SUBJECT :For six months in a year, the Veerapuram and Venkatapuram villages of Chilamathur mandal of Anantapur district turn home to beautiful Painted Storks who fly here from far-off places for their breeding season. 

Home away from home: Painted storks at Veerapuram in Chilamathur mandal of Anantapur district. 

Painted storks fly in from Southeast Asia in November-December for breeding

By - Ramesh Susarla

Anantapur (Andhra Pradesh), May 6, 2019: For six months in a year, the Veerapuram and Venkatapuram villages of Chilamathur mandal of Anantapur district turn home to beautiful Painted Storks who fly here from far-off places for their breeding season.

Just a stone’s throw from the Karnataka border, these large birds, along with Black, White and Grey Ibis, migrate from Southeast Asia to the Indian subcontinent in November-December, and occupy almost every tree in the area. The birds are distinct due to their colourful plumage and slightly bent yellow beaks with long legs that differentiate them other birds. They are noisy, but the villagers have now come to put up with the birds as they have been regular visitors to the area for several decades now.

The shallow waters of Veerapuram tank used to be a popular hunting ground for these avians, which look for only small fish (about a maximum of 9 cm). However, the tank has not received water for the past three years, and the birds are now found to be flying for over 40 km upto Bukkapatnam near Puttaparthi, Penukonda, Gudibanda and Chintamani, Devanahalli in Karnataka in search of food.

There are about 1,230 nests in Veerapuram and Venkatapuram villages, making the area a paradise for bird enthusiasts.

Declining numbers

“The number of migratory birds is on the decline, as availability of water and fish has become scarce.

This year, the birds arrived in December, built their nests in the first week of January and laid eggs by the end of January and mid-February,” said Venugopal Reddy, a local farmer and bird watcher who runs an NGO called Save Our Storks that takes care of chicks which have fallen from the tree-top nests. Mr. Reddy feeds the chicks with fish that he buys from the market. The chicks gain flight and rejoin their parents on the tree-tops once they are three months old, Mr. Reddy said.

Though the village is known to be a destination for these migratory birds for over 100 years, it was only in 1982 that the Forest Department formally identified it for protection. No tangible efforts to protect the birds have been taken so far. Tourists and photographers too make a beeline here on the weekends as the place is close to the famous stone-carved Nandi of Lepakshi.

Uric acid found in the droppings of these birds is causing damage to trees, with many people not taking any interest in planting new ones.

Proposals

Only the tamarind tree seems to be able to withstand the effects of the acidic droppings.

District Forest Officer A. Chandra Sekhar told The Hindu that the department had sent a 80 lakh proposal to the State Government to plant two-meter tall trees around the dry tank, desilt it and begin a veterinary care service. Several small tanks recently developed in the 3-4 km range from Veerapuram have received good rain and the Fisheries Department had released small fish seedlings, he added.

There is a proposal to build some huts/guest houses around this place for the tourists and the District Collector was looking for a proper place to acquire land for the Tourism Department to develop the facility. A bird rehabilitation centre and an Awareness Creation Centre was proposed while a 30 m x 20 m water tank with a depth of 3 m has been built by the Forest Department close to Veerapuram tank.


Source: www.thehindu.com