Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Are you daft?

Waking up at 4.30 am after a pleasantly mellow Saturday evening does merit the question being asked. With an 85 km drive ahead, and a desire to complete it before 6.30 am, it isn't advisable to sleep for much longer. What's with the drive, you ask? Well, that's how far away the Vedanthangal (does it actually mean "hunter's pause" - vedan + thangal?) bird sanctuary is. It is a 'seasonal sanctuary', if there can be such a term, attracting birds during the northern winter, between October and February. Though 'sanctuary' is a rather grand term - there is just a large lake dotted with barringtonia and a clump of bamboos, with a walkway along its southern shore - Vedanthangal is a historic example of environment protection.

Long years ago, the villagers of Vedanthangal were intrigued by the huge number of birds that visited them year after year, just after the monsoons. Not fully understanding their migratory patterns, the villagers protected them still, for they realized that the water in the tank was enriched by the birds' droppings, thereby providing natural fertilizer for their fields. Thus, when the British arrived at this location in the early 20th century, drawn by abundant quarry for their game shoots, the villagers protested and made sure the hunters didn't return after the first season. Others did, most notably R.S.P.Bates, who pieced together evidence to show that heronries existed in Vedanthangal as far back as 1798. Thanks to their efforts, the area became India's first bird sanctuary in 1895. More recently, some scholars have postulated that Vedanthangal's history dates back thousands of years; let's just say that the villagers have always known and appreciated the role played by their winter visitors.

The southern edge of the lake, as I've said, is a walkway, built on a high bund bordering the lake. At its easternmost end, the bund falls off and you see this - imagine building a wall to keep the waters in the lake!

The birds of Vedanthangal are too beautiful for my dinky camera to do justice to them. Charlie's blog post on Vedanthangal, at http://10000birds.com/, has some great pictures; the ones I did take are on this Picasa page.

1 comment:

Shantaram said...

>> Kris>> You may not be Santa, but you have this 'Shanta' wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas, a great New Year's Day and a wonderful time in the New Year!