24,000 birds sighted during Thamirabarani Waterbird Count

Nearly 150 individuals actively participated in the comprehensive Asian survey across 57 tanks in Tirunelveli, Tenkasi and Thoothukudi districts.
Birdwatchers, volunteers are participated in Thamirabarani Waterbird Count at Kalkulam in Tirunelveli.
Birdwatchers, volunteers are participated in Thamirabarani Waterbird Count at Kalkulam in Tirunelveli.Express

THOOTHUKUDI: A total of 24,207 birds of 66 species were spotted during the 14th edition of the Thamirabarani Waterbird Count (TWC), held between February 16 and 18. The birds were spotted mainly in tanks with inflows from the Thamirabarani River.

TWC 2024 was organised by ATREE’s Agasthyamalai Community Conservation Centre (ACCC), Pearl City Nature Trust, Nellai Nature Club Trust and Pushpalata Educational Centre. Nearly 150 individuals, split into seven teams, actively participated in the comprehensive Asian survey across 57 tanks in Tirunelveli, Tenkasi and Thoothukudi districts.
The number of birds spotted during the TWC is an impressive record in the Thamirabarani basin, which witnessed massive floods recently, said TWC’s coordinator Mathivanan.

The resident species of the Egret family, including the Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Medium Egret and Large Egret dominated the count, with nearly 4,861 birds spotted. Besides these, migratory duck species, such as the Northern Pintail, Bar-headed Geese and the Eurasian Wigeon fly in from European countries and Eurasia, of which 4,245 were spotted.

Among the native Cormorant species, 3,039 Little Cormorants, Indian Shag and Oriental Darter were spotted.

Volunteers spotted the most number of birds — 2, 005 — at Kuppaikurichi tank in Tirunelveli district, followed by 1,094 birds at Vijayanarayanam, 1,050 at Arumugamangalam in Thoothukudi district and 1,037 birds at Vijaya Achampadu in Tirunelveli district.

Mathivanan termed the sighting of the Black-tailed Godwit, which flies in from Europe and is classified as a near-threatened species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list, as a significant record in Kuppaikurichi tank, where 450 birds of the species were seen.

Several tanks such as the Gangaikondan, Nainarkulam and Rajavallipuram in Tirunelveli district, and Vagaikulam and Rakagopalaperi in Tenkasi district were identified as nesting grounds for birds such as the Black-headed Ibis, Oriental Darter, Indian Shag, Little Cormorant, Asian Openbill and the Grey Heron.

However, volunteers were surprised at the lack of nesting sites at Thirupani Chettikulam and Nallur tank in Thoothukudi, where these birds are usually seen. A Spot-billed Pelican’s nest was seen at Nallur Tank.

"Mathivanan said that Thoothukudi district was heavily battered by the unprecedented rains and the subsequent floods, leaving tanks empty after they were breached. “After the breaches were repaired, the public works department released water into the tanks. Since the tanks were not full, the birds did not nest in Thoothukudi district this year,” he stated.

"The bird count in Thoothukudi district was also significantly less due to the rains and floods. As tanks overflowed or breached, food was also limited for the birds,” he added.

Beyond natural disasters, sewage water drainage, improper waste disposal and misuse of tanks for anti-social activities were observed at numerous tanks, said Mathivanan, who has been monitoring bird count for the past 14 years.

As World Wildlife Day is observed on March 3, the volunteers appealed to the government to implement a comprehensive and integrated management plan for the next five years to prioritise tanks for conservation and prevent them from being polluted.

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