My interest in birding grew up earlier this year when I visited Bharatpur in Rajasthan. I had brought a handbook named “Common Birds of India” to develop an insight into birding world. Back at Allahabad I had started to identify some birds apart from crows, parrots and sparrows. So, on the way back from our Coorg trip it was inevitable that we visited the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary in the outskirts of Mysore. Situated along the banks of sluggishly flowing Kaveri river this compact sanctuary housed more than 200 species of birds. It was spread across several islets which was formed after building an embankment on the Kaveri river. Being in close proximity to Bangalore and Mysore, it had a huge tourist inflow. During the months of November to March migratory birds from all over the globe reside in and around this area.
On our way back from Coorg we headed towards Ranganathittu bird sanctuary after crossing Mysore in the afternoon. After getting the entry tickets we visited the museum named after renowned naturalist Salim Ali. We had decided to take a boat ride. There were several trails along the river through the jungles but boating was the prime attraction there. The river was also home to crocodiles which are known to be present in close proximity to the boats. Wooaa !!
As my group was waiting to make it to the boat amidst a long gathering I took a short stroll around the area which had a viewpoint, a park and walking trails, well-marked for the convenience of the nature lovers. The nesting areas of Storks and Pelicans were visible. Soon one of us could spot a crocodile lazing out a rock on the river itself. After waiting for around 20 minutes we finally got our turn and geared up with life vests. I wondered how a life vest would protect us in a river full of crocodiles in case of an accident. The small boat accommodated around 25 tourists with the boatman being our guide. Luckily he could understand some Hindi and English and was kind enough to identify some birds for us.
We sailed across the nesting areas of Spot Billed Pelicans and the Ibis to have a closer look. These migratory birds usually travel thousands of kilometres across the globe to spend the winters out here. I could spot a Grey Heron sitting on a rock. Herons stays absolutely still for long hours and suddenly grasp a prey out from the water. The guide spotted us a Kingfisher on the banks of the river. A flock of birds occasionally flew past our boat.
Soon I realised that a giant structure with irregular surface flowing past us only to realise it was huge crocodile in a meter distance from the boat. Our boat went across a small island where our guide spotted a few Stone Plovers, an Eagle, few Pond Herons and Egrets. We could also spot a few more crocs on the water. The Mugger crocodiles (“crocodile of the marsh”- commonest species here in India) usually come out of the water during the day time and lay over the boulder rocks. They move to the water during the later part of the day. The tress on the other side of the islands had nesting areas of Spoon Billed Pelicans. In around 40 minutes we headed back to base.
The best part of the ride was spotting such a huge variety of birds residing in a relatively small but diverse ecosystem. We had to rush ahead to Mysore junction station to catch the Hampi Express at 7.30 pm in the evening (Blog coming soon). Ranganathittu was really a good experience in a short span of time.
Best Season- November to March (Winter season) – Early morning and late evenings are best time for bird watching
Distance from Bangalore- 125 km (3 hours ) – actually depends a lot on traffic
Distance from Mysore (presently known as Mysuru) – 18 km
Nearest rail head- Srirangapatna – 5 km
Entry fees for Indians- 50 INR
Boat ride charges- 60 INR per head (30- 40 minutes)