Nature & Wildlife
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The beautiful birds of Kokkre Belur

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.

The pictures from the trip.

The beautiful birds of Kokkre Belur

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):
– Tickell’s Flowerpecker
– Purple-rumped sunbird
– Large green barbet
– Iora
– Black cormorant
– Grey heron
– Pond heron
– Black crowned night heron
– Little egret
– Cattle egret
– Grey pelican
– Painted stork
– White ibis
– Spotbill duck
– Pied bushchat
– Brahminy kite
– Pariah kite
– Oriental (or Indian) white eye
– Black winged stilt
– Indian roller
– Green bea eater
– White throated kingfisher
– Red whiskered bulbul
– Oriental magpie robin
– Common coot
– Eurasian collared dove
– White-browed bulbul
– Chestnut-shouldered petronia
– Grey hornbill
– Bronze-winged jacana

Pictures from the trip

Some interesting facts provided by Gopi and Sahastra:

  • At any time of the year, one can see approx 1000 spot billed pelicans in KB – this represents almost 10% of the global population of this species.
  • At the turn of the last century the pelican was quite common over the whole of southeast Asia numbering in hundreds of thousands, even millions. Recent studies suggest the population is approx 11,000 – 13,500. This is a decline of over 98 % in the last 100 years (this is from the BirdLife International study on this species).
  • Records of these birds visiting KB go back to 500 years.
  • The KB village itself is nearly 1000 years old.
  • Spot billed Pelican is one of the three species of pelicans that are found in India the other two being the Great White Pelican and the Dalmatian Pelican.
  • During the height of the breeding season the pelicans and storks in KB bring 4 tonnes of fish into the village. This food source was converted to guano, a valuable fertilizer for the village farmers. Recently however the shift to chemical fertilizers has broken this symbiotic relationship between the villagers and the birds.
  • “Kokkare” means Stork in Kannada. (“Hejjarle” means Pelican. FYI.)
  • The trees used for breeding cannot be declared to be a part of any Sanctuary since wildlife laws in India prohibit human habitation and activity inside wildlife sanctuaries. This calls for a need to invoke other, more suited conservation paradigms for KB.
  • Thanks to the efforts of Manu and Mysore Amateur Naturalists, the population of pelicans in KB is steadily increasing.
  • The Indian Cranes and Wetlands Working Group (a programme of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, affiliated to the International Crane Foundation) will partner with MAN to help preserve KB.

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10 Comments

  1. some super photos. guess you got more of them at KB. like the one at the top, where the silhouetted pelican is just about to get down onto its nest.

  2. rEEna says

    aweosme fotos n excellento write up!

    didja book any stay homes in COorg?

    rEEna

  3. Hello,

    This is a very very charming blog indeed! I chanced upon it a couple of months back, and it’s a regular friday reading for me now 🙂 I blog as well.. rather infrequently.. and have picked up a couple of ideas from this blog, hope that’s alright 🙂

    Keep creating!

    Anshuk

    anshuk.blogspot.com

  4. sp: thanks. that’s one of my favourites too!

    kiran: i never know when you are in town these days 🙂 thinking about bhoomi. are you going?

    thanks reena, liked yours as well!

    thanks satish.

    nice of you to drop by! keep blogging and will drop in soon 🙂

  5. sp: thanks. that’s one of my favourites too!

    kiran: i never know when you are in town these days 🙂 thinking about bhoomi. are you going?

    thanks reena, liked yours as well!

    thanks satish.

    nice of you to drop by! keep blogging and will drop in soon 🙂

  6. Just a few somethings…

    First off, amazing pics. I love the Grey Pelican banking. Always my favourite view of the bird in flight.

    Now…

    Gopi’s name is Gopi Sundar.

    And what you’ve named as an Intermediate Egret is a Little Egret. Manu says this bird always nests below the nests of the pelicans and painted storks and feeds on their leftovers.

    Oriental white-eye and Indian white-eye are the same.

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