The road to Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is flanked by green paddy fields and trees, while signboards and a creatively designed bus stop hint at the riches in store. At the sanctuary, a signpost comprising of replicas of popular birds points to the ticket counter. Ranganathittu consists of small islets in the river Cauvery, home to hundreds of migratory and some local birds which come to breed here. The only way to observe them at close quarters is from row boats, which take visitors near the nesting sites on the islets.
Birds of different hues and sizes crisscross the blue sky, the painted stork with its large wing span being the most noticeable. Trees crowded with birds are visible across the water, so there is a palpable sense of excitement even before we embark. The oarsman, doubling as a guide, cautions visitors to observe the birds in silence-local people are protective of their feathered guests.
A rock comes alive, morphing into a crocodile, one of the many to be seen at Ranganathittu. Visitors are torn between following its movement alongside the boat and gazing at a bare, rocky islet, which provides the perfect setting for river tern, storks and ibis posing with wings fanned out! As the boat glides languidly towards the islets, the raucous cries of nestlings grow louder. Soon we’re within touching distance of a tree full of black headed ibis, sharing space with the Asian open billed stork, sitting like silent sentinels near their untidy nests! The birds are used to human beings, and look on tolerantly!
The boat meanders along the narrow strips between the islets, edging past a crocodile, and later, the overhanging branches of a tree covered with painted storks guarding their chicks. A blue kingfisher dives into the river to come up with one of the many species of fish found here. The lush green vegetation of the river bank teems with a variety of species like the cormorant, cattle egret, tickell’s blue flycatcher and darter, while little egret wade in the shallow water. Further ahead, trees are densely dotted with mysterious black shapes: hanging fruit bats!
All too soon the enchanting ride is over, leaving all mesmerized by the sights and sounds of rare species that have flown across continents to breed in this picturesque landscape. Indeed, one need not be a bird watcher to be touched by this magical experience!
Sanctuaries and wildlife of Karnataka: S.G. Neginhal
Riverine Wilderness: A field guide to Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary: A.K.Verma (published by Karnataka Forest Department).