A walk with winged wonders
The lesser-frequented tranquil coastal Karnataka provides a once-in-a lifetime experience to avid birders with a feast of passerine and pelagic avifauna.
While planning a trip for the December 2018 break, we zeroed in on coastal Karnataka primarily for its avian residents. The second attraction were the scenic beaches. So off we drove from Bengaluru to coastal Udupi. We chose Mattu because of its tranquil, commercially unexploited surroundings. Generally, as November-March is migration and breeding season, this area teams with avifauna. The morning after our arrival, we stepped out on a birding walk at dawn, to meet our feathery friends. Little had I expected the variety of bird species this unassuming place had in store, both pelagic and passerine!
A silent walk through the gardens and cultivation areas of Mattu unfolded some of the most vibrant passerines perched on trees, bushes and shrubs. The gorgeous Indian golden orioles, shrikes and the bee-eaters added vibrant colors to a bushy outgrowth. A long-tailed shrike soaked in the mild morning sun from atop a shrub while looking for its prey. Peacock sounds from the surrounding fields lent a musical aura to the new day. The short tweets of the Red-whiskered bulbuls filled the gap between the melodious calls of the koel. An Indian golden oriole pair gorgeously radiated their plumage from a small branch. Once in a while, a rooster declared its presence with its signature crow. An Indian black kite repeatedly kept trespassers at bay with its warning call.
We stopped near a small water body at the sight of a stork-billed kingfisher fluttering away as a hovering Brahminy kite tried to retain its territory. On the other side, a common kingfisher was peeping into the water, focusing on its first meal. A black-rumped flame-back woodpecker pecked its way through a coconut tree in the adjacent grove. A shy Southern coucal sneaked out in search of food and deftly tucked itself in a leafy branch away from our inquisitive eyes. A lonely black drongo witnessed all this from a tree top. Babblers, robins all started chatting briskly while a spotted dove foraged on the ground. A green bee-eater flashed its conspicuous blue throat from its perch above the waters and just a few yards away a blue-tailed bee-eater elegantly showed off its long blue tail from a tree branch. As light spread out into the day, life unfurled beautifully right in front of our eyes!
While the morning offered a panorama of passerines, the noon sun attracted a completely different set of flyers. On the shorelines of the scenic Mattu-Padukare road scores of gulls, terns, herons and whimbrels gathered to roost through the low tide. They had also gathered for the easy offerings they could take from the fishing boats returning from the sea.Along with them were the tiny plovers and slender sand-pipers picking insects, tiny organisms and slime from the wet sand. Together they put up an array of congregations big and small, so captivating, one could watch all day. Be it the tall Western reef heron and the grey heron or the tiny sand plovers, each bird was unique in its own way and enriched the habitat it belonged. Towards sunset the stunning formations these birds made on their flight back to their roosting areas, were nothing short of once-in-a-lifetime! With the orange-pink sunset in the background, the way these birds flew back in droves, will be ever green in our memories. If only the beaches could be free of garbage, plastic bags and broken bottles, this ecosystem would certainly thrive well.
After such a rewarding birding trip, we returned back with a heavy yet happy heart wanting for more and hoping that Mattu continues to remain the paradise that it is, escaping the clutches of urbanization. May this habitat continue to flourish for eons to come.