On The Islands Of Ram Setu, Millions Of Birds Find A Home - Plush Ink On The Islands Of Ram Setu, Millions Of Birds Find A Home - Plush Ink

On the islands of Ram Setu, millions of birds find a home

On the last stretch of our drive to Mannar Island on the northwest tip of Sri Lanka, GoogleMaps, in a muddle of good intentions, suggested the shortest way through Wilpattu National Park. This slushy dirt trail is not taken even by safari goers. The light was fading, and waterholes popped like thought bubbles as our jeep blundered ahead. Thankfully, no jumbo came strolling our way till we exited the jungle two hours later.

Finally, we were in Mannar, the point in Sri Lanka from where India is visible. Across 30 kilometres of the Palk Strait, a series of 16 islands connect Talaimannar at the northwestern point of Mannar to Dhanushkodi on the Pamban Island on the southeastern edge of India. This archipelago is known by many names: Adam’s Bridge, Ram Setu, or simply, the Dancing Islands. They earn their name from their transient nature. Made up of sand, corals and limestone shoals, the islands keep shifting above the strait. As the winds blow, the sands move, the islands sink and rise, dancing with the ebb and flow of sea currents.

Cross the Mannar causeway and bridge, and you are on an island within the island country. The fifty-square-kilometre landmass, where all directions point seaward, abounds in mosques, churches, technicolour kovils (temples), uninhabited sand dunes, birds, feral horses and donkeys. Occasionally, on the streets, you’ll find a donkey lost in contemplation, refusing you the right of passage.

Spoonbills at Sunset, Sri Lanka

Adityavikram More

Mannar, famous for pearl fishing since the 2nd century AD, is a global hub for 15 million migratory birds of 250 different species, who use it as a pit stop along their long journeys across the Central Asian Flyway. As the last landmass for birds travelling on the CAF, Mannar is pivotal for migration. Of these millions of birds, 150 species winter here, including the Eurasian oystercatcher, pied avocet, sanderling, northern pintail, and greater flamingo. Twenty six nationally threatened species including the Indian courser, spot-billed duck, sooty tern, bridled tern and Saunders’ tern even breed in Mannar and the dancing islands.

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