Bird Watching

THE STEEL CITY AND MIGRATORY BIRD RELATIONSHIP


THE STEEL CITY AND MIGRATORY BIRD RELATIONSHIP

-Mrs Shakti Bishnoi and  Mr A S Bishnoi


The nip in the air signalled the onset of winter in the city and the season along with its chills, has also brought in a few winged visitors from distant lands. Come winter, Visakhapatnam and surrounding districts become home to a number of migratory birds. Not only local birds but migratory birds from far off places are regularly visiting this place, which is just adjacent to Visakhapatnam airport wall. With many species , the place is ideal site not only for casual visitors, but also for the avid bird watchers and professional ornithologist. The various winged beauties can be seen wading through the marshes behind the airport, snacking on small insects and crustaceans. Surrounding districts during winter are filled with chirps of a motley crew of migratory birds who have flown countries in the northern hemisphere to make vizag their home for the next few months. Following water bodies support these avian worlds:-
(a) Kaplapadu
(b)Kondakarla ava, 
(c)Mudsarlova, 
(d)Airport canal
(e)Megadripeta dam

Clearance, conversion and degradation of natural habitat, grasslands, and wetlands are by far the most important causes of avifauna endangerment in the Asian region, affecting all species classified as critical, endangered and vulnerable. Exploitation of the land is the most common threat. The main pressure on Asian water birds is wetland drainage and conversion into intertidal coastal wetland. 


Black winged stilt


Defying all the parameters for survival, the bird community consisting of migratory birds namely Pied Avocet, Rudy shelduck, Sand piper,  large egret, median egret, cattle egret, Indian pond heron, Water cock, wader family including sand piper, common sandpiper, Black tailed Godwit and Stints , Jacana, oriental white ibis etc. list is long to mention, visit this small place. These species are regular visitor to this highly isolated and encroached place near the airport during Oct- Mar. While these winter vistors fly down to escape the harsh weather of their natural habitat, they are not completely safe here either. Apart from the predators like, civet cats, Dogs , humans too hunt them for different purpose

Cormorant, avocet and stilt

Our encounter with these migratory birds at Visakhapatnam
When we came to Visakhapatnam in 2011, to my current abode NAD colony, in Visakhapatnam near to the Airport which is surrounded by green hills of Simhachalma we were aghast as there was no sign of avain wealth. All we used to  witness was a countryside trembling with countless butterflies near to my house.Ofcourse, there were the garrulous mynas and rowdy crows of the garden variety. Then one fine day, when I saw first migratory bird (Brahminy duck) in Visakhapatnam near airport, as I was only my way to market via, the excitement grew to know more to see them at close. The world of bird migration is ancient and fascinating. And peep into it is engrossing. A small canal behind the Airport Point is supporting this avian world and is the meeting place for migratory birds in Vizag.
 
The photographer
So within the city and near the airport are bit not acceptable words. Avian world and Aviation both pose serious threat to each other. Aviation is facing great nuisance from birds since the first time men got airborne. Birds are a serious hazard to aviation. Airports provide a wide variety of natural and man-made habitats that offer food , water and cover or some airports are located along migratory routes used by birds. The other side of the runway is industrial belt consisting of HPCL, BPL , Andhra Refineries. Therefore in the sepulchral silence of canal and hustle bustle of aircrafts landing and taking off, the heaven for birdwatchers exists. What made me to undertake study was various reasons. The most important are enumerated below:-

(a)Birds require relatively large amount of food, and most airport support in  abundance viz., seeds, berries, grass , insects so is this airport
(b)Birds are drawn to open water for drinking, bathing, feeding, loafing, roosting and protection. 
(c)Rainy periods provide temporary water pools at many places and due to frequent cyclone ,Visakhapatnam receives more rains. 
(d)Permanent water body near the airport
(e)Birds needs cover for resting, loafing, roosting and nesting, Trees, brushy areas, weed patches, shrubs provide suitable habitat to meet these requirements

Rudy shelducks
Like many other airport, Visakhapatnam airport meets all the above requirement which proves to be detrimental for all the aircrafts landing and taking off. But till date not a single incident of bird strike has been reported. Surprisingly, with so many activities of migratory birds, there is no bird menace. The reasons after study has revealed that the flight path for landing and taking off is opposite to the canal where these birds feed and as such abundant food, water, nesting place is available there can be no reason that they come in flight path. Therefore their existence is mutual understanding. 

After a gap of one month in 2011, I started collating the data on the species. It became a regular feature early morning al-teast two hours with a notepad and binoculars to study their behaviour and count them. These species have made this small patch as their habitat and they are surviving amidst industrial waste, polluted water, polluted air, honking and moving vehicles noises. If that is not enough fisherman claiming their share from the confined area. This place is apt for their survival as there is availability of sea water, weeds, ample food(sea food i.e toad, fish etc), reeds, solitary confinement of place etc. These birds are rare sightings in Vizag. People go all the way to Chilka lake for their sightings. The best time to spot them is Oct- Mar(every year). End March they start their migration phase back to their habitat like, Sibera, northern European nations enroute Chilika and other water bodies in Andhra Pradesh.

White Ibis
The opening through which sea water enters the paradise for this community of birds is more or less blocked. If all above  was not enough construction of two Giant size roads on both sides of water body makes all the more worse for these near threatened birds survival more difficult. The cause of concern is, very conveniently the road authorities have dragged sand from both sides to surmount for road making and creating lesser space for their survival. Still they are coming every year but lesser than expected.

Migratory birds are sensitive to pollution. Dwindling number of the birds  is attributed to a dumping of effluents and human activities near the airport which has increased over the last 3 years. Poaching is rare but it does happen at the feeding ground.  The reasons for increase and decrease in population is due to Visakhapatnam  becoming the epicentre of cyclonic activities and uncertain weather conditions.

(a)2011 good rainfall  800mm
(b)2012 moderate 600 mm
(c)2013 very heavy rainfall 1000mm ( due to three cyclones)
 
Cyclone in other way support their survival by making available more water and food for them for longer period. Megadhripeta Dam is the source of water. Water discharging being undertaken at the regular interval helps them to survive and extend their stay.  Compared to 2012 , this year 2013, some species have arrived earlier and in more numbers. May be some species would have preferred  break/halt during transit from Chilika , Teelineelapuram/Teliguchi  on the way to Kolleru lake(Kolleru lake is meeting place of more than 10,000 migratory birds).  On their return journey from Kolleru, Point Calimere, Pulicat Lake, they may be taking a enroute halt before their journey to CHilika lake (Mar-Apr) in their return journey.

Populations of Moorhen was found to be dwindling due to construction of road near the airport and other channel created to prevent flood like situation if it rains. As this very airport got flooded in 2005, 2010. With road activities and food shortage, and poaching, the population has come down.  

The outlook of area is such that no one would bother to even slide down their window glass of car, because in a second, gush of   pollutants enters your nostrils as large lorrey, trucks carrying cargo load enter the HPCL /BPL refinery etc. How much more do we want to have comfort. Do we own the universe, earth, moon, and landmass? We keep cutting forest and create dream homes without thinking where the residents of the place go, namely animals and birds.
Migratory birds coming to our country and surprising places like this place in Vizag, imparts a very sensitive message that god is still hopeful and full of grace to show such wonderful creations. 

DATA ACCUMULATED OVER A SPAN OF THREE YEARS 
NEAR THE AIRPORT (VIZAG) 

Average figure2011  (Sep 11-Mar 12)

Average figure2012 (Sep12-Mar13)

Average figure2013  (Sep13 –Dec 14)

S No                       Species                              2011               2012                2013

1                        Brahminy duck                             200             150                      250
2                        Black winged stint                         200             170                      300
3                        Asian open bill                                 10               25                      80
4                        Painted stork                                   50          30               100
6                        Pied Avocet                                     50        10           5
7                        Oriental white ibis                            20         5         10
8                        Jacanas                                           40         20       10
9                        Pintail                                              50         40         70
10                        Moorhen                                        200        130         150
11                        Little cormorant                                 5                2                     10
12                        Little egret                                       50        30        60
13                        Purple heron                                      4         7         10
14                        Grey heron                                        2         4         2
15                        Large egret                                   1030             80
16                        Cattle egret                                   4030         100
17                        Pond heron                                    3050         40
18                        Asain openbill                                2510         50
19                        Cotton teal                                        34        ----
20                        Gadwal                                             35        -----
21                        Northern shoveller                           105        ----
22                        Bronze winged Jacana     2015         20
23                        Purple moorhen                      10080         30


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