Saturday, February 4

Jheel may see more birds than last two winters

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Over 3,000 migratory birds were recorded at the Santragachhi jheel on Thursday, barely a week after a 10-day cleanup operation was carried out to remove some hyacinth from the waterbody so that the birds could swim and roost there. The number eclipses the count of the last two winters.

Birds from the Himalayan foothills as well as those beyond the mighty mountains and as far as Eurasia travel to the 32-acre waterbody right next to the bustling Santragachhi station. But their numbers had been dwindling in the past couple of seasons owing to poor cleanup of the jheel that gets completely covered by hyacinth.

The lake’s cleanup that should have ideally been over by mid-October, began in the last week of November this year after citizens, including students, pooled in resources. The Howrah Police Commissionerate and Howrah Municipal Corporation joined in, providing manpower. “We were worried about the response of birds, given the delay in cleaning the lake. But the fears have been allayed by the recent arrivals. In the past 10 days, the count has increased from 800 to 3,000, with more birds arriving every day,” said Arjan Basu Roy of Nature Mates that cleaned the lake between November 21and December 3 and on December 8 and 9. Around 55% of the hyacinth cover has been removed. While some of it was dumped on the bank and ferried away, the rest were used to initially create around 12-14 floating islands. Around five were joined to create a large island that was put in the middle of the lake and others were placed around it. Most of the birds are currently roosting in the central island.

The delayed onset of winter seems to have helped. With temperature still hovering above the normal mark, birds are still hanging around in waterbodies in north Bengal and expected to move southward once the temperature dips. “Trans-Himalayan birds have entered India and are now resting in the north as the temperature is still comfortable there. Once it dips, the birds will start arriving here,” said Basu Roy.

Among the birds that have arrived are lesser whistling ducks, gadwalls, common moore hens and Indian cormorants. Common teal, northern pintail, ferruginous pochard, tufted duck, northern shoveler, baikal teal, red-crested pochard and Swinhoe’s snipe are expected to arrive in the next couple of weeks.

When the census is carried out on the second Saturday of January, birders expect the number to be nearly 5,232, a figure recorded three seasons ago. The peak season at the jheel is between December 20 and February 10.

Source: Times of India

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