Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Point Calimere - A kingdom of birds by the sea!

Visiting bird migration sites has always been a fascination for us, a single place with tens of thousands of birds at a time! These are places where flocks after flocks of birds of different species arrive and/or depart, most of them migrating from quite far off places.

Brahminy Starling
Eurasian Spoonbills - In flight

When this trip to Point Calimere was planned by BNHS for a group of us, [Ohh.. this was over a year ago, and we're posting it now...] we were more than delighted! Especially because it was that time of the year where migrants from as far off as the North Pole flew down here to spend the winter. Albeit we were a tad too late – by a couple of weeks to be precise, as the North east monsoon had fairly set in, our spirits were high enough to enjoy the rain as equally as the birds.

Cattle Egret - Juvenile 

About Pt Calimere
Located in a place where the Palk Strait meets the Bay of Bengal, in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu, Point Calimere is a place for a large variety of migratory birds. In October these water birds arrive from Rann of Kutch, Eastern Siberia, Northern Russia, Central Asia and parts of Europe for their feeding season and start returning to those breeding places in January. This site has recorded the second largest congregation of migratory water birds in India, with a peak population in excess of 100,000, representing over a hundred species.

Mudflats and a view of sunset

Common Kingfisher - Commonly found here
The bird sanctuary, the salt pans, mud flats, grasslands and the roads within the village itself provide ample opportunity for birding.
Brahminy Kite
This being a quiet, small village has limited options for stay, commutation and food. There is the office of BNHS station director and BHNS dormitories along with TN state government guest houses.
Since we drove down to the place, it was easier for us to get around the places for birding, apart from the group birding sessions we had.
Pacific Golder Plover
Long Billed Plover
This is a very important lace for the wintering waders with so many species and such large numbers that id'ing them was a big challenge - especially because of their dull winter plumage... These are some of them...

Little Ringed Plover

Wood Sandpiper
Long Billed Plover (Left) - Broad billed Sandpiper (Right)
Lesser Sand Plover
Kentish Plover
Black winged Stilts
With the rains on and off, the places around were magically transformed within hours. So was the bird congregation, with flocks of different species seen at the same place at different times. During the 5 day stay we had there, and almost 2 or 3 sessions a day, it was fascinating to see different views of the landscapes and different numbers and species of birds at a given place each time!

Painted Stork

Flock of Egrets
One of the mornings, the sanctuary was flooded with water, with the roads covered by more than a foot of water. It was also flooded by flocks and flocks of birds – hundreds of egrets, thousands of waders, tens of painted storks and many more, making it a treat to the eyes and ears. However by late afternoon, the same place was almost dry and the birds had also drastically reduced.
Gull Billed Tern
So was the case with the mud flats where we saw huge numbers of gulls, terns and flamingos one evening and a couple of days later, there was almost none!
Greater Flamingos
Black Tailed Godwits
These Black-tailed Godwits which were in huge numbers once were almost not seen at all later…
Among the various waders, this Little Stint was the most fascinating! With a size smaller than a House Sparrow, it undertakes great migration breeding in the Arctic and wintering in South Asia and Africa!

Little Stint
Along with the water birds, there was a lot of scope with land birds as well, in the woods nearby. The limelight however was this rare, alluring land bird which was playing hide and seek with us most of the time, showing off its chestnut colors for a brief moment and disappearing the next. Finally it decided to pose for us for long enough for us to appreciate its beauty – The Chestnut Winged Cuckoo!!
Chestnut Winged Cuckoo

The other cuckoos seen were Indian Plaintive cuckoo, Lesser cuckoo and Common Hawk Cuckoo.
Indian Plaintive Cuckoo
Black headed cuckoo-shrike female
Not a common hawk cuckoo as we thought earlier, after comments from Hemant and observing again a) beak b) eyes c) the wing pattern we have corrected it.

And the Blue faced Malkohas had never before been this co-operative, waiting patiently for us, for minutes at times at close quarters.

Blue faced Malkoha
Asian Paradise Flycatcher - Juvenile

We had also been to Udayamarthanda puram another wetland nearby where we saw huge flocks of ibises, herons, storks, egrets, pelicans and other birds. All were returning home at sunset, in numbers reaching thousands.

Apart from birding, we were also taught a few lessons in bird ringing, something that BNHS station folks are doing, studying about the migration pattern of the birds. Personally, we didn’t like the idea of bringing the birds to the Field Station for the sake of ringing. Felt it would rather be better to ring the birds close to the place where they are captured and release them immediately, like how it is done in Europe.  But nevertheless, it was something to learn about the ways and means of scientific study of bird migration.
Red necked Phalarope
Bar tailed Godwit
Below is the bird list and Do enjoy the pics, this trip report is due for almost an year and we are glad that we eventually made it.

Bird list
  • Tern, Caspian
  • Tern, Gull-billed
  • Gull, Brown-headed
  • Gull, Heuglin’s
  • Curlew, Eurasian
  • Darter
  • Egret, Cattle
  • Egret, Intermediate
  • Egret, Large
  • Egret, Little
  • Heron, Black-crowned Night
  • Heron, Grey
  • Heron, Indian Pond
  • Heron, Purple
  • Bittern, Cinnamon
  • Flamingo, Greater
  • Ibis, Black-headed
  • Ibis, Glossy
  • Pelican, Spot-billed
  • Spoonbill, Eurasian
  • Stilt, Black-winged
  • Stork, Painted
  • Lapwing, Red-wattled
  • Coot, Common
  • Cormorant, Little
  • Shag, Indian
  • Shoveller, Northern
  • Moorhen, Common
  • Grebe, Little
  • Swamphen, Purple
  • Duck, Spot-billed
  • Waterhen, White-breasted
  • Sandpiper, Broadbilled
  • Sandpiper, Common
  • Sandpiper, Curlew
  • Sandpiper, Wood
  • Greenshank, Common
  • Redshank, Common
  • Plover, Greater Sand
  • Plover, Grey
  • Plover, Kentish
  • Plover, Lesser-sand
  • Plover, Little Ringed
  • Plover, Pacific Golden
  • Stint, Little
  • Stint, Temminck’s
  • Phalarope, Red-necked
  • Godwit, Bar-tailed
  • Godwit, Black-tailed
  • Falcon, Peregrine
  • Harrier, Western Marsh
  • Kite, Black
  • Kite, Black-shouldered
  • Kite, Brahminy
  • Francolin, Grey
  • Babbler, Jungle
  • Babbler, White-headed
  • Barbet, White cheeked
  • Bee-eater, Blue-tailed
  • Bee-eater, Green
  • Bulbul, Red-vented
  • Bulbul, White-browed
  • Malkoha, Blue-faced
  • Cuckoo-shrike, Black-headed
  • Cuckoo, Chestnut-winged
  • Cuckoo, Common Hawk
  • Cuckoo, Indian Plaintive
  • Cuckoo, Lesser
  • Cuckoo, Pied Crested
  • Koel, Asian
  • Dove, Eurasian Collared
  • Dove, Laughing
  • Dove, Spotted
  • Drongo, Black
  • Flycatcher, Asian Paradise
  • Hoopoe, Common
  • Kingfisher, Common
  • Kingfisher, Pied
  • Kingfisher, White-throated
  • Owlet, Spotted
  • Pigeon, Blue-rock
  • Pigeon, Orange-breased Green
  • Bushlark, Indian
  • Pipit, Paddyfield
  • Pipit, Richard’s
  • Prinia, Ashy
  • Robin, Indian
  • Robin, Oriental Magpie
  • Roller, Indian
  • Shrike, Brown
  • Shrike, Long-tailed
  • Skylark, Oriental
  • Sparrow, House
  • Sunbird, Loten’s
  • Sunbird, Purple
  • Sunbird, Purple-rumped
  • Swallow, Common
  • Swift, Asian Palm
  • Treepie, Rufous
  • Wagtail, Large Pied
  • Warbler, Blyth’s Reed
  • Woodswallow, Ashy
  • Parakeet, Rose-ringed
  • Peafowl, Indian
  • Starling, Brahminy
  • Mynah, Common
  • Coucal, Greater
  • Crow, House
  • Crow, Large-billed
 And some sighted mammals

Black Buck
Spotted Deer
Wild Boar
and Finally Our Car - left Stranded

Wishing you all a great 2013 and happy and sane birding during the year. Comments and Corrections welcome as always.


  1. Good remembrance of 2011.

    Nice photography. Every Caption suits the photo.

    well, what is BNHS?

    1. Thank you sir. btw BNHS is Bombay Natural History Society

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed the post, D & S. I have to write mine up sometime - looks like I'll make it in time for the 2nd anniversary of the visit :D Both Nannaj and PC were awesome fun - wish we had more trips ... Hope you are having a good time (birding and otherwise) in Europe :)

    1. Thanks KD! D was pushing me to complete it for the first anniversary, but eventually it came out in the next year ;)

  3. Sir nice writeups and photos.Just wanted to point that there is photo marked as common hawk cuckoo its black-headed cuckooshrike female :)

    1. Thank you Hemanth,

      It is such observations which will make one Learn :-) Yes! you are right it is indeed black headed cuckooshirke female.

      a) beak b) eyes c) the wing pattern clearly say that.

  4. simply beautifully captured shots...lovely!

  5. Hi, You have mentioned about few dorms around. Is there any contact details that you may have that you can share?. We plan to visit during winter this year.

  6. Lovely post! Brought back memories of my brief sojourn at Point Calimere. The pictures are stunning, too!


Any more interesting stuff on these birds? Any corrections in Ids? Please do drop in your valuable inputs...