In February 2012, I had the opportunity (& privilege) of accompanying award-winning filmmaker Shekar Dattatri on a trip to the famed Chilika lake. Shekar was doing a documentary film on the ecology of the Chilika lake.
Chilika is the largest brackish water wetland along the east coast of India with a unique assemblage of marine, brackish and freshwater ecosystem. It qualifies as a wetland of international importance for several reasons. The area of the lake exceeds 100,000 ha and it is of great value for preserving genetic ecological diversity because of the variety of habitats, flora and fauna. It is one of the biodiversity hotspots with over 540 vertebrate species and shelters a number of endangered species listed in the IUCN red data book. The lake harbours over 150 migratory and resident species of birds and 225 species of fish including Irrawady Dolphin and Seacow. Based on its rich biodiversity and socio-economic importance, it was designated by the Government of India as a Ramsar Site in 1981, under the Convention of Wetlands of International Importance, especially as waterfowl habitat. The water spread area of the lagoon varies between 1165 sq. km. in monsoon to about 906 sq. km. in pre-monsoon. It is pear shaped; along NE-SW , it is 64 km. long and has a variable width, from maximum of 20 km. on its northern edge to a few kilometers across its southern edge. It is a highly productive ecosystem with rich fishery resources and it sustains the livelihood of more than two hundred thousand fisherfolk, who live in and around the lake [Source – BNHS].
While Shekar and his crew were based in various parts of Chilika for over a month, my trip covered just 3 days. I spent these days in two locations of this massive lake — in Balugaon and Satpada.
Chilika offers fantastic birding and bird photographing opportunities.