Amateur nature photographer Kunal Deshpande was taken by surprise when he compared a photograph of the Sewri mudflat taken a week ago to a two-year-old picture on his computer screen. “There are too many gaps in the canvas. The flamingos are fewer in number,” said the 27-year-old.
Deshpande’s observation is not a figment of imagination.
The number of the migratory birds visiting the city during winters has been dropping steadily, say environmentalists.
According to data collected by the Conservation Action Trust (CAT) a city-based
non-governmental organisation, flamingos visiting
the city have dropped from 25,000 to 10,000 in the past two years.
The larger concern is that changing weather patterns could be a major reason behind the trend, though no study so far has established that conclusively.
“The changing weather may have affected their mass migration patterns. Scattered flocks are seen at different sites,” said environmentalist Debi Goenka also the director of CAT.
Nikhil Bhopale from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) concurs, “Erratic rainfall patterns in the Rann of Kutch (Gujarat) has been influencing the migration of flamingos.”
Not just numbers, even the arrival patterns of the popular winter bird have been erratic since the last two years. In 2007 they came in March, the subsequent year they arrived in December and this year they are a month early. “Early arrival could be also due to changing weather,” added Goenka.
The disturbing trend is not limited to flamingos.
Several other winter birds like the Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Black Eagle and Tawny-bellied Babbler are rarely seen these days.
“Ideally the birds need sandy beaches and a rocky shore. But deteriorating coastal habitats have definitely affected the arrival of several regular wintering waders and other water birds over the past two decades,” said Sunjoy Monga, a naturalist, writer and photographer.
He however, said that it is premature to link the dwindling number of migratory birds to climate change.
Experts also feel that the trend could lead to larger ecological impacts. “Disappear-ing bird species cause gaps in the food chain,” added Bhopale.