Brought into being by John Sullivan, popularly referred to as the founder of this hill station in 1823-25 by damming hill streams, the Ooty Lake extending over about 20 hectares is not only one of the biggest tourist attractions south of the Vindhyas but for a long time now, is also one of the most polluted water bodies.

Though many know this and the reasons for the lake getting polluted, very few are aware that the situation would have been worse but for some birds which reside there.

According to P.J. Vasanthan, a conservationist and an authority on birds, their role in preserving the lake ecology is significant.

About 15 kinds of water birds can been spotted at the lake, he told The Hindu here on Thursday.

Among them were three types of egrets, four types of sand pipers, two types of snipes, moor hens, and common coots.

Most of them are colonists, he said adding that barring true migrants from North India like sand pipers, and snipes others become resident breeders in course of time.

Nests

With their nests constructed near the edges of the lake through which sewage and other forms of pollutants enter, they feed on organisms like worms and other decaying matter.

They even act as scavengers and devour dead fish thus preventing the stench from becoming unbearable.

The common coot (Fulica atra), which is of a social kind and a colonist of the artificial water bodies of the hills, can be seen swimming around in small to medium sized flocks in some parts of the Ooty Lake.

It is quite a noisy bird with a clear trumpeting call.

The manner in which it constructs its nest is quite interesting, said Dr. Vasanthan adding that it is usually a partially submerged structure, made of reeds, rushes and other refuse anchored to the bottom or to some partially submerged boulder, and lifebuoy.

The term as bald as a ‘coot’ refers to the white facial shield of the bird, he said that while boating people particularly the tourists should look out for such birds and learn about their importance.

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