Osprey of the Vembanad

All set to dive!
All set to dive!

As part of the Bird Race 2009 we visited Kumarakam, Kaipuzha Muttu, Thalayazham, Vaikam, Valanthakadu, Kundannur, Maradu, Mattanchery and Fort Kochi.

We, me and Jaime, began our birding from Gandhinagar in Kottayam on the morning of Sunday, Nov. 14, 2009. The first call that awakened me was that of a Black-hooded Oriole. Tree pies, Crows, Cuckoos, Drongos and Barbets soon joined the morning chore with their exquisite polyphony. It was an encouraging start for a whole day of birding.

In Kumarakam at the Chengalam – Kumarakam paddy fields we saw thousands of Egrets: Great, Median, Little and cattle. Whistling Ducks and Cotton teals were also seen in flight. On the electric lines Ashy Wood Swallows were sitting and chatting close to each other. Common, White-throated and Stork-billed Kingfishers were also seen in busy action. Later we also saw the Pied one at Attipidika.

Barn Swallows and Red-rumped swallows were flying close to the paddy hawking insects in the early morning light. Plenty of Whiskered Terns were seen sailing high above. Purple Swamp Hens and Bronzed wing Jacanas were active in their morning bouts in the fields.

The rare sight was that of a Common(?) Snipe. There was another one nearby which was seen only when it was alarmed and took to its wings. We got a few snaps! Also saw plenty of Marsh, Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers. Indian and Little Cormorants and Dab Chicks were also seen playing hide and seek in water. Palm swifts and Indian Swiftlets were also seen occasionally on the fringes of the field and near palm groves.

Wading in the mud!
Wading in the mud!

Then we encircled the Bird Sanctuary on a country boat through the mouth of the Kavanar and saw plenty of Darters and Night Herons in the thick vegetation bordering the sanctuary. In the Vembanad lake we got a unique chance to see the fishing of an awesome Osprey in its full glory, diving down from 50 or 60 metres high. Its sweeps and twistes were simply breathtaking!! Seeing this huge and agile bird in quick action is a rare delight indeed, we could really cherish this glorious sight forever.

Plenty of Taylor birds and a brown shrike was seen on the reeds by the shore. Some Pheasant-tailed Jacanas disappeared into the water hyacinths. A Brahmany Kite was seen in suffusing flight.

At Kaipuzh Muttu paddyfields we saw three Marsh Harriers in brisk business. Plenty of teals and other water fowl were around. Here we also noted a huge raptor, probably an Aquila. Blue tailed and Small Green Bee-eaters were here. Ashy and Plain Prinias were plenty. We also saw a flight of Bayas alighting onto tall grasses in blossom.

In the Vaikam lake there were plenty of Whiskered Terns and Indian Shags. As we reached Valanthakkad a group of Paddy-field Pipits welcomed us with gusto. Some Red-wattled Lapwings were also around. Plenty of Black and Brahmany Kites were seen all around the sky. Three years ago along with Dr Dilip I sighted Lesser Sand Plovers and Golden Plovers here. But it has become a ruined wetland now. Sobha Group and other ‘Developers’ are choking this unique eco system. More than five varieties of Mangroves found here are also vanishing with it.

Roosting by the field
Roosting by the field

In Mattanchery we saw plenty of Terns near the quay. At Fort Kochy we were lucky to spot one Western Reef Egret in flight. Then at around five rain began to play its spoil sport and we were stranded. We reached the meeting venue around seven in the evening. It was a meaningful and delightful day of birding and understanding the reality of our environment. Beyond the spirit of competitive racing it was a greater opportunity for involvement, intervention and dialogue.

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