Just visited a wetlands bird sanctuary outside of the city and it was such a treat to be in a quiet, unpolluted natural setting. The birds were amazing! I was with my friends Sekar and Srini who are not ornithologists but who enjoy the wild setting and the birds as much as I do. The area attracts nesting pelicans, painted storks, and all sorts of other large and small water birds for the winter nesting season.
For an India public area, it was surprising clean and quiet- good thing we went on a non-holiday weekday. From the watching tower, we were able to look down on literally thousands of birds flying, preening, nesting and generally looking happy and healthy. I also got my first glimpse of rural Tamilnadu- green rice fields, herds of goats, women talking loudly as they chatted along the field pathways. Very peaceful.
For centuries, the local villagers have protected the wetlands of the area because the guano-filled water provides rich fertilizer for the neighboring rice fields. In modern times it has become a government protected bird refuge with a surprisingly well kept paved path and a watchtower for viewing the birds. My US birding friends would have been in love with this place- thousands of large and small water birds, including white pelicans and the colorful painted stork, my favorite. This large stork has a huge wingspread, black and white body, pink feathers on its tail feathers, and bright orange feet and bill. The birds were crowded on top of trees, nesting and preening, and flying and fishing. What a delightful quiet place after the noise and traffic of Chennai city.
I took photos of the many bird paintings lining our walkway because they were so lovely- unfortunately, I did not see most of those birds. I’d like to go back with an ornithologist! But we did see tons of pelicans, painted storks, white ibis and cormorants along with other large stork-like birds of various colors and sizes.
On one side of the path was the refuge. On the other side was a lovely view of typical green South Indian rice fields, villagers, herds of goats, and cows with white storks that hang out with them- I’m guessing the cows get the worms and the frogs and bugs going, and the storks eat! I did see a gorgeous, jewel-colored “white breasted” kingfisher with aquamarine body and shining bill sitting on a wire. Rural India is poor and very beautiful- quite traditional- a woman got mad at me for taking a picture of her goats because I might put the evil eye on them. I should have asked for permission.
Note the small goddess shrine. I’m sure this isn’t an official part of the refuge, but absolutely approved in fact by the authorities. Religion, God, Goddess are everywhere in India. Perhaps a local worker or villager created the shrine? or perhaps a government official? Separation of church and state is almost nonexistent here. This is likely Kali, the fierce goddess.
Srini and Sekar were great company- and thanks to Srini, who took most of these pictures below. He had a real camera- I had binoculars but only an Iphone camera. Thank you Srini. I’ve created a slideshow below set to a Buddhist metta (loving kindness) chant.