The plan was to set off from Bangalore at 4 .30 am in the morning. When Saturday dawned, we finally left the city at 10.30 am. There were 9 of us (Jaya, Sahastra, Anudeep, Reena, Rohit, Ravi, Bijoy, Ranjita and me) on board a hired Tempo Traveller as we set off for the small village of Kokkre Belur. (Kokkare in Kannada means stork and that’s how the village got its name.) The village is about 2 1/2 hours away by road.
For centuries, spot billed pelicans and painted storks have made this small village their home. Since this area is also inhabited by people, efforts have been going for a while to make sure that people and birds coexist sharing the natural resources, without disturbing the ecological balance.
A challenge today as the human population is increasing rapidly. Conversely, the bird population has been decreasing and this has been a worry with environmentalists. KB is supposed to be one of the very few places where pelicans and storks breed and is it therefore very important to look at conserving this village’s ecosystem.
We had with us one bird expert, Bijoy, who was much in demand that day. Even after spending a few years in the concrete jungle of Mumbai, this bird enthusiast had obviously not lost touch with his feathered friends. There were of course, many more bird enthusiasts in the group and the topic of conversation therefore naturally centered around – you guessed it – birds!
We made a short halt in Kamat Residency for lunch at about noon. That was a good start to the bird watching trip as we sighted some small birds in a tree in the hotel courtyard. The powerful binoculars came out and we were soon caught up with identifying birds – mainly by the experts Bijoy and Sahastra.
Our next stop was Tailur tank, which was filled with birds – commorants, egrets, herons, pelicans and many species of small birds. And beautiful red dragon flies. We walked along the lakeside for a while and even caught a crow and kite in flight fight! There were people wading around in the water too, which I presume was to catch fish. But they made a rather interesting sight, especially these three men who stood in a row, doing what I could not really figure! But they sure made a clickable sight 🙂
We carried on further until we noticed a diversion to Kokkre Belur village. As we approached the village we looked up at the sky – and what a beautiful sight up there! Pelicans, kites and painted storks filled the skies, gracefully gliding around – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many big birds in the sky at one time!
As we entered the village there were collective ooohs and aaaahs as we sighted huge clusters of storks and pelicans on almost every treetop. This being the breeding and nesting season, the village is crowded with these birds. If the villagers could charge premium on their trees from the birds, they would have probably made a fortune!
We spent some time wandering around the village, taking in the sights and sounds of the birds. Later in the afternoon we were joined by Gopi Sundar, who is a naturalist and works for an organization called Indian Cranes and Wetlands Working Group, that focuses on saving cranes and other wetland birds, like the pelicans. Inside the village, we also catch up with Manu, another wildlife expert. Manu has been working with the village of Kokkre Belur for about a decade now to save the pelicans and storks.
Inside the village, they have created an enclosure where injured birds are given shelter and treated till they are ready to fly again. A boy brings in an injured bird which has fallen off from its nest and lets it loose inside the enclosure. Manu gave us a background of how his efforts with the village started. Initially, the elders were opposed to the idea, while the children were more receptive. But through the years, they were finally convinced of his work and now they openly acknowledge and support his work.
The hot afternoon sun was taking a toll as members of the group looked visibly tired after a few hours of walking around. We took a small break and went to the river side as the sun began to set. It was quite a beautiful sight and I wanted to watch the sunset there but we were getting late for the evening’s function – a program to be put up by the village kids. We went back to the village and I managed to catch the sunset from the nearby field. I watched the sun go down – a beautiful sight over the fields and the trees in the distance. I walked back to the village where an area had been cleared for the kids.
They gave an enthusiastic depiction of how the ever increasing human population was affecting the bird population. And how the dwindling of natural resources is all a result of man’s own mistakes and decisions. The whole drama was very well done and though I didn’t understand the language, Reena kept translating the funny bits. It was quite an impressive performance and I thought the kids really had a sense of humour! I only hope that they grow up to be a more responsible and aware generation. Otherwise, it would be a lot of effort gone in vain.
At about 8 pm we made our way back to Bangalore city after a really tiring but very enjoyable day. It has been a few days now since the trip. But the images of those beautiful and graceful birds keep filling up my mind whenever I look up at the empty sky!
A list of birds sighted (compiled with help from everyone):
Some interesting facts provided by Gopi and Sahastra: