Nature enthusiasts have voiced concern as the number of migratory birds flocking to the Ballavpur Wildlife Sanctuary in West Bengal’s Birbhum district has declined sharply this year.
Till 2022, the sanctuary witnessed thousands of winged guests but this year the population of the migratory birds is low, they claimed.
This wildlife sanctuary, spread over an area measuring only 2sqkm, is home to three large ‘jheel’ (water bodies) — Tank 1, Tank 2 and Tank 3 — which host migratory as well as resident birds.
While some avian species arrived at Tank 2, the population of birds visiting Tank 3 had declined considerably this year, they claimed.
Sandip Chatterjee, a Kolkata-based bird watcher and a neurosurgeon, who frequently visits Santiniketan said, “Even last year birds used to visit Tank 1 but I have not sighted a single one there this year.”
According to the bird count last year, 47 migratory birds visited Tank-1, 15,765 were spotted in Tank-2 and 5,311 birds were seen in Tank-3.
The exercise for this year is likely to be conducted on January 23.
Describing the declining avian population as “worrying”, Chatterjee blames the overgrowth of weeds and a drop in the water level of the tanks.
“A drop in the water level of Deer Park Lake, which is the feeding area for the birds, could be a major factor,” he said.
Dinabandhu Biswas, a Birbhum-based government-accredited wildlife volunteer said, “It is true that a lesser number of migratory birds have been spotted in this area this year. The movement of visitors, the noise of their vehicles and the habit of taking photographs are some of the reasons birdlife gets disturbed.
“Vegetative cover on water bird habitat has a direct correlation with the bird population. Effective water level and vegetation management are vital for the future of the Ballavpur Wildlife Sanctuary as an important wintering ground of migratory water birds.”
Pradip Halder, forest range officer, Bolpur, said, “I have come here recently so I cannot say how many birds used to come here earlier. A ‘haat’ (craft market) is held nearby. Hundreds of people visit the area and their vehicles create noise pollution.”
Moreover, musical instruments are played there, frightening the birds, he said.
But Halder denied that the water level has decreased to such an extent that it cannot attract migratory birds.
“There is enough water in the lake required for birds,” he said.
The water bodies of the sanctuary are important sites for migratory water birds, including Lesser Whistlings, Pintails, and Teals.
The sanctuary is also home to spotted deer, blackbucks, and jackals.
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