Ok! So if George Lucas can start a very popular franchise with the first part actually beginning as Part IV (Ok people! I’m talking about the first episode of the original star wars that came out in the 70s for the clueless ones of which I am sure there are very few- but then you are reading my blog so I really can’t say!) why should I do any different? Except I am not George Lucas and I’m not making star wars (Bird wars may be more appropriate in this context!)
I am not quite sure how my mother and I wanting completely different things from a Sunday morning decided we would settle on Vedanthangal as an appropriate choice. Mum wanted a long drive and I was fresh on the hunt for something to shoot with my new camera. For those who do not know- Vedanthangal is one of the oldest bird parks/ sanctuaries in India and every year a large number of local and migratory birds make this their home for a while. The place is close to about 100kms (or lesser) from Chennai (depending on which part of Chennai you travel from). So it seemed like the perfect Sunday morning destination especially because it was not hard to get to- an internet reviewer even said ‘you don’t need driving instructions to get to Vedanthangal. Just keep your eyes peeled open!’ What he forgot to mention was how peeled open your eyes had to be.
Anyway I was not exactly a complete stranger to Vedanthangal (there you go I already have some ideas germinating in my head about Parts I, II and III). I had been there once before (ok might be difficult to make three episodes from one visit) when I was in primary school and I do not even remember now which year it was (Part I just ran into technical difficulties folks!). I only remembered that after the visit it was the cool thing to say that you had seen the white crow at Vedanthangal. I now have a vague suspicion that I may have actually seen an Albino crow or maybe it was just a Eurasian spoonbill (you see the crow didn’t actually have a case of beak malformation- it was just not a crow!)
So we set off early that morning- far too early to feel like a Sunday but at that point it felt like a great adventure. We drove and we drove past our usual boundaries and were surprised at how beautiful the landscape looked even at places like Vandalur where long chains of hills hugged elevated roads and one could just for a brief period of time imagine oneself to be just elsewhere and not just in a dull and drab city. After driving for slightly more than an hour we were technically supposed to come up to a turning on the right well signposted to direct us to Vedanthangal. And of course as expected we didn’t come up to this sign and kept on driving with growing apprehension into the next major town of Maduranthakam. On our way back we finally noticed that the size of the sign had been wildly overestimated and whatever space there had been on the sign had been taken up political pamphlet propaganda. (Maybe Part I, II and III could be variations on how we try and find the turn to Vedanthangal but getting lost all the time anyway or maybe not!)
After graduating from the National Highway to the State Highway and then to the Bird Highway, we finally reached Vedanthangal. After paying for our tickets and submitting my camera for thorough checking (just in case we were evading the video camera fee- which most people are considering most still cameras now are also movie cameras!) we entered the sanctuary….
…..and were hit by the noise of birds. I was hard pressed to recollect another occasion in my life when I had seen quite so many birds in my life. Another reason for my surprise was also the fact that end of February is normally considered the end of the season and many of the birds are expected to fly away. It was therefore a pleasant shock to be confronted with the sights and sounds of so many different birds.
The unpleasant shock was having to confront so many different people with all of us trying to walk on a narrow strip of land built on a moat like structure surrounding the lake where the birds roosted. Unfortunately we had lost time driving down from the city and the mobile phoners (wielding the device both to make calls and to take photos of the birds- though I would be very impressed with a phone camera that could capture a bird across the lake) had already invaded the place. Still one has to make do with what one has and that particular morning – complaints apart- we had quite a lot to behold and admire.
In particular- the painted stork. The bird is hard to miss at Vedanthangal almost because of its omni present nature in the sanctuary. I was so amazed by the number of these birds that I was at a loss of how best to capture them in my photos. Here are a few of my attempts.
(Stay tuned for the rest of the pack!)