Marginal drop in winged guests

Bhubaneswar: Over 8.93 lakh birds have thronged Chilika lagoon this winter though the number has shown a five per cent drop compared to last year. The annual bird census teams were, however, pleasantly surprised to spot Irrawaddy dolphins in newer areas of the 1,100 sq km lake.

The enumeration, which was carried out on Wednesday, revealed that at least 8,93,390 birds from 147 species visited the lagoon. Of them, 8,67,834 were waterfowls belonging to 95 species while the rest 25,556 were water-dependent species.

Compared to 2017, the number as well as species that showed up at the brackish water lagoon have witnessed a drop. Last year, about 9,47,119 birds from 167 species of birds had visited the lake. In the 15.4 sq km Nalabana Bird Sanctuary, the bird count stood at 3,20,826. Last year it was 3,74,757, Chilika DFO Bikash Ranjan Das said. The drop in the number is attributed to unseasonal rains that hit the State last year.

Chief Executive of Chilika Development Authority (CDA) Susanta Nanda said, good monsoon years generally report a drop because it leads to high level of water which is not conducive for birds.

Late last year, several low pressure systems triggered unseasonal rains in the State as a result of which water level in Nalabana as well as in smaller water bodies near Chilika have remained high. “We have decided to carry out a second monitoring of the birds during February,” Nanda said.

Another heartening sight that the census teams came across was Irrawaddy dolphins which were spotted in new areas. Though these cetaceans are concentrated in outer channel, southern and central sectors of Chilika, this time, the endangered dolphins were seen in northern sector as well as near Rambha.

The increased sighting of Irrawaddy dolphins is being attributed to absence of illegal gheries and fishing nets which has allowed free circulation of the cetaceans. The CDA which had carried out a massive demolition last year cleared about 135 sq km area of Chilika in the last seven months.-The New Indian Express

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