13 May 2015
Himal Kala Sutra Birdwatching Programme concludes in Munsiari, Uttarakhand
The birdwatching and bird guide training programme of the ‘Himal Kala Sutra’ festival concluded at Sarmoli, Munsiari, after three days (11-13th May) of intense training on bird identification, observation of bird behavior, presentations and discussion on birdwatching and conservation, and other activities.
The programme is part of a seven-day festival that also includes cultural activities including art, photography, stories that get expressed through creative writing, movement and drama. It is being organized by the communities of Sarmoli and Shankhdhura, Mesar Forest Fair, Himal Prakriti, Himalayan Ark, Jungli School, Maati, and Kalpavriksh (Pune/ Delhi). The event has been supported financially by WWF-India, Himalaya Education Foundation, BD Uniyal Trust, DST Delhi,and materially by the Uttarakhand Forest Department.
A total of about 70 people took part in the birdwatching programme. This included residents of villages of Munsiari area (Sarmoli, Naya Basti, Shankhdhura) and Askot Sanctuary area (Khartoli, Shiling), students of Himalayan Intercollege Chaukori and Junglee School Munsiari, staff of Forest Department, and enthusiasts from several other parts of India.
They were able to spot or hear about 85 species of birds, out of a total checklist of 327 species that are found in the Gori Basin of which Munsiari is a part. This was a marked improvement over last year’s sighting of about 70 species at the 2014 Himal Kala Sutra festival. Amongst the interesting species seen were: Pied thrush (globally vulnerable), White-tailed robin, Blackwinged cuckoo-shrike, Besra sparrowhawk, Kalij pheasant, Crested serpent eagle, Mountain hawk eagle, four species each of cuckoos andwoodpeckers.
The Gori valley has almost half the birds species found in the entire state of Uttarakhand (327 out of over 690 species). Since 2013, the local communities in Munsiari have grown in their knowledge and interest in birds and have been joined in this journey byseveral state and national-level organisations, keen birders, researchers and friends. The local villagers including guides have also attended both the Uttarakhand Birding Festivals organized by the Forest Department at Asan in 2014 and Pawalgarh in February 2015. Through this they are building the capacity to host more nature-based tourism and make the Gori Valley a major birding destination of Uttarakhand.
For the occasion, a number of publications and products have been made, including an updated ‘Birds of Munsiari Checklist’, Birds of Munsiari Posters and post cards, and Bird Songs and Stories. The Forest Department also provided material for distribution such as the Checklist of Uttarakhand’s Birds, and a guide to key birding destinations in the state. Sessions were also held on outdoor observation and a 'scavenger hunt' teaching children and young people to look for biodiversity in the forest.
At the concluding function today, the above organisations were joined by students and faculty of Panchachuli Public School (Madkot), Grow Fast Academy (Bangapani), and the heads of Rachnatmak Shikshak Mandal and the Government Girls Intercollege (Namjala, Munsiari). This provided also the occasion to have a discussion on strategies to increase locally relevant, conservation and culture-based learning opportunities in the region’s schools and colleges. A number of suggestions came up including production of a handbook on Uttarakhand’s biodiversity and cultural diversity, involving village-based experts in traditional knowledge in teaching students, building more environment and related issues into the curriculum, and encouraging local languages and knowledge.