This unique wetland is caught between Madayipara plateau and Ezhimala hills in Kannur district of Kerala. Many rivers join nearby to drain into the Arabian sea. It is a marvel in terms of its rich mangroves and associated vegetation. It also attracts a lot of fish, crustaceans and birds into its bountiful and beautiful habitat.
The very name Chempallikund means the pond of Climbing Perch or Chempalli (Anabas Testudineus). Once it was full of such endemic fish and fowl and fed the local people with rich marine nourishment and shelter for the migrants for ages.
It has always fascinated me on my train journeys through this spectacular wetland between Pazhayangadi and Ezhimala railway stations over the years. Yesterday (30 Jan. 2011) I joined the Malabar ornithological survey team that is following the trail of Salim Ali after a few decades under the leadership of Sasikumar, the veteran ornithologist of MNHS, who is originally from Kunjimangalam near this threatened ecosystem. Jaffer Palot and V C Balakrishnan were also with the regular team members comprising of Raju and Vishnudas. In a few hours in the morning we saw more than fifty species of birds in this biodiversity hot-spot.
The Sunday morning was bright and glorious with the golden sunshine. It made the whole wetland glow in luring hues. We saw plenty of Black-winged Stilts, Glossy and White Ibises, Red Shanks, Great and Little Egrets, Spotted Sandpipers, Asian Open-bill Storks, Darters, Cormorants, Purple and Grey Herons, Black Bitterns, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Purple Marsh-hens, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Pied Kingfishers, Dabchicks, Kites and more…
But the highlight of the day was a soaring Booted Eagle (pale morph) with the lucid ‘spotlights’ on either side of the neck and an awesome fishing Osprey!! A Marsh Harrier also showed up when the Osprey was in flight. It was carrying a big fish, probably a Chempalli in its sharp talons.
The flood plain like topography of Chempallikund offers plenty for the birds and birders. This unique estuarine ecosystem houses numberless varieties of mangroves and associated fauna. This magic pot of nature must be conserved for posterity and the sustenance of life at large in this region of the world. It is also home to diverse dragonflies and butterflies. Various Pansies, Grass Yellows and Tawny Coasters were seen in plenty. The fish and crustacean population must be studied and documented. So is the world of snakes.
This spectacular site in the lap of Ezhimala and adjacent to Madayipara must be protected and preserved for its eco-cultural significance. It is a unique site of immense relevance in terms of natural and cultural history. The birds are protected and given asylum by an elderly woman called Narayani who lives alone at the heart of this wetland in a secluded coconut palm grove.
Narayani Edathy is offering valuable models of co-existence and conservation for policy planners and researchers as Kandal Pokkudan has shown us close by. It is a kind of human symbiosis inspired by nature. She provides shelter to the birds and chase away the shooters and trappers; the birds in tern fertilize her land with their precious droppings. I am eager to visit this earthly paradise again and again in future. Hope it will survive the onslaughts of time and the pressure of development.