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Monday, April 18, 2016

winged visitors to Vedanthangal - bird migration

Very little (do I) know about ‘class Aves’ (not that I know other things well)…. Of course they are treat to watch… and they move from one place to another – bird migration is the regular seasonal movement -  and factually they lose out in migrating – perhaps they might lose out more if they do not migrate is a paradox. The Arctic Tern holds the long-distance migration record for birds, travelling between Arctic breeding grounds and the Antarctic each year. Siberian migrant birds sporadically visit India ~ Vedanthangal in Chingleput is famous for the winged visitors from various parts fo the World.  Curiously the name would translate to ‘hamlet of the hunter’ !

Ducks, Cranes, Pelicans and more….. or simply … white birds, ducks, the ones with blue tinge…. One need not be an expert – still one can enjoy the winged visitors for sure….. for those used to concrete jungles missing even the common sparrow, these birds are quite enrapturing.  Wetlands are the most important of life-supporting ecosystems that have sustained human lives and communities over the millennia. 

Vedanthangal birds sanctuary is one of the smallest and oldest in the country with a unique history. The local people have been protecting the sanctuary for centuries now because they have realized that the bird droppings falling into the tank increases nitrogen content of the water and when used to irrigate crop increases the yield greatly and saves the cost of fertilizers. As far back as 1798, the village folk convinced the authorities to give protection to the birds of the 30 ha. area of the Vedanthangal tank. Around 30000 birds come every season even though the area is just 30 ha…… the lake  attracts multitudes of herons, egrets, storks, ibises and spoon bills.

Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary is a 30-hectare (74-acre) protected area located in the Kancheepuram District  around 75 kilometres (47 mi) from Chennai on National Highway 45 (NH45), south of Chengalpattu.  From Chingleput, Patalam, famous Sri Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal temple, Thirumalai Vaiyavoor – it leads there.

When Chennai and its neighbourhood was devastated by floods in Chennai, it did some good to the bird sanctuary.  It brimmed with life and sound of migratory birds which come every year  for nesting and breeding. For the last two years, poor monsoon played spoilsport for birds which could not nest and breed properly in the sanctuary. Copious rainfall wooed more winged visitors and humans too followed – those who came were thrilled  by the  sight of painted storks, open-billed storks, cormorants, night herons and cattle egrets, besides black and glossy ibises frolicking in the water bodies full of fish or relaxing on trees.

Generally, the migratory birds being  leaving by end-February or early March and by the end of the month just 100-200 birds, most of them painted storks which usually arrive late, remain; but this time, it reported that nearly 82,000 birds have been counted and are almost reluctant to leave, say officials. The extend stay of the birds this time, officials claim is  due to the work put in by the forest department last year. Even before the monsoon began in November,  they deepened the pond and desilted the five channels,  released tens of thousands of fingerlings.  They also removed from the tanks cat fish, a predatory species that usually feeds on other smaller fish and brings down their population.

Here are some photos taken by me during a visit in Dec 2015.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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