Marsh Harrier Wintering in Kannur Kaipad Wetlands
I revisited the old rented house that my family occupied during the early 1980s in Odayammadam near Cherukunnu in Kannur on March 5, 2011.
I began my journey down the memory lane from Kasaragod on bike and reached Pallychal, the bus stop for Odayammadam only in the afternoon riding continuously for more than 100 km in a go.
After a short stroll around the old house, school and temple ground and after taking a few snaps of the temple pond in which I learned swimming I went straight to the ancient Pulayarkottam or the shrine of the Pulayas towards the west on the banks of the unique wetland ecosystem called Kaipad in Kannur.
Here once I watched Pottan, Gulikan, Chamundi and Valiyambrati Theyyams as a child; at the edge of the wetland called Kaipad which is actually a backwater like formation of river Kuppam connected to Pazhayangadi estuarine ecosystem.
As I am revisiting the place after almost three decades I could see the changes in natural and cultural ecology. The Kaipad was traditionally used as cultivating land for paddy. But now Odayammadam Kaipad is not cultivated and is engulfed by wild grass. Navigation, shrimp culture and wetland birds have also diminished.
A local crab-hunter told me that even crustaceans have shrunk in the wetland. I could see a few Common and Spotted Sandpipers here and there. To my delight a Eurasian Marsh Harrier appeared from behind the mangroves.
It displayed its undulating flight formations skimming the canopies of tall mangroves in the Kaipad. This hunter of the air is wintering in Malabar miles away from his European or North African home.
I was happy to see this swift and agile bird of prey which was a breeding adult male in its prime. After a few hours in the wetland I started my return journey to Kasaragod on bike.
In between I also climbed up the laterite hillocks rising from the sea level wetlands and admired the breathtaking view of Kaipad and surrounding backwaters of Kuppam river from atop in the yellow light of evening.
As a boy it was a real passion to get to the top of these hillocks and watch the widening wetlands, the horizon and the blue line of the sea to the west, especially at dusk when it turns golden.
I often escaped to the hills as I escaped to the Theyyams and drums at night, slipping and scooting away from home under the cover of darkness. But it was getting darker and I had to ride the 100 km back to Kasaragod and do nothing but to pull the throttle.