Birds missing from wetlands in Nanjangud, H.D. Kote

The heat and dry weather over two years has led to major wetlands around Mysore drying up, triggering a rapid disappearance of the bird population.

The lakes in the Nanjangud and H.D. Kote belt have become bone dry, and the wetlands that played host to thousands of birds are now eerily silent.

Most birds have flown either to the coast or further south over Tamil Nadu, while the fledglings were abandoned here, only to perish in the absence of food and water.

K. Manu of the Mysore Amateur Naturalists told The Hindu that lakes in Nanjangud and H.D. Kote were particularly affected. The Chikhole dam, which sustained a series of inter-connected lakes, had low water-levels. Eraswadikere, close to B.R. Hills, was one of those affected by the poor water flow from Chikhole, impacting the avian population there. Narasambudhikere, Kalale and Varuna wetlands too had lost their bird population, he said.

According to the organisation’s volunteers who participated in a mid-winter water fowl census during January and February, Hadinarukere, Kaggalipura and Somnathpurakere lakes, which used to support large flocks of birds, had a low bird count this year.

The failure of the southwest monsoon last year resulted in the depletion of these wetlands as early as January.

Encroachment

Over the decades, wetlands area has been lost to encroachment. This gains momentum during drought, Mr. Manu explained. “If the lakes become dry, the foreshore is first encroached and the bird habitat degrades over time. The degradation and the human encroachment makes it unfit for the birds to roost and the habitat is lost forever.”

Over-breeding

Meanwhile, the drought in the region has not affected Ranganathittu, thanks to the frequent discharge of Cauvery water from the Krishnaraja Sagar. In fact, the bird sanctuary has witnessed over-breeding. “Most wetland birds have abandoned their traditional sites and flocked to Ranganathittu,” Mr. Manu said.

Similarly, birds can be spotted near the backwaters of KRS, Kabini and Harangi, but are missing from traditional breeding sites such as Lingambudhikere.

Now, hopes are on the timely advent of the southwest monsoon. There is good news from Bandipur, which has received four to five spells of rain that has helped revive the greenery of the national park. According to D. Rajkumar of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the rain has helped replenish at least one-fourth of the nearly 285 waterholes in the forest. This will suffice for the next couple of weeks and help sustain large mammals like elephants, which are already migrating from Mudumalai to Bandipur and Nagarahole because of the rain.

It has also rained in the Maddur range, Gundlupet and Himmavad Gopalswamy Betta. While this won’t be sufficient for long, it has been enough for the Forest Department to withdraw their interventions.