Having lived in Chennai for 20 years and making innumerable trips between Chennai and Nellore on the NH5, it is nothing short of a crime in the world of travel to have never visited Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary the 3 decades of this author’s life ! It happens often, doesn’t it? Places close to where we live or frequent often are the ones we least visit or have never visited, a clear case of taking things for granted.
The Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary is located 95 kms from Chennai, exactly half way between Chennai and Nellore. Since the time we were kids, we remember a rusty, old sign board talking about Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary and Pulicat Lake. Whenever we wanted to go there, people would tell us that there was nothing to see. The only time, several years back, when we ventured towards Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary, there was no road beyond a point, no sight of any human, forget birds !
In recent years, we heard that the place had improved a lot and a visit to Nelapattu was on our minds, every time we visited our hometown. This time, we did not want to miss the chance because it was almost the peak season for birds migrating to Nelapattu and we were driving to Chennai. Our wish was finally fulfilled on 26th December’12.
Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary, is famous for various migratory bird in the months of December-March, peaking between December-January. It is the most popular hangout place for pelicans in India.
If you are driving from Chennai, Nelapattu is 14 kms from Sulurupet, you can see an arch welcoming you to the sanctuary. If you are driving from Nellore, you will find it 18 kms from Nayudupet, just before a place called Doravarisatram. There are sign boards to find the way. The sanctuary is 2 kms off the highway on a narrow, slightly dusty road.
The bird sanctuary is open from 8 AM to 5 PM, there is an entrance fee of Rs.2/- but the parking fee is Rs.20/- ! There is an additional fee of Rs.50/- if you take a camera. We reached the place around 11 AM.
We were in for a pleasant surprise to find the sanctuary well maintained. The whole area is a no plastic zone and we found it mostly free of litter. There is a nice walk way from the parking lot that goes around the entire sanctuary and from where you can view the birds.
Flocks of birds flew overhead, like those fighter planes flying in formations during air shows. Our camera’s 70-300 lens was not big enough to get close ups of birds. We couldn’t take great pictures and managed with whatever maximum zoom our lens could give us. Time we start saving for those powerful lenses.
Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary, part of the Pulicat Lake, it is a freshwater swamp forest and thus, home for several species of migratory birds during the nestling season. As you walk down the pathway, you can see hundreds of birds resting and nestling on the trees.
These Asian Openbill Storks seemed to be discussing something important with their leader.
This Black-headed Ibis was seen rushing off somewhere,
while a Little Egret flew by in the opposite direction.
A walk down the pathway, bordering the lake, is cool and pleasant with lot of trees for shade. Further up, there was another group of Openbill storks, one of them was busy collecting material for its nest.
Bird watching is very interesting, these birds seemed to be going about their chores with utmost interest, they seemed to be in a world of their own as they flew all over the place, what a sight it is to watch a bird in flight ! The flapping of the wings, soaring up and then gliding away smoothly. Man created aeroplanes to be able to fly but that is only a poor imitation of the wonder of a bird’s flight !
A bird sanctuary is a great place to take kids to, we had 2 year olds with us and they had a field day looking at the birds and running around in excitement.
We were beginning to wonder if the icons of Nelapattu, had not yet arrived, when a little distance down the sanctuary, we spotted them – Grey Pelicans !
While the other species of birds were found here and there, the Pelicans seemed aloof and perched themselves in a corner of the sanctuary, you could find an Openbill or an Ibis near a Pelican territory but there were no Pelicans anywhere else except in their own territory, away from the rest ! Not very friendly birds, are they?
Of all the colonies of birds in the sanctuary, the Pelicans were the noisiest, they seemed to be jabbering non-stop. It was interesting to watch them, this one was probably clearing its throat or swallowing its lunch,
while some were busy building a nest, some seemed bored with the proceedings and yawned !
Birds are such fascinating beings !
There are view points on the path way, where you can climb to get a “bird’s eye view” of the bird sanctuary. It is always a good idea to carry a binoculars when you visit a bird sanctuary. Though a maximum zoom on your camera could give you a decent view, yet nothing to beat a binoculars. Not having a binoculars, we must have missed quite a number of birds.
We spent about an hour and a half at the sanctuary, totally lost in the world of the Aves. We did not want to leave even though it was past lunch time and the kids were tiring.
Birds are underrated beings, animals and humans have taken predominance in the world, yet, birds seem to far out shine both animals and humans by minding their own business, showing great team spirit, being creatures of such beauty and grace and always reaching up to the sky !
And so, we returned from Nelapattu, happy about having finally visited it and wiser from the lessons we learnt from the birds.