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Expect thousands of ‘dual citizens’ at election time

27 Oct

While the dual citizenship of presidential election candidates has been a hotly-debated topic in the political arena, it is expected that thousands of other “dual citizens” will be in Sri Lanka by election day in November.

Exhausted Indian Pitta found fallen on 28.10.2018. Pix by Sarath N. Senanayake

Some of them are eligible for European passports while others come from Asian countries.

None, however, will come through immigration channels, and they do not care at all about the political drama in Sri Lanka.

These dual citizens are migratory birds that come here annually from northern countries at this time.

About 2,500 of the 10,000 world bird species engage in long-distance migration as a response to changing weather and the availability of food, spending their life in different countries.

Nearly half – 245 species – of the 508 bird species recorded in Sri Lanka are migratory and generally begin arriving in late August, staying on here until about March-April next year before returning to their country of origin to breed.

“As the main steps of the migratory routine are predictable and move in a rhythm, bird migration can be considered to be like a ballet dance – in fact, bird migration could be called the greatest dance in the world,” ornithology expert Dr. Sampath Seneviratne told the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society this week.

A helping hand for the Indian Pitta

“Birds that breed in European countries such as Russia, and in Asian countries such as China, Mongolia, Afghanistan and India, migrate to Sri Lanka.

“We need more research on migratory patterns as there is a lot to unravel,” said Dr. Seneviratne, President of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) and a senior lecturer at the University of Colombo.

Historically, migrating birds are believed to have arrived in Sri Lanka along three main routes to Sri Lanka, using designated pathways. This view was based on observations carried out in colonial times.

“It is time to have more advanced research to link the dots with the use of new technologies,” said Dr. Seneviratne.

The traditional method of researching migration is carried out with the use of rings fixed on birds’ legs.

If a bird with a ring fixed by ornithologists in one country is found in another country it acts as proof of presence of the bird at two locations.
Science has led to improvements in tracking. The new trend is “geo-tagging”, in which scientists place a satellite tag on a bird. The tag emits signals that pinpoint the bird’s location.

Dr. Seneviratne said satellite tracking by India has led to findings that contradict traditional knowledge of the main routes used by birds migrating to Sri Lanka.

“Geo-tagging is expensive, so we can’t do it in Sri Lanka at this point,” he added.

A national bird-ringing program carried out by FOGSL and the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) under Professor Sarath Kotagama has revealed interesting patterns such as the same birds migrating annually to the same site – sometimes to the same plots – in a pattern used by their ancestors.

“Some people believe the ringing process puts birds in danger. But this is a myth and it is perfectly safe, and I’m bit disappointed when I hear such allegations,” the FOGSL President said.

“We need science, and without understanding birds, their behaviour and their migratory patterns it is not possible to conserve them.”

About an hour later the bird had revived

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/191020/news/expect-thousands-of-dual-citizens-at-election-time-374099.html published on SUndayTimes on 20.10.2019

Rare migratory night heron found exhausted

20 Nov

Published on SundayTimes on 20.11.2016 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/161120/news/rare-night-heron-found-exhausted-217581.html

A Malayan night heron, a rare migrant bird, appeared in a garden in Thimbirigasyaya this week, spotted by Rajini Jayawardena who lives in Siripa Road last Sunday night.

“It was a relatively large bird and was in the garden, hidden in the darkness. It didn’t fly away even when we went closer to it so I was worried about whether the bird was injured,” Ms. Jayawardena said.

The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL), based at the University of Colombo, was alerted and its MigrantWATCH team identified the bird as a Malayan night heron, which visits the country around this time.

As there were no visible injuries, the team believed the bird was exhausted and disoriented by its long flight of more than 2000 miles and decided to let it recover by itself.

Ms. Jayawardena kept a watchful eye on the heron to keep it safe from cats, crows and other predators. When even by Tuesday the bird did not show any improvement FOGSL decided to capture it and give it a check-up.

Dr. Sampath Seneviratne, who took care of the bird, said it had no injuries – it was simply exhausted. After receiving some first aid, the night heron was released to a better habitat in a Colombo suburban area.

Bird migration is in full swing with star migrants such as the greater flamingo flocking in their thousands in lagoons in the Jaffna peninsula, according to Janaka Bandara, who photographed these birds.

Global conservation giant meets in LankaThe Global Council of BirdLife International, the world’s largest partnership of conservation organisations with partners in more than 120 countries and territories, meets in Sri Lanka this week.

The organisation’s Chief Executive Officer, Patricia Zurita, said the meeting in Sri Lanka will contain important discussions. BirdLife Global Council’s local partner is the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL), represented by Professor Sarath Kotagama.

The public will have a chance to meet BirdLife International’s members and representatives of its Asian partners at the BirdLife Asian Partnership Bird Fair being held today from 7am-5.30pm at the Thalawathugoda Biodiversity Study Park located near the Kimbulawela end of the Japan-Sri Lanka Friendship Road. The event is free and more information can be obtained from http://www.birdfair2016.wordpress.com.

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They have flown a long way – be kind

11 Nov

Published on SundayTimes on 30.10.2016. http://www.sundaytimes.lk/161030/news/they-have-flown-a-long-way-be-kind-215495.html

As the bird migration season begins, experts are urging the public to watch out for exhausted migrants found in their gardens and neighbourhood in coming weeks.A number of exhausted or dead birds were found this week. A disorientated dead Indian pitta, commonly known as avichchiya, was found dead after having flown into a window at Pelawatte, birdwatcher Will Duncan reported on October 18. Another dead pitta was by seen Harshani Ratnayake the same day.
After flying hundreds of miles, weakened birds can easily become disorientated and lose their way. Records indicate Colombo can expect more Indian pittas this month so people are asked to be vigilant.

If an exhausted migrant is found, the bird should first be protected from predators such as dogs, cats, rats and crows. If the bird is able to fly and show recovery on its own, let it recover naturally under a watchful eye, the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) advises. Its MigrantWATCH program is aimed at assisting such troubled migrants.

If the bird is unconscious or takes a long time to recover keep it in a dark, quiet and warm place; a clean cardboard box with small holes for ventilation would be a good enclosure for the troubled bird. Handle the bird as little as possible to avoid adding to its stress.When the bird is able to fly, release it as soon as possible in a safe environment. Attend to traumatic injuries (broken bones) as necessary and if extensive care is needed, consult a veterinarian.

Launching MigrantWATCH 2016-17, biologist Vimukthi Weeratunga called for the protection of bird habitat. “Decades ago, we could see thousands of migrant birds in wetlands such as Bundala but such large flocks are rare today in southern Sri Lanka,” he said, using the example of the “star” migrant, the greater flamingo, that has abandoned the Bundala wetlands.

“Even small home gardens in Colombo could be vital for the survival of some of the migrant species so the public can do its part and make home gardens bird-friendly,” Mr. Weeratunga said.The blue-tailed bee-eater, forest wagtail, barn swallow, brown flycatcher and brown shrike are some of the common migrants to be seen even in Colombo.

Mr. Weeratunga, a veteran photographer, has photographed rare migrant birds and asked birdwatchers to be watchful because common-looking birds could turn out to be a rare migrant that might be paying their first recorded visit to Sri Lanka.The long-distance migrants can be badly affected by the impact of climate change. Last year, the University of Copenhagen conducted a study based on observations of thousands of volunteer birdwatchers across Europe and found that birds are affected by changing climatic conditions and that while some species benefit from these changes, birds of colder regions stand to suffer.

Sri Lanka lacks sufficient data to analyse the adverse effects of climate change and other environmental issues on birds so the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL), based at the University of Colombo, is calling on bird lovers to record sightings of migrants and submit them to the MigrantWATCH program.

As part of the program, the FOGSL has scheduled a two-hour public lecture by Professor.Sarath Kotagama on New Updates on Bird Migration on Saturday, October 29 at 9.30am at the Department of Zoology of the University of Colombo. A field visit to observe migrants in Colombo’s wetlands has been arranged for Sunday, October 30 starting from Thalawathugoda Wetland Park, from 6.30-9am.

These events are free and all are welcome, and the FOGSL is keen to meet those who are new to birdwatching. For more information about these events and how to be part of this Citizen Science program, call organisers on 0712289022 or email migrantwatch.srilanka@gmail.com.

Malaka Rodrigo is a coordinator of the MigrantWATCH programme.

Our feathered friends from across the seas are back

22 Sep

The birds are back and one of the earliest migratory visitors to Sri Lanka away from the harsh winters in the north is the Blue-Tailed Bee-Eater, point out Ornithologists. 

Blue-tailed Bee-eater (c) Rajiv Welikala - Copy

One of the early migrants: The Blue-Tailed Bee-Eater. Pic by Rajiv Welikala

These birds leave their breeding grounds mainly in northern India and settle down here in various parts of the country, even in our home gardens. As its name implies the bird’s staple diet consists of flying insects such as bees dragonflies and butterflies. In the absence of trees their favourite perching platforms consists of television antennas and electric wires, making them a common sight even in a busy urban environment.

It has been recorded that some migratory birds arrive in Sri Lanka as early as August, but a majority make their journey from mid-September to October.

While some of these migrants fly into wetlands and forested areas, many of them opt for home gardens in urban areas. The Barn Swallow, Forest Wagtail, Brown Shrike, Brown Flycatcher, Asian Paradise Flycatcher (sudu redi hora) and Indian Pitta (Avichchiya) are a familiar sight in home gardens this time of the year.

The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) has this year too asked bird enthusiasts and other householders to keep an eye on who comes when and who leaves when, to help build up more data on migrant birds. In 2011 the group launched the programme, Migrant WATCH, to promote the observation of migrants and in turn their safety.

A Slaty-legged Crake rescued from the heart of Colombo a couple of years ago

Sometimes these migrants exhausted by their long-distance flight collide with window panes and get hurt. They can also become easy prey to domestic cats and dogs.

Bird experts say if one finds a migrant bird in distress put it in a cardboard with a few holes for ventilation and place the box in a quiet warm place. It if is too weak to fly it is recommended that small amounts of low concentrated glucose saline with Vitamin C be given. When the bird is able to fly again release it in a proper environment, the experts say.

Join these events 

The Migrant WATCH will be launched on September 29 (Sunday) with a birding session at the Thalangama Tank in Battaramulla at 7 a.m. A lecture on ‘Waders and Other Migrant Birds’ will be delivered the day before, September 28 (Saturday) at 9.30 a.m. at the Zoology Department of the University of Colombo. The FOGSL especially welcomes those who are new to bird watching to take part in these events

Some of the other events organised include a wader workshop at the Bundala National Park (from October 16-20)) and a field visit to Mannar (December 13-16). For more information about these programmes contact FOGSL on 2501332 or 0718440144 or email fogsl@slt.lk

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/130922/news/our-feathered-friends-from-across-the-seas-are-back-63367.html

Migratory birds under threat

22 Sep

by Dhaneshi Yatawara (22.09.2013 SundayObserver)

Most of the wetlands in the country where many migratory water birds gather are under increasing pressure due to human activities such as land filling, said environmentalists.

The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka citing an example said that flamingoes found in large numbers at the Bundala wetland have become scarce in the recent past. This could be due to the decreasing number of small crustaceans on which flamingoes feed.

“The change of salinity of the lagoon due to the inflow of freshwater from irrigated lands had killed small crustaceans.

Hence the birds move away looking for new feeding areas,” a spokesperson for the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) said. These migratory birds comprise around 36 percent of the total number of bird species in Sri Lanka.

This is the time when birds start migrating to Sri Lanka. 

The worldwide habitat destruction is affecting the regular migratory routes including resting and feeding sites, threatening their survival. Sri Lanka has become the destination for many migrant birds, who fly in the Central Asian Flyway covering a large area from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean. Some common migratory birds include Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Brown Flycatcher, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Forest Wagtail and Indian Pitta.

The FOGSL has launched a program ‘Migrant Watch’ to promote observation and conservation.

This is also a citizen science project where the public can help gather data. The ‘Migrant Watch’ will be launched on September 29 to watch birds at the Talangama Tank in Battaramulla at 7 am. A lecture on ‘Waders and other migrant birds” will also be held on September 28 at 9.30 am at the Department of Zoology, University of Colombo. It is open to the public free.

http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2013/09/22/new11.asp 

Bird watching season begins

22 Sep

September 20, 2013, 9:58 pm – By Ifham Nizam  written to The Island newspaper

article_imageThe Migrant watch, a much awaited event among bird lovers, will be launched this year on Sunday (29) with a watching session at Talangama Tank in Battaramulla starting at 7.00 a.m. Migrant watch is a concept promoted by Prof. Sarath Kotagama of the Department of Zoology, University of Colombo.

A lecture on ‘Waders and Other Migrant Birds’ will also be held on Saturday (28) at 9.30 a.m. at the Department of Zoology. Both these events are free and open to public. The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) specially welcomes those who are new to bird watching to take part in these events.

September to end of April is the period for many birds to migrate to Sri Lanka to avoid the harsh winters in the north. Few of these migrants, such as Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Brown Flycatcher, Forest wagtail, Asian Paradise Flycatcher (sudu redi hora) and Indian Pitta (avichchiya) even visit home gardens.

“Hundreds of Greater Flamingos, Gargenies, Plovers as well as globally threatened Spoonbill Sandpiper are known to feed in our coastal wetlands. They provide a boost to the biological wealth and economy and therefore it is our responsibility to safeguard them until they leave our shores,” a spokesman for the FOGSL said.

Aiming to provide an opportunity for public to get closer to nature through birds, the FOGSL initiated Migrant watch in 2011 to promote observation and keep records on migrants.

http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=88494