Birding at the Madras Crocodile Bank (MCB) might sound like an odd pursuit, but birders say it is a richly rewarding experience.

The reptile-cum-amphibian zoo at Vadanemili on East Coast Road has gained a reputation for sheltering a diversity of birds.  During a recent visit, wildlife photographer Ramanan Padmanabhan managed to obtain a huge haul of avian images. He was particularly struck by the sizeable colonies of Little Egrets and Night Herons.

“Watching Little Egrets in breeding plumage reminded me of the Simpson Industrial Estate in Sembium of the 1990s, when a slew of bird species, especially egrets, nested there in great numbers,” said Mr. Padmanabhan. He said the MCB is worth a visit, just for its bird life.

Mr. Padmanahan is not alone. A clutch of birders — most of them amateurs — spends weekends studying feathered creatures at MCB, as well at a small area outside.

Holding this small group together is 31-year-old Mittal Gala, programme manager at MCB. Ms. Gala’s bird-watching tours have a sharp focus: accumulating huge volumes of data about birds of the region that could go into a bird mapping exercise.

Ms. Gala has signed up for the Common Bird Monitoring of India (CBMI) programme, an initiative of environmental organisation, Nature Forever Society that encourages citizens to collect and provide bird data.

“With profuse greenery inside the Croc Bank and a scrub area outside, our checklist of birds is impressive on any day,” said Ms. Gala. “The idea is to study these birds on a sustained basis so that a pattern in noticed. This insight will help understand us these birds as well as create bird maps for the region,” she added.   

Ms. Gala does not miss her daily birding routine, and, during the weekends, she is joined by the group. She said: “There are four regulars. Others join in and drop out. We have also had foreigners, on temporary stay at the Bank, going on these walks.”  

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