Follow the birds to find out what determines the route they take on their annual journey this World Bird Migration Day that falls on May 10 and 11
As birds migrate, they connect all corners and almost every environment of the world. “What is fascinating is that they follow the same migratory flyway or the route unless there is an obstruction in the form of windmills or constructions,” says R. Mohammed Saleem of Environment Conservation Group.
On the second weekend in May, people around the world organise public events such as bird festivals, education programmes and bird watching excursions to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD). This is a global annual awareness-raising campaign initiated in 2006 that highlights the need to protect the birds and their habitats. For 2014, the theme is “Destination Flyways: Migratory Birds and Tourism” and it highlights the links between migratory bird conservation, local community development and wildlife tourism around the world.
A few years ago, thousands of migrating Falcons (that travel up to 22,000 km in a year) were hunted for consumption and commercial sale in Nagaland. The birds arrive in Nagaland from Siberia en route to their final destination — Somalia, Kenya and South Africa. “Conservationists took up the matter and today, the falcons are safe. It is now drawing tourists too,” says Saleem.
P.R. Selvaraj, President of Coimbatore Nature Society (CNS) says the arrival of birds and their numbers serves as a biological indicator about the environment, climate and landscape changes, health of forests and wetlands, and the effects of global warming. “Some of the well known migrants that winter here are the Bar-headed Goose, Northern Pintail and Garganey, Western Marsh Harrier and Peregrine Falcon, the shorebirds such as the Little Stint, the Barn Swallow and many species of Warblers. We have spotted the bar-headed geese, one of the highest flying migratory birds, in Tirupur lakes. It comes from Siberia and arrives here after fliying over the Himalayas at 29,000 ft ,” Selvaraj informs us.
A change in weather indicates that it is the time to migrate. Many birds time their arrival at many stopover points to coincide with the maximum availability of food resources and conducive weather. “In 2012, red-necked phalaropes, a rare passage migrant bird that breed in Siberia, was spotted right here in Singanallur lake,” says birder Saravanan Natrayan.
“WMBD raises public awareness regarding the protection of birds and their habitat,” says G. Parameswaran of CNS. He quotes Paul Kerlinger, an authority on Bird Migration who says, ‘The availability of food is the driving force in the evolution of migration patterns’. “Migration is a strategy that birds employ to exploit resources that are seasonally abundant. Water birds such as ducks, geese, herons, egrets, storks and ibis and many shorebirds, raptors and songbirds like warblers migrate seasonally. Birds in general also face the consequences of Global Climate Change (GCC). Every year around the second week of May one is assured of sighting the maximum number of neo-tropical migrating species in Europe and North America, hence WMBD day is observed during this time. However, in most of India this event takes place during March and April,” he adds.
What you can do on WDMD
Environment Conservation Group along with Anamalai Tiger Foundation organises a two-day bird watching excursion at Topslip, Anamalai Tiger Reserve. It includes bird watching, awareness talks, documentary screening, Nature trails and jungle safari. Topslip is home to many endemic birds like White Bellied Treepie, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Parakeet, Grey-headed Bulbul, Crimson-backed Sunbird, Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon, Nilgiri Pipit, and Nilgiri Flycatcher, Nilgiri Laughing thrush, Rufous Babbler, Grey-breasted Laughing thrush and many more. For details, call: 97878-78910.
Coimbatore Nature Society (CNS)conducts bird count every month at the Sundakamuthur Lake in Perur. Winter migrant birds can often be spotted at the lake. The CNS team will continue the data collection on bird species at the Perur lake over the coming years too. On WBMD, they plan to take a group of school students for birding between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. For details, call: 098422-61279/ 08220871624.
For the 2014 Campaign, WMBD is partnering with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to highlight the Destination Flyways project. Led by UNWTO and implemented with several partners with experience in the field of conservation and tourism, Destination Flyways will develop sustainable tourism in destinations along the world’s major migratory bird routes, also known as flyways.