CHENNAI: As the annual migration of birds from the Arctic to the Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary at Kodiyakarai in Nagapattinam begins, the State forest department has scheduled its annual two-day synchronised bird census on January 22 and 23.
Lakhs of shorebirds have already flocked the area and the size of the congregation, which according to field observers extends upto to 4-5 kms, is much bigger compared to previous years. Chief Wildlife Warden Shekar Kumar Niraj said: "Usually, the census is carried out in February. But this time we decided to advance it to January last week, which is when the bird numbers are expected to peak."
The census will be conducted in all the 16 bird sanctuaries, marshlands and other significant wetlands in Tamil Nadu, simultaneously. The objective is to assess species diversity and population of migratory birds.
A webinar involving Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History and Wildlife Institute of India will be held before the bird estimation, to discuss the methodology and techniques to be adopted in the exercise.
"All census results will be sent to Wildlife Warden, Nagapattinam for compilation and analysis. He will prepare a consolidated report of bird estimation and submit it to me by February 10," Niraj said.
Bivash Pandav, director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), told The New Indian Express that it will be too early to draw conclusion on the migratory bird population, but stressed some good congregations are being witnessed at Point Calimere, all thanks to a good monsoon.
S Balachandran, deputy director, BNHS Regional Migration Study Centre at Kodiyakarai, said the last week of January is the ideal time to carry out the census. "Nearly 3-4 lakh shorebirds congregate during November last week and December first week. This year, things are looking very bright and conditions are perfect for the birds to stay for an extended period of time than usual. Thousands of terns and gulls, little stints, sandpipers and ruddy turnstones were sighted wading through shallow waters," he said.
The seasonal ritual of migration occurs every year over the Central Asian Flyway (CAF), comprising 29 countries including Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar and Maldives. The birds take the long non-stop haul from the Arctic and European regions during winter in South Asia, and usually stop over in the coastal swamps at Point Calimere between November and February.
Point Calimere is home for shallow waters, shores, and long sand bars; intertidal flats, and intertidal forests which are chiefly mangrove and seasonal, and which often turn into saline lagoons, making it a haven for migratory birds.
G Vijaya Kumar, secretary of Madras Naturalists Society (MNS), said the numbers are pretty healthy in Vedanthangal bird sanctuary as well. "The arrivals will peak in the days to come. The MNS is also planning for the annual Asia Waterbird Census sometime in January."