Lakes that hold out hope

Coimbatore’s wetlands still draw a flamboyant variety of birds, from flamingoes to cormorants. Join birders and experts as they simultaneously study and protect this diversity, which is struggling to survive in the face of development

Coimbatore is known for its many lakes. Sadly, some of them are taking their last breath while others suffer the horror of industrial pollutants and garbage being dumped into them. But there is a gleam of hope still as three less known lakes around the city, Ukkulam, Achankulam and Pallapalayam are still holding their own. They are fed by the river Noyyal. These water bodies continue to provide a stopover to migratory birds. In fact this year has seen several rare sightings that have enthused the birding community who fervently hope the lakes will not have to suffer the same fate as the other wetlands and remain a biodiversity hotspot.

Pristine: Ukkulam

Location: Ikkaraiboluvampatty

Area: Approximate Water Spread area: 187.059 Acres

Sighted: Yellow wagtails, Knob-billed ducks, Common teals, Wooly-necked Storks, Pygmy Geese

“You still find the Tamarai and alli here,” says birder A. Pavendhan. “These blooms indicate that the water is unpolluted.”

Ukkulam lake, that is located near a Irula hamlet is fed by a perennial sub stream of the River Noyyal called Thanikandi (Thani means tree and Kandi, river). Other villages such as Semmedu, Manakkadu, Kulathumedu, and Karumbukattupathy also depend on its water for agriculture and drinking purposes. There is water all through the year that sustains life forms. But the water source should not be over stretched.

“The water is still fairly pristine. There is no industrial waste or domestic waste let into it. The run-on water from agriculture lands that finds its way into the lake only has negligible traces of pesticide content. It has rich bird diversity. As it is located at the foothills, elephants are often sighted drinking from the lake. Native species of fishes thrive there because there are no encroachments around the lake,” says secretary of Save Coimbatore Wetlands, K. Mohanraj. “Ducks are special sightings,” says P.R.Selvaraj of CoimbatoreNature Society (CNS), adding “We have also seen painted storks and sun birds at tank bunds.”

Achankulam Lake

Achankulam Lake  

Birds galore: Achankulam

Location: Muthugoundenpudur

Water Spread area: 165 acres

Sighted: The Greater Spotted Eagle, Indian Spotted Eagle and Flamingoes, Verditer flycatcher

Lakes that hold out hope

The recent arrival of a small flock of the Greater Flamingos — two adults and two juveniles at Achankulam near Sulur created a flutter among the birding community. This lake receives water from Noyyal stream and is also the catchment area for rainwater from Chinniyampalayam. It’s lush and green thanks to agriculture fields.

“The lake is used by the fishermen co-operative for breeding fish,” says Mohanraj and adds that unfortunately, illegal tanker lorries also draw water from here.

Lakes that hold out hope

As for the birds, cormorants, ducks, pelicans, and painted storks are seen in good numbers. “Birds roost in the trees lined up near the lake. The tank bund supports a variety of plant species as a result of which there is butterfly diversity too,” he says. Achankulam has the potential to be converted into a bird sanctuary like Vellode Bird Sanctuary in Erode, says P.B. Balaji.

“Though it has seen better days, it is still not completely spoilt. It can be converted into a place of recreation.”

“We always have healthy population of bird species. Bar-headed Geese are an important sighting,” says Selvaraj. As the lake is located at the outskirts away from the bustling city, pollution levels are still minimal.

Lakes that hold out hope

“You can take a walk on the tank bund, it runs for about two to three kms, sighting birds and butterflies. Achankulam always throws up a lot of surprises, especially during the migratory period. Sarayu, a CNS member, has spotted the Verditer flycatcher here, which is a very rare thing.

You can also see hundreds of cormorants engaged in ‘cormorant fishing’ where they dive together to catch fish and feed on them.

Lakes that hold out hope

Land of Pelicans: Pallapalayam Lake

Location: Pallapalayam Village

Water Spread area: Approximately 123 Acres

Sighted: Painted Storks, Pacific Golden Plover, Sandpipers

Eurasian Widgeon, the migratory bird from Europe, rarely observed in the Coimbatore wetlands, was spotted. “It’s an uncommon bird,” says P.B. Balaji, who is a regular to the lake for birding. Pallapalayam is a wetland with very little shoreline so it doesn’t attract waders or shorebirds. “Ducks and pelicans visit to enjoy a splash in the deep waters. We have seen a huge congregation of pelicans here,” he adds. The lake is fenced on one side, while on the other side there is no bund and therefore not much greenery. This affects the bird and butterfly diversity. Residential houses have come up in the vicinity.

The lake is linear, and supports agriculture, and fishing activity too, says Mohanraj. A garbage dump adjacent to the lake is a problem as sometimes it is set on fire. “We have seen hundreds of Little Grebes, Spot-billed Pelicans and the numbers of Barn Swallows sometime even crosses 400. We should constantly interact with the villagers who live in and around the lakes on conservation,” says Pavendhan.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 9:24:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/Coimbatore%E2%80%99s-wetlands-still-draw-a-flamboyant-variety-of-birds-from-flamingoes-to-cormorants/article17311853.ece

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