An invitation from Vijay Cavale of
www.Indiabirds.com 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
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
Good birds seen on the trip included:
- Darter and Spot-billed Pelican at Karanji Lake,Mysore on the way to
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
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)
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.
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
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.
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
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 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
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