An Amur falcon was sighted earlier this week on the campus of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) at Kodiakkarai, abutting the Point Calimere Sanctuary, in Nagapattinam district.
The bird, sighted for the first time in the area, was photographed by BNHS researcher Subhiksha Lakshmi Maxima.
“It is unusual to find the bird in south India. Usually, it takes the path of central India on its lengthy migration from the breeding grounds in Russia and China to South Africa,” said S. Balachandran, Deputy Director, BNHS.
The small, resilient birds make the daring voyage to winter in southern Africa. “The falcons are supposed to cross the Arabian Sea during their migration, but much is still unknown about the patterns of their estimated 22,000 km journey,” Mr. Balachandran said. A change in the wind pattern, caused by Cyclones Nivar and Burevi, could have been the reason for the lone falcon to find its way to Point Calimere.
Migratory birds have gathered in and around Point Calimere this northeast monsoon season.
For long-distance migratory shorebirds, staging as well as stopover sites are of critical importance. Shorebirds are sensitive indicators of global climate change, and the populations of many long-distance migrants are in decline, Mr. Balachandran said.
Rising sea level
“The rising sea level is certainly affecting migratory and wintering shorebirds, perhaps favouring some and not others. The birds seen here include flamingoes, painted storks, pelicans, gulls, ducks, terns, and a variety of shorebirds,” he added.
In early September, 85% of the migratory birds sighted were curlew sandpipers, an Arctic breeding species. During November, a change came about after the northeast monsoon hit the saltpans, swamps and marshes, bringing life to the region.
Due to the flooding of the bird areas in the Kodiakkarai region, the smaller waders had shifted to Siruthalaikadu, where mudflats are open. Kodiakkarai now has more longer and larger migratory birds, like Eurasian curlews and bar-tailed godwits, while the less flooded area of Siruthalaikadu has about 30,000 small waders and migratory ducks like northern pintails and garganeys. The waders, like sanderlings, Temminck’s stints, long-toed stints and oriental pratincoles, which were uncommon in Point Calimere, are being sighted now.
The duration of stay of the migratory birds depends on the retention of rainwater and the inflow of seawater into the swamp.