We (Ashwini & I) confirmed our landing in Udupi with a “Present sir” message to the organiser. It was going to be a Pelagic trip, i,e hiring a boat and going into the sea looking for the returning migrants. I was suffering from dry cough, but couldn’t resist the temptation of birding from a boat. Shivashankar had done all the research and had mailed a few of us asking if we were interested and what can one do but jump at it when such offers are made.
The best part about landing at Udupi is that you get lovely breakfast very early in the morning (esp the Mangalore buns). After having breakfast, we took a private bus to Mulki town where all of us had decided to meet. A tea to start with and we headed straight to the shore where the boat was waiting for us. 6 of us on a boat with all the birdwatching gear (read bird guides, spotting scopes, binocs, and cameras). The tide was quite high. We had gotten on to the boat from the Shambhavi river banks. Our idea was to cover about 10Kms from the shore and try to spot the pelagics. The boat ride itself is an experience. I have done birding from a boat at Fort Kochi before but this one seemed slightly scary. Add to it, I can’t swim. There is a point where the river meets the sea and man, it is scary. The boat was literally in the air for a few seconds and I really thought my life had come to an end. The sea waves were scary. Really.
Anyway, after all this adventure we passed through a small island patch where we saw a lot of Sanderlings. The day looked promising. Since then we saw a lot of gulls, Greater Crested Terns, Brahminy Kites, Caspian Terns etc. Since all of them were in flight, we did get to see some good gymnastics by these birds like diving to catch a prey. We had already approached the Kaapu and decided to explore the 2 rocky islands in the sea. The first one was quite a small one where we didn’t see any birds and the second one was at the farthest end and all we got to see were the Rock Pigeons. Infact we were surprised to see Rock Pigeons so far away from the shore. Then there were Dragonflies and a few other interesting things which we kept watching in the absence of birds. We decided to head back to the shore from there.
It was quite a long journey back to the shore and there was complete silence on the boat. It was sunny and it is quite tiring too sitting in the hot sun. As we were approaching the shore, we saw a Sandpipers and Whimbrels on the other end of the Mulky shore. But the fun had just begun. Shiva saw the Dolphin fluke and all of us got excited. In about 15 mins, we saw atleast 5 Indian Hump-backed Dolphins swimming around us.Their fluke would just appear for a few seconds and then disappear. After tracking them for a while, we decided to head back. On our way back, we saw the Pallas’s Gull, Caspian Terns, Brown-headed Gull where we had seen the Sandlerings in the morning. After spending some time there, we finally landed on the shore. Thankfully, the tide was low and getting back to the shore was smooth. Infact as we were entering the river, we saw a huge male Western Marsh Harrier flying past and I was bold enough to stand and look through my binocs.
After some lunch at Mulky, we again got back to the shore but the other side this time. After a lot of walking in the hot sun, we managed to reach the patch where we had seen the Sanderling and the Gulls and the terns. There was a small hut set up an elevated plywood setup. Ashwini and I just took an afternoon nap there. If not for my cold, it would have been one of my best afternoon naps. Cool breeze from the sea and the share, what more does one want. We saw a lot of Redshanks,Terns, Gulls, White-bellied Sea-Eagle chasing away all of them in the afternoon. We walked along the shore and saw this huge congregation of Sanderlings on a patch. We watched them for quite some time. There were Grey herons including one of them trying to consume a snake, Ruddy Turnstones which were literally turning every stone possible, Lesser Sand Plovers, Greater Sand Plavers, Whimbrels etc. We saw them till the evening in the “Golden” evening light and also saw the water level rising. We headed back to Udupi to feed ourselves at Woodlands Hotel and couldn’t stop myself from feeding on Gudbud Ice-cream even with all the cough.
The pelagic birding had ended without any pelagics actually. Probably we were still early for it, but then it was really a fun birding trip and a completely different experience. Next time again, I would jump back at the offer. I have a lot of photographs(not necessarily great), will put them up soon.