As the train halted with a screech at the train halt Perassannur, Manasa stepped down from the ladies compartment , the rear end of the passenger train. The ladies compartment is usually placed in the rear end, in those days ,of the Kozhikode passenger train. I thought. Both of us went up the great sweeping shore of sand towards Manniayamperumpalam.
The broad ‘ v’ shaped formation of white Ibis slowly vanished into the western horizon. When these river breezes reached the platform ,the palm fronds whispered, so that spots of blurred sunlight slid over their bodies enveloping a halo..oh or Fly far, gentle birds, and fly safely..”” she uttered like a little girl. The garland of white Ibises.. where are they off to such a late hour?
”Not White Ibises , but BlackHeaded Ibises”
”And fly our flag – our nowhere flag –
Unfurl it in the motion of your ..”..she rendered a few lines passionately.. We have once spotted a flock of Glossy Ibis also..Oh.””.She exclaimed.She grabbed my hand..”.I would like to fly with them….Narayanetta..last night I haven’t had even a wink of sleep.”
”I could hear the lift and fall of the wings, the single cry of a mate, millions of birds flying through the darkness over the sea and the land in silence, through the sleep
of me I can guess their pattern, their flight: formations of birds in the night,
covering the sky with the grid of their wings…..making the stars shudder.
You speak like a poetess…It could be the experiences of the night of MANGALAJODI..your brain might have recreated that..
No..Narayanetta…I feel it as true…not a dream at all..
“”Manasa…the last folk of Black-headed seagulls had already left the sky treading their way resisting the cool western wind in the river just before you landed here.”
”Not sorry about all the borders they’ve crossed,”
,””Where are they going to?. You didnt answer.”
“Why are you so much crazy over migratory birds?”
”There, they are, again those citizens, of nowhere, blazing through the skies they were born to move.’
‘Another folk of birds moved towards south west direction.
Bharatappuzha plays host to a variety of birds that migrate from their native land and come here for rest, food and breeding. Black-headed seagull, Kerala’s warm climate, with plenty of water, sunshine, flora and fauna, is a welcome relief to the avians from the harsh winters back home.
Where did they go every day in the evening?
“Though migratory, they have their own favourite place of rest.. “”He added..may be to Biyyam kettu or Ayilakkad Thuruth.They might have started from Kolokkayal, Parudur as you know.
We crossed the knee-deep water..the outer layer of water remained warm .and the inner layers never forgot to linger the unique coolness of the water of Bharathappuzha. several stretches of the river bed remain exposed showing thickets growing in the middle..It was a warm evening. There was not a figure except those washing their clothes at a distant shore,
but themselves on the far reaches of sand, no noise but the sound of the sandpipers .snipes and plovers who were busy having supper..”The thickets and sandbanks would be removed from the riverbed as these obstruct the flow of the water. ”, these thickets were submerged. Most sandbanks and thickets are found in Bharathapuzha. Also, islets have emerged as the water level dipped.
There ran a hiss of the congregation of pratincoles that settled on the islet sand spread. That excited her…””Manasa pratincoles are not migratory. They seem to be funny like you..” with pretensions..and distraction display..” “You are crossing the limit, ridiculing me, growing up and still don’t know how to speak gently with women..!!.
Oh sorry, it’s silly, leave it.
‘You see a stray dog jumps towards them ,just another no win situation ??
”Could be a game for the stray dog.”
The sand bed where water has been receded to see it clanging at the land. We called it Moony sands. We loved to feel ourselves self between the noise of it and the silence of the sandy shore. Manasa was with him.
The country was dusk red and still. From behind the sandhills came the whisper of the river water and sandpipers..They were having their supper.. They were pursuing worms and small insects and creatures on the wet sand bed where water has been receded. They remained silent as the spiralling congregation of plovers grounded on the sandy river banks.
Manasa walked in silence .,””So, the migratory birds are little plover. Open billed stork, woolly necked stork, ibis white, glossy Ibis, Suddenly he spotted a few birds near the sandbank by the patches of grass. They were lesser plovers and stints,Both ar migratory in the basin.””
Its a tern, Narayanetta,The whole of her blood seemed to burst into flame on her face!!,She could scarcely breathe. .”I became interested in Terns upon learning that the Arctic Tern flies roundtrip between the North and South Poles annually. The distance it covers in its average lifespan of 35 years is equivalent to flying to the moon and back three times.””
It was found a white coloured bird with a black crown and white cheeks and sides of the neck. The upperparts, upper wings and tail are medium greys, the underparts dark grey to slate grey and the undertail is white with the underwings mainly white.
“Which bird is this restless one like you…you see it goes on moving like you, as a man enjoys roaming..I can’t identify..its a tern which tern, river tern or whiskered tern? “The bird passed just above us it was looking downwards aiming fish..It was as busy as a bee.It could be the Whiskered Tern another the migratory bird along the banks of Bharathapuzha.
”It could be a river tern too.”Manasa retorted.
”No ,The River tern is a slender bird, about the size of a pigeon, with grey upper parts, black cap on the head, yellow beak, long pointed wings, a deeply-forked tail and short, yellow stubby legs.”
Cant you see the bird has a different feature..? Whiskered Tern is a small, tubby marsh tern with a slightly forked tail. The Whiskered Tern in breeding plumage has a black crown and white cheeks and sides of the neck. The upperparts, upper wings and tail are a medium greys, the underparts dark grey to slate grey and the undertail is white with the underwings mainly white. The eye is brown and the bill and legs are red.
She was staring at them from the rim of the sandhills. He stood still, looking
“Ah!” cried Manasa..” Another whisker tern, how lazily it moves like weightless, aimless creature,it could be the same bird that slipped towards eastern direction.”
I remained perfectly still, staring at the
tern and looked at her. She stood beside me, forever in shadow. Her face, covered with the golden dust of the setting sun.”You are right Manasa, it is a young bird.”
”May be a female bird Narayanetta.”. ” Oh.. No,No ,,,No,,the male bird is similar to female,Manasa
Then ,its a young bird,”?!
Any change in features? She was expecting some in him. Still yearning, she was half aware of his , and gazed at him, troubled.
“What is it?” she murmured again.Young birds have a pale grey back, rump and upper wings, heavily mottled medium-brownish grey, especially along leading edge of inner wing, and the tail is pale grey, edged black.
”A twitch, a twitter, an elastic shudder in flight
And serrated wings against the sky,as DH lawrences bat it slithers’
“Manasa, I have seen them from Ayilakkad Backwaters. spotted one, only one whiskered tern., it also moved as Dh Lawrence described.”
,”We could see them plenty in Mangalajodi, you remember the country boat trip? They were found to be fast and athletic. They emerged upside down from their dive with fish in beak. Sometimes two flew over one another, almost touching. They made it all look easy and seemed to immensely enjoy the act of flying. Oh That was an avian paradise. When do these birds reach here in Kerala from other countries??
”In Kerala, the Whisker terns generally appear during the month of September..the earliest recording being third of September in Kattampally..Usually, they leave to Eurasia by the first week of June. The later birds of folk of around eighty were reported from Purathur, Ponnani on the sixth of June 2005.
It is the most numerous of winter visitors in large wetlands like Vembanad.It is also reported from inland wetlands like Malampuzha,Walayar,MeenkaraDam,Peechi,Chimminy dam,.the highest bird count was 17280 in 1994.The Whiskered Tern prefers shallow terrestrial freshwater wetlands, freshwater swamps, brackish and saline lakes, floodwaters, sewage farms, irrigated croplands and large dams.
In summer adult has white cheeks and red legs and bill. The crown is flecked with white in the juvenile, and the hind crown is more uniformly blackish, though in the winter adult this too is flecked with white. The black ear-coverts are joined to the black of the hind crown, and space above is mottled with white, causing the black to appear as a C-shaped band. The sides of the neck are white; this sometimes continues across the nape. The collar is less sharply defined. All through the year, the rump is a pale grey.
..”Both male and female are alike. During the breeding season, February to May, it has a deep glossy black head and nape. The juveniles do not have the black markings but have grey, speckled upperparts. It predominantly feeds on fish, small crustaceans and insects. More likely to be sighted in flight than on the ground, it has a distinctive slightly jerky flight and flies in circling curves when fishing.”
;”In winter, the forehead becomes white and the body plumage a much paler grey. Juvenile Whiskered Terns have a ginger scaly back, and otherwise look much like winter adults. The first winter plumage is intermediate between juvenile and adult winter, with patchy ginger on the back. whisker tern birds for Chilika Lake.“Occurs regularly in small numbers of 100-200.Seen
throughout the year except for May-June,.”
it’s a migratory bird along the coast of Bharathappuzha..
Almost half of the observers recorded seeing White-winged Terns accompanying a flock of the commoner Whiskered Terns.
Non-breeding Whiskered Terns are similar to breeding adults except the underparts are white, the forehead is white and the dark crown is streaked white. The area between the bill and eyes and ear coverts are black while the bill and legs are also blackish. Young birds have a pale grey back, rump and upper wings, heavily mottled medium-brownish grey, especially along the leading edge of the inner wing, and the tail is pale grey, edged black. The Whiskered Tern is also known as the Marsh Tern or Black-fronted Tern
”Whiskered Terns are migratory and nomadic, Like you Manasa.In Australia generally, they are found on the coast and the interior but are the only vagrant in Tasmania. Breeding is mainly south of 25° S, being most numerous in the south-east interior. They are widely distributed throughout the mainland when not breeding. Large numbers of Australian birds migrate into Indonesia and South-East Asia,6mainly via the Top End.
”The lores (area between bill and eyes) and ear coverts are black while the bill and legs are also blackish. The Whiskered Tern is also known as the Marsh Tern or Black-fronted Tern”
The Whiskered Tern prefers shallow terrestrial freshwater wetlands, freshwater swamps, brackish and saline lakes, floodwaters, sewage farms, irrigated croplands and large dams. They under go seasonal movements within the reached place too.
”Place is an identity for some,
But for me: place is just a passing thing
A way to get to where I next want to be.
And all the life worth living
Happens along that journey”
And in the in-between.: the cool breeze whispers
And it’s time to move again.
Everything grew very intense. It was quite dark when they turned again. The way home was through a gap in the sandhills, and then along a raised grass road between two dyke“It’s the moon,” he answered, frowning.
“Yes,” she asserted. “Isn’t it wonderful?” She was curious about him. Again it was the same passenger train to Calicut. The steam hissed. She got into it and stood in the doorway..as to say goodbye.. Narayanetta, could you sense another migration?!! Another repeated motif, just another migration !! The sodium vapour lamp spread the bare platform with ancient yellow beams. .The moon was full and he wind blew eddying the moonlight mists, the endless stretches of sand lay silently blued by the night.
The crisis was past. the red wattled lapwing notes have been dissolving in the moonshine as we left.
migratory birds along the Bharathappuzha may include Black-headed Ibis, Black Headed Seagull, Little-ringed plover, Glossy ibis, Open billed stork, Woolly Necked stork, Lesser plover Common snipe, .and Whisker Tern..
Congrats on this lovely article. Migratory birds are sheer fun bringing the Wordsworthian unudelterated joy into our minds and I hope none of them are invasive by any means to threaten our native species.
Thanks a lot, Anil, the Bernard Shaw of B Ed centre. Let’s hope so.Some of them have stopped migrating and started settling here.