Avian fantasy

Driving through narrow roads hugged by greenery on both sides, courtesy of the abundance of coconut, areca nut and paddy, you arrive at the small town of Lakkavalli.

This is the site of a dam across the Bhadra River, which you can reach in under five hours from Bengaluru. This small town with its magical landscape holds a secret, as it is a haven for bird watchers from April to June, when thousands of river terns make this place their home.

Nestled in the midst of the Western Ghats, these birds are found in the small islands scattered among the backwaters of the Bhadra river which is their breeding ground. The bird itself is a beauty with its grey plumage, orange feet, yellow beak and black head. In fact, the timing is perfect and this phenomenon is rare and unique, where the birds choose the same island to nest every year.

Feast to the eyes

These islands are formed in the backwaters when the water recedes in the summer and their rocky surface makes it a safe place for breeding. You need to go through a boat to approach the islands and the Government Jungle Lodges provides this service. As you approach the islands, you see several hundred birds flocking here.

The young ones usually hatch in May. The female birds warm the eggs while the males hover around and occasionally swoop into the water to catch a fish for the females and the baby chicks.

The water here is full of fresh water minnow fish, which is rich in nutrition and an excellent source of food for these birds. We were also told that the female birds protect the eggs that are likely to be attacked by other species like eagle, ibis and heron.

The male birds usually hover over the females as well and it is indeed fascinating to see how both take care of the chicks. While you are here, check out the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary which was recently adopted under Project Tiger.

The sanctuary is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna including tigers, elephants, gaurs, wild boars, leopards and birds like the Grey junglefowl, Painted Bush-quail, Emerald dove, Southern Green Imperial-pigeon and Great black woodpecker among others. The Bhadra Dam which has created the Bhadra reservoir is also worth a visit.
The place is located about 270 km from Bengaluru and can be easily
accessed by road. Shivamogga is the nearest city and there are buses available to Lakkavalli. April to June is the best time to visit as it is the breeding season.

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