Asian waterfowl census on in AP, TS

Aims to gauge the health of wetlands, data can help policymakers make conservation efforts more effective

Hyderabad: The winter bird migration paradise that Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have been, Asian Waterfowl Census (AWC) is back in focus with birdwatchers and ornithologists getting busy with the with birders spreading out across the two states and checking on just how many of the winged visitors have come to the two states this year.

AWC is currently underway in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, aiming to enumerate the migrating birds as well as resident waterfowls. This annual citizen science programme, active since 1987, plays a crucial role in providing data to policymakers for protecting the wetlands, the essential migration magnets, according to Humayun Taher, AWC coordinator for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana State.

Understanding the population sizes of these waterfowl is vital for conservation efforts, he said. Overall, the purpose of the census includes gauging the health of the wetland.

The waterfowls are categorised as residents or migrants. Within migrants, they are further seen as feeding migrants or breeding migrants. They come from various regions, with Europe being a significant contributor.

Grebes, pelicans, cormorants and darters, herons, egrets and bitterns, storks, ibises and spoonbills, flamingos, geese and ducks, cranes, rails, gallinules and coot, finfoot and jacanas, shorebird and waders, gulls, terns and skimmers are the key birds that find a mention in the census. Other water dependent birds like hawks, eagles, osprey and falcons, owls, kingfishers, swallows, wagtails and pipits and dippers are also key birds.

In AP, Nelapattu, Pulicat lagoon, Peddana Cheruvu, Uppalapadu Tank, Kolleru Lake, Krishna, Conringa, Hamsavarm, Mallavaram and several others are covered in the previous census.

In Telangana, lakes like Ameenpur, Gandipet, Manjira, Himayath Sagar, Icrisat, Pocharam, Shamirpet, Narsapur, Fox Sagar, Musi, Dindi, Manair, Kawal, Kotepally, Devarakadra, Koilsagar, Kaddam reservoir, Kinnarasani, Nizam Sagar, Pakhal, Rammappa, and others are covered,.

This extensive effort has been ongoing since 1987, conducted annually in January, and relies on volunteers who survey water bodies in their neighborhoods.

The compiled data, including the number of species, bird count, and socio-economic conditions of the wetlands, is sent to Wetlands International, the nodal agency for the waterfowl census worldwide. The collected information, ranging from 43,000 to seven lakh birds annually, serves as a crucial indicator of the health of the ecosystem.

These birds serve as important indicators, reflecting the overall health of the ecosystem. “The census not only tracks their numbers but also observes their migration patterns and behaviors, showcasing the intricate interplay between instinct and environmental factors,” he said.

The population trends revealed by the census indicate stable bird populations, yet there is concern about the shift to smaller gathering spots, making them susceptible to hunting and poaching. The stability may mask potential threats or migration to new destinations, warranting attention for comprehensive conservation efforts.

“The key observations emphasise the importance of suitable habitat and water body conditions in influencing bird numbers. Unseasonal rainfall can impact migration, highlighting the need for adaptive conservation strategies,” he said.

Despite the ongoing efforts of volunteers, challenges persist, including the lack of attention to a national master plan and potential threats to wetlands due to urban development. There is a need for awareness and proactive measures to protect wetlands, a critical aspect of biodiversity conservation, he said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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