NAGAPATTINAM: Ask any ornithologist worth his salt to pinpoint a paradise for bird watchers in the State and the unequivocal reply would be: Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary at Kodiyakkarai in Nagapattinam district. What with the miserly monsoons and a prolonged drought in the preceding years, the hopes of watching the winged beauties flock the sanctuary was on the wane this season, but the bout of rains in the past three-four months has heralded an early beginning of the migratory season.
The numbers last year were not encouraging, as dried up water bodies proved to be a dampener, both for ornithologists and birds. However, sporadic rains between June and September this year led to an early onset of the migratory season, which usually starts in the first week of October, coinciding with the northeast monsoon. Billed gulls, ibises, painted storks, spoonbills and pelicans among others have already started flocking the sanctuary. Enthused ornithologists are now banking on arrival from Arctic, Central India and the Himalayas to further beef up the count.
Dr S Balachandran, Deputy Director of Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), was upbeat over birds like flamingos and sandpipers starting to arrive earlier than usual. Dr Balachandran, who visited the sanctuary last week, said, “Usually, the migratory season starts in October and continues till February. When the monsoon deceived last year, birds gave the sanctuary a wide berth and stopped arriving altogether by the middle of January. The ones that had come shifted base to Sri Lanka. This year, by September, the count has touched 20,000 so far.”
Speaking about the variety of birds, Balachandran said, “Usually, flamingos and sandpipers arrive first. I have seen plenty of sandpipers, belonging to three varieties: curlew, snipe and marsh,” he said.
“In September last year, around 40,000 birds like flamingos, sandpipers, seagulls and shorebirds arrived. However, the early 2000s witnessed about 50,000-60,000 birds arriving in September. For the last five years, there has been notable decrease in arrival. As the rainfall exceeded 100mm in October and November 2015, about 3.5 lakh birds were spotted between September 2015 and February 2016. Last year, the rainfall was a paltry 50mm, resulting in only 2.5 lakh birds arriving,” he said.
“This year, July and August received about 157 mm of rainfall and even September received around 50 mm. A conducive condition coupled with good rains led to the birds arriving earlier,” he said. “When northeast monsoon starts battering the State, the count may go up to three lakh,” he added.