The first sighting this season of a pair of endangered Kharmor bird, Lesser florican, in the Shikarwadi area of the Sailana Bird Sanctuary on Wednesday has evoked excited cheers among ornithologists and bird lovers of Madhya Pradesh.
Sub-divisional officer (SDO) of Sailana sanctuary Bhagwati Pawar confirmed the sighting. "We received report of the spotting at around 10 am on Wednesday from the chowkidar... I myself went to the spot and saw the pair (as well)," SDO Pawar said.
The birds were spotted in the 200 hectares of grasslands, known as the Naulakha grassland or Naulakhabeed, in the Shikarwadi (hunting lodge in the Naulakha grassland) within the sanctuary.
Sightings of these elusive birds are becoming increasingly rare over the years, leading to fears that soon they may vanish from the state. Last year, according to official figures, 18 birds were spotted in the Sailana sanctuary.
The Sailana Bird Sanctuary spreads over 12.96 square kilometre in the Sailana and Piplioda blocks of the Ratlam district in Madhya Pradesh, and is one of two wildlife sanctuaries established exclusively for the conservation of the 'Lesser florican' in the state.
The other sanctuary is the Sardarpur Sanctuary in Dhar district, but due to destruction of the habitat, no birds have been seen there for the last two seasons.
Other than the above two, other places where Kharmors are found are the Petlawad range and some patches of grasslands near Ujjain.
The Kharmors, naturally shy birds, visit the sanctuary during monsoon to breed, which is in itself a sight of behold as its mating ritual involves the male bird jumping as high as eight feet in the air around 500 to 600 times a day to attract the female.
Ornithologist Ajay Gadikar, an expert on 'Lesser floricans', said the news was very exciting for bird lovers because the sighting of a single first pair could mean several others can be expected to arrive at the sanctuary in the coming days.
Gadikar noted that Sailana, which has been identified as a Important Bird Area by the Indian Bird Conservation Network, is the last hope for the survival of the endangered 'Lesser florican' in the state because in the only other sanctuary had already lost Kharmors - no birds have been spotted in the last two years and this year too, the chances of Kharmors visiting was slim because of destruction of the birds' habitat within the sanctuary.