Sunday, 24 February 2019

To the land of Hornbills -- I

"Sir, there have been sightings of Great Pied hornbills around my home", said Ajith. He was excited. I mean why not? who wouldnt be thrilled to see such colorful large birds from close vicinity..!? He continued, "Sir, can you make it to Amara?". I did not hesitate in saying Yes to his offer and packed my bags to leave to the land of Hornbills.

I decided to drive the whole night in order to reach Dandeli by morning. I couldnt wait to take the glimpse of large billed birds hogging on fruits.

I finally managed to reach Amara by 7 in the morning. It was a foggy morning and the light was bit low. Thick fog embarked the forest. It looked as if the forests is covered by ash and not green.
Ajith took me to the place where the Hornbill were seen. For the next couple of hours I kept looking at the fog and nothing else. As the mist started clearing what began was pure-- "Hornbill saga".

Great Pied Hornbill.
Although thick forests of Dandeli hosts pretty birds and animals, what attracts the most are the flagship species of this area. All 4 types of hornbills, ie Indian Grey Hornbill, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Pied Hornbill and Great Pied Hornbill can be found here in abundance.

Hornbills main diet are the figs. They are excellent in spotting fruiting trees and can cover close to 40 trees a day, making them a very good agent of seed dispersal. The forests of Dandeli-Anshi is very good with fig trees which perhaps is the reason for growing hornbill population around Dandeli.

Malabar Pied Honbill--female.
Malabar Pied Hornbills usually roosts at an altitude for better vision.

Malabar Pied Hornbill--male.
The place which Ajith took me had atleast 3 fruiting trees with abundant fruits. That was the main reason for hornbills to visit his neighborhood. The sun started brightening the place. The activity had just begun..! It all started with 2 or 3 pied hornbills, slowly it increased to 10, then 20 and then to 40. I was awestruck looking at the number of Pied hornbills increasing..!


But what caught my attention more were the Great Pied Hornbills. It probably was my first time observing their flight pattern at a closer range and it looked similar to other hornbill variants. Well known for its one specialty -- the sound it makes can be heard at  a farther distance. It is distinctive and unique.

There were at least 10 of these birds that flew over my head.





Flight of a Great Pied Hornbill.

But its just not hornbills that were around me, there were other beautiful birds too. My next post is on them, stop by and say "hello".

   

Saturday, 16 February 2019

The Guiding Factor.


It's been mostly a decade since I started this hobby of bird watching, its full of fun since day one. The avian wonders fascinates me to a greater extent. Now, as a beginner anyone in that position would look out for a guiding factor who guides you in best possible way.

For me it was all internet. I started knowing about wildlife through a non commercial forum by name indianaturewatch.net. I still visit the site whenever I find time to go through the trip reports, good pictures of birds and mammals and other interesting things about wildlife. Its an online encyclopedia of Indian wildlife. It was through this site I got hooked onto bng_birds yahoo group, which again is an informal group of birders in Bengaluru. That's where I met some amazing personalities.

Now you may ask, is there a need for a guide? Well, there are several reasons to justify that but I have outlined the important ones:-
  • You may end up learning a little more about a specie or its habitat if you go along with a bird guide.
  • Forests are always misleading. Sometimes you tend to lose your way in deep forests scouting for a specie. A bird guide just not helps in identifying the endemic specie but also ensures that you are on the right track during the trail. 
  • A bird guide would help you in educating the bio diversity of the place that you have visited. That additional knowledge helps you in understanding the place much better than what you already knew.
  • Above all a bird guide will help in letting you know the DOs and DONTs of birding. Let me just say that they encourage ethical wildlife/birding/photography.
Am introducing some of them whom I think are great and helps the community in practicing ethical birding.

1: Deepa Mohan.


I probably met Deepa in the year 2012 at The Valley school. I was startled by the energy the lady had (matter of fact, she still has), age is just a number for her. I was new to the forests of the Valley school which was much thicker than what it is right now. She ensured to address the group about the birds usually found in the Valley school area. I have been birding with her from past few years and I must say I have learnt a lot from her. She never missed a chance in sharing the knowledge about birds, flora, insects, plants, mammals etc and I never missed a chance to grab that knowledge from her. 
So, meet this ever smiling kind lady whenever its possible and make sure you go on a nature walk with her, am sure you'd enjoy it..!

She lives in Bengaluru and can be reached at : mohandeepa@gmail.com

Deepa Maami loves Trees.


2: Sudha-amma and Gireesh.


Lush green tropical forests of Thattekad in Kerala is a birders haven. The bird man of India, Dr.Salim Ali used to visit this place several times in a year to conduct extensive research on the endemic species of southern India. Thattekad has a bird sanctuary named after him as a mark of respect towards his work on birds of Indian subcontinent. This place never disappoints the avian community. Hence, over the years Thattekad hosts thousands of local and foreign bird lovers. Naturally, when the tourists increase there are opportunities for employment in the form of Bird guides. Now what we have to understand is how ethical the bird guide is, rather than how efficient that person is in showing the endemic species to the tourists.

There have been reports that some of them are practicing unethical birding to attract visitors to their stay(s). Unethical birding includes feeding the resident and migratory birds. The visitors do get attracted because of the fact that the birds would visit the place to feed on ready food. Obviously there is ample opportunity for photography.
The flip side of this practice is that the birds are getting distracted and as well become lazy. This practice is making the birds more attracted towards easy feed than migrating or searching for food on its own. So basically, the migratory birds wouldnt leave the place because of unlimited food available already. The result is that the nature of the specie is being changed constantly. 

Setting above crowd aside, there is one family which strongly believes in Ethical birding. Gireesh and his mother Sudha have been guiding bird lovers since 20 years now. Although Gireesh practices as an advocate, his passion towards Birding has been phenomenal. He is an excellent spotter of birds and carries abundant knowledge of birds of Indian subcontinent.

Sudha-amma with her son Gireesh in front of their Jungle Bird Homestay.
 What impressed me is the way they treat their guests. They just do not help in spotting the birds, they would also help in understanding the importance of its habitat and how it is getting destroyed in many forms. Gireesh's work have been aired in Animal Planet for his profound work on preserving the habitat. 

You may reach Gireesh @ http://junglebirdhomestay.blogspot.com/

3: Ajith Hegde.


The place where Hornbills are found in numbers, Dandeli. I have been visiting Dandeli since my childhood and its one of the pristine forests you could find in southern India.
Situated inside the core area of Kali Tiger Reserve, Amara homestay offers the best birding experience, food and shelter.
I have been a regular visitor to Amara since 2014 and its wonderful to stay there. Mr. Ramachandra Hegde and his family practices self sustaining model which is the main objective of eco tourism.
I met Ajith Hegde, S/o Ramachandra Hegde in 2016 when I made a trip to Dandeli with my team. Amateur he was then but very keen to learn about birds around him, I am impressed the way he has transformed himself into an awesome birder now.
He keeps a tab on the climatic variations and its side effects on bio diversity. He keeps a close watch on the residents and migratory species, especially The Great Indian Hornbill. His interests towards protecting the habitat is widely appreciated. He is good in spotting the birds and can track its movements pretty well.

Ajith Hegde in front of his homestay. Very friendly and charming person. 
You may reach Ajith @ https://dandeliamara.com/

Likewise, there are many good people around us who encourage ethical wildlife and have been contributing a lot to the wildlife fraternity. Some day in my tenure, I hope to meet them all and learn something new from them.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Incredible Bhadra.

Steve had planned to visit India after a gap of 5 years. Knowing that am a nature freak, he expressed his desire to visit one of the Tiger sanctuaries to get a glimpse of the Royal Bengal Tiger, the pride of India. 
Well, first thing that came to my mind was of course Nagarhole National park, popularly known as Kabini. Predator movements were high as a result of drought. Obviously, the resorts in that area had zero availability due to the overwhelming demand to experience the wilderness.
The next option that came to my mind was "River Tern Lodge, Bhadra". I knew that predator sightings in this area was not as common as Kabini, but I kept my hopes high and booked our accommodation there. All I wanted was a joyful ride so that Steve would take back good memories from here.

River Tern Lodge is managed and owned by Jungle Lodges and Resorts, located on the banks of Bhadra reservoir, Lakkavalli (250 kms from Bengaluru). 
Bhadra wildlife sanctuary is yet another beautiful vast landscape that consists of various wildlife species with a diverse culture of green patch. The deltas formed in the backwaters acts as a paradise for a particular bird-- "River Tern". Thousands of River terns congregate here to enhance their race. 

River Tern on a dead tree stump. 
Mating of River terns.
Terns cleaning themselves.
We opted for a boat ride on the first day hoping for the best sightings. An amazing ride started off with so many River terns followed by Small pratincoles. But my observation said the count of River terns had decreased over the years because of habitat distribution.

We cruised through the reservoir watching tons of jelly fish gracefully wading underwater. The naturalists were busy searching for the big cats on the banks of the reservoir. 
Few minutes later, the phantom appeared from the bushes in search of prey. A young male Indian Leopard walked towards us to show it's formidable presence. This amazing creature adapts to its surrounding so very well in order to conquer the prey.

The Phantom walks.
Stalking it's prey.

Display to paparazzi. 
Pose of an Indian Leopard.
On high alert.
Leopards take the advantage of the body texture as it gels well with the dry habitat. Their camouflage abilities are really outstanding. 

This one gave us a proper 10 mins before it disappeared into the bushes and we continued our safari on the rough waters. 

Now it was the turn for the raptors. Ospreys and Grey headed fish eagles were the highlights. We were fortunate to see them in action.

Osprey with a fish.
Osprey Habitat.
Grey Headed Fish Eagle.
A portrait of Grey Headed fish eagle.

We were super thrilled to have seen these beautiful creatures during the boat safari. The naturalists claimed that the Leopard sighting during a boat safari on the banks of Bhadra is a rare moment. I was fully satisfied with the trip thus far and was looking forward to the morning jeep safari.

Crested Serpent Eagle.
We went on a jeep ride into the forests of Bhadra in search of mammals. Early morning sun rays made the grasslands glow like gold. The thick forest attracted us. 

Barking Deer.

Malabar Giant Squirrel.
Back at the Lodge, this tiny bird surprised us.

Indian Pitta. 
The Navarangi bird.
I was really impressed by the forest although the mammal sightings were slim. Peace, serenity, lovely diversity of flora and fauna. I was bestowed with the beauty of the nature. I only wish that the forests of Bhadra continues to impress us for generations.

Place: The River Tern Lodge, Jungle lodges and Resorts, Lakkavalli.
Distance: 260 kms from Bengaluru.


Saturday, 29 April 2017

Arm Chair Birding.


Eat, relax and bird--that's exactly what you'd do at this place. Lot of arm chairs around and a typical bird bath set up in the middle of a green patch, surely is tempting..! 
With all the rustic set up, The old magazine house never disappoints a bird watcher. Perhaps the only place where photographers gets ample time to shoot birds from different angles. 

As much as I regret that I could not visit OMH this year, am trying to relish fond memories of last year. Am not gonna write paragraphs about it as I have already done in the past. All you need is documented in my previous blog post.


This post is more of photographs with less text, so sit back and enjoy the winged beauties.
Malabar Pied Hornbill.
Blue Capped Rock Thrush, male.
Blue Capped Rock Thrush, male.
Brown Brested Flycatcher with a moth.
The elegant While Bellied Blue Fly catcher, male.
 

Yellow Browed Bulbul.
Crested Goshawk.
Flame Throated Bulbul.
Datk Fronted Babbler.
 

Blue Monarch, male and Female.
Paradise Flycatcher and Blue Monarch attempting a discussion.
Indian Paradise Flycatcher, female.
Indian Paradise Flycatcher, male.
Flaunting it's lovely tail.
Bunch of White eyes.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Kaiga Bird Marathon--2017

Back from exile! I guess, it is one of my favorite places on earth that I choose to visit over again. It's always good to be part of Kaiga Birders group who have evolved a lot in the recent years. Their contribution towards bird count have been impeccable. The birders association realizes how important it is to save the habitat for birds to thrive. I admire their collaboration with other birders network and active participation towards all events conducted by Bird count India.

Over the years, Kaiga Bird Marathon have become so popular among the birding communities that every birder aspires to take part in it at least once. I can say it is mainly because of resident and migrant species of the Western Ghats that attract a lot of birders. 
Because of it's growing popularity and overwhelming response from others, my participation to KBM-2017 was doubtful.! Well, I had lost hopes that I'd be going to Kaiga for the bird count. 
But thanks to the KBM organizers for their kind consideration towards me, at the end I was given a chance to participate and enjoy the event.

I took a bus from Bengaluru to Mallapur and reached the destination by early morning. My dearest friends from Kaiga--Mr. Harish, Mr.Mohan Das attended the migrant bird watchers. ;-) I was not alone and was glad that there were known faces who traveled with me. We discussed to do some birding after freshening up. 

When BLR Birders meet Kaiga Birders, from L to R--Ashwini Kumar Bhat, Harish Kulur, Janhvi Vyas, Karthik Kulkarni.
We did a lot of birding in and around Mallapur that day. Lot of endemic species showed their faces nicely. Many thanks to Harish Kulur for taking us to Kerwadi Lake, we were fortunate to see large amount of waders too. 

We headed back to Nisarga convention hall where evening program was fixed--the kick off session of KBM-2017. It was nice to catch up with a lot of enthusiastic birders from different places. 

Mr. Sriram speaks.
Mr. Prem Kumar speaks.
The organizing committee disclosed the participant details of particular transects. I was part of the transect Hatruga. I had done this transect during my first ever KBM and it was fun. This transect consists of village culture, thick forests with streams and finally vast landscape of Kadra backwaters. An amazing round trip of 9kms, not an easy transect though.

Vernal Hanging Parrot.
Crimson Sunbird with tongue out.
Thick fog embarked the whole forest; it appeared like a white blanket on top of green carpet. It was cold. Our vision was poor due to low light and could barely ID the birds. There were lot of chirping around us which enhanced our birding desire.

Black Rumped Woodpecker.
The overcast weather condition continued for sometime until the Sun finally showed mercy on us and started glowing to his glory. The weather was so pleasant that many birds started showing their fresh faces. Most of them were joyfully sucking the nectar out of flowers.


Asian Fairy Bluebird--Male.
We had traversed half way in our transect and it was time for a quick bite. But the action continued as we saw a huge crested serpent eagle perched on top of a tree acting as a vigilante.

Crested Serpent Eagle.



We continued our search for more birds and were delighted to see too many of them. At the back-waters we were lucky to see a White bellied sea eagle perched on a stump right in middle of the water.

Sun was getting hotter and it was time for us to return to our base. We were a bit unhappy that few big birds were not to be seen, but the last sighting made us forget all of it. A tree snake on a dead tree.! How amazing, couldn't ask for more.

Tree Snake.
Yet another memorable bird marathon into my bucket list. A bunch of enthusiastic birders exchanged a lot of knowledge. I thank each of them for sparing time for birding and enjoying the trek. I admired each one's efforts on documenting and understanding the behavior of the birds.

Team Hartuga.
I know that the motive of KBM is just not about bird count but also maintaining the sanctity of the forests. I congratulate the organizers of KBM for their continuous efforts in making this event bigger and better, every year.

KBM ebird: http://ebird.org/ebird/india/view/checklist/S36249094
Kaiga Guest house ebird: http://ebird.org/ebird/shared?subID=UzMzNjUxNDcw&s=t
Kaiga Township ebird: http://ebird.org/ebird/shared?subID=UzMzNjUzMjg4&s=t
Kerwadi ebird: http://ebird.org/ebird/shared?subID=UzMzNjU0NDM2&s=t