Birds aren’t chained to our skies

The crack of dawn goes unheard
even though it is drizzling songs inside.
No matter the crooked ways of the world –
birds aren’t chained to our skies

For a few years now, Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary has been a nesting spot for the birder in me. It was where my love for birds grew a pair of wings. In November 2013 I had revisited the sanctuary after two decades. Before that, I had been there just once during a school trip in the late Eighties. I remembered nothing about it other than queuing up in front of its rusty front gate .

Black-Headed Ibis

Black-Headed Ibis

I returned in the winter of 2013 on an unplanned whimsy. I wasn’t a birder then. I just had a Sunday morning to spare. Upon reaching the Vedanthangal bird sanctuary, I first realized that it was much smaller than I had remembered. Matter of fact, it looked nothing similar to the picture I had of it in mind.

There was a crowd of noisy uniformed children on a school trip. Once they had gone out of sight, I walked along the cemented pathway that scissors the sanctuary. There were plenty of seabirds. But I couldn’t tell a Pelican from a Pranticole back then. Not much love in me for them either.

Soon a Black-Headed Ibis flew right past me. She reminded me of the Martian bird from Looney Tunes. I giggled to myself and continued to stroll, still unsure of what I was doing there. I spent most of the day, sitting quietly on a bench, with the cool breeze gnawing my ears. I can’t recall seeing any other bird. I wanted to come back soon though. I wasn’t sure what made me feel that way. I just really wanted to.

Orange-Headed Thrush

Orange-Headed Thrush

But I couldn’t for the next few months due to a broken leg. And so I went back about six months later; this time as a fledgling of a birder. It was an incredible day.

An Orange-Breasted Thrush and a Common Hawk Cuckoo had us tongue-tied within minutes. A pair of Spotted Owlets mooned me in broad daylight. By the end of my first birding trail in Vedanthangal, I managed to spot 10 new species of birds. Since then I have had many wonderful additions to the list.

A list of birds I spot all-through the year at Vedanthangal

Nowadays, the bird sanctuary has become my backyard of sorts. I still live about 70-odd kilometers away but I act as though I own a piece of its tranquility. I have become that guy who asks visiting schoolchildren to hush down if they really want to see birds. Someone who talks down to adults on being patient and positive. A unimposing figure who lectures litterers.

I am not associated with the sanctuary in any way. I would love to volunteer to clean the place but they aren’t the nicest folks to engage with. Still it greatly bothers me when visitors don’t show the proper love and respect to the hundreds of birds that have a home in one of India’s oldest sanctuaries. They treat it like a tourist center without ever seeing it as a tribute. After all this sanctuary was started by people with strong anti-poaching sentiments.

If you ever visit this beautiful place, please do remember that the entrance fee you pay is merely to help with the maintenance of the sanctuary. The birds are under no obligation to come and find you. If they do appear, I insist that you leave some love and trust behind with them. They will reward your kindness and patience.

Sorry, Bob, but birds aren’t chained to our skies.

(Vedanthangal Sanctuary is usually closed between July-November every year; in 2015, it was closed in May due to dry weather conditions and lack of rainfall. But birders can still visit the shrub forests on Vedanthangal road. There are plenty of shrub forests and marshlands where one can spot a variety of resident and migratory birds)

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26 comments

    1. Aww I d like to believe in the karma you described. I am not sure how deserving I am consider I don’t give back to nature as much. I only hope to tickle the nature lovers in people. Thank you again for reading and saying such nice things!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. ” A unimposing figure who lectures litterers.”..hahaha..magic!
    hey i have an idea..why dont you gather all these unique and beautiful photos and go published? in combination with your writing i find it would be an awesome book..seriously now, just do it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have visited this place thrice though I am not very very familiar with the names of the birds. I loved the place…its silence when children are not there. But I noticed some of them noting down the names of the birds on the board etc. At least 20-30% of them will start loving birds. First the teachers themselves are not disciplined. But I am happy that at least these govt. schools bring them to this place instead of taking them to Mayajaal!

    I visited last May with my son and husband, just sat there visualising them in the lake, the previous year. Felt sad, still I enjoyed the place.

    Good to know you! Thanks for the photo treat!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You arw absolutely correct about the teachers. I have had arguments with a few foul mouthed ones more keen on gulping post sanctuary idlis than anything else. But still better than mayajaal or mgm dizee world trips I suppose. Do visit Vedanthangal sometime between December and January, morning between 6:30 and 8 pm. You ll want to go back for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had been there thrice. It was full of birds twice and very beautiful! Only last May, it was dry. We reached there around 7.30 am. One person who works there asked us to visit in the evening after 5 once too! In Feb. the eggs will hatch and we can see babies also, he said. We saw once!

        I will definitely go there next season

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Whoa?! School in the eighties?! Duuuuuuude, you’re so OLD!!!?! Ew.
    Kidding grins
    But these truly are lovely pictures! Seems like a really nice place!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The verse, stunningly simple; profound 🙂
    The pictures and most of all the way you draw us in, with your love of nature, the place, the birds. 🙂
    And teachers. Sigh. Tell me all about it. I live with a lot like them, daytimes only, thankfully. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. An aside (if one can start with an aside) – those spotted owls are gorgeous.
    Here’s the thing about people visiting places where there are birds: unless there is something about those people, something in their lives, that makes them slow down and reach the birds’ own nature in some way, they are going to pass them by like daytrippers. Unlike you, I am predominantly housebound so my birding is done in my own home and garden. And so – unlike the times before I moved here and before I had a particular frame of mind and the peace to go with it – I have a lot of time to contemplate birds and get to know them and their ways. That’s what most people miss. It is probably what you, too, missed before you injured your leg and you allowed your mind to turn more to nature. A mind turned toward nature slows down to the same pace and absorbs what it missed, before.

    A suggestion: one day go birding without your camera and without anything with which to write or type. Just absorb. You’ll discover much more and your internal camera will store that experience for you.

    Liked by 1 person

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