Follow Ananda Banerjee exploring the islet and its giant variety of birds

The Pirotan Island is a scrubby barren islet with mangroves and no human habitation. One can only travel to the island by boat after obtaining permissions from the forest department.
When we anchored in the sea, at some distance away from Pirotann, I picked up my Victory SF binoculars for a closer look at teeming avian life on the sandy shoreline of the islet. And what I saw was a scene right out of traffic crazy rush hour at any cosmopolitan city! Only the city’s busybody’s replaced by a melee of white, black and brown birds, thousands in numbers congregated on the sandy beach.

While some of the birds stood still like statues others were engrossed in foraging. A pair of Ruddy Turnstone, stocky small wading birds in patchy black and white, scurried looking for prey under tiny stones. It was interesting to watch these small birds – with such clear clarity of the lens – flipping each stone that came their way with their long, slender beaks. The Pirotan’s beach was swarming with the Crab Plovers. These medium sized birds with white and black plumage love to eat crabs and are found, in large numbers, in only two places – the Gulf of Kutch and the Gulf of Mannar. I could spot their long, dainty legs as the birds craned their necks while the flock paraded the shore.

THE PIROTAN ISLAND IS THE LARGEST AND MOST FAMOUS AMONGST THE 42 ISLANDS IN MARINE NATIONAL PARK, GULF OF KUTCH, ARABIAN SEA, INDIA.

While scanning through the flock of crab plovers I spotted the wader I most wanted to see. The migratory Eurasian Oystercatcher, one of the largest and magnificent waders, with it distinct long bright red beak, legs and eyes is a sight to indulge with ones binoculars. Contrary to what its name suggest, the oystercatcher rarely feeds on oysters and more on snails, mussels, crabs and earthworms. For navigational difficulties we had to leave the comfort of the bigger boat and get into a smaller boat to circle the islet. As we moved around with binoculars glued to the eyes species kept popping up on the lens. There was an assortment of gulls, terns, sandpipers, sand plovers and other miscellaneous waders.

We watches how the larger gulls (Heuglin’s Gull and Pallas’ Gull) patrolled the shoreline and bullied the smaller gulls (Black-headed Gulls and Brown-headed Gulls) and the terns. Amongst the party of tern that lined up on the shore we spotted Gull-billed Terns, Little Terns, Lesser and Greater Crested Terns. In between a Caspian Tern did a fly past, its bright red beak shining like a beacon. Amongst the other waders that we saw the highlights were curlew sandpipers, Temminck’s stints dunlins, whimbrels, curlews, red shanks and pied avocets. While we turned our boat from Pirotan to head back a flock of flamingos flew in to end a fabulous day of birding.

Ananda Banerjee

He is an author (Common Birds of the Indian Subcontinent, Nature Chronicles of India –Essays on Wildlife, Wild Trail in Madhya Pradesh and Amy – The Amur Falcon), environmental journalist, graphic designer and documentary photographer. Banerjee is recipient of the prestigious Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Earth Heroes Award, Asian Environmental Journalist of the Year (AEJA – Singapore Environment Council) and Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism. In addition to that Banerjee holds Fellowships from Earth Journalism Network (EJN), FEJI-ATREE (Forum of Environmental Journalists of India – Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment) and The International League of Conservation Writers (ILCW).

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