Have you ever heard of Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary? Well, you might have, but if not don't worry because many seasoned bird photographers are yet not aware of this bird abode located in Tamil Nadu.
Being the oldest (yes, you saw that right!) and also the smallest bird sanctuary sprawling over just 74 acres of wetland, it boasts of being the habitat and wintering ground to a number of native and migratory birds as well as aquatic life. Over 40 thousand Migratory birds flock in this area during winter and being quite accustomed to urban visitors, the birds seem to not get disturbed by your approach.
So, this would be a great opportunity to get some close encounter shots of the birds, why not go for it!
Excited enough? Let’s have a look at this small haven for birds - how to get there, what you can expect there and how you can explore it.
History of Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary
In Tamil, Vedanthangal means the “hamlet of the hunter” and actually, this mangrove habitat was a popular hunting ground of the rich landlords in the early 18th century, owing to its unique mangrove ecosystem surrounding the lake and the rich biodiversity.
The British government came to aid and regarding its ecological and ornithological value, took the initiative to declare it as a bird sanctuary in 1798. Even though it was declared a sanctuary, around 60 years or so had passed until this rich habitat came into being a protected area. It was the collector of Chingleputtu or Chengalpattu who established it as a sacred bird sanctuary in 1858.
Since then, local farmers too had been putting great effort into protecting this bird habitat as the bird droppings help to make the Vedanthangal lakewater rich in nitrogen and the water, if used in irrigation of the pastures, can reduce the extra cost of the fertilizers.
The villagers also complained to Mr. Place, the collector of Chenglapet Lionel Palace about the recreational shooting of birds by the British soldiers and were managed to obtain a “Cowle” or a grant.
In 1936, the lake was acknowledged as a sanctuary by the collector.
In 1962, it was declared as a reserved forest under Madras Forest Act followed by a wildlife sanctuary ten years later. Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary came into being on 8th July 1988 under Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
How to get there: Location and Accessibility
Being one of the least known bird sanctuaries in India, it is located in Madurantakam, next to the Madurantakam lake, interior to Kancheepuram District in Tamil Nadu, India.
Nearest Airport is Pondicherry Airport (58 km) with link to Vedanthangal and also Chennai International Airport (66 km)
Nearest Rail station is Chengalpattu (21 km) with link to Chennai, Mumbai, and Delhi
To the south of Chengalpattu, it is easily accessible by car along the NH45 from Chennai (distance from Chennai to Vedanthangal is 75 km). From Chennai, you need to head to Padalam through Chegalpattu. Turn right to take the sanctuary road and ride 11 km further to reach the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary.
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary bus route runs from Chengalpattu, Chennai, and Mahabalipuram
Other nearby cities from where you can access the road to the sanctuary are Bengaluru (324.8 km) and Hyderabad (700 km). However, these are quite strenuous and time-consuming.
Climate and When to Visit
The climate of Vedanthangal is extremely hot and sultry during summer (March to July) and cool and comfortable in winter (November to February).
Monsoon stays for long and as the lake is rainwater fed, it gets sufficient resource during this time. Monsoon from August to mid-October is not a bird sighting season due to heavy showers.
The best season to visit for birds is perfect from November to March as this is the time of arrival of migratory birds and you can see them nesting, and rearing up the nestlings.
The weather is pleasant and the temperature ranges between 160-270 Celsius which is perfect for getting numerous flight shots, feeding shots, and habitat shots.
How to Explore
Take a birder cum guide. The ticket collector at the Interpretation Center is very knowledgeable of the birds and mammals found in Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary and can act as your guide.
Follow the western embankment of the Vedanthangal Lake along the stone paved path to get a clear view of the habitat of the birds.
Sit back on the granite benches placed strategically so that the photographers can find their coveted shots.
Climb up the watchtowers for a birdseye view.
Bird Photographers’ Paradise
Not only just the migrants, but even native Indian birds can be found in the waters of Madurantakam lake and will keep you hooked throughout the day to capture all kinds of exquisite shots.
Golden Oriole, Rose-ringed Parakeets, Jungle Babblers, Bee-eaters, Coppersmith Barbets, Greater Barbets, Racket-tailed Drongos, Black Drongos, Lesser and Greater Cormorants, Indian Shags, Common Grebes, Little Egrets, Large Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Oriental Darters, Common Moorhens, Common Coots, Grey-headed Nigh Herons, Pond Herons, Northern Shovellers, Northern Pintails, River Terns, White Ibises, Sandpipers, Little Stilts, Black-winged Stilts, Ringed Plovers, Curlews are commonly found here.
Predators like Black Kite, Brahminy Kite, Short-toed Eagles are found hovering over or even fetching their prey from the Vedanthangal lake.
Jacobean Cuckoos, Asian Openbill Storks, Purple Herons and Grey Herons (Bangladesh), Eurasian Spoonbills (Myanmar), Oriental Darters, White Ibises and Glossy Ibises (Sri Lanka), Painted Storks (Siberia), Garganeys, Spot-billed Ducks, Comb Ducks, Red Shanks and Teals (Canada), Spot-billed Pelican (Australia) and Dab Chicks are the winter visitors of Vedanthangal – one of the hardly-known bird sanctuaries in India.
Apart from many parts of Europe, birds from countries like Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines flock to the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary to spend their wintering days nesting. The fish from the lakes provide the main resource of food for the birds.
The birds that breed here are Pelicans, Shags, Greater Cormorants, Grey Heron, Night Heron, Open-bill Storks, Spoonbills, Little and Large Egrets, Darters, Black-headed Ibis and so on.
Not only in and around the Vedanthangal Lake, you can find birds like Yellow Wattled Lapwing, Plovers, Stilts, Cuckoo Shrike and Eurasian Thick Knees on the surrounding fields and grasslands.
Decrease in the number of Birds
With the advent of summer, the Vedanthangal Lake, as well as the other small lakes and its surrounding mangrove wetlands, face acute shortage of water due to drought.
Vedanthangal season 2017 has seen a massive decline in the numbers of Migratory birds as the four lakes had almost dried up by the end of May and the birds had left, some even abandoned their nests. While till May 25th, the number of visits by birds was around 90700, it is expected to see the number increase in the upcoming year.
Wildlife Photographers’ Retreat
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary is not only about birds. You will find the elusive Jungle Cats lurking around the bird habitats in search of eggs and hatchlings. Jackals, Wild Boar, Monkeys, Black-naped Hare and more are some of the other mammals found here.
Tariffs and Timing
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary entry fee is INR 25 for adult and INR 5 for the child.
Parking charge is INR 10 and camera charge is INR 25
The timings are from 6 am to 6 pm.
Vedanthangal bird sanctuary contact number is 044-2235-1471
For accommodation, there is the Forest Rest House (1 km from the sanctuary). According to Vedanthangal bird sanctuary review, this is the most convenient place to stay and explore the sanctuary. You can make pre-booking from the Wildlife Warden’s office or over phone - 044-24321471 and from the Range Officer’s Office (Phone: 22200335)
Food and drinks are available outside the sanctuary
From Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, at 9 km distance, there is Karikili Bird Sanctuary if you wish to visit areas around Vedanthangal. It is also rich in birds like Pintails, Teals, and Garganeys.
The sanctuary of Vedanthangal is a perfect example of how even a small wetland ecosystem can be turned into a throbbing bird abode, only if the local people and with environmentalists work together in preserving nature and its wonders. From various native species to a plethora of migratory species – it is purely a paradise of birds that can be enjoyed thoroughly.
Just take a binocular and a camera and you are all set to capture the preening, rearing, flying and feeding shots of the birds while they are roaming in their natural habitat.
Close encounters are common; however, you need to act oblivious as not to disturb the birds.
Read more about bird sanctuaries in India here: Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary: A Bird's Paradise for Birding Photography Enthusiasts!
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