Rich pickings await bird lovers here

05th May 2009 10:23 AM

PIRAVOM: The opening of an information centre at the Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary at Thattekkad has come as a boon for the bird lovers visiting the place. The centre features photographs of rare birds stuffed birds and still models of all bird species found in the forests of Kerala.

An Eco Development Committee (EDC) has been formed by the Forest Department for managing the centre.

A mural portrait of Ali welcomes the visitors at the entrance. An interpreter is at hand to narrate the Dr Ali’s ‘special relationship’ with the sanctuary-and much more.

Dr Ali first visited Thattekkad in 1933 on an invitation by the Maharaja of Tranvancore for conducting an ornithological survey of Travancore and Cochin forests.

During his first visit, Ali recorded nearly 167 bird species of the Travancore and Cochin forests. His second visit was in 1980s, during when he extensively studied the Thattekkad habitat because of the evergreen forest and presence of comparatively more migratory birds.

This was when he sent a missive to the government, appealing that the Thattekkad be declared a National Bird Sanctuary.

In 1984, the State Government obliged. Now it has become a mandatory pit stop, or more, for Indian and international species of migratory birds.

Of the total 12,000 bird species in the world, 1,200 are found in India. And Kerala is home to 600 of them, of which 320 are regulars at Thattekkad.

“The evergreen forests, freshwater, wetland and an amiable eco-system provide the right habitat for a variety of birds. The natural water bodies inside the 25-km sq km are ideal hang-outs for resident and migratory birds,” says ornithologist R Sugathan.

To collect the rain water, the Forest Department has constructed six check-dams in and around the area.

The Boothathankettu dam also helps keep lake full of water. A bird watcher can observe different varieties of the winged beauties deep inside the jungle. But a single visit is just not enough for an ordinary visitor to ‘size up’ a bird species. Therein lies the interpretation centre’s immense utility.

The centre displays a photograph of the endangered Ripli owl. It was first found in 1974 in the Nelliampathy forests. It is found only in Kerala forests.

The photographs displayed in different categories include those of 27 water-birds and 296 land-birds that were identified at Thattekkad.

The info-centre also exhibits 120 stuffed butterflies that were spotted in the sanctuary.  The EDC has appointed 13 guides to help the bird watchers. The bird population has been high this season compared with last season, says Sugathan.

But global warming seems to have taken its toll on a number of migratory birds. A scientific study is needed to assess the implications of the global warming for birds, says Sugathan.

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