nesting place The Mandagadde bird sanctuary where thousands of migratory birds camp during the monsoon. Photo by author

With the monsoon comes the nesting season. It’s that time of the year when the Mandagadde bird sanctuary looks lively and colourful with thousands of migratory birds camping here to raise their flock which fly back with their young ones by October.

During every monsoon, these winged beauties migrate from Siberia and other far off regions to Mandagadde, located near Shimoga. You can spot hundreds of median egrets, snake birds, little cormorants and many other birds with their nests atop bushy trees surrounding Mandagadde islet.

Sadly, when the Tunga is in spate, the islets with trees sheltering birds are flooded. This invariably happens every monsoon. When the Gajanur reservoir storage level crossed the danger mark (585 ft.) this July due to heavy rain in the catchment areas, the Mandagadde sanctuary remained flooded partially almost a week.

According to locals, hundreds of little birds and nests were washed away in the floods as all the crest-gates of the nearby Gajananur dam had to be opened for releasing excess inflow of Tunga river which pass through Mandagadde bird sanctuary. “Our paddy fields remained waterlogged for weeks. We lost our crops because of  the river overflowing into our fields. But more than the crop loss, we are worried about those helpless migratory birds hit badly by the flood. We simply love these birds. It is thanks to these birds that our village is known to tourists from all over the world. When the floods affect the whole village and its surroundings, we become helpless,” says Kalegowda of Mandagadde.

Natural islet
Mandagadde is a scenic islet with bushy trees in the backdrop of  lush green paddy fields. Formed by the course of the Tunga river, the islet is about 20 km from Gajanur Dam of the Upper Tunga Project.

Spread over 1.2 acres, Mandagadde islet remains a preferred destination for alien birds which arrive in batches from June and about seven to eight thousand winged guests can be seen here by the end of the season.

From the watch tower located at the entrance to the sanctuary, you can get a good view of the big birds preying for fish and crabs to feed their young ones. The Upper Tunga Project was completed in 2007 though the controversial project  was started some ten years ago. The Gajanur reservoir has been designed for channel irrigation covering about 2.37 lakh acres in the surroundings of Shimoga, Sakrebailu,  Honnalli, Haveri, Harihara, Hanagal, Hirekerur and Ranebennur. The Gajanur reservoir (length:770 m, height:100m), built at the cost of Rs 1,000 crore, has 22 crest gates and 330-km-long irrigation channels. For channel irrigation, the UTP was constructed though the Mandagadde bird sanctuary. The sanctuary often faces threat of submersion unless steps are taken.

Fifteen years ago, the had sanctioned Rs 20 lakh for the maintenance of the bird sanctuary. Strangely, the funds were not utilised properly.
S V Upendra Charya

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