Madurai

Winged wonders throng sanctuaries in Ramanathapuram

A flock of migratory water birds at Therthangal bird sanctuary in Ramanathapuram district on Sunday.

A flock of migratory water birds at Therthangal bird sanctuary in Ramanathapuram district on Sunday.  

A good monsoon and timely desilting of tanks ensured sufficient water storage

Ramanathapuram

Flocks of open-billed storks, herons and egrets were sighted nesting on the karuvelam thickets inside the five bird sanctuaries of Chitrangudi, Kanjirankal, Therthangal, Sakkarakottai and Melaselvanoor bird sanctuaries by bird watchers.

Thanks to the bountiful monsoon that the tanks in both these sanctuaries are brimming with water and the trees are teeming with bird life.

After almost three years, the birds have returned in large flocks. These sanctuaries in the inland part of the district are home to hundreds of species of birds that visit them seasonally.

“The birds started arriving in November as the climatic conditions were favourable this time and currently, the third set of nesting is on. Usually the tanks in the sanctuaries remain dry for several years and it’s refreshing to see them filled with water. The birds have also extended their stay this time and their presence may continue till April,” says Raveendran Natarajan, a birder from Madurai, who visited the sanctuaries ahead of the annual census in February.

“The annual bird census is scheduled in the second week of the month and we have invited 15 birders from across the State. In 2015, about 13,000 birds were sighted in the sanctuaries of which about 5,400 birds were seen in Therthangal alone. This year, we expect the numbers to be more than 50,000 and the species count may also go up,” says S. Sathish, Forest Range Officer, Ramanathapuram range.

“The forest department also spent about ₹30 lakh to desilt the tanks inside the sanctuaries ahead of the monsoon, because of which there’s ample water. Based on the recommendation of environmentalists and experts, we have proposed to declare the big tank as a bird sanctuary,” he adds.

The birds that get attracted to Therthangal and Melaselvanoor include both resident and seasonal migrants. The majority of them are water birds such as greater egret, cattle egret and little egret, pelicans, cormorant, darter, little grebe and a variety of herons, including pond heron, night heron and purple heron and water hens. The variety of ducks that visit included the comb duck and spot billed duck while there are also regional migrants such as Indian pita and babblers.

“We also sighted a couple of raptors or hunting birds, such as shrike, common kestrel, booted eagle, serpent eagle and brahminy kites. The number of birds shore birds in pockets like Arichalmunai, Valinokkam and other parts of the Gulf of Mannar marine biosphere reserve are also encouraging this year,” says Mr. Raveendran.

The presence of flamingoes in Arichalmunai and Dhanushkodi has been attracting a large number of tourists and the other shore birds sighted by birders include brown headed gull, black headed gull, whiskered tern, gull billed tern, greater crested tern and Caspian tern.

However, birders express concern over the increased inflow of tourists to Arichalmunai that may affect bird life and biodiversity. Tourism should be regulated and disposal of wastes generated by the visitors should also be done properly. Plastics should be banned from being brought into the eco-sensitive coastal zone, they say.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 6:39:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/winged-wonders-throng-sanctuaries-in-ramanathapuram/article30719777.ece

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