For a bird’s eye view

Here is why the Asian Waterbird Census is important

The dates set for the Asian Waterbird Census 2020 (AWC) stretch from January 4 to 19, but as is the case always, it is not set in stone. The two-weeks-and-three-weekends format is just a recommendation. Conservationist and naturalist groups that are engaged in AWC can undertake the census through the month of January; as this mointh signifies the mid-point of winter, it is also loosely referred to as “mid-winter waterbird census”.

The Madras Naturalists’ Society is the group that is responsible for carrying out the count in Chennai and surrounding areas.

K.V. Sudhakar, president of MNS, explains that the waterbird data that is being obtained from January 1 onwards; and that the exercise will go on till January 31. Sudhakar and Kumaran Sathasivam are the coordinators for the AWC 2020 count pertaining to Chennai and its surrounding areas.

The AWC is bound to provide a bird-eye view of waterbird populations, and their migratory patterns, and it can provide answers to many conservation questions.

“Birds are stickers for “instinct-based systems”, and they pick up incredible cues on when to take that migratory journey and when to undertake the return trip. Everything is timed to perfection, and a small interference along the way can throw everything out of joint. The recent disturbance in the migratory patterns of red knots illustrates this: This bird makes a really long journey from the arctic region to the tip of South America. On the way back, they halt at Delaware Bay, United States, for eggs of horseshoe crabs: It is necessary that they fuel up in this manner, and at this rime of the return journey, to make the rest of the journey. Human interference in this area has led to a dwindling of horseshoe crabs, and this has now affected the pattern followed by these birds for centuries. And we know a lot about this and other the migratory patterns of the red knots, because of tracking systems,” explains Sudhakar, adding that advanced tracking systems and related technologies and wider bird censuses also now help us understand migratory patterns of birds in our region, and also any disturbances in these patterns.

“The AWC has to be viewed in this light,” he adds. “It is a major piece in the migratory puzzle in this region.”

The Asian Waterbird Census can help countries that fall in the Central Asian Flyway (CAF) route to effect interventions, if necessary, to make conditions favourable for birds. The CAF migratory route originates in the northern hemisphere, particularly Siberia, and ends in the southern hemisphere, of which the Indian sub-continent is a significant constituent.

Says Sudhakar, “AWC is a citizens-driven initiative, as it is sustained by the spirit of volunteering. It encourages naturalist and conservationist groups in every part of this region to contribute bird data. Increasing collaboration is also making it easier to collate data about birds — for example, eBird and AWC have an agreement. Now, while making entries about bird sightings, one can transfer the data to AWC as well. This system makes it convenient for tech-savvy youngsters to participate in AWC.”

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 9:33:37 PM |

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