Text and photos by Mike Lu
As Philippine Bird Festival founding member and now, Asian Bird Fair founding member, I have attended most of the bird festivals in the region.
I was looking for an Indian organization to invite to the Asian Bird Fair when WBCP member Gayatri Hasan introduced me to Nikhil Devasar, organizer of the Uttar Pradesh Bird Festival in India. I invited Nikhil to the 7th Asian Bird Fair-Jingshan in China in November and he reciprocated by inviting me t the 2nd Uttar Pradesh Bird Festival in December.
I still maintain good memories of the attending the Global Birdwatching Conference in Gujarat and could not resist this invitation to visit India again even though it is scheduled just a few days after our 11th Philippine Bird Festival in Bacolod.
Flying to Delhi by way of Hong Kong took almost a day. Arriving two hours late and spending another two hours in line at the money changer, the welcome party waited patiently for me to appear finally at 1:30 am ! The delegates from abroad and from different parts of India were booked at a hotel near the airport and bussed off the next morning to the Chambal Safari Lodge in Mela Kothi, a good 5-hour drive out of Delhi through fog/smog-smothered highway and narrow rural roads.
Chambal Safari Lodge was a private estate turned into a resort with a patch of forest surrounded by potato fields near a busy highway. Having visited India and knowing that Hindus respect wildlife, I was still surprised to see a small herd of nilgais browsing the fields just across the pond from tent city. There were birds all around – some familiar (Long-tailed Shrike, Coppersmith Barbet), some seen before (Oriental Pied Hornbill, Jungle Babbler) and a few lifers too (Brown-headed Barbet, Brown Hawk-Owl).
The Uttar Pradesh International Bird Festival 2016 is organized by the UP Ecotourism wing under the aegis of the UP Forest Corporation upon the initiative of the Honorable Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Shri. Akhilesh Yadav. The main activities of the 3-day bird festival are forums on a wide-range of topics in the mornings and destination birdwatching in the afternoons.
The first day of the forum had speakers from different parts of the world to share their experiences, aptly divided into Birding Diaries and Birding Adventures from other lands.
The topics for the next two days were related to the Indian subcontinent. From successful species-specific conservation projects to save the Indian Skimmer and stopping the hunting of the Amur Falcon to effects of climate change on Himalayan birds and potential additions to India’s avifauna.
The afternoons are reserved for birdwatching tours. Participants are assigned to different tours with names indicative of the target species such as Sarus Crane Tour, Indian Skimmer Tour and the Blackbuck (a species of antelope) Tour. I joined the Sarus Crane and Blackbuck Tour but opted for a side trip to the Taj Mahal unaware that there were lots of birds also in this famous world heritage site. What’s great about birdwatching in India is that the birds are everywhere and very tame, proof that Indians do not harm the birds. Sharing some photos of the sights during these afternoon forays.
The evenings were reserved for cultural and social activities. Colorful dances and never-ending singing 🙂
The Uttar Pradesh Bird Festival was a great opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with experts, authors, conservationists and birdwatchers from all over India and from different parts of the world. Sharing of experiences gives us inspiration to continue our fight to conserve bird species in our respective countries. I feel so blessed to be given this opportunity to represent the Asian Bird Fair executive committee as well as promote the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines. Looking forward to more exchanges with Indian birdwatchers in the near future.