The maiden monsoon bird survey in the South Wayanad forest division from September 8, organised jointly by the Forest Department, College of Forestry, Thrissur, and the Hume Centre for Ecology and Wildlife Biology (HCEWB), has recorded 118 species.
Steep mountains, deep gorges, leeches, and pouring rain were not a barrier for the determinant birders who took part in the three-day survey.
They climbed mountains such as Vellarimala (2,000 m above sea level), Elambilery (1,800 m), Chembra peak (1,900 m), Mandappara (1,200 m), Vannathimala (1,200 m), Kurichyarmala (1,500 m), and Banasuramala (2000 m above sea level) and crossed streams in spate to reach interior locations. Close to 35 bird watchers from Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu participated in the survey.
The survey found six species of bulbuls, seven species of babblers, five species of pigeons, nine species of raptors, and five species of woodpeckers. Sixteen species of waterbirds, including Great cormorant, Oriental darter, and Spot-billed duck, were found in the Banasura reservoir.
The survey team recorded a large number of Bright headed cisticola and Broad-tailed grass birds in the higher grasslands of the Chembra, Vannathimala, Kurichyarmala, and Banasura mountain ranges.
It recorded Ceylon Bay Owl and Painted Bush Quail at an elevation of 1,300 m on the Kurichyarmala. It also recorded 11 species of Western Ghats endemics.
“The presence of these birds shows higher conservation significance of the Wayanad grasslands,” C.K. Vishnudas and Rathish R.L of the HCEWB, which did scientific and technical coordination of the survey, said.
“We trekked 5-6 km a day and this was one of the toughest expeditions. There were plenty of leeches and the paths were slippery,” said Sahana and Swetha Bharthi from Mysuru, who led the camp at the Kurichyarmala said.
“One of the major limitations in the territorial forest division is the limited camping facility in the forest to support researchers,” Abdul Azeez, South Wayanad Divisional Forest Officer, said.
“The survey reports will be of great help for the conservation of the region,” he said.