Birds, Forests and Development in Himalayan Oak Forests: A Study in Progress

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The Himalayas are a biologically diverse region within India owing to their elevational range and geographic location. Apart from essential ecosystem services that they provide to the Gangetic Plains, Himalayan forests protect a large number of endemic species and support extensive tourism activities.

During the last few decades, however, Himalayan forests have become degraded and fragmented due to various economic pressures. It is necessary to understand how human-created disturbance is impacting Himalayan fauna, given the recent spurt in road-widening, construction, … Read More

How Birds Can Save the World: Talk by Prof. John W. Fitzpatrick — Christ University, Bengaluru, Jan 19, 2017

Ramki Sreenivasan

NCBS Science and Society Programme along with Christ University hosts a public lecture.

This is a multimedia lecture on the key role of birds and citizen science in understanding how we can prioritize, preserve, and manage earth’s natural systems. The speaker, John W. Fitzpatrick, is the Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. His current research focuses on the ecology, conservation biology, and population genetics of the endangered Florida scrub-jay. John will talk about the enormous … Read More

Bird Poaching in Bangalore’s Wetlands

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Bird poaching was one of the pressures that birds in the city faced in the 90’s. It was thought to have died down since then. So much so that, during the planning of the Bangalore Mid Winter Water Bird survey 2015-2016, the coordinators and those assisting in planning the survey had considered dropping some of the parameters such as bird netting, bird shooting, poaching, trapping, etc. However, we were in for a rude shock when we visited a few survey … Read More

Dead Bonelli’s Eagle

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I came across this ghastly sight in Wai, in Satara district, Maharashtra, where I had gone birdwatching. Someone had tied this dead Bonelli’s Eagle to a tree. There was a deep wound on the body near the wing. My enquiries with the people nearby did not reveal who was responsible. I reported it to the forest department. The sight deeply saddened me.

Bonelli’s Eagle populations have declined drastically throughout their range. In addition to persecution by hunters and pigeon fanciers, … Read More

Brutal hunting of birds, Baisha Bil, West Bengal

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On the morning of 5th September 2013, Sourav Mondal and I went to Baisha Bil (wetland) on a birding outing. There were hundreds of Baya Weavers, Zitting Cisticolas, and other birds in the wetland. We were shocked to see two people trapping many of these birds (mainly Baya Weavers) using nets. We heard from the local people that other birds, such as the Open-billed Stork, Little Egret, Pond Heron, and Lesser whistling Duck, are also trapped and killed in this … Read More

Poisoning Egrets for a Village Booze Party

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I recently witnessed a grotesque ritual in my village, Rettanai, near Chennai, Tamil Nadu. We grow paddy at our farm there, and the flooded fields form a nice breeding ground for frogs and crabs which attract egrets. One evening, three young men came to our farm and asked permission to cross our farm to go to the neighboring field. They were carrying an assorted collection of stuff in their hands, and out of curiosity I asked them what they intended … Read More

Egyptian Vultures near Hassan, Karnataka

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I spotted a group of over 25 Egyptian Vultures on 12th January 2013, near Hassan, Karnataka. A research paper by scientists from the Bombay Natural History Society (BHNS) shows that the number of vultures in the country increased marginally between 2011 and 2012. While it is heartening to hear of the stabilization, vulture populations are hardly out of the woods, until Diclofenac, the killer veterinary drug that wiped out vultures, is truly eliminated. Its use continues despite a ban. As … Read More

Growing City, Displaced Flamingos

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Kelambakkam is a brackish backwater lagoon situated near Chennai. The backwaters are heaven for waders, gulls, terns, pelicans, painted storks and cormorants. Greater flamingos have been spotted here regularly. During migration season, a lot of waders such as (Eurasian curlew, whimbrel, lesser and greater sand plovers, terns (little/gull billed/Caspian/whiskered), gulls, redshanks, greenshanks, stints, black winged stilts, pied avocets etc., are seen here. Kelambakkam is around 30 kms from Chennai city, and was pretty much undisturbed – until recently. Industrial and … Read More

Changing Landscapes

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Chennai is surrounded by a number of waterbodies. Kelambakkam backwaters, near Kovalam beach is home to a variety of birds that stop over on long migratory journeys. Some are local migrants like Painted Storks. Visitors from abroad include Flamingos, Western Reef Egrets and many species of Terns.

Storks like many birds wade in the shallows of the water bodies for catching fish and crabs, but the landscape around these water bodies is changing. With the city growing fast, an array … Read More

Strangled

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Once bustling with Snipes, Crakes and Sandpipers among other birds, the Rampura lake near Horamavu is now dying a slow, woeful death. A large area of the lake bed serves as a dumping ground for garbage and construction wastes. Water is choked by hyacinth and other weeds and a large electric line cuts right through the lake. However, there is no shortage of the number of ‘lake view’ property projects in the immediate vicinity.… Read More

Chilika – A Shade Less Pink?

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In the winter of 2011-2012, I had the unique opportunity and privilege of being in Lake Chilika, Odisha, for a total of 40 days. While there were many resident and migrant birds to admire, Greater and Lesser flamingos, which used to be regular and abundant visitors to Nalabana Island inside Lake Chilika, were noticeably few. Population studies (done between 2001 and 2005 by scientists from the Bombay Natural History Society) show that around 5000 Greater Flamingos used to arrive until … Read More

Hunting Downstream of Himayat Sagar Reservoir Near Hyderabad

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On the morning of 8th July, 2012, a little after 9 AM, I visited a place downstream of the Himayat Sagar Reservoir, about 20 kms away from Hyderabad. On my way I heard the sound of a gun shot, followed by panic stricken cries of Spot-billed Ducks, Peafowl and other birds. Upon reaching the spot, I saw two men, one of whom was perched on a bare tree with a rifle, while the other was resting on the opposite bank.  … Read More

Buzzard and Earth Mover, Hesaraghatta

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This image was made a few months back during the winter in Hesaraghatta, a lake on the outskirts of Bangalore city. The habitat is basically a grassland and semi shrub vegetation. During winter a large variety of birds such as kestrel, harriers (marsh, pied, montagu’s and pallid), common stonechat, steppe eagle, greater spotted eagle, zitting cisticola etc., migrate to this small area. Many months ago, the local development body had proposed to build a theme park this area – a … Read More

Migratory Birds Arrive at Bhitarkanika Wetlands

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Over 75,000 migratory birds have landed at Bhitarkanika National Park (BKNP) in Orissa. The birds are local migrants and will Bhitarkanika their seasonal home for nesting. Grey Herons, Purple Herons, Darters, Cormorants and Large, Intermediary and Little Egrets are prominent amongst the visitors. Bhitarkanika has little human interference, ideal climactic conditions, cool breeze and an ideal river system. All these have proved to be ideal conditions for the birds.

BKNP is intersected by a network of creeks with Bay of … Read More

India’s Vanishing Birds

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One of the most significant and exciting achievements of Indian ornithology, in recent years, was the rediscovery of the Jerdon’s Courser in 1986. The last authentic record, by Howard Campbell, was in 1900. First recorded by Capt. Surgeon T.C. Jerdon, an Indian Army Medical Officer, in 1848, it was subsequently reported by Blanford in 1867 and 1871. Always a rare bird, these limited sightings were restricted to a few river-valleys in Andhra Pradesh. Despite surveys by reputed ornithologists like Salim … Read More