It was the end of April and a totally impromptu decision by us to head to the River Tern lodge as we did not want to miss the river terns that religiously visit Bhadra each year for about three months. Nestled in the midst of the Western Ghats, the River tern lodge is named after these beautiful birds that visit the small islands scattered among the back waters of the Bhadra river. Surrounded by the Babubudangiri hills of the Chikamagalur district in Karnataka, this place is a perfect weekend getaway from the hustle bustle of the city.
The quaint cottages and log cabins with the view of the serene waters and the lofty hills are the perfect setting for one to enjoy this unique place that is a perfect combination of nature and wildlife. As we entered, we were guided to the boating area where we boarded a fairly large boat along with another group. The waters were calm and the skies were clear. As we approached the tiny islands in the river, we could see buzzing activity of hundreds of birds on them. The grey-dull black color of the river terns perfectly blended with the soil and rocks of the islands making it rather inconspicuous from a distance.
But as we moved closer, one could not help but wonder at their large numbers. Our boat man cum guide was a friendly chap who explained to us that the numbers peak in May as the young ones hatch. We could see the females busy warming the eggs while the males hovered around and occasionally swooped down into the waters catching a fish or two with their bright yellow beaks. The prey is for the female birds that are stationed to protect the eggs that are likely to be attacked by other species like ibis and herons. I must admit that this kind of coordination and so called ‘division of duties’ between the genders had me awe struck and is definitely worth a lesson or two!
The bird which is a part of the tern family typically visits the island between March and June before flying off to the Himachal. During the monsoons the islands also get submerged making it a lull season for visitors. The ambience is serene and you can also treat yourself to leisure bird watching, trekking and also take nature walks in the serene ambience.
Directions and best time to visit: The place is located about 270 km from Bangalore and can be easily accessed by road. Shimoga is the nearest city and there are buses available to Lakkavalli which is the closest town. Summers months (March-mid June) is the best season to visit as this is the breeding season of the birds.