|Stake Holders of the Miramar Beach|
(An Eco-ornithological argument based on field studies about the habitat of migratory birds. We submitted this report to Dr. Nandkumar Kamat, who was appointed to examine the proposal to privatise Miramar Beach in Feb. 2002)
Beaches provide us with a place to escape the heat, meet and make friends, swim, fish, play volleyball or just enjoy the sun and ocean breezes. But before we go ahead with the grandly proposed privatisation plan at Miramar beach, are we aware that others have a stake in it too, - if only for a short while? We are referring, of course, to some fascinating tiny fair-feathered friends who visit Miramar beach every winter from faraway places like Ladakh, Sikkim and even beyond the Himalayas! They have probably gone unnoticed by the crowds that throng the beach, and now it seems they are well poised to fade into oblivion.
Because they are migratory birds, these Plovers and Gulls return to Miramar beach each winter and do not seem to mind the exposed habitat, lack of shade or blazing sun, as it gives them a brief respite from the harsh winter back home. Here they find food in plenty in the form of aquatic invertebrates, seeds and insects.
The importance of these coastal wintering grounds has been universally acknowledged all over the world. At least three-fourths (500 plus species) of migratory birds incorporate the coastline or the coastal plain into their migration routes. Some species may use coastal migration routes to assist young birds in navigating their first trip south.
It is absolutely essential that migratory birds be accorded quality habitat in wintering areas such as Miramar Beach as their very survival depends on it.
In recent years, concern has grown as annual bird counts reveal sharp declines in the number of once common birds. Fragmentation, degradation and loss of habitat is thought to be the single most important factor contributing to the decline. Other problems include pollution, hunting and control as agricultura1 pests, degraded habitat and increased disturbance by human population.
Annual surveys show that the populations of some migratory species have begun to decline around 1980 at alarming rates, at an average of 1 to 2 per cent per year. Shorebirds are particularly dependent on just a few critical stop-over locations and these need to be protected.
Some Important Visitors
Lesser Sand Plover - Charadrius mongolus
Upto 1,500 birds found in scattered flocks along the beach, making this a major wintering ground for Lesser sand plovers. Breeds in stony plains near high altitude lakes in Ladakh and Sikkim.
Greater Sand Plover - Charadrius leschenaultii
Found in much smaller numbers than lesser Sand Plovers. Identification could be tricky, fortunately both the Sand plovers were spotted together, making it easier to separate each species by comparing bill size and longer legs of the Greater Sand Plover. They are winter visitors to coastal areas. Thirty birds last counted on 12th December 2001.
Kentish Plover - Charadrius Alexandrinus
Small, active flocks of around 28 birds run with a hurried gait along the sea shores. Will tolerate human presence, but if one approaches too close, the whole flock will rise, fly out to sea with dramatic twists and turns, and then return to the beach. Regular winter visitors in declining numbers.
Dunlin - Calidris Alpina
Small numbers of around 28 birds are spotted regularly on Miramar beach. Nests in circumpolar regions of N. America, Europe and Asia.
Curlew Sandpiper - Calidris Testacea
Similar to Dunlin but larger in size. A long distance migrant who nests in extreme N. Asia from 80" E. Recorded by British birdwatcher Gordon Frost.
Turnstone - Arenaria Interpres
This is a rare plover. Careful scrutiny of the Sand plover flocks should reveal at least one Turnstone - upto 3 Turnstones have been recorded. While a late November visit this year revealed a single Turnstone, our census on 12th December 2001, could not find any. Quite possibly overlooked.
Common Sandpiper - Tringa Hypoleuoos
Earliest to arrive and last to leave, the common sandpiper is found along all coastal wetlands.
All these vulnerable plovers depend on Miramar beach as a vital wintering ground. Any modification of the beach habitat for developmental activities will be a cruel card to play on these winter visitors, as they look to us for ensuring that their habitat is protected.