It was a Saturday evening. Myself, Praveen Velayudhan and Deepak Muraleedharan where thinking about the possibilities of going for bird watching on Sunday morning. The annual photo exhibition of Image Photographic Association Palakkad was going on. A lot of photos of spotted owlets and fish owls were on display at the exhibition.
Although I have seen the spotted owlets and fish owl, I have not yet been able to take a photograph of either of them. It was at that time Krishnamurthy master told about Nallepilly, his hometown where these could be seen in plenty and he invited us to join him any time when he was free.
But he was unavailable on Sunday. Hence we were left thinking about any new place to go on bird watching. It was at that moment that a place called Valiyeri near Kanjikode struck my mind.
It was a relatively isolated place lying on the periphery of the notorious B railway track which is infamous for the elephant deaths due to train collision. The Lake was bordered by reserve forests on the other side. There was constant scare of wild elephants near the Lake.
Nevertheless we decided to head to Valiyeri to do our Sunday morning birding. It was a clear cool morning. We stopped by at a huge pond on the way and did some birding there. All sorts of egrets, little cormorants and common sandpipers greeted us.
It was amusing to see the fight between a common kingfisher and a green bee eater for occupying a favourite perch.
As we moved ahead we saw a couple of blue faced malkohas gliding into the thickets.
We walked along the narrow path towards the Lake. The bushes along the path were teeming with warblers. Booted, blyth’s and clamorous reed warblers were seen. We reached a small lake which seemed like a trailer to the main movie. A black headed ibis was busy feasting on snails as a pond heron was curiously watching.
Finally we reached the Lake. It was a huge one. Water level was considerably low. There was a grey heron and purple heron to be seen. A juvenile Brahminy kite was keeping vigil from an adjacent tree top. Green bee eaters were busy feeding on small insects floating on the water surface.
Everything seemed to be normal when suddenly Praveen Velayudhan spotted something moving on the wet patch of grass at nearly 30 metres away from us on the bank of the Lake. It was a bird but couldn’t be identified.
I took a photograph of the bird and was amused to see it as we have never seen it before.
We googled to see what it was and posted in Young Birders Club Palakkad WhatsApp group for ID confirmation.
ebird list; https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50699637
Finally the confirmation came. It was the “Crested Bunting” [കൊമ്പന് തിനക്കുരുവി]. Kerala’s 526th bird species. Mainly found in the Himalayas, this bird has been recorded once in Bangalore which was the farthest South where it was recorded earlier.
It turned out to be a great day as we became a part of history. With our hearts filled with joy we parted ways hoping to rejoin and continue our birding quests in the future.
Photos and text © Vivek Sudhakaran