Participants discover Wayanad’s colourful biodioversity on birding and frog-spotting trails at MSSBG

MS Swaminathan’s Botanical Garden located on the premises of the Community Agrobiodiversity in Wayanad is playing host to scientists and enthusiasts who arrived for Monsoon Bash 2018, a nocturnal frog-watching walk and a birding trek through the biodiverse forests of the Western Ghats.

The first batch of Monsoon Bash 2018, initiated to explore the frog and bird diversity of the M S Swaminathan Botanical Garden, was held from July 21 to 22, and the second batch from July 28 to 29, with subsequent batches scheduled for August 4-5, 11-12 and 18-19.

The aim of the programme is to provide scientific and educational knowledge to participants through a recreational approach. A nocturnal nature expedition camp was the first activity on the agenda, one which familiarised participants with the the natural history, habitat and breeding habits of frog species. Only July 21, the first batch were excited to have been able to spot around 15 of the 21 commonly found species of frogs at MSSBG campus. The scientific names of he some of the species are Rachophorus lateralis, Polypedates pseudocruciger, Pseudophilautus waynadensis, Raorchestes nerostegona, Raorchestes ponmudi, Raorchestes anili and Hylarana intermedia.

Enthused by a successful nocturnal expedition, the group awoke early the next day for the  birding event  which began at 5.45 am. Mr. C. K Vishnudas delivered a small talk on bird diversity before the group could head out on the trek. The group was lucky to spot the first of the birds to be spotted was the Malabar Grey Hornbill, a species endemic to the Western Ghats, within the MSSBG campus itself. The Asian fairy bluebird, brown fish owl, blue winged parakeet, and the small sunbird were a few other birds among the 32 species spotted during the 3-hour-30-minute trek that was undertaken during the peak of the monsoon season.

Ms. Bhuvana, one of the participants from Karnataka, was thrilled at her first experience of a field activity at night and enjoyed the educational trekking and frog watching experience. Ms. Prantika Karmakar from West Bengal was overjoyed on spotting the various bird species on the birding trail, while Ms. Anandi from Chennai expressed interest in participating in upcoming events, particularly on conservation. She expressed interest in learning more about biodiversity.

Ms. Neelam Chaudhary from Uttar Pradesh said the trek had changed her outlook on frogs and that she was now inspired to conserve the habitat of these small species. Ms. Gaayatri from Thiruvananthapuram expressed wonder at the vast diversity of frogs and birds. “I never expected to see so many species in just the few hectares of MSSBG,” she said. Master Sharon D’Silva, a student, stated that ‘Monsoon Bash 2018’ had been an amazing experience for him as part of a group of tourists who learned from naturalists from various parts of the country. Ms. Sobha Chandrasekharan, a housewife and birding enthusiast, thanked MSSBG for providing her with an opportunity to know more about bird diversity and feeding her passion.

The tour programme was organised with the prominent support of Dr. N Anil Kumar, Senior Director, MSSRF, and Dr. V Balakrishnan, Head, MSSRF Community Agrobiodiversity Centre, Wayanad). The active MSSBG team including Dr. Smitha S. Thankappan, Senior Scientist and Communication Strategist. Mr. Jithin M M, Garden Manager and trained birder, Mr. Jayesh P Joseph, Plant Taxonomist and biodiversity researcher, Mr. Nandakumar G K, Ecologist and biodiversity researcher, and Mr. Sateesh K T, Gardener and Naturalist, ensured that the experience would be one of knowledge acquisition in the natural environment.

Mr. Aravind Anil Zachariah , naturalist and researcher, and Mr. C. K Vishnudas, who were the resource persons for the programme, added immense value with their long-term experience in the frog watching and birding trails respectively.

With the Monsoon Bash 2018 being hosted on the eponymous theme of the monsoon, the weather provided the perfect backdrop — the raindrops, the songs and colour of birds, the splash of streams and the evergreen canopy of M S Swaminathan Botanical Garden enabled participants to have an experience like no other.

Those who missed it, worry not, you can register for the upcoming batches on August 4-5, August 11-12 and August 18-19, 2018. For more details and for registration please see https://www.mssrfcabc.res.in/mssbg/monsoon-bash-2018/

Please note: Cost of Food and accommodation (dormitory) is included in the registration fees of Rs 2,000, The Guest house/Farm House is also available on payment of additional charges. Guests are expected to bear the transportation cost to reach the MSSBG campus but assistance will be provided with regard to travel, if required.

MSSBG will provide participants with flash lights/torches, raincoats, umbrellas, leech socks, gum boots, binoculars and canes for ease of trekking during the monsoon and to help better spot the various frog and bird species.

( Pic: The Malabar Hornbill, species endemic to Western Ghats)

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