Rare endangered birds spotted at Bhitarkanika

Kendrapara: Much to the ornithologists` delight, enumerators of state forest department have spotted rare groups of winged species of central Asian origin from the wetland spots of Bhitarkanika national park in Kendrapara district.

Though there has been marginal drop in number of birds this year, the marshy and swampy wetland spots in Bhitarkanika have again emerged as a congenial and human-interference-free winter habitat for the feathered guests from central Asian and Himalayan region.

If the latest census of these winged species, which concluded recently, is any indication, birds accorded `endangered` and rare status made their flight to Bhitarkanika for temporary winter sojourn.

Altogether 52,242 birds mostly winter migrant species were counted to have visited Bhitarkanika this year while the head-count figure of migratory birds stood at 53,136 in 2011.

"The drop in number is negligible. In all probability, frequent depression and cyclonic weather was a major deterrent for birds` flight to Bhitarkanika from far off places. The figure would definitely have shot up had the weather been more conducive, said Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, Divisinal Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (Wildlife) Forest division.

The major highlight of this year`s headcount exercise was the sighting of endangered and rare bird species. These species trans-migrated from Siberia, Ladakh, Lake Manosarovar and Himalayan region. The enumerators found these species fatigued after their long flight. Enumerators have spotted hordes of Greater crested tern, common shell duck and blue tailed godwits. All these species come under rare and threatened category.

This is for the first time that these species were sighted in Bhitarkanika although their number was less than a hundred.Their arrival was not earlier recorded by enumerators. Their flight owed it origin to Central Asian region. Unable to cope with extreme cold in their original habitat, the species preferred these congenial wetland spots, described DFO Mahapatra.

The prominent species having made Bhitarkanika their winter home are Brahmin Duck, Bar-headed Geesse, Godwin, Pintail, Painted Stork, Seagauls, Commonteal and Osprey. These species were spotted mainly along wetland spots of Satabhaya, Raipatia, Agarnasi, Bhitarkanika, Hukitola, Gupti Rajagada, Batighar, Jatadhara and Kalibhanjadiha. There is ample food security for the birds as the place is criss-crossed by innumerable water inlets and nullahs free of human interference, officials said.

Other prominent winged visitors to Bhitarkanika this time are Indian Skimmers, Grey Pelicans and White-backed vultures, Lesser adjutant, Grater spotted eagles.

All these sighted species are conferred the `endangered` status under the International Union for Conservation for Nature`s (IUCN) Red Book Data containing the list of highly-threatened animals worldwide.

These apart, other delicate and prominent birds sighted this time are Black-tailed godwit, Northern pin-tail, Lesser whistling duck, Grey plover, Egret spotted bills, Oriental darter, White belley seagull.

Lack of human interference, ideal climatic condition, cool breeze and the river system here all have emerged to the liking of these delicate winged species. The species of local migrants like Large egret, purple heron, open bill stork, grey heron, little cormorant and darter, wood pecker are also firmly ensconced along the tranquil environs of the sanctuary.

It may be noted that noted ornithologist Dr Salim Ali made a chance-discovery of Bhitarkanika birds habitat while on a casual visit there in 1981.