Birding enthusiasts who have been studying and documenting birds of Vasai since 2009, have self-funded a smartphone based application called 'Vasai Birds'. The initiative is not only to promote birding but also to highlight the rich biodiversity of this region, which is one of the last green zones left on the outskirts of Mumbai.
"There could not have been a better occasion than the International World Biodiversity day and hence we launched this application on Sunday. It describes 250 rare and common species of birds along with their high resolution images, common English and scientific names, size, habitat, diet preferences, identification marks and IUCN Red list status as well," said Kuldeep Chaudhari, a photojournalist, who along with fellow birder Amol Lopes funded the entire cost for developing this app.
Chaudhari said that in 2015, when their Vasai birds checklist reached 250, naturalist Anand Pendharkar urged them to come up with a book after seeing their work. "The idea instantly appealed to us but we knew that getting a book published was a big task and most of us were amateur birders, hence we thought of getting a smartphone application. Everyone these days has an access to one. We approached a friend who developed this application for us at an extremely reasonable cost," he shared.
"The app is targeted towards young students who have easier access to smartphones and tablets than conventional field guides. The idea is to engage them, make locals aware of the rich natural heritage and to aid them in the documentation of local bird fauna. Also it will be very convenient to use during field trips as it has to be downloaded just once after which all its functions will work offline," stated Lopes, adding that all 250 species of birds that they documented in the past seven years have been from urban as well as semi urban area and not protected forests.
Another important feature of the application is that it lists seven habitats of Vasai and the threats they are facing. "For instance, one of the prominent habitats we have listed is Nirmal lake. We have recorded 65 species of birds there, and have listed about its proposed beautification being a big threat. Similarly, we have also listed farmlands. Meanwhile, for quick and easy access, the birds in the app are listed in four categories – aquatic, birds of prey, urban birds and forest-grassland birds," informed Chaudhari, who also formed the Birds of Vasai group along with seven birders.
The app also has a detailed note on ethics of birding. There are plans to add local Marathi names along with a bird quiz for the next update. Currently, the app is only available for android phones. The rare birds that are sighted in Vasai are Red-necked Falcon, Oriental darter, Tytler leaf warbler, Arctic Skua, Bridled tern and Orange breasted pigeon.