Birdwatchers catch rare glimpse of sea birds on Gujarat shore after cyclone
Some unusual bird sightings have captivated birdwatchers in Gujarat as pelagic birds, typically bound to coastal and offshore regions, have been spotted inland following Cyclone Biparjoy.
Some unusual bird sightings have captivated birdwatchers in Gujarat as pelagic birds, typically bound to coastal and offshore regions, have been spotted inland following Cyclone Biparjoy which made landfall near Jakhau in Kutch on June 15.
The powerful winds and turbulent weather conditions unleashed by the cyclone are believed to have carried these oceanic avian species far beyond their customary flying range, creating an extraordinary spectacle for those who witnessed this unusual occurrence. Birders call this phenomenon fallout.
Birders have reported sightings of pelagic birds, including species such as shearwaters, petrels, storm petrels and terns in places where they are not typically seen.
Sightings are being reported from Morbi, Jamnagar, Dwarka and other coastal regions of the state, and even as far inland as Nal Sarovar, a Ramsar site about 80 km away from Ahmedabad.
“Although uncommon, the presence of these birds is not something unexpected in the wake of a severe storm like Biparjoy. These pelagic birds are adapted to forage in the open ocean, utilizing oceanic currents and winds to conserve energy for their flight,” said R Suresh Kumar, a scientist at Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun.
While the presence of these birds in coastal cities like Dwarka, Morbi and Jamnagar is natural, the Gulf of Khambhat provides a connection to Nalsarovar, a brackish water habitat, allowing the birds to extend their range, he added.
Most of the pelagic birds are those which spend the majority of their lifespan in open seas far from the coast and many of these species nest on isolated islands and cliffs of northern Europe, Russia and the American continent, said Dishant Parasharya, an ornithologist and curator at Gujarat Science City, Ahmedabad.
“These recent sightings of pelagic seabirds in Gujarat, including the sooty tern at Nalsarovar and brown noddy at Jamnagar or the Persian shearwater at Bhavnagar coast in the last few days, have sparked great curiosity among birdwatchers. During the migration of these birds across the ocean, powerful cyclonic winds can redirect their course towards the land, making it challenging for them to remain in the open sea. However, it is important to note that these sightings do not represent new introductions to Gujarat’s bird checklist. Instead, they serve as a reaffirmation of their presence in the pelagic waters adjacent to the state, highlighting their significance in terms of high-sea conservation,” he added.
Before the storm hit Gujarat coast, Porbander witnessed daily sightings of the masked bobby for about a month , according to Esha Munshi, an associate curator at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore. She added that most other birds spotted, such as the sooty terns, bridled terns, and arctic skuas, have seen only after the storm. They are known for their affinity to the open sea and typically reside within 10 to 50 nautical miles of the coast, rarely venturing inland, said Munshi .
“Three brown noddys have been sighted in Jamnagar in the aftermath of the cyclone. In Morbi, a red-billed tropic bird was rescued soon after cyclone Biparjoy and released on Friday. At Nalsarovar, there have been sightings of brown noddy, bridled tern, sooty tern and arctic skua. All these sightings are well documented with proper identification. Sooty terns have been spotted in a few other places including the coastal town of Dwarka and at Sachana Beach near Jamnagar. At Bhavnagar, there have been sightings of Persian shearwater and Arctic skua. The cyclone has offered a rare opportunity for bird enthusiasts to witness these pelagic species in onshore areas, providing an advantage for birders without the need to venture deep into the sea,” she added.