Trip Report: Shivaliks/Rajaji N.P.

Dates:                   8-13 Dec ‘17

Camp:                   Bayali

Who:                     A

A and I spent five days at a tiny settlement called Bayali in the Shivaliks. Although it was a family outing, we did get considerable time to savour the wildlife in the area.

Colebrookea oppositifolia

Colebrookea oppositifolia – the woodsman’s toilet paper

The mornings were bitterly cold and eschewing Gypsy drives through the forest, we chose instead to bird around the settlement. Evenings were spent driving down through the forest, towards the Vindhyavashini temple some fifteen or twenty kilometres away.

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Wild mushroom, possibly Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi)

We set out one forenoon to a place called Kanda Khal – which is essentially a little cluster of shops lining the road – and took a path that plunges into the valley from here. A grueling climb up the opposite slope took us through some spectacular birding spots, to a sparse cluster of homesteads called Basaan and then to a slightly larger village called Kasaan, before descending via a circuitous route to meet the waiting Gypsy on the road. The trek lasted a few hours and took us past a grim scar on the hillside where in the July of 2006, two cloudbursts triggered landslides that destroyed a homestead, killing five people in the process.

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“Bicchu ghas” – Common nettle – Urtica dioica. Frequently seen lining paths. A brush with this plant can cause considerable discomfort as the fine thorns inject histamines.

On another afternoon, we drove down to the Tal river valley and spent a while sighting goral on the surrounding slopes. We saw a small Accipiter here which we initially assumed to be a Eurasian sparrowhawk – but I’m not certain now after checking. We flushed a small flock of quail which promptly disappeared into the lantana before they could be identified.

 

Tattoo fern, possibly Pteridium sp. Leaves a delightful white print on the skin.

Birding

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Great barbet at dawn

Commonly seen species included Great barbet (whose call was often heard), Lineated barbet, White-throated and White-browed fantail, Grey bushchat, a Tree-creeper (we didn’t know which), Grey-headed woodpecker, Himalayan flameback and Black-chinned babbler. There was a species of prinia (possibly) in gregarious flocks around Bayali, greenish brown in the upper parts, with a pale supercilium, white underparts, a prominent white throat and black barring on the underside of the tail. We were not able to conclusively ID this bird (non-breeding form of the Grey-breasted prinia?). We made the mistake of not noting the call – this would have made the task easier.

There were enormous flocks of Eurasian tree sparrow (or maybe Russet sparrow) in the lantana thickets. Vultures (& eagles on occasion) were seen overhead several times but we were unable to ID them. Plumbeous and White-capped water redstart were seen by the streams and rivers. In and around Kasaan were several flocks of Streaked laughingthrush. We spotted what appeared to be a Brown fish owl in flight once.

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Streaked laughingthrush

We also saw Black-lored tit, Lemon-rumped warbler, Grey treepie, Blue whistling thrush, Mrs. Gould’s sunbird, Grey-hooded warbler and the spectacular Yellow-billed blue magpie.

More pedestrian species (if I dare call them that) included Oriented turtle dove, plenty of Indian treepie & bulbul (Himalayan, Red-whiskered and Red-vented in equal measure), Cinereous tit, Velvet-fronted nuthatch, Oriental white-eye, Indian robin, River lapwing, White and Yellow wagtail, Ashy-crowned sparrowlark, Long-tailed shrike, Coppersmith barbet, Plum-headed parakeet, Paddyfield pipit (I think), Greenish and Dusky warbler, Magpie robin, Tailorbird, White-throated kingfisher, Jungle owlet, Orange minivet, Red junglefowl (hens only, for some reason), peafowl, Black-hooded oriole, Jungle babbler and Asian pied starling.

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Cinereous tit

Forest drives

The drives turned up some interesting experiences. We were on our way to the Vindhyavashini temple one evening when we stopped to look at a flameback (Himalayan I think). The woodpecker fled to a tree some distance away. All of a sudden, a shikra swooped in out of nowhere and barrelled straight for the flameback, which in turn squealed and dived for the undergrowth. This set off an excited chattering amongst the other avifauna around, which subsided once the shikra exited the scene as rapidly as it had entered it.

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Orb weaver spider web

There’s a sharp turn to the left at one point, angled at almost ninety degrees. We were approaching this turn when the sharp, ascending notes of a Changeable hawk eagle shattered the stillness of the forest. We found the raptor feeding off a chital kill, on a branch some twenty feet up and not too far from the roadside. The kill appeared fresh and we bookmarked the tree for a dekko on the return journey.

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Changeable hawk eagle scavenging off leopard’s kill at dusk

It was well after dark when we made our way back and we swerved the jeep at an angle and climbed the gentle embankment by the roadside to light up the branch broadside on. Sure enough, the owner of the kill was there, feeding greedily on the carcass. So sharp was his hunger that the leopard didn’t glance our way once. We watched for a while and then left him to his meal.

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On crossing the Kaudia checkpost, the road winds through flat land for a few kilometres before it begins its ascent into the hills. The forest here is old growth Sal, with Rohini (Mallotus phillipinensis) and Hill glorybower (Clerodendrum infortunatum) among others in the understorey. A and I were being driven back along this road well after dark one evening when she caught fleeting sight of a large feline on the road ahead. Our driver Suraj caught sight of it a second later. With the Gypsy approaching, the cat nimbly stepped off the road and into the dense thickets. I had my eyes on the undergrowth on the far side and by the time I was alerted, all I could see were swaying branches with the cat out of sight. Suraj surmised that it was a leopard, but based on its size and behaviour, A felt she’d sighted her first wild tiger.

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The Nandi stone!

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Butterflying @ Wild Valley Farm, Jun ’17

Trip Report:        Wild Valley Farm

Dates:                   24-26 June 2017

Camp:                   Wild Valley Farm

Who:                     A

This post comes after a considerable gap – I missed posting on four trips – to Sunderbans, BRT TR and (two to) Masinagudi – in this interim.

A and I intended to focus on butterflies in and around the farm and that’s what we did. On a walk a little before sunset, we ran into a sloth bear just by the main road. The bear stood staring at us as long as we stood motionless, but fled as soon as we moved to click a picture. On the same walk, A almost stepped on a tiny Bronzeback Tree Snake and it slithered away with all the desperate speed it could muster. A snake killed a juvenile Black-naped Hare by the campsite on the farm. We were at the other end of the grass patch and by the time we walked over, the snake had decamped at the disturbance, leaving the little carcass behind. Mr. Daniel suspected it was the big fat rat snake that usually haunted this spot.

Here are the butterflies we saw. Species sighted but not photographed were Peacock Pansy, Yellow Pansy, Common Lascar, Common Jezebel, Yellow Orange-tip, Blue Mormon, Common Castor, Common Rose, Common Grass Yellow, Tawny Coster and Common Crow.

Papilionidae – Swallowtails

Common Mormon mud-puddling (Pic by A):

Common Mormons Mudpuddling

Crimson Rose:

Crimson Rose

Lycaenidae – Gossamer-winged butterfiles

Oriental Gram Blue:

Oriental Gram Blue

Hedge Blue (wrongly ID’d as Grass Blue, and pointed out by both VV and KS):

Grass blue

Red Pierrot:

Red Pierrot2

Yamfly:

Yamfly

Nymphalidae – brush-footed butterflies

Chocolate Pansy:

Chocolate pansy1

Common Fourring:

Common four ring

Common Leopard:

Common leopard

Common Fivering:

Common five-ring

Lemon Pansy:

Lemon Pansy2

Plain Tiger:

Plain tiger

Striped Tiger:

Striped tiger

Pieridae – Whites and yellows

Common Gull:

Common gull

Common Wanderer:

Common wanderer

Great Orange-tip:

Great orange-tip

Pioneer:

Pioneer2

White Orange-tip:

White orange-tip

Oyster mushrooms (Pic by A):

Oyster mushrooms

Moult, probably rat snake:

Moult

The weather and the farm were equally lovely (Pic by A):

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Animal tracks @ Galibore

The mud road that runs past the Galibore Nature Camp is a fascinating stretch to study animal tracks. A lot of wildlife traffic passes on this road each night, and the next morning can be very well-spent trying to read them.

Animal tracks are seldom as clearly defined as the drawings or photographs we see in guides. A smooth surface of fine-grained sand is required to capture that sort of print, and that kind of surface is rarely found outside of a Pug Impression Pad (PIP). The sand is often coarse, the ground hard, and prints superimposed upon each other. Cattle or deer prints can make a mess of the surface too. Reading animal tracks therefore takes skill that comes with practice. Thomraj is a pastmaster at just that. He takes in all the details at a glance and can see patterns that are tough for us to decipher even when pointed out. He can often reconstruct what occurred hours earlier from poorly captured prints – a leopard leaping off the track, a Black-naped hare rolling on its back and so on.

All the tracks featured here were visible in the course of each outing.

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Grey junglefowl

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Grey wagtail

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Peacock

red-spurfowl

Red spurfowl

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Snake

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Cattle

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Buffalo. Larger than cattle tracks. The split hoofmarks run in parallel unlike the cattle tracks which are pointed at the forward end.

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Chital. Heart-shaped.

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Sambar. Larger than chital prints.

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Pig. Unlike the chital’s pointed ends, the pig’s two halves run roughly in parallel.

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Langur

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Porcupine drag marks. More easily captured than paw prints.

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Porcupine. The heel pad shows two distinct sections, which is a key diagnostic.

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Mice leave a profusion of tiny tracks.

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Bull elephant. Fore and hind feet. The circular print to the right is of the hind foot.

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Jackal

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Jungle cat

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Sloth bear. Forepaw to the left.

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Leopard. There were three sets of tracks, two proceeding in one direction and the third in the opposite direction.

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Pellets of the Four-horned antelope. The animal has the habit of returning to the same spot to drop pellets, making it vulnerable to poachers.

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The sloth bear’s scat shows a grainy texture.

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Antlion’s pit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trip Report: Galibore, Nov ’16

Trip Report:        Galibore Nature Camp

Dates:                   31 Oct – 1 Nov 2016

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Grizzled giant squirrel foraging on Ivy gourd/Tindora/Thondekai (Coccinia grandis) vine

I did this trip alone. It was a follow-up to my last trip. Walking along the road then, the sheer number of species that had left their tracks in the sand overnight had planted this idea in my head. I had then wanted to come back to list and photograph the tracks seen on any typical day here. Thomraj is a walking encyclopedia on junglecraft and he was equally keen on this idea. I’m publishing that list and those pictures in a separate post.

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Short-nosed fruit bats in the camp

I had left Bangalore very early in the morning, at 3:30 AM, intending to reach the camp by 6 AM. There are a large number of cattle that walk along that track during the day and anyone intending to study wildlife spoor has to make an early start before the tracks are all messed up. Reaching by 6 AM would give me two mornings instead of one. That and the notion of encountering wildlife at the break of dawn on the drive to the camp. I was extremely hopeful of elephant, leopard or sloth bear sighting, but nothing was stirring (except for a couple of herds of chital) and I reached the camp with nothing to show for my trouble. There too, Thomraj was tied up guiding another guest and as my check-in time was hours away, I couldn’t make undue demands of his time. I was therefore constrained to hang around camp, which was not altogether a bad thing. The Sida patch kept me busy with the butterflies, and the pair of White-rumped shama that frequent the camp was bold enough to perch very close if I stood still.

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Juvenile male Indian paradise flycatcher. This individual provided us with some minutes of close-up entertainment as it hawked vigorously beneath the promontory.

The species mix in the Sida patch was different from that on my last trip three weeks back. Common crows were all over the place this time. There was also Common rose, Crimson rose, Tawny coster, Plain and striped tiger, Common sailer, Blue and Dark blue tiger, Common grass yellow, Common jezebel and plenty of Psyche.

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Crimson rose

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Dark blue tiger

 

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Common crow in flight

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Striped tiger

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Common rose

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Common sailer

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Plain tiger

I had wanted to sight a Four-horned antelope for a while now. Thomraj suggested we climb up the hill in the late afternoon and settle down on the summit for a couple of hours. He thought that if we stayed still and silent, we would probably catch sight of one. The new manager  – Abhijit – was also keen on this idea and the three of us set off at half past three. The weather was uncomfortably hot and the climb was a stiff one. We made it to the top of the hill without too much difficulty, but Thomraj’s plan was to ascend yet another hill beyond this one.  We had just started ascending from the watchtower when we caught sight of our quarry – a lone doe that briefly stared at us before bounding up the hillside in alarm. Mission accomplished but we continued anyway to see what else we could get.

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Four-horned antelope doe

The second stretch was steep and very taxing, but we eventually arrived at the top, drenched in sweat, panting desperately and tanned three shades darker. There is a large, flat rock there, with a spectacular 180 degree view of the valley beyond. The plan was to sit at this vantage point for as long as the light permitted, while scouting for signs of movement across the vast area in sight. Sure enough, a sloth bear was presently seen on the far hillside, foraging. Thomraj said there was a second one, but Abhijit and I could spot just the one.

Langurs called in alarm persistently from beyond an intervening ridge and a lone sambar deer also belled a few times. The persistence of the calls convinced us that a leopard was afoot, and we had high hopes of catching sight of it. The leopard didn’t show itself for the next hour however though the calls continued, and as the light was fading, we had to reluctantly abandon our position to return to camp. On the way down, we spotted another slot bear, this one much closer and moving along a line that seemingly converged with our own. The bear descended into a rocky depression shortly thereafter however and wasn’t seen again.

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The stiff climb induced a very painful bout of cramps in my legs as we were relaxing in the camp later that evening.

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Monitor lizard in the camp

We hardly paid any attention to birds this time, but here’s the list for what it’s worth.

  1. Alexandrine parakeet
  2. Asian paradise flycatcher
  3. Black-hooded oriole
  4. Blue-faced malkoha
  5. Brahminy kite
  6. Brown hawk owl
  7. Brown-headed barbet
  8. Changeable hawk eagle
  9. Common iora
  10. Common skylark (calls)
  11. Common tailorbird (calls)
  12. Common woodshrike (calls)
  13. Darter
  14. European bee-eater
  15. Golden-fronted leaf bird
  16. Green bee-eater
  17. Greenish warbler
  18. Green imperial pigeon
  19. Indian robin
  20. Jungle bush quail (calls)
  21. Jungle owlet
  22. Lesser fish eagle (calls)
  23. Lesser flameback
  24. Little cormorant
  25. Magpie robin
  26. Purple-rumped sunbird
  27. Red-rumped swallow
  28. Red spurfowl
  29. Red-wattled lapwing (calls)
  30. Red-whiskered bulbul
  31. Rose-ringed parakeet
  32. Spotted dove
  33. Stork-billed kingfisher (calls)
  34. Tawny-bellied babbler
  35. Tickell’s blue flycatcher
  36. White-bellied drongo
  37. White-browed bulbul (calls)
  38. White-browed wagtail
  39. White-cheeked barbet (calls)
  40. White-rumped shama
  41. White-throated kingfisher
  42. Yellow-billed babbler

 

  1. Bonnet macaque
  2. Chital
  3. Four-horned antelope
  4. Grizzled giant squirrel
  5. Monitor lizard
  6. Tufted langur
  7. Sambar (alarm calls)
  8. Sloth bear

Book Review: The King and I, Travels in Tigerland

Book review: The King and I – Travels in Tigerland, by Prerna Singh Bindra

Rupa & Co, 2006

king-and-i

For some strange reason, half a dozen chapters into the book, I was distinctly unimpressed. Maybe I was coming at it from the perspective of A.J.T. Johnsingh’s masterpieces (Field Days and Walking the Western Ghats) – books that drip heavy with information and insights from a naturalist’s perspective. That was probably unwarranted. Prerna Singh Bindra is no naturalist. But she is a conservation journalist and a skillful wordsmith. She therefore approaches her topic from the perspective of the conservation journalist – with a fine blend of impassioned eco-zeal, and sensitivity to the beauty around her. And she certainly writes well. I warmed to the book eventually, and had concluded by the end of it that it was indeed a very good read.

The King and I profiles some twenty prominent PAs – mostly tiger reserves with a couple of exceptions in Hemis and Gir. Bindra’s personal impressions of each wildscape provide some very readable context to the larger discussion around conservation and anthropological issues specific to the PA. And she blends a fine mix of the two, which is a good thing – tales of her personal experiences and her evocative sense of wonder enliven what would otherwise be a starkly depressing account of almost-lost causes.

Notwithstanding the title, the book does not confine itself to the tiger alone. There is a chapter on Gir, a discussion on conservation issues specific to the leopard, a lament on what we did to the cheetah in India, an essay centered around Billy Arjan Singh and Tiger Haven, and another around Tusker Trails in Bandipur.

Five of the chapters are especially outstanding. Bindra’s account of hunting for the snow leopard amidst the barren slopes of Hemis makes for a fine read. The chapter on Bandavgarh paints a very effective picture of the ugly commercialization of tiger tourism. Her account of visiting locations immortalized in Corbett’s books makes for some engaging reading – interestingly, Johnsingh has authored a book on this very topic, not that this detracts in any way from the effectiveness of Bindra’s story. The book closes with a powerful and wide-ranging discussion of conservation issues specific to the tiger – one of the hardest-hitting pieces I’ve read on the topic.

My personal favorite by far however, is the little account of Bindra’s brief visit to Cheetal Walk/Jungle Trails. Like many admirers of the eponymous book by E.R.C. Davidar, I have itched to visit this now-inaccessible house. Bindra was fortunate enough to sit on the verandah we have all read about, and to watch an assortment of hyenas, sloth bears and other creatures, all door-delivered. I read the chapter with a mixture of envy and fascination in equal measure.

The book is peppered with multiple photographs in every page. The credits for these are atypically not footnoted with the photographs themselves, but massed at the end of the book. Which is not a bad thing from the reader’s perspective, considering the reduced clutter. I should also mention that there is a fantastic bibliography at the end of the book. If Ms. Bindra has all the 120-odd books listed here on her shelf, she’s one very lucky person.

Trip report: Galibore, Oct ’16

Trip Report:        Galibore Nature Camp

Dates:                   10-11 Oct 2016

Who:                     P and H

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A single night at Galibore planned on impulse. And an interesting trip it turned out to be.

My good friend and ace birding guide Thomraj had been convalescing after a kidney stone procedure and returned by forenoon the same morning I reached. Meanwhile Govind and I took a walk down the road eastwards after paying our customary respects to the resident Brown hawk owl. Greenish warblers called from virtually every tree – thousands of them must have migrated into our southern forests at this time as they were all over the place here, in Yercaud, and doubtless elsewhere too. The weather was cool in the shade but mildly uncomfortable in the sun. We found a quiet spot by the river to sit in. A Sirkeer malkoha flew past rousing us and we tailed it to where it settled. On the way back, we spent a while watching a White-rumped shama which posed for us, while a flock of Tawny-bellied babblers foraged in the thickets around it. Govind meanwhile delivered a little lesson on the nuances of chital pellets. The stags evidently drop elongated ones while the does’ tend towards the spherical. We spent some time picking pellets off the forest floor to assess them.

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Lesser fish eagle

One of the most special things to do in Galibore is the walk back from the coracle alighting point at sunset. The walk through the forest in the fading light for a few kilometers offers potential for interesting encounters. A few days back, Thomraj, Govind and another staff member heard langurs calling, waited and were rewarded with a leopard sighting. Thomraj also related another recent story about a tusker that entered the water on the opposite bank on sighting them and swam across at alarming speed, causing them to abandon the coracles and scramble for the jeep. However on this day, all we did was to pause awhile to admire a brace of Painted spurfowl and a twittering Brown-capped pygmy woodpecker.

There are always interesting elephant stories to catch up on in each visit. Like the one about a lone elephant that approached the kitchen building one night not long back. Or the one about how Thomraj ran into a herd while on his motorbike, in the forenoon a few days back. He had to flee back to the camp and have a jeep escort his bike through the herd.

I had intended to sit on the promontory late into the night listening, but a crew was working on fixing a faulty water pump by the river accompanied by great noise and light. I went to bed after waiting in vain for them to finish, around midnight. Alarm calls erupted at 2 AM, but I was too sleepy to step out. Two animals were calling; one was a sambar. I had forgotten that sambar occurred here, but Thomraj confirmed this the next morning. The other was a call I struggled to place – Thomraj hadn’t noticed the calls themselves, but surmised (the next morning) that chital sometimes call with a hoarser version and that was probably what I’d heard. Incidentally, we also heard a four-horned antelope repeatedly calling in alarm during the evening coracle ride – first time I’ve heard one.

With some guidance from my pal VV, I’ve been doing some homework on butterflies over the past few days and found occasion to test my rank beginner skills in the green patch between the promontory and the river that attracts large numbers of butterflies. Commonly seen species were White orange-tip, Common wanderer, Common mormon, Common grass yellow, Yellow orange-tip and Tawny coster. There was also what I thought was the Indian skipper, but checking the coloration subsequently revealed that it was something else. Also identified, probably correctly, Plain tiger and Common jezebel elsewhere.

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Tawny coster

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Skipper sp.

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Yellow orange-tip

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White orange-tip

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Wrongly ID’d as Common wanderer. VV pointed out that this is probably a Common gull.

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This is the plant that attracts butterflies in numbers. Karthik (www.wildwanderer.com) subsequently helped ID it as Sida sp.

On day 2, just before we departed the camp, a juvenile Grizzled giant squirrel lost its grip and came crashing down from the canopy. It sat stunned for a while but otherwise seemed none the worse for its fall, and was soon racing back up the bole.

Three special sightings this time. Post lunch, a pack of four dhole trotted westwards on the opposite bank, walking in single file close to the water’s edge. They paused to stare at the camp and then continued their way upstream.

At sunset, the new manager Abhijit and I were chatting while I was idly gazing at a black object on the opposite bank. It took a while for the lights to come on, but I eventually realized that the object was a foraging sloth bear. As it often happens, the bear wandered out of sight shortly after this realization struck.

On the second morning, Thomraj and I walked westwards on the road towards the Hyra camp (which is what I remember it’s called) a couple of kilometers away. We were treading on fresh elephant spoor; a bull elephant that Thomraj figured was a known single tusker had passed not long back. Thomraj was on high alert, scanning the jungle ahead with utmost care while simultaneously trying to find birds. The spoor veered off into the jungle a short way before the FD shack at Hyra and we turned back shortly after that.

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Bull elephant spoor. Fore and hind feet. The larger print to the right is of the hind foot.

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Sloth bear pugmarks. Fore and hind feet. Print on the right is of the hind foot.

On the way back, we had a superb Southern tree shrew sighting. First time I’ve seen one in the Cauvery WLS. Thomraj also showed me a small, partially buried stone a short way off the track which purportedly shows ancient etchings in Tamil-like script.

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Unidentified lizard in the forest

  1. Alexandrine parakeet (calls)
  2. Asian paradise flycatcher (calls)
  3. Black-hooded oriole (calls)
  4. Blue-faced malkoha
  5. Brahminy kite
  6. Brown-capped pigmy woodpecker
  7. Brown hawk owl
  8. Common iora
  9. Common kingfisher
  10. Common myna
  11. Common skylark
  12. Common tailorbird
  13. Common woodshrike
  14. Darter
  15. Golden-fronted leaf bird
  16. Great cormorant
  17. Green bee eater
  18. Greenish warbler
  19. Grey junglefowl
  20. Green imperial pigeon
  21. Hoopoe
  22. Indian grey hornbill
  23. Indian robin
  24. Jungle babbler
  25. Jungle crow
  26. Jungle owlet (calls)
  27. Lesser fish eagle
  28. Lesser flameback
  29. Little cormorant
  30. Egret (unidentified)
  31. Magpie robin
  32. Painted spurfowl
  33. Peafowl
  34. Pied kingfisher
  35. Purple-rumped sunbird
  36. Red-rumped swallow
  37. Red-vented bulbul
  38. Red-wattled lapwing
  39. Red-whiskered bulbul
  40. Rose-ringed parakeet
  41. Sirkeer malkoha
  42. Spotted dove
  43. Stork-billed kingfisher (calls)
  44. Tawny-bellied babbler
  45. Tickell’s blue flycatcher
  46. White-bellied drongo
  47. White-browed bulbul (calls)
  48. White-browed wagtail
  49. White-cheeked barbet (calls)
  50. White-rumped shama
  51. White-throated kingfisher
  52. Wire-tailed swallow
  53. Yellow-billed babbler
  54. Yellow-crowned woodpecker
  1. Bonnet macaque
  2. Chital
  3. Dhole
  4. Four-horned antelope (alarm calls)
  5. Grizzled giant squirrel
  6. Tufted langur
  7. Mugger
  8. Sambar (alarm calls)
  9. Sloth bear
  10. Southern tree shrew

Trip report: Yercaud, Sep ’16

Dates:                   30 Sep – 2 Oct ’16

Camp:                   Grange Resort

Grange is a picturesque resort surrounded by acres of coffee and pepper plantation.  Accommodation is in cottages that have sit-outs with very pleasant views. The ambience was quiet and peaceful, the weather was superb and the walks through the estate were very satisfying.

This was an office outing, but I was looking forward to the birding. The birding was far from impressive though, with just around twenty species sighted.

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The best experience was from the sit-out itself. Greater and Lesser flamebacks were both very common, sometimes settling on trees very close by if we stayed still and quiet. A pair (each) of Greater racket-tailed drongo and Indian treepie were constantly seen close to the cottage, sometimes at close range. It didn’t occur to me to attempt a photograph and I realized this only when VV asked me later on.

The building areas were home to a large (and noisy) number of Red-whiskered bulbul. These were occasionally joined by flocks of Oriental white-eye. Greenish leaf warbler were everywhere, although more heard than seen. Velvet-fronted nuthatch was sighted a few times. A flock of Jungle babbler made an occasional appearance.

A Crested serpent eagle called once, and Jungle owlet a few times. The latter called from the same location over the two days but was too far off the track to be located. I heard a couple of bird calls which I could not ID.

I was listening for calls at night – Grey nightjar, Mottled wood owl, Indian scops owl or Spotted owlet, but the only things heard were insects – cicadas and katydids possibly.

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This picturesque trail began virtually from the doorstep of my cottage (No. 15). We did birding walks along this trail morning and evening.

The walks yielded Rusty-tailed flycatcher, Greater coucal, White-cheeked barbet and Flowerpecker (Plain I think). One of my colleagues caught a fleeting glimpse of what sounded like the Painted bush quail from his description. I saw what I think was a Black-headed cuckooshrike. Our view was from below the bird, and while everything else tallied, the black on the neck and head was paler than you’d expect. One especially busy tree had a series of visitors – Ashy drongo, Golden-fronted leaf bird, Purple sunbird andOriental white-eye. A Magpie robin called once or twice, but was not seen.

We visited the National Orchidarium and Botanical Garden once hoping for some birding, but saw no birds. The orchid collection is impressive enough for those that fancy orchids I imagine. Most visitors seem to only notice the caged insectivorous pitcher plant though.

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The Grange resort boasts of an incredible history, the estate having been established in 1820 by a certain M.D. Cockburn, who also introduced coffee in the Shevaroy hills. The original building, which incidentally also served as a summer residence of Robert Clive still stands, although it could do with some upkeep. We were very keen on checking out the interiors, but the resort staff told us that the owner’s relatives lived there and it should be available for visitors in a few months’ time.

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Pic by Alex R.