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Monday, Jun 24, 2002

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Hum panchi kayi dal ke!

D.B.N. Murthy

D.B.N. Murthy visits the Ranganthittu bird sanctuary in Karnataka, where birds of different feathers flock together during the monsoon season.

This bird sanctuary may not match the vastness or the sheer variety one finds in Kaleodeo National Park, the famed bird sanctuary near Bharatpur, Rajasthan. Nestling behind the dam cross the river Cauvery near Srirangapattana, en route to Mysore, Karnataka, Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary attracts birds from faraway places such as Siberia and Australia. There is a beehive of activity during April and May, when birds lay their eggs and raise their young ones amidst scenic beauty.

When the Krishnaraja Sagar dam starts filling up during the monsoon months from June, the waters are released and at the height of the discharge, some of the trees are inundated. That is the time for birds to find safer places. However, a few resident birds stay nearby, safe from the floodwaters. Thus, the bird sanctuary is easily accessible around the year, though only during the rainy months there is frenetic activity of birds building nests, ferrying food to their young ones and keeping a close watch on their young ones.

The Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary is managed by the Karnataka State Government's Forest Department, Wildlife section. Established in 1956, the bird sanctuary hosts a large variety of birds — night heron, spoon bill, grey heron, little egret, river tern, darter or snake bird, white ibis, painted stork from Siberia and spoon bill from Australia, just to name a few of the species, which find plenty of fish and other prey to sustain themselves and their young ones.

It is delightful watching the birds fly in formation. Suddenly, one of them swoops down to the water level and dexterously catches a fish and flies away. A painted stork preens its feathers. It looks as though some artists has dabbed a red paint on the white feathers causing that distinct red.

There are many varieties of fish and marine life including crocodiles, which cause anxious moments to those watching these giant, but sluggish, creatures sunning themselves on the rocks or lying motionless in shallow water. Though there are so many varieties of birds in the sanctuary, there appears to be harmony among them.

The short 20-minute boat ride in the river, making a short circuit of the trees and the islands, is filled with interesting moments seeing at close quarters many species of birds perched on tree tops, standing in the river waiting for fish or engaged in nest-building activities. Trees grow in the small islands in the river that are the haven for the birds that find these ideal to raise a family. There is plenty of food, relatively free from predators and the visitors are generally disciplined enough not to cause any harm to these birds.

Visitors are requested not to talk loudly or play transistor radios or tape-recorders. A short trip to the bird sanctuary, especially when the river is full in the rainy months, is a thrilling experience.

Fact file

How to get there: It is about 15 km from Mysore and 5 km from Srirangapattana. Buses ply to the sanctuary from both the places. Taxis can also be hired from Mysore.

Where to stay: There are many hotels and lodges in Mysore to suit any budget. In Srirangapattana, rooms will be available at the KSTC's Tourist Hotel or private lodges.

When to go: Throughout the year. The best time to visit is during the monsoon months of June to September.

Other information: An entrance fee of Rs 10 for adults and Rs 5 for children is charged. A still camera is charged Re 1. Foreigners are charged more. Boat ride costs Rs 10 per person.

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