Chempallikundu: A Mangroved Lagoon in the Lap of Ezhimala

Mangroves of Chempallikundu wetland, Ezhimala in the horizon

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 team in the breathtaking landscape: From left; VCB, Jafer, Sasikumar, Vishnudas and Raju

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.

Glossy Ibises, Purple Marsh-hen and Little Egret at Chempallikundu

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.

Black-winged Stilts in Chempallikundu wetland

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…

Asian Open-bill Stork, Chempallikundu

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.

Osprey with a fish (a Chempalli perhaps!) in Chempallikundu

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.

Brooding presence: Soaring Booted Eagle above Chempallikundu

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.

Sasikumar with Narayani Edathy in her Chempallikundu home

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.

Fast and furious: The agile Osprey above Chempallikundu
A water-snake at the edge of water in Çhempallikundu
Pied Paddy Skimmer in Chempallikundu
A lone Black-winged Stilt in flight, Chempallikundu
Loosing himself in nature: V C Balakrishnan in the mangroved lagoons of Chempallikundu
Riding the wind with spotlights: Booted eagle with diagnostic white spots on either sides of the head (pale phase)
Right on track after a hard days labour/leisure: From Left; Sasikumar with the spotting scope, Raju, Vishnudas and Jafer

6 thoughts on “Chempallikundu: A Mangroved Lagoon in the Lap of Ezhimala”

  1. hi, good to c this blogpost. Gud to know abt Malabar Ornithological society. Nice pics, good to c these wetland birds. Great show, Great effort.

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