Secret Visitors of River Chandragiri: Sanderlings and Pratincoles in Thalangara Estuary

Sanderlings and Small Pratincoles (foreground) in Thalangara estuary of river Chandragiri, Kasaragod. A lone Sand Plover in the back.

For the last couple of days some secretive visitors are lingering on the mudflats of Thalangara estuary of river Chandragiri in Kasaragod.  The curlews, Terek Sandpipers, shanks and plovers were here for a long time now.  But the newly arrived ones are Sanderlings and Small Pratincoles says Praveen J, after going through my photos.

Sanderlings in flight, Thalangara, Kasaragod

Sanderlings are small Arctic waders who do long distant migration even to the tip of South America.  They breed only within the Arctic circle but winter down south in various beaches and estuaries.  The group that has reached river Chandragiri includes more than 30 individuals from the polar north.

Curlews in flight, Thalangara, Kasaragod

They literally came to me and stood before me to take a few snaps as I was on my regular evening wading in the estuary, enjoying the setting sun and the salty breeze from the west.  The identification was rather painstaking.  I had spent hours before narrowing down on Stints, Dunlins and Sanderlings.  But Praveen the learned friend from Keralabirder helped me to solve the puzzle, interpreting the paleness of plumage.

Seagulls in Kumbala estuary, Kasaragod

I stood there at the middle of the estuary for an hour watching them.  This rare encounter was made possible by the extreme low tide.  Once it was dark they flew away in short split groups further west to the seaside.

A tiny estuarine crab in Kumbala

Today evening I could see more than 2000 Brown and Black-headed Gulls at Kumbala estuary.  Two Great Cormorants, a couple of Reef Egrets and Great Egrets were also seen.  Common Sandpipers were also there as usual.

Black and Brown-headed Gulls at the river mouth in Kumbala

It is remarkable that the estuaries in Kasaragod are hosting a range of migrants from Arctic region despite the threat from pesticides and pollution.  As Mr Asok, a birder from Kasaragod himself has pointed out it is migrant-rich than Kadalundi.

Eurasian Curlews, Thalangara, early Dec. 2010

After watching these cozy visitors from the pole I remember the sensational birding reports that P K Uthaman has written in Kalakaumudi on Kadalundi a few years back.  The recent report from Arif working in Kadalundi is that because of waste dumping, scavenger crows and kites are chasing away the migrants from this estuarine habitat.

Vanishing Wings: White-bellied Sea Eagle in Thalangara estuary, Kasaragod

Though slaughter-waste and plastic wastes are real threats in Kasaragod as well it has the advantage of more number of rivers and river mouths.  This land is also gifted with coastal canals and wetland networks rich with mangroves.  Conservationists and the Government departments concerned must be vigilant regarding the vitality and sustainability of these unique ecosystem.

One thought on “Secret Visitors of River Chandragiri: Sanderlings and Pratincoles in Thalangara Estuary”

  1. your study and trail simple and natural…keep it up!!!together we will protect them…I got a lot of information from your blog..keep writing.

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