Migrants are back in Mangalavanam, the green mangroved bird sanctuary at the heart of Kochi city. Last Thursday (18 Nov. 2010) in the late afternoon I got a chance to step into this cool retreat. From the top of the watch tower I could see a lot of waders wandering around on the mud flats exposed by low tide.
They were shanks: Green shanks and Red Shanks. There were more than eight individuals altogether. I was surprised to see a lonely Pompadour Green Pigeon close to the tree hut. Two Grey Herons flew across the water body with typical sound gestures. A Brown Crake was also wading in the muddy vegetation. A Magpie Robin was resting on the stilted roots of the mangrove.
A few Little Egrets and a lonesome Dabchick were also seen in water. The forest guards informed me that Paradise Flycatcher is around but unfortunately the Pitta is absent from the compound now.
The lush green mangroves of Cochin, especially the green belt around the north coast at the mouth of the harbor and the lagoons and archipelago formations in the backwaters that run up to Mangalavanam have remained as the lungs and kidneys of this unique estuary and ecosystem that is also called the queen of Arabian Sea.
This green cover protected the land and its people for hundreds of years from tidal waves and Tsunamis. The crabs, shrimps, lobsters and prawn provided the people with healthy delicacies. The mangroves are the breeding grounds of fish and a range of marine life.
Even after large scale destruction done for reclamation and urbanization in the city suburbs the Mangroves of Vypin island that forms the northern coast of the estuary has been giving shelter and asylum to marine biodiversity and endangered species that were pushed to the very periphery by development.
Unfortunately the recent LNG and Petroleum tanks and terminals built at the heartland of the mangrove ecosystem in Vypin has destroyed the vegetation in a mass scale.
I visited the location with P S Devarajan, an independent activist from Vypin in mid May 2010. Big roads and mud filled reclamations and huge tanks and buildings including gigantic compound walls are chocking this fragile habitat.
It is home to many varieties of mangroves and associated flora and fauna. Devarajan who is born and brought up near this green paradise remembers his childhood expeditions and sojourns into the shaded mystery and bounty of the mangroves.
He narrates bird and animal encounters in the past. We surveyed the backwaters near the mouth of the estuary on a country-boat provided by local children and found many species of fish and crustaceans. We could also see a few otters that were plenty in the past according to the kids who lead us.
Apart from a few Egrets and Cormorants, birds were virtually absent in the mangrove relics. As we were leaving the devastated landscape in disgust a flight of birds suddenly landed down out of the blue. The long held back pinkish legs revealed their true identity. It was a small flock of Black-winged Stilts. They were desperately seeking some food in the ruins of the mangrove lagoons.