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
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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: 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: Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Dec 2013

Trip Report:        Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR)

Dates:                   21-23 Dec 2013

Camp:                   Svasara Jungle Lodge

As I start typing this post, we’re just about to leave for Nagpur. It is 2 PM and the flight back to Bangalore is at 8 PM. Nagpur is some 100 kms away, and we’ll have time to kill at the airport. Meanwhile, there’s a long-tailed shrike brooding on a perch that a green bee-eater habitually sallies from. A large flock of chestnut shouldered petronias skulks in a bush a little to the right. A pair of little brown doves, and a pair of sparrows are starting to nest in two tiny ficus shrubs on the lawn outside. There’s a pair of red vented bulbuls that haunts a bamboo thicket a little to the left. And finally, there’s a tailor bird that is a very occasional visitor to the shrubbery. These are the regular habitués around my room in the Svasara Jungle Lodge. Not an unpleasant place to stay in at all.

TATR

Not that we’ve had much time to keep track of the local avifauna. It’s been a hectic three days. We did four safaris in all, but the remarkable thing about TATR is the time allowance. The morning safari starts at 6:30 AM and goes on until 11:30 AM. Back for a quick lunch at noon and barely enough time for a battery recharge (cameras’, not ours), and off again for the second safari which starts at 2 PM (gate opening time) and goes on until 6 PM. So five hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon. Nine hours of safari time each day, with little time for anything else. It is rather tiring.

TATR is 650 sq kms of dry deciduous forest, and a dry, warm place. Even in December the days are sultry, though evenings and especially mornings are cold. The teak trees are shedding prodigiously, and the ground in many places is carpeted with the large rotting leaves. Many of the Mahua trees are bare, as are the Indian ghost trees (in pic below). Crocodile bark and tendu trees still retain their green, as do the jamun trees by the waterlines. After having read about the place lacking the magnificence of Kanha or Corbett, I guess my expectations had been tempered down significantly; Happily, the forest seemed pretty enough in compensation. And the safaris are very productive.

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The safaris

We did four safaris in all. Svasara Jungle Lodge is sited a couple of hundred meters from the Kolara gate, which in turn is on the north-eastern periphery of TATR. This gate opens into the Tadoba range. Three of our four safaris were limited to the Tadoba range. For our second safari (yesterday AM) alone, we passed through the Tadoba range to reach the Katoda gate, and thereon into Andhari (Moharli range).

The first safari was an evening one. A short while into it, we sighted a ratel – Mellivora capensis. None of us had ever seen one before, and we were elated. We then reached Panderpauni, with its pretty little lake and vast meadows teeming with chital, langur and wild boar. Tree swifts in large numbers hawked insects on the wing. There was quite a bit of birdlife in the waterhole.

A short distance from Panderpauni, on the way to Tadoba lake, we ran into a bunch of Gypsies clustered at a crossroads. One of them had spotted a tigress disappearing into the underbrush. The Gypsies hung around with hopes of the tigress re-emerging for a while, but eventually people started giving up and moving on. Around six Gypsies stayed on, and our patience was finally rewarded. Someone spotted a movement at the far end of the arrow-straight road to our left. Turned out to be P2, a four-year old tigress in fine fettle. She strode down the road unmindful of the cluster of Gypsies, skirted right around us, and ambled into the one road where entry was forbidden. Some of the Gypsies scrambled to loop back for another interception, but the tigress had other ideas. She stepped off the road, into the thickets and disappeared. But P2 was not done with us. In the three remaining safaris, we experienced close encounters with her twice more.

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Tadoba lake is a large natural reservoir, with flocks of lesser whistling ducks lining its banks, interspersed with the occasional basking croc. Black headed ibis call noisily from a heronry on the opposite bank. On all visits to this lake, we looked for but failed to spot the grey headed fish eagle and the brown fish owl that were reputed to haunt its banks. Nearby is the little shrine dedicated to the eponymous Gond diety Tadoba or Taru (which is apparently out of bounds to tourists). From here we took the chital road to the Jamunbodi loop, where we spotted a sloth bear about fifty feet off the road – in the late afternoon atypically, and well before sunset.

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On day two we covered the Moharli range. On the Tadoba-Moharli tar road, we stopped by a pack of five dhole cavorting by the roadside. They appeared relaxed, stretching, rolling in the grass and frisking around as these creatures are wont to do, but when a couple more Gypsies piled in, they withdrew a short distance away. We proceeded to the Katoda checkpost (which delineates the Tadoba and Moharli ranges) for a breakfast break, and by the time we were done and resuming our way to Telia lake, they had brought down a chital just beyond the checkpost. The kill lay in high grass, and little could be seen beyond one or the other dog’s head bobbing above the stalks as it dipped into breakfast.

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The area around Telia lake on the Jamunjhora loop presents picturesque dark bamboo forests. Thirty percent of Tadoba’s greenery comprises bamboo and there is bamboo everywhere, but Jamunjhora has especially heavy growth.

The third safari (evening) was a quiet one, with much of the time spent on birdlife, but in the last half hour, we ran into P2 again, on another arrow-straight road. This time she walked towards us, with one Gypsy ahead of, and three vehicles tailing her. Since among the occupants of these vehicles were the field director and the ranger, we were waved off the road. She marched past our Gypsy and away down the road, completely ignoring everyone around.

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On the way back, we found an Asian palm civet on a bole a few feet from the ground (I had earlier described this as a small Indian civet, but S. Karthikeyan  noticed and was kind enough to point this out). Being a little too early in the civet’s day, it was evidently groggy; at any rate, it did nothing for a long while, sitting with somnolent eyes while we sat and watched it. It finally roused itself to do something about all the attention and clambered up the bole and out of sight.

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The last day’s safari was a morning one. We had covered pretty much all the local megafaunal attractions barring the nilgai and the leopard. Navegaon is a village on the northern periphery that has been relocated out in the past six months.  As in Kanha, the sites of relocated villages serve as excellent grassland habitats, supporting a healthy ungulate population. So off we went to Navegaon, looking for nilgai and birds. On the road from Panderpauni to Navegaon, who should we run into but P2. It started off with chital alarm calls. We had stopped over at the Panderpauni waterhole to check on the birdlife when calls started from the other side of the lake. We took the road that loops around the lake and stopped over on another side of the water. A brief flash of stripes, and it was another hurtling ride further down the road to try and intercept her. P2 finally emerged and did her thing – the walk on the road unmindful of the gawking audience. She walked towards us, past us and then away, and two columns of Gypsies, perhaps twelve to fifteen in all tailed her at walking pace. The tigress sauntered along unconcerned, stopping by select trees to mark her scent. This went on for the next fifteen minutes, until she turned off the road and disappeared. The Gypsy mobbing phenomenon of the popular tiger reserve is undoubtedly unseemly and downright ugly, but I’m not sure what exactly should be done about it. And Tadoba is undeniably tiger-centric. Guides and drivers do not expect tourists to come looking for much else, and at times it almost feels like they have difficulty mentally processing asks for lesser creatures.

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Having touched on the topic of relocated villages, I should not omit to mention Jamni, which is the first landmark after entering from the Kolara gate. The village is in the process of being relocated, and appears largely deserted. The recently harvested paddy fields around boast of a high incidence of tiger sightings – with the beats of two tigresses P1 and P2 cleaving across this area.

Anyway, we did eventually get to Navegaon, and we did see all the nilgai we could have wished for. And a few herds of gaur thrown in to boot. And plenty of birdlife.

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I was hoping to meet the couple that has been doing splendid conservation work in Tadoba – Harshawardhan and Poonam Dhanwatey (their organization is called TRACT – Tiger Research and Conservation Trust) – but this privilege will have to wait for the next trip.

The list

Here’s the full list of sightings from three remarkable days:

Avifauna

  1. White eyed buzzard (fairly frequent sightings)
  2. Sirkeer Malkoha
  3. Common pochard
  4. Lesser whistling duck (plenty of them)
  5. Black headed oriole
  6. Indian treepie (everywhere)
  7. Crested serpent eagle
  8. Orange headed thrush
  9. Plum headed parakeet
  10. Rose ringed parakeet
  11. Tickell’s blue flycatcher
  12. Tree swift
  13. Black drongo
  14. Brahminy starling
  15. White wagtail
  16. White browed wagtail
  17. Red wattled lapwing
  18. Common myna
  19. House sparrow
  20. Asian koel
  21. White browed bulbul
  22. Yellow footed green pigeon
  23. White breasted waterhen
  24. White throated kingfisher
  25. Purple heron
  26. Grey heron
  27. Peafowl
  28. Longtailed shrike (plenty of them, especially outside the reserve)
  29. Pond heron
  30. Common sandpiper
  31. Shikra
  32. Coucal
  33. Chestnut shouldered petronias
  34. Spotted dove
  35. Little brown dove
  36. Eurasian collared dove
  37. Pied bushchat
  38. Leaf warbler
  39. Black redstart (female)
  40. Indian robin
  41. Magpie robin
  42. Black shouldered kite
  43. Plain prinia
  44. Tailor bird
  45. Black headed ibis
  46. Asian open billed stork
  47. Black ibis
  48. Egrets
  49. Indian roller
  50. Jungle babbler
  51. Lesser flameback
  52. Green bee eater
  53. Grey junglefowl (calls only)

Mammals

  1. Ratel/Honey badger
  2. Panthera tigris (3 of 4 safaris, few feet away each time)
  3. Ruddy mongoose (couple of comfortable sightings)
  4. Sambar
  5. Sloth bear
  6. Barking deer (couple of close sightings, quite unmindful of us)
  7. Wild dog/Dhole
  8. Asian palm civet
  9. Nilgai
  10. Gaur
  11. Wild boar
  12. Chital
  13. Common langur

Others

  1. Mugger
  2. Olive keelback (at the resort, rescued with injuries)

Tadoba 555

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