My travelogue continues from Somanathpur to Kokkrebellur. Kokkrebellur is a village in Maddur taluk of Mandya district of Karnataka, India. The village is named after the Painted Stork (Mycteria leucocephala) called “Kokkare” in Kannada language. It is situated near Maddur between the cities of Mysore and Bangalore. Apart from Painted Storks, the Spotbilled Pelicans(Pelecanus phillipensis) are also found here. Both are classified as “near threatened category” in IUCN Red List of 2009. The village is one of the 21 breeding sites existing in India.
I have visited on Pelicanry in the Carnatic, where the Pelicans have (for ages I was told) built their rude nests, on rather low trees in the midst of a village, and seemed to care little for the close and constant proximity of human beings. – Jerdon, TC (1864). The Birds of India. Volume 3. George Wyman & Co. pp. 858–860.
Thomas Caverhill Jerdon was a British physician, zoologist and botanist. He is best remembered for his pioneering works on the ornithology of India. Several species of bird including the rare Jerdon’s Courser carry his name. What he might have referred was most probably about Kokkrebellur.
The uniqueness in Kokkrebellur is the long established bonding between the Spot-billed Pelicans and the villagers who have adopted this bird as their heritage, since they consider the birds as harbingers of good luck and prosperity to the village. The benefits derived by the villagers from these birds are basically in the form of phosphorus and potassium rich manure obtained from the bird droppings. Further, over the years, the popularity of this uniqueness has also attracted tourists to the village to watch the birds.
The village is located 800 metres to the west of the Shimsa River. The area in the vicinity of the village offers large water bodies in the form of several large tanks such as the Tailur Kere, the Maddur Kere and the Sole Kere that sustain food needs of the pelicans and other birds. The village setting at Kokkrebellur has nesting trees in the form of Ficus (Ficus religiosa, Ficus bengalensis) and Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) trees.
The spot-billed pelicans are protected by law in India and also in several other countries of the region (Sri Lanka, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos) to avert threats in the form of tree felling for agricultural purposes. A community-based project has been established to perpetuate historical links of the pelicans with the villagers. There is a rescue pen looking after those chicks which have fallen down from the nests and abandoned by the parent birds subsequently. They are fed with fish and their health taken care off until they grow enough to fly off.
Kokkrebellur is not a reserved forest sanctuary but is a small village where the storks and pelicans coexist freely, mostly in tamarind trees in the middle of the village, in total harmony with the villagers. Consequently, reports indicate increased nestling activity in recent years. Kokkrebellur has the distinction of increasing its Spot-billed Pelican population by more than double in recent years. Since the houses and the nests are so crowded together, taking a good photograph of a nest without disturbing the villagers and the birds was difficult. View is also obstructed as the tamarind trees cover most of these nests. There must have been over 3-4000 birds in such a small village.
When we reached the village it was around 10:30 AM. Light was quite harsh already. Birds were away fishing at the nearby Shimsha River. I could get very few good photos. There were quite a few village kids who were enthusiastic in showing us the birds around. After the whole trip around the village I found the real cause of enthusiasm was love of the gifts given by the visiting tourists. I had few biscuits to share with them, but that didn’t satisfy their hunger as they started demanding for more especially for pens with us!. Somehow slowly escaped from them to I head back to the main road towards Mysore where I was staying that night.
This is one of those innumerable spots on the Bangalore – Mysore highway which can be easily overlooked if you are not aware of this place. A blushing signboard on the highway which often hides its face from the traveling vehicles doesn’t help the matters either. The place is 75 km from Bangalore and 12 km from the highway. After Channapatna, go towards Maddur. Before Maddur, is a village Rudrakshipura. It is just before the BPL factory. Take a left turn here and Kokkrebellur is another 12 km on this muddy village road.
The best time to see the pelicans is in January to March. The place is not a sanctuary, and the storks and pelicans live freely in the trees in the middle of village and are quite used to their human neighbors. Mysore Amateur Naturalists (MAN) have been working with the inhabitants of village to preserve the nesting site of the spot billed pelicans, which are an endangered species. Sans the storks, Kokkrebelluru is not exactly a tourist’s paradise as there is nothing much to explore. If you haven’t had your fill of birds, you can try Ranganathittu bird sanctuary as well, where you get to see an amazing variety of birds.