Today, I went to Madiwala lake to take a census of pelican nests. I am volunteering under Ms. Aksheeta M, who is a researcher with the Wildlife Trust of India and Karnataka Forest Department. The area of research is reduction in numbers of 6 species of water birds, primarily Spot billed pelican and Painted Stork.
The spot-billed pelican or the grey pelican is a member of the pelican family. It breeds in southern Asia from southern Iran across India to Indonesia. It is a bird of large inland and coastal waters, especially large lakes.
Until recently, pelicans migrated every year by the thousands to a village called Kokkarebellur during the breeding season (December-March). Kokkarebellur is a village in South Karnataka that is famous for the unique relationship between the villagers and the migratory birds there. The villagers have adopted this bird as their local heritage, since they consider the birds as harbingers of good luck and prosperity to the village.
Recently, Ms. Aksheeta M, who was studying Spot-Billed Pelicans in this village noticed that the number of pelicans visiting the village had dropped from thousands to only a few hundred.
This was very concerning, and she started finding out why the pelicans were disappearing. She wondered if the Pelicans population was declining or were pelicans choosing to breed by lakes other than those in Kokkarebellur. Some of these Pelicans were now visiting lakes around Bangalore and Mysore. I volunteered with a few others to take a census of the number of Pelicans and Pelican nests in these lakes to find out where exactly Pelicans were now migrating and in what numbers.
As part of this volunteering activity, I did multiple nest surveys of the Madiwala lake along with one other adult volunteer.
Every year, spot-billed pelicans migrate to this lake from all over India during the breeding season which lasts from December to March. I went to the lake to do a survey and was given a paddleboat, courtesy of the Karnataka Forest Department. I then took the paddle boat around the lake and an island at the centre of it. I counted the number of Pelican nests on the circular patch of land in the middle of the lake. We drew a diagram depicting the results of our census (positions and number of nests on the land):
We also took a census of all the birds present in the lake: https://ebird.org/checklist/S103329911
We saw many birds other than the Spot-Billed Pelican, including night herons, egrets, ducks, and painted storks. We saw that the number of Pelicans had increased greatly since the last time we visited it, while the number of painted works had decreased.
I was really surprised at the huge number of birds and nests we saw. The air was filled with the calls of hundreds of birds. I had a lot of fun identifying birds and nests, and learning how to document a census.