West coast of India was always high on my list to photograph. Though not very far from Bengaluru (just a night journey by bus) I somehow couldn't make it all these time since I started photography.
But this time thanks to my friend Anush Shetty who initiated the thought of doing a shore birding around Udupi and Kundapura, I could make it happen. Our another friend Vinayakumar T also joined the team. It was fun.
After initial planning we contacted Shivashankar M and Ramit who regularly do birding around Karkala and Udupi for giving us some pointers as to when to go for what and what to expect in which place. Both of them were very helpful and they accompanied us on our visit to St.Mary's island on the evening of the first day.
The plan was to visit Mulky in the morning which has some nice mangrove forest around and thats where we can find the waders in good number. After getting down at Udupi and having our breakfast we took the bus towards Mulky and we were at Mulky by 7:45AM. Locals call the mangroves as 'Kandla-vana'.
We were greeted by a Stork Billed Kingfisher (but no good images) as soon as we got down from an auto-rickshaw. From the place where we got down from the Auto we could see the mangrove forest and the waders were all around. Initially we sighted only few, like Common Redshank, Common sandpipers and few commons like Little egret and Small Blue Kingfishers. But the uncommon for us was the Little Green Heron which made sure that it didn't come into too much open but gave us a very good sighting opportunity.
After a walk for few yards, Vinaya pointed out a good white patch on what seemed to be like an island. Wow! They were all roosting waders! There were Lesser Sand Plovers, Greater Sand Plovers, Sanderlings, Terek Sandpipers, Redshanks and few others as well.
The road towards that part of the backwater was not straight. In fact there was no road at all! We went to a nearby home and entered the mangrove from there on. My initial thought was that the water may be little deep and we may not be able to go much far. But it was not!
Soon we came out on the other side of the mangrove and it was like heavenly setting for photography. The light was excellent and the scene was amazing. You will have sea on one side and clear shallow water on the other and birds also didn't seem to shy!
All three of us enjoyed thoroughly and since it was first time for all of us w.r.t. waders and shore birds, we spent some time learning about few identification as well.
For photography there were plenty of things to do but my focus this time was mainly birding. It had been quite some time since I did some serious birding and I was enjoying the process. It was mesmerizing there on the backwaters of Mulky.
By the time we slowly exhausted the Sun had already come quite high and we were slowly started feeling the heat. But being there in winter has that advantage of not getting exposed to scorching sunlight and heat. It was pleasant the whole day, at least for me. But Anush might have a different opinion. :)
Apart from many of the waders we sighted good number of Blue Tailed Bee Eaters and Brahminy Kites. An unidentified snipe flew away when we were walking in the nearby paddy field. The skulky bird that we saw in the mangrove might have been a Rail. But no clear sighting.
But for us the morning was made. Very good number of birds and most of them are rare in and around Bangalore. So it was a refreshing morning for all of us and the next thing we all wanted was some food! It was clocking 11:30 by that time.
Afternoon was planned to spend on St.Mary's island. Shivashankara and Ramit had told us that they would be joining and they did. At 4:00PM we were standing in the queue to board the ferry which was taking us to the island which is about 45 min ride from the shore.
The light was fading slowly and the sky was empty. Shivashankara and Ramit had told us that there are chances of sighting Great Crested Terns around the island and there exists a roost as well. We were excited and had our eyes open. But for our misfortune there were not even a single bird on the roosting spot and none in the sky as well.
St.Mary's island is an excellent place for a landscape photographer. There are innumerable opportunities for various types of landscape photography. Since it was a birding tour to me I deliberately travelled without my tripod. Hence I was limited by my chances of making some seascapes. You would be seeing some of my seascapes from this trip in the upcoming updates on Landscape Wizards.
While we were on our way back, we sighted three Terns far off in the sky. 'Looking at the size, they may be Crested or Caspian Terns' Shivashankara told. The day had ended for us with a very good number of waders in the morning and a fantastic sunset at St.Mary's island. It was time to head to Kundapura where we stayed at Anush's grandma's house(or a bungalow?) which was at around 10 kms from Kundapura and had plans to explore Marevanthe beach the next day. When I was closing my eyes the atmosphere around was resonating with the calls of Nightjars.
After sipping a lovely morning tea we headed towards Marevanthe beach. It was a partly cloudy day and by the time we reached Marevanthe it was around 6:45AM. Marevanthe being a plain beach with not much rocks around poses a less chance of seeing much waders. We were hoping for some Gulls or Terns which come near the shore at times. But during our walk in the morning along the beach not much birds were sighted. A Common Greenshank proved a good friend who gave some good images for all of us. :)
Except for Little Green Bee Eaters and few Brahminy Kites the prominent bird was a lone White Bellied Sea Eagle which flew past when I was having a wide angle on my camera. It was a nice sighting and Anush was bestowed with a nice image of the massive bird.
I was intrigued by the crabs on the shore. They looked funny to me. They were swift and run quite fast. They used to vanish out of sight within no time into the small holes that they had made all over. They sometime used to run into some waves and run away from some ways! It was fun photographing some of them.
When we were on our way back we say quite a good number of white fliers which might be Gulls of Terns who were flying far far away. The entire morning was not much fruitful from birding perspective but the Mangalore Buns that we ate in the morning after this birding made us forget everything else. :)
While coming back from the entire trip I was thinking: 'Yeah! What they say in the add of Karnataka Tourism is true!'
"Karnataka ~ One State Many Worlds!"
Much to explore!