Counting the winged beauties in and around the Hirakud reservoir was an unforgettable moment of lifetime for me.
Wetland International conducts a waterfowl census every year, all over the world. Odisha Forest Department under the age is of Wetland International too contributes to the census from different locations where birds are found in plenty. The Hirakud reservoir is one such place where many species of birds reside and many lands here from different parts of the world. I got an opportunity to participate in the exercise as a member of Chadhei Club Sambalpur, being invited by Forest Department.After a brief training on 5th, of Jan 2021 at Debrigarh Forest range office
The Hirakud reservoir bird census area was divided into 21 sectors of which I along with Ashis Pradhan and the forest department officials were allowed with sector No 6. On the evening of the 6th, we started for Lakhanpur, a small village on the banks of the reservoir near Ambabana, and reached the forest office there. As the census was to start early morning the next day, we were told to finish our dinner and reach Gobindpur village, an hour journey further deep into the forest to the place where our boat would start early morning at 6 AM. The forest department staff escorted us to Gobindpur after dinner and we took a rest in the guesthouse of the department there.
With the excitement to participate in such a fascinating event and to see the birds in large flocks, I couldn’t sleep more than an hour. The next morning before the sunrise we all were ready with our camera, field guide books, and packed breakfast. News had come about the probability of bird flu spreading in some parts of the country. Thus one vet and his associate also accompanied us. They were to collect bird droppings for lab tests. We a total of 5 along with the boat driver did a photo session before boarding. Suddenly the lens cover of my camera slipped into the waters. One of the forest guards dived into the water to find it but could not. The water was too cold and I thought to let it go but we should not be late. The event is more important than the cover. Decided to smile on the photoshoot before boarding the motorboat.
The weather was a bit cloudy and my camera was asking for more ISO and wider ‘f’ stop……flocks of tuffted ducks, Great crested grebes..followed by Gulls, Godwits, stilts and many more.The whole of the water body was filled with birds..some resident and some from faraway places of Siberias.
We kept on clicking and counting, enjoying the beauty of Hirakud reservoir which has been enhanced by the colorful plumage of migratory guests and lively with their call sounds. Some of them had come here in search of food, some for a partner, some for breeding, and some as a stopover before continuing to other places. After breeding, they will go back to return next year. Again making the Hirakud resorvoir lively and beautiful.
Apart from birds, the submerged temples were another area that made us curious and took us back to the time before the Hirakud reservoir was constructed. Several villages with their house, households, cattle would have stayed here. With the construction of the dam, everything submerged. People fled to new places leaving behind memories. The temples which were once places of gathering, now stand alone peeping out of the water sometimes when the water level is low in summer.Cattles who were left behind have migrated to small islands in the reservoir now called ‘Cattle Island’
It was around 2 hours past noon and we were back at the place from where we had started with a lot of memories and knowledge about the winged beauties.
After deboarding, we were welcomed by another team who had completed from the nearby sector. One of the boys among the caretakers of the guesthouse came running towards me with the lens cover in his hand. The sign of joy in his eyes to be able to salvage it from the deep water was not less than mine to find it again.
Data collected by us was handed over to Forest Department. We members of Chadhei Club Sambalpur contributed our expertise with the hope that the number exceeds next year. More and more migratory birds visit here.
The total count was declared the next day.Total numbers counted was 124294(98species) of which migratory species count was 103114(41species), higher than the last year count.
The migratory birds have now started leaving from here, to places from where they had come, with their kids and partners. Leaving some of their beautiful poses and actions captured on my Nikon camera. ….,..Leaving the submerged temples alone again.
(Chadhei Club Sambalpur is a group of bird lovers working on conservation, Monitoring, counting and bird photography.Interested individual can join us for the cause of conservation.Join us on FB at Chadhei Club.Birds of Hirakud (BOD) is another group you may join for bird photography. Read my next blog on effort of Chadbei club towards awareness drive on conservation of birds)