In islands of Hirakud, birds find a happy ground to nest

Forester Bhubaneswar Patra who has tracked these waders says the patterns on the eggs and camouflage the islands provide help the mother birds to stand guard against predators like raptors.

Published: 21st August 2022 05:57 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st August 2022 05:57 AM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo | AP)

Express News Service

SAMBALPUR: Over half a dozen islands, nestled in the sprawling water sheet, have turned safe haven for at least 15 to 20 species of birds in Hirakud reservoir, now grabbing headlines for the floods. Clear of predators and invasive plant species as well; and having human settlements relocated, the islands provide for a picture perfect camouflaging ground for hundreds of nesting waders which increasingly flocked the reservoir as would a recent documentation reveal.

Little ringed plover

There are about eight islands inside the reservoir which expose themselves during the February-June window providing excellent field for the “ground nesting” phenomenon. Protection apart, natural camouflage comes handy for the wader species. Like the stone curlew finds the rocky spaces perfect for laying eggs and nurturing the hatchlings after they emerge into life. For the terns, such as river tern and little tern mothers, the sandy shorelines act as perfect ground to hide in plain sight.

The clutches of ground nesting birds are such that they merge with the background and provide protection from predators. Forester Bhubaneswar Patra who has tracked these waders says the patterns on the eggs and camouflage the islands provide help the mother birds to stand guard against predators like raptors.

Besides, the islands help the birds secure themselves against heat of the summer. “We have noticed how the birds would use their bellies to wet themselves to control body heat and also kneel on the eggs and chicks to regulate temperature during peak months of May and June,” he says. Advantage of the natural setting aside, the Hirakud Wildlife Division has put in extra yards to keep human footfall to the minimum in these islands as well as Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary abutting the reservoir.

“There are about 1,200 fishermen from Sambalpur, Bargarh and Jharsuguda districts who fish in Hirakud. They are sensitised and trained to stay clear of nests. Tourist boats are diverted away from these places during mating and nesting seasons,” says Divisional Forest Officer of Hirakud WL Division Anshu Pragyan Das.

With three villages relocated from Debrigarh, the shoreline of Hirakud from Zero Point to Patharsahi Temple towards Chhattisgarh side is sans human settlement which mean dogs and cattle no longer pose threat to birds.

“We have also cleared 160 hectare of ipomoea carnea, an invasive toxic plant, from these islands as well as shoreline of Debrigarh sanctuary which helps the birds. Besides, amphi-terrestrial species are being restored. With undisturbed grasslands, birds have clear surface for ground nesting,” Das explains. All these showed results in last census. From 1.24 lakh head count of the winged guests in 2021, the number rose to 2.08 lakh comprising 104 species this time.

Species such as red wattled lapwing, little ringed plover, oriental pratincoles, black winged stilt and small pratincoles were sighted. “We saw Indian skimmer nesting this summer which means our efforts are bringing results,” says the DFO under whose watch the division carried out one of the largest relocation of human settlements of the State from Debrigarh.


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