A flamboyance of the migratory flamingos made for a spectacular sight, perhaps even surpassing the view from Sriharikota, in the wake of the deafening sound after the lift-off

Pazhaverkadu or Pulicat, located on the northern border of Tamil Nadu, is home to several islands on the backwaters of Bay of Bengal. It boasts of India’s second largest lake — the first is Orissa’s Chilika Lake. It has a history dating back to nearly 1,000 years; the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British used it as a natural port. It also has a sanctuary for birds where several migratory ones land. Every year in February, it receives the flamingos in large numbers. We have been going there every year to see the flamingos.

This year, February 17 was special as ISRO had announced the launch of the weather satellite INSAT-3DS on GSLV-F14 in the geostationary orbit in the evening at 5:35 pm. It was an interesting trip; I had arranged it with the local fisherman Yuvaraj, who is quite knowledgeable about the birds that land there. In fact, he informed me via WhatsApp about the arrival of the flamingos in large numbers by the first week of February itself.

Every year, flamingos flock to the bird sanctuary at Pazhaverkadu, in large numbers. Photo: T R Govindarajan

I was curious to see the reaction of flamingos at the time of the rocket launch. After a bit of struggle, I — along with my daughters — reached Pazhaverkadu around 4 pm. It took a lot of time to cross the traffic near Ennore till we reached Minjur. Our boatman, Yuvaraj, was waiting for us and we were immediately put on a boat, steered by Lourdu, another fisherman.

On our way, we could see curlews, black-headed ibis, cormorants, plovers, terns, grey herons, painted stork and even pelicans. We reached the spot close to the flamingos, but the very bright sun made photography difficult. Lourdu cleverly shifted the boat to the far side to facilitate our photographic adventure. However, with the bright sun, it still looked difficult, and we waited for the sun to go down.

And then the moment arrived for the rocket launch. With the launch site just about 5 km away to the north (as the flamingos fly), we eagerly awaited the brilliant lift-off. It was a spectacular sight for the next 30 seconds, perhaps even surpassing the view from Sriharikota. Initially, the flamingos did not react. But then, the dramatic thing happened: The deafening roar!

Initially, the flamingos did not react. But then, the dramatic thing happened: The deafening roar!

The flamboyance of the flamingos was absolutely colourful. The pictures (above) clearly capture their reactions immediately after the launch. Lourdu slowly maneuvered our boat closer without making any noise, and so did a couple of other boats. One could witness a feast of flamingos, literally in thousands, over a stretch of 500 meters, probably still startled by the source of the sudden noise. This visit to Pazhaverkadu was remarkable and unforgettable. It will remain etched in our memories for a long time. The good thing is that we have a record of tens of photographs taken at that time.

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