With winter at its peak, the Chhaya Rann, a wetland in Porbandar is still waiting for the lesser flamingos, its annual visitors. While local birdwatchers are intrigued by the delay in arrival, forest officials expect the birds to arrive in some weeks. Chhaya Rann is a wasteland falling in the limits of Porbandar municipality and adjoining Chhaya municipality. Runoff and sewage water from Porbandar collecting in the area turn Chhaya into a wetland which attracts birds like the lesser flamingos.
The lesser flamingos (Phoeniconaias minor) have been categorised as near-threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
According to local birdwatchers, flamingos started roosting in the wetland during the mid-1960s and have been visiting the area almost every year since. “Normally, they start landing in October and by December end, we usually see thousands of lesser flamingos roosting here. Normally, they occupy this wetland till summer end,” says Bharat Rughani, a local birdwatcher.
This year however, there has been a disruption in the cycle, with only a few hundred birds seen in the wetland. “This is not entirely new, but surprising nonetheless. There have been instances wherein lesser flamingos have not arrived or arrived in small numbers due to reasons like there not being less water in the wetland etc. But this year, the water level in the wetland is normal and still flamingos are not seen here,” said Rughani. He added that in other wetlands like Kychadi, Mokarsagar, Karli etc in Porbandar also, very few flamingos are roosting.
After Little Rann of Kutch, Great Rann of Kutch and Nal Sarovar (in Ahmedabad district), Chhaya Rann is believed to be fourth largest roosting place of lesser flamingos. These birds are also spotted in Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary in Jamnagar. Birdwatchers in Jamnagar have claimed that lesser flamingos have arrived in Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary and the wetland on Bedi Road.
Chief conservator of forests of the Kutch circle, Karanjit Singh Randhawa says that lesser flamingos did successful breeding in Kutch this.
Spread over an area of two square kilometres, Chhaya Rann is surrounded by human habitation and the Saurashtra chemical cement factory.
Dipak Pandya, assistant conservator of forests of Porbandar said that since the wetland is not a protected area, the forest department has little direct control over the habitat.
Pandya added, “They do start landing in the beginning of winter. But birds keep on arriving in January also. That is their peak month. It is not like that the time of their arrival is over this year.”