Roosters crowing, crows cawing, these are some of the common sounds that wake me up when I am in Perumpuzha. The other day I wake up to a pleasant bird song. The bird evades me and I don’t know what it looks like. I do not see many birds during the first couple of days of my visit. I wonder if the heat has anything to do with it. And then near a leaking pipe in Thiruvananthapuram I see a colourful bird with a tuft of hair desperately trying to lap up the water. Google says it is a red whiskered bulbul. Apparently a bird which is more often heard than seen. A very pretty sight it was too.
A visit to Chavara proves to be a bird watcher’s haven. The new road inaugurated recently stretches across the tributaries of the Ashtamudi Lake and passes the main fishing hubs as it crosses a number of bridges. Ashtamudi lake, the second largest lake in Kerala with 3 tributaries and eight faces as the name denotes has a rich ecosystem. At Neendakara, the birds of prey circle the skies, glide, hover and wait for their share of the fishermen’s catch of the day. The Brahminy Kite, also known as the Krishna parunthu, an important bird according to Hindu mythology and the ‘vahana’ (celestial carrier) of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi can be seen in abundance here along with the Chakki parunthu.
We take a boat trip along Ashtamudi Lake. Herons, egrets, storks and cranes take up their positions along the banks. What I thought was storks sitting on moored boats and tree stumps turn out to be different types of birds. Herons and egrets come from the same Ardiedae family of water birds, egrets are smaller than herons and mainly white. Cranes belong to Gruidae family and storks to the Ciconiidae family. Cranes and Storks fly with their necks outstretched, while herons and egrets, retract their necks into an ‘S’ shape. There is a lot to know.
Cormorants, terns and plovers are the other common types of birds seen on the lake, I read. I see a kingfisher making a hasty retreat. Kerala it seems is a popular destination for bird watching and as I look up the list of birds that have been spotted, I realise that what I have seen so far is just a tiny proportion of what is on offer.