As the cold weather grips the northern states, the migratory birds have made a beeline to the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary on the banks of the Cauvery near Srirangaptana.
Situated two kms from Bangalore - Mysore highway, Ranganathittu has more than 50 species of winged guests that come in figures of 18,000 to nest and breeds for the next four months.
This island that has taken shape around the check dam constructed in the mid 1600’s by the then ruler Kanteerava Narasaraja Wodeyar, with huge trees and good water level across the year, attracts a number of birds. Ornithologist Salim Ali for visited the areas during the survey of birds in 1940 and identified the potential to further develop the place as a bird sanctuary. The Narashimaraja Wodeyar took the words of Salim Ali and declared Ranganathittu as the Bird Sanctuary on July 1.
The king also banned hunting and fishing in the region and focused on developing this spots with minimum human interference. However, the idea began taking shape and turned into a major tourist spot much later.
The variety of aquatic creatures, which is major source of food for the birds here, the paddy fields and waters bodies spread across Mysore, Mandya and Chamrajnagar districts also contribute to the factors responsible to attract the birds. The sanctuary sees species like the Spotted Billed Pelican, Little Cormorant, Night Heron, Pond Heron, White Ibis, Great Stone Plover, Spoon Bill, Open Billed stork, White Breasted, Pied Kingfisher, River
Tern, Cattle egret,
Large egret, Large cormorant, Purple heron, Grey heron, darter, Common Paraiah Kite, grey duck, Common Peafowl, Little egret, Red Whiskered bulbul, Streaked Weaver bird and the White Checked Bulbul.
This large species of birds at six islands on the Cauvery river has attracted tourist like K R Narayanan, Princess Daina, cine stars and celebrities from both India and abroad. The sanctuary has also provided fodder for many leading wildlife photographers and bird watchers from across the globe.
The Bird Sanctuary that witnessed tourist flow of two lakh in 2006-2007, has attracted more than 3.4 lakh tourists this year, taking the revenue from `72 thousand to `2.2 crore. This figure is also likely to be crossed. The sanctuary is equipped with watch towers, parks, drinking water, public toilets and benches. Visitors can also opt for boating facilities that would take them on the river to catch glimpses of the birds in their natural habitat. Apart from all of that the sanctuary also has picture boards that can educate the visitors about the various species that come here.
The Forest department has acquired seven more acres of land and has taken up work to construct a children’s park and water games. As a part of the visit, tourist can also watch a 15 minutes documentary on the history of the place and the various species of birds that come here every year at the Salim Ali auditorium
The Sanctuary is open from 8.30 am to 6 pm. The entry fee and boating charges are priced at `50. For young children the rate is `12. Research scholars and bird enthusiasts can enter free if granted permission.
The Raja Gopura constructed on the banks that was used by erstwhile Maharaja and Royal family to watch the birds is now open to tourists. The boat operator not only steers the rudder but also quips trivia about bird enumeration and the different nature of each species.