Ahalya and myself made a trip to the River Tern Lodge a few weeks ago mainly to see them. The lodge gets its name from thousands of River Terns that flock to an island in the backwaters of the Bhadra dam. We decided to travel by train and got down at Birur where there was a vehicle to pick us up.
River Tern Lodge is an idyllic place! It is spread across two hillocks which are connected by a wooden bridge. The cottages are all on the slopes of the hillocks, with balconies overlooking the backwaters. We were especially keen to stay in the remotest of these cottages on the second hillock, which involved quite a bit of climbing up and down the steps. As we opened the doors of the cottage, we were welcomed by a medley of lively bird sounds. The room overlooked the island where the birds were roosting and offered a panoramic view of the vast expanse of blue waters of the Bhadra. After unpacking we sat on the veranda just soaking in the enchanting ambiance, with gusts of wind blowing across the trees which were dancing like swirling dervishes!
I was reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh’s words:
“You carry Mother Earth within you. She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment. In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer.”
Over the next two days we explored the backwaters of Bhadra. With the advent of summer as the water level recedes, small islands surface, providing the space for the birds to breed. In the smaller of the islands, prantincoles pranced around on rocky shelters. They are quite retiring in comparison to the river terns. These small waders are adorable!
Little works of wonder
In their feathered finery
Suddenly vanish from sight
Popping out occasionally
To investigate the watching eyes
There were hundreds of river terns on the next island. In order to not disturb them, we kept a safe distance, watching them from afar. The birds were flying all around fishing actively, competing for nesting space and mates and chasing away other birds which were trying to encroach upon their territory. There was a lot of frenetic activity going on; some were fishing, some were trying to steal fish from others, some impressing the mate with the food, some feeding the young ones while some were just circling around.
It was fascinating to see them fishing. They flew gracefully a few feet above water with deliberate beats of the long, slender, pointed wings, scanning the water for the prey. Once they spotted something interesting they plunged in an instant, reappearing with their catch.
They glide, dance, and climb
Skimming the water
With their symphonic wings
It is amazing to note that year after year they come to the same place to find a prospective mate and bear the young. With so many birds around, I wondered how they identified their chicks as their own!
We just sat there in the boat which was bobbing gently, marveling at the sight unfolding front of us. It was like a scene in a David Attenborough film!
Our forays into the backwaters offered us many a glimpse of other birds.
Do have a look at them at: goo.gl/photos/hJTnAszXoEi5jmNq7
Every time I savor the joys of bird watching, I am reminded of these words penned by Aristophanes eons ago in his magnum opus, The Birds, …
Hear us, you who are no more than leaves always falling, you mortals benighted by nature,
You enfeebled and powerless creatures of earth always haunting a world of mere shadows,
Entities without wings, insubstantial as dreams, you ephemeral things, you human beings:
Turn your minds to our words, our ethereal words, for the words of the birds last forever!
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