Friday, August 28, 2009

Kalliveli-A dry baked wetland

After much of dilly-dallying as to go birding or not, myself and my classmates decided to give an open invite to our classmates to go birding to Kaliveli wetland. The last minute inputs from the seniors in college saying that the place is “Papad-dry” and we could not see any bird did not quite dishearten us and nine of us left at 0600hrs from the college only to end up waiting on the ECR till 0700hrs for the bus, generally with blaring music to come by. When one finally came, he asked us to get down at PIMS and said the tank was a kilometer from there. On reaching PIMS, we were told by a local “Chai-shop” owner that the wetland is some 5 odd km from there (it wasn’t so much though!) and arranged a share auto to go there. Nine of us got in and reached the tank by 0900hrs. Having fixed the autowallah for our return trip, we set off into the vast wetland. Where the water was, no one knew!

A small orientation to a couple of new inductees to the world of bird watching was facilitated and the strict dos and don’ts were made clear. The place, as our dear seniors had told, was indeed dry to the core and of the many miniature tanks carved out into the flat wetland only one had water in it, a pair of grey herons, sandpipers etc greeted us. A lone pied kingfisher female sat there for over one hour watching nine of us scampering around watching the birds with just two binocs to spare!
By around 1000hrs, a lone falcon was seen taking off with something in the talons and as it was against the sun, we were able to get only a short glimpse of it before we lost sight of it. A little later, a flock of eleven spoonbills came in from the NW part of the tank and began to descend, before everyone had a good look at them, someone pointed out at another flock of large birds soaring in the sky, soon binocs exchanged hands and the birds were identified as painted storks which were gaining height on the thermal, which I guess were in plenty! By the time the birds were identified, the spoonbills were nowhere in sight! We could not have seen them even if they landed in this huge wetland.
After a frugal breakfast of biscuits and water, we seemed to have made progress by covering some distance only to be stopped by a pair of Kentish plovers among 30 red wattled lapwings in the dry grass. Another good half an hour was spent with this very obliging pair of birds.
By 1100hrs, the sun needless to say, was beating down our backs and the new inductees were starting to squat on the ground whenever the group stopped- the first indications of wanting to return started to show!

Having pestered them to continue walking, we did a loop in the baked, dry tank (don’t know if it was the tank bed!) which was about 1km and reached the place where we were supposed to be picked up by the very friendly autowallah. Having bargained with him, he agreed to drop us to the university and this time, he had got a friend who very obligingly offered to take us to another wetland with lot of birds. Something told me that he was not all that a nice chap and I declined the offer saying we were really hungry and wanted to return. My suspicion came true when we got down, the autowallah a local, living near the wetland offered to take us on a bike the next time we go and also gave us pin point locations as to where to see many birds. On further questioning- “I go there with guns to shoot birds” came the reply. He also told that the place is a bird reserve which attracts a lot of “Paravais” when it is full of water. I am not quite sure if he meant the taste!

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