Sans the storks, Kokkarebelluru is not exactly a tourist’s paradise as there is nothing much to explore. Apart from storks of pristine white hues, you get to see many other colored storks as if some of the birds were bored with this colorless monotony and decided to get a glamorous makeover. If you haven’t had your fill of birds, you can try Ranganathittu bird sanctuary as well, where you get to see an amazing variety of birds.
This wildlife reserve is the natural habitat of the painted storks and spot-billed pelicans that appear every year to nest amongst the huts of the villagers. These birds are used to people and thus it is incredibly easy to capture them on film.
Kokkare bellur, with its cluster of shady trees, a few dozen tiled houses and the simplicity of a rural lifestyle, could well be just another ignominious, wayside village in Karnataka. Come November every year, the branches of the old tamarind and peepal trees are teeming with feathered activity as flocks of Painted Storks and Spot billed Pelicans descend on this hamlet to build their nests and rear their young.
The main attraction of Kokkare Bellur is the Painted Stork, which is a familiar sight at marshes and inland waters as it is mainly a fish-eater. The Painted storks are distributed throughout India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Burma. Here you can also find the Spot billed Pelican or Grey Pelican which is a large squat water bird, chiefly grey and grayish white, with short stout legs and large webbed feet. The enormous heavy, flattened bill is underlined throughout its length by an elastic bag of dull purplish skin. Close inspection reveals large blue-back spots along the edge of the upper mandible. They are found in well-watered tracts throughout India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Burma.
Both Painted Storks and pelicans are colonial nesters and are known to nest in close proximity. The large tamarind peepal and Portia trees in Kokkare bellur resemble over-populated housing colonies. Standing in their shade you can have a ringside view to the drama of daily chores of these big birds. Each tree has about 20 nests at various levels wedged in different branches. These graceful storks tirelessly glide to and fro, sometimes with a sprig of neem leaves in their bills with which to line their nests, most times with juicy tidbits of fish to thrust down the wide open, pulsating and incessantly screeching throats of their fledglings. The Simsha River and a few other ponds in the vicinity provide the endless supply of fish these waterfowl require during the breeding season.
This rare proximity to these waterfowl in their natural habitat makes Kokkare bellur a bird lovers dream and a photographer's paradise. Amateur photography groups from Bangalore and Mysore make regular trips to Kokkare bellur during the breeding season. Even the flesh colored, gawky, fledglings jostling in their nests are so close that there is a strong urge to just reach out ant touch them. And what is more, the big birds themselves are so unselfconscious, displaying a rare confidence that the local villagers, for over four generations, have instilled in them.
As for the villagers, these Painted Storks and pelicans have come to be an integral part of their lives. More scientifically, these waterfowl, like most animals, can sense disturbances in nature and skip their breeding cycle in years of sparse rainfall. No wonder then, the farmers dread their non-arrival. And the guano that these birds so generously splatter over the tiled roofs and courtyards is valuable manure.
Over the years, though, the number of Spot billed Pelicans and Painted Storks arriving in Kokkare bellur has declined drastically. Naturalists attribute this to the dwindling number of trees and the resulting overcrowding of nests.
At Kokkare bellur does not offer much of boarding and lodging facilities, there is just a lone uniformed Forest Guard to justify the Governments recognition of is as a Preserve. But for us city dwellers, for whom even the common house sparrow has become a rarity, Kokkare bellur is a living lesson in mutual trust and confidence between man and bird.