Farmers of Gujarat's Bhal region are very happy these days, welcoming hundreds of winged visitors who have come from eastern Europe and are busy protecting their crops.
These visitors are of three varieties of migratory birds known as Harriers which have come from far off places of Eastern Europe to escape the harsh winter there to the warmer climate of Bhal region of Gujarat near Bhavnagar district.
These migratory birds protect the crops of the farmers by eating up insects that are detrimental to the crops, a senior forest official said.
"These Harriers birds are one of the best friends of the farmers because they are voracious eaters of insects including grasshoppers, locusts and other insects that destroy the crops," said the Deputy Conservator of Forest Uday Vora.
In fact, the capacity of the Harriers to devour the insects is so large that they can together eat up 15 million insects during their sojourn.
These birds, which are known as raptors, also hunt small animals, rodents and small birds.
One can see about 2500 of Harrier birds in the Bhal region, which incidentally is the world's largest roosting ground for these birds.
One of the biggest advantages of the Harriers to the farmers is that their presence reduces the dependence of the farmers on the pesticides.
"The usage of pesticide becomes very less in these regions because these raptor birds eat up the insects. As a result, the farmers do not have to buy large quantities of pesticides to kill these pests," Vora added.
This not only saves them a considerable amount of money but also helps preventing excessive pollution of the soil because of pesticides, Vora said.
Thus, the birds play a very vital role in conservation, he said, adding that some times the people, because of their ignorance, kill these birds.
Even in certain parts of China, people used to kill a particular type of sparrow thinking that it was harming their crop when in reality it was actually eating up the worms and insects that damaged their crops, he added.