Hornbill Holiday – Part 2

Quick Facts Quick Facts

The Diary of a Jungle Holiday

Saturday, and 04 September 2010 Taxi to Nampally railway station. Picked up sandwiches and muffins from Barista for dinner.  Rayalseema express – 2AC – no third AC. Shared compartment with an old man who refused to take his coat off, symptoms and an old lady who refused to take her dark glasses off! The old man was curious about the gadgets we carried, but what fascinated him the most was the route map of the stations we would pass – I’d printed this out from the IRCTC website so we wouldn’t miss getting off at our stop. He kept studying it every now and then ad finally asked us to leave it behind when we got off. At 6:30 P.M., Vidya, noticing that the old lady was looking tired, offered to make space so that she could lie down if she wanted. But the old man turned down the offer, rather smugly remarking that it was merely 6:30 and no one slept at that hour. By 8:15 however, both of them were out flat, and we had to move to our upper berths and continue our conversations in a low voice so that the old couple could sleep. We ate our dinners on the upper berths, and read for a bit before turning in – the reading lights were so comfortable. Sunday, 05 September 2010 We awoke at 8 A.M., in time to get an idli-vada-chutney-sambar combo at Hubli. Typical railway food though. We left one plate untasted. After Hubli, as we passed through Dharwad on the way to Londa, the landscape gave us a foretaste of the greenery we were about to be submerged in – paddy fields in all shades of green, distant mountains wreathed in rain clouds, tiny towns of thatch. All of this was lit by a watery and diffused sunlight. We spent a lot of the journey after that literally hanging out at the door – I sat down with my legs on the steps while Vidya stood at the door. We both managed to get a few pictures. Needle-small raindrops were constant – like a cloud from an atomizer – but never enough to drive us inside. We were just twenty minutes from Londa when the train was stopped for about twenty minutes at Sivathan to allow two other trains to pass. We passed the time by fretting and fuming a bit and then we started to enjoy the scenic views all around us. Many passengers had got down from the train and were amusing themselves in various ways – two grown men kept themselves busy by trying to hit a plastic water bottle lying a bit off with stones, a group of smokers were skulking behind a small tree, while a whole bunch of people were just standing next to the train and making idle conversation with the total strangers who were their co-passengers. Finally, the train moved and Londa arrived all too soon.

Train to Londa

As the train neared Londa

With a small new-looking railway station, Londa was all railway station and a little bit of town. The driver, Manohar, was waiting for us in an Indica and soon we were on our way to Ganesh Gudi. The bazaar road leading from the railway station to the highway was full of small shops selling vegetables and odds and ends. I wanted to buy some Duracell AAs for Vidya’s point-and-shoot, and asked the driver to stop at some shop, maybe a photo studio. He looked doubtful as he nodded, and as we made our way through bazaar road, I realized why. There were no shops which looked even approximately capable of stocking batteries of any kind, leave alone Duracell AAs. Finally, he stopped outside what proclaimed to be a photo studio, and I made my way to it. Now, right next to the photo studio was an unnamed shop of indeterminate nature, and as I approached the shops, a young man got up from the neighboring shop and asked me what I wanted.  Pointing to the photo studio, I said I wanted batteries. The fellow thought for a bit and said that the studio owner had gone out. As I turned to leave, he called to me and informed me that the studio owner had gone somewhere to take photographs, making sure I knew that he was on the job and not goofing off somewhere. Maybe he was goofing off somewhere and this guy was covering up for him! Anyway, the drive to Ganesh Gudi was a quick 30-minute one on a very good highway with the forest on both sides of us. Sounds from the forest were all around us till we reached the resort.  Jungle Lodges’ Old Magazine House is just about half a kilometer from the turn off to Ganesh Gudi – a signboard on the highway points you up a rocky path which leads to the resort. The resort is a group of very basic cottages, a dormitory and a dining building. The whole setup is within a wooded area, giving you the impression that you are staying deep within a jungle. This, combined with the iffy mobile coverage, gives you the illusion of being very isolated. As we alighted from our taxi, we were greeted by a long sustained melodious whistle. My first assumption was that it was someone so taken with the surroundings that they were expressing it with a tuneful, slightly off-key whistle. The people at the resort assured us that it was the resident songster, a Malabar Whistling Thrush, also called, and very aptly I might add, the Whistling Schoolboy. William comes to mind! We checked in to our cottage – which was as basic as we had expected it to be. It was a spacious affair on stilts with a thatch roof – one large room with an attached toilet/bathroom. Two single wooden cots pushed together and a cement platform covered with a cloth served as the only ‘furniture’. Two plastic chairs were doing duty on the balcony – these we used in multipurpose mode – indoor clothes-stands, daytime seating, night-stands, charging stations for all our electronics, and of course, balcony seating.

Cottages

Cottages at Old Magazine House, Ganesh Gudi

As soon as we checked in, we went to have tea in the dining area. The dining area is definitely one of the highlights of the resort. It is the top of a building and has a thatch roof. It overlooks a thicket on one side, which is lined with bird baths. A whole bunch of birds hang out here – we saw a couple of Purple-rumped Sunbirds and a Black-headed Munia as we had tea. We freshened up, returned to the dining area for a good lunch, and then went back to our cottage to rest, only for it to start raining heavily. It was then that we discovered another fact about the resort – the monsoons are rainy. Non-stop rains, all the time. We had caught a rare dry window when we checked in, and were finding out what the monsoon at Old Magazine House was really like. In the evening, when the rain slowed down to a drizzle (it didn’t stop), we went for a short walk. We saw Langurs on distant treetops, a Malabar Giant Squirrel, a Yellow-browed Bulbul and a bunch of noisy Rufous Babblers. On returning to the resort, we saw a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher taking an evening dip in one of the bird baths. As we sat around eating pakodas, we saw more birds take advantage of the baths - a Brown-cheeked Fulvetta (yes, it got fully wet!), a Malabar Whistling Thrush and an Orange-headed Thrush. By this time, everyone else in the resort had left, leaving us the only guests for the night. After a peaceful dinner, we retired. Monday, September 06, 2010 The itinerary at Old Magazine House includes an early morning bird walk. Today’s bird walk was taken by the rain – it was pouring bucketfuls early in the morning, allowing us to sleep in. So, instead of the pre-breakfast bird walk, we indulged in it post-breakfast. We left at about 10:30 A.M., accompanied by the knowledgeable Joma as our guide. A word about Joma is in order now. A senior citizen in the prime of life, he has been birding for about two years now. Armed with a pair of Olympus binoculars and a bird book in Hindi (which he says was given to him by a guest who was impressed by his help), he has learned all he knows about birds from birders who have visited the resort. He was quick at identifying birds, and was an interesting companion for the bird walk. In a little more than 2 hours, we covered a couple of kilometers. But those have been the most fruitful birding time we’ve spent till now. We walked on the Londa highway, and spotted a regular procession of birds. On the path to the highway, we came across red-whiskered bulbuls and a couple of munias. As we turned right on the highway, Vidya spotted a couple of Pied Malabar Hornbills on a distant treetop. As she pointed them out, and Joma identified them, they took wing and flew across the valley before us and settled on another distant treetop. We tried to get a better look, but failed. It was an awesome sighting, but a poor photo op. Much later, we saw them flying back way over our heads. After that came all the other birds, which I tried photographing with varying degrees of success. In order of spotting, here are the birds:
  • Greater Coucal
  • Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
  • Greater Flameback
  • Red-whiskered Bulbul
  • Golden-fronted Leafbird
  • Bronzed Drongo
  • Yellow-browed Bulbul
  • Scarlet Minivet

Scarlet Minivet

Scarlet Minivet

Golden-fronted Leafbird

Golden-fronted Leafbird

Post-lunch, we decided to go on a coracle ride. The weather had held so far, and it was a fair assumption that it would continue to do so. So we set off, Vidya and I in the back seat of a Jeep, Joma and another guide in the front with a driver. We went through Ganesh Gudi to the Supa river. As we crossed the river on a tall masonry bridge, we saw a Brahminy Kite patiently waiting on a branch overlooking the water. At the riverside, as the coracle was being prepared, it started raining. By the time we got into the coracle, it was raining too hard for a camera – so we went on a wet coracle ride the old-fashioned way – with just our minds to record the experience! For the uninitiated, the coracle is a large circular basket, waterproofed with tar. It is about eight feet across, and is surprisingly shallow – about two feet deep. In the middle of this was placed a circular platform topped with a waterproof cushion. To one side was placed a small stool. We (Vidya, Joma and I) got in, one at a time, and sat on the central platform – our backs to each other. Then, the small ‘driver’ got in and sat on the stool. He had a large paddle with a shortish handle, and with this he paddled and steered. The ride itself was very smooth – of course, the rain was pelting down, and we held a couple of umbrellas to ward it away. We went on a short ride along one bank and then the other of the river. We went after a White-throated Kingfisher. He was sitting on a branch of some submerged trees, and at our approach, he took off and settled down on another branch not too far away. We kept coming, and he hopped to another branch. That didn’t stop us, and as we neared him again, he hopped again. This continued for a while until he got very annoyed with us and flew away with a shrill cry. I assume it’s safe to say he was hopping mad at us! We circled back to the landing where we had got into the coracle – and were back on land very quickly. We were pretty well-drenched, but nevertheless it was a pleasant ride. Back at the resort, we changed out of wet clothes and spent the evening on our balcony, eating pakodas, drinking tea and watching the rain. The time between tea and dinner, and slightly after dinner too, we spent writing up this report! Continued in Part 2

Saturday, 04 September 2010

Taxi to Nampally railway station. Picked up sandwiches and muffins from Barista for dinner. Rayalseema express – 2AC – no third AC. Shared compartment with an old man who refused to take his coat off, and an old lady who refused to take her dark glasses off!

The old man was curious about the gadgets we carried, but what fascinated him the most was the route map of the stations we would pass – I’d printed this out from the IRCTC website so we wouldn’t miss getting off at our stop. He kept studying it every now and then ad finally asked us to leave it behind when we got off.

At 6:30 PM, Vidya, noticing that the old lady was looking tired, offered to make space so that she could lie down if she wanted. But the old man turned down the offer, rather smugly remarking that it was merely 6:30 and no one slept at that hour. By 8:15 however, both of them were out flat, and we had to move to our upper berths and continue our conversations in a low voice so that the old couple could sleep.

We ate our dinners on the upper berths, and read for a bit before turning in – the reading lights were so comfortable.

Sunday, 05 September 2010

We awoke at 8 AM, in time to get an idli-vada-chutney-sambar combo at Hubli. Typical railway food though. We left one plate untasted. After Hubli, as we passed through Dharwad on the way to Londa, the landscape gave us a foretaste of the greenery we were about to be submerged in – paddy fields in all shades of green, distant mountains wreathed in rain clouds, tiny towns of thatch. All of this was lit by a watery and diffused sunlight. We spent a lot of the journey after that literally hanging out at the door – I sat down with my legs on the steps while Vidya stood at the door. We both managed to get a few pictures. Needle-small raindrops were constant – like a cloud from an atomizer – but never enough to drive us inside.

We were just twenty minutes from Londa when the train was stopped for about twenty minutes at Sivathan to allow two other trains to pass. We passed the time by fretting and fuming a bit and then we started to enjoy the scenic views all around us. Many passengers had got down from the train and were amusing themselves in various ways – two grown men kept themselves busy by trying to hit a plastic water bottle lying a bit off with stones, a group of smokers were skulking behind a small tree, while a whole bunch of people were just standing next to the train and making idle conversation with the total strangers who were their co-passengers. Finally, the train moved and Londa arrived all too soon.

With a small new-looking railway station, Londa was all railway station and a little bit of town. The driver, Manohar, was waiting for us in an Indica and soon we were on our way to Ganesh Gudi. The bazaar road leading from the railway station to the highway was full of small shops selling vegetables and odds and ends. I wanted to buy some Duracell AAs for Vidya’s point-and-shoot, and asked the driver to stop at some shop, maybe a photo studio. He looked doubtful as he nodded, and as we made our way through bazaar road, I realized why. There were no shops which looked even approximately capable of stocking batteries of any kind, leave alone Duracell AAs. Finally, he stopped outside what proclaimed to be a photo studio, and I made my way to it. Now, right next to the photo studio was an unnamed shop of indeterminate nature, and as I approached the shops, a young man got up from the neighboring shop and asked me what I wanted. Pointing to the photo studio, I said I wanted batteries. The fellow thought for a bit and said that the studio owner had gone out. As I turned to leave, he called to me and informed me that the studio owner had gone somewhere to take photographs, making sure I knew that he was on the job and not goofing off somewhere. Maybe he was goofing off somewhere and this guy was covering up for him!

Anyway, the drive to Ganesh Gudi was a quick 30-minute one on a very good highway with the forest on both sides of us. Sounds from the forest were all around us till we reached the resort. Jungle Lodges’ Old Magazine House is just about half a kilometer from the turn off to Ganesh Gudi – a signboard on the highway points you up a rocky path which leads to the resort. The resort is a group of very basic cottages, a dormitory and a dining building. The whole setup is within a wooded area, giving you the impression that you are staying deep within a jungle. This, combined with the iffy mobile coverage, gives you the illusion of being very isolated.

As we alighted from our taxi, we were greeted by a long sustained melodious whistle. My first assumption was that it was someone so taken with the surroundings that they were expressing it with a tuneful, slightly off-key whistle. The people at the resort assured us that it was the resident songster, a Malabar Whistling Thrush, also called, and very aptly I might add, the Whistling Schoolboy. William comes to mind!

We checked in to our cottage – which was as basic as we had expected it to be. It was a spacious affair on stilts with a thatch roof – one large room with an attached toilet/bathroom. Two single wooden cots pushed together and a cement platform covered with a cloth served as the only ‘furniture’. Two plastic chairs were doing duty on the balcony – these we used in multipurpose mode – indoor clothes-stands, daytime seating, night-stands, charging stations for all our electronics, and of course, balcony seating.

As soon as we checked in, we went to have tea in the dining area. The dining area is definitely one of the highlights of the resort. It is the top of a building and has a thatch roof. It overlooks a thicket on one side, which is lined with bird baths. A whole bunch of birds hang out here – we saw a couple of Purple-rumped Sunbirds and a Black-headed Munia as we had tea.

We freshened up, returned to the dining area for a good lunch, and then went back to our cottage to rest, only for it to start raining heavily. It was then that we discovered another fact about the resort – the monsoons are rainy. Non-stop rains, all the time. We had caught a rare dry window when we checked in, and were finding out what the monsoon at Old Magazine House was really like. In the evening, when the rain slowed down to a drizzle (it didn’t stop), we went for a short walk. We saw Langurs on distant treetops, a Malabar Giant Squirrel, a Yellow-browed Bulbul and a bunch of noisy Rufous Babblers. On returning to the resort, we saw a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher taking an evening dip in one of the bird baths. As we sat around eating pakodas, we saw more birds take advantage of the baths - a Brown-cheeked Fulvetta (yes, it got fully wet!), a Malabar Whistling Thrush and an Orange-headed Thrush.

By this time, everyone else in the resort had left, leaving us the only guests for the night. After a peaceful dinner, we retired.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The itinerary at Old Magazine House includes an early morning bird walk. Today’s bird walk was taken by the rain – it was pouring bucketfuls early in the morning, allowing us to sleep in. So, instead of the pre-breakfast bird walk, we indulged in it post-breakfast.

We left at about 10:30 A.M., accompanied by the knowledgeable Joma as our guide. A word about Joma is in order now. A senior citizen in the prime of life, he has been birding for about two years now. Armed with a pair of Olympus binoculars and a bird book in Hindi (which he says was given to him by a guest who was impressed by his help), he has learned all he knows about birds from birders who have visited the resort. He was quick at identifying birds, and was an interesting companion for the bird walk.

In a little more than 2 hours, we covered a couple of kilometers. But those have been the most fruitful birding time we’ve spent till now. We walked on the Londa highway, and spotted a regular procession of birds. On the path to the highway, we came across red-whiskered bulbuls and a couple of munias. As we turned right on the highway, Vidya spotted a couple of Pied Malabar Hornbills on a distant treetop. As she pointed them out, and Joma identified them, they took wing and flew across the valley before us and settled on another distant treetop. We tried to get a better look, but failed. It was an awesome sighting, but a poor photo op. Much later, we saw them flying back way over our heads.

After that came all the other birds, which I tried photographing with varying degrees of success. In order of spotting, here are the birds:

Greater Coucal

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater

Greater Flameback

Red-whiskered Bulbul

Golden-fronted Leafbird

Bronzed Drongo

Yellow-browed Bulbul

Scarlet Minivet

Post-lunch, we decided to go on a coracle ride. The weather had held so far, and it was a fair assumption that it would continue to do so. So we set off, Vidya and I in the back seat of a Jeep, Joma and another guide in the front with a driver. We went through Ganesh Gudi to the Supa river. As we crossed the river on a tall masonry bridge, we saw a Brahminy Kite patiently waiting on a branch overlooking the water. At the riverside, as the coracle was being prepared, it started raining. By the time we got into the coracle, it was raining too hard for a camera – so we went on a wet coracle ride the old-fashioned way – with just our minds to record the experience!

For the uninitiated, the coracle is a large circular basket, waterproofed with tar. It is about eight feet across, and is surprisingly shallow – about two feet deep. In the middle of this was placed a circular platform topped with a waterproof cushion. To one side was placed a small stool. We (Vidya, Joma and I) got in, one at a time, and sat on the central platform – our backs to each other. Then, the small ‘driver’ got in and sat on the stool. He had a large paddle with a shortish handle, and with this he paddled and steered. The ride itself was very smooth – of course, the rain was pelting down, and we held a couple of umbrellas to ward it away. We went on a short ride along one bank and then the other of the river. We went after a White-throated Kingfisher. He was sitting on a branch of some submerged trees, and at our approach, he took off and settled down on another branch not too far away. We kept coming, and he hopped to another branch. That didn’t stop us, and as we neared him again, he hopped again. This continued for a while until he got very annoyed with us and flew away with a shrill cry. I assume it’s safe to say he was hopping mad at us! We circled back to the landing where we had got into the coracle – and were back on land very quickly. We were pretty well-drenched, but nevertheless it was a pleasant ride.

Back at the resort, we changed out of wet clothes and spent the evening on our balcony, eating pakodas, drinking tea and watching the rain. The time between tea and dinner, and slightly after dinner too, we spent writing up this report!

Quick Facts

The Diary of a Jungle Holiday

Saturday, and 04 September 2010 Taxi to Nampally railway station. Picked up sandwiches and muffins from Barista for dinner.  Rayalseema express – 2AC – no third AC. Shared compartment with an old man who refused to take his coat off, symptoms and an old lady who refused to take her dark glasses off! The old man was curious about the gadgets we carried, but what fascinated him the most was the route map of the stations we would pass – I’d printed this out from the IRCTC website so we wouldn’t miss getting off at our stop. He kept studying it every now and then ad finally asked us to leave it behind when we got off. At 6:30 P.M., Vidya, noticing that the old lady was looking tired, offered to make space so that she could lie down if she wanted. But the old man turned down the offer, rather smugly remarking that it was merely 6:30 and no one slept at that hour. By 8:15 however, both of them were out flat, and we had to move to our upper berths and continue our conversations in a low voice so that the old couple could sleep. We ate our dinners on the upper berths, and read for a bit before turning in – the reading lights were so comfortable. Sunday, 05 September 2010 We awoke at 8 A.M., in time to get an idli-vada-chutney-sambar combo at Hubli. Typical railway food though. We left one plate untasted. After Hubli, as we passed through Dharwad on the way to Londa, the landscape gave us a foretaste of the greenery we were about to be submerged in – paddy fields in all shades of green, distant mountains wreathed in rain clouds, tiny towns of thatch. All of this was lit by a watery and diffused sunlight. We spent a lot of the journey after that literally hanging out at the door – I sat down with my legs on the steps while Vidya stood at the door. We both managed to get a few pictures. Needle-small raindrops were constant – like a cloud from an atomizer – but never enough to drive us inside. We were just twenty minutes from Londa when the train was stopped for about twenty minutes at Sivathan to allow two other trains to pass. We passed the time by fretting and fuming a bit and then we started to enjoy the scenic views all around us. Many passengers had got down from the train and were amusing themselves in various ways – two grown men kept themselves busy by trying to hit a plastic water bottle lying a bit off with stones, a group of smokers were skulking behind a small tree, while a whole bunch of people were just standing next to the train and making idle conversation with the total strangers who were their co-passengers. Finally, the train moved and Londa arrived all too soon.

Train to Londa

As the train neared Londa

With a small new-looking railway station, Londa was all railway station and a little bit of town. The driver, Manohar, was waiting for us in an Indica and soon we were on our way to Ganesh Gudi. The bazaar road leading from the railway station to the highway was full of small shops selling vegetables and odds and ends. I wanted to buy some Duracell AAs for Vidya’s point-and-shoot, and asked the driver to stop at some shop, maybe a photo studio. He looked doubtful as he nodded, and as we made our way through bazaar road, I realized why. There were no shops which looked even approximately capable of stocking batteries of any kind, leave alone Duracell AAs. Finally, he stopped outside what proclaimed to be a photo studio, and I made my way to it. Now, right next to the photo studio was an unnamed shop of indeterminate nature, and as I approached the shops, a young man got up from the neighboring shop and asked me what I wanted.  Pointing to the photo studio, I said I wanted batteries. The fellow thought for a bit and said that the studio owner had gone out. As I turned to leave, he called to me and informed me that the studio owner had gone somewhere to take photographs, making sure I knew that he was on the job and not goofing off somewhere. Maybe he was goofing off somewhere and this guy was covering up for him! Anyway, the drive to Ganesh Gudi was a quick 30-minute one on a very good highway with the forest on both sides of us. Sounds from the forest were all around us till we reached the resort.  Jungle Lodges’ Old Magazine House is just about half a kilometer from the turn off to Ganesh Gudi – a signboard on the highway points you up a rocky path which leads to the resort. The resort is a group of very basic cottages, a dormitory and a dining building. The whole setup is within a wooded area, giving you the impression that you are staying deep within a jungle. This, combined with the iffy mobile coverage, gives you the illusion of being very isolated. As we alighted from our taxi, we were greeted by a long sustained melodious whistle. My first assumption was that it was someone so taken with the surroundings that they were expressing it with a tuneful, slightly off-key whistle. The people at the resort assured us that it was the resident songster, a Malabar Whistling Thrush, also called, and very aptly I might add, the Whistling Schoolboy. William comes to mind! We checked in to our cottage – which was as basic as we had expected it to be. It was a spacious affair on stilts with a thatch roof – one large room with an attached toilet/bathroom. Two single wooden cots pushed together and a cement platform covered with a cloth served as the only ‘furniture’. Two plastic chairs were doing duty on the balcony – these we used in multipurpose mode – indoor clothes-stands, daytime seating, night-stands, charging stations for all our electronics, and of course, balcony seating.

Cottages

Cottages at Old Magazine House, Ganesh Gudi

As soon as we checked in, we went to have tea in the dining area. The dining area is definitely one of the highlights of the resort. It is the top of a building and has a thatch roof. It overlooks a thicket on one side, which is lined with bird baths. A whole bunch of birds hang out here – we saw a couple of Purple-rumped Sunbirds and a Black-headed Munia as we had tea. We freshened up, returned to the dining area for a good lunch, and then went back to our cottage to rest, only for it to start raining heavily. It was then that we discovered another fact about the resort – the monsoons are rainy. Non-stop rains, all the time. We had caught a rare dry window when we checked in, and were finding out what the monsoon at Old Magazine House was really like. In the evening, when the rain slowed down to a drizzle (it didn’t stop), we went for a short walk. We saw Langurs on distant treetops, a Malabar Giant Squirrel, a Yellow-browed Bulbul and a bunch of noisy Rufous Babblers. On returning to the resort, we saw a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher taking an evening dip in one of the bird baths. As we sat around eating pakodas, we saw more birds take advantage of the baths - a Brown-cheeked Fulvetta (yes, it got fully wet!), a Malabar Whistling Thrush and an Orange-headed Thrush. By this time, everyone else in the resort had left, leaving us the only guests for the night. After a peaceful dinner, we retired. Monday, September 06, 2010 The itinerary at Old Magazine House includes an early morning bird walk. Today’s bird walk was taken by the rain – it was pouring bucketfuls early in the morning, allowing us to sleep in. So, instead of the pre-breakfast bird walk, we indulged in it post-breakfast. We left at about 10:30 A.M., accompanied by the knowledgeable Joma as our guide. A word about Joma is in order now. A senior citizen in the prime of life, he has been birding for about two years now. Armed with a pair of Olympus binoculars and a bird book in Hindi (which he says was given to him by a guest who was impressed by his help), he has learned all he knows about birds from birders who have visited the resort. He was quick at identifying birds, and was an interesting companion for the bird walk. In a little more than 2 hours, we covered a couple of kilometers. But those have been the most fruitful birding time we’ve spent till now. We walked on the Londa highway, and spotted a regular procession of birds. On the path to the highway, we came across red-whiskered bulbuls and a couple of munias. As we turned right on the highway, Vidya spotted a couple of Pied Malabar Hornbills on a distant treetop. As she pointed them out, and Joma identified them, they took wing and flew across the valley before us and settled on another distant treetop. We tried to get a better look, but failed. It was an awesome sighting, but a poor photo op. Much later, we saw them flying back way over our heads. After that came all the other birds, which I tried photographing with varying degrees of success. In order of spotting, here are the birds:
  • Greater Coucal
  • Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
  • Greater Flameback
  • Red-whiskered Bulbul
  • Golden-fronted Leafbird
  • Bronzed Drongo
  • Yellow-browed Bulbul
  • Scarlet Minivet

Scarlet Minivet

Scarlet Minivet

Golden-fronted Leafbird

Golden-fronted Leafbird

Post-lunch, we decided to go on a coracle ride. The weather had held so far, and it was a fair assumption that it would continue to do so. So we set off, Vidya and I in the back seat of a Jeep, Joma and another guide in the front with a driver. We went through Ganesh Gudi to the Supa river. As we crossed the river on a tall masonry bridge, we saw a Brahminy Kite patiently waiting on a branch overlooking the water. At the riverside, as the coracle was being prepared, it started raining. By the time we got into the coracle, it was raining too hard for a camera – so we went on a wet coracle ride the old-fashioned way – with just our minds to record the experience! For the uninitiated, the coracle is a large circular basket, waterproofed with tar. It is about eight feet across, and is surprisingly shallow – about two feet deep. In the middle of this was placed a circular platform topped with a waterproof cushion. To one side was placed a small stool. We (Vidya, Joma and I) got in, one at a time, and sat on the central platform – our backs to each other. Then, the small ‘driver’ got in and sat on the stool. He had a large paddle with a shortish handle, and with this he paddled and steered. The ride itself was very smooth – of course, the rain was pelting down, and we held a couple of umbrellas to ward it away. We went on a short ride along one bank and then the other of the river. We went after a White-throated Kingfisher. He was sitting on a branch of some submerged trees, and at our approach, he took off and settled down on another branch not too far away. We kept coming, and he hopped to another branch. That didn’t stop us, and as we neared him again, he hopped again. This continued for a while until he got very annoyed with us and flew away with a shrill cry. I assume it’s safe to say he was hopping mad at us! We circled back to the landing where we had got into the coracle – and were back on land very quickly. We were pretty well-drenched, but nevertheless it was a pleasant ride. Back at the resort, we changed out of wet clothes and spent the evening on our balcony, eating pakodas, drinking tea and watching the rain. The time between tea and dinner, and slightly after dinner too, we spent writing up this report! Continued in Part 2

Saturday, 04 September 2010

Taxi to Nampally railway station. Picked up sandwiches and muffins from Barista for dinner. Rayalseema express – 2AC – no third AC. Shared compartment with an old man who refused to take his coat off, and an old lady who refused to take her dark glasses off!

The old man was curious about the gadgets we carried, but what fascinated him the most was the route map of the stations we would pass – I’d printed this out from the IRCTC website so we wouldn’t miss getting off at our stop. He kept studying it every now and then ad finally asked us to leave it behind when we got off.

At 6:30 PM, Vidya, noticing that the old lady was looking tired, offered to make space so that she could lie down if she wanted. But the old man turned down the offer, rather smugly remarking that it was merely 6:30 and no one slept at that hour. By 8:15 however, both of them were out flat, and we had to move to our upper berths and continue our conversations in a low voice so that the old couple could sleep.

We ate our dinners on the upper berths, and read for a bit before turning in – the reading lights were so comfortable.

Sunday, 05 September 2010

We awoke at 8 AM, in time to get an idli-vada-chutney-sambar combo at Hubli. Typical railway food though. We left one plate untasted. After Hubli, as we passed through Dharwad on the way to Londa, the landscape gave us a foretaste of the greenery we were about to be submerged in – paddy fields in all shades of green, distant mountains wreathed in rain clouds, tiny towns of thatch. All of this was lit by a watery and diffused sunlight. We spent a lot of the journey after that literally hanging out at the door – I sat down with my legs on the steps while Vidya stood at the door. We both managed to get a few pictures. Needle-small raindrops were constant – like a cloud from an atomizer – but never enough to drive us inside.

We were just twenty minutes from Londa when the train was stopped for about twenty minutes at Sivathan to allow two other trains to pass. We passed the time by fretting and fuming a bit and then we started to enjoy the scenic views all around us. Many passengers had got down from the train and were amusing themselves in various ways – two grown men kept themselves busy by trying to hit a plastic water bottle lying a bit off with stones, a group of smokers were skulking behind a small tree, while a whole bunch of people were just standing next to the train and making idle conversation with the total strangers who were their co-passengers. Finally, the train moved and Londa arrived all too soon.

With a small new-looking railway station, Londa was all railway station and a little bit of town. The driver, Manohar, was waiting for us in an Indica and soon we were on our way to Ganesh Gudi. The bazaar road leading from the railway station to the highway was full of small shops selling vegetables and odds and ends. I wanted to buy some Duracell AAs for Vidya’s point-and-shoot, and asked the driver to stop at some shop, maybe a photo studio. He looked doubtful as he nodded, and as we made our way through bazaar road, I realized why. There were no shops which looked even approximately capable of stocking batteries of any kind, leave alone Duracell AAs. Finally, he stopped outside what proclaimed to be a photo studio, and I made my way to it. Now, right next to the photo studio was an unnamed shop of indeterminate nature, and as I approached the shops, a young man got up from the neighboring shop and asked me what I wanted. Pointing to the photo studio, I said I wanted batteries. The fellow thought for a bit and said that the studio owner had gone out. As I turned to leave, he called to me and informed me that the studio owner had gone somewhere to take photographs, making sure I knew that he was on the job and not goofing off somewhere. Maybe he was goofing off somewhere and this guy was covering up for him!

Anyway, the drive to Ganesh Gudi was a quick 30-minute one on a very good highway with the forest on both sides of us. Sounds from the forest were all around us till we reached the resort. Jungle Lodges’ Old Magazine House is just about half a kilometer from the turn off to Ganesh Gudi – a signboard on the highway points you up a rocky path which leads to the resort. The resort is a group of very basic cottages, a dormitory and a dining building. The whole setup is within a wooded area, giving you the impression that you are staying deep within a jungle. This, combined with the iffy mobile coverage, gives you the illusion of being very isolated.

As we alighted from our taxi, we were greeted by a long sustained melodious whistle. My first assumption was that it was someone so taken with the surroundings that they were expressing it with a tuneful, slightly off-key whistle. The people at the resort assured us that it was the resident songster, a Malabar Whistling Thrush, also called, and very aptly I might add, the Whistling Schoolboy. William comes to mind!

We checked in to our cottage – which was as basic as we had expected it to be. It was a spacious affair on stilts with a thatch roof – one large room with an attached toilet/bathroom. Two single wooden cots pushed together and a cement platform covered with a cloth served as the only ‘furniture’. Two plastic chairs were doing duty on the balcony – these we used in multipurpose mode – indoor clothes-stands, daytime seating, night-stands, charging stations for all our electronics, and of course, balcony seating.

As soon as we checked in, we went to have tea in the dining area. The dining area is definitely one of the highlights of the resort. It is the top of a building and has a thatch roof. It overlooks a thicket on one side, which is lined with bird baths. A whole bunch of birds hang out here – we saw a couple of Purple-rumped Sunbirds and a Black-headed Munia as we had tea.

We freshened up, returned to the dining area for a good lunch, and then went back to our cottage to rest, only for it to start raining heavily. It was then that we discovered another fact about the resort – the monsoons are rainy. Non-stop rains, all the time. We had caught a rare dry window when we checked in, and were finding out what the monsoon at Old Magazine House was really like. In the evening, when the rain slowed down to a drizzle (it didn’t stop), we went for a short walk. We saw Langurs on distant treetops, a Malabar Giant Squirrel, a Yellow-browed Bulbul and a bunch of noisy Rufous Babblers. On returning to the resort, we saw a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher taking an evening dip in one of the bird baths. As we sat around eating pakodas, we saw more birds take advantage of the baths - a Brown-cheeked Fulvetta (yes, it got fully wet!), a Malabar Whistling Thrush and an Orange-headed Thrush.

By this time, everyone else in the resort had left, leaving us the only guests for the night. After a peaceful dinner, we retired.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The itinerary at Old Magazine House includes an early morning bird walk. Today’s bird walk was taken by the rain – it was pouring bucketfuls early in the morning, allowing us to sleep in. So, instead of the pre-breakfast bird walk, we indulged in it post-breakfast.

We left at about 10:30 A.M., accompanied by the knowledgeable Joma as our guide. A word about Joma is in order now. A senior citizen in the prime of life, he has been birding for about two years now. Armed with a pair of Olympus binoculars and a bird book in Hindi (which he says was given to him by a guest who was impressed by his help), he has learned all he knows about birds from birders who have visited the resort. He was quick at identifying birds, and was an interesting companion for the bird walk.

In a little more than 2 hours, we covered a couple of kilometers. But those have been the most fruitful birding time we’ve spent till now. We walked on the Londa highway, and spotted a regular procession of birds. On the path to the highway, we came across red-whiskered bulbuls and a couple of munias. As we turned right on the highway, Vidya spotted a couple of Pied Malabar Hornbills on a distant treetop. As she pointed them out, and Joma identified them, they took wing and flew across the valley before us and settled on another distant treetop. We tried to get a better look, but failed. It was an awesome sighting, but a poor photo op. Much later, we saw them flying back way over our heads.

After that came all the other birds, which I tried photographing with varying degrees of success. In order of spotting, here are the birds:

Greater Coucal

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater

Greater Flameback

Red-whiskered Bulbul

Golden-fronted Leafbird

Bronzed Drongo

Yellow-browed Bulbul

Scarlet Minivet

Post-lunch, we decided to go on a coracle ride. The weather had held so far, and it was a fair assumption that it would continue to do so. So we set off, Vidya and I in the back seat of a Jeep, Joma and another guide in the front with a driver. We went through Ganesh Gudi to the Supa river. As we crossed the river on a tall masonry bridge, we saw a Brahminy Kite patiently waiting on a branch overlooking the water. At the riverside, as the coracle was being prepared, it started raining. By the time we got into the coracle, it was raining too hard for a camera – so we went on a wet coracle ride the old-fashioned way – with just our minds to record the experience!

For the uninitiated, the coracle is a large circular basket, waterproofed with tar. It is about eight feet across, and is surprisingly shallow – about two feet deep. In the middle of this was placed a circular platform topped with a waterproof cushion. To one side was placed a small stool. We (Vidya, Joma and I) got in, one at a time, and sat on the central platform – our backs to each other. Then, the small ‘driver’ got in and sat on the stool. He had a large paddle with a shortish handle, and with this he paddled and steered. The ride itself was very smooth – of course, the rain was pelting down, and we held a couple of umbrellas to ward it away. We went on a short ride along one bank and then the other of the river. We went after a White-throated Kingfisher. He was sitting on a branch of some submerged trees, and at our approach, he took off and settled down on another branch not too far away. We kept coming, and he hopped to another branch. That didn’t stop us, and as we neared him again, he hopped again. This continued for a while until he got very annoyed with us and flew away with a shrill cry. I assume it’s safe to say he was hopping mad at us! We circled back to the landing where we had got into the coracle – and were back on land very quickly. We were pretty well-drenched, but nevertheless it was a pleasant ride.

Back at the resort, we changed out of wet clothes and spent the evening on our balcony, eating pakodas, drinking tea and watching the rain. The time between tea and dinner, and slightly after dinner too, we spent writing up this report!

Continued from Part 1 Tuesday, clinic September 07, physician 2010 The day began exactly like yesterday – rain washing out the pre-breakfast walk. So we had an early breakfast, clinic and were ready to hit the road by 9:30 A.M. Manohar was there to pick us up in his Indica. We were going to look for the Hornbill that had so far been eluding us. We planned to hit the Timber Yard at Dandeli, where we’d read Hornbills abounded, and then go out to the Syntheri rock. Parasuram, the resort in-charge at Old Magazine House told us we could have lunch at Kali Adventure Camp in Dandeli, also a Jungle Lodges resort. Accompanying us on this day out was none other than the trusty Joma. And so we set out in search of the Hornbills. The drive to Dandeli was pleasant. The highway was good and the traffic negligible – the only thing we encountered en route that could have delayed us was a peacock crossing the road. We reached Dandeli in about half an hour. We finally found Duracell AAs at Bangalore Stores in the Dandeli market. If you are ever in Dandeli and would like to buy something – anything – just head for Bangalore Stores! On a side note, there seems to be one store like this in most smaller towns. Shanti Stores in Yercaud and the small but amply-stocked store in Kodaikanal next to the wonderful bakery immediately spring to mind. The batteries set Vidya free from her dependence on the Nexus One for pictures – she was soon snapping away with the Sony S730 we were carrying. From the market to the Timber Yard was less than five minutes. The Dandeli Timber Yard is the name given to a vast rambling campus with a lot of tall trees, piles of logs lying around, various offices of the Karnataka Forest Department and a bunch of homes, presumably of employees of the Yard (Timber, not Scotland). The vegetation is varied – there are open grasslands interspersed with stands of very tall trees. This makes spotting birds fairly easy, and it was not long before we spotted our first Hornbills. In fact, it was within a few minutes of alighting from our cab. Leaving Manohar in the cab, we struck out down a trail when we heard the distinctive cacophony of the Hornbill coming from the opposite directions, on top of some habitations. We immediately followed the sounds and were rewarded with the sight of three Malabar Pied Hornbills. They were roughhousing in the trees a bit away, but took off as we were walking towards them. As we went in search of them, we saw a whole bunch of other birds – Bee-eaters with their prey, Racket-tailed Drongos, Black-headed Munia, the upside down Vernal Hanging Parrot, Red-whiskered Bulbuls, Scarlet Minivets – but we were keen on the trail of the Hornbill, and did not linger as long as we would have done otherwise.

Photographing at the Timber Yard

Photographing at the Timber Yard

Our focus was soon rewarded when Joma spotted one, then another and then yet another Hornbill up in a tall tree. This time we approached them more cautiously, and we were able to get good vantage points from which we watched them for a while. I managed to take a few clear photographs of them as well. Till then, the weather had been holding, and was even sunny in patches. However, it broke all of a sudden, and the rain started in earnest. We managed to get  a few shots of a bunch of Langurs in the trees before heading out.
Malabar Pied Hornbill

Malabar Pied Hornbill

Common Langur

Common Langur

Our next stop was at the Kali Adventure Camp, Jungle Lodges’ resort in downtown Dandeli. We were stopping there for lunch before going on part two of the day’s activities. However, the stop proved to be providential as we will see later. Once we reached the resort, we were welcomed by a JLR employee, who gave us a room to freshen up in before lunch. We then walked down to the river Kali, from where we had a grandstand view of the entire opposite bank – a well-wooded stretch with lots of tall trees and bamboos. This was also where a whole bunch of Malabar Pied Hornbills hung out, and we got quite a few pictures of them.

We also saw the newly-constructed tented cottage facing the river, and we knew we had to stay there for a night. So we quickly made a change in our itinerary – our last night would be spent in Kali Adventure Camp instead of Old Magazine House. We set out for Syntheri Rock after a sumptuous lunch (where we ended up feeding scraps of food to one of the numerous resident cats in the resort.) Syntheri Rock was a forty-minute drive away, and we soon reached there in the rain. We had to descend a long flight of slippery steps to reach the Rock, but when we did, we were glad we made the descent. From a viewpoint at the foot of the descent, we could see the Syntheri Rock – a 300-foot tall monolithic granite rock with a gushing torrent at its foot. On the sheer rock face, a multitude of plants grew, and we could see spotted dove nests and honeycombs. The sight was breathtaking – the rock face with the plants on it and the birds around it were very reminiscent of the place in Avatar where the Na’vi capture the Ikran. We spent some time just taking in the atmosphere of the place before climbing back to the top.
Syntheri Rock

Syntheri Rock

On the way back from Syntheri Rock, we stopped for tea at a small teashop with a resident Persian cat. We also stopped for some breathtaking views of the Supa reservoir. We arrived back at the resort to hot tea and pakodas! Wednesday, September 08, 2010

We woke up late and spent some time packing stuff as we were checking out of Old Magazine House. We got breakfast and wandered around the resort, taking pictures and videos while waiting for Manohar. He arrived by noon, and we bade goodbye to Old Magazine House. A short drive later, we checked in at Kali Adventure Camp in Dandeli.

We were given a packed itinerary as soon as we checked in, including a jungle safari, a coracle ride and a bird walk. After checking in, we had lunch and walked down to the riverside to wait for our jungle safari. At 4 P.M., it was time for the jungle safari into the Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve. Accompanied by a driver and a guide, we set out. A 45-minute drive brought us to the tiger reserve, and as we entered the gates, we were thankful we were in a jeep – the trail was a typical jungle trail, full of slush from the constant rain. As we drove on, the trail led into semi-evergreen forest dripping with moisture from the rain. The first animals we came across were a group of black-faced langurs, including a mother with her baby. A little while later, we saw a peacock with a long tail grazing by the roadside. Then came one of the best photo ops of the trip – a red wattled lapwing was standing beside a puddle just off the road, and as we drew near, stood his ground. The driver stopped the jeep, and I was able to get some really good pictures of the bird. We went on after this and saw a waterhen with her chicks by a waterhole. A bit further on, a peahen ran across the trail before us. Some time later, we came across a lone gaur peeping at us from the undergrowth. The guide guessed the rest of his herd must be behind him. As I photographed the gaur, he stood looking unblinkingly at us. After a while, he grew tired and turned away.
Red-wattled Lapwing

Red-wattled Lapwing

Gaur

Gaur

The trail ended in the Shanmuga Viewpoint, a concrete gazebo deep in the jungle from which there was a spectacular view of the surrounding hills. We had to go down a treacherously slippery path and up a couple of flights of stairs to reach this place, but the view was worth it. Swifts and swallows kept whooshing by as we stood there. We returned to the jeep and drove back along the same trail. This time we spotted a Crested Serpent Eagle sitting on a low branch, and a Great Hornbill diving from his perch into the trees. After we left the jungle, the guide took us to see a sambar in the animal rehabilitation center of the Karnataka Forest Department. We walked over squishy ground to an enclosure, where he called out to a sambar who was sleeping inside a bamboo patch. Strangely enough, the sambar responded and ambled over like an obedient puppy. He was a sub-adult with an injured foreleg, and from his easy trust of us, had been around humans for a long time. He came right up to us and allowed us to pat him – the hair was wiry on his back and bristly on his horns – and he responded readily when we called him Pandu – the name the guide had called out. We later found that Pandu was not his name but that of a spotted deer who was also in the enclosure.
Not-Pandu, the Sambar

Not-Pandu, the Sambar

Ever since I read about the sore patch on sambar’s in M. Krishnan’s essay in Sprint of the Blackbuck, I was curious about it. Not-Pandu provided me with an opportunity right away, and I took it. Sure enough, there was a sore patch – it was bloody and it has flies buzzing around it. The really bad light and Not-Pandu’s enthusuaistic moving around did not permit me to get a good picture of it though. We then drove back to the resort and got a good dinner. We turned in early as we had a 7 A.M. bird walk scheduled the next morning. Thursday, September 09, 2010 We were awoken at 6:30 A.M. the next morning for the bird walk. After a refreshing morning tea, we set out with Mr. Sashidhar, the resident naturalist. He first showed us a few juvenile Malabar Pied Hornbills in the resort itself before taking us in a jeep to the Timber Yard. On the way, he stopped at a fruiting tree within the town, but we saw only a lone Malabar Grey Hornbill on a distant coconut tree. At the Timber Yard, we struck pay dirt as soon as we got out of the jeep – a group of adult Malabar Pied Hornbills were sitting in a tree right where we stopped. After that, we followed the Hornbill trail – a 3-kilometer trail within the timber yard that is well signposted. We saw:
  • A group of Pompadour Green Pigeons basking in the sunlight on a leafless treetop.
  • A White-cheeked Barbet
  • A Chestnut-headed Bee-eater catching insects from a tree-top
  • A group of Black-headed Munias in the tall grass
  • A Plum-headed Parakeet hanging out on the top of a tall tree
  • A few Greater Flamebacks who kept flying from tree to tree, chasing one another
  • A White-throated Kingfisher trying his luck catching insects instead of fishes
  • A Jungle Owlet looking around cautiously
  • A Spangled Drongo sitting in a tree, looking for insects
  • A Malabar Giant Squirrel scampering about a treetop
  • A group of Southern Hill Mynas
  • A group of Coppersmith Barbets

At the end of our walk, as we were nearing the jeep, we got a real treat – two Horbills, an adult male and a juvenile male, settled on a branch with a clear view, and sat there for a good five minutes. The light was on them, and I was able to get a few decent pictures of the two.

Malabar Pied Hornbills

Malabar Pied Hornbills

Back at the resort, we got a good breakfast, and were sitting around when we noticed a lot of bird life in the trees around us. Just from our breakfast table, we spotted quite a few birds – Vidya was the spotter and I tried to get pictures of them. We saw Jungle Babblers, a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher and Red-vented Bulbuls. Post-breakfast, we went on a coracle ride in the Kali River. This one was not as adventurous as our previous, wet one, but it also allowed us to take a few pictures and videos. The highlight of the ride was when we spotted a crocodile in the river. The boatman showed us crocodile paw-prints on the small islands in the river, and though we hung around for a bit, we couldn’t see any more crocodiles. After the coracle ride, we climbed up to a machan about fifty feet off the ground. This was a solidly-made wood and metal platform in a really tall tree. We spent some time in the machan, and got some good photographs of a juvenile male Malabar Pied Hornbill who sat in a bamboo thicket next to the tree. It was time to go back and get ready to catch the train home, and we did so after a substantial lunch. We caught the train at Londa station, and were back in Hyderabad the next day.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The day began exactly like yesterday – rain washing out the pre-breakfast walk. So we had an early breakfast, and were ready to hit the road by 9:30 A.M. Manohar was there to pick us up in his Indica. We were going to look for the Hornbill that had so far been eluding us. We planned to hit the Timber Yard at Dandeli, where we’d read Hornbills abounded, and then go out to the Syntheri rock. Parasuram, the resort in-charge at Old Magazine House told us we could have lunch at Kali Adventure Camp in Dandeli, also a Jungle Lodges resort. Accompanying us on this day out was none other than the trusty Joma. And so we set out in search of the Hornbills.

The drive to Dandeli was pleasant. The highway was good and the traffic negligible – the only thing we encountered en route that could have delayed us was a peacock crossing the road. We reached Dandeli in about half an hour. We finally found Duracell AAs at Bangalore Stores in the Dandeli market. If you are ever in Dandeli and would like to buy something – anything – just head for Bangalore Stores! On a side note, there seems to be one store like this in most smaller towns. Shanti Stores in Yercaud and the small but amply-stocked store in Kodaikanal next to the wonderful bakery immediately spring to mind. The batteries set Vidya free from her dependence on the Nexus One for pictures – she was soon snapping away with the Sony S730 we were carrying. From the market to the Timber Yard was less than five minutes.

The Dandeli Timber Yard is the name given to a vast rambling campus with a lot of tall trees, piles of logs lying around, various offices of the Karnataka Forest Department and a bunch of homes, presumably of employees of the Yard (Timber, not Scotland). The vegetation is varied – there are open grasslands interspersed with stands of very tall trees. This makes spotting birds fairly easy, and it was not long before we spotted our first Hornbills. In fact, it was within a few minutes of alighting from our cab.

Leaving Manohar in the cab, we struck out down a trail when we heard the distinctive cacophony of the Hornbill coming from the opposite directions, on top of some habitations. We immediately followed the sounds and were rewarded with the sight of three Malabar Pied Hornbills. They were roughhousing in the trees a bit away, but took off as we were walking towards them. As we went in search of them, we saw a whole bunch of other birds – Bee-eaters with their prey, Racket-tailed Drongos, Black-headed Munia, the upside down Vernal Hanging Parrot, Red-whiskered Bulbuls, Scarlet Minivets – but we were keen on the trail of the Hornbill, and did not linger as long as we would have done otherwise.

Our focus was soon rewarded when Joma spotted one, then another and then yet another Hornbill up in a tall tree. This time we approached them more cautiously, and we were able to get good vantage points from which we watched them for a while. I managed to take a few clear photographs of them as well. Till then, the weather had been holding, and was even sunny in patches. However, it broke all of a sudden, and the rain started in earnest. We managed to get a few shots of a bunch of Langurs in the trees before heading out.

Our next stop was at the Kali Adventure Camp, Jungle Lodges’ resort in downtown Dandeli. We were stopping there for lunch before going on part two of the day’s activities. However, the stop proved to be providential as we will see later. Once we reached the resort, we were welcomed by a JLR employee, who gave us a room to freshen up in before lunch. We then walked down to the river Kali, from where we had a grandstand view of the entire opposite bank – a well-wooded stretch with lots of tall trees and bamboos. This was also where a whole bunch of Malabar Pied Hornbills hung out, and we got quite a few pictures of them.

We also saw the newly-constructed tented cottage facing the river, and we knew we had to stay there for a night. So we quickly made a change in our itinerary – our last night would be spent in Kali Adventure Camp instead of Old Magazine House.

We set out for Syntheri Rock after a sumptuous lunch (where we ended up feeding scraps of food to one of the numerous resident cats in the resort.) Syntheri Rock was a forty-minute drive away, and we soon reached there in the rain. We had to descend a long flight of slippery steps to reach the Rock, but when we did, we were glad we made the descent. From a viewpoint at the foot of the descent, we could see the Syntheri Rock – a 300-foot tall monolithic granite rock with a gushing torrent at its foot. On the sheer rock face, a multitude of plants grew, and we could see spotted dove nests and honeycombs. The sight was breathtaking – the rock face with the plants on it and the birds around it were very reminiscent of the place in Avatar where the Na’vi capture the Ikran. We spent some time just taking in the atmosphere of the place before climbing back to the top.

On the way back from Syntheri Rock, we stopped for tea at a small teashop with a resident Persian cat. We also stopped for some breathtaking views of the Supa reservoir. We arrived back at the resort to hot tea and pakodas!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

We woke up late and spent some time packing stuff as we were checking out of Old Magazine House. We got breakfast and wandered around the resort, taking pictures and videos while waiting for Manohar. He arrived by noon, and we bade goodbye to Old Magazine House. A short drive later, we checked in at Kali Adventure Camp in Dandeli.

We were given a packed itinerary as soon as we checked in, including a jungle safari, a coracle ride and a bird walk. After checking in, we had lunch and walked down to the riverside to wait for our jungle safari.

At 4 P.M., it was time for the jungle safari into the Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve. Accompanied by a driver and a guide, we set out. A 45-minute drive brought us to the tiger reserve, and as we entered the gates, we were thankful we were in a jeep – the trail was a typical jungle trail, full of slush from the constant rain. As we drove on, the trail led into semi-evergreen forest dripping with moisture from the rain. The first animals we came across were a group of black-faced langurs, including a mother with her baby. A little while later, we saw a peacock with a long tail grazing by the roadside. Then came one of the best photo ops of the trip – a red wattled lapwing was standing beside a puddle just off the road, and as we drew near, stood his ground. The driver stopped the jeep, and I was able to get some really good pictures of the bird. We went on after this and saw a waterhen with her chicks by a waterhole. A bit further on, a peahen ran across the trail before us. Some time later, we came across a lone gaur peeping at us from the undergrowth. The guide guessed the rest of his herd must be behind him. As I photographed the gaur, he stood looking unblinkingly at us. After a while, he grew tired and turned away.

The trail ended in the Sanmuga Viewpoint, a concrete gazebo deep in the jungle from which there was a spectacular view of the surrounding hills. We had to go down a treacherously slippery path and up a couple of flights of stairs to reach this place, but the view was worth it. Swifts and swallows kept whooshing by as we stood there. We returned to the jeep and drove back along the same trail. This time we spotted a Crested Serpent Eagle sitting on a low branch, and a Great Hornbill diving from his perch into the trees.

After we left the jungle, the guide took us to see a sambar in the animal rehabilitation center of the Karnataka Forest Department. We walked over squishy ground to an enclosure, where he called out to a sambar who was sleeping inside a bamboo patch. Strangely enough, the sambar responded and ambled over like an obedient puppy. He was a sub-adult with an injured foreleg, and from his easy trust of us, had been around humans for a long time. He came right up to us and allowed us to pat him – the hair was wiry on his back and bristly on his horns – and he responded readily when we called him Pandu – the name the guide had called out. We later found that Pandu was not his name but that of a spotted deer who was also in the enclosure.

Ever since I read about the sore patch on sambar’s in M. Krishnan’s essay in Sprint of the Blackbuck, I was curious about it. Not-Pandu provided me with an opportunity right away, and I took it. Sure enough, there was a sore patch – it was bloody and it has flies buzzing around it. The really bad light and Not-Pandu’s enthusuaistic moving around did not permit me to get a good picture of it though.

We then drove back to the resort and got a good dinner. We turned in early as we had a 7 A.M. bird walk scheduled the next morning.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

We were awoken at 6:30 A.M. the next morning for the bird walk. After a refreshing morning tea, we set out with Mr. Sashidhar, the resident naturalist. He first showed us a few juvenile Malabar Pied Hornbills in the resort itself before taking us in a jeep to the Timber Yard. On the way, he stopped at a fruiting tree within the town, but we saw only a lone Malabar Grey Hornbill on a distant coconut tree.

At the Timber Yard, we struck pay dirt as soon as we got out of the jeep – a group of adult Malabar Pied Hornbills were sitting in a tree right where we stopped. After that, we followed the Hornbill trail – a 3-kilometer trail within the timber yard that is well signposted. We saw:

  • A group of Pompadour Green pigeons basking in the sunlight on a leafless treetop.
  • A White-cheeked Barbet
  • A Chestnut-headed Bee-eater catching insects from a tree-top
  • A group of Black-headed Munias in the tall grass
  • A Plum-headed Parakeet hanging out on the top of a tall tree
  • A few Greater Flamebacks who kept flying from tree to tree, chasing one another
  • A White-throated Kingfisher trying his luck catching insects instead of fishes
  • A Jungle Owlet looking around cautiously
  • A Spangled Drongo sitting in a tree, looking for insects
  • A Malabar Giant Squirrel scampering about a treetop
  • A group of Southern Hill Mynas
  • A group of Coppersmith Barbets

At the end of our walk, as we were nearing the jeep, we got a real treat – two Horbills, an adult male and a juvenile male, settled on a branch with a clear view, and sat there for a good five minutes. The light was on them, and I was able to get a few decent pictures of the two.

Back at the resort, we got a good breakfast, and were sitting around when we noticed a lot of bird life in the trees around us. Just from our breakfast table, we spotted quite a few birds – Vidya was the spotter and I tried to get pictures of them. We saw Jungle Babblers, a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher and Red-vented Bulbuls.

Post-breakfast, we went on a coracle ride in the Kali River. This one was not as adventurous as our previous, wet one, but it also allowed us to take a few pictures and videos. The highlight of the ride was when we spotted a crocodile in the river. The boatman showed us crocodile paw-prints on the small islands in the river, and though we hung around for a bit, we couldn’t see any more crocodiles.

After the coracle ride, we climbed up to a machan about fifty feet off the ground. This was a solidly-made wood and metal platform in a really tall tree. We spent some time in the machan, and got some good photographs of a juvenile male Malabar Pied Hornbill who sat in a bamboo thicket next to the tree.

It was time to go back and get ready to catch the train home, and we did so after a substantial lunch. We caught the train at Londa station, and were back in Hyderabad the next day.
This entry was posted in Birds, Experience, Pictures, Travel, Wildlife.

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