Trip Report: Wild Valley Farm, Germalam/Sathyamangalam TR
Dates: 13-14 Mar 2015
Camp: Wild Valley Farm, Germalam
A small team of people from across cities was meeting on Thursday in my office at Bangalore. We felt the need for some offsite team bonding and had planned a one-night trip to the farm. None barring one was a wildlife enthusiast. (Everyone enjoyed the outing well enough nonetheless). I didn’t expect to be putting up a post as this trip was not intended to be wildlife-centric. However considering what transpired, I guess a record is deserved.
We’d spent the day pottering around the farm and generally having a good time. A bonfire was lit late in the evening and we sat by it well into the night. The fire was lit in the large patch of grass opposite the tents . At around eleven thirty PM, a set of chital alarm calls erupted from behind us, and beyond the gooseberry patch that abuts the grass. Multiple individuals were calling and persistently at that. Surmising that a leopard was afoot, PA (the other wildlife enthusiast in the group) and I stepped across two levels of what appeared to be fallow fields. A pair of electrified lines was laid through the shrubbery and in my haste to get to the periphery, I tripped over and got tangled in one of these lines. I was probably spared a nasty jolt only because the wire didn’t happen to contact bare skin. Anyway we got somewhere near the edge of the farm and shining the torch, attempted to make something of it. The darkness was intense and we could make out neither feline nor cervine.
A fresh set of calls meanwhile erupted some hundred meters to our right and we crossed across to this side. This time we could see the herd of deer, but the foliage was too thick to be able to locate the cat. A sambar stag or doe meanwhile belled from the streambed opposite the dining room. The cat was evidently moving steadily.
We then trudged across in the dark to the dining room, pausing en route to peep into the kitchen to see if any of the staff there was following the action. They weren’t and telling them we’d be sitting on the dining patio steps, we moved on.
The sambar was calling at intervals and we went down the dining area steps, past the wicket gate there, and to the edge of the clearing past it. Standing there in the dark for a while, we heard what initially appeared to be the sawing call of a leopard. The sambar’s belling had ceased by now. In a while, there were elephant-like noises. After waiting for a while, we gave up and headed back to the tent and to bed. There was another set of chital alarm calls at 3:30 AM, but these did not persist and we didn’t step out. When I told Mr. Daniel that there seemed to be a leopard prowling around in the night, he thought that it wasn’t a leopard, but a tiger whose beat fell along the very route we had traced. Whether tiger or leopard, we certainly had an exciting time with it.
PA and I got to accompany Mr. Daniel on a drive to Udayarpalayam late in the evening to fetch some bread, stopping briefly en route to call on the ranger. All we saw was Jungle cat and Black-naped hare on the drive. Atypically, we didn’t see any nightjars, although Savannah nightjars did call through the night around the farm.
The next morning, we had opportunity to drive up the old coupe road which is now being turned into a motorable track. Although there wasn’t much by way of sightings – barking deer, spoor of tiger and elephant and some desultory birding – the forest was lovely. And yes, a Black eagle came calling, coasting over the canopy and drifting not thirty feet above our heads, giving the closest and clearest sighting of this bird that I’ve ever had.