Hubballi: The annual bird migration in the state which wasdisrupted in the last three years due to excess rainfall, has picked up this year with many winter roosting sites recording bird sightings as the migration season starts.
Shallow waters, which act as a food bowl for birds with easy availability of fish, insects and other prey,were flooded over the last three years due to excess rain.
Bird watchers and experts are reporting visits of regular migratory birds in the southern and coastal Karnataka region while noticing a dip in the northern parts.
Karnataka is a part of the Central Asia flyway (flight path) that witnesses raptors, shovelers, ducks, terns, sandpipers, plovers and others from Europe, the Himalayan region and the Arctic, arriving in large numbers at inland water bodies, backwaters, coastal areas and the Western Ghats to escape the extreme cold.
Bengaluru-based senior bird watcher Subbramanaya said several species of migratory birds have already started arriving at grasslands and water bodies of Bengaluru and surrounding areas. “Black-winged stilt, Eurasian spoonbill, godwits and others usually start landing at their roosting sites by the first week of November. However, this year a decent number of migratory birds were reported at several sites by the last week of October itself,” he said.
He believes that scanty rainfall in the region may have helped these birdsarrive early. “By mid-January, we will be able to get a clear picture about the total species and number of birds that have arrived in Karnataka,” he said.
On the coast too, birdwatchers have been happy to sight migratory birds. Tibetian sandplovers, Greater sandplovers, Kentish plovers,Eurasianwhimbrels, Curlew sandpipers, broad-billed sandpipers and Dunlin are being sighted in good numbers on Mangaluru and Udupi coasts.
Shiva Shankar, founder of Coastal Karnataka Birdwatchers Network, said the majority of the regular migratory birds have started arriving on the shores, although their numbers are not as high as they used to be a decade ago. “The last two years were relatively poor for birdwatchers on the coast as very few birds made their annual journey. However, this year, there is hope of seeing more varieties,” he said.
There are also positive signs in the deep sea as a majority of pelagic birds are regularly being sighted. Gurutej Acharya, an avid birder, said several gulls, terns and skuas including the Arctic Pomarine were sighted during his recent pelagic trip off the Mangaluru coast.
The other major roosting sites of migratory birds in Karnataka are the backwaters of Almatti (Bagalkot), Ankasamudra Bird Sanctuary (Ballari), Hadinaru Lake (Mysuru), Attiveri Bird Sanctuary (Uttara Kannada), Karanja reservoir (Bidar) and Bonal lake (Yadgir).
Rajendra K, a watcher at Ankasamudra, said that compared to the last two years, the numbers of northern pintail, lesser whistling ducks, spot-billed ducks, Eurasian collared ducks and Eurasian moorhen are higher this year. “In the next fortnight, we expect the number of flamingos and other migratory birds to increase at Ankasamudra and backwaters of Tungabhadra.”
While the rest of the roosting places are bustling, Magadi Lake in Shirahatti taluk of Gadag district, which records large congregations of bar-headed geese which start their journey over the Himalayan ranges from Magnolia and stay in this lake till March, is silent.
“By November 5-7 at least 1,000 to 5,000 bar-headed geese used to arrive at the lake. However, this year not a single bird has landed,” said Somappa S Pashupathihal, a watcher at the lake. While there is sufficient water in the lake, it is the neighbouring Bengal gram fields that are empty. “There is hardly any food for these geesethis year due to poor monsoon. We are worried that the birds may not make their way to the lake this year,” he said.
The fast depleting of waters at Almatti backwaters is also a matter of concern for the flamingos, according to forest department officials.
Ashwin Viswanathan, research associate at Nature Conservation Foundation, Bengaluru said there are enough indications across Karnataka that migration activities are picking up after the two-year lull. “Migration is an essential part of birds’ life and highlights the importance of multi-habitats,” he said.
(Published 11 November 2023, 22:37 IST)