Sunday, March 03, 2013

Fire & Water

Summer is here and I've just been woken up from hibernating. Not too much woodcrawling except a small trip to Bandipur (more about that later).

The dry cold winds sucked the moisture from everything, living or dead. The reservoir, where only a couple of months ago, I had test driven a new car to see its off roading capability, was already dried up significantly.



News of wild fires were trickling in from everywhere and that is worrying to everyone. The forest department is worried about the devastation and effect on wildlife, conservationist worry about everything and owners of farms and estates (encroached or legitimate holdings) on the fringes are worried about the monetary loss.


It was a very different Malampuzha. The water levels had receded so much that we had to drive out to a considerable distance to reach the edges of the remaining water. Even there it was shallow enough to wade through. The shoes kept sinking into the mud so we didn't fancy testing the capability of the car, especially with no other human being in sight. It would be a long walk if I had to get a tow truck to dig us out of trouble!




There was still a tinge of green along the water's edge, the result of a minor thunderstorm that lashed Palakkad a week before, but there were also places which looked like it was part of some desert.


The little water that was still remaining meant that fish would be surfacing for air regularly. There weren't many birds around but the ones that were there were having a field day.





The Northern Pintail ducks were too busy exploring underwater to take notice of me. Most of the time I was around they were with their head underwater!


LITTLE RINGED PLOVER




















The few waders present were not in groups. I spied individuals of  a few of species. 

SANDPIPER



GREAT EGRET

GREY HERON

There were also a small group of black headed ibises and Asian openbills
BLACK HEADED IBIS


ASIAN OPENBILL STORKS


Cormorants were the only birds on large numbers and they were dive bombing in the shallows and finding great success.

LITTLE CORMORANTS

Other than the kites gliding overhead the only other birds were a lone wagtail and many pipits.
WHITE BROWED WAGTAIL
PADDY FIELD PIPIT 


It seemed that the birds were having a good time as the water disappeared. The unfortunate part was that the forest on the edges of the reservoir were passing through their worst crisis. The leaves that had been shed during the winter months with the dried grass form a deadly combination. A carelessly thrown cigarette or even a spark from a fire lit to clear the under bush can lead to disaster. 

It almost happened on the other shore a few weeks previously. The farm owner was allegedly clearing his property but things quickly went out of control.





video


It took a mere half  hour for the fire to spread but mercifully it died out before doing too much damage. The forest official whom we ran to inform could only watch helplessly. The nearest fire station was in Kanjikode, at least 10 kilometers from the scene of fire. The water in the reservoir was only about 100 meters away but there was no way to bring it to the fire. Perhaps God intervened!

Our Bandipur trip in late January too was spoilt by fire, but of a different sort. Watch this space for that story.