Trip Report: BRT Tiger Reserve/K. Gudi, Aug 2014

Trip Report:        BRT Tiger Reserve/K. Gudi

Dates:                   15-18 Aug 2014

Camp:                   JLR’s K. Gudi Wilderness Camp

This was intended to be a 2-nights’ trip with GiK and my 7-year old kid. Overall, sightings were muted with some wet weather (it rained during the first safari, and all through the last night). However the forest was lush and we didn’t have the heart to leave on day three. So around ten kilometers from the camp, we changed our minds, K-turned, and spent a third night at the camp (six safaris in all). The Scorp got bogged in the wet grass attempting this K-turn, and it took some little effort to extricate it.

On day one, entering from the BR temple side, we had gone halfway when a parked transport driver flagged us down to tell us the road was blocked by a fallen tree a few kilometers ahead. He then described a very circuitous and convoluted detour. We thought we’d take a look at the block in case there was a way around, and since we were very close anyway. The fallen tree did span across the road, but there was enough space between one portion of it and the grassy verge to squeeze the Scorp through, with inches to spare on the sides and above. Fortunately the car did not get bogged in the wet grass here, as happened later.

Past the tree the road was undisturbed due to the block, which was a rarity for this much-degraded stretch. And sure enough, a young tusker presented himself on the roadside a few kilometers ahead.  The elephant was to my right and I passed it before stopping, to avoid having to back up. The animal became aware of our presence only when we were passing right by it, took alarm, trumpeted in fright, and mock-charged. I stopped the car some ten yards away – still not far enough to allow it to calm down. It continued grazing for a few minutes showing signs of agitation and then shuffled off into the lantana.

We were allotted tent No 7 and it turned out to possess the best view in the row. Strange I hadn’t realized this on earlier visits. Made a note to ourselves.

The safaris were all tepid, in large part because Rajesh was on leave for his sister’s wedding. While the other drivers did try hard, it is tough to match up to Rajesh’s spectacular spotting skills and his keen fascination for birds. This was a huge disappointment and I kicked myself for not having called and confirmed his availability in advance. We would have moved our dates had we known.

We did spot all my wish-listers from the previous trip though –some very good Rufous babbler sightings, a couple of Black eagle sightings, at least four Southern tree shrew sightings and three or so Red spurfowl sightings. Waiting by Anni kere, we spotted a quartet of what evidently were Slaty-legged crakes (Rallina eurizonoides), foraging on the dry lake bed. Although we could observe the birds for a long while, the vegetation on the ground was thick and the birds were never fully visible. Karthikeyan S later asked me about this sighting, and commented on how rare it was.  

K Gudi Aug 14 144

There were also a couple of elephant herd sightings, including one of an impressive tusker.

K Gudi Aug 14 048

And a massive bull gaur sighting. The 1.5 ton kind of specimen.

There were three or four instances of chital, sambar and langur alarm calls erupting in the jungle, though the waits proved unproductive. Scat and pugmarks also raised hopes of cat sightings, but nothing came of it. There was one instance when the gentleman beside the driver peripherally caught a brief flash in a turnoff we passed. We backed up and went up the track for a distance and sure enough, langurs called in alarm. However the cat was evidently moving at a brisk pace and we soon lost contact without a sighting.

The gentleman in question by the way turned out to be an interesting fellow, let’s call him BR. He runs an environmental engineering business and is completely in love with BRT TR, so much so that he has been visiting K Gudi every month for the past twelve years or so. He does occasionally visit other JLR properties, but his primary loyalty lies with K Gudi. And with that sort of frequency, he naturally has scores of exciting sightings to talk about, along with photographs. This chap made an observation about the more interesting sightings all having occurred on weekdays, which was one of the reasons for our extending by a night on impulse.

K Gudi Aug 14 104

On the third evening, as we were walking back to the tent after the evening safari, chital persistently called in alarm from the area behind the Biligiri/Nilgiri log huts. It was dark by then and hurriedly grabbing our large torch, GiK scrambled up the slope. Junior was as alarmed as the deer and wouldn’t let me go and I was left sitting on my hands in the tent, steaming. GiK came back in about seven minutes with this exciting story. He’d spotted a sloth bear from about fifty feet away. The bear darted a few steps towards him and back twice, and then when GiK stepped forward a few paces, it turned tail and bolted into the jungle. And I missed it. But then, GiK is a magnet for intense wildlife experiences. He’s had a leopard leap down on his shoulders from an overhead branch a few years back after all, and has the scars to prove it. That injury kept him confined in bed for three months.

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I did continue my jungle trees effort somewhat, with rather humiliating results. I failed to ID something as basic as Flame of the forest (Butea monosperma) and realized what it was only after asking Karthik yesterday. The Crocodile bark tree or kari mathi (Terminalia tomentosa) was numerous and easy to ID. I ran into some confusion over the Axlewood tree (Anogeissus latifolia) as the driver identified another, quite different looking tree as this one. Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica) I think I got right. What I need is a simple field guide to the common forest trees of south and central India, on the lines of Karthik’s Discover Avenue Trees. I have a few of the popular tree books, but they’re not easy to use for field identification.

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GiK and I have discussed returning on a weekday sometime. We’ve also discussed seeking permission to access Jodikere. GiK has long wanted to check out this spot given its apparently wondrous reputation.

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Four more pictures, these by GiK:

Terrapins:

_MG_3668

Orange headed thrush, outside the tent:

_MG_3720

Barking deer:

_MG_3747

Sambar stag:

_MG_3806

The list

Avifauna:

  1. Black-hooded oriole
  2. Black eagle
  3. Brahminy kite
  4. Bronzed drongo
  5. Brown fish owl
  6. Changeable hawk eagle
  7. Cinereous tit
  8. Common myna
  9. Coucal (calls)
  10. Crested serpent eagle
  11. Flameback
  12. Grey junglefowl
  13. Hill myna
  14. Indian blackbird
  15. Jungle babbler
  16. Jungle myna
  17. Jungle owlet
  18. Large cuckoo shrike
  19. Magpie robin
  20. Malabar parakeet
  21. Malabar whistling thrush (calls)
  22. Orange-headed thrush
  23. Orange minivet
  24. Oriental white-eye
  25. Purple sunbird, eclipse male
  26. Purple-rumped sunbird
  27. Red spurfowl
  28. Red-vented bulbul
  29. Red-whiskered bulbul
  30. Rufous babbler
  31. Scimitar babbler (calls)
  32. Spotted dove
  33. Streak-throated woodpecker
  34. White-bellied drongo
  35. White-cheeked barbet
  36. White-rumped munia
  37. White-throated kingfisher
  38. Yellow-footed green pigeon

Mammals:

  1. Barking deer
  2. Elephant
  3. Gaur
  4. Malabar giant squirrel
  5. Southern tree shrew
  6. Spotted deer
  7. Stripe-necked mongoose
  8. Tufted langur
  9. Wild boar

Others:

  1. Terrapin
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