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Dry weather hitting water sources

D. Radhakrishnan
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A Woolly-necked stork being chased by crows in Ooty. —Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
A Woolly-necked stork being chased by crows in Ooty. —Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy

With the maximum temperature almost continuously hovering around 24degrees Celsius ever since Spring gave way to Summer in this hill station this year and the pre-monsoon showers playing truant the unusual dry weather has of late become the most popular conversation opener not only among the local people but also the tourists.

With water sources both major and minor rapidly drying up, the absence of rain has also become a major source of concern among various sections of society in the district. The recent sighting of a Woolly-necked stork here has thrown up questions relating to the condition of small water bodies in the lower parts of the Nilgiris like Masinagudy and the nearby Mysore plateau.

The stork was seen near the Race Course with a flock of crows surrounding it.

Pointing out that it was unusual, P.J. Vasanthan, an authority on birds, said that the Woolly-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus), is a large member of the family of storks which is found distributed through most parts of the Indian Mainland up to an altitude of 1000 meters above mean sea level.

Claiming that its sighting in Ooty was rare, he said that the preferred habitat for this bird are open and well watered country such as irrigated{filig}elds, small marshes, shallow lakes and ponds, rice{filig}elds and the like.

They can be seen either singly or in pairs or in small flocks feeding on a very mixed diet of{filig}sh, frogs, reptiles and other life forms found in the vicinity of water. Though predominantly a bird of the plains it, on occasions does ascend to the hills up to an altitude of about 1000 meters.

Pointing out that it is quite common in and around the water bodies of the Mysore Plateau from where it makes occasional forays to the areas around the township of Masinagudy situated on the Sigur Plateau, he said that it generally avoids the larger water bodies such as the Maravakandy and Moyar Reservoirs and the two lakes situated in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.

He attributed the sighting here to unavailability of food and water in it's accustomed hunting grounds.

Masinagudy Lake which usually holds water throughout the year was now wearing a dry look.

As this bird feeds mainly in shallow water the straggler may be searching for newer and suitable hunting grounds.

In the process it had moved into a hostile environment near the Race Course and been mobbed and harried by crows.

The incident has emphasised the need for an effective management plan to conserve water resources.

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