Flowers, insects, trees… the hamlets in Kumizhi are a haven for keen observers of Nature

Kumizhi is a cluster of hamlets that is ringed by hills. Located 12 to 15 km off GST Road where it bisects Guduvanchery, this sylvan area is suffused with a rare quiet. Its villages — Othivakkam, Amanambakkam, Asanavaram, Kumizhi and Motupalayam, to name a few — have sparse settlements. Not too many MTC buses operate on this section. Not surprising. Located in the lap of a dense forest, these hamlets don’t offer compelling reasons for outsiders to visit them. Except, of course, keen observers of Nature.

For instance, those such as A.J. Mithra. A pursuit of zoo musicology has led A.J. Mithra to Kumizhi. He volunteers to be my guide to the bird life at this area. Given to studying bird calls, he is not a bird watcher in the classical sense of the term. However, in the past, certain sights have been too striking for him not to notice them.

Mithra has witnessed lek mating behaviour many a time at Kumizhi. He narrates one episode where a bush lark broke the pace of its descent when it was just about 10 feet from the landing spot, and glided down with just the tips of its outspread wings exhibiting movements. It was an obvious attempt by a male bird to assert its superiority over competing males. We spend a couple of hours watching birds and listening to them. And the audio-visual field list includes a grey francolin, a peacock, Oriental skylarks, an ashy prinia, spotted and little brown doves, bee-eaters, pied bushchats, a jungle babbler, a Jerdon’s bushlark, a greater coucal, rose-ringed parakeets, red-vented, red-whiskered and white-whiskered bulbuls and koels. Next, we go looking for interesting plants and insects.

Being a tropical dry evergreen forest, Kumizhi abounds in medicinal herbs, including pirandai and aavaram. There are not too many plants with eye-catching flowers, the one that captured ours was a red-coloured climbing lily. Mithra believes Kumizhi could be named after a native flower. “There is a belief that it derives its name from Kumizha maram (Gmelina arborea Linn) or Kumizham poo (Gmelina asiatica Linn).” As visibility decreases, we return to the road with just one disappointment tugging at our hearts. We expected to see peacocks and peahens but saw only one — a shy peacock that did not let us take a satisfactory photograph of him. On the way, we meet Krishnan, who has lived in Othivakkam for 30 years. He tells us why not many peacocks are seen anymore. “A grove in the village of Othivakkam attracted many peacocks. After the original owners sold the grove and moved on, the trees were felled and the peacocks had no reason to stay there,” he says.Peacocks are among the highlights of the forested tracts on the Guduvanchery-Vandalur section. These pretty birds are found in good numbers at the forests of Unamanchery and Kollapakkam on the Vandalur-Kelambakkam Road, not too far from Kumizhi.

The list of birds drawn up by K.V.R.K. Thirunaranan of the Nature Trust from visits to Kolappakam and Unamachery has peacocks listed at the very top. In fact, his list contains almost every bird that we saw during the trip to Kumizhi.

It suggests that Kumizhi is essentially a part of a vast forest, but remains unknown and obviously overshadowed by the reserve forests found on the more happening Vandalur-Kelambakkam Road.

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