Birding at Sulur Lake

It was the first time I went to see Sulur Lake, located a km from the bus stand. The lake was huge. I was invited by Mr. Sukumar, also called as Chinna Sathan, who wrote a book on nesting behaviour of Indian birds. He had given a talk on rescuing birds from fisherman’s net at Sulur Lake. It was a rainy day. As we walked by, the rains increased. My hopes almost crashed. Could I see any birds? As the rains subsided a bit, we walked for long. Chinna Sathan spoke about his passion for birds and shared what he learnt. When we were walking by, we saw four coots swimming in the water. A little egret was perched on a rock silently looking at the water. The clouds were turning greyish blue. Cormorants were flying up in the air. We stopped by, caught glimpses of these birds and walked further. He spoke about the local issues there.

Many fishermen threw fish eggs into the lake and disappeared. After 8 months or so, when they come back, they would cast a net on the lake. It did not matter to them if the birds were caught in the nest. Chinna Sathan saved a red vented bulbul and an egret from the clutches of the net.

A lot of Acacia trees were chopped ruthlessly by these fishermen as the net often got entangled in these. Acacia trees are important for roosting of these birds. Left with no place to roost, the birds got to the ground, walking on the land and swooping through the water. We went up to see if we could go to see the birds. Ramesh, the local boatman, gladly agreed to take us. The scene there just left me in a daze.

I saw more than dozens of spot billed pelicans and painted storks. As we went further, purple moorhens, grey herons and night herons were flying all around. I was stunned by the diversity. Here is the list of birds I documented:

Time: 5.30 pm to 6.pm

1. Spot billed pelican

2. Grey Heron

3. Painted Stork

4. Small Blue kingfisher

5. Purple Moorhen

6. Purple Heron

7. Black crowned Night Heron.

8. Pond Heron

9. Common swallow

10. Common Coot

11. Cattle Egret

12. Little Cormorant

13. Little Egret

14. Emerald Dove

15. Spot Billed Duck

16. White throated Kingfisher

Total species count-16.

By the end of bird watching, we got to sit by the lake and talk about the issues there. The cutting of Acacia trees seemed to pose the greatest threat here. There needs to be a combination of efforts from the local fishermen, the local panchayat, the boat man, to save the birds here. We need the fishermen to survive, the boat man to survive, the birds to roost and breed and the fishes too!

Here is what I think needs to be done now. Sign boards-not to honk the car, as a matter of fact, no vehicle should be allowed in the small walking path by the lake as it disturbs the birds. People who throw plastic away or garbage, there should be an effective monitoring system. The lake was choked by hyacinthe, plastic bottles and the paths filled with some plastic waste and paper. These are the basic issues which needs to be tackled. Else, the lake could turn out to be the next dumpyard. The need for effective monitoring needs to be done. This can be done by the boating team itself as they are around all the time. A strong community-based approach involving the locals in the issues, letting them know about the birds and the habitat they need to survive will do a lot.

The sun soon set and dozens of common swallows flew just above the water. It was a sight to watch! If these birds need to sustain here, we should stop using our free resource -water in a reckless manner. Also, we need to ensure we give the birds their share of their space on this planet. The world is theirs too.

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