For the first time in a generation, a rare Purple Heron was spotted near a lake in the capital. These birds of Bangladesh are seen only occasionally in the reed beds of large fresh-water lakes called haors.
It was heartening to see the beautiful bird trying to find a place in this rather unlivable city of ours.
The Purple Heron was a pleasant surprise to birdwatchers because even Pond Herons, commonly found elsewhere in Bangladesh, were a rare sight in the capital. The city is encircled by rivers like the Turag, Balu and Buriganga, and sprinkled with lakes of Dhanmandi, Gulshan and Mirpur etc. But much of these water bodies are not welcome places for waterfowl or wading birds. Although people continue to live by the noxious water of Dhaka, our prudent avian friends seem to want nothing of it.
With this level of pollution, it is fascinating to find a bird such as the Purple Heron try to make our city its home. The bird has chosen to inhabit the large lake between Mirpur Cantonment and the Birulia embankment. With nearly 640 acres of water and easily the largest lake in the city, it is called Goranchatbari ponding area.
The lonely Purple Heron was seen sitting on a pile of sticks between two islands at the north of lake. The only other large wader keeping its company there was a Grey Heron.
Although a second Purple Heron was nowhere near, it could well be there somewhere in the lake. A pair of Purple Herons usually split at dawn to forage at different sites and get together only at nightfall to sleep. The two islands, completely covered with trees and undergrowth, were likely to be the herons' place of rest.
Although opaque and rancid, the lake-water seemed to have enough fish, frogs, insects, snakes and mollusks to feed hundreds of cormorants, herons and egrets. Birdwatchers were elated to see half a dozen Little Grebes racing over the water and a thousand Lesser Whistling Ducks resting in the floating forest of water-hyacinths.
Although the global population of Purple Herons is over three lakhs, its number in Bangladesh is low and declining. Moreover, it is rarely seen outside the remote reed-beds of the Haor Basin.
Understandably, a single Purple Heron in the city is big news for bird enthusiasts. The prospect of a resident pair is much more stirring. It will be sensational if a pair is seen nesting on one of the trees of the island in the lake during their June-October breeding season. That will not only be the first for the city but the first known Purple Heron nest in Bangladesh.
A plan is reportedly afoot to develop the lake as a tourist attraction. We hope the plan will consider the lake's important inhabitants like the Purple Heron and other rare birds.