Butterflying @ Wild Valley Farm, Jun ’17

Trip Report:        Wild Valley Farm

Dates:                   24-26 June 2017

Camp:                   Wild Valley Farm

Who:                     A

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

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

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

Papilionidae – Swallowtails

Common Mormon mud-puddling (Pic by A):

Common Mormons Mudpuddling

Crimson Rose:

Crimson Rose

Lycaenidae – Gossamer-winged butterfiles

Oriental Gram Blue:

Oriental Gram Blue

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

Grass blue

Red Pierrot:

Red Pierrot2

Yamfly:

Yamfly

Nymphalidae – brush-footed butterflies

Chocolate Pansy:

Chocolate pansy1

Common Fourring:

Common four ring

Common Leopard:

Common leopard

Common Fivering:

Common five-ring

Lemon Pansy:

Lemon Pansy2

Plain Tiger:

Plain tiger

Striped Tiger:

Striped tiger

Pieridae – Whites and yellows

Common Gull:

Common gull

Common Wanderer:

Common wanderer

Great Orange-tip:

Great orange-tip

Pioneer:

Pioneer2

White Orange-tip:

White orange-tip

Oyster mushrooms (Pic by A):

Oyster mushrooms

Moult, probably rat snake:

Moult

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

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Wild Valley Farm/Sathyamangalam TR, Mar ’15

Trip Report:          Wild Valley Farm, Germalam/Sathyamangalam TR

Dates:                   13-14 Mar 2015

Camp:                   Wild Valley Farm, Germalam

A small team of people from across cities was meeting on Thursday in my office at Bangalore. We felt the need for some offsite team bonding and had planned a one-night trip to the farm. None barring one was a wildlife enthusiast. (Everyone enjoyed the outing well enough nonetheless). I didn’t expect to be putting up a post as this trip was not intended to be wildlife-centric. However considering what transpired, I guess a record is deserved.

We’d spent the day pottering around the farm and generally having a good time. A bonfire was lit late in the evening and we sat by it well into the night. The fire was lit in the large patch of grass opposite the tents . At around eleven thirty PM, a set of chital alarm calls erupted from behind us, and beyond the gooseberry patch that abuts the grass. Multiple individuals were calling and persistently at that. Surmising that a leopard was afoot, PA (the other wildlife enthusiast in the group) and I stepped across two levels of what appeared to be fallow fields.  A pair of electrified lines was laid through the shrubbery and in my haste to get to the periphery, I tripped over and got tangled in one of these lines. I was probably spared a nasty jolt only because the wire didn’t happen to contact bare skin. Anyway we got somewhere near the edge of the farm and shining the torch, attempted to make something of it. The darkness was intense and we could make out neither feline nor cervine.

A fresh set of calls meanwhile erupted some hundred meters to our right and we crossed across to this side. This time we could see the herd of deer, but the foliage was too thick to be able to locate the cat. A sambar stag or doe meanwhile belled from the streambed opposite the dining room. The cat was evidently moving steadily.

We then trudged across in the dark to the dining room, pausing en route to peep into the kitchen to see if any of the staff there was following the action. They weren’t and telling them we’d be sitting on the dining patio steps, we moved on.

The sambar was calling at intervals and we went down the dining area steps, past the wicket gate there, and to the edge of the clearing past it. Standing there in the dark for a while, we heard what initially appeared to be the sawing call of a leopard. The sambar’s belling had ceased by now. In a while, there were elephant-like noises. After waiting for a while, we gave up and headed back to the tent and to bed. There was another set of chital alarm calls at 3:30 AM, but these did not persist and we didn’t step out. When I told Mr. Daniel that there seemed to be a leopard prowling around in the night, he thought that it wasn’t a leopard, but a tiger whose beat fell along the very route we had traced. Whether tiger or leopard, we certainly had an exciting time with it.

PA and I got to accompany Mr. Daniel on a drive to Udayarpalayam late in the evening to fetch some bread, stopping briefly en route to call on the ranger. All we saw was Jungle cat and Black-naped hare on the drive. Atypically, we didn’t see any nightjars, although Savannah nightjars did call through the night around the farm.

The next morning, we had opportunity to drive up the old coupe road which is now being turned into a motorable track. Although there wasn’t much by way of sightings – barking deer, spoor of tiger and elephant and some desultory birding – the forest was lovely. And yes, a Black eagle came calling, coasting over the canopy and drifting not thirty feet above our heads, giving the closest and clearest sighting of this bird that I’ve ever had.

Trip Report: Wild Valley Farm/Sathyamangalam TR

Trip Report:        Wild Valley Farm, Germalam/Sathyamangalam TR

Dates:                   30-31 Aug 2014

Camp:                   Wild Valley Farm, Germalam

GiK and I drove to the farm for a quick weekend trip. We had not sought prior permission, so driving through Sathyamangalam TR was not on the cards. We thought we’d spend some time around the farm, do some birding, and some walking through the surrounding forests. Moreover, GiK was just recovering from a fever.

View from the dining porch; the fencing in the distance demarcates the forest boundary. Bilbo in the foreground.

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The weather was lovely. There was intermittent drizzling, but never lasting more than a few minutes each. Strangely, it was colder now in August than it was in October last when I was there. Germalam is evidently well known for its wind at this time of year, and wind there was. Gusty spells that swept screaming across the forest and farms.

I renewed my acquaintance with my canine pals on the farm – Bilbo the GSD/lab mix, his brother Rover. Spike the deceptively intimidating looking Dobermann. And Patch, one of the two Lhasa Apsos. The farm is worth visiting just for this reason alone. As also for relaxed conversations with Mr. Daniel, these can be extremely pleasant as well. The story of his life is a truly remarkable one.

Bilbo and Patch. “The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs” – Gen Charles de Gaulle

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Giving Spike a rub-down.

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Reaching by the forenoon of Saturday, we pottered around the farm until lunch, and then went on the “short” trek. We crossed the stream that marks the boundary for a loop through the forest, Shankar the guide intently and ceaselessly scanning the route ahead for any sign of elephant. This area comprises stunted tree and scrub vegetation. Except by the streams, where towering riverine trees occur. Barring a solitary Asian paradise flycatcher and a herd of chital, we were the only souls around. Not counting a herd of cattle grazing in the forest that went crashing away in panic at the sight of us. The trail wound back and intercepted the same stream we crossed at some point and at this place was a Terminalia arjuna tree with very distinct (but old) leopard claw marks on it.

Since the trek was a short one, we were back on the farm in a couple of hours. We spent the time until dark tramping around the periphery of the farm, skirting the tiger reserve. On one side, the farm borders the main road, across which lies the reserve. There is a rocky outcrop on this edge that offers a sweeping vista of the landscape, all the way to the cloud-shrouded BR hills in the distance. Mr. Daniel talked of putting some sort of observation deck around this point, as the view is very pretty.

Dinner done, we tried driving on the road for a five kilometer stretch in the direction we hadn’t been on. The drive was a cropper, and all we did was roll through a few modest settlements on that side. And a very small stretch of deafeningly silent forest. The only fauna visible was tethered and ruminating cattle in these villages, bedded down for the night.

We spent the next morning hanging around the farm and with the dogs, taking in the Waldenesque charms of the place before it was time to leave. The best places on the farm to watch birds from are the dining area patio, and atop the work-in-progress roof of Mr. Daniel’s house.

Gooseberry

IMG_5298

Sitting by the tent, we watched a pair of caterwauling grey cats flush a francolin from the shrubbery, sending it sailing over a rubble wall to safety.  And a foraging pair of Scaly-breasted munias that came very close if we sat still. A little to our left was a pair of robins apparently nesting in a mud embankment, and a solitary Red-wattled lapwing. Bulbuls were all over the place, both red vented and whiskered varieties. Malabar parakeets were also numerous, rocketing overhead while screaming hysterically. As were spotted doves, with their soporific hooting. We crossed into the forest to sit on some rocks in the stream-bed along with Bilbo, savoring the lush silence. Mr. Daniel later told us that he discouraged the dogs from crossing the fence and that the ones that got into the habit of doing so never lasted more than a few months thanks to leopards. We should’ve shooed Bilbo back into the farm.

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I should note that what wasn’t very Waldenesque about the trip was the food. It was delicious and I stuffed my face at every meal, making up for GiK’s tiny, fever-stricken appetite.

GiK tries his hand at silhouettes.

_MG_4762

The list

  1. Ashy-crowned sparrow lark
  2. Ashy prinia
  3. Asian paradise flycatcher
  4. Baya weaver bird
  5. Black drongo
  6. Bushlark
  7. Common hawk cuckoo
  8. Common iora
  9. Coppersmith barbet
  10. Coucal (calls)
  11. Grey francolin
  12. Grey hornbill (calls) – Indian or Malabar I couldn’t see
  13. House sparrow
  14. Indian nightjar
  15. Indian robin
  16. Indian roller
  17. Indian treepie (calls)
  18. Little brown dove
  19. Magpie robin
  20. Malabar parakeet
  21. Oriental white eye
  22. Peafowl
  23. Pied bushchat
  24. Purple-rumped sunbird
  25. Red-vented bulbul
  26. Red-wattled lapwing
  27. Red-whiskered bulbul
  28. Scaly-breasted munia
  29. Spotted dove
  30. Tailor bird
  31. Velvet fronted nuthatch
  32. White-bellied drongo
  33. White-browed wagtail
  34. White-cheeked barbet
  35. White-headed babbler
  36. White-throated kingfisher