K. Gudi/BRT Tiger Reserve: Sep ’16

Dates:                   2 – 5 Sep ’16

Camp:                   K. Gudi Wilderness Camp

Who:                     P

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Glory Lilly (Gloriosa superba) by the roadside a short way from the camp

My kid P and I did three nights this time. The weather was cool with some spells of rain. Sightings were not particularly great as a result, but the forest was hauntingly beautiful, and straight out of a Grimm’s Fairy Tales movie set one particular morning, with a thick mist hanging over it.

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Brown fish owl, early in the morning

Visibility was poor due to luxuriant growth of Eupatorium Ageratina adenophora, Lantana Lantana camara and Bracken Pteridium aquilinum. These three weeds dominated the ground cover and it is very likely that they have had a deleterious effect on the herbivore population over the years. And this possibly explains why the large herds of gaur that were once plentiful in BRT are nowhere to be seen today. Elephants have become scarce too. The only consolation is that there is not much Parthenium hysterophorus . The post-monsoon clearing of vegetation by the track will not happen for another month. The undergrowth was tall enough to completely hide a leopard or sloth bear, making sightings possible only if the animal was on the track itself. Due to this reason, Durgur road, which is usually unfailingly productive on the way out (in the evenings), drew a blank this time.

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Another insidious plant that I should have noticed earlier but somehow hadn’t was the hemiparasitic Mistletoe Loranthus sp. It infested a majority of the Axlewood Anogeissus latifolia trees, leaching nutrients and water. I heard that it had almost completely decimated the Indian gooseberry Phyllanthus emblica trees.

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The darker leaves are from Mistletoe (Loranthus sp.), a hemi-parasite.

The birding was okayish, not too great. Grey wagtails had started to arrive a week back and were plentiful. I learnt to ID the vaguely squirrel-like call of the Orange-headed thrush. This call resonated frequently through the camp and the jungle as these birds were everywhere too. There is another call, a more frantic one, which is not quite as distinctive. I also got familiar with the Blue-bearded bee-eater’s call, given that a pair was constantly (and noisily) haunting the surroundings.

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Orange-headed thrush outside tent No. 7

I also puzzled over a call that sounded like the Stork-billed kingfisher’s except that it had four continuous notes in place of the usual two (or three). Rahul, an avid birder from Bangalore who was visiting indicated that this was the winter call of the Stork-billed kingfisher. Rajesh, my good friend, spotter extraordinaire and favourite driver was puzzled; he said he hadn’t seen this bird around.

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Jungle babblers behind the Gol Ghar. They are bold enough to hop right into the Gol Ghar looking for crumbs. Pic by P.

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This is a very common weed I have not been able to ID yet.

Naturalist Basavanna has shifted from Bandipur to K. Gudi and accompanied us on our drives (Narayan did too, for the first two days). He taught us to ID the call of the Drongo cuckoo. We were waiting by Anni kere when what superficially sounded like the Indian cuckoo’s call started up (except that this is not the season for the Indian cuckoo to call). And except that this was three notes up and one down, unlike the sing-song pitch of the Indian cuckoo’s.

At the same place, we also heard a repeated, drawn-out, shikra-like call which we were stumped by until Basavanna identified it as the Brown fish owl’s chick’s call.

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Jungle owlet. Pic by Rajesh.

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Indian blackbird in the camp

On day three, Rajesh suggested that we take a walk down the road towards the government school after lunch instead of wasting time lounging around in the tent (as he put it). We walked for a short distance until junior got too nervous to go any further – he had been rattled by the earlier sloth bear and leopard sightings around the tent. We saw an Oriental honey buzzard, a Blackbird, Blue-bearded bee-eaters, and on the way back, a Tawny-bellied babbler that showed itself clearly for quite a while, although while constantly flitting around and preventing Rajesh from getting a photograph. We also had a reasonable Rufous babbler sighting in the jungle later on.

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Radermachera xylocarpa outside tent No. 7. Commonly known as the Deer antler tree.

This was a trip full of tantalizingly close opportunities that never materialized. There were plenty of alarm calls, with none converting. On day 1, in the evening safari, we were drawn to Tiger Tank by persistent Muntjac alarm calls. The deer decamped, but a troop of langurs stationed there barked hysterically and persistently, accompanied by much leaping and branch shaking. They were clearly very excited. Rajesh, Basavanna and Narayan all craned their necks trying to get a fix on which side the langurs were focused on. Two opinions eventually emerged, one pointing away from the kere, and the other (Rajesh’s) pointing towards it. A quick discussion led to a consensus that the cat must have just crossed the road and passed in a direction away from the lake. And so off we went, looking for it elsewhere. Turned out that Rajesh’s suspicion was right. The tiger (which is what it was) was hidden right there, in the sea of Eupatorium between us and the lake. It emerged an hour and a half later and was seen and photographed by another group. Rajesh was especially disappointed that we had miscalculated.

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The long weekend brought a lot of traffic to the temple, further impacting the sightings.    Pic by P.

On day 3, in the evening safari, we ran into another loud and persistent series of calls. Somewhat midway between the barking deer’s and chital’s alarm call. Everyone promptly assumed it was one of these and an animated discussion ensued around where the cat possibly could be. We drove around a little trying to pinpoint direction. After a while, Rajesh smacked his forehead when he realized we were in fact listening to the Spot-bellied eagle owl’s call. Although he was equally excited at the prospect of locating the owl. We did try for a considerable time, but without success and the calls eventually died out.

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P (9 years old) clicked this pic of Durga Parameshwari, the camp elephant

I also missed an Indian flying squirrel sighting on day 3 in the evening. The squirrel calls had started just after junior and I had left the gol ghar post dinner. The pair was then sighted, for a period of fifteen minutes, as it progressively glided its way from the trees near the FRH to the jungle beyond the Gol Ghar. The next day I asked Basavanna why he didn’t give me a call, and his reply was that he would definitely have, had he known that I was interested in watching flying squirrels.

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Chappekkai. Entada rheedii possibly. I had not realized earlier that the pods were growing off a climber and not off tree itself.

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Gaur with calf. Pic by Basavanna.

Junior and I also missed a dhole sighting on the drive back. We had driven down towards the temple on day 2 with Rajesh post breakfast, looking for a pack that frequented an area a little before the BR Hills settlement. (There was another pack frequenting the Navodaya checkpost side too that we also looked for in vain). We didn’t find the pack, and there was considerable disturbance from some tar-laying work that was underway. On my drive back to Bangalore on day 4, I did keep my eyes peeled while passing through the area, but saw nothing. Another guest who was in K. Gudi left around the same time and was a little behind me. He sighted the pack and Rajesh called me a little later, asking if I had too. He was surprised that I hadn’t – and the guest in question actually overtook me while we were having this conversation. We therefore couldn’t have been very far apart when he sighted the pack.

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Monitor lizard near the Navodaya checkpost

However these disappointments were not without compensating sightings. On the last safari, Rajesh and I saw a something on the track ahead. It saw us too, and went bounding away a short distance before leaping into the lantana. I thought it was a leopard, but Rajesh with his infinitely better eyesight shouted ‘tiger!’ No one else in the jeep caught the sighting. Arriving at the point, Rajesh’s opinion was confirmed by the pungent smell of scent marking. Basavanna had earlier remarked that the smell of the tiger’s scent-marking was very similar to the fragrance of cooked Basmati rice. I could instantly see why he said so. In any case, my tiger sighting account at BRT TR was finally opened, after 16 years of visits.

I should mention here that I have seen Rajesh use his sense of smell while tracking cats on safari more than once. He catches whiffs of kills, scat or the cat itself and makes as much use of this information as he does of pug marks or alarm calls. On this trip, he took another clever little masterclass while tracking a herd of elephants. There was no apparent sign on the road, but he determined that a herd had just passed. When I asked him how he knew, he pointed out that the grass on the track was uprooted in places. Try as I might, I couldn’t make this out. As is my wont, I dismissed his theory. Presently, dung appeared. And then spoor. And then the herd itself, in Anni kere. That’s the kind of tracker Rajesh is.

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The highlight of the trip was a superb Slaty-legged crake sighting near Anni kere on day 1. I remembered that in August 2014 I had seen this bird, though indistinctly, in Anni kere. I asked Prasad about it as soon as I landed there, and he confirmed that sightings were happening every once a while. The bird stepped out on the track in front of the jeep and bathed in a puddle for a good five minutes, until it was disturbed by another jeep approaching on the opposite side. Very clear view. The light was bad though, as it was around 6 PM by then.

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I also had a fleeting sighting of a tree shrew on the track.

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Birds

  1. Black-hooded oriole
  2. Brahminy kite
  3. Bronzed drongo
  4. Brown fish owl
  5. Common tailorbird
  6. Crested serpent eagle
  7. Drongo cuckoo (calls)
  8. Green beeeater
  9. Hill myna
  10. Indian treepie
  11. Golden-fronted leaf bird
  12. Greater flameback
  13. Grey junglefowl
  14. Grey wagtail
  15. Indian blackbird
  16. Indian scimitar babbler (calls)
  17. Jungle babbler
  18. Jungle myna
  19. Jungle owlet
  20. Lesser flameback
  21. Long-tailed shrike
  22. Magpie robin
  23. Malabar parakeet
  24. Mountain imperial pigeon
  25. Orange-headed thrush
  26. Orange minivet
  27. Oriental honey buzzard
  28. Pied bushchat
  29. Plum-headed parakeet
  30. Puff-throated babbler (calls)
  31. Racket-tailed drongo
  32. Red spurfowl
  33. Red-vented bulbul
  34. Red-whiskered bulbul
  35. Rufous babbler
  36. Rufous woodpecker
  37. Small minivet
  38. (Southern?) coucal
  39. Spot-bellied eagle owl (calls)
  40. Spotted dove
  41. Streak-throated woodpecker
  42. Tawny-bellied babbler
  43. Tri-colored munia
  44. Vernal hanging parrot
  45. White-bellied drongo
  46. White-browed bulbul
  47. White-cheeked barbet
  48. White-throated kingfisher

Mammals/Reptiles

  1. Barking deer
  2. Chital
  3. Elephant
  4. Gaur
  5. Pond terrapin
  6. Malabar giant squirrel
  7. Monitor lizard
  8. Ruddy mongoose
  9. Sambar
  10. Southern tree shrew
  11. Striped-necked mongoose
  12. Three-striped palm squirrel
  13. Tiger
  14. Tufted langur
  15. Wild pig

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Trip report: BRT TR, Dec 2015

Dates:                   30 Dec ’15 – 2 Jan ‘16

Camp:                   K. Gudi Wilderness Camp

Who:                     Drs. R & M, SS, kids P & V

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This is the way years should end and begin. Sparkling birding, leopard, slot bear and dhole sightings, and some satisfying tree-watching. I was in Kaziranga for last year’s start and in keeping with this sentiment, and when Dr R said he was booking K. Gudi, P and I followed suit. We were booked for two nights, but extended by another on impulse. I couldn’t get my usual tent – number 7 – and was given tent number 8 instead, the last one in the row.

The weather was excellent, with bracing cold mornings, warm afternoons and cool evenings.

Rajesh took to driving us down the main road towards Navodaya in the mornings at 6:30 AM before entering the safari routes, as a pack of dhole was frequenting the stretch. Tigers were also sighted here, though mainly at sunset. This is the same stretch on which P and I had our tiger near-miss the last time.

I made good progress with flora-watching this time. Lantana camara was virtually non-existent in the forest, having been supplanted by two weeds – the unpalatable and invasive Eupatorium Ageratina adenophora and the carcinogenic Bracken Pteridium aquilinum. These two dominated the undergrowth. Karthik, who is a sure-shot help with IDs when all else fails had helped me identify the former after my Wayanad trip. Narayan rummaged through a book to produce the latter ID.

Eupatorium Ageratina adenophora:

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Bracken Pteridium aquilinum:

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These were three commonly or occasionally seen plants I was unable to identify.

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(This plant below turned out to be a teak sapling, as Karthik pointed out!)

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(Below: Solanum spp. possibly Solanum viarum)

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The landscape was dominated by Kari mathi Terminalia tomentosa and Axlewood Anogeissus latifolia. Indian gooseberry Phyllanthus emblica trees were heavily laden with fruit. Belleric myrobalan Terminalia bellerica and FOTF Butea monosperma frequently occured. Rajesh, and naturalist Narayan who joined us on one safari taught me to identify East Indian rosewood Dalberigia latifolia, Chebulic myrobalan Terminalia chebula and Radermachera xylocarpa with its long pods. I need a little more work on the latter two to get comfortable with the identification.

We saw a tree with large, distinctive pods at one place and Narayan said it was colloquially called Chappakkai. I don’t have the ID, but did get a picture when Dr. R reminded me to. Karthik later helped me ID it as Entada spp., probably Entada rheedii.

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There were a few fine specimens of a species of strangler fig on Muradi road. This is a species I’ve seen elsewhere too. I’ll try and get it ID’d.

Birding in the camp was spectacular. Rusty-tailed flycatcher, Blue-capped rock thrush, Asian brown flycatcher, Bronzed and Ashy drongo, Golden-fronted leaf bird, Indian nuthatch, Black-hooded and Golden oriole and Vernal hanging parrot were commonly seen. I spotted a Black-naped oriole above tent no 3 or 4. Rajesh was very skeptical of this ID when I told him about it later as it is evidently rare in these parts. But I’m certain of what I saw. But then he was also skeptical of a Verditer flycatcher sighting I caught while on the first safari – and this was settled when we saw the bird again subsequently in the same place.

Streak-throated woodpecker, female:

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In the forest, there were great flocks of Common rosefinch and Tree pipit that rose from ground-level as the jeep approached and swarmed into the shrubbery (rosefinches) or the trees (pipits). While we were stopped to look one such flock of rosefinches, I noticed a bird that I have been unable to identify. The others didn’t see it, absorbed as they were with the rosefinches. This bird was very bulbul-like, with vertical streaks around the neck and breast and a rounded fork in the tail.

We saw the Square-tailed bulbul in its usual area and I subsequently cleared up my confusion about its ID vis a vis the Black bulbul’s. The Himalayan and SE Asian species is the Black bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus while the Western Ghats and Sri Lankan species is the Square-tailed bulbul Hypsipetes ganeesa.

Grey wagtail:

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I saw a bird which had a conical munia’s bill and what apparently was a crest. The distance was considerable and the light wasn’t great to be able to notice much else. I am not sure if the Crested bunting occurs in these hills. I saw similar features on a bird in Meghamalai WS too.

For the first time, I came away from BRT TR without having sighted a single Black eagle.

On day 1, after the morning safari, we descended down the Navodaya side and exited the forest to look for Bar-headed geese in a lake nearby. The geese were missing, apparently having been scared away by someone of devious intent who was uncomfortable with all the attention they were bringing to the place. We then drove into a nearby grassland area to look at a herd of blackbuck.

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On the first evening (30th), we ran into a leopard on Durgur road late in the evening. The light was fading and the cat leaped out of the fringes choked with Eupatorium, bounded up the road ahead of us, and back into the weeds on the other side. This road is usually productive late in the evenings. It and Anni kere are the two sighting hotspots in BRT TR, apart from the stretch of main road on the Navodaya side.

Incidentally, while back on my next visit, I intend to leave Bengaluru at 1:30 AM or so to arrive at the Navodaya checkpost at 6 AM. The drive up from there through the undisturbed forest in the early hour should yield tiger, dhole, gaur or elephant. GiK and I have a plan of coming back in March. We’ll try this then.

On the second day, in the morning, we saw a pack of dhole on the main road, descending on the Navodaya side at the start of the safari. The pack of four was missing on our way down, but were found cavorting merrily on the grassy verge on our way back. We spend a while watching them and they us. Rajesh mentioned one individual which apparently lives all by itself and hunts alone. The presence of the dhole in the area triggered muntjac calls a few times over the next couple of days.

The first day of the new year brought us a lovely Sloth bear sighting in the evening safari. A big male. Our frenetic response on spotting him unfortunately scared him away. Rajesh was disappointed as this individual was reputed to stay on the road once the initial shock wore away, providing long satisfying sightings. This was also the same individual who featured in a video I mentioned in my last post, standing up on his hind legs to scratch his back on a tree trunk.

The same evening brought an even more spectacular experience. We were relaxing on the plinth outside tent no 8 prior to dinner when a sambar belled in alarm from a short way down the slope. A leopard had been sighted by Nagesh on the main road shortly before, moving into this area. Dr. R and I descended some paces down the slope armed with torches and sure enough, the beams caught a leopard, female as it turned out, slinking across to our left, into a depression and out of sight. A while later we caught sight of her again as she moved to the right and out of sight. A langur watchman persisted with calling in alarm for a while after. This female was evidently resident around this area and had been seen frequently. One of the staff had lost his dog to a leopard near the safari entrance boom gate a few days back.

YN is a civil engineer from Mysore who had spent 3 months volunteering as a naturalist with JLR a while back. He was there and suggested we spend some time on the porch of the Biligiri log hut as the leopard was certain to pass by there. We waited for a while and then figured it would be easier to wait for the langur to call instead. Unfortunately for us, the langur failed us as they’d evidently vacated the area. The leopard passed without attention while we were at the gol ghar getting our dinners and chital calls started up from the area behind the tents. YN incidentally has a lovely picture of this individual shot in the same valley a month back.

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Birds

  1. Ashy drongo
  2. Asian brown flycatcher
  3. Asian fairy bluebird
  4. Asian paradise flycatcher
  5. Bay-backed shrike
  6. Black-hooded oriole
  7. Black-naped oriole
  8. Blue-capped rock thrush
  9. Blue-tailed beeeater
  10. Brahminy kite
  11. Bronzed drongo
  12. Brown shrike
  13. Brown-capped pigmy woodpecker
  14. Changeable hawk eagle
  15. Cinereous tit
  16. Common hawk cuckoo
  17. Common iora
  18. Common myna
  19. Common rosefinch
  20. Common sandpiper
  21. Common teal
  22. Coppersmith barbet (calls)
  23. Crested bunting?
  24. Crested serpent eagle
  25. Unidentified flowerpecker
  26. Golden oriole
  27. Green beeeater
  28. Green imperial pigeon
  29. Hill myna
  30. Indian bushlark
  31. Indian robin
  32. Indian scops owl
  33. Indian treepie
  34. Golden-fronted leaf bird
  35. Greenish warbler
  36. Grey francolin (calls)
  37. Grey wagtail
  38. Hoopoe (calls)
  39. Indian scimitar babbler (calls)
  40. Jungle babbler
  41. Jungle myna
  42. Jungle owlet
  43. Lesser flameback
  44. Lesser yellownape
  45. Long-tailed shrike
  46. Magpie robin
  47. Malabar parakeet
  48. Orange minivet
  49. Oriental honey buzzard
  50. Paddyfield pipit
  51. Painted bush quail?
  52. Pied bushchat
  53. Plum-headed parakeet
  54. Puff-throated babbler (calls)
  55. Purple sunbird
  56. Racket-tailed drongo
  57. Red-rumped swallow
  58. Red spurfowl
  59. Red-vented bulbul
  60. Red-whiskered bulbul
  61. Rose-ringed parakeet
  62. Rufous babbler
  63. Rufous woodpecker
  64. Rusty-tailed flycatcher
  65. Small minivet
  66. (Southern?) coucal
  67. Spot-billed duck
  68. Spotted dove
  69. Streak-throated woodpecker
  70. Tawny-bellied babbler
  71. Tickell’s blue flycatcher
  72. Tree pipit
  73. Verditer flycatcher
  74. Vernal hanging parrot
  75. White-bellied drongo
  76. White-throated fantail
  77. White-browed wagtail
  78. White-cheeked barbet (calls)
  79. White-rumped munia
  80. White-throated kingfisher
  81. Yellow-footed green pigeon

Mammals/Reptiles

  1. Barking deer
  2. Blackbuck
  3. Bonnet macaque
  4. Chital
  5. Dhole
  6. Leopard
  7. Pond terrapin
  8. Malabar giant squirrel
  9. Sambar
  10. Sloth bear
  11. Southern flying lizard
  12. Three-striped palm squirrel
  13. Tufted langur
  14. Wild pig

Trip report: K. Gudi/BRT Tiger Reserve, Mar ’15

Trip Report:          BRT Tiger Reserve/K. Gudi

Dates:                   7-9 Mar 2015

Camp:                   JLR’s K. Gudi Wilderness Camp

Who:                     SS & my 7-year old son

This trip was taken on impulse. SS pinged my wildlife gang on Thursday asking if anyone was game for an outing over the weekend. I checked K. Gudi’s availability and, surprised to find it available, booked one night for the three of us. On day 2 before checking out, I found that the place had zero occupancy, something I’ve never seen. This was too tempting a situation to pass up and junior and I stayed back one more night, with the intention of reaching Bangalore by lunchtime on Monday. Poor SS couldn’t stay back, hitched a ride back with some large-hearted guests, and was understandably not too pleased with the development. The whole thing was worth it as far as junior and I were concerned though; the experience of staying in tent No 7 with the entire row of tents standing empty was scintillating. More so after having found a tiger in the valley facing us, as you’ll see. Chital, sambar and barking deer all called in alarm during the night. As a nice counterpoint to the calls of Jungle owlet and Common hawk cuckoo.

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The weather was surprisingly cool when there was cloud cover, and slightly warm when there wasn’t. Evenings were cool and junior needed a sweater while on safari. Plus, the coffee was flowering, suffusing the vicinity with heady fragrance. Overall a very pleasant time to visit.

The advantage of tent No 7 is the view it affords. It overlooks a clear patch, with a silk cotton tree standing in the distance and attracting birdlife in droves. Sitting on the plinth, I counted plenty of Oriental white eye, Cinenerous tit, Asian brown flycatcher, Indian nuthatch (SS pointed out the difference between the Velvet-fronted and Indian), Gold-fronted leaf bird, Warbler (no idea which) and Small minivet.  And Golden oriole, Vernal hanging parrot (by the Gol ghar), Indian treepie, Scimitar babbler (calls), Common hawk cuckoo, Brown-capped pygmy woodpecker and Blue-bearded bee-eater.  I’ve had an unbroken record of seeing Black eagles over the K. Gudi camp and the record stands.

Cassia fistula opposite tent No. 7:

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Rajesh was out on some forest department errand and we therefore missed him for the first (Saturday evening’s) safari. Our old friend Kumar took us on that drive accompanied by a naturalist and he did a reasonable job with the birding. Incidentally Rajesh returned that evening at around 7 PM and ran into a tiger on the road not far from the camp (most likely the same individual we tried to meet two days later). He joined us from the next morning on and the birding was thereafter superb.

We saw Bronzed, White-bellied and Racket tailed drongos,  Grey wagtail, Oriental honey buzzard, Large cuckoo-shrike, CHE, CSE, Blue-capped rock thrush, Orange-headed thrush, Brown fish owl, Blue-faced malkoha, Bay-backed shrike, Tree pipit, Black-hooded oriole, Painted bush-quail, Lesser flameback, Rufous babbler, Hill myna, Malabar parakeet, Malabar whistling thrush, Tickell’s blue flycatcher, Rufous woodpecker, Yellow-footed green pigeon, Streak-throated woodpecker, Black-headed cuckooshrike, Asian fairy bluebird, Ashy woodswallow, Red spurfowl, Common rosefinch, Asian paradise flycatcher and Indian blackbird.

Malabar whistling thrush on Anogeissus latifolia:

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On the first day’s safari, the naturalist had pointed out what he thought was a Square-tailed bulbul. Both SS and I missed the sighting. When I told Rajesh about this the next day, he scoured the area in question until he found the bird – and we checked his copy of Grimmett & Inskipp to figure it was a Black rather than Square-tailed bulbul.

Also on day 1, at Anni kere, we found a large dark bird that rose and flew away as we approached. I initially assumed it to be a peacock until it took flight. The sighting was brief and the distance was considerable. SS thought that it was a Glossy ibis and the naturalist concurred. On subsequent visits to Anni kere , we found the bird to be a fixture. It turned out to be a Black stork and not Glossy ibis. The naturalist was profusely (and quite unnecessarily) apologetic about the mis-identification the next time we met.

We had a couple of near-misses on this trip. On day 1, three jeeps went out on safari. The other two jeeps enjoyed an extended sloth bear sighting on Durgur road. We went up there after we heard about it, but the animal had long since decamped. One of the drivers later showed me a video of the sighting. Sloth bear up close and upright, rubbing his back against a trunk; sloth bear keeping on the track in front of the jeep for a distance. I’m not sure it was a good idea to have watched that video. It rubbed it in low and slow.

Chital antlers were in velvet and often disproportionately large:

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Second near-miss was even more dramatic. On day 2 after the evening safari, Rajesh came over to our tent to check some pictures (remember, we were the only guests in the house). I’d just got the pictures opened up on my mobile when he got a frantic call from another driver about a tiger sighting in progress. We grabbed junior and scampered all the way to the jeep parked at the reception, joined by three other staff. Rajesh turned right at the gate and clipped his way for a short distance. A little before we reached the spot, he remarked that he could smell the tiger. I laughed at him and dismissed it offhand. Two curves later, we ran into a jeep parked by the roadside and the solitary driver was standing on the rubble parapet and peering down into the valley below, while frantically gesturing to us. Racing out of the jeep, we bounded up the parapet, poor junior in a fair blue funk by now. The visibility was not altogether bad, and I could hear the heavy footfall of the animal on dry leaf litter although it was no longer visible. The driver had watched the tiger on the road first, and then lying a short way below the parapet. Disturbed by our arrival, it had then ambled off. This was just rotten luck. The sighting had lasted a long time, but the driver was unable to reach Rajesh. He was able to call two other fellows both of whom refused to convey the message to Rajesh as they were not on talking terms. Like I said, rotten luck. And my long-cherished dream of sighting a tiger whilst on foot remained just that. Incidentally when I hopped off that parapet, I found my balance shaky with the adrenalin surging in my veins.

On the way back, Rajesh stopped at the point where he’d claimed to have smelled the tiger and sure enough, there was the distinct odour of carnivora still discernible in the still air. I’ve read about detecting the presence of tigers by smell in Davidar’s Cheetal walk. Here was a clear demonstration.

Suckling chital hind:

K Gudi Mar 15 141

On the last day, we left a little early on the morning safari with the hope of catching something on the main road. Sure enough, a leopard presently appeared, walking along the road and in the same direction as us. It panicked when it heard the jeep approach and bounded along the road for a short distance rather in the manner of a frightened dog, and then sharply veered off to leap over the parapet and disappear into the lantana. A sambar stag browsing there instantly belled in alarm. Rajesh was elated as he’d just been complaining to me that for all the drives we’d done together, we’d never seen a cat yet.

Tamil actor Thalaivasal Vijay was in the camp too; posing with junior here:

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Before I end this note, I should mention the detour en route. A bridge near Gaganachukki is being repaired and the road is therefore closed. A detour is required via Talakad to reach Kollegal, adding some 40-50 kms and an hour to the journey.

K Gudi Mar 15 136

Birds:

  1. Asian brown flycatcher
  2. Asian fairy bluebird
  3. Ashy woodswallow
  4. Bay-backed shrike
  5. Black bulbul
  6. Black-headed cuckoo-shrike
  7. Black-hooded oriole
  8. Black eagle
  9. Black stork
  10. Blue-bearded bee eater
  11. Blue-capped rock thrush
  12. Blue-faced malkoha
  13. Blyth’s starling
  14. Brahminy kite
  15. Bronzed drongo
  16. Brown-capped pygmy woodpecker
  17. Brown fish owl
  18. Brown shrike
  19. Changeable hawk eagle
  20. Cinereous tit
  21. Common hawk cuckoo
  22. Common iora
  23. Common myna
  24. Common rosefinch
  25. Common sandpiper
  26. Coucal
  27. Crested serpent eagle
  28. Lesser Flameback
  29. Golden oriole
  30. Gold-fronted leaf bird
  31. Grey junglefowl
  32. Grey wagtail
  33. Hill myna
  34. Indian blackbird
  35. Indian nuthatch
  36. Indian treepie
  37. Jungle babbler
  38. Jungle myna
  39. Jungle owlet
  40. Large cuckooshrike
  41. Magpie robin
  42. Malabar parakeet
  43. Malabar whistling thrush
  44. Orange-headed thrush
  45. Orange minivet
  46. Oriental honey buzzard
  47. Oriental white-eye
  48. Painted bush quail
  49. Racket-tailed drongo
  50. Red spurfowl
  51. Red-vented bulbul
  52. Red-whiskered bulbul
  53. Rufous babbler
  54. Rufous woodpecker
  55. Scimitar babbler (calls)
  56. Small minivet
  57. Spotted dove
  58. Streak-throated woodpecker
  59. Tickell’s blue flycatcher
  60. Tree pipit
  61. Unidentified warbler
  62. Velvet-fronted nuthatch
  63. Vernal hanging parrot
  64. White-bellied drongo
  65. White-cheeked barbet
  66. White-throated kingfisher
  67. Yellow-footed green pigeon

Mammals:

  1. Barking deer
  2. Black-naped hare
  3. Gaur
  4. Leopard
  5. Malabar giant squirrel
  6. Ruddy mongoose
  7. Sambar
  8. Spotted deer
  9. Stripe-necked mongoose
  10. Tufted langur
  11. Wild boar

Others:

  1. Pond terrapin

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.

K Gudi Aug 14 176

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.

K Gudi Aug 14 397

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.

K Gudi Aug 14 120

Four more pictures, these by GiK:

Terrapins:

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Orange headed thrush, outside the tent:

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Barking deer:

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Sambar stag:

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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

Trip report: BRT TR & Bandipur NP, May 2014

Trip Report:        BRT Tiger Reserve

                               Bandipur National Park

Dates:                   1-3 May 2014

Camp:                   JLR’s K. Gudi Wilderness Camp & Bandipur Safari Lodge

All the photographs used in this post were shot by S. Balajee.

I was supposed to do KMTR this weekend with GK. Unfortunately he fell ill and we abandoned the plan at the last moment. I was however able to tag along with my sister’s family on this trip. We did one night and two safaris each at BR Hills and Bandipur.  The two-destination idea turned out to be quite productive, adding variety without being inconvenient as Bandipur is a short 70 kms from K Gudi.

BRT TR/K. Gudi

Reaching the camp by 11:30 AM gave us opportunity for some pre-lunch birding, in the camp and around the little lake by it. We saw Cinereous tit, Magpie robin, Common myna, unidentified warbler, Asian brown flycatcher, Orange minivet, White-browed wagtail, Red-rumped swallow, Red-whiskered bulbul, Gold-fronted leaf bird, White-cheeked barbet, Jungle babbler, Brahminy kite, Oriental white-eye, Black hooded oriole, unidentified flameback and Spotted dove. And the Black eagle.

On my wish-list for this visit were four stars – Black eagle, Red spurfowl (don’t ask why), Rufous babbler (with a photo-op) and Southern tree shrew – and possibly an elephant mock charge as icing on the cup-cake. The first of these – the Black eagle – was knocked off the list within an hour of reaching camp. And this is not the first time I’ve seen this raptor over the K. Gudi camp.

Gold-fronted leaf bird:

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Orange minivet, male:

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Cinereous tit:

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Incidentally, we stayed in the Biligiri and Nilgiri log huts, farthest down the line and abutting the jungle. I had referred to the Biligiri log hut in my previous K. Gudi trip report post.

The first safari was naturally the evening one. The weather was surprisingly cool and cloudy, a welcome change from the dry, sweltering furnace that was Bangalore. On my last visit, we had an extremely productive time with birds thanks to us being driven on safari by Rajesh. We asked for him this time too and Prasad, the new manager was kind enough to oblige. Rajesh has razor-sharp eyesight, spotting skills like you wouldn’t believe, and is a mustard-keen birder. A worthy successor to Thapa, the legendary driver/spotter of K. Gudi, now retired. With Rajesh, his bins and his copy of Grimmett & Inskipp along, there was not a dull moment on safari. And the forest was fairly throbbing with birdlife despite the time of year.

Barking deer, fawn:

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The evening was therefore pleasant enough, with some involved birding. Early into the safari we found a pair of Racket-tailed drongos mobbing a Jungle owlet. These drongos were ubiquitous.

Racket-tailed drongo:

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Fairly common also was Magpie robin, Indian blackbird, Jungle myna, Jungle babbler, Bronzed drongo, Indian treepie, Grey junglefowl, Common hawk cuckoo, White-bellied drongo and bulbul (both Red-vented and Red-whiskered).

Rajesh had marked a burrow in the earth tenanted by a Blue-bearded bee-eater and we spent some time watching the bird flit in and out. Both Rajesh and BIL B were keen on getting a picture of the event, but this posed a challenge as getting close enough for a clear line of sight was deterring the bird – although the nest was just off the road and barely a foot off the ground.

Blue-bearded bee-eater:

Image

 

Other notables were Indian pitta (two separate sightings), Malabar whistling thrush, Green imperial pigeon, Orange-headed thrush,  Oriental honey buzzard, Crested serpent eagle, Brown fish owl and Rufous babbler (second item off the wishlist). The much-awaited mock charge didn’t materialize, but we did see a trio of elephants in high grass.

Brown fish owl:

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Waking up in camp the next morning to the calls of Jungle owlet, Indian Nightjar, Common hawk cuckoo, Black-hooded oriole, Magpie robin, Hoopoe, and Tufted langur, we set off on what turned out to be a sparkling safari.

Black-hooded oriole:

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Common hawk-cuckoo:

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We found a quartet of Nilgiri wood pigeons fluttering about a salt lick and spent some time there. We then ran into a Mountain imperial pigeon and the day was starting to look better and better.  Red spurfowl went off the wishlist next, although the sighting was a tad too fleeting for comfort. That left just one worthy on the list – the Southern tree shrew.

And as luck would have it, we found a pair of these rodents gamboling on the grass and on a fallen tree, in the open, not very far away, and in perfect light. Of such moments is paradise made. BIL B got a bunch of very decent pictures, and I got a good clear look at Anathana ellioti. Suum cuique!

Southern tree shrew:

Image

Bandipur

The evening safari started off with a spot of rain but this quickly subsided, leaving the jungle cool and glistening. This was a typical Bandipur safari, with plenty of flamebacks and intrepid Stripe-necked mongooses. If BRT is the place for Barking deer that aren’t human-shy, Bandipur is the place for Stripe-necked and Ruddy mongooses.

Stripe-necked mongoose:

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Passing by the Anekatte waterhole, Kiran the driver thought he spotted a ‘brown shape’ disappearing into some shrubs, and we stopped there waiting. In a while, someone at the back of the jeep realized that there was an elephant standing just off the road and about seventy meters behind us. It turned out to be a magnificent makhna, and we rolled the jeep back a short way to watch this distraction. The elephant was not too happy with the situation, and showed signs of restless agitation. But he wasn’t sure what do to about it either. Turn tail and flee, or get all belligerent and nasty. And so he kicked his feet, threw dust over himself, stamped around, swayed and did a bunch of things to express his annoyance.

Image

 

After a while, we decided to leave him to his devices and started up again, stopping briefly by the pool to confirm that the brown shape hadn’t materialized while we weren’t looking. It had not, and off we went. Later on in the safari, we saw another herd of four elephants at some distance.

Sambar hind:

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The next morning was better. We entered the forest not by the usual gate right across the road from the reception center, but from the turn-off further down the road, towards the congregation of resorts. A couple of oncoming vehicles reported the presence of dhole further up the road. Passing by a massive herd of chital some hundred strong, we heard alarm calls and stopped. A lone, unseen sambar stag to our right responded with his own belling honk. Scan as we might with binoculars, nothing was visible and the calls presently subsided. This herd was within the perimeter of the camp, with buildings not very far away. Concluding that a snake was the probable cause of all the commotion, we moved on to look for Cuon Alpinus.

The pack came into view in a short while, with the remnants of a chital kill by the road. The dogs had demolished the carcass and were lying around worrying the larger bones when we appeared on the scene. One by one they took themselves off, pausing to stare at us before pattering into the thickets without showing undue haste. We counted six dogs in the pack. The morning light was fine and mellow, and BIL B got some impressive pictures.

Indian wild dog or dhole:

Image

Much later in the safari, we passed by an anti-poaching camp (APC) and a while later, ran into a JLR safari van driver who had news of a tigress kill near this APC. K-turning back, we found what was left of the kill (a sambar hind) hidden just by the road. A lone jungle crow that was making the most of the opportunity and a waiting safari van pointed us to the spot. We waited for a short while before concluding that the tigress had possibly decamped after consuming the kill.

Streak-throated woodpecker:

Image

I made a start with jungle trees during this safari. Six trees were most commonly seen on this route and I learned to ID the ones I earlier couldn’t. Flame of the forest (Butea monosperma), the Crocodile bark tree or kari mathi (Terminalia tomentosa), Axlewood tree (Anogeissus latifolia) with its pale, guava-like bark and clustered, drooping leaves, Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica) with its fern-like foliage, and teak (Tectona grandis). The sixth I haven’t been able to relate to; Kiran used the local term Jaaldar for it. This is a small-to-medium sized tree, vaguely reminiscent of Tabebuia aurea/argentea. I have photographs and should be able to take someone’s help to ID it in a day or two.

Not having paid more attention to trees in BRT TR too was a pity, and I should spend some effort on trees in upcoming trips.

Grey junglefowl, cock:

Image

 

Black-naped hare:

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The List:

BRT TR

Avifauna:

  1. Asian brown flycatcher
  2. Asian fairy bluebird
  3. Black-hooded oriole
  4. Black kite
  5. Blue-bearded bee-eater
  6. Brahminy kite
  7. Bronzed drongo
  8. Brown fish owl
  9. Cinereous tit
  10. Common hawk cuckoo
  11. Common myna
  12. Coucal
  13. Crested serpent eagle
  14. Flameback (?)
  15. Flowerpecker (?)
  16. Gold-fronted leaf bird
  17. Green imperial pigeon
  18. Grey junglefowl
  19. Hill myna
  20. Hoopoe
  21. Indian blackbird
  22. Indian cuckoo (calls)
  23. Indian nightjar (calls)
  24. Indian pitta
  25. Jungle babbler
  26. Jungle myna
  27. Jungle owlet
  28. Large cuckoo shrike
  29. Magpie robin
  30. Malabar whistling thrush
  31. Mountain imperial pigeon
  32. Nilgiri wood pigeon
  33. Orange-headed thrush
  34. Orange minivet
  35. Oriental honey buzzard
  36. Oriental white-eye
  37. Pigmy woodpecker
  38. Plum-headed parakeet
  39. Racket-tailed drongo
  40. Red-rumped swallow
  41. Red spurfowl
  42. Red-vented bulbul
  43. Red-whiskered bulbul
  44. Rufous babbler
  45. Spotted dove
  46. Warbler (?)
  47. White-bellied drongo
  48. White-browed wagtail
  49. White-cheeked barbet
  50. White-throated kingfisher

Mammals:

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

Others:

  1. Terrapin

Bandipur

Avifauna:

  1. Asian paradise flycatcher
  2. Bay-backed shrike
  3. Brahminy starling
  4. Bushlark (?)
  5. Common hawk cuckoo
  6. Coucal
  7. Flameback
  8. Grey junglefowl
  9. Hoopoe
  10. Indian cuckoo (calls)
  11. Jungle babbler
  12. Jungle myna
  13. Magpie robin
  14. Peafowl
  15. Pied bushchat
  16. Plum-headed parakeet
  17. Red-wattled lapwing
  18. Shikra
  19. Spotted dove
  20. Streak-throated woodpecker
  21. White-bellied drongo
  22. White-breasted waterhen
  23. White-browed fantail
  24. White-throated kingfisher

Mammals:

1. Barking deer

2. Dhole

3. Elephant

4. Gaur

5. Sambar

6. Stripe-necked mongoose

7. Tufted langur

8. Black-naped hare

Trip report: BRT Tiger Reserve, March 2014

Trip Report:        BRT Tiger Reserve/K Gudi

Dates:               15-17 Mar 2014

Camp:               K. Gudi Wilderness Camp

This was the first of a series of summer trips planned months in advance. I did this trip with a friend VV, and my six year old son. We were perhaps a month too early, as the summer mammal sightings had not yet begun in earnest. However we were compensated by abundant avian winter migrant sightings.

The Biligiri Ranganathaswamy Temple (BRT) Tiger Reserve spreads over 590 sq kms of a mosaic of habitats, ranging from scrub to Shola-evergreen forests.  The reserve comprises five ranges – the eponymous BR temple is in the Yelandur range while the K. Gudi camp falls under the Chamarajanagar range. It lies at the southern border of Karnataka, and is contiguous with the Kollegal FD to its east (which in turn connects with the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary further east). The Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve lies to its south (which in turn is contiguous with the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve/Mudumalai to its west). The BRT reserve therefore forms a part of the ecological bridge running east-west between the Western and Eastern Ghats.

We stayed two nights at the K. Gudi camp and did four safaris in all. Summer was just beginning to set in and the days were hot and dry, while the temperature plummeted sharply at sun-down leaving the nights mildly chill. Most trees had shed heavily leaving the forest bare. Visibility was nevertheless poor due to lantana thickets crowding in ubiquitous profusion. Common trees were Terminalia elliptica (crocodile bark), Radermachera xylocarpa (maan kombu maram in Tamil), teak on some slopes and plantation areas, and a tree which our driver Rajesh knew the Kannada name of, which we could not identify.

The camp itself was alive with birdlife. Most common were Cinereous tits and Asian brown flycatchers. These two species were pretty much on every other twig. Followed by Orange minivets, Velvet fronted nuthatches, Malabar parakeets, Asian paradise flycatchers, Bronzed drongos, Ashy drongos, Little brown doves and Jungle babblers. The Jacaranda trees in riotous bloom around the reception area had a constant supply of Vernal hanging parrots on them. Black hooded orioles called frequently though we sighted just one individual. We also sighted a Gold fronted leaf bird, a Pigmy woodpecker, a Large cuckooshrike, Grey wagtails, Magpie robins and Indian treepies, apart from Sambar. I’m not counting the chital and wild pigs which are always to be found in the camp. Nor the semi-domesticated blackbuck doe with the Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde personality; it toggled between begging for food and belligerent head-butting.

K. Gudi was the first JLR property I visited (over ten years back). Around the turn of the millennium, we were in the habit of visiting K. Gudi almost once every quarter for a couple of years. Memories of being driven out on safari by Thapa  – one of the best spotters you can ever find – and numerous exciting incidents are fresh in my memory. I find I can still recognize the spots where some of those incidents happened.

The four safaris were largely centred around birding, considering that not too much showed up by way of  megafauna, charismatic or otherwise. I was especially disappointed not to see any elephants. For me, elephant sightings carry the same thrill as sighting large carnivora.

Most abundant in the forest were three types of drongos (Bronzed, Ashy and White-bellied), Magpie robins, Malabar parakeets, Lesser flamebacks, Indian blackbirds, Bulbuls (both Red-whiskered and Red-vented),  Jungle mynas, Hill mynas, Asian paradise flycatchers, Blue capped rock thrushes,  Hoopoes, Jungle babblers and Indian treepies. Fairly common also were Common hawk cuckoos, Orange headed thrushes, Indian pittas, Ashy woodswallows and Grey junglefowl.

We had multiple sightings of a Brown fish owl by the same kere. On the way to the safari and a short way from the camp, an Indian scops owl roosted in a burrow high up – we looked for it each time we passed and sighted it twice. And on the way back to camp, a Racket tailed drongo consistently showed up at one spot. For that matter, the pitta turned up in the same place for multiple sightings, as did one particular Asian paradise flycatcher individual. Incidentally, VV and I had some discussion around differentiating juvenile and female Asian paradise flycatchers in the field. Both are rufous and broadly similar looking, but the juvenile male has a jet black throat, and a blue eye-ring. The female has a paler throat and lacks the eye-ring.

Two encounters with atypical individuals happened in the first safari. The first one concerned a sambar stag. We sighted it beside the track and halted. The stag was frozen immobile and alert, watching us. We inched forward in spurts getting closer and closer, and it didn’t move a muscle. Finally when we were practically beside it, its nerve gave way and stamping its foreleg as sambar are wont to do when spooked, it honked in alarm, the sudden loud calls resonating in the quiet of the jungle. Another unseen individual in lantana thickets just beyond was unnerved by these calls and gave alarm too. The herd of three finally disappeared, crashing through the undergrowth.

The second concerned a Grey junglefowl cock that effectively blocked the road, showing little sign of fear at the sight of the jeep. We were forced to tail it slowly for a distance before it stepped off the road and made way.

On day two post breakfast, we drove down the highway towards the south, turning back shortly before the Navodaya checkpost. Chital were calling in alarm at a waterhole a little before this checkpost. We waited for a while, but nothing emerged and the calls presently subsided. Incidentally, a male tiger was sighted on this stretch at 8:30 AM the previous morning by a batch of pilgrims. Elephant encounters are also apparently a daily occurrence here and a little beyond the K Gudi camp, a pack of dhole had been sighted the previous day. However our luck was limited to Malabar parakeets, a Yellow-capped woodpecker, a pair of Orange minivets, a Jungle owlet, Bay-backed shrikes and Tufted langurs,

We then drove back and past the camp, all the way north, turning back a little before the eponymous BR temple. This section of the forest is heavily disturbed, with plenty of traffic, grazing cattle and settlements and is not particularly pleasurable to drive through for this reason.

Here is a full list of the sightings:

Avifauna

  1. Ashy drongo
  2. Ashy woodswallow
  3. Asian blue fairybird
  4. Asian brown flycatcher
  5. Asian paradise flycatcher
  6. Bay backed shrike
  7. Black hooded oriole
  8. Blue bearded bee eater
  9. Blue capped rock thrush
  10. Bronzed drongo
  11. Brown fish owl
  12. Cinereous tit
  13. Common hawk cuckoo
  14. Common rosefinch
  15. Coppersmith barbet (calls only)
  16. Coucal
  17. Gold fronted leaf bird
  18. Greater flameback
  19. Greater racket tailed drongo
  20. Green barbet
  21. Grey junglefowl
  22. Grey wagtail
  23. Hill myna
  24. Hoopoe
  25. Indian blackbird
  26. Indian Pitta
  27. Indian Scops owl
  28. Indian treepie
  29. Jungle babbler
  30. Jungle myna
  31. Jungle owlet
  32. Large cuckooshrike
  33. Lesser flameback
  34. Little brown dove
  35. Magpie robin
  36. Malabar parakeet
  37. Malabar whistling thrush
  38. Orange headed thrush
  39. Orange minivet
  40. Painted bush quail
  41. Pigmy woodpecker
  42. Pipit (species not recognized)
  43. Red spurfowl
  44. Red vented bulbul
  45. Red whiskered bulbul
  46. Rufous babbler
  47. Spotted dove
  48. Streak throated woodpecker
  49. Tickell’s blue flycatcher
  50. Tricoloured munia
  51. Velvet fronted nuthatch
  52. Vernal hanging parrot
  53. White-bellied drongo
  54. White-throated kingfisher
  55. Yellow capped woodpecker

Mammals

  1. Barking deer
  2. Bonnet macaque
  3. Chital
  4. Gaur
  5. Malabar giant squirrel
  6. Sambar
  7. Stripe-necked mongoose
  8. Three-striped palm squirrel
  9. Tufted langur

Here are some random pictures:

Magpie robin:

BR Hills Mar 14 008

Painted bush quail:

BR Hills Mar 14 016

Jungle myna:

BR Hills Mar 14 030

Sambar:

BR Hills Mar 14 093

Indian pitta:

BR Hills Mar 14 150

Blue bearded bee eater

BR Hills Mar 14 218

Gaur:

BR Hills Mar 14 229

Barking deer:

BR Hills Mar 14 321

White-bellied Drongo:

BR Hills Mar 14 368

Indian Scops owl:

BR Hills Mar 14 484

Stripe-necked mongoose:

BR Hills Mar 14 519

Giant crab spider, a pair of these graced the loo:

spider

“Biligiri”, the last log hut in its row, abuts the jungle and is reputed to offer tiger and leopard sightings if you are lucky:

biligiri