A Mysterious Migration: Local Exodus of Common Albatross at Aralam

Thousands thronging in exodus: Common Albatrosses at Aralam

They come down to Malabar from the soaring heights and misty mountains of Kodagu and spread themselves all along the streams of Kottiyoor and Aralam forests.  After the spectacular flight formations and dazzling mud puddling on the banks of the wooded rivulets and cascades they move further south east to the Nilgiris.  It happens towards the end of winter or at the beginning of every summer.

A Malabar Giant Squirrel in Aralam santuary

The creamy yellow winged flickering and fluttering Common Albatross butterflies are a delight to the eye especially on the banks of the forest streams.  Local species like Chocolate Albatross, Blue Bottle, Painted Saw-tooth, Five-bar Sword-tail and Common Jay or even the occasional Blue Mormon join them for short distances in their epic voyage.

Tiny Grass Blue in Aralam

I observed this year’s count with Jaime Chithra on 12 and 13 February 2011 at Valayamchal Forest camp in Aralam Sanctuary.  Experts like V C Balakrishnan, Balakrishnan Valapil, Jafer Palot etc. lead the survey.  We saw thousands of Albatrosses in a few hours in the morning.  We could also see some other butterflies and birds on the margins of the count.

Brown-breasted Flycatcher at Aralam

Because of the climatic changes and over monsoon in the region there is a drastic decline in the number of birds and butterflies visiting the Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary which is the life line of Kannur district and Malabar at large.  Despite the heavy rains the streams emptiying into Valapattanam/Kuppam river like Cheenkannipuzha and Bavalipuzha are also lacking in sufficient water flow.  It is getting clearer that this green and wet area of Malabar is also facing severe drought threats and drier spells in the immediate future.

Tamil Yeoman at Aralam

An Unethical Trend Paraded  as Scientific Study

Another alarming and unethical practice that is marring the nature-study and butterfly conservation paradigm is something called ”butterfly rearing”.  This is a complete unethical intervention in the organic order and complex processes of nature and the web of life at large and could cause devastating effects in future ecology and genetic equilibrium.

Green banks of Cheenkannipuzha: Riperian forests in Aralam

The fundamental premises and practices of butterfly rearing and ”life cycle study” are against bio-ethics as it intervenes in the autonomy and ecological rhythm of nature without even anticipating its environmental consequences.  It could be identified as a naive violence, a criminal invasion and an ignorant aggression on the eggs and hatched larvae of the butterflies.  Its a sustained sadism of the occult and obscurantist sort presented and paraded naked as pure science and experimental inquiry.

A skipper butterfly in Aralam

The hungry watcher/photographer or self presumed  ”scientist” manipulates the eggs and pupa according to his whims and fancies to get photos and to break the records in hatching and rearing. It has deteriorated into an obnoxious competition between the rearing lunatics!

Like moving clouds: Albatross migration groups in flight

The tragedy is that it is done at the coast of our fragile ecosystem and its sensitive life balance.  It is a blind mad race that people lacking ecological  and ethical literacy crave at.  Think of ornithologists collecting the eggs of endangered birds and rearing them in their backyards or studios for a more exotic close shot or a complete video, or just to break the records in home-reared birds!!

Glad-eye Bush Brown at Aralam

According to the exponents of this fascist Eugenics it is a harmless pass time and some of them even ascribe “scientific study” facades to this mere voyeuristic and scopophilic  perversion which is morally and environmentally catastrophic in the long run.  It is also vital to remind the authorities concerned that the public fund which must be earmarked for developing the conservationist culture and bio-ethics among the people, especially the young student generations must not be misused for this kind of unethical and aggressive-absurdity that is a common shame in both the realms of nature and culture.

A red dragonfly near Cheenkannipuzha at Aralam
Mud-puddling Common Albatross, Common Jay, Blue Bottle... at Aralam
A huge forest tree in Aralam sanctuary
A Cerulean butterfly at Aralam
A raptor in Aralam sanctuary
Jaime hiding in the labyrinth -like roots of a huge forest tree at Aralam
Orange-headed Thrush at Valayamchal, Aralam
The team at Valayamchal Forest Station, Aralam
A damselfly at Aralam
Jaime crossing the river Aralam

Lapwings of Madayi Para

Yellow-wattled Lapwing at Madayi Para

Madayi Para is a laterite mount on the northern bank of the Pazhayangadi river in Kannur district of Kerala.  It lies somewhat north-south to the south east of Ezhimala that currently houses the Naval Academy.  It is a place of immense eco-cultural significance.  This unique geographical formation is a biodiversity hotspot and is pregnant with the reverberations of the past.

Mangroves in Pazhayangadi River

The mount has immense historic and archeological importance.  This laterite plateau like formation at the edge of the sea once housed ancient Jain sacred groves, Jew synagogues, mosques and temples.  The relics and reminiscences of ancient heritages are still visible in shattered  and scattered forms.  An old rock-cut pond is still known as the Jew pond.

Malabar Crested Lark, Madayi Para

Madayi Kavu is the relic of an ancient Sramana shrine and sacred grove converted later to Hinduism after the Brahmanical conquest.    The southern tip of the hillock facing the river estuary still has a fort that once checked the upstream traffic.  It was also a strategic defense and administrative location of the Kolathiris and the Mushika dynasty who ruled from Ezhimala nearby.

Pazhayangadi River: A view from atop Madayi Para

I visited the place on Sunday 8th of August , 2010.  The red soiled mount was covered in green because of the monsoon showers.  The place has plenty of grass species and associated flora.  Paddyfield Pipits and Malabar Crested Larks are also abundant in the green cover.  Red and Yellow Wattled Lapwings are also nesting in the hillock.  Black-headed and Scaly-breasted Munias are commonly seen reaping the seeds of grass.

Wire-tailed Swallows by the Jew pond

Indian Rollers are seen in dry areas while the water bodies have some cormorants and egrets.  Butterflies like Blue Tiger, Tony Coaster, Common Rose etc. are abundant in this weather.  Some water sources would not dry up even in the hot summer say local people.  Madayi Kavu houses plenty of rare and endemic medicinal plants along with numerous fauna and some small mammals and reptiles.

Black-headed Munias, Madayi Para

The banks of the river Pazhayangadi  also host plenty of mangroves, especially white and stilt varieties.  The view of the estuary, the sea line and the Ezhimala coast from the top of the fort on the Madayi hillock is breathtaking.  Blue-tailed Bee-eaters are plenty on the hillock. Common Mynas and House Crows are not uncommon.  But during my exploration the Yellow-wattled Lapwings were unusually high in numbers and they were nesting and breeding in the area even amidst increased human infiltration into their heartlands and last resorts.

An ancient stone goddess inside Madayi shrine (most probably jain deity Padmavathi Devi)