A record one million migratory birds congregate for winter sojourn
Ornithologists, bird lovers and photographers from all over the country assembled at the scenic Mangalajodi, on the banks of Chilika lake in Odisha, on Sunday to celebrate the annual congregation of migratory birds.
Bird lovers went by boats in the sprawling waters of Chilika and watched birds that had migrated to the famous wintering ground after flying thousands of miles.
Photo exhibitions and seminars on birds are the main feature of the two-day National Chilika Bird Festival inaugurated by the State Tourism Minister Ashok Panda on Sunday. Participants are scheduled to visit the Nalbana Bird Sanctuary on Monday.
“We are extremely happy to have participants from all over the country. This year we have around one million migratory birds present in Chilika. We are recognising the efforts by the locals in preserving the Chilika Lake and want to empower them by helping them with livelihood in the form of sustainable tourism. Every participant of bird festival is an ambassador of this place and we hope the message spreads,” State Forest and Environment Secretary Suresh Mohapatra said.
The National Chilika Bird Festival Award was awarded to Mangalajodi Ecotourism Group for their active involvement in bird protection.
“This year Chilika has received record number of birds as a result of removal of illegal gheries [prawn-rearing enclosures] from the lake by the forest department,” said Susanta Nanda, chief executive of the Chilika Development Authority (CDA).
Bird count this year in Chilika was 10,47,968 with 181 species (10,21,563 waterfowl of 105 species and 26,405 water dependent birds of 76 species). Last year, it was 8,93,390 of 147 species (8,67,834 waterfowl of 95 species and 25,556 water dependent of 52 species).
The CDA also released its book Fish and Shellfish Diversity and its Sustainable Management in Chilika Lake. Around 145 bird watchers from all over India are in attendance for the event.
Andrew Sebastian, co-founder of Asian Bird Fair, spoke about the importance of preserving birds and praised the efforts made to organise the bird festival, one of its kind in the country.
Major avian stopover
Chilika, which lies in the Central Asian Flyway for birds, is a major stopover site for migratory birds from the Arctic and Sub-Arctic regions during their onward and return migration along the east coast. Habitats such as mudflats, floating and submerged vegetation, reed beds, open waters with varying depth and salinity attract a variety of migratory and resident bird species.
Chilika Lake has been recognised as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
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