Chennai resident’s audio recording of curlew call is first of the species to appear on eBird from India
Subramanian Sankar, who considers himself a longtime student of bird calls, recently solved what has been a problem for bird watchers in India. This is to have the curlew sandpiper “authentically” recorded.
Recording the call of a curlew sandpiper that is entirely that of a curlew sandpiper was a challenge, recognized by Salim Ali. Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan (Vol. II) by Salim Ali and Sidney Dillon Ripley has a revealing note: species. “
Recently, the eBird platform succeeded in obtaining a validated record of curlew calls from India.
“There must be other records of the Curleeding Sandpiper from its wintering grounds in India, but this is the first record of the species’ call on eBird from India,” observes Subramanian (“Subbu” in Citizen Science Bird Watching Circles).
A resident of Nanganallur, Subbu had joined two other people on a birding expedition in the coastal sections of Nagapattinam.
Almost always hearing a bird before seeing it, it was naturally expected to return from exercise with a rich harvest of bird calls. A clearly recorded vocalization of a curlew, however, was among the least expected, if not unexpected.
He uploaded four recordings, two exceeding the one-minute mark and the other two remaining under 20 seconds. He notices that the shorter of the sound capsules – one that lasts only five seconds – has the call of a pissed off curlew sandpiper taking flight.
“There were about 40 curlews. There were also a good number of small relays. Scattered, curlews actively foraged on small relays and sand plovers. In the distance, there was also a herd of phalaropes, ”he describes the scene in the salt marshes where the sighting occurred.
“It is extremely difficult to record the calls of birds that are in their wintering grounds. They are generally silent and rarely call, and when they do, the call would be primarily a beep, and they can all sound similar. You have to look at the spectrogram to see how different they are.
On how vocalizations can blend together, he observes that “once in a ‘call’ I found twelve species. They had all sung together.
The curlew sandpiper is an endangered bird, its numbers causing frowns of confusion and concern. Ornithologist V Santharam notes that to get to the bottom of their reduced presence, far-reaching factors may need to be investigated.
From the bird watching and study experience at Adyar Estuary, Pulicat and Point Calimere, among other coastal sections, Santharam observes:
“I remember it as a fairly common bird – it was once seen in the Adyar estuary, where I first saw it. It was once found in most coastal water bodies. A few years ago, birds were common; and a few other years when their numbers would be low. There would have been fluctuations that would have had something to do with their breeding or passage areas, as they travel a long distance.
There could have been triggers in critical stopover wetlands. In the stopover wetlands, they would refuel and continue their migratory journey. When such wetlands are lost, their numbers may be low when they reach their wintering grounds.