“With every passing year, the set of activities and achievements especially in the first three months is on rise by manifolds. The outreach and education programs which are close to our hearts has witnessed some amazing numbers. This year’s AWC was a top notch for the district as birders covered 50+ wetlands in total. In the GBBC, it was once again our stellar show for the second successive year. Sightings and records which are entered in eBird are only taken into account towards the writing of this e-magazine. SOF’s take on COVID-19 is given in the end.” —Ganeshwar SV.
ASIAN WATERBIRD CENSUS
The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) is part of the global International Waterbird Census (IWC). This citizen-science programme is supporting conservation and management of wetlands worldwide. It was conducted from January 4 to 19, 2020 covering two weeks and three weekends. The AWC also welcomes counts from any date in January. Checklists were shared with AWC India eBird account.
This year SOF birders Angeline Mano, Divya Subramani, Ganeshwar SV, Kalaiselvan V, Rajangam P and Senthil Kumar S covered 50+ wetlands in Salem including 1) Kannankurichi (Mookaneri) Lake, 2) Kolanthampatty Lake, 3) Kumaragiri Lake, 4) Muthunaickenpatti Lake, 5) Omalur Lake, 6) Erumapalayam Lake, 7) PMP Nagar Lake or P. Nattamangalam Lake, 8) Poolavari Lake, 9) Panamarathupatti Lake, 10) Danishpet Lake, 11) Danishpet Chinna Lake, 12) Kamalapuram Lake, 13) Kamalapuram Periyeri Lake, 14) Pavalathanoor Lake, 15) Periya Kadampatti Lake, 16) Pallapatti Lake, 17) Selathampatti Lake, 18) Ismail Khan Lake, 19) Rettiyur Road Lake near Nangavalli, 20) Chinna Pethanaickenpalayam Lake, 21) Thennangudipalayam Lake, 22) Periya Urani Lake near Jalakandapuram, 23) Kattinayakanpatty Lake, 24) S.E.M Road Lake, 25) Panangadu Lake, 26) Muttal Lake, 27) Kottapuli Lake, 28) Vellarivelli Lake, 29) Kottanathan Lake, 30) Sengadu/Jangama Samudram Lake, 31) Sentharapatti Lake, 32) Sarkar Nattamangalam Lake, 33) Thalavaipatty Lake, 34) Pethanaickenpalayam Lake, 35) Manivilundan Lake, 36) Thalaivasal Lake, 37) Aragalur Periyeri Lake, 38) Sitheri Lake, 39) Vellaiyur Lake, 40) Nallur Lake, 41) Veeraganur Lake, 42) Navalur Lake, 43) Punalvasal Lake, 44) Chinna Punalvasal Lake, 45) Saarvaai Lake, 46) Thodavoor Lake, 47) Anayampatti Lake, 48) Naduvaneri Lake, 49) Valasakkalpatti Lake or Veera Ramar Dam, 50) Selliyampalayam Lake, 51) Kondayampalli Lake, 52) Ariyapalayam Lake.
Apart from surveying the lakes, the team also visited 10 different spots along the Cauvery river and dam of the Stanley Reservoir, Mettur. All the locations in and around the reservoir will collectively be referred to as the Mettur Cluster henceforth—16 Gate Ellis Surplus Sluices, Mettur Dam View Point, Sampalli & Moolakkadu, Chinna Mettur, Pannavadi, Kaveripuram, Kottaiyur & Chettipatty and Thippampatty, Keerakaranoor, Koonandiyur. Additionally, the team visited Vashishta River near Thulukkanur and Aragalur area. Special thanks to Sathiyamoorthi T, a school teacher near Thalaivasal who hosted us at his place, which is why we were able to successfully cover the wetlands in the eastern border of the district. All these efforts resulted in the record of 133 species during the AWC. Detailed analysis to be published soon.
One of the wetlands covered during AWC. Photo: Ganeshwar SV
On January 10, 2020, an outreach program emphasizing the importance of learning birds and nature through games was conducted at Panchayat Union Primary School, Jambuthumalai by bird educators Angeline Mano and Ganeshwar SV. The session was supported by the school headmaster Kalaiselvan V. Early Bird educational materials were highly useful tools for activity-based teaching. After the games, children were taken for a bird walk and pocket guides were presented to them.
On January 13, 2020, an lecture-cum-games session was conducted at Government Tribal Residential School, Kunnur, Karumandurai by bird educators Angeline Mano, Divya Subramani and Ganeshwar SV. Pongal festival was also celebrated at the school premises. Students while enjoying the sweetness of Pongal were encouraged to watch birds which came to eat some of the spilled food. They enthusiastically identified Crows, Mynas, Babblers and couple of Peafowls. Thanks to Perumal Madhu Naveen and Kalaiselvan V for the support and opportunity towards the event.
6th PONGAL BIRD COUNT
Similar to the previous years, Salem birders enthusiastically participated in the sixth Pongal Bird Count (January 16-19, 2020) held in Salem, coordinated by Salem Ornithological Foundation. This year, the focus was given to the wetland habitats so as to contribute to AWC as well. The results of 2020 PBC will soon be published by the Tamil Birders Network.
On January 21, 2020, the students of Panchayat Union Middle School, Latchumayur were briefed by Angeline Mano and Divya Subramani about the importance of Campus Bird Count and origami, memory game with Early Bird flashcards were also played. “It’s just for one day; we don’t mind having lunch at all. We want to play more; let’s play more, akka. When will you come back again?” These were some of the loud, collective voices from students which was a proof of their enjoyment and fun. Thanks to the headmaster Palanivel for hosting our team.
Enthusiastic bunch of Latchumayur School students. Photo: Ganeshwar SV
On January 21, 2020, a new birding club was inaugurated at Panchayat Union Middle School, A.P. Vattam after the talk on introduction to birding and campus bird count by educators Divya Subramani and Angeline Mano. Thanks to the teacher C Santhosh Kumar for the opportunity and organizing the session.
On February 13, 2020, a lecture on introduction to birds and Campus Bird Count was conducted by Ganeshwar SV at Panchayat Union Middle School, Mattayampatti. The session was coordinated and supported by the school teacher Janakiraman Mani.
On February 13, 2020, an interactive session on common birds and Campus Bird Count was conducted by Ganeshwar SV at Panchayat Union Middle School, Sengodanur. After the session a birding club named Purple Sunbird Birding Club was also inaugurated. The event was coordinated by the school teacher Karthi Athish.
BIRDS & BUTTERFLIES SURVEY
The Birds and Butterflies Survey of Salem district was jointly conducted by the Salem Forest Department and the Salem Nature Society on February 14-16, 2020. As per reports, 214 bird species and 136 butterfly species were recorded during the survey. District Forest Officer A. Periasamy, I.F.S, said that based on the proposals in the report, steps would be taken to conserve and preserve the habitats and host plants here. (Source and for more details: The Hindu)
8th GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT
The global Great Backyard Bird Count takes place every year over four days (Friday – Monday) around the middle of February. Since it is carried out at around the same time every year, GBBC helps create an annual, real-time snapshot of what birds are where. GBBC 2019, which took place from 14th – 17th February 2020, was the eighth in India.
For the second straight year, Salem had uploaded the most number of checklists (10,455) by any district in the world! (Source:BCI) Birders of Salem district especially from Salem Ornithological Foundation made huge contributions and six of the Top 10 birders in the World and India are from our team. In terms of massive coordinated efforts by schools, the maximum number of checklists uploaded belonged to four Panchayat Union Middle Schools–Krishnampudur (3,715 checklists), A.P. Vattam (513), Latchumayur (454), Souriyur (164) and Thalavaipatty (55). Many thanks and congratulations to all the participants and the headmasters and teachers of the schools. To see the complete results of Great Backyard Bird Count–India, please click here.
(Note: the numbers on the eBird website may differ a little from those presented in Bird Count India because of slight differences in methods of calculation)
WORKSHOP ON BIRD IDENTIFICATION
On March 15, 2020, Salem Ornithological Foundation in coordination with Tamil Nadu Science Forum (Salem) conducted one-day workshop on bird identification hosted by Sri Seshaas International Public School, Yercaud Foothills, Salem. The participants were exposed both to classroom and field session which made the workshop a complete one.
Ganeshwar SV addressing on the basics of bird identification. Photo: Venkatesh S
On March 17, 2020, Kalaiselvan V recorded TICKELL’S THRUSH Turdus unicolor for the second time in Salem district. To see the complete checklist, please click here.
TICKELL’S THRUSH photographed by Kalaiselvan
SALEM BIRDERS AS EDUCATORS IN NON-SALEM EVENTS
On February 29, 2020, our member and teacher Rajangam P was invited to give a talk on the introduction to birds and he inaugurated two birding clubs in Swami Vivekananda Nursery and Primary School and Panchayat Union Middle School, Ponnusangampatti – both the schools in Tiruchirapalli district.
On March 8, 2020, a nature walk was organized by the Tamil Nadu Science Forum (Krishnagiri) for Thulir Illam students and Rajangam P was invited as the resource person for the event.
On March 8, 2020, “Super Kids for Birds” was organized by Podhigai Charal and Payilagam at Chennai and Ganeshwar SV from Nature Conservation Foundation was invited as the resource person. Children were taught to play memory game with flashcards, sketching birds, thumb art and clay modelling which they enjoyed a lot. Snippets from the session were also telecasted in a leading Tamil news channel, Puthiya Thalaimurai. Thanks to Aravind Amirtharaj, an expert birder based in Chennai and Ramanujam Krishnan of Podhigai Charal for the opportunity.
COVID-19 and LOCKDOWN
While everyone of us would have hoped for a good year to continue, unfortunately, disaster struck in the form COVID-19 and the whole world was brought down to its knees and is struggling to survive. Please don’t be misguided by false statements and unproven theories that bats were the reason for this virus. One: So far, there is no evidence that bats are carriers of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Because, “The current pandemic virus, SARS-CoV-2 has not been identified in any bat species, to date.” Two: Of the thousands of bat species around the world, only one — the intermediate horseshoe bat — is linked to COVID-19, that too indirectly. And the chances of you finding a horseshoe bat in your urban or rural household are supremely slim, for these bats do not venture near human habitations. Bats are pollinators, seed dispensers, pest controllers and do a lot for the spaces we inhabit. Unfortunately, most of us are unaware of it. (Source and for more details: The Hindu) We request birders and everyone around the world to adhere to the guidelines and safety measures announced by the Governments with inputs from the scientific community. The Government of India announced the nationwide lockdown on March 24, 2020, which is officially still in place after many phases. Members of SOF have also volunteered towards the relief measures. These are tough times for all of us and let us hope for the best to pass this threat sooner. May we all learn lessons, start to respect and treat the planet better for the future generations.