Society

This Valparai government school celebrated the arrival of the Grey wagtail

A Government school in Valparai celebrated the arrival of winter migrant Grey wagtail to campus, by distributing laddoos

Fourteen-year-olds R Harikrishnan, S Kannan, and S Yogeshwaran were out on their usual stroll around their school campus after lunch when they spotted it.

A slender grey bird with yellow and white feathers on its belly was perched on a pavement behind the Science lab. They jumped in excitement: it was the Grey wagtail, a migrant bird that had flown all the way from the Himalayan region down South. The little fellow then took wing and sat on the roof of the campus auditorium.

That was it. The Grey wagtail was officially spotted at the Cinchona Government High School, Valparai this year.

“This happened on September 6,” recalls K Selvaganesh, an English teacher in the school. “The children were beyond excited.” They immediately alerted him and the headmistress SD Bagavathi. “Soon, we created a checklist on the eBird portal,” explains the 28-year-old. The bird was spotted a few days ago by M Arunkumar, a Class VIII student in Rayan division in Valparai.

This Valparai government school celebrated the arrival of the Grey wagtail

Every year, the species visits the hill town during the last week of August. “We’ve been spotting it in our school for the past five years and this year, it was little late,” explains Selvaganesh. This explains the relief when the bird was seen.

The school came together to celebrate the winged visitor’s arrival. “The next day, after assembly, we distributed laddoos amongst the 70 students and seven teachers,” he adds. It was a sweet gesture, one that also taught students an important lesson. “There’s a reason behind the whole exercise.”

Why it matters

Every year, the Grey wagtail flies thousands of kilometres from the Himalayan ranges to South India, mostly during winter.

“It goes back home at the onset of summer, around the last week of April, finds a partner and breeds once back home,” he says. “And once the chicks are about three months old, it’s time for the next migration.”

The birds travel all the way with their little ones. “That they have safely made the trip is an indicator that all is well with the ecosystem to facilitate this arduous journey,” adds Selvaganesh. The birds’ habitat seems to be in good condition; so does their route; they also find the hosts promising enough to trust it with their families.

“This is good, isn’t it?” asks Selvaganesh. “We wanted to convey this to our students.”

Like teacher, like student
  • Selvaganesh is a serious birder. He encourages his students to go birding and under his guidance, they have documented 134 species in and around their school in Valparai. “We’ve been birding ever since I got a job and moved here in 2014,” he says. P Jeganathan, a scientist with the Nature Conservation Foundation, inducted Selvaganesh into this hobby. “My students and I don’t have any specific time for birding. We keep a look out as we walk from the bus to our campus in the morning, set out to look for birds during our breaks, and even during holidays,” he says. Under the Season Watch initiative, students there are also observing trees around them, taking note of when they branch, blossom, and shed leaves. “Valparai is a treasure trove that needs to be protected,” feels Selvaganesh. “If students are taught to appreciate this precious environment, they will grow up with the mindset to conserve it. We will not need outsiders to protect our home turf.”

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 8:06:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/when-a-wagtail-came-to-school/article29391719.ece

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