Society

Chennai resident sights two rare warblers at home on the same day

A Large-billed Leaf Warbler sighted in the greenery at an apartment complex in Pallikaranai on April 3, 2021. Photo: Sundaravel Palanivelu  

From this writer’s interactions with him, Chennai-based birder Sundaravel Palanivelu measures his words as carefully as a surveyor measures disputed land. One gets the sense of an internal machine turning and sifting through thoughts before elevating any of them to the dignity of speech. Even in his online interactions, he is an exemplar of brevity.

So, when his sentences reach two-digit world lengths, the rare verbal extravagance is usually justified. Recently, he had had two bird sightings to discuss; and together, they were too remarkable to be kept laconic. The two sightings were barely separated by time and space.

On the morning of April 3, he had seen a Large-billed Leaf Warbler and a Western Crowned Warbler. Passage migrants in these parts, these warblers are rarely recorded because of the narrow time-frame available to see them. (Entered in eBird, both sightings have been approved by the documentation-platform for avian observations).

The highlight is that both showed up that morning at Sundaravel’s living space, SaiSurya Apartments in Pallikaranai. Sundaravel’s apartment roughly falls within the route for onward and reverse migration taken by both these warblers. Besides, Sundaravel’s homestead is within shouting distance from a section of the Pallikaranai Marsh. However, these factors do not detract from the rarity of the sightings. Here’s why.

When this writer had earlier sought his views about these two warblers’ migration route and their occurence-frequency, this is what ornithologist V. Santharam had to say: “The Western Crowned Warbler and Large billed Leaf Warbler are passage migrants: Both seem to be passing through the East Coast. These birds come to Western Ghats and some of them passing through Chennai would be heading to Sri Lanka. There are not many records of these birds; that is because they pass through a very narrow window of time. Their movements (on the onward migration) happen when NE monsoon has set in and so, not many people would be venturing out. In their reverse migration in March and April, relatively more people may see it. I have seen the large-billed leaf warbler at GNP.”

A Western Crowned Warbler sighted in the greenery at an apartment complex in Pallikaranai on April 3, 2021. The crownstripe is a diagnostic feature of the Western Crowned Warbler. Photo: Sundaravel Palanivelu

A Western Crowned Warbler sighted in the greenery at an apartment complex in Pallikaranai on April 3, 2021. The crownstripe is a diagnostic feature of the Western Crowned Warbler. Photo: Sundaravel Palanivelu  

Calling the Western Crowned Warbler an eBird rarity, Vikas Madhav Nagarajan, eBird reviewer, was on the same page, concluding that while “South-western ghats is where the Western Crowned Warbler winters”, there is the probable explanation that a population of this warbler “passes through Chennai and the East Coast on the way to Sri Lanka.”

With Sundaravel’s April 3, 2021 sighting of Western Crowned Warbler being entered in eBird under category of Chennai district, it becomes the second photographic record of the bird in this region. On April 23, 2016, Vikas had a photographic record of the Western Crowned Warbler in Guindy National Park.

Santharam points out that with collation of eBird data, the movements of rarely-seen passage migrants can be better tracked, filling the gaps in the understanding of possible passage routes. Says the ornithologist: “Now, with eBird data you should be able to see the migratory pattern. If there are sufficient records, it should be possible to do mapping and animation-based depiction of bird movement.”

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 7:34:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/chennai-resident-sights-two-rare-warblers-at-home-on-the-same-day/article34250436.ece

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