South India
Trip Report

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South India trip
by Sumit K. Sen
30 September ~ 7 October, 2005


Home   Bandipur   Top Slip   Ooty   Goa   Nandi Hills   Trip Reports

Moyar Gorge, Bandipur

Trip List


An invitation from Vijay Cavale of  to visit some southern hotspots in early October was impossible to resist. Vijay, with his usual meticulousness, planned the trip down to the last 't', and roped in fellow travel mates (see North Bengal/Sikkim Trip) and India-Nature-Pix (INP) forum friends, Ramki and Swarna as companions. We traveled in style in Vijay's Terracan and everything but the weather worked like clockwork on the trip. I don't think you could find better travel mates in the south than my companions on this journey.

Birding and bird photography were the main objective of the trip and travelling with with two avid and skilled photographers was a learning process. We recorded 150 species over six days of birding, though the weather intervened on two mornings. Our itinerary covered birding hotspots in the Western Ghats and we drove from Bangalore to Bandipur National Park and from there to Upper Burliar and Ooty and finished our trip in the rainforests at Top Slip

© Sumit K Sen 2005
Trip Map

Good birds seen on the trip included:
- Darter and Spot-billed Pelican at Karanji Lake,Mysore on the way to Bandipur.  
- Grey Junglefowl, Malabar Parakeet, Indian Swiftlet, Pompadour Green Pigeon, Changeable Hawk Eagle (now, Crested Hawk Eagle), White-bellied Drongo, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Indian Scimitar Babbler and Jerdon's Bushlark at Bandipur.
- Greater Flameback, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Black-and-orange Flycatcher, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Rufous Babbler, Dark-fronted Babbler, Nilgiri Laughingthrush and Black-throated Munia at Ooty/Upper Burliar.
- Red Spurfowl, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Great Hornbill, Malabar Trogon, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, White-bellied Treepie, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, cyanotus Orange-headed Thrush, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Hill Myna, gularis Black-crested Bulbul, Wynaad Laughingthrush and Crimson-backed Sunbird at Top Slip.

Mammals and other life forms included, apart from the usual dose of Asian Elephants and Gaur, the Nilgiri Langur and an Indian Chameleon. The weather and the season at Top Slip did not permit us to look for the celebrated Lion-tailed Macaques. 
Noisy nightly trips by an irritated Sloth Bear made our electricity less existence at the Mt. Stuart Resthouse (Top Slip) memorable. Apparently, the bear uses this rarely inhabited building as a den and our presence was certainly not welcome.

Field assistance was provided at Bandipur by JLR Bandipur's naturalist Harsha, a fellow INP member and a tremendous guide. All arrangements at Top Slip were made by our fellow INP member, Suraj who runs Discoverworld Foundation. Local Guides used at Top Slip were Arumugam & Murugan - two of the best. Lastly, a big thank you to Ms. Poornima Ravishankar or her knowledgeable inputs on the Park and for going out her way to make our stay at Top Slip comfortable and memorable.


Day 1: Arrive Bangalore International Airport (a.m.). Evening with INP members.
Day 2: Drive from Bangalore to Bandipur National Park (200kms) via Kanakpura and Mysore. On the way birding at Karanji Lake, Mysore. Afternoon game drive at Bandipur. Overnight at Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) Bandipur. 
© Sumit K Sen 2005
Day 3: a.m. birding at Bandipur. Depart Bandipur for Upper Burliar via Ooty. Birding on the flats between Bandipur and Ooty. Overnight at Kurumba Village Resort, Upper Burliar.
Day 4: Whole day birding in and around Kurumba Village Resort. Overnight at Kurumba Village Resort.
Day 5: a.m. birding at Dodda Betta, Ooty. Depart for Top Slip (150 kms) via Coimbatore. Overnight at Mt. Stuart Resthouse.
Day 6: Whole day birding at Karian Shola. Overnight at Mt. Stuart Resthouse, Top Slip.
Day 7: a.m. birding near Ambuli Illam. Depart for Bangalore via Erode-Salem-Hosur. Overnight Bangalore.
Day 8: a.m. depature for Kolkata.


Trip Details:

Day 1: Usual Bangalore residents in evidence around Ramki's house near the airport. Tons of Rose-ringed Parakeets, Brahminy Kites and a remarkably large number of Large-billed crows for a metropolis. Wonder why they are successful in Bangalore when other metropolis in the country are dominated by the House Crow. White-cheeked Barbets and Purple-rumped Sunbirds also common.

Day 2: A late start saw us at Harohalli Lake to shoot some obliging Pheasant-tailed Jacanas. Next stop was at Karanji lake next to the Mysore Zoo. This large waterbody had plenty of bird life with an active mixed heronry consisting mainly of Black-headed Ibis. Spot-billed and Lesser Whistling Ducks, Spot-winged Pelican, significant number of Darters and Painted Storks added to the avian spectacle. A stop at Karanji Lake is recommended for those who skip Ranganathittu. We reached Bandipur in time for the afternoon game drive. Indian Swiftlets, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Malabar Parakeet and Jerdon's Bushlark were of note. Significantly, no Grey Junglefowl in what is described as junglefowl heaven though the place was crawling with Greenish Warblers.

Day 3: Morning game drive in the Park was rewarding with Pompadour Green Pigeon, Changeable Hawk Eagle, White-bellied Drongo, Streak-throated Woodpecker, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Indian Scimitar Babbler, White-rumped Shama and, finally, significant numbers of Grey Junglefowl. A memorable encounter with a handsome tusker and a Crested Serpent Eagle catching a serpent rounded off a great morning. We left Bandipur at 11.30 a.m. to bird the flats and foothills en-route to Ooty. Our main target was the White-bellied Minivet but we ended up seeing a confiding Brown-capped Pygmy woodpecker and plenty of Small Minivets in company with White-browed Fantails. The lower slopes to Ooty had Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike, Common Woodshrike and Blue-winged Leafbirds. We arrived at our overnight destination at sunset and were greeted by the calls of a Yellow-browed Bulbul.

Day 4:  Dull day with occasional rain. Yellow browed Bulbul, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Malabar Parakeet, Greenish Warbler and Tickell's Blue Flycatcher were much in evidence at the Kurumba Village Resorts sprawling grounds situated at the edge of a good shola forest. Star birds of the morning were the rare Black-throated Munia, Dark-throated and Tawny-bellied Babblers, Malabar Whistling Thrush and a pair of Rufous Babblers in the scrub. Vijay had a Indian Scimitar Babbler and Ramki walked the sholas for close views of Pompadour Green Pigeon.

Day 5: An early start took us to Doddabetta, the highest point in Ooty for a rendezvous with the rare and restricted range Nilgiri Laughingthrush. The road to the Observatory held a Black-and orange Flycatcher, five Greater Flamebacks and Great Tits. The Laughingthrush obliged at the Observatory and was remarkably tame. A rather scrawny simillimus Eurasian Blackbird added variety. The long drive to Top Slip (150 kms) meant that we reached at dusk with no birding possible at the destination.

Day 6: Heavy rains delayed birding till after 10 a.m. Our destination for the day was the Karian Shola forest, a short distance from the Top Slip Reception Centre. The one km walk on the path connecting the forest entrance with the watchtower had some of the best birds on the trip. Loud White-bellied Treepies were common as were Greater Racket-tailed Drongos. Malabar Trogon, Red Spurfowl and Malabar Grey Hornbill whetted the appetite for the hard to spot Sri Lanka Frogmouth and the beautiful Heart-spotted Woodpecker, of which three individuals were seen high up in the canopy. A mixed hunting flock had White-bellied Blue Flycatcher and Large Woodshrikes. Crimson-backed Sunbirds were common but hard to see well due to their restless nature and habit of moving from one tall treetop to another. In the afternoon, while waiting for news of the Frogmouth, we were rewarded with the sight of literally hundreds of Vernal Hanging Parrots coming to feed/roost(?) on tall Eucalyptus at the edge of Karian Shola. A likey Oriental Scops Owl calling from near the Resthouse ended a fine birding day.

Day 7: Thick fog lifted at 8 a.m. again denying us an early start. Forests around Ambuli Illam were our destination for the extremely shy Wynaad Laughingthrush. Our very capable guides succeeded in locating a flock and we had reasonably good views of this rare and elusive endemic. The same area held cyanotus Orange-headed Thrush, gularis Black-crested Bulbul and the very beautiful Asian Fairy Bluebird. Helicopter like noise overhead alerted us to the passage of a Great Hornbill, the only sighting of this great bird on the trip. Back at the reception area, a fruiting tree was attracting a lot of birds and included a Mountain Imperial Pigeon, a bird I badly wanted to see  - a nice ending to a great birding week. 
We left for the long (450 km) drive back to Bangalore at 10 a.m. and arrived at our destination late in the evening

Sumit K. Sen
Kolkata, India
October, 2005


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