We were on a trip to Lepakshi yesterday (25 February 2006), a little known temple in Andhra Pradesh just along the border of Karnataka. We approached the place from Bangalore-Bellary highway, turned westwards on Hindupur Road after Bagepally, which took us to Lepakshi village and the temple. Total distance from Bangalore is 120 km. It is a beautiful temple complex (Vijayanagara period i.e. 14 to 16 century AD) with sculptures and fresco painting, and also the largest monolithic Nandi bull. Incidently, the Shiva (Virabhadreshawar) temple is dedicated to Jatayu, the legendary bird (perhaps a Vulture) from Ramayan.
As we were turning on Hindupur road after Bagepally, a sculpture at the junction attracted our attention. It is a beautiful sculpture of a Painted Storks pair on a nest with egg / chick. While photogrphing the sculpture, we discovered that it was showing a direction to the village called Virapuram (13km from the junction) which is supposed to have a large colony of Painted Storks. That shifted our attention from our main destination of Lepakshi and we decided to visit this Painted Storks village first. After proceeding for about 3 km, we found another beautiful sculpture of Painted Storks, at the junction directing us to Virapuram. Virapuram village is located at the base of a rocky/bouldary hill range. There are a few waterbodies nearby and we could see large number of Painted Storks flying in the sky. It was not difficult to locate the village and the colonies of Painted Storks. The villagers were very happy to tell us about the Painted Storks and lead us to the groves of T
The entire village landscape is dominated by Painted Storks. They are nesting on almost all trees - big and small. Mainly on Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) and Ashwattha (Ficua religiosa) trees. We counted 46 nests on one big Ashwattha tree and 27 nests on one small Tamarind tree. On an average there should be about 40 nests per a big tree, and there are over 30 such trees in the village. Our very rough estimate (on lower side) tells us that there are over 1200 active nests in the village at present. The eggs seem to have been laid in most of the nests and the birds are incubating them. A few birds are still making the nests. The chicks should be out around end March / April. The birds are well habituated of human presence and they seem to be not bothered of anyone. They seem to be confident about their safety in this village.
This was an amazing experience for us. We had never heard about this village of Painted Storks before. This is very similar to Kokarebellur of Pelicans. We wish to know more about this colony and its history/records etc. from the naturalists in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and also from the AP - forest dept.
We do not know who had erected those Painted Storks sculptures. We really appreciate and commend that effort. The sculptures are bigger than life size and they are very beautiful, proportionate, realistic and located at vantage positions. Whosover is the artist, deserves credit for her artistic abilities and also for the love of nature.
Prof. Ulhas Rane