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Coimbatore’s Mohammed Saleem and team spot some rare birds on their Great Indian Bird Expedition across South India

“It was a lucky day,” says R Mohammed Saleem, founder of Environment Conservation Group who is just back from a 44-day trip called the Great Indian Bird Expedition across Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Ravi Rishi, a wildlife enthusiast, wildlife photographer Ameen and birder Syed Ijaz were also a part of the expedition.

“During our stopover in Andhra, on a whim, we decided to hit the highway and go towards the town instead of trekking into the forest. It turned out to be a good decision. Along the highway, there were grasslands and suddenly we noticed a small bird with a distinct black and white marking. There were two of them. They were the rarely spotted endangered Lesser Floricans. The birds were taking off may be after the morning mating ritual.” Saleem can barely keep the excitement out of his voice as he recalls the experience.

SEEK team

SEEK team   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The trip turned out to be memorable for many more reasons. The team covered most of the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in the Southern Peninsula. “In Karnataka, we took a bunch of students from government schools to the forest where they trekked along with us and watched birds. They were so thrilled to use the binoculars and birding scopes. We also spoke to them on conservation,” says Saleem. The team interacted with students at the Mahindra World Unity School in Chennai. “One of the objectives of the trip was to initiate students into caring for Nature. We also met locals at tribal settlements on the fringes of forests to learn how they lived in harmony with animals. We have documented the data.”

Yellow-throated Bulbul

Yellow-throated Bulbul   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In Kerala, they recorded some rare birds such as the Sri Lankan Frogmouth aka Ceylon Frogmouth, and the Great Eared Nightjar. “The Thatteakad Bird Sanctuary along the Periyar River in Kerala is a haven for birds. I heard the call of the Sri Lankan Bay Owl. I waited patiently to spot it but it just refused to show up.”

At the Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary, they saw Pelicans and Painted Storks in good numbers. “The birds were readying for the nesting season. We saw the birds carrying twigs and other materials to build the nests.”

Saleem is happy that they saw brimming lakes and happy farmers, especially on the Andhra-Karnataka border. But, he says that does not auger well for the The Great Indian Bustard. “The dry grasslands, which is a habitat of the endangered bird, has been wiped out. All we could see are acres of cotton farms,” he says.

The Environment Conservation Group has completed three expeditions across biodiversity hotspots in India spreading the message of conservation and urging the role of public participation. The first expedition focussed on endangered mammals. The second one documented and highlighted road kills of wild species and the third studied endangered birds.

The current birding trip is the second leg of ECG’s expedition. The first covered the west, north, north-east, east and central regions. They spotted, photographed and documented 665 bird species, of which some are the critically endangered ones like the Baer’s Pochard, Bengal Florican, Red Headed Vulture, White Rumped Vulture, Indian Vulture and Slender Billed Vulture. The trips are sponsored by Firebird Institution, Zeiss, Twin Birds, Super Fan, and ELGI who are committed towards conservation.

“In the second leg, we have managed to see 341 species of birds. The Pink-Headed Duck, Siberian Cranes, Himalayan Quail, Bush Quail to name a few have become critically endangered or are vulnerable or under threat from vanishing natural habitats, deforestation, and development that comes in the way of environment. We have to save them before they are wiped off.”

To know more, visit environment conservation group page on Facebook

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 8:36:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/coimbatores-mohammed-saleem-and-team-spot-some-rare-birds-on-their-great-indian-bird-expedition-across-south-india/article30387704.ece

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