I saw this bird for the first time... I was on a birding trip along with a group from Hyderabad Birding Pals, who had planned a visit to Pochram Wildlife Sanctuary on 31st January. I went along courtesy a great birding pal I have made - Mr Sriram Reddy, a computer wiz kid by day and ... a birder on weekends.
|...the tern showing off its belly as if to say - here comes the - Black-bellied Tern|
So we went and starting birding with hundreds of migrants and just got too involved looking at the other birds, that it was only when one of the members asked us after our second hour of birding - did you see the Black-bellied Terns ? It hit me like a rock - had we missed the "Endangered Terns" - what the hell !!. The lake is a huge water body - but yes we could find the terns flying and a group crouched - lying down at a far distance. The distance was too great to tell what those terns were..
Almost like out a dream one tern came close enough to be recognised and it started my begining of 600 shots or so of this beautiful birds (I could count about 4 birds).
Going around we came across the group still lying down and shooting the birds. Here I just lost my morale... To the uninitiated, the Ego of today's birder can be related to the focal length of the lens he carries. Well I was proud of my 100-400 - and there on the ground I saw 500mm (f4), 600mm (f4) among others - so I could not have lied down next to them with or without humility for sure so just wandered off.
|This is the typical feeding of this bird - to skim surface of water to pick up insects, tadpoles, small fish over the water surface.|
|Did I get it ??|
Okay - coming back to the birds - the Black-bellied tern is found near large rivers in the Indian Subcontinent - the range extending from Pakistan, Nepal and India, to Southern China, Thialand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. In its Eastern range the bird is very scarce and that is the reason it has been assessed as Endangered.
This bird is almost never found around the coasts - its typical habitat being lowland rivers and marshes and other water bodies. The flight of the bird is with graceful with a lot of beating with its long and elegant wings. The birds that have been pictured are highly cropped images (remember the ego and the relation with the length of the lens part I talked about?) The breeding season starts in Feb till Apr and that is the reason that the birds are so brightly coloured.
The bird range and the numbers are suffering mostly due to - so called economic development that results in drained marshes, redirected rivers, sand poaching and it requires sand pits to breed. The eggs are poached by the man friendly animals like dogs, cats, crows, and lastly the pollution. Oh one has to see the water bodies of developing nations like India to get an idea what pollution and untreated affluent thrown in water bodies means.