For most waterbirds, deep sheets of water at the Sukhna lake are no more a habitat than a barren desert. The agony of birds is reflected in the fact that devoid of mud banks, even a common, resident species such as Red-wattled lapwings have gone missing from stretches of the lake’s northern shores where they were breeding comfortably. But a small isle of hope has come up at the rowing canal at the lake’s regulator-end, which affords birds a safe spot to rest, snooze, bask and most importantly preen and dry their feathers.
The isle is an innovative experiment of the Chandigarh forests and wildlife department, which brought together two bamboo floats, anchored them with heavy stones in the 10 feet deep water and layered the platform with soil and vegetation to create an extended mound above the water.
A variety of resident birds have availed the opportunity afforded by the artificial isle and include Cattle and Large egrets, Black-winged stilts, Black bittern, Snake bird (Oriental Darter), Red-wattled lapwings, Lesser Whistling teal, Spotbill ducks and recently, as the migratory season got underway, a pair of Gadwall ducks. The importance of the isle lies in the fact that deep water has wiped out mudflats and extended shores of the lake, leaving birds no room for resting and allied activities. It is a fallacy to presume water birds prefer to perpetually swim about in deep lakes. Shallow ”chhapars’’ or wetlands with exposed vegetation and harbouring small aquatic creatures are eminently preferred by water birds.
The last good winter for migratory waterfowl at the Sukhna was 2016-2017 due to shallow waters and exposed aquatic vegetation but ever since an abundance of seasonal and unseasonal rainfall has ensured the lake is drawing lesser birds, with the colonising lotus weed compounding the predicament. The November bird census by the Chandigarh Bird Club will reflect the abandoned waters.
WHAT BUTTERFLIES LOVE
Householders are left puzzled when their beautiful, exotic flowers fail to attract butterflies. A lack of nectar coupled with the leaves not suitable for the butterfly larvae to feed upon are the main reasons. In this context, research has established that when a floral species is suitable for butterflies, it attracts them in droves. Those wanting to attract butterflies to their gardens and butterfly parks can take heed of the clear vote delivered in favour of the native species, Derris scandens (commonly known as Jewel Vine, Hog Creeper). As many as 22 species of butterflies were observed on this plant in the Kazhuveli wetlands, Tamil Nadu, by Dr M Bubesh Guptha, director, Universal Eco Foundation.
“Being dependent on vegetation as adults and larvae, butterflies enter into a complex feeding relationship with green plants. As adults, they require nectar resources to provide energy for flight, which is vital to find mates. As larvae, butterflies are typically specific to a host plant and often show a ‘botanical instinct’, ie, closely-related butterfly species choose closely-related plants. Butterflies provide the best rapid indicators of habitat quality and are sensitive indicators of climate change. Our findings prove that the Derris species are good for butterfly parks, protected and non-protected areas for conservation of multiple species of butterflies and other insects,” Dr Guptha told this writer.
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