I remember a small group of five Eurasian Oystercatchers at Chavakad beach during the last migratory season 2011-12. I made a trip to Chavakad and Ponnani while teaching at Government College Thrissur then. Yesterday, 7 April 2013 when I revisited Tiruvathra Puthan Kadapuram on the Chavakad coast from Kutipuram through Ponnani, I saw the same group again. The injured bird who lost its left foot was among the group. This limping bird provided the vital link to relocate them after a whole year. This time I could see only three in the group from European shores perhaps.
There were a small group of Stints wading along the shore. I followed them to find a group of 100 gulls and terns. They included Brown and Black Headed Gulls, a few Yellow-legged Gulls and Lesser Crested Terns. Gull-billed and Whiskered Terns were also seen. A solitary Whimbrel was also with the gulls.
It seems that the migratory birds, most of them have gone back because of the unusually rising temperatures in Kerala. Nowadays no gulls are seen in Kutipuram or high up on the Perar. They used to be here till early March. Even terns are rare now and waders have also declined in number.
The unusually hot summer and encroaching of the dry weather through the Palghat pass from Tamil Nadu and the lack of summer showers in Malabar could be the reasons. The increased deforestation and mining on the western ghats bordering grasslands and devastation of sholas and evergreeen forests could be the reason of this unusual dry spell and totoal change in climate and bird life.
Saturday, 6 March 2010: After a lot of things done on a hot summer day in and around the city I reached the green and cool Mangroves of Mangalavanam for the first time this year as the sun was dipping down into the Arabian sea, at the mouth of the harbour in Kochi. Seeing the high tide I was a bit disappointed that I missed the waders and shore birds. I climbed up the wooden watchtower and waited a while in vain. The always welcoming forest guards Raju and Jayan told me that the Night Herons who were here for the past many years had vanished! Plenty of giant bats are now colonizing the rain trees behind the forest station. Raju also informed me that he is regularly watching a Pitta in the thickets at dusk.
I decided to wait for the darkness to fall and meet the rare winter visitor, Kaavi (Thuthu Chuvapan Kaavi, literally means Red vented Kavi in Malayalam) to appear. It is also called the Six ‘O clock Bird as it appears after sunset. During the silent meandering through the walkways under the mangroves I was lucky to spot a forest wagtail, an orange headed thrush, a Paradise Flycatcher (Male, Rufus morph) and a few water hens.
Raju also told me that he has also sighted a Great Tit in the sanctuary recently and White Ibises, Stilts and Shanks are also regularly visiting the mud banks during low tide. I remember reporting about Stilts and Shanks last year at the same time. At around 6.20 pm we heard a distinct resonant call and Jayan helped me to sight the bird sitting on a low twig.
It was a beautiful Indian Pitta with its long white eye brow, green upper and light brown underparts; of course with a reddish vent! I managed to take a few snaps in the dark. I was really excited to see the bird that close and take the image. After admiring the cute little bird for a while we retreated silently without disturbing it.
The Kerala Forest Department and the dedicated Staff here must be appreciated for their good work of conservation in the midst of a booming city like Kochi. Recently there was an outbreak of wildfire near the old railway compound. Now there is a talk about a Medical College near the sanctuary. The threats and challenges for conservation are on the increase day by day and the brilliant bio diversity of Mangalavanam prompts us for protecting it, for all of us and for posterity.