Survey tracks Vazhachal’s birds, butterflies, odonates

A recent survey in Chalakudy’s Vazhachal woods has left forest officials and nature enthusiasts pleasantly surprised with the rich biodiversity of the region. 

author_img Steni Simon Published :  07th September 2022 02:40 PM   |   Published :   |  07th September 2022 02:40 PM
Indolestes gracilis

Indolestes gracilis

A recent survey in Chalakudy’s Vazhachal woods has left forest officials and nature enthusiasts pleasantly surprised with the rich biodiversity of the region. Organised by the Travancore Nature History Society (TNHS) and Vazhachal Forest Division of the Kerala Forests and Wildlife Department, the four-day expedition spotted 138 species of birds, 153 types of butterflies and 58 varieties of odonates. 

Headed by TNHS experts Kalesh Sadasivan, Anoop Rajamony and Vinayan P Nair, the team comprised forest personnel and volunteers of NGOs such as BBC Bengaluru, WBA Nilgiris, BSB Trichur, and Green Cap Trichur. 

“It is the first step in a series of surveys planned for the region to enumerate the rich faunal diversity of the Vazhachal forests,” says Divisional Forest Officer R Lakshmi.  Volunteers were thrilled to find a healthy population of the state bird — the Great Indian hornbill. However, the Malabar pied-hornbills were in low numbers, possibly as a result of seasonal migration. 

Endemic species such as the Wayanad laughing thrush, Malabar grey hornbill, Legges hawk eagle, grey-headed bulbul, Ceylon frog-mouth and Malabar parakeet were also recorded. Ornithologists in the team noted the number of common and water birds was low. 

Despite the rain, the team spotted a “good number” of butterflies. The endemic species included Malabar banded swallowtail, Malabar rose, Paris peacock, Malabar tree nymph and Coorg forest hopper. 
Species that feed on Ochlandra reed, such as Travancore evening brown, Southern duffer, Tamil cat’s-eye, Bicolour ace, Unbranded ace, and Madras ace were also commonly spotted. But what left the team puzzled was the absence of the Red-disc bushbrown butterfly, usually found quite commonly.   

Interesting spottings also included odonates such as Protosticta antelopoides, Macromia ellisonii, Agriocnemis keralalensis, Indolestes gracilis, and Orthetrum triangulare. Experts say a “high number of rare species” such as Indosticta deccanensis, Ceriagrion rubiae, and Epithemis mariae was an interesting phenomenon, possibly due to the erratic monsoon showers. 

Beyond the scope of the survey, the team also noted the presence of tigers, leopards, elephants, dhole and gaurs in the region. The experts also documented about 40 species of ants, 15 species of spiders, 12 species of mantids and six species.

Experts at the TNHS, who compiled the data, gave a big thumbs-up to the support from range forest officers V S Sajish, Sijo Samuel, Delto Marokey and Nithin P S, and deputy range officers P A Anoop, P T Rajan, and G Rajesh.

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