Sightings of Lesser Whistling Ducks in the middle of the city amidst Corona lockdown

Fizala Tayebulla

Most of us have hopefully managed to access some secure place for the emergency lockdown brought upon by the Corona virus pandemic. I, for one was fortunately able to travel back home to Guwahati, Assam timely, a few days before the travel ban in India. Taking a while to settle down at home with the full family on a lockdown, I had started to what is organic and comforting, to what I am accustomed to do when at any terrace/balcony in the city-to start birding! Few days in, I got my hands on a decent, old-school mini digital camera and started to photograph birds in the vicinity. I luckily have a home which is located by a lake in the middle of the city. Among the usual urban adapters like parakeets, mynas, sparrows and barbets, I also came across a few water birds like the cattle egret, cormorant and kingfisher. The days go by and now it is the second day of the official lockdown in Assam. My usual birding ritual at morning and in the evening went on but this time it was something different that had landed on the water body across my house. Not just distinctively different by size and colour, but by numbers! 

A large flock of around 200 Lesser Whistling-Ducks (Dendrocygna javanica) or the Whistling Teal was first spotted at Dighalipukhuri lake on 26th March 2020 in Guwahati, Assam. It looks like they have perched for the long haul, given that the human non-interference remain the same. It is a very rare occurrence for such a large flock to have landed in a lake in the middle of the city. Humans play a significant role in shaping social-ecological systems. The lake has been here for years and will be in the future but the human-lake interface has been on a lock-down! The change of bird behaviour in this instance is worth noting and perhaps deserve our effort to preserve it that way. Today on 28th March (day 4 of lockdown), the birds have come back for the third time and in all likelihood will do so tomorrow. 

The Lesser Whistling-Duck (LWD) is from the Anatidae family from the order Anseriformes. This order of birds include species of ducks, geese, waterfowl and swans. The LWD breed in the Indian Subcontinent is found year-round in most parts of India, including Assam. They are nocturnal feeders and in the day they can be sighted congregated at lakes, shallow waters and paddy fields. A large number of sighting at Dighalipukhuri lake is an unprecedented occurrence, according to the limited neighbours and family members that I am able to connect with during the time of the lockdown. Upon looking for answers, I find that this event is not only an extraordinary event in my lifetime but in the past generations’ too. As a birder, I had always wondered why such a short bird list for fairly large and deep water body such as Dighalipukhuri? Growing up here, I have witnessed this lake being extensively used for recreational activities (boating, zorbing, rowing classes and swimming classes circa 2000) and have also seen defence personnel train here with canoes and underwater gear. At the boundary of the lake, one will invariably see discarded plastic, food wrappers and other types of waste floating around. But now, under the constricting circumstances that we are operating under due to a rapidly spreading fatal virus, we have left natural entities alone for the first time. And for the first time birds, wild animals and fishes are reported to be appearing in the urban centres all across the world. Do you think this might be a coincidence? Or is it time to finally review and introspect how ‘nature’ would have shaped up to be if there was a chance for our gargantuan interference to be in check? 

#Assam #Guwahaticity #Urbanecology #birdbehaviour #urbanlake

7 thoughts on “Sightings of Lesser Whistling Ducks in the middle of the city amidst Corona lockdown

    • fizala says:

      I am lucky to have witnessed this event right in front of my house without having to step out at all. Thanks, Ra!

    • fizala says:

      I am currently recording the flocks’ activities, timings etc. Let’s see if something can be worked out for the ducks habitation alongside human activities at the lake.

  1. Tanya Brooks says:

    This is great! Thank you for sharing the positivity through words and pictures!
    Happy Birthday Birding to you!!

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