Wingtips on water
|Over 25,000 birds visit the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary |
during the breeding season — March to July
The Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
Once upon a time, there was water a-plenty, in and around Bangalore. And where there was water, birding sites came up, with a host of birds big and small: pelicans, herons, black kites, white-breasted kingfishers, red-wattled lapwings and the like. Then, water sources became scarce and dried up, and the birds flew out of the city limits, looking for new breeding places. Today, you need to follow them, to go out of the city, for a glimpse. You need to go 134 km out of Bangalore, in fact, to the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary.
Ranganathittu lies just ahead of Tipu's Srirangapatna and is, basically, a group of islands in the middle of the Cauvery. 25,000 birds come to the sanctuary during the breeding season, March to July.
One's first impression of the place is lush thickets of bamboo and bird sound — chirruping, twittering, cooing, muttering, calling — wave after wave of sounds, startlingly alien to a city-dweller.
Ibis, storks, little cormorants, spoonbills, night herons are all a-talking and vociferously, at that. Of course, during the breeding season, the noise doubles. A boat ride along the rippling currents of the Cauvery reveals rain trees with storks nesting in them, stone plovers who stand and stare on various rocks, black cormorants, snake birds with their reptilian necks... and the waters liberally spotted with bird poo!
Some trees are dotted with black and you need to be warned: the black are bats, who screech and take off, to dot the skies alongside birds of all sizes, most noticeably the storks, carrying not babies, but branches and leaves for their nests.
The visitor is also likely to glimpse large crocodiles; there are about 50 marsh crocodiles in Ranganathittu, most of them sunning themselves on good days, in the shallow mangroves. Some of the rocks have their undersides teeming with mud swallows coming in and flying off from their colony.
Back on terra firma, the raucous cry of a peacock sounds a bit sulky, like he knows his thunder has been stolen by the nesting birds on the water. What is simply wonderful is that most of the birds at Ranganathittu don't give a hoot for the human oglers. Some grumble a bit, some stare rudely, some stretch their wings threateningly, but all go on with their lives and their business sans a pause.