Amidst issues of deforestation, rapid urbanization and large scale pollution- problems that plague several growing cities today- Kochi is still considered a paradise for a wide species of migratory birds.
Though there has been a considerable decrease in the number of winged visitors to Kerala, bird-watchers in Kochi claim they have spotted over 50 species of migratory birds in the outskirts of the city in 2015, mainly in lakes and fields.
As per official records of the Forest Department, Kerala welcomes around 150 species of migratory birds every year. Among those, around 80 species are water birds that are commonly found in Kochi.
Baya weaver nests in Vypeen Island
These migratory species include godwits, terns, ospreys, golden plovers, pratincoles, Paradise flycatcher, Osprey bird, Mottled wood owl and several species of ducks and waders like sandpipers and plovers.
From October to February, Kochiâ€™s wetlands serve as winter resorts for these feathered guests. But bird lovers in the city are concerned whether the coming generations will miss the beautiful sights of the flock.
A few groups of youngsters, who live near these wetlands, have initiated steps to protect these birds and to make sure that they have a pleasant stay in the city.
Romey Maliakkal with Forest officials
Romey Maliakkal, a traveler, diver and photographer, is leader of one such group in Edavanakkad in Vypin Island, Kochi. â€śIn the past, I used to hunt birds with my friends and find pleasure in it. But after I attended a nature camp around eight years ago, I realized the necessity to protect the birds. Since then we have been working towards their protection,â€ť he said.
The group, guided by Romey, have members right from the age of 10 years to 65 years. â€śWe are a neighbourhood group our aim is to be vigilant against any type of atrocities against these birds,â€ť he says.
"A local temple here even avoided using crackers and fireworks as that can scare the birds," he added.
Groups such as his make sure that the birds are not hunted and their nests and habitat are not harmed. The birds mostly come to wetlands in the morning and evening.
â€śThe Baya weaver birds make beautiful nests in small plants and short trees in this area as it is very quiet here. These nests and eggs can easily be destroyed by miscreants. We are working to prevent such situations so that our next generation can also see their beauty,â€ť Romey added.
â€śSome people who come to watch the birds try even to harm them by using catapults or they to try to grab their eggs. So we locals decided to protect our winged guests,â€ť Sarath Kumar, a member of a similar group in the Varapuzha region of Kochi, said.
Photos: Romey Maliakkal