Post Trip Writeup – Bird & Heritage Photography Trip – Vedanthangal, Thirukazukkundram & Mahabalipuram – February 03, 2013

Write up by Nivya Sivakumar

24 of us started to Vedanthangal on 3rd February to get some spectacular shots of the birds and their nesting ground. We started at 4 AM from Koyambedu, picking up all the participants till Tambaram and headed towards Vedanthangal. We reached there by 6.30 AM. The photographer army got ready and started to shoot 🙂 as we walked looking to get some spectacular shots of the variety of birds. It was a mix of all age groups and everybody started to mingle from the start. Here is some information about the common birds which we had captured:

The Painted Stork (Mycteria leucocephala) is a large wading bird in the stork family. It is found in the wetlands of the plains of tropical Asia south of the Himalayas in South Asia and extending into Southeast Asia. Their distinctive pink tertial feathers give them their name. They forage in flocks in shallow waters along rivers or lakes. They immerse their half open beaks in water and sweep them from side to side and snap up their prey of small fish that are sensed by touch. As they wade along they also stir the water with their feet to flush hiding fish. They nest colonially in trees, often along with other waterbirds. They only sounds they produce are weak moans or bill clattering at the nest. They are not migratory and only make short distance movements in some parts of their range in response to food and for breeding. Like other storks, they are often seen soaring on thermals.

The Spot-billed Pelican or Grey Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) is a member of the pelican family. It breeds in southern Asia from southern Pakistan across India east to Indonesia. It is a bird of large inland and coastal waters, especially large lakes. At a distance they are difficult to differentiate from other pelicans in the region although it is smaller but at close range the spots on the upper mandible, the lack of bright colours and the greyer plumage are distinctive. In some areas these birds nest in large colonies close to human habitations.
The Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) is a small Palearctic wader. This bird and its American sister species, the Spotted Sandpiper (A. macularia), make up the genus Actitis. They are parapatric and replace each other geographically; stray birds of either species may settle down with breeders of the other and hybridize. Hybridization has also been reported between the Common Sandpiper and the Green Sandpiper, a basal species of the closely related shank genus Tringa.
We started from Vedanthangal and headed towards Thirukazukkundram which was around 30 kms from Vedanthangal. Here is a small history about this place:
The town is famous for its Hindu temple, Vedagiriswarar temple, popularly known as Kazhugu koil (Eagle temple). There are two temples, one in the basement of the hill and other atop the hill. The main attraction here is the large temple located atop the mountain which houses the deity of Vedagiriswarar, Lord Shiva. The temple at the foothills is dedicated to Thirupurasundari amman, Parvathi, the consort. It is surrounded by four gopurams which resemble the temple architecture of ThiruvannamalaiAnnamalaiyaar temple.Egyptian Vultures– that have reputedly visited the site for “centuries”. These birds are traditionally fed by the temple priests and arrive before noon to feed on offerings made from rice, wheat, ghee and sugar. The hilltop temple is 1400 years old. The vultures have sharpened their beak by pecking on the rock as seen in the below picture.
We started at 2 PM from Thirukazukundram and reahced Mahabalipuram for an unlimited lunch and had an interesting introduction session and moved to the Mahabalipuram carvings by 3 PM. Mahabalipuram was a 7th century port city of the South Indian dynasty of the Pallavas around 60 km south from the city of Chennaiin Tamil Nadu. The name Mamallapuram is believed to have been given after the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I, who took on the epithet Maha-malla (great wrestler), as the favourite sport of the Pallavas was wrestling. It has various historic monuments built largely between the 7th and the 9th centuries, and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Every trip has to come to an end. No doubt. We had ended our trip from Mahabalipuram by 6.30 PM with wonderful new friends and photographic memories. 🙂
Post Trip Writeup – By Geethanjali
There are times when you feel like going outside and breathe everything in cause it’s suffocating inside. See, that’s why I wanted to go on this trip on the pretense of being a photographer. I know nothing about photography. But I was surrounded with experts – people who knew how to capture just the right moments. I am just a wallflower – I see things and I take it in. But I enjoyed every bit of the trip along with my partner in crime.
We reached vedandhangal before sunrise. It was just the right time. Before I could see the birds, I could hear them all chirping. It was one of the best sounds I’ve heard in a long time. To be honest, I loved listening to them more than watching them.
This was my first visit to Vedandhangal, so obviously the first time I saw them flocking around and in such huge numbers, I was dumbstruck. But only for a short time though. After a while my friend and I started role-playing the birds and were guessing what each of the birds would be doing if they were persons. It was fun.
But the photographers – they were clicking away like hell. From the moment we entered, they were on their positions – they did not want to miss even a single flutter. So their shutters were open all the time. Except two people who were more into their accounting work than the birds. I admire their “kadamai”!
Then we were hungry – So hungry that we broke our fasts two times. First we had bread, butter and jam – both separately and together. And then idlies and then our stomachs were full. Alteast mine was.
Next we were on our way to Thirukazhukundram. I slept most of the time during the move. But I just vaguely remember that it was a really bumpy ride. Once we reached, our people rushed to the top of the temple as it was to be closed within an hour. Not to mention, they took photographs along the way- I meant literally “the way”! But teeny few of us felt happy climbing atleast half of the steps and returned back(Oh My! They are not going to select me for the next trek). Anyway, this time we were watching beggars counting money happily. It was fun.  
Once we finished our lunch at A2B, we got to know each and other and what we were doing with our lives. We were all different. But something bonded everyone together. For some it was photography and for some it was experiences and for some it was both.
Then we reached Mahabalipuram. I am sure it’s a photographer’s paradise. Not only our people but everyone I could see was busy snapping. They were busy taking pictures, pictures of people, and  pictures of people who were taking pictures of people. 
We, at the ‘five rathas’ were really enjoying the rathas I guess. I mean I haven’t seen such soft, comfortable boulders in my life.  Nice place to sit on and observe. It was fun.
We couldn’t go inside the shore temple, but had really good lemon soda and took a group photograph near it. The only thing I regret is not going to the waves. It’s really sad to watch the water from the other side of the barbed wire. I think we should have jumped over it. But never mind. We really had an awesome time with awesome people. From sunrise to sunset.
Post Trip Write up by Krishnakumar

It’s my first trip with CTC. After a long time, i woke up at 3:30 AM. After freshen up, reached TBM  at 4:30 AM, Met Nivya & Pon. Nearly at 5AM in 5 cars, we all left from TBM & reached VDNTGL at 6 AM. 

At-first, went for a hot Tea in the nearby shop.  Much prior to our entry, thousands of birds are going out of the sanctuary.  Vinoth gave the Oranges to me to give one each, Pramod & his team collected the money and busy with the accounts. 

Nearly at 6:15, we entered into the park. Very lucky to see the Sunrise from the place where there are lots of trees, birds, water, fresh air…. 

Took lot of Photos upto 9 AM.  All of us are active for more than 6 hours without any food, our bellies started to ring bells; Calm it with oranges, Bread, butter & Jam. The ones still taking photos missed it & went out for Idly’s. (We too joined & finally there is no Idly mix for them to feed us. We are forced to stop our breakfast. OMG). 

Around 10:30, we left there to reach TKGM at 11AM. Change in plan, we took another route (which we enjoyed the most; not the drivers, sorry – the car owners) Instead of going via CNGLPT. The path started with cement road for one KM & then for next 15 KMS, there is no piece of thar. Great expedition!!!! 
Around 11:45, we reached TKGM & few of us are tired enough not to climb up the hills. They stayed there & many of us went up the hill with at-least 300+ steep steps. Had a nice darshan, ate Prasadham (Sambhar rice – given by priest – tasted like Amirtham) heard about the eagle story from the local guy &saw its beak brushing points. 
Left there & reached Mahab’s A2B around 2PM. After sumptuous lunch (No comments), get into the lawn for Introductory session & account tally’s. Left there around 4 PM to “Five rathas”. Took snaps & around 5PM, left there to reach sea shore temple. 
After Group photos, Sunset photos, we left Mahab’s after 6:30 PM 

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