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Poetry in motion: Birds in flight at Mangalajodi

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Mangalajodi has been an extraordinary experience for lot many reasons. Since my first visit to Chilika almost a decade ago, I was always keen to return to this place for another bird-watching stint. Then, had heard some extraordinary things about Mangalajodi- it being the poachers haven and then a turn-around which converted hunters to protectors. Finally, a big UN award coming its way, raised all the curiosity.  It actually was first among the many accolades coming its way.

On a misty winter morning a photographer tries to capture birds with his big lens while a Northern Pintail flies past him at Mangalajodi 
A femail northern pintail takes off as a boat approaches closer at Mangalajodi
A female northern pintail takes off for a routine flight at Mangalajodi. They are migratory and migrate South of their habitat to nest in seasonal wetlands, croplands, grasslands, wet meadows, and shortgrass prairies.

Also read: Mangalajodi Ecotourism Trust wins UNWTO award

Experience of Mangalajodi was also different in terms of stay as I stayed at the facility run by the Mangalajodi Ecotourism Trust. This is a community owned and managed wildlife conservation as well as livelihood venture. Most of them belong to fishermen community. It was so delightful staying with them and knowing them so closely.

A male northern pintail gets alert on my approaching boat and takes a flight at Mangalajodi 
Whose flight is best? Mine… mine… mine… and, all took off at once! Godwits and Pintails at Mangalajodi.
A pair of Ruddy Shelduck taking a flight at Mangalajodi wetlands of Chilika lake in Odisha. It is a migratory wintering in the Indian subcontinent and breeding in southeastern Europe and central Asia.

It was also very interesting in terms of birding. This is actually a huge marshland along the northern edge of Chilika Lake. The area of about 10 sq.km is primarily a fresh water zone connected by channels cut through the reed beds with the brackish water of Chilika lagoon. The numerous channels that crisscross through the greenery, harbour thousands of water birds, migratory and resident. This wetland hosts more than 3,00,000 of birds in the peak season. But it wasn’t always so because in last decade of the past century, this village got notorious as poachers village. Almost everybody was involved in commercial but illegal poaching of water birds. Not a surprise that in 2000 the bird census counted mere 5,000 birds in this area. But then came the radical transformation. That I will talk about in a later post. But it’s now a hotspot for birders.

Also read: Winter play for Migratory birds at Chilika

A purple heron flies with its catch safely secures in its beak, while few northern pintails fly away from the approaching boat.
Purple Moorhen male is a glistening purple color and the female is a little duller than the male with greyish-purple color.
Flying to safety! A group of migratory black-tailed godwits at Mangalajodi wetlands of Chilika lake in Odisha. Their most distinctive features are their long beaks and legs, and the black and white stripes on their wings. Female black-tailed godwits are bigger and heavier than the males, with a noticeably longer beak.

Being shallow, it is easy to traverse the waters in a small fisherman boat. No motorised boats are used here. That also means that birders in boat don’t make any noise here and we can be quite close to birds without largely disturbing them or making them uncomfortable. Capturing them in flight when they get alert on slightest of movement around was very delightful and actually that inspired this post.

Also read: A win for the green at Chilika

A purple heron is ready to fly while other one remains still focused! Despite its name, the purple heron actually has a chestnut-red head and neck with striking vertical black stripes, grey shoulders and outer-wings, and a rich chestnut stomach and inner-wings. Populations breeding in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa are migratory and travel between breeding and wintering grounds.

Chilika lagoon is a big sea and one has to travel in deep waters for hours to reach any island for birding. In contrast, at Mangalajodi, you are always surrounded by birds, hundreds and thousands of them. It’s an excellent place for bird photographers. Actually, it is no place for normal city tourists, it is a place for those who are either photographers or have serious interest in bird life.

A pair of black winged stilt fly in tandem as a godwit looks on!
Magalajodi wetlands also attracts a lot many types of gulls and terns!

How to reach

Mangalajodi village is 75 kms from Bhubaneswar. Obviously, state capital is the closest Airport. Most of the way from Bhubaneswar to Mangalajodi is on NH 5 connecting state capital to Chennai. Its an expressway. On this road comes a town named Chandpur, which lies in Tangi block of the Khurda district of Odisha. From Chandpur a country road diverts to Mangalajodi which is 12-13 kms from that point. So, if you are travelling by own or hired vehicle or a taxi, then you can drive right upto Mangalajodi. But if you are traveling by public bus, then you will have to get down at Chandipur and then take a shared taxi upto Mangalajodi. Mangalajodi also has a railway station (Mukteshwar) and this falls on the east-coast section of Howrah-Chennai main rail route. This particular section is quite picturesque as it goes along the Bay of Bengal. But express trains don’t stop at this Mukteshwar station. Still there are few passenger trains daily from Bhubaneswar which halt at Mukteshwar.  

Two northern pintails jump to safety in different directions as soon as my boat comes closer to them at Mangalajodi 

Have you ever been to Mangalajodi or any other part of Chilika for birding? How was the experience? Share with us in the comments section below.

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4 thoughts on “Poetry in motion: Birds in flight at Mangalajodi”

  1. Beautiful photography. The pictures are as beautiful as the birds. Very nicely presented.

    1. swamiupendra says:

      Thanks a lot Abhishek.

  2. How beautiful. I can imagine about a thousand years ago when humans hadn’t.t had such a big impact on earth, Mangalajodi must be having millions and miss lions of birds, reptiles and mammals…

    1. swamiupendra says:

      Quite true, specially when we see that how things are changing (we can say deteriorating) so fast in even our lifetimes!

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