THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Global warming, plastic pollution and depleting water levels in wetlands and water bodies have taken a toll on a wide range of avian species and animals. The city was a paradise for birdwatchers and photographers due to the presence of wetlands and water bodies attracting migratory birds from across the globe. Over the years, this scenario has changed and birders are worried.
“The Vellayani-Punchakkari wetlands have always been a paradise for birdwatchers with various species of migratory birds flocking to the region but, over the years, their number has dwindled. Nearly 150 species of birds including native and migratory birds have been spotted in the lake and wetlands. The Malabar Whistling Thrush which was a regular visitor here is nowhere to be seen nowadays,” said Kiran A J, a passionate birder and director of Neerthadakam, an initiative to protect native and migratory birds.
Migratory birds that were a common sight in the Vellayani lake and surrounding wetlands include the Glossy ibis, spot-billed pelican, painted stork and Pacific swallow.
Today, due to plastic pollution and habitat loss, there has been a decline in the number of migratory birds arriving every year.
“In 2017, the blue-cheeked bee-eater, which breeds in Northern Africa, was spotted in Punchakkari but is a rare sight these days. Pesticides sprayed in the fields nearby and trees such as acacia pose a threat to these migratory birds. Acacia trees are not ideal for wetlands as it reduces the level of water. This has had a devastating effect on the birds,” said Kiran.
With initiatives such as Neerthadakam and Wings Birding Club, Kiran has formed clubs in schools to spread awareness about migratory birds and their protection. “As winter approaches, migratory birds such as the whiskered tern, blue-tailed bee-eater, barn swallow, common coot have started arriving at Punchakkari,” he said. According to Satheesh Kumaran Nair, a birdwatcher, the Akkulam and Vellayani-Punchakkari wetlands were popular among migratory birds. “However, they are no longer spotted at Akkulam. Earlier, the common kingfisher and black drongo were regular visitors,” he said.
In Punchakkari, fishing gear is responsible for deaths with birds getting trapped in nets which are merely visible on water. They have even rescued birds such as the baya weaver. An awareness class has to be given about these birds in schools and at panchayat, district and state levels, he added. However, A K Sivakumar, senior education officer at WWF-India, said: “There has been a decline in the number of migratory birds arriving in the city and habitat loss is indeed a major concern. But new species are also spotted.” As part of World Migratory Bird Day, a bird counting event is held by WWF-India at places such as Punchakkari, Vellayani, Veli lake and wetlands, Akkulam, Aruvikkara wetlands, and Kesavadasapuram.