Encountering the musical cacophony of thousands of birds on our way to Tirthahalli, we decided to make a stopover at Mandagadde that is nestled in the backwaters of the mighty Tunga river. Over the years, with fears of submergence of this bird sanctuary (with the completion of the Upper Tunga Project), I have made it a point to visit this place religiously during the monsoons. However with the raising of the river banks, the sanctuary and its inmates have heaved a sigh of relief and the visiting avians have been roosting here in gratitude.
It is a pleasure to see varied migratory birds that come to roost, nest and breed in a small island formed by the river, surrounded by dense forests. The Mandagadde Bird Sanctuary, a picturesque island, is part of Shettihalli Wildlife Sanctuary in Shivamogga district.
With the birds arriving in the month of July, it is ideal to visit this haven by August-September when one can see a plethora of species, be it egrets, cormorants or darter birds. Although during the monsoons it is not possible to get a closer look as the river waters completely submerge this area, it is possible to enjoy a good view of the nesting birds from the watch towers that are erected on the fringes. The atmosphere is so serene in this wet Malnad landscape that one hears only the sounds of the chirping birds amidst the misty hills, around the waterfalls, streams, arecanut gardens and paddy fields.
Providing food and shelter for the birds, the thick foliage of trees submerged in the waters is an ideal spot for breeding and one can see hundreds of parents feeding their young ones tiny fishes, insects and worms. During the peak season, every branch of the partially submerged trees is literally swamped by little egrets, darters of various hues and the grey, white and black cormorants. By October, the breeding season is over and the thousands of birds that make this habitat their temporary home for four months, make their way back to their destinations around the world.
With the village of Mandagadde being just 30 km from Shivamogga town, the journey time is just about 45 minutes on a route that is verdant and cool. Although there is no hotel accommodation available in this tiny place, one can get to stay in one or two homestays that have come up recently. Visit this place now which is also a photographer’s paradise.