How I used to envy this man, the boatman of Perassannur Kadavu (ferry ) in Bharathappuzha! Paddling tranquil water was only one of the ways to connect him with the river Nila. The river was his life, the river going down.
He remembers the vast expanse of pristine sand, so pure, he felt soft and smooth water to a long-distance where mirages bloom vaporously at red hot summer moons, creating another illusionary river of sighs.
when dark clouds burst in Ponnani sea, she tuns a roaring sweep of swollen sexy river breaking the banks. He could read the smell of the river, He could read the sky and predict the rain .he could trace the course of the wind.
The boat is no more !!!the river has changed its course and reached the point of no return..yes.The Bharathappuzha river has suffered heavily from sand mining and callous waste dumping hundreds of lorries had been waiting in a queue at every Kadavu, at every point of access along with the river.
Roads were laid right into the spine of the river for quick mining and loading..in recent years..!!? The environment of riverscape has been changed why the growth of the thickets, later on transforming themselves into small forests with luxuriant reed groves palmyras and trees.
Saccharum spontaneum is a grass native of Indian Subcontinent. It is a perennial grass, growing up to three meters in height. It is not easy to uproot the grass people call them Thatch grass, Nannana etc.
though we still admire her as W.B.YEATS describes his sweet heart when she was old among school children.
””Her present image floats into the mind—
Did Quattrocento finger fashion it
Hollow of cheek as though it drank the wind
And took a mess of shadows for its meat?
And I though never of Ledaean kind
Had pretty plumage once—enough of that,
Better to smile on all that smile, and show
There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow.”;
”The stanza four portrays Maud Gonne though, in the earlier stanza, Maud Gonne was imagined by the poet as a little girl standing before him in the school just as she must have been in her school days.
The very next moment in the fourth stanza the poet thinks of Maud Gonne as she must be now, in her old age. As the poet visualizes the aged Maud Gonne now, he thinks of her hollow cheeks.
Now she appears so thin that he thinks that she probably lives on the food of winds and shadows. Her appearance in her old age reminds him of the portrait of an old woman by some fifteenth-century Italian painter who had painted her old-age portrait with hollow cheeks.
Then the poet refers to himself and says that he never possessed the beauty of Leda, but there certainly was a time when he was young and considered handsome.
But now, his good looks and youth are no more. However, there is no reason why he should not smile at all those who meet him with a smile. He says he may have the looks of a scarecrow, but he must pretend to be comfortable and cheerful.” So it is the age of pretension rather than reality.
We carry a map of our familiar riverscape in our memories individually. perhaps collectively..thanks to Jung..the map of our virgin river where used to breathe. we fail to erase the image as Yeats said in Among school children.
If a young mother were to visualize her little child as he would be at the age sixty or more, could she visualise it without pain? The river of yesterday image course along our veins. We can not live without it.
The growth of the tickets interrupting the floor of the water, the shrinking of the wetlands along the banks, changes in the flow of the river, the deepening of the river, and slight changes in the salinity of the water.
(It has been on an increasing trend up to Trithala from a freshwater reading of .05 psu to 5 psu..?)
How do these factors that changed the life pattern of the birds especially the pattern of migratory birds? The boatman saw the ground grey hornbill crossing the river taken off from the tall banyan tree by the” Anchukannupalam”.
It is a colonial arch bridge constructed using brick and mortar. ”Anchu kannu ” means they imagined the curved arch that spans an open space as eyes of the arch bridge,,
thus they called it ”Anchukannu Palam”.it was hard for him to keep himself somewhere without experiencing the river those days have passed.
He used to make comments upon migratory bird ”Pandyalan pakshi” the woolly necked stork” Both we are same, and he quotes the Malayalam adage ” ”kothunoo,perukkunnu, Kalinmel nokkumbol kathunoo, kalunoo” suggesting that were having dinner and food, but whenever I look my slender legs I doubt if it could support my body”??!!
The woolly necked stork has been a migratory bird here since time immemorial. White-necked storks can be taken as the local migrants that we find along the banks of Bharathapuzha.
We can not say that it is a migrant bird. I have spotted a nest at the top branch of a tree near a very aged peepal tree close by Kurinhikkavu temple at Manniamperumbalam in February six years back.
Another migratory bird that Our paddler Hydrossukutty used to quote was ”Nhavinhiadan”, the local name of Open billed storks. He has also spotted seagulls who started to recently, around fifteen years ago.
He listens to the sandpiper’s song and feels the coming of rain… He remained silent as the spiralling congregation of plovers grounded on the sandy river banks.
The plover is a delicately built bird with bright yellow eyerings. It has dull pinkish legs and large white forehead patch. Its Plumage is much like bulkier Ringed Plover, but white eyebrow continues unbroken across the forehead.
Breeds on stony substrates around lakes, gravel pits, and along rivers; migrants occur in a wide variety of fresh and brackish wetland habitats, but rarely out on open tidal areas. Clipped “peu” call differentiates from the call of similar Common Ringed Plover.
I used to call on Miss River Nila in the evening along with the Mr.setting sun. But that day on the twenty-second of May 2014, I dared to visit her along with Mr.rising sun.
When I began to step on the vast stretches of sand bed I chanced to see the birds with yellow eyerings.
They were pursuing worms and small insects and creatures on the wet sand bed where water has been receded.
I observed that they were less active than the pratincoles who were adopting the strategies of distraction display. Later I observed them on twentieth of march in 2020.
They were less than ten in number.They were .found running to and fro along with lesser plovers and stinct. The sand pipers,the instincts, and plovers constituted that group of birds.
Little-ringed plover as the name suggests is a cute bird with yellow eyerings. Plovers usually visit Bharathappuzha river bed in of flock of around ten in number along with Lesser plovers, Sandpipers, Temminek’s stint and little stint.
These winter visitors and can be located on the river beds from January to April prayers and seen in a congregation of 5 to 10 on the river beds of Bharatppuzha from January to May.
There are two subspecies in Little ringed plover. Nine hundred and five birds visited Kerala in 1991 followed by nine hundred and eighty-nine birds were recorded in 1993.
The Little Ringed Plover is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.