Conditions are looking up for any life form with the onset of rains in Bunyala.
The local rice irrigation scheme which is esssentially the area’s industrial zone giving most people a chance to earn a penny is bustling with activity at the moment. And the rains have boosted foliage for livestock which are looking fine and birds at first sight are about abundantly and in their various kinds of course being the migration period.
The irrigation scheme
A healthy goat enjoying thorny foliage
Greenshanks finishing off their sleep in the early morning
A female Greater Painted Snipe stirring in the early morning
For weeks now, light drizzles have been gracing the evenings after the scorching tropical day time sunshine. A few days ago however, the rains came down unexpectedly in the morning hour shortly after 0600hrs forcing my assistants and myself to take cover by a roadside hut with the inhabitant(s) most likely sound asleep inside; a few minutes later, the showers subsided. The skies appeared dreary for a downpour and the sunrise rays even lit the east. We were headed for the furthest part of the study site so we did not mind getting a little wet from the slight drizzle provided we beatt time and poachers who are also early risers. Midway through our journey and the showers broke into a significant downpour, so we took cover at the irrigation board premises. We relaxed and watched through the rain not in any hurry any more. Afterall heavy rains meant no poisoning because of the need to economize on the cost of the poison (by the poachers)and the rains washing off the poison from the baits and the birds bowsing fresh rain water would just not maximizing on kills which meant wasted poison.
We took GPS points and made notes, occasionally chatting with the farmers in the rice scheme and enlightening them on this whole business of Furadan and poisoning. I was amazed at how informed some were. I had sought to find out if they had been supplied with Furadan to use in their cultivation plots having noted that they had already been given seedlings, part of the package that normally comes with Furadan. They said they were not being given Furadan this season because the pesticide was banned. They said they had been told that if the harvest was good who knows, some maybe exported!and what would be better news for the pheasant farmers. However they were told that the rice would not be accepted in the international market if certain chemicals were found in the export product; Furadan is one of these products that potential importers will be looking at and the chemical would be found if it is used in planting and tested at the export-import level. “So as long as we are the ones eating the foul cereal someone thinks it is alright!” Further, they said the government had banned it because it was being misused for poisoning lions.
The ‘New friends’ that we talked to. They are using oxen to ready paddy fields; a giant rake-like impliment is attached to the chain and drawn by the oxen along the water-filled plots to remove any debris in the ploughed, soggy earth prior to planting the rice
We upheld the hope of non-eventful bird poisoning incident as the day wore on. With evey one ticking minute and the prospect of a downpour later on in the day almost guaranteed that we would clock the coveted zero figure for bird mortality for the day!
When we were Just about to finish walking the last transect, a flock of Open-billed Storks stirred ahead. No doubt some poachers were rounding them up so that they fly on to their poison bait set up. With the stabilized sunshine after the morning rain the birds had embarked on intensive foraging. Gorging to satiate their hunger hoping to recover lost time while waiting for the heavily pelting rain to subside earlier on and probably trying to beat the immiently warning showers later on. The poachers knew better and took advantage.
Godwits feeding with heads immersed in water
Ruffs feeding in harmony their backs watched by the Curlew and Wood Sandpipers.
An African Spoonbill busy dabbling for food
Just in time for us to take off and avoid getting soaked by the rain, the poachers left the site with 12 Storks and numerous sandpipers
One of the poachers with his catch (poisoned birds) loaded on his back
As we also made off to camp we passed by a dead stork and a farmer’s cutlass and shoes, a sign that the action had been going on for some time before we arrived.
Usually the poachers will not let you take any of their bird for free no matter where the poisoned victim is collected from. This bird must have been a stray bird which in an attempt to get away from the assaulting poachers collapsed to its death in this lucky farmers plot out of its pursuers sight. Such is the case for many other birds of which not all are recovered. A wasteful, brutal technique poisoning is.
And so the days wear on.
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