Saturday, July 16, 2011

Eaglenest - Nameri (26th March to 02nd April 2011)

Cricker-player ne Tendulkar nahi dekha to kya dekha
Bird-watcher ne Eaglenest nahi dekha to kya dekha

This is what Eaglenest WLS is for a birdwatcher!! The final frontier, the dream, an opportunity to grab 100s of lifers!!! Eaglenest..Eaglenest…Eaglenest…. Bass naam hi kafi hai!!

One of the most awaited trips, not only for participants but for me & Adesh too. This is will be my 4th visit to Eaglenest & I’m equally curious and excited. As we were staying in Guwahati only (after completion of Kaziranga-Nameri batch), we reached Airport at about 2.00pm and once all participants arrived we asked them to come out of the Airport. The vehicles were ready and we moved on towards Nameri, taking a brief stop at Dumping yard for Greater & Lesser Adjutants.

We keep Nameri, mainly as a stop over during Eaglenest trip. If you go directly from Guwahati to Eaglenest, it will take around 9/10 hours to reach by road. So we take a stop at Nameri while going as well as while coming back from Eaglenest. Nameri Eco camp has clean, descent tents with attached toilet & the surroundings are awesome. It’s a wonderful place to stay. And since we stop at Nameri from a night halt, next day morning we get some 3,4 hours for birding in Nameri. As usual Nameri birding was superb. The Wreathed & Great Pied Hornbills, Abbot’s Babbler, Dollar Bird, Barred Cuckoo Dove, White-throated, Black-crested, Black Bulbuls, Wedge-talied & Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, While-tailed Myna, Blue-eared & Blue-throated Barbet, Great Cormorants, Maroon Oriole were some of the birds seen. We came back to the eco camp, had our lunch and proceeded for Eaglenest.

Another very interesting sighting in Nameri was of a Cat Snake (Bioga Sp.) inside the Eco Camp. When we were getting ready for lunch, suddenly one of the cook came running to tell me about the snake behind canteen. We rushed to the place, with our cameras. The snake was 'different', never seen before. A Coral red color snake with ruby eyes. Later on it was Ided as Juvenile of Boiga cf siamemsis by experts. It was something very very special sighting!!

It takes about 6 hours to reach Eaglenest from Nameri, including the stoppage at Bhalukpong check post. The nearby town to Eaglenest WLS, which is in West Kameng Dist. Of Arunachal Pradesh, is Tenga. Tenga has a huge military base. We met Mr. Indi Babu at Tenga, who is head of Bugun community looking after the accommodation, food etc. in Ealglenest WLS.

Instead of scheduled stay in Lama camp we were told, that too in Tenga, that our arrangements have been made in Ramalingam camp, which is much below Lama camp. We were very disappointed for this mis-management by the Kaati Tours & Linkarcs. But we had to take it, and stay in Ramalingam camp. Since we had jeeps with us we could go till Lama caml & come back. We tried our level best, so that the group should not miss any species because of this goof-up. Some of the birds seen in this patch are; Green-tailed Sunbird, Beautiful Sibia, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Olive-backed Pipit, Greater-rufous Headed Parrotbill, Cutia, Black-throated Tit, Striated Bulbul, Bhutan Laughingthursh, Striated Laughingthrush, Rufous-throated Wren Babbler, Brownish-flanked Bush Robin and may more…

After 2 days in Ramalingam camp we moved to our next camp at Sunderview, birding on the way. On the way to Sunderview, you have to stop at one place, called Eaglenest Pass. This is one of best place in Eaglenest WLS. Being highest point in Eaglenest some of the high altitude birds are seen only here. And what a ‘gala’ time we had there. It started with Rufous-fronted Tit and then continued with Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Brown Parrotbill, Bar-throated Minla, Spotted Nutcracker, Striated & Rufous-vented Yuhina, Crimson-browed Rosefinch etc… but there were some special sightings as well. Both these special sighting had a fire in their tails! First was Fire-tailed Sunbird… It came from somewhere, circled us and they sat on a tree top in sunlight for few seconds. Everybody saw the bird the good light… wow!! The one was of Fire-tailed Myzornis. What an amazing bird, very elusive…but that day was special it came almost in front, flittered for some time and wet away, but gave all sufficient time to appreciate. The two fire-tails made our day!! On the way, after Eaglenest Pass, we also saw Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird, Rusty-fronted Barwing,

Sunderview, as the name suggest is located on top of the valley and gives lovely views. Area around the camp itself was too good for birding. We saw Black-faced, Striated and Spotted Laughingthrushes, Brown Bullfinch, Black-faced, Whistler’s, Grey-cheeked Warblers etc… We stayed in Sunderview for 3 nights… With base camp at Sunderview, we covered the low altitude areas like Bompu & Sessni. These two days were as rewarding as earlier days, with some different sightings like Streak-throated Scimitar Babbler, Sultan Tit, Red-tailed Minla, Silver-eared Mesia, Maroon Oriole, Streaked Spider-hunter, Black-throated Sunbird, Golden babbler, Rufous-capped Babbler, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Common Hill Partridge….

But the very very special sighting was of Ward’s Trogon. One of the rarest trogons in the world! At one turning, we heard the trogon. We stopped and tried to see thought the thick fog and to our pleasure we saw a male Ward’s Trogon sitting with its back to us. It then changed the position and now he is facing us…wow….We quickly put the bird on Spotting Scope and then it was feast to eyes. All of us except two could not see the bird as a thick layer of fog came between us & trogon. But I told everyone to just wait quietly & patiently till the fog layer passes. As soon as fog was passed, the trogon by that time has changed the position and now he was even close to us. We quickly showed it to the two participants first and then everybody took another round to see the bird through scope. But that’s not enough; male trogon was then joined by female!! AZ pair of Ward’s Trogon was sitting in front of us. What a sighting!! The best sighting of this bird for me till date… We all were speechless for few minutes…

While going back from Sunderview to Nameri, we stopped at Lama camp for lunch, where we heard the news of Assam bandh, on next day, when we were supposed to reach Guwahati airport. We were discussing what to do and finally decided to go reach Airport in the night itself. Instead of staying at Nameri for one night, we decided to just stop at Nameri for diner and then move to the Airport. We had our lunch and then suddenly another group (they were staying in Lama) saw Red-Crosbills, we ran outside the dining room and to our pleasure saw 4 Red Crossbills (1 female & 3 juveniles) a lifer!!! What a way to end the trip….

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kaziranga - Nameri (20th to 25th March 2011)

Ask any bird-watcher about North-East India and in that places like Eaglenest, Nameri, Kaziranga…. Dream destinations, final frontiers for a bird-watcher!! And this is my 4th trip to this paradise. I’m blessed!!

This year we went to North-East for 2 batches, one for Kazinraga - Nameri & other for Eaglenest – Nameri.

Kaziranga National Park – Nameri Tiger Reserve (20th to 25th March 2011)

We all (Total 16) gathered at Guwahati Airport at about 3.00PM and started in 3 Sumos for Kaziranga off course via dumping yard near Dipoy Bheel. As usual Greater Adjutant were present in large nos. along with few Lesser Adjutants. About 1/3 world population of Greater Adjutants can be seen here. It was a looong travel to reach Wild Grass Resort, Kaziranga, we reached at about 8PM. Post dinner, allotted rooms to all and we also settled in our room.

Next day we started with morning safari to Central Range. Just after entering the main gate we scanned for Bengal Florican in the grass but no luck! Along with lots of Wild Elephants, Indian One-horned Rhinos and Asiatic Wild Buffalos (Big 3 of Kaziranga), we also saw good nos. of birds including Swamp Francolin, Red-breasted Parakeets, Black-billed Roller, Black-necked Stork, Chestnut-headed Bee Eater, Lesser Yellownape, Crested Serpant Eagle, Pallas’s & Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Eurasian Griffon etc… From watch tower in Daflang range, we saw large Water Moniter lizard and River Otters as well. For afternoon safari, we went to Western Range, which is more known for mammals. We saw all Big 3 of Kaziranga but the bird life was also amazing. Specially the water body, where you can get down and see through scope. That session was superb with sightings of Northern & Grey-headed Lapwing, Bar-headed Geese, Greater Adjutants etc…

Day 3 of the trip, we started in the morning with safari in Eastern Range, known for birds. Yes, the birding was excellent in Eastern Range. The Pallas’s & Grey Headed Fish Eagles, Scarlet Minivets, Lineated Barbet, Green-billed Malkoha, White-eyed Buzzard, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Streak-throated Woodpecker and many more. We also came across a herd of Elephants crossing the road in from of us!! Always great to see wild Elephants! For afternoon safari we again went to Central Range, and this time we got Rhino crossing the road in front! Along with all other regular birds we saw a pair of Kalij Pheasant. Next day morning we spent some time in tea Gardens and started for Nameri. Kaziranga was amazing with wonderful sightings of Big 3 mammals and lots of birds…

We had two days in Nameri. One of the most picturesque & my favorite place! The climate was cloudy, but still bird life was very good. Look at this impressive list; Great Cormorants, Blue-throated Barbet, Wreathed & Great-pied Hornbills, Striped-tit Babbler, Abbot’s Babbler, White-tailed Myna, Dollar Bird, Barred Cuckoo Dove, Black Bulbul, Pin-tailed and Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Rufous Woodpecker etc… 25th March, the last day’s morning was also special. We had about 2 hours before leaving for Guwahati. We decided to bird-watch nearby the Eco-Camp. And you know what!! We saw a pair of Pied Falconet… wow… lifer! Oriental Hobby was also there and another lifer…Thick-billed Green Pigeon. What a way to end the trip!! Have a look at Pied Falconet image by one of the participants, Mr. Alok Bhave

We started well in time from Nameri, but heavy traffic jam on Brahmaputra bridge (some election rally) made us reach just, just in time at the Airport. All were tense, will we reach the Airport & all, but finally all participants got their flights. Me & Adesh were to stay in Guwahati for a day as the next batch for Eaglenest-Nameri will be arriving on 26th March 2011 afternoon.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Corbett National Park, Batch-1 (07th to 13th March 2011)

My favorite forest is Corbett National Park, so any trip to Corbett is always eagerly awaited. Both batches were full immediately after announcing. Thats the majic of Corbett. I have been to Corbett many times, but every time I'm equaly curious about the park. Each time Nature offers you something different.

Adesh & I started from Mumbai on 6th March 2011 in Garibrath Express, to reach Delhi at 12.15 hours on 7th March 2011. Our trip will start on 7th March at 22.40 hours from Old Delhi Station, where we all will board in Ranikhet Express for Ramanagar, the base town for Corbett. But...but...due to "Chakka jam" by Jat community, Ranikhet Express was cancelled. But we were prepared for this as we did got the news about the agitation before reaching Delhi. We had already figured out other options. Of which going together in minibus was best. So we hired a minibus from Delhi for Ramnagar & started the travel by 23.00 hours. We decided to bare some charges for the bus travel and take the rest from participants. The normal road was blocked, hence we had to go by long route, making us at about 09.00 in the morning to reach Ramanagar. But at least we reached the place.:-))

We checked in Corbett Nature Camp and instructed all to meet for breakfast and the first session will start after breakfast. Mr.Manoj Sharma a reknowed bird-watcher, one of the best bird guides for North India and our wonderful host, joined us, we had a small round of introduction before starting the trail. We will be spending 2 days around Mohan, Kumeria and adjoining areas. Birds seen were Plum-headed & Red-breasted Parakeets, Black-rumped & Himlayan Flameback, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Dark-throated Thrush, Crested Tree Swift, Crimson & Purple Sunbird, Scarlet & Long-tailed Minivets, White-crested Laughingthrush, Mountain & Changeable Hawk Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard, etc...

Its time now to go inside the park. We had 4 open Gypsies for the safari. At the entry gate (Dhangadhi Gate), we all stop at the Forest Dept. Sovenior shop for T-shirts, Caps, Jackets etc. We will be staying inside the park for 2 nights, 3 days in Dhikala Resort, which is about 32kms from the Dhangadhi gate. Dhikala is exactly in centre of the Corbett National Park. One can hear Tiger growling from the rooms in the night. Dont worry...the resort is safeguarded by electric wire fencing. The fence wires do not carry live current, which is capable of causing permanent damage to the intruder. The electric fence has only pulsating direct current flowing in the fence grid. On the way to Dhikala we saw Black, Black Crested & Ashy Bulbuls, Tickell's Blue & Paradise Flycatcher, Corbett special "Collared Falconet", Small Blue & Himalayan Kingfisher, Pallas's Fish Eagle, Long-tailed Minivets, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Green Magpie etc...

After checking-in Dhikala resort and food, we started for our evening safari. Around Dhikala there are about 4/5 areas, which we will be covering during 5 safaries namely, Sambar Road, Nimbu Bhauji, Ramsing Road, Thandi Sadak, Bada Sal etc... During safaris Manojji, Me & Adesh were shuffuling from one jeep to other each of us can spend some safari time with all participants. Safari in any forest is always exciting, but in Corbett its always something special. The Elephants, Spotted Deers, Sambar Deers, Barking Deers, Hog Deers are always there, but seeing a Tiger in Corbett is super duper exciting.

While on Dhikala main road we saw lot of gypsy standing near Ramsing road, obviously there has to be a Tiger somewhere. There it was, sitting beside the road but inside the thick foliage,one some part of the Tiger was seen. It was 'Bhola' the male. Soon 'Bhola' got up and started walking towards Ramsing Road. Now everyone knows he will be crossing the Ramsing road (on Dhikala main road, if you are coming from Dhikal to Dhangadhi gate, Ramsing road is on your left side), so all vehicles were trying to take best position so that respective tourists will get the clear view. My jeep was the last to reach the spot. So we could not get the better place, infact we were blocking view of some of the jeeps, so everybody started telling us to move inside towards Ramsing road. And I tell you, just when we turned left on Ramsing road, Bhola, the male Tiger came our from the bushes, he was just 10 feets away from my jeep and I was stading in front!!! Wow...what a moment, such a huge Tiger!!! The moment is framed, in fact Full Framed, in my heart, mind forevere....

Along with mammals, we saw lot of birds during safari, like, Cinereous Vulture, Himalayan Griffon, Red-headed vulture, Maroon Oriole, Green-billed Malkoha, Fulvous-breasted, Streak-throated, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpeckers, Bright-headed Cisticola, Black & black-necked Storks, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Lesser Fish Eagle, River Lapwing, Himalayan Kingfisher and many more...

On last day, we checked out from Dhikala and started our way back to Dhangadhi gate. We must reach the gate before six as per the forest dept. rules. We started from Dhikala at about 2pm. All 4 jeeps were together till Champion road. At the end of Champion road we all spent some time near Kosi river. Then my jeep was first to move out from there, and on our way back on Champion road we saw a Tigress walking towards us. She sat on the road for good 2 mins. and then moved out of the way. We couldn't believe our luck!! On the way back, we spent some time at Crocodile point, infact we were waiting for others to come, and tell them about the Tigress sighting :-)). But they all skipped the crocodile point and moved straight away. We are now getting late, its 5.45 pm now and still we had to cover good 10kms to reach the gate. Obviously our driver was little worried and requesting us not to stop anywhere. But...but....something more was installed for us. On the way, when we were going in good speed, suddenly Amey & Rujuta almost shouted, "Tiger....tiger" and yes a young male tiger was about to cross the road, but probably stopped after seeing us. We were on the road and tiger was on the slope trying to cross. Imagine, Tiger is in front of you and you have to leave the place!!! But that was something very very unusual..... 2 tigers in a day (infact within 2 hours) that too in Corbett...that too while coming out of the park....something very very special!!!!

Someone from our jeep must be very very lucky with the Tiger:-))

Finally we met other 3 jeeps at the gate and told them the reason for delay..:-)) One of the most memorable Corbett trip for me.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Jamnagar, Gujarat Batch-3 (19th to 24th Feb.2011)

If you ask me, which are the best destination for birding in India, I will certainly include Jamnagar, Gujarat in the list. That's why this is 3rd Trip for Nature India and 4th Trip for me this season to Jamnagar. Birds are all around Jamnagar, in Sancturies, Coastal areas, Salt-pans, Rivers, Water reservoirs, making it a perfect habitat for migratory as well as resident water birds and raptors.

We started on 19th Feb.2011 (Saturday) by Saurashtra Janata Express. As usual we gave the printouts (Jamnagar Information, Bird-checklist, Itinerary etc.) to all the participants, so that they all can go through it during the travel time. Next day on 20th feb. (Sunday) we reached Jamnagar on time, at 9.30am. Just before Jamnagar station we saw, no. of Lesser Flamingos and waders in the water body nearby station. This was an indicator that Jamnagar is full of birds! We checked-in hotel President, after freshening up, we went for lunch to Hotel Brahmanya, where you get typical delicious Gujarati thali. Post lunch we went to a seashore in Balachhadi area. By the time we reached the place, high tide was approching and we could see lots of Crab Plovers along the shore, along with Oyestercatchers and other waders. We spent about 3 hours at the place. Photographers got some wonderful images of Crab Plovers, Pallas's (Great Black-headed)Gull and other waders. The birders were busy watching lots of other variety through scope, which include, Desert Wheatear, Lesser, Greater Sand & Kentish Plovers, Black-tailed Godwits, Ruffs, March Harrier etc... We ended the day with diner in hotel Swati and yes, Jamnagar special Ram Dairy Ice-cream.

Next day early morning, we started for Khijadia Bird Sanctury. Its very important to reach the sanctuary, by sunrise to watch Common Cranes going to fields from the roosting place. Its always a memorable experience to watch Cranes, Pelicans, Storks going above you from watch tower. Khijadia Bird Sanctuary has salt water on one side and fresh water on other, which makes it ideal habitat for variety of water birds. We saw Northern Shovellers, Northern Pintails, Eurasian Wigeons, Common Teals, Common Pochards, Gargeney, Gadwalls, Spot-billed Ducks from duck family, Rosy and Dalmatian Pelicans, Painted & Openbill storks, Darters, Great-crested Grebe, Steppe Eagle, March Harrier, Ospray and usual waders. That was an awesome morning session!! After stupendous lunch at hotel Aram, we went to another area, INS Valsura and Dhichada wetland. Area around INS was full of Lesser Flamiongos, wonderful to see the pink carpet along side water body. Dhichada was also full of birds. We saw Sand Lark, Desert Wheatear, Shikra, Common Kestrel, Common Ring Plover with other water birds. In Jamnagar you can not end the day without Ram Dairy Ice-cream :-)

Day 3, 22nd Feb, Tuesday, was a going to be a very hectic day as we will not be coming back to hotel for lunch & rest. We will be going to Narara first and then to Charakla Salt-pans. Narara is part of Marine National Park. We reached during low tide and here water goes deep inside during low tide. We walked about 2kms inside, to check for live corals and other marine life. Along with corals we saw Octopus, Lobster, Puffer Fish etc. On the way to Charakla we stopped at a famous Kathiawadi Hotel for lunch. Charakla was special for 2/3 birds, Demoiselle Cranes, Black-necked Grebe and Dalmatian Pelicans. We all could see all these from close distance. It was hectic (long travel) but wonderful day for bird-watching.

Last day was for finale, a special treat for bird-watchers at special place called as Lakhota Lake. The lake inside Jamnagar City is full of birds in winter. The best place to see Black-headed, Brown-headed and Slender-billed Gulls, so close that you don't need binocs. You can see and compare all the the features like iris, bill, size etc..For photographers, this place is heaven!! Full frame shots of Tufted Ducks, Spot-billed Ducks, Dalmatian Pelicans, Norther Shovellers and what not?? Amazing place!!! For new birders, it was like a schools to learn the minute differences between various Gulls, Ducks, Waders etc.. A perfect place to end the trip.

Next one is Corbett, my favorite jungle!! Do visit this blog again for Corbett experience!! Till then... Adios :-))

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bhigwan Batch-1 (5th & 6th Feb.11) & Batch-2 (12th & 13th Feb.11)

One place in Maharashtra, which can be compared to Bharatpur is "Bhigwan". About 110kms from Pune city on Pune-Solapur road. The catchment area or backwater of Ujani dam provides ideal habitat for Ducks & waterfowl. Every year we (Nature India) arrange at least 2 trips to this place. Because of its proximity to Mumbai, the trips can be arranged on weekends i.e. Sat. & Sun. This is year Batch-1 was from 5th & 6th Feb. and Batch-2 from 12th & 13th Feb.

Bus started from Dadar (Chandu Halwai) at 6.30Am. All members coming to Dadar, including me :-), were on time. Adesh boarded at Sion. As per every year we got some biscuits, namkeen and water at Sion. We stppoed for Breakfast at Navratna Hotel, Vashi. It took about 2.30pm to reach Bhigwan. Post lunch we started for Diksal. As usual Diksal was full of birds, the birds seen here include, Red Avadvats, Northern Shovellers & Pintails, Eurasian Wigeons, Common Teals, Little Grebe, Common Coot, Purple Swamphen, Glossy, Oriental White, Back Ibis, Black-tailed Godwits, Marsh, Wood, Common & Green Sandpipers, huge congregation of Whiskered Terns, Painted, Wooly Necked & Openbill Storks and the special sighting was of Bar-headed Geese. After eventful session we headed for Hotel Amardeep, which is about 22kms from Bhigwan, towards Baramati. As the day was hectic with lot of travel we all heade for early bed.

Next day we started early morning with tea. After quick breakfast we started our morning session at Kumbhargaon. Along with waterbirds, this site also gives opportunity to see dry land and scrubland birds. First we stopped for Barn, Red-rumped & Streak-throated Swallow. Then the Clamerous Reed Warbler gave us some rare nice views. It was in open for quite a long time. Other birds seen were Black Redstart, Iora, Small Minivets, Indian Silverbill, Yellow Wagtail, Bluethroat, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Ospray, Ruddy Shell Ducks and many more.... In just two sessions, we all saw more than 100 birds. After lunch we started for Mumbai and reached by 10pm.

Identical to Batch-1, this trip was also seccessful with all the sightings than Batch1 had, plus close sighting of Red-headed Falcon.

Next trip is, 3rd Batch for Jamnagar from 19th to 24th Feb.2011. Hope to see lots of Crab Plovers, Great-crested Grebes, Common Cranes, Lesser Flamingos along with other usual Jamnagar birds!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary & Mannar - Batch2 - 29th Jan. to 01st Feb. 2011

After 3 hectic, hard working days in Cochin, we were ready for Thattekkad Batch-2. I went to Airport to receive almost half of the members and Adesh went to Railway station to receive others. Unfortunately the train was late by about 4 hours. I along with members coming by flight reached early to Thattekkad. After an hour or so Pallavi also joined us. We decided to go for a small walk nearby sanctuary. The light was fading, but still we could see White-bellied Treepie, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Racket-tailed Drongo etc.... The train people came by late night and we all together had diner.

All the schedule was exact the replica of first batch. But each visit to same place is different. At the same rocky patch apart from all other birds, we saw Black Baza going overhead, also saw White-bellied Woodpeckers with nest. The evening session was something special!! You can always expect unexpected in jungle. After looking at Frogmouth, we suddenly came upon on small stream inside the jungle. We decided to wait there for some time and check if some birds come there to drink water before going for roosting. And our efforts paid off.... Next half an hour was something amazing!! Stage was set, audience was ready and the play began. First to arrive was courageous Yellow-browed Bulbul, it was his brave effort that gave confidence to others to come down to drink water. The Bulbul was followed by Rusty-tailed, White-bellied Blue, Brown-breasted Flycatchers, Malabar Blue Whistling Thrush, Orange-headed Ground Thrush, Indian Blue Robin, White-bellied Treepie .... wow..what a show!!! Adesh and me also saw a glimpse of Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher!!! That was an icing on the cake!!

Day 2 Munnar....As usual we started early morning at 4.30. The Eravikulam National Park was as good as last batch. We saw all the specialties, including White-bellied Shortwing, Black & Orange and Nilgiri Flycatcher, Grey-breasted Laughingthrush and Nilgiri Pipit. In the evening we went to Dr. Sugathan's office in the sanctuary to hear about this experiences in Thattekkad.

Last Day.... for the morning session we went to another place a bit far from Thettekkad. It was a nice forest patch, we saw Sri-lanka Frogmouth, Paradise Flycatcher, Rusty-tailed Flycatcher, Drongo & Banded Bay Cuckoo, Oriental Honey Buzzard etc... Those going by flight left early after lunch. Rest we all went to forest patch, opposite to sanctuary. Apart from Racket-tailed Drongo, Black-hooded Oriole, Emerald Dove etc... I was fortunate to see a lifer!! A Chestnut-winged Cuckoo came and sat on a tree for few the time I called others it flew:-(... I was delighted to see a lifer, but was disappointed as others couldn't see it.

Both the batches to Thattekkad were amazing. We got to see almost all the specialties of the region. Me & Adesh were more than happy and satisfied with the overall trip.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary & Mannar - Batch1 - 22 to 25 Jan.2011

As I said in last posting, we will going to totally different habitat, from Rann of Gujarat to Western Ghat forests of Kerala. One of my favorite places for Birdwatching, Thattekkad & Munnar. I was really looking forward for the trip. 4 of us, Me, Adesh, Dr. Vaibhav & Dr. Deepali were in train, rest were coming by flight. A train journey of about 23 hours was a bit long. We reached Ernakulam Town railway station at about 4.00pm. We sent one jeep ahead for the paritcipants who were already at airport, so that they can go a bit early and relax. We started in another jeep and picked Amey, Rujuta & Anand from the airport. Its about 2 hours journey from airport to reach Thattekkad Bird Sanctury.

Our stay was with Gireesh Chandran, a lawyer by profession and a good bird guide by hobby :-). We were greeted by Gireesh & Amma (Gireesh's mother). Amma is one of the is official guides for the sanctuary. After a small round of introduction we had nice diner and went off for our first night trail of the trip, to a nearby trail from where we were staying. First sighting was of a Malabar Pit Viper. Then we tried for Srilanka Frogmouth and it responded!!, after few seconds we all could see a male Frogmouth sitting quitely on a branch. We also saw a Bark Gecko carrying eggs. The eggs could be seen clearly. Time for good night sleep, as we need to start early next morning.

First session was at my favorite spot, a rocky patch not very far from the sactuary. As expected the birding was awesome. Yellow-browed, Grey-headed & Ruby-throated Bulbuls, White-bellied Treepie, Malabar Parakeets, Crimson-fronted Barbets, Crested Goshawk, Asian Fairy Bluebirds we seen by all through scope. Later we went inside the forest and got some nice views of Brown-breasted & Blue-throated Flycatcher, Forest Wagtail etc. Afternoon session was at an interesting place, called "Bhootatankettu". We were fortunate to see Sri-lanka Frogmouth, Malabar Trogon, Black Baza were seen among other birds. In the evening we got an opportunity to meet Dr. Sugathan, colleague of Indian Birdman, Salim Ali, who played a major role in declaring Thattekkas as Salim Ali Bird Sanctury and discovering Ceylon (Sri-lanka) Frogmouth in India. His thoughts we were very inspiring and gave an insight about work done by forest department in Thattekkad.

Day 2 is for Munnar. We need to start at 4.30 hours from Thattekkad. In Munnar, Eravikulam National Park, though famous for Nilgiri Tahr, is special place for birdwatcher to see few endemic species like Nilgiri Pipit, Nilgiri and Black & Ornage Flycatcher, Pacific Swallow, White-bellied Blue Robin (White-bellied Shortwing), Grey-breasted Laughingthrush,. We saw all these... :-) After lunch we spent some time at another place in Munnar and then started to move back to Thettekkad. It was a very hectic day as lot of travelling was involved.

Last day and last session for few members (as they were to leave early to catch flight). This session was also equally good with some special sightings of Malabar Trogon, Rufous-bellied Eagle, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Little Spiderhunter etc... Time to say goodbye to those going by flight. But rest, travelling by train had opportunity for another session, we went to a forest patch opposite to sanctuary and saw a mix-hunting party of Black-hooded Orioles, Racket-tailed & Bronze Drongos, Black-rumped Flameback etc...

Another wonderful trip to this wonderful place. One of my favoite birding destinations!! After saying goodbye to all participants, me & Adesh searched for 2/3 hotels and finally check-in Hat Residency. We will be staying here for next 3 days to welcome batch-2. But we didn't have time to relax, as we need to announce few trips, 2 for Bhigwan and 1 for Bandhavgarh... We distributed the work, I will be woking in cyber cafe and Adesh from his notebook.