Hindustan Times (Noida)

Fewer migratory, water birds at Surajpur wetland this year

2020 CENSUS While some blame climate change, others say conservati­on also a factor

- Kushagra Dixit kushagra.dixit@hindustant­imes.com ■

NOIDA: In what could be a repercussi­on of unusual climate conditions seen last year, the numbers of migratory and resident water birds at Surajpur wetland in Gautam Budh Nagar have dropped this year.

According to the Asian Waterbird Census (AWS) 2020, undertaken by Wetlands Internatio­nal South Asia and the forest department of Gautam Budh Nagar, there has been a decline in the diversity of species as well as their population at Surajpur wetlands from last year.

The one-day census, conducted on January 4, counted 2,092 birds from a total 39 species, of which 17 were resident species while 22 were migratory. However, the January 2019 census saw a total of 3,034 birds across 42 species, of which 21 were resident and 21 were winter migratory birds. “Of the 39 found, only seven species of the Internatio­nal Union for Conservati­on of Nature (IUCN) Red-listed threaten birds whereas last year among 42 species recorded 08 species of IUCN Red-listed threatened birds,” said TK Roy, ecologist and conservati­onist, AWC.

According to the experts, water birds are one of the key indicators of wetlands’ health which provides ideal feeding, resting, roosting and foraging habitats for these species.

According to officials, the Surajpur forest reserve area is home 186 species of resident, winter migratory, summer migratory and passage migrant birds. It is spread over 308 hectares, of which the wetland spreads over 32 hectares while rest is woodland, grassland and marshland.

According to Roy, the low turnout could be due to unusual climatic conditions last year – 2019’s October was among the warmest Octobers in recorded history. “While migratory birds start flocking her from October, this year they observed a ‘diversity fluctuatio­n’,” he said.

Birders, however, also said the low number could be due to fluctuatio­n in winter season.

“Turnout at Okhla and Dhanuari has also been low this time but there are other reasons involved and such fluctuatio­ns often happen. A number of birds often move down south when winter conditions go extreme in this area, which is common,” said Noida-based birder Anand Arya.

Experts said that of the species of winter migrants at Surajpur this year, four migrants that arrive every year from north and central Asia – Pied Avocet, Ruddy Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Western Marsh Harrier – were missing. The Wooly-necked stork was among those under the ‘Red-list’ of IUCN and was not spotted at Surajpur this year.

Winter migratory birds seen the most were Graylag Geese (428), Common Teal (333), Northern Shoveler (450), Gadwall (109), they added.

“There was a clear diversity fluctuatio­n in the wetland this year and it looked as if almost 50% birds have disappeare­d. We have also observed a drop in the bird population in other wetlands of NCR as well. The reasons could vary, such as conservati­on status of the wetlands, however the major issue seems to be climate change. October 2019 was among the warmest and it’s time migratory species reached the region,” said Roy. He added, however, added that though Surajpur wetland seemed “ok”, issues such as lesser water reaching the lake needs to be taken care of.

According to the forest division, however, the Surajpur wetlands are being looked after quite well.

“The lake recharges from the water channel which passes through villages and is used for irrigation. We had spoken to the concerned department­s and ensured that the lake stays charged during the birding season,” said PK Srivastava, divisional forest officer, GB Nagar.

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