The Kawal Tiger Reserve in northern Telangana is seeing the arrival of several migratory bird species for the first time. The latest to wing its way to the reserve is the Northern pintail (Anas acuta), an elegant long-necked duck that is native to the northern areas of Europe. These migratory birds make the nearly 7,000 kilometre journey to escape the harsh winter of their breeding grounds and spend the winter months in the warmer regions of Asia.
Also sighted have been the Eurasian teal (Anas crecca), also known as the common teal, or Eurasian green-winged teal, a migratory duck from the temperate Eurosiberia geographic region.
Flocks of the Northern pintail and the Eurasian green-winged teal were sighted in the Akondpeta water body, a large percolation tank, and in the Udumpur forest range area and the Kalpakunta water body in the Kaddam forest ranges in the proximity of Kalpakunta and Akondapet villages. Both the Udumpur and Kaddam forest ranges are in Telangana’s Khanapur forest division. Interestingly, both the water bodies are man-made, created by personnel from the Khanapur Forest Division with the sole purpose of holding rainwater.
Foresters believe that the creation of percolation tanks and check dams and the repair of old structures and breached tanks are bringing the migratory birds, including some rare species, to the forest ranges of the Khanapur forest division, including the Kawal Tiger Reserve. Though the region receives copious rainfall, varying between 900 mm to 1100 mm every year, and is a major catchment area for the Godavari and rivulets such as Peddavagu and Kadam, the entire rainwater drains into the Godavari within hours on account of the gradient of the terrain. Scarcity of water was a major hindrance to the management of the habitat and tiger conservation in the region.
Speaking to Frontline, the Khanapur Forest Divisional Officer U. Koteshwar Rao said that the birds would stay in these waters for a month or two before returning to their native countries for breeding. Said Koteshwar Rao: “They usually migrate from Europe to Manjeera, Usman Sagar and other water bodies around Hyderabad in winter, but the huge water bodies the department has created in and around the Kawal Tiger Reserve has attracted them, and they have been sighted for the first time in the region in recent years.” He explained that the Northern pintail, which belongs to the Anatidae family, “dabbles on the surface of the water and filters out seeds and insects with its bill, and migrates in large groups”.
Koteshwar Rao and other foresters from Nirmal district told Frontline that the adherence to the 17-18 commandments – including improving biodiversity, creating grasslands, resting areas, artificial nesting sites, and so on — as specified by the Conservator of Forests/Field Director, Kawal Tiger Reserve, during the construction of every water body had yielded good results by way of conservation and habitat improvement.
Added Koteshwar Rao: “Another interesting occurrence was that the River lapwing, which is rarely sighted inland, was sighted on January 28 in the paddy fields of Chinna Bellala village and on the Godavari river bed. The River lapwing has been listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as near threatened.”