Kokkarebellur: Getting there
Driving back towards Bangalore from Ranganathittu, we swung right towards Kokkarebellur just before we got to Maddur. It’s just 13Km off the Mysore-Bangalore highway, but the road’s so bad, it takes an hour to get there.
Along the way, we admired vast expanses of verdant paddy fields; spotted a black ibis, long-tailed shrike, rose-ringed parakeet, and Indian roller; saw a mongoose cross the road; and took the time to stop and clamber up an embankment to scan a largish reservoir. Here, we spotted common coot, little cormorant, and a tern that we were unable to correctly identify.
Village of storks
The only thing that tells you that you’ve reached Kokkarebellur is the sudden sight of large white birds in the sky – storks and pelicans. That’s right, pelicans. Kokkarebellur is an extraordinary place. It’s just a sleepy little hamlet, indistinguishable from others of its ilk. Except for the fact that, for over 400 years, painted storks, spot-billed pelicans, and open-billed storks have chosen to make it their home (“Kokkare” means “stork” in Kannada”) each year during the breeding season. The unusual thing about the Kokkarebellur pelicanry is the fact that the water source is not situated very close to the nesting site – it’s a kilometer or so away.
A visit during the peak nesting season (February to May) is an amazing experience. Huge birds jostle for space atop every tree in sight, parents fly to and fro with food, and cacophony reigns. Down below, the oblivious villagers go about their daily business – the birds are a part of their lives, nothing special. Some of them have voluntarily given up their income from the tamarind trees in which the birds nest, and receive Rs. 1200 per year (that’s right, per year) from the government as compensation. From prior experience, I know that the villagers are knowledgeable about the birds. They won’t hassle you unless you ask them a question, and they won’t accept money for parting with information. Oh, and if you disturb the birds, in any way at all, they will politely ask you to leave – and if you don’t, they will gather en masse and unceremoniously escort you out of the village.
Since we are visiting so early in the season, in November, only the pelicans have arrived, and they haven’t started breeding yet. The painted and open billed storks will begin to arrive and breed post-January. We wandered around the village admiring the first arrivals. No one took any notice of us, no one stared, and no one followed us around as if we were visitors from another planet. One helpful little kid told me that only the “pekkilans” were here, and if I wanted to see the “penntened storks” I would have to return another time. “Neevu vaapisu barale beku” (you must definitely return) he said, smiling pleasantly.
One for the road…
The day had one last gem in store for us. As we were driving back towards the highway, a small movement in a bush by the side of the road caught my eye. We stopped the car and peered out of the windows to find ourselves almost eye-to-eye with a blue-faced malkoha. A couple of seconds, and off it flew. Popeye, in all his years of birding, had never seen one before, so this completely made his day.
After that, we drove straight back to Bangalore, stopping at a roadside eatery for a quick dosa (if you’d like a more substantial vegetarian meal, I recommend that you stop at Kamat Lokaruchi near Channapattana). We got back home at 3.10pm, getting from Banashankari to Koramangala before any signs of Saturday afternoon rush hour began to make themselves felt.
This was one of life’s more fulfilling days… I can only wish to be granted more.