Blogs of TNV

Sirpur Lake and bird sanctuary – A Treasure in our neighbourhood

May 25, 2016
It was a surprise, a very pleasant one indeed, when I visited Sirpur lake for the first time a couple of months ago. I have lived in Indore for more than three decades and like most residents had only heard of Sirpur Lake. After joining the The Nature Volunteers I got in-depth information about it – the history, the challenges, the future plans etc. But I still had not been able to visit it. Finally, a couple of months ago, I was there. When we started driving towards Sirpur I was ready for a longish drive as most bird or wildlife habitats are far from the cities. The first surprise was that we were there in barely thirty five minutes. I couldn’t believe that such a big and beautiful lake existed so close to the city. My eyes, tired of seeing the chaotic urban landscape, were seeing such a pleasant sight after a very long time. There was this huge water body, a heritage lake – 100 years old, spread over almost 600 acres, a natural habitat to more than 150 species of resident and migratory birds. The greenery, the fauna, the flora, the tranquility of the place, were like manna from heaven for me. There was this beautiful canvas, straight out of a picture postcard, before me. I was very excited that my crazy city Indore, which has next to nothing as far as heritage architecture or natural wonders go, actually has a beautiful place like this – a historical lake! A place where you can go and sit around, walk, watch birds – just be close to nature. As a nature lover I felt like kicking myself for not having visited this place all this while. I have travelled far and wide in pursuit of seeing nature at its best, but didn’t realize that we have a treasure trove right at our doorstep. It is indeed a herculean and very laudable task and service to society that the founders of The Nature Volunteers (TNV) took on when they took a vow to conserve and preserve Sirpur Lake and its habitat. The Sirpur success story is indeed a very inspiring one and the efforts have been rewarded, albeit after 20 long years. Indore’s beautiful natural heritage has recently been declared as `Important Bird Area’ (IBA) – the 19th in Madhya Pradesh!!! Yet another well deserved FEATHER in TNV’s hat!!! The future plans for the Sirpur Bird Sanctuary lake area are also very exciting. An interpretation centre and a butterfly park, among other ambitious plans, are on the anvil. Our member of parliament Mrs Sumitra Mahajan who is also the honourable Speaker of the Lok Sabha has taken personal interest in the creation of the interpretation centre and has released Rs 25 lakhs for the same from the MPLAD fund. I sincerely hope and pray that more and more people join The Nature Volunteers, like I did, to strengthen their resolve to make the city, in particular, and the planet in general a better place to live in. Factsheet: Sirpur Lake and Bird Sanctuary can be reached by travelling on the Dhar Road. It is in the Chandan Nagar area of Indore. This is an IBA – an Important Bird Area and 150 species of resident and migratory birds have been recorded here. The book ‘Birds of Sirpur’ by Bhalu Mondhe, Abhilash Khandekar and Kaustubh Rishi published by TNV in 2012 and released by Ms Sunita Narain Centre For Science and Environment, New Delhi has documented 130 species each of which has been photographed here. The lake is open on all days and is under the care of the Indore Municipal Corporation with expert advise and guidelines provided by The Nature Volunteers which is the sole advisory body for Sirpur Bird Sanctuary and Lake. Some of the species of birds which can be seen here include: Brahminy Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Greater Flamingo, Open Billed Stork, Bluethroat, Purple Heron, Short-Eared Owl, Singing Bushlark, Zitting Cisticola. Do visit Sirpur Bird Sanctuary and Lake frequently with friends, family and loved ones. And remember to contribute by not leaving any trash behind and by spreading the word about it. For any assistance or information please do not hesitate to contact us.

Birds of Sirpur – A book review by Dev Kumar Vasudevan

December 29, 2015
This is a book which is a must have for all nature lovers and birders not only in Indore and around but for anyone who is interested in knowing about a lake which was almost given up for dead before it was revived by a group of passionate nature lovers. The success story of Sirpur Lake and Bird Sanctuary would be incomplete without a book like this which describes resident and migratory birds of the lake and its surrounds in detail. Released in October 2012 by Sunita Narain of the Centre For Science and Environment, New Delhi, Birds of Sirpur has described 130 species of birds in loving detail. Each and every photograph has been clicked in the Sirpur Lake and surrounding areas. A White Breasted Kingfisher, for instance, can be seen almost everywhere in the countryside around Indore but the photograph used in the book is of one which has been clicked in the Sirpur area. Bhalu Mondhe, Kaustubh Rishi, Saleel Tambe and Praver Mourya have contributed an excellent set of photographs for this book. The book has categorised birds into three groups – Water Birds (23 species), Wetland birds (41 species) and Tree birds (66 species). A foreword by the eminent environmentalist and urban planner M N Buch adds value to the book. This former civil servant had in 1994 written to the Principal Secretary (Forests) drawing his attention to the plight of Sirpur. Each of the 130 birds described in this book has a page devoted to itself and the contents on each page include the following details: A photograph, the common name, scientific name, local names, call, status, sighting months, details, food and nesting. The book is a good companion for birders who use it in other areas too. The photograph of the Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) on page 113 is a visual delight. It shows the bird with its inordinately long tongue protruding out to catch an insect. According to Kaustubh Rishi this is a very rare photograph of a not so common bird, definitely not something which one can click everytime one sights this bird. Some other birds which have been recorded at Sirpur include Greater Flamingo, Sarus cranes, Bluethroat, Crested Serpent Eagle. Between 2012, when this book was published, and 2015, when this article is being written another 20 species have been added to the list. Thus the next edition of Birds of Sirpur will have at least 150 species. All in all Birds of Sirpuris a valuable addition to the library of any nature lover and is especially recommended for birders who visit Sirpur Lake frequently. It will also prove very useful for the beginner in any part of India.

The breeding behaviour of the Indian Grey Hornbill – An Inside View by Ajay Gadikar

January 2, 2016
This is an article about the breeding behavior of the Indian Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros birostris) observed at the bio-diversity park in the Residency area in Indore city.I have been observing the Indian Grey Hornbill (IGH) in the Residency area of Indore since the last 5 years. I always get mesmerized when I see these birds, firstly due to their very peculiar casque (horn) over their bill and secondly their undulating type of flight. The Residency area in Indore is full of old fig trees like Pipal, Banyan, Gular and also the Jamun. These trees are like magnets which attract the hornbills since these figs comprise most of their diet. I used to see them mostly in the morning moving high up in the canopy as they are mostly arboreal in nature. Their breeding period, which is from March to May-Jun, coincides with the ripening of fruits in all the fig trees. During this period there is sufficient food available in the form of fruits of these trees which helps the parents to fulfill the demands of the growing chicks. Outside their breeding season these birds are frequently seen in the morning and evening feeding and indulge in various social interactions like bill grappling, aerial jousting and erratic chases in the higher canopy of trees. I would like to share with you my experience with the nesting behavior of these birds as recorded and unveiled by using a camera. I had watched a natural hole on a Gulmohar tree which a hornbill pair had used for nesting purposes in the last season. With the help of the forest department a CCTV camera, capable of zooming in and out was installed 5 meters away from the nest to record the whole breeding cycle almost for a period of 3 months. A 11 minute documentary film “UDAN” was made based on the important footage obtained from the 24×7 recording. This film was inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. I would like to share the following details about the general breeding behavior of the IGH. Their nesting is very unique. When it is time to lay eggs, the female hornbill enters the hole of the tree trunk and does not step out into daylight again, until it hatches the eggs and the babies are at least one and half month old, which means she remains under the nest cavity for 60 to 65 days. The female starts to seal the nest cavity once she enters inside. Only a narrow slit of size 3-4 cm by 7-8 cm remains open, from where the male feeds the female. The material used to prepare the wall of the nest cavity are mud, fruit pulp and her own droppings. The female now solely depends on the male for her food. The male fetches fig and berries from nearby trees and feeds the female, approximately once in an hour throughout the day. Most of the feeding took place early in the morning. The male carries 5-8 berries and 1-2 insects in his mouth in one go and regurgitates them one by one into the female beak by clinging to the nest. Once inside the nest, the female lays the eggs and incubates them. Soon the chicks come out of the egg. At the same time the female also undergoes complete moult, by shedding all her feathers. This is a really vulnerable time for the family as the female bird cannot fly and cannot feed the chicks, the family is totally dependent on the male bird. If something happens to the male bird and if he dies, then the entire family can die due to starvation. During the nesting the male bird feeds the female and the chicks with a variety of fruits, and also small insects, grasshoppers, lizards etc. It travels long distances in search of food. The fruits are held in its throat and when it reaches the nest it regurgitates the fruit one by one from its pharynx to its beak and feeds the female which does not come out and receives the feed by putting its beak out. When the chicks are sufficiently grown the female breaks open the nest and comes out and both parents feed the young ones. These birds use the same tree and nest repeatedly and come back to the same place in their next breeding cycle. The camera study for 3 complete months of the Hornbill nesting was done first time ever and it confirmed many of the points which scientists have written in journals over the years.