Monthly Archives: May 2010

Black-winged Stilts of Vypin Mangroves

Black-winged Stilt: A solitary reaper in the ruined Mangroves

The lush green mangroves of Cochin, especially the green belt around the north coast at the mouth of the harbor and the lagoons and archipelago formations in the backwaters that run up to Mangalavanam have remained as the lungs and kidneys of this unique estuary and ecosystem that is also called the queen of Arabian Sea.

Indian Pitta in Mangalavanam Mangroves

A Red Crab in the Mangroves at Mangalavanam

This green cover protected the land and its people for hundreds of years from tidal waves and Tsunamis.  The crabs, shrimps, lobsters and prawn provided the people with healthy delicacies.  The mangroves are the breeding grounds of fish and a range of marine life.

Mangrove Blossoms in Vypin

Even after large scale destruction done for reclamation and urbanization in the city suburbs the Mangroves of Vypin island that forms the northern coast of the estuary has been giving shelter and asylum to marine biodiversity and endangered species that were pushed to the very periphery by development.

A Fiddler Crab among Mangrove flowers

Unfortunately the recent LNG and Petroleum tanks and terminals built at the heartland of the mangrove ecosystem in Vypin has destroyed the vegetation in a mass scale.

Country-boats and Chinese fishing nets of Vypin

I visited the location with P S Devarajan, an independent activist from Vypin in mid May 2010.  Big roads and mud filled reclamations and huge tanks and buildings including gigantic compound walls are chocking this fragile habitat.

Beckoning Lagoons: P S Devarajan leading the voyage

It is home to many varieties of mangroves and associated flora and fauna.  Devarajan who is born and brought up near this green paradise remembers his childhood expeditions and sojourns into the shaded mystery and bounty of the mangroves.

Degree of Damage: Hectares of Mangroves slashed and burned down for LNG terminals

He narrates bird and animal encounters in the past.  We surveyed the backwaters near the mouth of the estuary on a country-boat provided by local children and found many species of fish and crustaceans.  We could also see a few otters that were plenty in the past according to the kids who lead us.

Mouth of Kochi Estuary:View from southern tip of Vypin

Apart from a few Egrets and Cormorants, birds were virtually absent in the mangrove relics.  As we were leaving the devastated landscape in disgust a flight of birds suddenly landed down out of the blue.  The long held back pinkish legs revealed their true identity.  It was a small flock of Black-winged Stilts.  They were desperately seeking some food in the ruins of the mangrove lagoons.

Stilt with its pinkish long legs at Vypin

A Red Crab among the breething roots of Mangroves

Green-winged Stilts: Mangroves of Kochi

Devastated Mangrove Heartland for LNG Terminal

New Beginning: Mangrove Sapling

Green Imperial Pigeon of Chinnar

The thorny scrub of Chinnar is a unique habitat at the eastern margin of Kerala.  It houses the relics of stone age rock art and cave paintings.  The dry deciduous and thorny jungles of this eastern slope of the Western Ghats form a rain shadow country.  It  nurtures the sandalwood forests of Marayur and the Grizzled Giant Squirrels, Star Tortoise, Tufted Grey Langurs and much much more…  The mystery of Pambar and Chinnar rivers includes big mammals like Elephant, Gaur, Spotted Deer, Sambar Deer and a variety of birds and butterflies.

Spectacular Landscape of Chinnar

I visited this unique valley encircled by Eravikulam National Park on the west and south, Indira Gandhi WLS on the north and Kodaikanal forests on the east with an artist friend Jain in the first week of May 2010.  We saw plenty of Spotted Doves and Tufted Grey Langurs.  The landscape of the dry valley was breathtaking.  The dry jungles of Chinnar lie at an average elevation of 600-500 meters MSL.  From Munnar we can reach hear by driving down north east some 50 km through Marayur.

A Peafowl Pair in Chinnar

Blue Moutains and Green Jungle in Chinnar

The blue mountains in the background and the lemon green forests in the foreground formed a spectacular and highly soothing view.  We saw peafowls in the dry grass.  Spotted deers ran past us as we entered the thorny bush. A tribal forest watcher told us that it is also home to the endangered Mugger crocodiles which are rare in South India.  There are dormitory, rooms, tree huts and log huts by the Forest Department for travelers.

Tufted Grey Langur in Chinnar WLS

We entered the Tamil Nadu side and drove through Indira Gandhi WLS towards Udumalpet for a few miles to see a herd of wild elephants calmly grazing by the highway.  A mother and calf were enjoying their time together without much concern about the onlookers.   I could go up to 70 meters near them.   A forest guard was there to check the people.

Mother and Calf: A Close Elephant Encounter in IGWLS

While returning from this wonderfully and unbelievably close elephant encounter, before entering Kerala I noticed a big pale pigeon on a wild fruit tree.  Stopping the vehicle  I approached the tree with my camera and found a splendid Green Imperial Pigeon in its sheer beauty and grace.  Its glorious green wings and whitish underparts and head were visible in the dying light of the Chinnar sun.   I could also hear the yearning call of this pretty pigeon that animated and resonated the whole landscape and sunset at Chinnar.

Green Imperial Pigeon in Chinnar

Thorny Scrub of Chinnar

Thuvanam Falls inside Chinnar WLS