Coorg Bird Watching
More photos in this link
Coorg was the one of the first places where I started photographing birds. This over a period of time got me a bit interested in watching the Birds. Hence over a period of time I developed some interest in birds and even started recognizing (ID-ing as it is commonly called) some of the birds.
But this trip has completely changed my perspective of bird watching. I started learning more about the bird’s behavior, where they dwell, where they migrate etc. Of course, I have just started learning! There is a long way ahead!!
When Kesavamurthy put up the invite for the Coorg Birding trip, I immediately pounced on the opportunity. One of the main reason being, this is not the Madikeri town that we are going to, but somewhere else about 40km away from Madikeri and perfectly hidden within the thick cover of the Western Ghats forests. It is a home-stay near Kabinkad.
Since the rest of 7 member team was from Bangalore and I was the only one from Chennai, Kesav had arranged a cab to pick me up from the Bangalore city railway station to his place. In spite of the early hour, he was already up by the time I reached his house. I got refreshed in a few minutes and waited for the others to arrive. Everyone arrived at Kesav’s house around 5:30 pm and within minutes we have started on our journey.
Srikanth had come in his Fial Palio in which Rohan and Shishir joined. Nanda had brought his new (just a week old) Mahindra Thar which he had brought specifically for the off-roading trips. He along with his son Rithest, myself and Kesav were in his jeep.
We stopped at Adigas in Mathur for our breakfast. Though Srikanth had deviated slightly from the route, he caught up with us within 5 minutes. After having a light breakfast we proceeded on our journey. We spotted our first bird or the trip which was a White-eyed Buzzard just before Srirangapatna and stopped for a minute to photograph it. We stopped once again before Virajpet near a lake where we spotted lots of Glossy Ibis and few other waders. We spend about 15 to 20 minutes here and resumed our journey.
Just as we entered the Virajpet town, someone in the road yelled at us and was pointing towards the back of the jeep. To our shock, we saw that the fuel tank is leaking. I am sure it was not for a long time because we would not have reached that place at all had it been leaking for long time. Thankfully we found a garage within a kilometer and took the vehicle right in. The mechanics there were quite helpful. They understood that we are tourists and left behind whatever they had in hand and started attending to our vehicle.
Now we switched over to plan B (actually just created one). It was around 1:00PM and we still had time to reach our destination on time if we start immediately. There were lots of jeeps in Virajpet which can be hired to go to Coorg and nearby places. We took help from the garage owner and engaged a jeep which can take the rest of us to our destination while Nanda and Rithesh were to stay back in the garage. Kesav was to show us to the destination and return back in the same jeep back to Virajpet and join with Nanda and Rithesh. This is because only Kesav knew the place. We were waiting for Srikanth’s car. They had slowed down considerably due to the bad roads.
The irony is, if fate strikes, it strikes fully. It just does not do a half baked job! Nothing serious guys, but Srikanth’s car just got over heated and they had to pull over in about the same place where our jeep’s fuel tank was discovered to be leaking! Please don’t ask me if this is a coincidence or some kind of interference. This idea never occurred to me till now. Only when I just played back all the incidents that happened on that day to pen this, did I get realize this. So they too had to stop for some time to allow the vehicle to cool down.
That means, we will have to switch over to plan C. Since it is going to take some time to both the parties, we decided that we will stay in Virajpet itself till the jeep fuel tank is fixed and have our lunch in the meantime. We were never going to make it to our destination before lunch anyways. Thankfully this plan worked out well. By the time we all finished our lunch in turns, the jeep’s tank was welded properly and refit in the jeep and we were all set to go. It was about 4:00PM when we resumed the journey.
We reached the Kabinkad junction in about an hour from Virajpet, negotiating the bad roads cautiously. Mr. Suresh, our host from the Honey Valley home stay was there waiting for us in his jeep. Srikanth’s car had to be left back in the parking area near the place and had to use their jeep to reach the final destination as this is a complete terrain with 3 steep climbs which cannot be negotiated by a normal car. You need an all terrain 4X4 for this. Nanda decided to use his own jeep as this was the whole purpose why he bought it. Though it was his first 4X4 vehicle and his first try in the terrain, he was able to take it up like an experienced driver.
By the time we reached the Home Stay it was almost 6:00PM. The Honey Valley homet-stay has perfectly merged with the surrounding forests and they maintain the place as natural as possible. We ventured into the forest for a few feet in the twilight hour and see if we can spot any nocturnal creatures. Our effort paid off when we spotted something flying from one tree to another. Upon keen observation we could see that it was a Malabar Flying Squirrel. Unfortunately we cannot photograph it as it was almost dark by now. We spotted about 6 squirrels with one of them flying a distance of more than 50 feet. That was a sight to behold. We also spotted a couple of flying lizards in the same area. Then we returned back to our rooms, refreshed and had dinner. Though we were tired after the long day, we kept up late into the night to photograph the night sky which was glittering with diamonds. Something that we can never see in the cities anymore!
As planned earlier, we started the next day as early as 6:30 AM, walked down the same path in which we had come in the jeep the previous day in hope of spotting some butterflies as this would be the last season to see them. But we were gifted with spotting of some birds that we were hoping to, but no butterflies. Srikanth was the first one to spot the beautiful Malabar Trogon. It was there only for a few seconds and then took off. Only Srikanth was able to get an identifiable photograph. Though we waited for some more time in hopes of seeing it again, we were unlucky. We also spotted a few other birds which are common only in the forests. We roamed around till 08:30 and returned back to the home stay for breakfast. Since we had climbed down and up a lot we were famished and just gulped the food greedily.
We then relaxed for a few minutes and set out on a trek behind the home stay which again is a complete forest. We spotted quite a lot of butterflies in this area, but no birds. The plan was to walk through the track and return back to the home stay through the other side of the home stay. But we were excited, yes excited, to realize that we have lost the track and have ventured elsewhere. We used this lost time to photograph some more butterflies and dragonflies. Luckily we had mobile signal, so called up the home stay and gave them our location and they guided us back to the place over the phone. There was a small pond in this place (God knows where we were) and a small wooden bridge over it to cross it. We stopped to take a few photograph it. I ventured a bit near the pond to take some photographs and got bitten by half a dozen leeches. We returned back to the home stay just in time for lunch. Had a good lunch and decided to sit outside our rooms after the lunch and not relax the afternoon. Fortunately, it turned out to be a good idea because there were lots of birds in the tree right opposite the room and we were able to spot everything sitting in one place. Though photographing them was quite a challenge as the sun was on the wrong side and the distance was also too high. Sighting them was possible but photographing was quite a challenge. But that does not matter as our primary objective was to spot birds. We took a short walk again in the evening to spot some more birds.
The next day, we ventured out in the same place as yesterday and were able to spot the Asian Fairy bluebird, Rocket-tailed Drongo and the Crimson-fronted Barbet. But unfortunately it was too far away for us to even see these clearly and much less photograph. We approached the very accommodating care takers of the place and got their permission to get near the tree in which many birds were roosting. The place was quite damp due to the morning mist and a falls nearby. We did get the chance to see these birds at a close range and even lucky to get some identifiable photographs. Of course, we had to pay the leeches for exploring the place, but it was completely worth it!
We reached back the home stay again for the breakfast on time; had a hearty breakfast; packed our stuff and got ready to return back around 11:30AM. Except Nanda who had to drive the jeep and Shishir, the rest of us decided to walk down the way and try our luck in spotting any more birds. Since my camera’s battery had drained out, I dumped the camera as well in the jeep and walked along with the others. Ironically I was able to spot some beautiful birds very near us, when the camera was not in hand. We spotted the While-bellied Woodpecker, Black bulbul, Asian Brown Flycatcher on the way back. It took more than an hour to reach the parking lot where we had parked the vehicle on the day we arrived. It was almost 1:00 PM by the time we started our journey back. We decided to take the route through Madikeri as the roads would be a lot better and can drive without problems. We stopped in Madikeri around 2:00PM to have our lunch and started back on the return journey by 3:00PM and reached Bangalore by 9:00PM.
Following are the list of the birds we spotted. Thanks to Kesava and his Birdwing club for organizing this amazing trip. I am eagerly looking forward for the next trips! Who is joining me??
1. Common Swift
2. Indian Scimitar Babbler
3. Large-billed Crow
4. Malabar Grey Hornbill
5. Grey Wagtail
6. Kentish Plover
7. Black Drongo
8. Barn Swallow
9. Black-crested Bulbul
10. White-cheeked Barbet
11. Coppersmith Barbet
12. Hill Myna (Common Hill Myna)
13. Blue-capped Rock Thrush
14. Crimson-fronted Barbet (Malabar Barbet)
15. Pompadour Green Pigeon
16. Asian Brown Flycatcher
17. White-bellied Woodpecker
18. Greater Coucal
19. Brahminy Kite
20. Scaly-breasted Munia
21. Black Kite
22. Spotted Dove
23. Laughing Dove
24. Purple Sunbird
25. Pale-billed Flowerpecker
26. House Sparrow
27. Red-whiskered Bulbul
28. Malabar Whistling Thrush
29. Long-tailed Shrike
30. Blyth's Leaf Warbler
31. Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher
32. Asian Fairy Bluebird
33. Common Flameback (Common Goldenback)
34. Rose-ringed Parakeet
35. Malabar Parakeet (Blue-winged Parakeet)
36. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
37. Purple-rumped Sunbird
38. Ashy Drongo
39. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
40. Oriental White-eye
41. Eurasian Golden Oriole
42. Scarlet Minivet
43. Bonelli's Eagle
44. Black Bulbul
45. Golden-fronted Leafbird
46. Malabar Trogon
47. Vernal Hanging Parrot
48. Little Grebe
49. Common Sandpiper
50. Black-winged Stilt
51. Little Ringed Plover
52. Black Ibis (Red-naped Ibis)
53. White-eyed Buzzard