Many places along Karnataka's coast, with the Arabian Sea on one side and the Western Ghats on the other, offer very interesting experiences for the birder. One such place is Byndoor (also spelt as Baindoor or Baindur), a small town by the sea situated around 70km north of Udupi.
As we drive into Byndoor, we are often greeted by one of the 2 rulers of the air here – the elegant Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus. Their characteristic calls keep ringing the air here as they fly over the three major habitats here – the beach, the hillock and the estuary (along with the river).
The Someshwara Beach at Byndoor is a beautiful stretch of beach that is used mainly by local fishermen and their families. That means that the beach is one of the cleaner beaches one encounters along the western coast of India.
And virtually no disturbance means that a lot of birds flock to the beach, especially in winters. Plovers (like Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, Grey Plover), Eurasian Curlews and Whimbrels, Ruddy Turnstones, Sandpipers (like Terek Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpipers), Common Redshanks, Pied Avocets, Western Reef Egrets, Great Crested Terns and many other species of waders (shore birds) have been seen on this beach.
What are they looking for? Mostly small crustaceans and fish that come in along with the waves.
And then, there is a flurry of activity and the birds take off at once. We looked around for enthusiastic village dogs running towards the birds, but there were none. A huge shadow on the ground made us look upwards. A White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaetus leucogaster was on the hunt – the second ruler of the air here. There are a few pairs of these majestic eagles that reside on this beach. They are often seen flying around on the beach or into the sea, perched on top of the coconut trees and, at times, engaging in aerial combat with each other.
Sometimes, one also encounters long distance migrants on the beach, like this Amur Falcon Falco amurensis. These fast-fliers migrate from south-eastern Siberia and northern China to southern Africa, passing through parts of India. This one must've been stocking itself with food for the long flight across the Arabian Sea.
Cruising up the Sumana River from the estuary is a thrilling ride in itself - the bumpyride through the initial stretch of sea, reaching its peak at the mouth of the estuary, and then a smooth ride upstream. Along the banks of the river, we came across settlements interspersed with small patches of mangroves. The views, with the Western Ghats in the background, are truly mesmerizing.
Egrets and waders were seen in the mangroves and around the villages.
Estuaries are also great places to view birds like the colourful Black-capped Kingfisher.
The wooded areas around Byndoor are great for viewing birds like Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Black-hooded Oriole and Orange-headed Thrush.
With a variety of habitats and birds, Byndoor is a birder's paradise. As the sun sets after a full day's birding, the sight of fishermen heading out into the sea for the night will keep you company.
How to reach Byndoor
Byndoor is around 470km from Bangalore by road. One can also reach Byndoor by overnight buses and trains from Bangalore.
Best time of the year
Winter (November to February) is the best time to visit this place for birding. Summers can get very hot and humid. The beach can be very unpredictable in the monsoons, with water levels rising very high at times.