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Kazhuveli Wetlands – Fresh and Endless Wilderness

Lone Pond Heron getting ready for hunt
Lone Pond Heron getting ready for hunt
Sunday morning are best suited for travel and explorations due to less congested roads. People sleep and hence no traffic. What more do you need than an empty road in the winter morning?

Grabbing the opportunity like a hungry cat, we decided to visit the nearby wetlands – Kazhuveli – located around 16 kms north of Puducherry along the east coast.

We hit the East Coast Road (ECR) early in the morning. Winter was not at its peak but pleasing. There is something beautiful about winter mornings, especially in Puducherry. While fog keeps you cold, the warm sea breeze stimulates your senses. It’s just enchanting.

Riding in ECR was fun but its short-lived as we took a detour into the village after crossing Anumanthai toll. The roads were narrow and rugged, giving us an adventurous ride.

After passing through some sharp turns and a lot of humps, a water body caught our eyes. It wasn't as massive as I visualised.

 Wetlands flourishing with resources
Wetlands flourishing with resources
Because Kazhuveli is the largest brackish water lake of Tamil Nadu with the catchment area of 4,722 ha; third largest in the South India after Chilika and Pulicat.

But it was attractive with a lot of birds. We saw a flock of Whistling Ducks roosting on the bund. Next to them were a few Eurasian Coots actively foraging the water surface.

There was another long-legged bird standing amidst these fellows. It has white head and black wings. The distinct black patch was running on the back of its neck. For a moment, I thought its Pied-Avocet as its striking white plumage caught me. I couldn’t get a better view of its beak, which for Avocet is curved upwards. It’s a migratory species, breeds at temperate Europe, Western and Central Asia and visits African and South Asian countries for feeding during winter.

As I was wondering about its possible arrival and was browsing through the lake for her friends, Sun came out and the bird’s slender legs shined pink. It’s a Black-winged Stilt. Not a migrant but resident herself. An adorable one indeed!

We also spotted a few Little Grebes and Cormorants beneath the majestic palm trees on the lake. A lot of Palm trees were found scattered across the lake. Looked like the water currents must have sensibly directed the fallen palm fruits to all corners of the lake.

We thought of moving ahead and thats when we heard a flock of whistling ducks taking off from behind the palm tree, which was a few feet away. They must have been troubled by our presence. It was disturbing. For two reasons. One is that they were too close, yet I failed to observe. Other and the most upsetting one is that we chased away these beautiful creatures and claim ourselves as nature lovers.
Largest and the most beautiful wetlands in Tamil Nadu. pc - Pitchandikulam forest, Auroville
Somehow, I made up my mind and headed north west following the uneven road. We saw many abandoned prawn/fish hatcheries on both sides of the way. After a few minutes the name board flashed Kazhuveli Birds Sanctuary, which was erected on the corner of the road. But the site doesn’t look like one. It was strange.

Prosopis juliflora was everywhere. It was neatly arranged in most of the abandoned prawn/fish hatcheries. Must be the forest department, efficiently using the funds allocated for the sanctuary in the name of conservation, one of my friends smiled.

We went a little further and saw a bridge over a small water body, which merely looked like a canal. But an enormous waterbody to the south of the bridge, astounded us.

It is the Kazhuveli lake, abundant with water and flourishing with resources. We saw a group of large bird moving deeper into the lake. It was mainly in white, with grey crest and brownish tail. The flight posture was aerodynamic and elegant. It’s Spot-billedPelicans. More than 500 Pelicans were found actively hunting and feasting. Also, they kept changing the place. Initially, they were moving deeper and after a while it came back, giving us a proper sighting. Maybe the preys were moving in and out. Or the birds are disturbed by some means.
A pair of Black-winged Stilt busy pecking the swamp
A pair of Black-winged Stilt busy pecking the swamp
Meanwhile, we heard gull-like shrill noise, not very far from us. It was black-winged stilt. This time, it was very close, providing us a glorious chance to adore. Standing on a shallow water, the bird was going for frequent pecks, with its sharp pointed bill. It mostly feeds on aquatic insects. Next to the Stilt was an energetic little bird with milky-white belly and light brown exterior. It is Common Sandpiper. With its tail shaking up-and-down, the bird looked busy hunting insects and small molluscs.

At that moment, we saw a group of birds sized like that of the sandpiper. Except that these guys had prominent white spots on their brown wings and silver chest. They are Wood Sandpiper. They looked occupied probing their slender bill into the soggy mud in search of food.

We moved a little further on the bridge to witness the running water and we noted that the bridge was broken. Not cracked but broken. It was repaired temporarily using soil bags. But it doesn’t seem to have affected the village as we saw a handful of them fishing at that spot.

Fishing nets were placed on the sticks anchored on the running water; clever technique of trapping the fishes. Also, a few kids were fishing using rods.

We crossed the bridge and followed the canal feeding and draining the lake. Again, there were some abandoned prawn/fish hatcheries on one side, opposite to that of the water path. On the way, we saw a few Asian Openbill Storks standing still on the bunds and some Little Cormorants.

Gray-headed Swamphen were curiously searching for something in-between the bushes. Pond Heron and Egrets were found hunting the fishes in their own sluggish style. There were a few large egret-like birds probing the swamps. We stopped and saw them from behind and looked white all around. And when it raised its neck, we saw its naked black colour flowing from its beak till neck, which contrasted with its white plumage. It is Black-headed Ibis or Oriental White Ibis. Best part is its long and curved beak, which enables them to probe the marshy regions for fish, frogs, etc.
Camouflaged Pipit in bushes
Camouflaged Pipit in bushes
In the meantime, we were interrupted by the sweet chip-chip-chip noise that came from the scrubs. We had a tough time spotting the guy. The sound directed us to screen a spot underneath the Prosopis juliflora tree. There was a little movement on the branch amongst the leaves. We carefully observed the spot for a while. Then a tiny sparrow-like bird flew from the branch and sat in an open surface. It gave us a blank stare before taking off. It’s a Pipit (Blyth’s or Paddyfield Pipit) with a brown plumage and greyish-white strips; camouflaged well with the shrubs.
An anxious Plover!
An anxious Plover!

We saw another small bird running on the swamplands. The bird was on its own and looked lively, running anxiously over the mudflats in search of insects and worms. We noted its distinctive yellow eye-ring and a black neck band, which confirmed the species name – Little Ringed Plover. Not as famous as his cousin, Piping Plover, whose popularity peaked after this short movie by Disney.

We went further up following the narrow water course. It curved back and forth across the landscape. At some place, the bend was deep that we almost took a steep turn on the road. The low-lying floodplains on both sides of the water channel looked intact due to less human activity. 

The marshy atmosphere was wild and attractive, at least this one. Is it the same with other wetlands?

It’s time to revisit the words of Aldo Leopold, “For unnumbered centuries of human history, the wilderness has given way. The priority of industry has become dogma. Are we yet sufficiently enlightened to realize that we must now challenge that dogma, or do without our wilderness? Do we realize that industry, which has been our good servant, might make a poor master?”


  1. An elegant capture of a plethora of birds and their worlds in candid words. It shows the world of other lives that we have failed to notice in our own surroundings. Driving other lives into fringes of existence will lead to peril

    Well written :)

  2. nicely written. motivates to look out the surrounding we live. wondering about Prosopis juliflora. finally found what it is. !! nicely captured photo in ousteri lake and Camouflaged Pipit in bushes. In between links helps to explore more in article while reading.


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