Come December, Bird watchers, lovers, rush to spot these gignatic wings visitors. It’s fortunate of Chennaities having three sanctuaries nearby.
· Vedanthangal near Chengalpattu around 55-60 kms
· Pulicut or Pazavarkadu and Annamalaicheri towards north on Nellore Highway near Ponneri around 50 kms.
· On the same Nellore highway in Andra Pradesh border Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary and Till Sriharikota SHAR gate. Around 90 kms.
We the CPC (Chennai Photography Club) members planned to shoot these birds not with guns its Lens. As planned by 4am all the members gathered in front of CMBT bus terminus and by 4.30 am Twelve members in three cars marched towards Nelapattu bird sanctuary with the aim of reaching before sunrise.
Nelapattu sanctuary opens only by 8am. After paying entry fee to forest warden. It was a fun and good learning from seniors on photography the Birds, nature etc..Learning the Shutter speed, Aperture, ISO, shooting in dull light and bright etc… At Nelapattu birds were found more, it’s amazing to see their activities.
They challenge you shoot me if u can. From Nelapattu we continued our journey towards Sriharikota SHAR road Pulicat (Part of Andra Pradesh) 15 kms from Sullerpet. Beautiful road either side green fields and lakes and backwaters till SHAR gate.
From there we wanted to go to Tamilnadu part Pulicut and we stopped at Gummidipoondi town. Few members planned to return to Chennai on urgency basis and remaining two cars proceeded to Annamalicheri.
After 30 min. of drive we hit the Annamalicheri Village. A very small fishing hamlet. Peoples are shocked to see the unexpected visitors all with big lenses! It didn’t take much time to bargain for boat ride to Pulicut and back. They told best session to come AM Cheri is after March, when water recedes and become shallow. First they took us to spot the birds nearby, but they are very clever. Before we step into the water they all take off to safer places. There is a reserve forest island on the bank of Buckingham canal and in control of AP govt. Even though we couldn’t trace much birds enjoyed fully the one hour boat ride to Pulicut. The ancient Dutch village in opening of Buckingham Canal. There is a Dutch cemetery with about 22 protected tombs, dating back to 1631 to 1655 A.D. Time came to windoff. By evening returned back to AM cheri and proceeded towards Chennai planning the next shoot out.
Following few details on the places a collective reference from various sources.
1. Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary:-
Nelapattu bird sanctuary is one of the largest Pelicanary in South East Asia with more than 1500 Pelicans and other birds visiting every year. The big fresh water tank of Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary, the presence of good number of “Barringtonia Acutangula” trees which can tolerate inundation for long periods in the tank bed and fore shore areas make this sanctuary a haven for a broad spectrum of bird species for both breeding and roosting. It is a breeding ground for some of the rare and endangered species like Grey Pelicans, Open-billed Storks, Little Cormorants, Spoonbills, White Ibis, Night Herons, etc. A wide variety of birds, like Egrets, Tern, Ducks, Waders etc., also rest here.
2. Sriharikota-S.H.A.R road (Sriharikota Atomic Missile Range)
Sriharikota is an island and a forest like area, situated on the National Highway No.5 to Chennai- Kolkata, to the east of Sullurupet in-between Pulicat Lake and Bay of Bengal. Under the stewardship of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai of the Indian Space Research Organization a rocket launching space centre was established at Sriharikota in 1968.
Pulicat Lake is the second largest brackish water lagoon in India, spread over the two states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, adjacent to the Bay of Bengal. It extends over 600 sq km in Andhra Pradesh and is a bird watchers paradise. Migratory water birds and other birds like Flamingos, Painted Storks, Egrets, Grey Pelican, Grey Herons, Pintails, Black winged Stilts, Shovelers, Terns etc.,
3. Annamalaicheri Village.
Annamalaicheri has the scope of being developed as an alternative sanctuary for birds. The whole northern region of the Pulicat Lake, roughly north of the SHAR Road, which runs from Sullurpet to the Sriharikota Island, has got lifted up, from Dugirajapatnam in the North, inclining towards the SHAR Road in the South, so that the Northeast Monsoon flood waters that inundate this region get drained as early as from the end of February up to the next monsoon in October. Birds wintering in this region are forced, rather prematurely, to desert these sanctuaries, foregoing any urge for late breeding. During this period of prolonged drought, they fly helter-skelter in search of water and food. For some years, these birds have discovered an alternative site, North of the fishing village of Annamalaicheri, in the southern Tamil Nadu part of the Pulicat Lake.
4. Pulicur or Pazavarkadu. Near Ponneri
PULICAT lake, with an average waterspread area of 350 square kilometres, is the second largest lagoon (bay) in India. Pulicat town, at its southern end, lies 55 km north of Chennai. The road from Chennai to Pulicat ends at the boat-jetty on the water front of the Buckingham Canal with a vast spread of overflown tidal waters from the lake, in the north. Across these waters is the beautiful landmark — the lighthouse. Over-loaded ferry boats transporting fisherfolk to the 15 villages on the seaside, boats landing fish-catches, tribal women hand-picking prawns, bullock-carts traversing these waters and tourists bargaining, are some to the rare and fascinating backwater scenes at Pulicat.
Portuguese seem to have landed in about 1510 A.D. They founded a catholic shrine in this village for the deity of Mother Mary which has a mythology behind it. The shrine today has grown into the Church of Our Lady of Glory, said to be the earliest church in the current Madras-Mylapore Diocese. About 100 metres west of this church, close to Ambedkar Nagar, is the first Dutch cemetery with about 22 protected tombs, dating back to 1631 to 1655 A.D. Closer to the market place is the impressive landmark Dutch cemetery with 76 tombs and mausoleums, protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. The beautifully carved tombstones, with inscriptions in the Dutch language, could have been carved in Holland and sent to India. The tombstones in both cemeteries tell us the story of the Dutch at Pulicat, from 1606 to 1690 A.D.
For these places better to have your own vehicle. Because of lack of transport.
· Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary: – From Chennai – Nellore highway travel via TADA and next Sullerpet toll plaza and further 15 kms a village called Dorevari Chatram. And Railway Station on left-hand side. Once you see the fly over take left and travel below flyover take right and immediate left u can see the welcome board. Cross the Railway track proceed further 5 to 6 kms to reach the sanctuary. By bus available to Sullerpet and Local train get down at Sullerpet or Naidupet. (Nelapattu is between Sullerpet and Naidupet) No stop at DOREVARI SATRAM railway station.
· SHAR road SHRIHARI KOTA Andra State side PULICUT:– Return to Sullerpet. Before entering on the left side of highway you can see the board way to KOTA i.e., Sriharikota so don’t confuse. Travel 15kms further till SHAR main gate if u wants to see the Space Center (entrance only). Along the side the beautiful backwater on either side of the road houses thousands of these migratory Birds, Fishermen busy in netting. A beautiful scenery and enjoyable driving on the SHAR road.
· Annamalicheri Fishing Hamlet the newly developing site for migratory birds. (Preferably After March)
Return to Sulerpet, Nellore highway and travel till Gummidipoondi. Annamalicheri is 20 km East of Gummidipoondi on the Nellore Road via Devambedu village or by motor boat by travelling about 10 km northwest of the Pulicut boat jetty. A good laid road. Again a beautiful scenery road till Annamalicheri village. One bus come from CMBT to this village in morning but reaches here only by noon.