A safe landing at Magadi

A safe landing at Magadi

A reclusive village in quiet sleepy environs, it is hard to believe that Magadi plays host to thousands of winter visitors, particularly, the bar-headed goose. It is an attractive aquatic bird with a couple of black bars on its head, from which it derives its name. Between December and March every year, these feathered beauties flock this wetland in large colonies to breed and fly back with their offspring.

Alighting at Magadi cross during the wee hours of the morning, I was surprised if this was indeed the place as there was hardly any sign of birds or could one hear any birdsong. On asking villagers, I found out that these birds were out in search of food in distant fields and would be back to the lake exactly by nine. And they did. In large groups with raucous calls.

Bar-headed geese generally thrive around high mountain lakes and are well distributed in central Asia.  They are high fliers and are well adapted to fly across the Himalayan mountains, often using the jet steam over them. Equipped with a fairly wide wingspan they can cover more than a thousand kilometers in a day.

Some flocks migrate to the wetlands of North India, Pakistan and Myanmar. According to the locals in Magadi, this species has been flocking the village from several years. Among the countless number of other birds seen here are Brahminy ducks, black ibises and painted storks. The combined efforts of the Department of Fisheries, Forests and the village panchayats have resulted in the construction of a high watch tower adjacent to the lake for bird watching. A paragola has also been provided for visitors to rest and eat.   
Unlike other bird sanctuaries like Kokkare Bellur, where villagers are well aware of the need to conserve and protect birds (thanks to the presence of Centre for Environment & Education and regular visits by serious bird watchers), Magadi is plagued by a few problems.

A matter of concern is the deteriorating condition of the water tank, which is the primary source of water for both the villagers and the birds.  Also, local farmers are worried because birds feed heavily on their crops of rice and jowar. To overcome these difficulties and to ensure birds migrate to the village every year, there is a dire need to desilt and deepen the tank during the non-breeding season in order to store more water.

In addition, it is important to create a couple of islets on the lake and plant more trees on them.  Overnight buses from Bangalore to Gadag stop at Magadi cross on request, which is 26 kms before Gadag. Gadag is a convenient place to stay and offers decent food options.  

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