Numbers soar, but reality is a damper – The Hindu


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January 20, 2023 08:12 am | Updated 08:12 am IST – ALAPPUZHA
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Birders observed 67 bird species during a survey at the Changaram wetlands in Ezhupunna, Alappuzha, on January 8.
Around 50 birders who divided themselves into smaller groups, equipped with digital cameras, telephoto lenses and binoculars, combed 13 different trails in the northern parts of Alappuzha on January 8 watching and counting winged guests arriving from all points of the compass and the local bird species. 
At the end of the survey, conducted as part of the Asian Waterbird Census-2023, they sighted 15,335 birds of 116 species, including waterbirds and water-dependable birds, as against 9,500 birds recorded last year. The bird watchers attributed the increase in the number of birds to the widening of the survey from seven locations in 2022 to 13 wetlands this time around. “An increase in the number of birds sighted in the recent bird survey compared to the 2022 census hardly reflects the reality. Actually, the population of some migratory birds, especially duck species, visiting the wetlands is on the decline,” says Sumesh B., president, Birders Ezhupunna, a birdwatching group. 
Much to the dismay of birdwatchers, duck species like Northern Shoveler, Common teal and Eurasian wigeon, recorded in the previous waterbird census, were nowhere to be seen this time around. Though a shift in migration patterns of at least a few waterbirds seems to be taking place as revealed by the survey, birders and experts have not yet drawn any conclusions on the declining bird populations. That said, many points to climate change as one of the reasons for some migratory birds skipping the region. “The wetlands we visited as part of the survey have not been affected by drastic habitat loss in the last decade. Climate change may be affecting bird migration to the region. But more studies are needed to prove it. Detailed assessment of bird census in the coming years will provide a clearer picture of bird migration to the region,” says Mr. Sumesh.
Birders observed 67 bird species during a survey at the Changaram wetlands in Ezhupunna, Alappuzha, on January 8.
The survey was jointly organised by the Social Forestry wing of the Forest department and Birders Ezhupunna. K. Saji, deputy conservator (social forestry), Alappuzha, says that the number of migratory birds has seen a decline and there is a need for more studies to identify the reasons. Of the 13 locations, the most number of bird species (68) was recorded at the Chembakasseri wetlands in Pattanakkad, followed by Changaram wetlands in Ezhupunna (67), Patthithode wetlands in Thuravoor (59), and Kottalappadam wetlands in Pattanakkad (58). 
Meanwhile, a similar survey conducted at 10 locations in Upper Kuttanad observed a total of 129 species, including 56 waterbird species. As many as 65,491 waterbirds were spotted during the survey, which, according to the organisers is one of the highest in the entire State. Besides, 726 water-dependable birds of 11 species were recorded by birders from the region. 
Birders observed 67 bird species during a survey at the Changaram wetlands in Ezhupunna, Alappuzha, on January 8.
In recent times, some bird species which mostly prefer tropical climate conditions of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have been spotted from Upper Kuttanad. Among them are Painted stork and Spot-billed pelican. This year, 380 Painted storks were recorded from the region. “Some birds not common to our region have started flocking here. In the last five years or so their numbers have gone up indicating a change in the bird migration patterns. Though the exact reasons are yet to be identified, some studies have pointed out global warming for changes in bird migratory patterns. Like other places on earth, our place is also warming up,” says B. Sreekumar, president, Kottayam Nature Society, adding that habitat loss has resulted in the disappearance of some local bird species.
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Kerala / nature and wildlife
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