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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

life is all about caring - be it demoiselle Crane .. .. westland Petrel

A demoiselle crane tagged in Mongolia’s Khurkh Valley has reached Khichan in Jodhpur after covering a distance of 4,032km in 151 days.  Experts said it is so far the longest recorded flight of a demoiselle crane (identified as T-54), which was banded by researcher  at Onon Balj Basin National Park bordering North Korea on July 25.   To reach here,  the bird flew at altitudes of up to 26,000 feet.  Khichan is a village in Jodhpur District of Rajasthan.     The village is known for a large number of demoiselle cranes that visit it every winter.  .. .. in the 1970s, the legend, Ratanlal Maloo,  returned from Odisha and started feeding pigeons. Slowly, pigeons,  sparrows, squirrels and occasionally peacocks started coming.  Then Cranes started coming – with passion and care, this man started feeding them -  now every year thousands of them coming calling !!

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The noun : ‘stormy petrel’ – would mean -  a person who delights in conflict or attracts controversy.  However, Storm Petrel is a small sea bird having a blackish plumage.

Miles away, a festival is held every year  in Punakaiki to celebrate the return of the petrel to its "home". This area is known as the home of the westland petrel, or tāiko (as known by the locals), because it is their only known breeding site. The festival begins with a viewing of the birds as they fly overhead and make their way to their nests in the mountains at dusk.  Punakaiki is a small community on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, between Westport and Greymouth. The community lies on the edge of the Paparoa National Park.

The Westland petrel (Procellaria westlandica), also known as the Westland black petrel or tāiko, is a moderately large seabird in the petrel family Procellariidae from New Zealand.  The Westland petrel spends the majority of its life at sea, only returning to land to breed. They are winter breeders, who arrive at their breeding grounds annually in late March or early April to prepare their burrows for nesting.  Petrels form life time pair-bonds.  The female lays a single egg between May and June that hatches two months later, between August and September. Both the male and female taking turns incubating the egg.   The young birds usually don't fly for another two months.    After leaving the nesting sites, fledglings may not return for up to 10 years.   Beginning in late September to late November, Westland petrel migrate to South American waters and are often found off the coast of Chile.

In an attempt to save this  rare bird species, a New Zealand village is trialling an innovative strategy: it is switching off all its street lights to stop baby birds becoming confused and crash landing on to the road. Westland petrels, which are blackish-brown with ivory beaks, breed only along an 8km stretch of coastal forest in the foothills near Punakaiki, a South Island town of fewer than 100 people and popular with tourists for its pancake rock formations and gushing ocean blowholes. 

The 6,000 breeding pairs arrive from South America each March, an event celebrated by locals with a festival. The fledglings are born in burrows dug into the hillsides and emerge to feed in preparation for the long journey back to South America. But some, believed to be disoriented by lights, crash on to the road, where they are often struck by cars or eaten by predators.  Local bird watchers believe the problem was worsened by the introduction of blue-white LED lights in the town last year.  So,  in what is believed to be a first for New Zealand, the local transport authority has agreed to a localised blackout, with 15 streetlights turned off along a 3.4km stretch of highway.

The Department of Conservation (DoC), the agency responsible for wildlife, reported that just 10 Westland petrels had crash landed in the town this year compared to the usual 15 to 25.  Meanwhile, the fledgling seabirds have been crash landing on roads in much greater numbers in Greymouth, the biggest town on the west coast, 44km to the south. Lighting is a documented cause of seabird fledgling “fallout” in many species, according to Haworth. “This is particularly an issue in Punakaiki, as it is close to the breeding colony and is why the street lights have been turned off this year.

“Whether lighting is the direct cause of all the Greymouth birds crash landing is not clear, however, most cases can be linked to lighting in the area, including lights on businesses and other private properties. LED streetlights were introduced in Greymouth last year. But a spokesperson for the district council said it was looking into whether it was possible to turn the lights down or change the colour tone to orange. It is stated that the blue tinge of the LED lights could be confusing the birds as they feed on bioluminescent fish. “They fly over the sea and when they see a blue light they dive!”

Interesting ! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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