Unusual heat and lesser rainfall this winter turned away a large chunk of migratory birds from the shores of Madhya Pradesh, say bird experts.
Bhopal, with its six artificial and natural lakes, is a favourite spot for birders. But day temperatures during the winter months starting from October were at least 2-4 degrees Celsius above normal.
“According to reports, there has been a 25% to 30% drop in the number and diversity of migratory birds visiting the state,” said Sangeeta Rajgir, the state coordinator for Indian Bird Conservation Network, a wing of the Bombay Natural History Society.
“The number of Red Crested Pochards decreased from 5,000 in 2006 to 110-120 this winter. The fall in number is a continuing trend, but lack of rainfall and less-than-severe winter has exacerbated the matter this year,” said Rajgir.
Dr Jitendra Jatav, a wildlife veterinarian at Madhav National Park in Shivpuri, said the count of pelicans, which prefer deep water, came down from six pairs sighted last year to one this year due to less rainfall, which in turn has favoured bar-headed geese.
“With less rainfall, the width of the pond has shrunk, revealing green, moist area around the lake where the geese forage for food,” said Dr Jatav.
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Each year, around 25,000 migratory birds are sighted in Sirpur Lake, Yeshwant Sagar Lake and Kishanpura lake in Indore. But higher temperature seems to have taken a toll on the count.
Indore-based ornithologist Ajay Gadikar said: “There has been a 50% drop in the number of migratory birds compared to last year.”
“The area has received scanty rainfall. This means that although the lakes had water, many lesser known water bodies had nearly dried up, which resulted in fewer species flocking to the region,” said the ornithologist.
Bhalu Monde, president of Natural Volunteers, a bird watchers group, said high temperature in the afternoon was the main reason for birds avoiding the region. “They cannot bear the heat and went to cooler regions,” he said.
However, retired chief conservator of forest PM Laad said,”It is a continuing trend. Less rainfall might have contributed to the lesser number of migratory birds but we can’t be sure.”