CHENNAI: After recording the lowest avian count in Vedanthangal bird sanctuary last year, forest officials seem optimistic this time round. “The sanctuary has not yet opened, we are waiting for the north east monsoon to begin. If weather forecasters are to be believed, we will have good rainfall this year, and we hope we get more birds in the sanctuary,” said S David Raj, forest ranger. Last year the sanctuary received around 2,000 migratory birds compared to the 30,000 birds spanning 27 species that it had recorded in 2013. The count was said to be the lowest since its inception.
In 2013, Kancheepuram had recorded 1,233 mm of copious rainfall, thanks to both the southwest and northeast monsoons, which exceeded the average. However last year the district only received a meagre 438.2 mm of rainfall, which according to officials, hardly managed to fill 40 per cent of the lake.
This year however, according to the Regional Meteorological Centre, most parts of Kancheepuram district are likely to receive moderate to excess rainfall in the last few days of October, making chances of more feather fall positive. However, naturalists feel that with growing industrial activities around Vedanthangal and adjoining villages, the availability of food, water and roosting sites might become an issue which could deter birds from flocking to the sanctuary. But several other heronry and breeding sites have cropped up in various parts of the city, providing new environments for the migratory birds to nest. The National Institute of Ocean Technology, Pallikaranai marshlands, Kelambakkam backwaters have been housing more than 200 resident and migratory birds over the last few years. Naturalists feel that with these new sites coming up, the compulsion for the birds to flock at Vedanthangal alone will come down.
“Once industrial development begins to take place around birding hot-spots, the avian count will naturally come down. Birds will begin to look for better places. And these areas offer them a good environment to breed. So there is not much to worry,” said K Gnanaskandan of the Madras Naturalists’ Society.
The Vedanthangal bird sanctuary was established in the late 1800s after villagers in the area petitioned the then Chengalpattu collector to recognise their right to safeguard the nesting colony. The document sanctioning this was renewed in 1858, and in 1936, it was recognised as a sanctuary and was allocated funds to maintain it. The sanctuary is home to rare migratory birds such as Pintail ducks, Garganey, Spoonbills and Spotbilled Pelicans which come from all over the world in large numbers. The birds nest and feed on aquatic organisms like fish and mollusks. The nesting months from November to March, usually has around 30,000 or more birds visiting every year, including many from rare species.
“It is still too early to comment, but we hope that we have many birds come in this time as we are really waiting to see the park filled with them,” said David Raj.