Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Markonahalli dam

Gandikota and Haddinakallu betta was on my mind after reading about them in Dhiraj’s and Arun’s  wonderful blogs respectively. Raja opted out and finally I, Guru and Nag decided to spare a Sunday to visit Gandikota for this trip in my Alto.
A little over enthusiasm and ignoring basic details led me to a shocking discovery that Gandikota was about 350kms away that too on the previous day night, hours before we had planned to leave. Switching over ideas, I planned a small circuit to cover Haddinakallu betta, Melukote, Ramanagara and finally home that would run into around 250kms but I was still unsure of the connectivity between these places and the proper distances too. Finally close to midnight on Saturday, I sent an urgent email to Dhiraj (teamgsquare.blogspot.in) asking him to call me if he saw my mail and went to sleep for a couple of hours.
My friends were not even aware where we were going nor was I sure :), still as we had already left we proceeded with an open plan. A wrong turn near Nelamangala (courtesy Nagaraj Gaitonde) made us stop near a tiffin room to ask for directions and the effervescence of ‘Thatte Idli’ was so strong that we could not resist! The sun was slowly rising up the horizon and it was a sight seeing the bright orange ball in the sky clearing all darkness and radiating golden rays all over the place. After a heavy breakfast, we were back on the right track towards Kunigal and that is when I got a call from an unknown number. As expected, it was Dhiraj calling (he had seen the mail and was calling me early in the day) and he gave some valuable information regarding the places we wanted to see, he also cited Markonahalli dam as an option that was also echoed by Guru earlier.
So, somewhere on the highway, stopped to receive a call and a few changes and our plan for the day was somewhat clear now. It would be Markonahalli dam – Haddinakallu betta – Melukote – Ramanagaram (for vultures) – Bangalore. Kunigal lake was also one of the probable places to visit, but we could not include that due to time constraints.
About the dam: Markonahalli dam was built in 1930s under the guidance of Sir M.Visveswaraiah. Constructed across river Shimsha (a tributary of river Kaveri), the dam serves as a water source for almost 4000 villages for agriculture and also for storage purpose. It’s located in the Kunigal taluk under Tumkur district in the state of Karnataka. The dam has an automatic siphon system, very first to be of that kind in Asia – thanks to the great Sir MV. When the water inflow increases and water level reaches 88ft, extra water goes out of the dam unmanned. There is no need of any person to be present to open the gates. Main reason to implement this system is, if water increases by another 4 ft, the famuous temple of Sri Siddalingeshwara in Yediyur will drown
Reach – From Bangalore take the NH4 towards Nelamangala and then divert to the left to proceed on the NH48 towards Yediyur town. 2kms before Yediyur, turn left (a signboard is put up indicating Markonahalli dam) and proceed 5kms to reach the dam area. Just before this, you come across an IB to the right, just proceed behind this to access the bed area.
About 100kms from Bangalore and ideal for an weekend drive.
Food – Nothing available here, need to reach the main road or Yediyur town. Packaged food and water must if you plan to spend time here.
We were pretty surprised by the dam and the water levels as we had no idea of what to expect and instantly I saw lot of birdlife all around the place. Leaving the car with Nag and Guru, I was behind them all over the place and the place was so rich in birdlife that our plans of a brief stopover gobbled up more than 90 minutes of our time. Surely, birding can be addictive :)
From there, we drove till the entrance of the dam from where went around the dam and were shown those heavy iron crest doors and the technique being employed (no wonder Sir MV was a genius)! After roaming around the place for some time and gulping some tea and hot bajji’s, it was time to move on as already we had overstayed and had a lot more to cover for the day.
Quite a lot of people visit the place as picknikers during weekends and holidays. There is a small park like area near the entrance of the dam, but now looks all barren and broken; clearly no maintenance of the place. We were the only crowd present till the time we were there probably because we were there too early on a Sunday morning :)
The Red Munia's, Shrike, Robins, Sunbirds, Mynas, Barbets, Pigeons kept me occupied for a long time. I was particularly happy seeing the Red Munia in multiples. The bird being blood red color belongs to the Munia / Sparrow family in broad and more or less keeps foraging on the ground for grains and other stuff. (See the photos for Munia stuff).

Bird checklist -
Red Munia (Red Avadavat)
Scaly breasted Munia
Coppersmith Barbet
Asian Koel
Jungle Myna
Common Myna
Long tailed Shrike
Indian Robin
Oriental Magpie Robin
Ashy Prinia
Tailor bird
Spotted Dove
Laughing Dove
Rose ringed Parakeet
Yellow footed Green Pigeon
Red vented Bulbul
Red whiskered Bulbul
Rosy Starling
Grey Heron
Little Cormorant
Little Egret
Whiskered Tern
Common Kingfisher
White breasted Kingfisher
Oriental Bushlark
Purple Sunbird

wait for Haddinakallu betta and Melukote...
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