Members of the Salim Ali Naturalist Forum spot the rare Red- necked Phalarope and the Pallas Gull at the Singanallur Lake. They tell K. Jeshi it could be because of the changes in environment

A small bird, predominantly in white and grey plumage, twirled rapidly at the south end of the Singanallur Lake. It spins at the surface of water and looks for insects and small preys. G. Parameswaran, a member of Salim Ali Naturalist Forum (SANF) noticed the bird and was overjoyed. It was a Red-necked Phalarope, a rare passage migrant bird. “Around 9 a.m. on September 16, when I saw the bird in my binoculars, I jumped in excitement,” he says.

The bird which measures about 18 to 19 cms, breeds up North in Siberia, and spends the winters along the coast, such as Point Calimere. They are generally seen in less numbers, along the coast.

“It’s a shore bird like the Sandpipers, Stilts, Stents and Red-wattled Lapwings. It swims and feeds in circular motion in water. It is this peculiar behaviour which helped us identify the bird. In Seattle, where I lived, the birds are common because of the maritime environment there. ”

A unique sighting

Parameswaran along with another SANF member Rajesh Ramanarayanan also spotted the rare Pallas Gull at Singanallur Lake. It’s a grey and white bird with a black tail band, much larger in size. V. Harish, a member of Eco Club of PSG CAS has photographed the Palas Gull, and Eurasian Marsh Harrier at Singanallur Lake.

“I observed the bird in my binoculars, took field notes, and compared it with the field guide on birds, and confirmed it as Pallas Gull,” Parameswaran explains.

Gulls breed beyond the Himalayas, in China, and spend the winters along the Indian Coast. They are usually found along the coastline.

What makes the sighting unique in Coimbatore is that both are coastal area birds, says P. Pramod, Nature Education Officer of SACON who accompanied the SANF team.

“In India, there have been just four or five sightings of Phalaropes in places such as Bangalore, Jaipur, Kolkata and Chennai. During breeding, their white and grey plumage changes to red. It’s an arctic breeding bird and we don’t know why they are coming. May be global climatic changes is one of the reasons for unexpected sightings and disappearances of birds. It’s an indication of changes in Nature.”

He attributes such new observations to an increase in number of bird watchers in the region.

Pramod says the Coimbatore wetlands have become a hot spot for bird watching.

“A number of uncommon birds are being spotted. Individuals, authorities and NGOs, are taking care of the water bodies. When they conserve water bodies and improve the health of wetlands, it’s good for birds and human beings too. Already, there are positive changes. This year, we have noticed an increase in pelicans visiting the wetlands. At SANF, there are about 200 serious bird watcher who go out into the wild every Sunday. It’s a positive sign.”

Spotted at Singanallur Lake

Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Western Rees Egret, Painted Snipes, Spot-billed Ducks, Spot-billed Pelicans, Painted Storks, Glossy Ibis, Western Marsh Harrier