PALAKKAD: Their journey into the Silent Valley National Park in the Nilgiri hills in December bore fruit for 30 bird watchers. The group, along with forest department officials, camped across the park spanning over 85 sq km and spotted 175 varieties of birds, including 17 new ones, during the 7th bird survey between December 27 and 29. The enumeration work was done in association with the Kerala Natural History Society.
The exercise was extra special for P K Uthaman, C Sushanth, and K S Jose, who had been part of the group that held the first-ever survey 32 years ago in 1990. Though the 7th survey was supposed to be done in 2020 to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the first, the pandemic played spoilsport.
The group put up camps at Valakkad, Poochipara, Sairindhri and Neelickal and set up tents at Kumban and Swisspara. “In Punnamala, we stayed in caves,” Sushanth told TNIE. In the survey held in 2006, 139 bird varieties were sighted, slightly lower than the 142 varieties spotted in 2014.
The 17 new birds found in the latest survey included the Brown wood owl, Banded bay cuckoo, Malabar woodshrike, White-throated kingfisher, Indian nightjar, Jungle nightjar and Large cuckooshrike. Crimson-backed sunbird, Yellow-browed bulbul, Black bulbul, Indian white-eye and Indian swiftlet were found in abundance.
The park was also home to birds found in planes above sea level, like the Nilgiri laughingthrush, Nilgiri flower pecker, Brown-cheeked fulvetta, Black-and-orange flycatcher, Grey-headed canary-flycatcher, Greenish warbler chiffchaff and Tytler’s leaf warbler. Shaheen falcon, Nilgiri wood pigeon and Malay bittern were the rare birds spotted. Malabar whistling thrush, which is common in the valley, was also seen.
Bird survey planned in nat’l park’s buffer zone
Sushanth said the rare birds were mostly seen in the core area of the park. Several common birds would be visible in the buffer zone, the bird watchers said. In this backdrop, a bird survey would be initiated in the park’s buffer zone too, said Wildlife Warden S Vinod. If the forest department permits, the proposed survey will be done in February. Besides Uthaman, Jose and Sushant, the team comprised prof E Kunhikrishnan, R S Lissa, C G Arun, P K Sivakumar and P B Biju among others.