Environment

Breakfast, Birds and Bak-Bak

Around the lake to spot birds

Around the lake to spot birds  

There were lessons learnt on the banks of the Achankulam Lake about the fragile eco-system and our responsibility to safeguard it

An invitation to go birdwatching at Achankulam Lake was too tempting to ignore, even if it meant a drive of one and a half hours to get to the ground of Vedasamy Temple. Even more alluring was the prospect of being in the company of expert birders and wildlife experts.

At 7.30 am, registrations and introductions were in full swing for Breakfast, Birds and Bak-Bak organised by Zoo Outreach Organisation (ZOO), as part of its Lively Waters initiative. G Parameswaran, an avid birder and a member of the Perur Lake Forum, offered the members a quick look at the birds we were likely to spot. Coimbatore, he said, attracted several species of birds due to its proximity to the Western Ghats.

The kingfisher

The kingfisher  

The first item on the menu was a short trek to the Achankulam Lake. Almost immediately, we encountered the kowdhari or the Grey Francolin. Next, it was the white-throated kingfisher, the characteristic marking on the throat giving its name. When in flight, the beautiful blue wings can be seen clearly. Given that we encountered the bird almost on every tree, it seemed as if the bird was following us.

Painted stork with its vivid colours

Painted stork with its vivid colours  

When we reached the lake banks, we set up the binoculars to spot birds on the water. Spot-billed ducks watched us nonchalantly, while continuing to paddle. We also saw the black-winged stilt fishing in a far corner. In another area the Eurasian Coot was looking into the waters, possibly for its food. I was very thrilled to spot the Purple Heron in flight and the Painted Stork with its orange beak, white body and pink under its wings. I couldn’t help thinking that the name was very apt; the bird did look like a brightly coloured painting.

A newspaper game with a difference

A newspaper game with a difference  

Games people play with Nature
  • Payal Bhojwani Molur, a volunteer with ZOO, opened a newspaper and invited the adults and kids to stand on it and imagine it was a lake.
  • Next, everyone was told to talk about the threats to the lake’s environment. The children mentioned dumping of garbage and other wastes, release of effluents and sewage, unplanned construction leading to encroachment and building of dams. As each problem came up, a portion of the paper was folded symbolising the area of the lake that was lost.
  • As the list of hazards increased, the size of the lake decreased and participants fell off, indicating the death of birds, animals and other organisms that live in the area.
  • Payal then asked for suggestions to restore the lake. Again the children came to the fore, suggesting effluent and sewage treatment plants, stopping construction of dams and dumping of garbage in water bodies among others.
  • Finally, Payal asked the children to open the newspaper and dance on it to symbolise the restoration of the lake's ecosystem.

The one I found most interesting was the Spoonbill, with its beak shaped like a spoon. It was stirring the water in a circular motion — just like we stir sugar in our coffee — looking for fish. The Great Cormorant, Purple Swamp Hen and the Red Wattled Lapwing were the icing on my birdwatching cake.

The inputs from the assembled experts offered more insights into the feeding behaviours. While we spotted around 11 species, the regular birdwatchers said more than 30 species would have been around on the lake.

Vinothini tells stories from Tamil literature

Vinothini tells stories from Tamil literature  

Once we finished the lake circuit, we returned to the banyan tree for breakfast, which we were all much in need of. Then it was time for storytelling. Vinodhini from Mango education informed her audience that literature from the Sangam age was a rich repository of tales relating to the environment and followed it up with two stories about the Emerald Dove and the Red Wattled Lapwing from Tamil lore. She also spoke about the urgent need to conserve habitats and to save wetlands and water bodies and this was reinforced by the game that followed her session.

With that the first edition of Birds, Breakfast and Bak-Bak came to an end. I couldn't have asked for a better way to begin a Sunday morning.

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Printable version | May 24, 2020 1:59:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/zoo-outreach-organisation-hosts-breakfast-birds-and-bak-bak-at-achankulam-lake-to-highlight-the-importance-of-wetlands/article27147866.ece

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