There’s a wealth of animals and birds you can spot in the city, as HEMA VIJAY finds out
If you look around for it, you can spot wildlife right in the city. This is no wild claim!
The metropolis is a great hangout for wildlife too. For one thing, the city is on the Coromandel Coast, and a casual walk on the beach can throw up sightings of molluscs, crabs and other creatures. Meanwhile, the Adyar Estuary, thanks to its large ‘mudflats’, is home to a variety of worms and insects, which in turn attract many species of birds.
Now, move over to the scrub jungles in the Guindy National Park. Incidentally, it is the only national park to be located within a city. The park is home to palm civet, jackal, mongoose, spotted deer, many species of snakes and the endangered blackbuck. There is even a breeding population of the nocturnal slender loris (a primate that is generally sighted in forests) on the Kalakshetra campus. Of course, birdwatchers have so far spotted over 250 species of birds in and around the city.
“Even in a city garden, you can easily spot many animals and at least a dozen bird species such as tailor birds and owls,” says K.V. Sudhakar, president, Madras Naturalists’ Society (MNS), and a chartered accountant by profession. Progressive urbanisation of the city is inevitable, but awareness about the wealth of wildlife here does help.
“Awareness leads to sensitisation, interest generation and pride in the wildlife we have, and can trigger conservation efforts at every step. Like a cultural or architectural legacy, wildlife too is a legacy. We can’t allow it to vanish and deny its joy to future generations,” Sudhakar says.
Recently, MNS and Studio Palazzo had organised a photo exhibition of some animals and birds spotted in and around the city. Here is a glimpse:
Photograph by Sripad Sridhar, Environmental services consultant
“I was walking with some Irula friends in the open scrubland off the ECR near the Crocodile Bank, looking for cobras. It was around 7.30 in the morning when I spotted this green vine snake hanging from a neem tree. We saw some other species as well during that walk – a rat snake, bronze-back tree snake, striped keelback water snake, common sand boa and a red sand boa.”
About: Vine snakes are not really eye-pokers as they are believed to be. But of course, any snake will strike back, if you disturb it.
Photograph by Prof. A. Chandrasekaran, professor at Government Ambedkar Law College.
“During my daily morning walk in the Theosophical Society Garden, I spotted this flying fox. He was resting upside down on a tamarind tree, with hundreds of others”.
About: Also called fruit-eating bats, they are communal roosters. They can be spotted in the gardens of the Theosophical Society and the Government Museum. They forage at night.
Photograph by J. Subbu Rajan, final-year engineering student.
“Dusk was setting in. I was returning to the city from Vedanthangal and thought my bird watching was over for the day. Just then, I saw this owlet gazing at me serenely from a tree hollow.”
About: These small birds rest during the day. Listen to their screeching calls in the evenings.
Photograph by Dev Anand Paul, sales operation manager.
“Annamalaicheri, a fishing hamlet about 60 km from Chennai, is a good place to spot sea birds such as gulls, ospreys and migratory birds including flamingos and godwit. I spotted this gull taking off from the sea.”
About: The Black-headed Gull breeds in colonies and feeds on insects, worms, small fish, carrion. Sometimes, it steals food from other birds.
Photograph by Vikas Madhav, Class 8 student
“The white deer beside the blackbuck is a blackbuck too, but one that has lost its pigments because of a genetic condition. We had gone for a walk within the IIT campus, when I saw these two fighting with each other. All of a sudden, they settled down and started walking away, together.”
About: Blackbucks are found only in India. The male of the species is darker.
Spot billed pelican
Photograph by M. Mymoon, librarian.
“As part of MNS’s water bird survey, I visited the Kelambakkam lake. That’s where I spotted these bird swimming around and preening themselves.”
About: A couple of decades ago, the spot billed pelican could be seen only in sanctuaries such as Vedanthangal. In the past few years, pelicans have been spotted at the Pallikaranai marsh.
Photograph by V.S. Raghavan, Guitar teacher and trustee, Chennai Snake Park Trust
“I live in Tiruvanmiyur and took this shot from my first floor sit-out window. My camera is always ready for the unexpected!”
About: This bird announces its arrival by a distinct metallic call that sounds like a copper vessel being banged.