Spotting birds to learning about plants: A walk in Chennai’s Pallikaranai marshlands

Protected by the Conservation Authority of Pallikaranai Marshland, this space is house to round 178 species of birds.

On a pleasing Sunday morning within the first week of February, a workforce of 30 folks with a few volunteers from Suzhal Arivom meet on Medavakkam Street in Shollinganallur. At round 6 am, everybody assembled close to a personal faculty to start their journey, which, over the subsequent three hours, became an eye-opening expertise filled with bird-spotting and studying in regards to the delicate ecosystems.

Inside a couple of steps from Medavakkam Street, the walkers discovered all their senses engaged as they have been greeted by sounds of birds, the trickling of clear water, greenery, and the scent of grass. Earlier than beginning the stroll, a volunteer requested, “What are the forests you recognize in Chennai?” A lot of the contributors echoed “Guindy”, “Pallavaram” and “Nanmangalam”. Nonetheless, the volunteers from Suzhal Arivom revealed, “We’re already standing on a forest which is reserved by the federal government and is the one surviving wetland in Chennai — the Pallikaranai marshland.”

In 2005, the then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa declared Pallikaranai marshland as protected after seeing an aerial view of the flood-hit Velachery and the encircling areas. Each alternate Sunday, Suzhal Arivom, an environmental group led by Deepak Venkatachalam began in 2019, organises walks to teach folks in regards to the marshlands and its ecosystem. It goals to create consciousness about conserving Pallikaranai wetlands. Whereas it was roping at school and faculty graduates, IT workers and residents earlier than the lockdown, after restrictions have been lifted, the workforce began conducting walks from the start of February this yr.

Recognizing birds and tales of the spittlebug

The Conservation Authority of Pallikaranai Marshland below Tamil Nadu Forest Division has recognized Pallikaranai as a house to 178 species of birds, most of which reside and breed within the marsh.

On February 7, the stroll began nearly a yr after receiving permission from the Forest Division. Strolling via the stretch between Shollinganallur and Medavakkam, the workforce noticed migratory birds like Ruddy Breasted Crake, a water chicken discovered within the moist areas of South Asia; Northern Shoveler, a duck present in elements of Europe and throughout North America; Eurasian Wigeon, a duck present in Palearctic vary; Egrets, much like herons, which breed in marshy wetland lands in heat areas; and Shiny Ibis, a chicken present in Asia, Africa, Australia and America.

Egret with a fish catch    

Fulvulous Whistling Duck

Widespread Coot

Rudy breasted crake 

Duck Weed

Past bird-spotting, Pavithra, one of many volunteers, talks in regards to the ecosystem and the vegetation discovered within the area. “Can somebody inform me the explanation for locating drops much like water on the leaves throughout early mornings right here?” she begins. Most of the walkers reply, “They’re dews drops.” Nonetheless, Pavithra says, “Lots of them are created from the saliva of the spittle bug.”

Deepak, founding father of Suzhal Arivom, factors out that although the marshland is house to a number of species of birds and vegetation, he has observed lesser numbers of migratory birds this yr in comparison with earlier. An avid chicken watcher for 3 years, Deepak believes that that is due to disturbances within the migratory sample.

“We couldn’t spot Northern Pintails and Flamingoes like we often do on account of street and flyover extension works and dredging (take away mud and sediments to be able to deepen lake or river mattress) being undertaken within the marshlands regardless of opposition from environmentalists,” he mentioned.

A holistic studying expertise

The final vacation spot of the stroll is Pallikaranai Marshland Interpretation Centre the place the workforce meets to share and talk about the learnings. Pavithra, a bird-watcher turned volunteer, says, “I simply participated in a Sunday stroll in 2019after I noticed a WhatsApp ahead. I discovered this to be one of many walks the place every part was coated in a holistically. The occasion didn’t simply finish with bird-watching however coated a number of matters. They taught us efforts we are able to make as people to turn out to be extra environment-conscious,” she says.

Pavithra was additionally impressed by the efforts of the workforce to introduce books and talk about environmental points in layperson phrases. “After each meet, we mentioned varied books. Even throughout the lockdown, Suzhal Arivom produced a number of movies which have been a solution to make laypersons perceive the setting. The matters coated introduction to amphibians, replies, vegetation, water our bodies, aquatic life and way more.”

Dialog and conservation

Deepak additionally believes that introducing folks to the setting is step one in the direction of conservation.

The victory of those occasions, Deepak says, is “introducing folks to the completely different species residing round them. Provided that they know of the life round them can they preserve it. Therefore, via our program the persons are made conscious of the natural world within the marshland.”

“We have been in a position to cease 3-4 poaching actions and rescue a number of birds that suffered from accidents. The individuals who participated within the conferences and walks would inform us in the event that they noticed any violations. A number of individuals who began as bird-watchers with Suzhal Arivom are returning to us once more for conducting periods as volunteers,” he says.

“Lastly, we’re joyful that individuals’s notion of Pallikaranai is altering. Persons are beginning to notice that Pallikaranai isn’t just a synonym to a dump yard however a reserved wetland that must be conserved,” he asserts.

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