas. 

The event is organised by Bird Count India, Bird Conservation Nepal, and the Royal Society for Protection of Nature, Bhutan working together to bring the Himalayan birding fraternity together for a common good.

The organisations have collectively decided to do this event on Endemic Bird Day to spread awareness about the Himalayas’ bird biodiversity.

The Himalayas, world’s tallest mountain range, has fascinated millions with their sheer might and beauty. The snow-capped mountains, the cold deserts, the lush green forests and grasslands, and the white waters of the rivers are home to several unique birds. But these fragile ecosystems and their inhabitants are threatened by rapid warming at a rate estimated to be three times faster than the global average.

“Himalayan Bird Count can provide consistent, snapshot information of bird diversity in a region that is increasingly threatened by climate change. This kind of information, across years, can help us understand what is happening to our country’s birds,” says Dr Ghazala Shahabuddin, Senior Fellow, Centre for Ecology, Development and Research (CEDAR) working in Kumaon Hills, Uttarakhand. 

The biological diversity of the Himalayas is under unprecedented threat due to large-scale infrastructure development too.

“Himalayan Bird Count is a hugely exciting event that brings scientists and experts together with regular citizens to understand what is happening to birds in one of the planet’s most iconic mountains. It will give us a glimpse of the status of birds across the Himalayas – an important indicator of the health of this fragile ecosystem on which millions of people depend,” says Dr Sahil Nijhawan, Scientist, Nature Conservation Foundation who has worked extensively in Arunachal Pradesh.

Anyone present in the Indian states and union territories of Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, northern West Bengal, and Arunachal Pradesh on May 14 can participate in this event. Apart from India, Nepal and Bhutan will also feature in the event. 

The basic activity is to watch and count birds from anywhere in the listed Himalayan region on May 14, 2022, for at least 15 minutes, and upload bird lists to the bird recording platform eBird. It may be noted that this is the same date as the major worldwide event Global Big Day 2022 as well as the nationwide Endemic Bird Day.

Lobzang Visuddha, member of Wildlife Conservation and Birds Club of Ladakh, says, “We will be celebrating this event with several bird walks and trails across Ladakh – in Nubra Valley, Hanley, Changthang, Sham Valley, Zangakar, Kargil and others.”

“Birds of Jammu & Kashmir has formed a team of volunteers for the event. We are expecting observations from some of the most remote and inaccessible areas of Kashmir Himalayas,” says Dr Parmil Kumar, University of Jammu, J&K.

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