Of lakes and birds

Baillon’s Crake   | Photo Credit: Kishore Kumaran S

Achankulam had a rare visitor - a Bar-headed Goose all the way from Mongolia. Similarly, the Kannampalayam wetland had a surprise visit from the rarely-seen Eurasian Sparrowhawk. The Coimbatore wetlands had quite a few such encounters. Comb ducks were spotted at Ukkulam; a solitary Eurasian Wigeon strayed into Pallapalayam, and quite a few Green-winged Teals dropped in too. These special visitors are mentioned in the Asian Waterfowl Census (AWC) conducted by the members of Coimbatore Nature Society (CNS). A Pavendhan who took part in the AWC at Coimbatore wetlands says: “The Bar-headed goose flies over the Himalayas to spend its winters and is often spotted at the Nanjarayan Tank in Tirupur. But this year it made an unscheduled stop at Coimbatore. The Stork-billed Kingfisher was also reported in the city. It is usually seen at the foothills.”


Bar-headed Goose

Bar-headed Goose   | Photo Credit: Kishore Kumaran S

The failed monsoon didn’t deter the birds, says Pavendhan. Of the 22 wetlands in Coimbatore where the survey was done, some lakes such as Vedapatty and Perur have dried up, but the ones at Pallapalayam, Achankulam and Ukkulam still holds sufficient water, and still attractive to birds,” he says.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Eurasian Sparrowhawk   | Photo Credit: Balaji. PB

While last year CNS had surveyed only 13 water bodies, this time the number increased to 22 wetlands. “Besides the bird population, the annual census also monitors the status and condition of these wetlands.

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail   | Photo Credit: A Pavendhan

It takes into account the pollution levels, poaching activities and agriculture in the areas surrounding the lake, and the impact these can have on bird life. We recorded 35 migrant species and 92 resident birds. The numbers of Yellow Wagtails that come from Russia keeps increasing every year. We have to observe over a few more years to identify a pattern.,”says Pavendhan.

Spot-billed Duck.

Spot-billed Duck.   | Photo Credit: A. Pavendhan

The census is scientific data, says Selvaraj PR, the president of CNS. “ Some of the migratory birds to the coastal region stopped by here. We don’t know if it was because of Vardah. We saw some notable resident birds too like the Bronze-winged Jacana and Blue-tailed Jacana. Another migratory bird, the Baillon’s Crake, that breeds in Northern Russia and Mongolia was spotted at Krishnampathy wetland. This is the second sighting in recent years. The exercise helps bird watchers to build on the data and a long-term observation of wetlands.”

K. Sravan Kumar, a CNS member participated in the bird count for the first time and he is thrilled. “Coimbatore is blessed with many wetlands fed by River Noyyal. There are over 30 wetlands. It was a great opportunity to visit so many wetlands in a short span of time. We saw sandpipers at Valankulam, and pelicans and painted storks at Kurichi.”

Marsh Sandpiper

Marsh Sandpiper   | Photo Credit: A Pavendhan

For Kishore Kumaran S, who has been into birding for the last one year with CNS, it was a learning experience. “We spotted the Cotton Pygmy Goose, rarely seen here.” But he is worried about the indiscriminate dumping of garbage and plastic that is choking up the wetlands. A number of constructions that have come up around the lake also affect the birds.”

The algae content in some of the lakes served as a blessing, says G. Prakash. “It attracted the flamingos that feed on it. It is the algae that gives the bird its beautiful pink colour,” he explained.

Prakash, who has been a part of the AWC for three years, says the team got to explore some lesser-know wetlands too like the Nandangarai check dam near Siruvani. “It was a waterhole which was developed by Siruthuli. We took special permission to go there. While last year we saw more woolly-necked storks, this year we just saw one.”

It’s a study of the ecosystem, says Balaji PB. “ We find out about the trees around the lake bed which is very important for roosting and nesting of some of the birds, the fishing activity, and dumping of wastes that directly affect the birds. Where there is sewage let into the water body, there are invasive plants that consume all the nutrients. Absence of trees keeps birds away as well. The issue is not just about water, but also about a suitable habitat in and around the wetlands.”

About AWC

The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) started in 1987 is an international programme that makes the public aware of issues related to wetland and water bird conservation. The census is carried out each January as a voluntary activity at a national and local level. It is co-ordinated by Wetlands International as part of global programme called the “International Waterbird Census”.

Regular visitors to the city

Barn Swallows, Yellow Wagtail, Northern Shoveler, Wood Sandpiper, Rosy Starling, Little Stint, Garganey, Common Sandpiper, Whiskered Tern, Little Ringed Plover…

To know more about CNS

Call: 9842261279 or e-mail cnsnature@gmail.com

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 10:24:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/Of-lakes-and-birds/article17108310.ece

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