By Benjamin Clement & Tarun Singh
The Eastern Ghats and Telangana Programme of WCS - India conducted the annual Asian Waterbird Census on the 27th & 28th of January in ten wetlands in and around their project sites across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana with the help of WCS-India staff, the Forest Department and Volunteers. The exercise was carried out to mobilise the team in undertaking global monitoring and conservation initiatives.
Each team was responsible for counting wintering and resident waterbirds and assessing the wetlands in terms of habitat quality, uses, permanency and threats. Commonly known as the ‘January Census’, this exercise is undertaken to evaluate the health of wetlands, which form a critical part of our ecosystems. The aim was to identify the numerical size of the waterfowl populations; study changes in the number and distribution of these populations. One of the vital processes is to identify essential wetlands and help conserve them. These, in turn, assist in protecting and managing waterbird populations through international conventions, national legislation and other means.
Each landscape team identified two wetlands from their areas and conducted these surveys. Many established birding societies and groups also volunteered with the teams. The Kawal (Core) led by D Venkatesh & R Thirupathi conducted these surveys in Gadham Cheruvu (Cheruvu meaning lake in Telugu) and Maisamakunta. The Kawal (buffer) team headed by G Harshavardhan were part of the same exercise in Marthadi Cheruvu and Bokki Vagu. In Hyderabad, Imran and the team conducted these surveys in Osman Sagar lake (Gandipet) and Himayat Sagar lake. Bapureddy and the Amrabad TR team run them in Pichakuntla Cheruvu and Rasool Cheruvu. Sridhar, Tarun & Subin covered the rest of the Nallamala landscape. A total of 10092 individuals of 53 waterbird and wetland-dependent species were counted. The major highlights include Red-crested Pochards and Tufted Ducks from Kawal Corridor, Bar-headed Geese from Nagireddyppalle Cheruvu, Greater Flamingos in Alagunuru reservoir in Kurnool, and Caspian Terns and Brown-headed Gulls from the Vellogodu reservoir. The significant threats observed were pollution, cattle grazing, conversion for agriculture and hunting of waterfowl.
With the changing irrigation and land-use pattern, there seems to be a dispersal of waterbirds from ever-shrinking and vanishing natural water bodies to more altered habitats such as irrigation impoundments, lakes, tanks and ponds created out of modern agricultural, aquaculture and drinking water supply needs.
The team observed how agricultural fields, mainly paddy, now act as surrogates for the main wetlands (Refer: Surrogate Wetlands by Tarun Singh). With this shift, there is an immediate need to focus conservation efforts on these altered sites involving local stakeholders with Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs).
Read more: https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/2023/jan/29/rare-species-seen-during-asian-water-bird-survey-2023-in-kawal-reserve-2542340.html