The first Sunday of 2009.
My friend Shankar and I decide to go down to Vedanthangal, a little piece of paradise on earth, just about sixty kilometers are so past the Chennai airport.
Nature lovers in this part of the world need no introduction to Vedanthangal. For others, this place is one of the older bird sanctuaries of India. Fifty thousand and more birds fly in here, every year around November or so, and make this place their winter home. They stay here for around five-six months before they fly off to cooler climes for the summer.
So, here we were, in Chennai, the afternoon of 4th Jan, 2009. While the route to Vedanthangal is down the GST road, past the airport, we decided to take an alternate route. We drove down East Coast Road (ECR), took a right into the new (beautiful) link road that connects ECR to the Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR). There is a toll booth for accessing OMR, but we were just going to cut across OMR, and so we get a free pass. Cutting across OMR, we go straight on, and meet the GST Road at Tambaram. Turn left on the highway, and we are on our way. We had started at around 2 PM or so. And by 3:15 pm or so, we have reached the turn to Vedanthangal. This turn comes after we cross the Palar bridge (the long bridge over the dry palar riverbed), and drive on for some five-ten minutes… Turning right into the narrow road that goes to Vedanthangal, after a few kms, we go past the hill temple of Tirumalai-Vaiyavoor, a temple of Lord Venkateshwara. It’s a beautiful temple. Been there some years ago….
Another ten minutes or so, and we are at Vedanthangal.
It’s a village setting. Simple folks. Shops selling limited eats. Vendors selling fruits, including pana-kizhangu, a fibrous edible root that most city folks would never have seen in their life.
The entrance ticket is 5 Rs per head, and 25 Rs for using a camera.
For all of 35 Rs, we entered paradise…
A large marsh-lake resort… The rains have been good, and the marsh was deep in water. And in the middle of that lake, on the trees and shrubs and thickets, were literally thousands of birds… Birds, birds, everywhere, as far as eye can see…
Pardon these pictures. I just had my simple point-and-shoot camera, and couldn’t really take any close-ups of the birds.
More than a hundred species of birds nest here. The common ones include the ibis, heron, pelican, painted stork, snake bird, cormorants, egrets…. They come from as far as Canada and Siberia….
Here’s another pic… a view of the waterscape.
This is a place where birds have been coming to for hundreds of years and the local villagers around have protected and profited from these angelic visitors (the bird droppings are some of the best organic fertilizers around).
Here’s a picture of a villager who works in the sanctuary. He is one picture of happiness.
Out there in the middle of the lake, was a large and thick tree-cluster. Looking like a watch tower in the waters. A nice perch for a whole lot of wings…
Here’s a close-up of the cluster.
The weather is heavenly. A nice breeze is blowing. The birds are raising joyous cries.
To get a wee-bit feel of the ambience, here’s a little video clip from my simple-as-possible camera, that shows the cluster….
The Sun is going down. Large groups of birds are flying in from all over – back to their nests in this marsh. Thousands of birds, coming in…. In the evening sky, these birds are like magic. You suddenly spot a huge formation flying in, as if they have materialized in mid-air…. All in all, the Vedanthangal experience is something else… It is like being in a temple of nature… There is a joy that cannot be conveyed in words…
Here is a little video clip, that conveys a long-shot hint of a glimpse…
Fly, Robin, Fly! Up, up, to the sky!