I started from Thrissur and through Puzhakal and Pullazhi Kol wetlands reached Adat Kol. Plenty of Spotted Sandpipers and a few Golden Plovers and Stints were seen. Marsh Harriers and Raptors were missing in the Kol. Last year there were plenty of them, even Booted Eagles were here last season.
Then went to Atirapally, Vazhachal, Peringalkuthu and Sholayar the origin of Cholayar or river Chalakudy around 1000m above sea level. I was fortunate to see and shoot the Black Eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle and White-bellied Black Woodpecker. Nilgiri Langurs and Malabar Giant Squirrels were also seen. Bonnet Macaques are really straying all along the road. Family groups are feeding and pampering them in gross violation of the law. These sedan parties are also leaving huge garbage and plastic toxic waste in the last remaining patches of low lying rain forests in the Western Ghats which is home to all the four types of hornbills in South India. The forest dept guys who allow them in must check their eating and drinking. Most of the so called family picnic parties are bringing alcoholic drinks and leaving their toxic wastes in the biodiversity hotspots.
Also heard the call of a Serpent Eagle at Tumburmuzhy at noon. Some Common Albatross butterflies were seen there mud-puddling. a lonely Chocolate Albatross was also in the group. Blue Tigers and Common Crows were aplenty. The newly rubberized road is a biker’s delight. A few Malabar Grey Hornbills also showed up on the return journey. Reached Abad at Nedumbasery at 7.15pm and returned to Thrissur after the meeting and dinner.
Cholayar or Chalakudy Puzha as it is known downstream is one of the largest rivers in central Kerala. It originates from Anamalais and Nelliampathy slopes in the Western Ghats and joins Arabian Sea after merging with the waters of Periyar near Paravur. It is world famous for its waterfalls at Athirappally, Vazhachal and Charpa.
The river also hosts the relic patches of unique riparian low-lying forests, extremely rare in Kerala. It is home to four species of horn-bills: Malabar Grey, Indian Grey, Malabar Pied and Great Indian Horn-bills. The fish diversity (more than 100 species) of the river and the bird diversity (more than 200 species) of the adjacent riparian forests are amazing. It is the last resort of an ancient tribe called Kadar who live by the river at Vazhachal range. The riverside ancient route to Valparai and Pollachi connected Kerala with the Tamil country for centuries.
The thickly forested islands in the river are also home to rare and endangered flora and fauna. The Cholayar basin is also part of an elephant corridor stretching from Parambikulam to Puyamkutty. Large mammals like Gaur, deer (Sambhar, Barking and Mouse deers) leopard and tiger are also abundant here. The human-leopard conflict is a serious menace in Malakapara.
In the last week of April 2010 I visited the banks of Cholayar with Adv. Sureshbabu Thomas. We stayed at Athirappally near the river. We explored upstream up to Sholayar reservoir near Malakapara bordering Tamil Nadu en-rout to Valparai. In the oil palm plantation below the Athirappally waterfalls my friend spotted a spotted dear and calf.
This was an alarming surprise for us as the western slopes of Western Ghats are not known for this species which is abundant in the eastern and dry slopes like Parambikulam. It could be an indication of changing climatic and vegetation patterns. We saw plenty of Malabar Grey Horn-bills on the way as well. Giant Squirrels and butterflies are quite common in the riverine vegetation and sparkling glades. This unique biodiversity hot spot is also under increasing threat from big dam projects that would eventually maroon this invaluable gift of nature.