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Spoon-billed Sandpiper found in Sri Lanka!

25 Jun

The last record of a sighting in Sri Lanka was 40 years ago in 1978 and for many years, birdwatchers in the country have been on the look-out for it here. http://www.sundaytimes.lk/180624/news/spoon-billed-sandpiper-found-in-sri-lanka-299443.html

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Vankalai Sanctuary. Pic by Ravi Darshana

As afternoon was slowly fading into evening, around 5 p.m. on June 6, an Executive in a finance company, Ravi Darshana, was returning home after work in Mannar, through the Vankalai Sanctuary when he saw an interesting sight.

At a water body, just 25 metres from the road, he saw a flock of 250-300 ‘loitering’ shorebirds. This was not the time of year for the sanctuary to hold multitudes of migrant waterbirds, for they had left two months before, most returning home far to the north of Sri Lanka, from where they had flown here to avoid the winter.

However, Ravi, a Ceylon Bird Club (CBC) member, could make out a mix of mainly Kentish Plovers and Lesser Sand (Mongolian) Plovers with a few Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints. The latter three being the most numerous of the shorebird species that visit Sri Lanka and the first being quite common.

Two of the birds were feeding together separately from the rest and Ravi, focusing his binoculars on them, identified one as a Little Stint. The other, he noted, was of similar plumage but slightly bulkier in appearance……..and then he saw the unmistakable bill.

It was a Spoon-billed Sandpiper!

Ravi had spotted the little shorebird with the strikingly shaped bill, Calidris pygmaea, rated as ‘Critically Endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Sunday Times understands that the Spoon-billed Sandpiper has attracted much attention towards its protection in recent times. Seen in South India until 1996, there had been no records since then in that country, until April this year when it was seen in Bengal, adjacent to Bangladesh.

While the IUCN states that the Spoon-billed Sandpipers are “an extremely small population that is undergoing an extremely rapid population reduction”, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology points out that there could be “as few as 100 breeding pairs remaining”.

And on June 6, Ravi had seen this elusive shorebird, for whom birdwatchers in Sri Lanka have been on the alert because of the value to ornithology in knowing if its range had extended again and as a “prize” sighting.

Ravi, had joined the CBC a little more than a year ago, becoming an exceptional field ornithologist, recording one species new to the country and several which are very rare, in this brief time.

Spoon-billed Sandpipers breed in the eastern-most end of Asia and annually migrate along the shore of the continent to South-East Asia and the Bay of Bengal. Their population was naturally small to begin with and has declined dangerously. This is believed to be due to the loss of wetlands in its migratory and wintering range, caused by human activity, according to the CBC.

This has resulted in the setting up of a ‘Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force’ comprising numerous scientists and conservationists of many countries.

Explaining how Ravi had seen a flock of shorebirds, when most had left, the CBC said that young shorebirds which migrate for the first time, having left the breeding grounds a few months after their birth, do not return there at the end of their first winter. The great majority of them fly back part of the way to different summering grounds. A few of them ‘over-summer’ or ‘loiter’ on in the wintering grounds through the summer and stay the following winter as well. With some species this may happen a second time. After the next winter, they return home to breed. Until this time they also retain their less colourful winter plumage, which blends with their southerly surroundings.

Sri Lanka lies at the end of the great Central-South Asia ‘flyway’, one of the world’s major migration routes for birds which annually move south from the northern winter. For the hundreds of thousands of birds which winter in the island, there are two entry-and-exit pathways: The Jaffna Peninsula and Mannar, partly via the Adam’s Bridge islands. Most of the waterbirds remain in the north throughout the winter, staying within either region or flying between them.

It is possible that among these multitudes of birds, Spoon-billed Sandpipers arrived in Sri Lanka in any or all of the past years and were missed. The present bird was more conspicuous because it stayed on after the flocks of other shorebirds had left, the CBC said, adding that “now we know that the species still does migrate as far as its natural south-western limit, Sri Lanka, as it did before its population declined”.

The CBC is in contact with the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force and Wetlands International regarding the find and the follow-up to it.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper at a glance
The Spoon-billed Sandpiper has a naturally limited breeding range on the Chukotsk peninsula and southwards to the isthmus of the Kamchatka peninsula, in north-eastern Russia…It migrates down the western Pacific coast through Russia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, mainland China, Hong Kong (China), Taiwan (China) and Vietnam, to its main wintering grounds in southern China, Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh and Myanmar, according to the IUCN.Referring to its habitat and ecology, the IUCN states that it has a very specialised breeding habitat, using only lagoon spits with crowberry-lichen vegetation or dwarf birch and willow sedges, together with adjacent estuary or mudflat habitats that are used as feeding sites by adults during nesting. The species has never been recorded breeding further than 5 km (and exceptionally once, 7 km) from the seashore.

 

Protecting migrant birds
Congratulating Ravi on the “wonderful” find of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, the Ceylon Bird Club (CBC) Chairman Dr. Pathmanath Samaraweera says that the CBC kept the news limited for a short period of time to allow the study of the bird, as there is a present tendency for “photographic trophy hunters” to chase after rare birds, disturbing them.“The CBC is happy that Vankalai Sanctuary and Veditalativu Nature Reserve (NR) were declared as protected following up on the data provided by the club. We thank the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) for this and for further conservation measures even with limited resources in personnel,” he says, adding that the declaration was primarily to protect migrant birds. “If any ‘ringing’ is done we urge the DWC to observe or monitor and enforce, the stringent international rules which apply, to prevent any harm to them.”

Referring to the wind farm in Mannar, Dr. Samaraweera says that they are disappointed that in spite of the extensive data and analysis supplied by the CBC highlighting the importance of the migratory pathway across which the wind turbines are to be constructed, the Ceylon Electricity Board and the Asian Development Bank chose to accept reports that stated that there was no significant collision threat to migratory birds from the wind turbines.

Vankalai Sanctuary, a little over 4,800 hectares, and Veditalativu NR, even larger, together form an unbroken extent of land, one of the richest and most important waterbird areas in the world. They were declared protected areas in 2008 and 2016 respectively and Vankalai was named a Ramsar Site in 2010, all on data provided by the CBC. A CBC team carrying out its annual waterbird census at Veditalativu Lagoon in 2010, found a million shorebirds and in the Vankalai Sanctuary, it recorded half a million shorebirds in 2016 and 2018, and more than 100,000 waterbirds on several occasions.

“There has been political pressure to de-gazette part of the Veditalativu NR for an aquaculture farm! The two protected areas have been encroached on already with political support or even initiative. These are not the only instances,” the CBC adds.

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Possible seasonal movement/migration of cattle egrets

25 Jun

Cattle Egret is a common bird – but can you spot this bird in your area these days..? The photos show ground of University of Colombo on the morning of 26th of May 2018. There were 55 Cattle Egrets foraging on the wet ground with number of them in full breeding plumage. The birds started gathering few days prior, where about 35 cattle egrets were counted on University Grounds on 22nd of May. On 22nd of May; Prof.Kotagama pointed out this could be a congregation before a seasonal movement/ migration and when I visited university of Colombo on 4th of June – not a single Cattle Egret could be spotted.

Elsewhere (in India), it researchers observed Cattle Egrets show seasonal movements during their breeding season along with the monsoon – getting disappear in June and emerge back in September. So our cattle egrets too could be following a similar pattern without our notice.

So do observe cattle egrets and report cattle egret sightings. If you remember an area where cattle egrets were present earlier, please make a visit this week to the location to find out whether they are still there. You can send observations to gardenbirdwatch.srilanka@gmail.com.

Following is an article about the phenomena appeared on Vidusara 20.06.2018

A cattle egret in breeding plumage (c) Evarts Evarts

දිගු කකුල් සහිත, මාළුන් අල්ලා ගැනීමට ම පිහිටි උල් දිගු හොටක් සහිත, බොහෝ විට ජලාශ්‍රිතව දැකගත හැකි සුදෝ සුදු කුරුල්ලන් ‘කෝකුන්’ සේ පොදුවේ හැදින්වීමට අප පුරුදු වී සිටින්නෙමු. ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ දී අප දකින සුදු පැහැති කොකුන් සියල්ලන් ම පාහේ එක් වර්ගයක් යැයි සිතුවත්, සැබහින් නම් එවන් කොකුන් වර්ග 4ක් සිටි. මහ කොකා (Great Egret), මැදි කොකා (Intermediate Egret), පුංචි අනු-කොකා (Little Egret) සහ ගව කොකා (Cattle Egret) මේ කොකුන් වර්ග වේ.

මේ අතරින්, පළමු කොකුන් තුන් වර්ගයම ජලාශ්‍රිත ව වාර්තා වුවත්, ගව කොකා නම්, බොහෝ තැන් වල වාසය කිරීමේ කලාව හොදින් ප්‍රගුණ කරගත් කුරුල්ලෙකි. සෙසු කොකුන්ට සාපේක්ෂව ගව කොකුන්ගේ ගෙල කෙටි වන අතර පැහැදිලිව දැකිය හැකි ත්‍රිකෝණාකාර හිසක් පිහිටා තිබේ.

ගෙරි-කොකා නැතහොත් ගව කොකා ලෙසද හදුන්වන කුඩා ප්‍රමාණයේ කොකෙකු වූ Cattle Egret, වචනයෙන් කියවෙන ලෙසම බොහොවිට ගවයන් ආසන්නයේ බොහෝවිට දැක ගත හැකිවේ. ගවයන් ගේ චලනයේ දී සහ ගමනේ දී කලබල වී ඉවත් වන ගෙම්බන්, තනකොලපෙත්තන් වැනි කෘමින් ද පණුවන් ද ආහාරයට ගන්න අතර ගවයන් ගේ ඇගේ වසන  මැස්සන්, අටමස්සන්, කිණිතුල්ලන් අල්ලා ගන්නා නිසා, ගවයන් ට ද මේ කුරුල්ලාගේ ගැවසීම ප්‍රයෝජනවත් වේ.

Cattle egrets with cattle (c) Audubon Society

ගවයන් ගැවසෙන ස්ථාන වල බහුලව සිටියත්, ගව කොකා පරිසරයට හොඳින් අනුවර්තනය වීමට හැකියාව පෙන්න්වන්නේ, ගවයන් නොමැති නගරාශ්‍රිත ව ද හොඳින් දිවි ගෙවීමට ඇති හැකියාවයි. විවිධ ප්‍රදේශ වල පැතිර සිටින ගව කොකා, විශේෂයෙන්ම නගරාශ්‍රිතව කුණු බැහැර කරන ‘කුණු කඳු’ ආශ්‍රිතව ව සුලබ දසුනකි.

සාමාන්‍ය කාල වල දී සම්පුර්ණයෙන් සුදු පැහැති වන ගව කොකා සුවැදී සමයේ දී හිස, ගෙල සහ ඉහල පිට කය රන්වන් පැහැයක් ගනී. බොහෝ විට තෝරාගත් ගසක සමුහයක් ලෙස කැදලි තනයි. මෙම ගස බොහෝ විට දිය පාරක් හෝ වැවක් අසල තිබෙන බව අද්යයනය කර තිබේ.

සාමාන්‍යයෙන් සුවැදී සාමය මැයි සිට ඔක්තෝබරය දක්වා දිවෙන බව සදහන් වේ. එහෙත් මේ පිළිබද නිසි අධ්‍යයනයක් අවශ්‍ය බව පෙන්වා දෙන්නේ, සුවැදී සමය පාදක කරගත් සංචරණයක් මොවුන්ගේ දක්නට තිබෙන බැවිනි.

උදාහරණයක් ලෙස ගතහොත්, කොළඹ ප්‍රදේශයේ දී මැයි මස අගදී පමණ මේ කුරුල්ලන් එක් වර අතුරුදහන් වන අතර, ඔක්තෝබරය පමණ වන විට නැවතත් දක්නට ලැබේ. ඉන්දියාවේ කල අධ්‍යයනයකට අනුව, නිරිත දිග මෝසම් වැස්සත් සමග එම ප්‍රදේශයෙන් අතුරුදහන් වන ගව කොකුන්, නැවතත් ඔක්තෝබරයේ දී එම ප්‍රදේශයට පැමිණේ. මිට අමතරව කාලයකදී නිහැරීමක් (Migration) ද, සමරහ ගව කොකා ගහණ විසින් සිදු කරන බව අනුමාන කෙරේ.

කොළඹ ප්‍රදේශයේ දී සිදුකල නිරික්ෂනයන්ගෙන් ද පැහැදිලි වුයේ, ගව කොකුන් කාලයක දී ප්‍රදේශයේ දී දැකගත් නොහැකි බවය. මෙහි දැක්වෙන කොළඹ විශ්ව විද්‍යාලයේ පිට්ටනියේ දී මැයි 26වැනිදා උදෑසන ගත ජායාරූපයකි. මෙහි දැක්වෙන පරිදි ගව කොකුන් 55ක් පමණ ගණනය කිරීමට හැකිවිය. මිට දින කිහිපයකට පෙර සිටම, විශ්ව විද්‍යාලයීය පිට්ටනියට මේ කුරුල්ලන් එකතු වීම ඇරඹු බව, එම විශ්ව විද්‍යාලයේම මහාචාර්ය සරත් කොටගම මෙම සිදුවීම හැදින්වුයේ, මෙය මේ කුරුල්ලන් වෙනත් ස්ථානයක ට යෑමට ප්‍රථම සිදුකරන එක්රැස් විමක් විය හැකි බවය. කියූ පරිද්දෙන් ම ඊලග සතිය වනවිට, පිට්ටනියේ එකුදු ගව කොකෙකු හෝ වාර්තා නොවිය.

ඔක්තෝබරයේ දී මේ කුරුල්ලන් නැවත දක්නට ලැබෙන බවත්, මෙය සුවැදී සාමය පාදක කොටගත් ගමනක් ලෙස සිතිය හැකි බවත් මහාචාර්ය කොටගම අප වෙත පැවසිය. “ගෙරි කොකා ගොඩක් බහුල ව දැකගත හැකි කුරුල්ලෙකු නිසා, බොහෝ විට අපේ අවධානයට ලක් වෙන්නේ නෑ. ඒත් මේ දවස්වල ඔබේ ප්‍රදේශයේත් මේ කුරුල්ලා දැක ගන්න පුළුවන් ද කියල නිරීක්ෂණය කරන්න” යැයි මහාචාර්ය කොටගම ආරාධයනක් කළේය.

කුරුල්ලන් ගැවසෙන කුණු ගොඩක් වැනි තැනක් මේ කුරුල්ලන් නිරීක්ෂණයට හොද ස්ථානයකි. නැවතත්, මේ කුරුල්ලන් දක්නට ලැබෙන දිනය ද සටහන් කර ගැනීමෙන් මේ පොදු කුරුල්ලා ගේ හරිහැටි නොදත් විස්තර සොයා ගැනීමට ඔබටත් උදව් කිරීමට හැකි වනු ඇත. ඒ නිසා ඔබගේ නිරික්ෂණයන් gardenbirdwatch.srilanka@gmail.com වෙත යොමු කරන්න.

The aggregation of Cattle Egret on University Grounds on 26.05.2018

It is DECEMBER again – the Bird Counting Month..!!

1 Dec

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Bird Counting Month is an opportunity for you to pay attention to the birds. In ‘December’ Sri Lanka will be having the peak number of birds as it is middle of the migration season, hence the best time to do this exercise.
Participating for the Bird Counting is simple. What you have to do is to make a list of birds that you have been able to identify in a given location (with number of each species – if possible). The list should include the date, time, location, weather at the time, the habitat that the bird observation is carried out, and the name and contact details of the observer. You can also include the number of each species seen at the location, so that this number can be used roughly to compare the population next year. We will announce the method you can share your data shortly.
If you participated the Bird Counting last year, do the counting in the same area this year too. The list of birds and numbers can be tallied with the last few years. If the conditions of the counting are same, then yourself can have an assessment of the status of birds in that area.

Join the birding visit to Kirala Kele to be part of the official launching event of ‘Bird Counting Month’.
Pass the message.. Get your friends to join too…!!

Happy Bird Counting Month,
– FOGSL

Mass movement of Indian Pond Heron along the west coast..?

1 Dec

Nashath Hafi of Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) reports a mass movement of Pond Herons along the west coast parallel to the beach. Nashath observed this for last few days where flocks of Indian Pond herons each consist of about 10 to 25 birds flying toward Colombo. On 29th November, he counted 476 pond heron 13 cattle egrets from a location near Bamabalapitiya Railway Station between 7.55 am to 8.23. A similar observation was made today 01st of December. An observation done yesterday evening indicates that there is no reverse movement or an indication that these birds are dispersing from a night roost and goes back to the same location. So there is a chance these birds are part of some sort of migration, but we need more data.

So if you are free, living closer to coast or having somebody live near the sea who can do the observation, please help to get more data to get a count of the birds flying along the west coast in the mornings and possibly in the evening too

Pond heron flying near Colpetty

Pond heron flying near Colpetty

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Isabelline Wheatear – rare winter migrant

22 Nov

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina) is a rare winter visitor to Sri Lanka. Susa Weerappuli shares the photo of a female Desert Wheatear spotted in Yala National Park on 14th November 2016.

desert-wheatear-female

VIP migrants find haven in Colombo wetlands

17 Nov

Published on SundayTimes on 13.11.2016 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/161113/news/vip-migrants-find-haven-in-colombo-wetlands-216983.html

This is the bird migration season and the remaining wetlands around Colombo are attracting some special migrant birds, particularly in the wetlands around Thalawathugoda.

While testing his new camera, Erich Joseph was lucky to capture the comb duck in a spot close to the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital. This is a rare migrant and the sighting in our capital city indicates the importance of protecting the remaining wetland habitat in Colombo and its suburbs.

Another migrant, the glossy ibis, has also taken refuge in the Thalawathugoda wetlands. Rishani Gunasinghe, who managed to photograph a small flock of these birds, says that although they look a dull black at a distance, light shining on their feathers brings out their real beauty.

The comb duck

The glossy ibis

Dancing beauties in Thalawathugoda Wetlands

13 Nov

Glossy Ibis – the fairly rare black beauties among the winter migrants – seem to have grown fond of the organic paddy fields of Talawatugoda, reports Rishani Gunasinghe.

The number has increased to 4 since one was first sighted here a couple of weeks ago. A pair has also been observed to be roosting in the Parliament lake by Mr. Will Duncan. Noon to Late afternoon is the best time to see them and observe the vibrant colors on their feathers, but do be careful not to come too close, as they seem to get quite easily disturbed by human presence. The best way to observe them is from a vehicle if they are on a paddy field near the road, or by sitting silently at the edge of the walking track. If you don’t disturb them, they will go on feeding, flying from paddy field to paddy field, They might even take a bath and spread their beautiful wings out to dry, rewarding you with some quite special shutter chances. 

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