On International Forest Day, there is good news. A bird census reveals 247 species of birds make their home at the Panna Tiger Reserve
A recent birdcount undertaken by birders across the country at the Panna Tiger Reserve brought good tidings. 247 species of birds were spotted in the three-day count of which 21 are in the IUCN’s list of threatened species
Arun Singh 21 March 2022 12:48 PM GMT
Panna, Madhya Pradesh
The Panna Tiger Reserve comes bearing some great news bird lovers. Though renowned the world over for its healthy population of tigers and leopards, a recent bird survey carried out at the tiger reserve bodes well for its birds too. It is home to many species of birds including those that are rare and on the endangered list.
The Panna Tiger Reserve is spread over an area of approximately 1600 square kilometres (kms) that covers plateaus, mountainous terrain, valleys, and rolling grasslands with the river Ken river flowing for 55 kms right through it. It is part of UNESCO's world network of biosphere reserves.
For the first time at the Panna Tiger Reserve a bird census was carried out earlier this month between March 4 and March 6. According to the forest officials, the three-day survey revealed that the Reserve is home to 247 species of birds of which 21 species are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) threatened species list. More than 60 bird watchers took part in it from across the country. They were divided into 28 teams each with its own park guide from the Reserve.
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"The 28 teams were stationed in camps across the various ranges that fall within the Reserve. They documented the birds they spotted there. The documentation was done with the e-bird app," Uttam Kumar Sharma, field operator, Panna Tiger Reserve, told Gaon Connection. All seven species of vultures found in Madhya Pradesh are present in healthy numbers in the Reserve, he added.
The White-tailed Iora, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Striated Grassbird, Tytler's Leaf Warbler, Black- winged Cuckooshrike and Black-necked Stork are some of the rare species found in the forests of Panna. It is for the first time that the White-tailed Iora has been recorded on E-bird from Madhya Pradesh. The Oriental Pied Hornbill has also been recorded for the first time in the state only from Panna. The very rare Striated Grassbird was spotted in good numbers in several places near the Ken river, suggesting it is an idyllic environment for those birds.
"The bird survey was a novel experience for us," Manoj Dubey, a tourist guide from the Reserve, told Gaon Connection. "We learnt a lot spending time with the bird specialists from across the country who took part in the bird count," he said.
The Pipertola grassland in the Panna Tiger Reserve is the ideal location to birdwatch, Dubey said. "There is water, plenty of fruit trees and rolling grasslands that offer sanctuary to many birds. Just at Pipertola alone we documented 125 species of birds," Dubey said.
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Speaking of the enriching experience of being in the company of so many bird lovers, tourist guide Puneet Sharma also said it was an eye opening experience for him. He and his group were stationed at the Bhauradev part of the tiger reserve. "Everyone shared their experiences and we saw first hand during the survey what a tough and challenging life the field workers in the forest led," he said. Despite so many dangers and difficulties, they do their work of protecting the wildlife with such dedication, he added.
"The geographical lay of the Panna Tiger Reserve is awesome," Misha Bansal, a birder from Bengaluru, Karnataka, told Gaon Connection. She was all praises for the arrangements made for the survey and said they were treated like honoured guests. She was particularly delighted that they spotted many vultures in the Talgaon area. "We spotted them at sunrise. Coming from where I do, sighting vultures is a rare phenomena," she said.
Piyush Seksaria author of Our Tigers Return, a children's story book on the revival of Panna Tiger Reserve, said the first vulture count at Panna took place in 2011, continued till 2015 after which, inexplicably, it stopped.
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"Panna is a good habitat for the vultures and there are a good number of them here, and when in 2020-21 there was a state-wise census on vultures, Panna district was found to have the maximum number of them," Seksaria told Gaon Connection. Of the 9408 vultures, 990 were found in Panna, he added. There are nine species of vultures in India of which seven are found in the Panna Tiger Reserve.
The results of the three-day bird count conducted in the core and buffer zones of the Panna Tiger Reserve yielded happy results with the recording of 247 species of birds of which 21 are in the IUCN's list of threatened species.
"We will plan to conduct seasonal count of birds at the Panna Tiger Reserve so that we learn not only about the indigenous seasonal visitors but also of the migratory birds that come from other parts of the world," field operator Uttam Kumar Sharma said. The counts will take place in the summers, monsoons and the winters, he added.
The state government is pleased with the recent bird count at the Panna Tiger Reserve. The chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chauhan tweeted how the three-day bird count at Panna Tiger Reserve was praiseworthy and brought cheer to wildlife enthusiasts, environmentalists and conservationists.
Read the story in Hindi.