Archive for September, 2010

Sailing the Malabar Coast in Search of Sea Birds

// September 30th, 2010 // 3 Comments » // Eco Watch

Kannur coast: A moon-blanched landscape in early morning with Ezhimala in the backdrop

Pelagic birds are sea birds.  They rarely come to the coast, wind blown most often.  I joined Keralabirder and Malabar Natural History Society team for a first ever pelagic survey off the coast of Kannur from Azhikal bay on 26 september 2010.  We were around 20 birders in the team including Mike Prince, Sathyan Meppayur, K V Uthaman, Jaffar Palot, Praveen J and the rest.

Leaving Azhikal bay, Western Ghats in the eastern horizon

We sailed on a small old fishing boat upto 30km from the coast.  Ezhimala was visible even from that distance.  In the beginning the sea caught me with its rocking  waves and upturned my stomach.  But I got used to the undulations soon.

Parasitic Skua at 30km outshore

We saw a number of pelagic birds including Arctic (Parasitic) Skua, Flesh -footed Shearwater, Lesser-crested Terns, Common Terns etc.  Also saw sardine shoals moving around. Some butterflies and dragonflies like wandering gliders were also seen at the sea, perhaps on the way to Africa via Maldives.

Flesh-footed Shearwater 10km away from shore

Lesser Crested Terns sitting pretty

Crew cooking freshcatch of seafood

Skua in flight

Pirates of the Arabian: Bimal Nath, Uthaman, Prince...

A landmark on the Malabar coast: Ezhimala from 30km outshore

Land at last: MNHS-Keralabirder team finally reaching shores

Lapwings of Madayi Para

// September 8th, 2010 // 5 Comments » // Culture and Ecology, Eco Watch

Yellow-wattled Lapwing at Madayi Para

Madayi Para is a laterite mount on the northern bank of the Pazhayangadi river in Kannur district of Kerala.  It lies somewhat north-south to the south east of Ezhimala that currently houses the Naval Academy.  It is a place of immense eco-cultural significance.  This unique geographical formation is a biodiversity hotspot and is pregnant with the reverberations of the past.

Mangroves in Pazhayangadi River

The mount has immense historic and archeological importance.  This laterite plateau like formation at the edge of the sea once housed ancient Jain sacred groves, Jew synagogues, mosques and temples.  The relics and reminiscences of ancient heritages are still visible in shattered  and scattered forms.  An old rock-cut pond is still known as the Jew pond.

Malabar Crested Lark, Madayi Para

Madayi Kavu is the relic of an ancient Sramana shrine and sacred grove converted later to Hinduism after the Brahmanical conquest.    The southern tip of the hillock facing the river estuary still has a fort that once checked the upstream traffic.  It was also a strategic defense and administrative location of the Kolathiris and the Mushika dynasty who ruled from Ezhimala nearby.

Pazhayangadi River: A view from atop Madayi Para

I visited the place on Sunday 8th of August , 2010.  The red soiled mount was covered in green because of the monsoon showers.  The place has plenty of grass species and associated flora.  Paddyfield Pipits and Malabar Crested Larks are also abundant in the green cover.  Red and Yellow Wattled Lapwings are also nesting in the hillock.  Black-headed and Scaly-breasted Munias are commonly seen reaping the seeds of grass.

Wire-tailed Swallows by the Jew pond

Indian Rollers are seen in dry areas while the water bodies have some cormorants and egrets.  Butterflies like Blue Tiger, Tony Coaster, Common Rose etc. are abundant in this weather.  Some water sources would not dry up even in the hot summer say local people.  Madayi Kavu houses plenty of rare and endemic medicinal plants along with numerous fauna and some small mammals and reptiles.

Black-headed Munias, Madayi Para

The banks of the river Pazhayangadi  also host plenty of mangroves, especially white and stilt varieties.  The view of the estuary, the sea line and the Ezhimala coast from the top of the fort on the Madayi hillock is breathtaking.  Blue-tailed Bee-eaters are plenty on the hillock. Common Mynas and House Crows are not uncommon.  But during my exploration the Yellow-wattled Lapwings were unusually high in numbers and they were nesting and breeding in the area even amidst increased human infiltration into their heartlands and last resorts.

An ancient stone goddess inside Madayi shrine (most probably jain deity Padmavathi Devi)