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Bird Watching Tours - A Photo Tour
Bird Watching - Nature Tours
Do you enjoy bird watching? If you do, join me on my road trip to a small village called Kokkare Bellur near Mysore in south India. We could then travel to Ranganathittu a bird sanctuary on the banks of the river Cauvery. This bird sanctuary is about 125kms from Bangalore on route to Mysore, the land of the royals. The bird sanctuary is the place where tourists normally go, but Kokkare Bellur is your ticket to heaven in the peace and calm of a small hamlet lost in time. Kokkare Bellur roughly translated means the place of storks. The village has four or five small lanes and about fifty trees which these birds make a home of between the months of November and March.
Bird Watching at Kokkare Bellur
The birds and people of Kokkare Bellur live in harmony, despite the fact that the thousands of birds that roost here, cackle all day, paint the trees white and fill the place with the smell of their droppings. Amazingly, these kind folks don’t seem to mind it at all, in fact they are very protective of their birds. They will be around to provide you all the information you need, if you ask for it. However, if they sense danger from you to their birds they will have you followed and arrested. The locals rescue fallen chicks and take care of them until they are ready to fly away with their families. Old storks that will not make it to their home after the breeding season are given shelter here. We spoke to a young lad here who came to feed the chicks and the old storks, he spoke about these birds with a certain pride.
Birdwatching at Kokkare Bellur and Ranganathittu Bird sanctuary
Kokkare Bellur and Bird Sanctuary at Ranganathittu - Bird Watchers Paradise
If you want to watch these birds in action, then the best time of course is early morning hours. The drive to Kokkare Bellur will take you about an hour and a half if you can get to avoid the city traffic on time. If you start at 4 a.m you could drive smoothly avoiding the rough traffic of the city especially near Mysore road. Pack your cameras and binoculars so that you will not miss the special sighting of those birds that are not so visible as the storks. Make sure that you have extra batteries and storage cards for your camera. Wear warm clothes as the morning chill does get to your bones as you drive out of the city.
In Kokkare Bellur and Ranganathittu you would find painted storks, egrets, ibis, cormorants and other little birds like woodpeckers, blue kingfishers, pied kingfishers, green bee eaters, night herons, river terns etc. These places are a veritable paradise for bird watchers and photographers.
Painted storks (Mycteria leucocephala)
Painted storks are found in India, SriLanka, some parts of Southeast Asia, and in some parts of China. They have been naturalised on all continents except the Antartica.
These storks are different from the other storks in that their long tertials or flight feathers are tipped in pink. These huge birds live in colonies near human dwellings on houses and trees. They share their breeding ground with other birds like herons, egrets, cormorants etc. The hatchlings constantly make loud clacking noises for about eighteen months after birth and then as if they have lost their voice they generally remain noiseless.
Food Habits, Lifespan and Size of the Painted Storks
- Their meal consists of fish, frogs, snails, snakes, lizards, hatchlings of turtles and crocodiles, crustaceans, insects etc.
- They have a lifespan of about 20 - 28 years in captivity.
- Medium-sized storks are about 93–102 cm (37–40 in) tall, with a wingspan of 150–160 cm (59–63 inches). They weigh about 2-3.5 kg. (Source Wikipedia.org)
A Delight for Birdwatchers
These beautiful birds often wade through shallow waters with half open beaks to catch fish. The male birds provide most of the sticks and material for the nest. Their nests are huge and the hatchlings often paint the trees white with their droppings. The young ones are dependent on their parents for their food, the fish that the adult bird swallow is regurgitated and fed to the young ones.
The eggs and the babies are often preyed upon by crows and black kites. The adult birds often become the prey of marsh crocodiles.
The males and females look alike but the females are much smaller. In Ranganathittu you can get a closer look at the birds them in the boats you can hire. In Kokkare Bellur you may get a closer look at their colonies and breeding styles.
Asian Storks are grey storks pretty dowdy compared to their painted friends and other water birds. They have long black beaks and legs. These birds are similar to the painted storks in their food and breeding habits. They are slightly smaller and seem not to prefer human habitation like the painted storks. The marsh trees seem to make comfortable homes for these birds.
The storks make a beautiful picture flying against the sun with their necks outstretched. They are a beautiful sight dotting the skyline as you approach the hamlets. I wish, I could have had pictures of them at sunset, but the rain spoiled my dreams of a picture perfect stork filled sky against the setting sun.
Bird Watchers Bonanza - Crocodilles
Where birds abound predators flourish. The painted storks and Asian storks do make a tasty meal for the crocodiles here. Crocodiles are the constants at Ranganthittu, apart from small harmless water snakes. If you are lucky you could see a massive nesting crocodile like we did. There are a huge number of smaller crocodiles sunning themselves out on the rocks. The boatmen will point them out to you. The boat men usually do not take you any closer to the crocodiles than they should, but will help you could get a good look at them.
Egrets, Night Herons, Blue kingfisher - A Feast for the Bird Watcher
It is a lovely sight to see a kingfisher, the common ones here are the blue kingfishers, perched on electric wires or branches and brooding over the waters, until they swoop down to lift a fish off the water. These electric blue birds have glossy feathers and are easy to identify.
Often you would see the River tern and the night herons standing still on the rocks, seemingly sunning away. The yellow bills of the river terns make them pretty photographic. The night herons look like little penguins standing ten inches above the rocks they are perched on.
The egrets and herons are pretty common here. You can see them riding on cattle or dotting the paddy fields.
It is the little birds like the green bee eater, the kingfisher, the pied kingfisher and the woodpeckers that you sight on trees that make Ranganathittu bird sanctuary a special place to be in. The serene atmosphere is best visited in the early morning before it gets crowded. You could enjoy their tweeting and calls in peace. If you like to sight birds in quiet you need to go there on a working day, the weekends are not for you. The best part of visiting Ranganathittu is that, at each time of the year you get to see a different species of birds.
All along the route you have various tourist places, which are rather crowded. You could drive further up to visit Mysore and stay there overnight. The zoo has interesting animals and birds that would be worth your time. The Mysore Palace and the Brindavan gardens are spectacular and are worth the visit. The gardens with their musical fountains are an awesome sight. If you are a nature lover you would enjoy this road trip as we did. Thanks for chugging along with me and I hope you will have a wonderful time when you decide to visit these places.