A new breed of point-and-shoot nature photography enthusiasts are making the nesting season hard for the Blue-tailed-Bee-eater, commonly known as ‘Velithatha’ in Kerala.
The sighting of the vibrantly hued Merops Philippinus, with a predominantly green body and blue tail, is an event that bird lovers relish, more so because of its unique nesting habits. A migratory bird, this particular variety of bee-eater nests on the ground, where it makes a furrow and lays five to six tiny eggs at a time; and both the parents take care of the chicks.
As the world celebrates Environment Day on June 5, bird lovers near Payyannur, where they arrive year after year to breed, are demanding protection of the nesting habitat. The site, 1.5 acres of private land, near Payyannur is the only reported breeding place of the Blue-tailed Bee-eaters in South India. According to birding enthusiasts, the action of aggressive photographers and birding tourists have upset the habitat. The sightings of the bird have dropped drastically and so have their nests. “Two years ago, there were over 500 Bee-eater nests here. But, this year I could count just above 60,” says P V Padmanabhan, a school teacher who has written three books on bird nests.
A member of the team that first reported their breeding place here a decade ago was reluctant to even speak to Express fearing that media attention would further deteriorate the situation. “Media coverage will only do more harm to these birds. Please do not publish the exact place in your report,” the man who didn’t wish to be named said.