Birdwatchers chance upon a flock of an uncommon bird in the Sholinganallur-Perumbakkam wetland — collared pratincole

In June, before the recent spells of rain, the Sholinganallur-Perumbakkam wetland was dry as a bone. Not the ideal setting for birds to flock in large numbers, and this was why naturalist K.V.R.K. Thirunaranan stared in disbelief at a crowd of birds considered alien to the habitat. It was an impressive congregation of collared pratincoles. “We spotted it during a bird-watching session with the members of the Police Boys Club of R.K. Nagar,” says Thirunaranan. “Given the dry status, I had expected to show the boys red-wattled and yellow-wattled lapwings, common kites, open-billed storks and drongos — birds that forage for insects in dry ground. With their unexpected appearance, the collared pratincoles made the trip memorable.” The bird watcher has sighted Oriental pratincoles at Sirudavur wetland in the Thiruporur Forest area, around 20 km away, but watching a bunch of playful collared pratincoles on arid ground just blew his mind.

When the group returned to the wetland last week, the boys were surprised by the scene in front of them — the wetland had accumulated barely one-ft high water, but had attracted flocks of large whistling teals and spot-billed ducks. “We counted around 600 of these teals and around 300 spot-billed ducks. The session was an eye-opener for the boys. They found out that a hint of water was all it took to revive a natural wetland.”

During the North-East monsoon, the Sholinganallur-Perumbakkam freshwater wetland supports large numbers of pheasant-tailed jacanas. And, what is more, it springs a surprise on birdwatchers by playing merry host to rare winged creatures. “Sometime ago, we spotted comb ducks there. Now, it is collared pratincoles. I’m sure more surprises are in store,” says Thirunaranan.

The caption for the photograph accompanying this article has been corrected for a factual error