The lockdown forced people to largely remain within the confines of their homes, but it was life as usual for birds and a good number of them were sighted by bird watchers here and in other parts of Tamil Nadu.
"The Greater Flamingo was the seasonal migratory bird here. The marshland is the home for about 8,300 birds," a senior official told PTI. Apart from breeding residents, the biodiversity-rich area attracts a good number of winter visitors.
The migratory bird season at Pallikaranai usually begins with the onset of the North-East monsoon in October. Some of the resident bird species include Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Purple Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Common Coot, Indian Spot-Billed Duck, Spot-Billed Pelican, and Pied Kingfisher.
Members of the Salem Ornithological Foundation (SOF) have recorded 81 endemic bird species in the city in western Tamil Nadu during the COVID-19 lockdown. Asian Koel, Cattle Egret, Red-vented Bulbul, Common Myna, and Yellow-billed Babbler were among the birds spotted in Salem.
With a steep decline in noise pollution and industrial and other human activities coming to a halt, the call or song of birds fill our ears, said wildlife activist K Mohan Raj. "But the sky, the air, the birds are always there. We are experiencing them anew as we are staying at home. It is not that the birds have suddenly surfaced because of the lockdown," he said.
"Had we kept our eyes and ears alert, we would have spotted the resident birds on normal days," says N Subramaniam, an avid bird watcher. "All the birds that have been spotted in towns and villages were always there, but we failed to see them due to our fast-paced life," Raj said.
S Venkatesh, a naturalist, and member of the SOF said the foundation managed to keep its members engaged during the lockdown by requesting them to sight the birds even from their backyards and record them. "With the lockdown imposing numerous restrictions we could not venture out.
So, we were asked to spot the birds from our windows, gardens, and villages. Since our members were spread across the rural areas of Salem district we were able to notice and record 81 endemic species on World Endemic Day(in May)," he said. The foundation had even introduced Lockdown Nature Writing Challenges to encourage the habit of nature writing and also to keep boredom and stress at bay.