An impromptu trip to the birding paradise in God’s own country. Our friends Lakshmikanth and Shalini had booked a 5 day trip to Thattekad and Munnar in the last week of October 2011 through Eldhose who is supposedly the best birding guide in South India. They asked us if we would be interested in joining them and we agreed heartily.
We took an additional day off and spent a day in Fort Cochin. Our friends joined us early next morning and we went to Thattekad in the cab which Eldhose had arranged for us. It took us close to 2 hours to reach there from Ernakulam. We passed through the gates of Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary and reached the Jungle Bird homestay where we were put up. Our hosts were Mrs. Sudha, her son Girish and his wife Sandhya. I had read up about this homestay in one of the blogs before the trip. Both Sudha aunty and Girish are birders themselves and take people out for birdwatching.
Early Morning session
Eldhose came to meet us immediately and we were taken to our rooms on the first floor. The rooms were very basic but clean. After partaking some tea and biscuits we set out in the jeep with Eldhose. Our first sightings would be in the feeding station that Eldhose has set up outside his house. He placed a few chairs on the verandah outside his home and asked us to sit there. Nagesh and Lakshmikanth sat in the front armed with their cameras while Shalini and me relaxed at the back. In a hollow branch placed horizontally in front of the house, banana pieces and grated coconut were placed. Within the next 2-3 minutes a Malabar Grey Hornbill flew to the branch and started eating voraciously unmindful of our presence. What an experience to watch this beautiful bird at such close quarters.
The White-cheeked Barbet and Rufous Treepie soon followed suit and had their share of the food. The place was soon swarming with multiple birds including Mynas. After spending some time here we set out to an open field nearby. The first sighting was of a pair of Grey Junglefowls walking warily behind the bushes. Next came the White Cheeked Barbet, Rufous Treepie, Jungle Babbler and the Common Myna who were flitting and feeding on the grated coconut placed in a wooden vessel attached to a tree.
We stopped further up the path near lantana bushes waiting for Black Throated Munias who supposedly made an appearance around that place for feeding. Eldhose had set up a feeding station here too. Our wait was duly rewarded. We saw not one, not two but 10-11 of these tiny super-cute birds. It was a treat for our eyes!
The Spotted Dove was walking nearby and we managed to get good pictures of it. Eldhose excitedly pointed a Malabar Woodshrike which was beautifully perched on a plant nearby. As we were going towards the road we spotted a Cattle Egret and a Pin-tailed Snipe nearby.
It was close to 9 AM and the pangs of hunger had already set in. Eldhose asked us if we would mind eating in a small hotel in the nearest village. We said that we would be more than happy to eat good food no matter how small the place was. He took us to Pappalil Restaurant in Punnekadu village. We had a sumptuous breakfast of Appam and Stew followed by tea. We munched on the Idi Appam (deep fried sweet snack) that Eldhose got for us from a shop nearby.
Core forest area in Thattekad
We proceeded to the core area of the forest and set out in search of the SriLanka Frogmouth which is like an icon of Thattekad. No trip to this place is complete without spotting this bird. It is a nocturnal bird and is blind during the day due to its large pupils receiving so much light that it cannot see anything at all. These birds are usually found in dense overgrowth and normally in pairs. While it is a treat to watch these beautiful birds at such close quarters there is no escape from the leeches which thrive here as sunlight hardly penetrates in such places. We were lucky to spot a pair and the birds were much smaller than what I had imagined them to be looking at photographs online. We spent some time clicking pictures. By the time we returned to the main path we realized the presence of leeches on us and shook them off.
The next sighting was that of a Blue-throated Flycatcher which is such a colourful bird. It allowed us to click a few pictures before flying off. The Great Tit which had eluded us while in K.Gudi posed for us readily :) Then came the Asian Brown Flycatcher and the Large billed Leaf Warbler. A glittering jewel of a bug landed on a leaf nearby and let us take some pictures.
It was almost lunch time and we headed back wearily to the homestay. The heat had increased considerably as the day had progressed. Aunty greeted us and we discussed about our sightings during the course of the morning. We then went downstairs to have lunch. The food served was traditional Kerala fare and tasted very nice. Aunty ensured that we had a hearty lunch. It was time for a short nap now. Eldhose had said that he would pick us up around 3.30 PM. It started raining as we went back to our rooms.
It was still raining when we were up and ready to go. We were delayed by almost one hour in setting out. We went to the bridge across Periyar river. A lot of birds normally perch on the wires near the bridge. We sighted Ashy Wood Swallows and a White-browed Wagtail. We then went on a path that led to the river. We saw a White-breasted Waterhen peep out shyly from behind the bushes. As we sat silently it slowly came out and started feeding oblivious of our presence. Eldhose excitedly pointed towards a Grey-bellied Cuckoo which is supposedly difficult to spot.
Eldhose took us next to an area where the Jerdon’s Nightjar can be found. We saw a Heart-spotted Woodpecker on the way. We waited there for a while till it became pitch dark. The Nightjar arrived promptly as expected by Eldhose but we could not get a single shot due to darkness.
|Babbler, Jungle||Turdoides striata||Timaliidae|
|Barbet, White cheeked||Megalaima viridis||Megalaimidae|
|Baza, Black||Aviceda leuphotes||Accipitridae|
|Bee-eater, Green||Merops orientalis||Meropidae|
|Bluebird, Asian Fairy||Irena puella||Irenidae|
|Bulbul, Red vented||Pycnonotus cafer||Pycnonotidae|
|Cormorant, Little||Microcarbo niger||Phalacrocoracidae|
|Cuckoo, Grey bellied||Cacomantis passerinus||Cuculidae|
|Dove, Spotted||Spilopelia chinensis||Columbidae|
|Drongo, Racket tailed||Dicrurus paradiseus||Dicruridae|
|Eagle, Crested Serpent||Spilornis cheela||Accipitridae|
|Egret, Cattle||Bubulcus ibis||Ardeidae|
|Flycatcher, Asian Brown||Muscicapa dauurica||Muscicapidae|
|Flycatcher, Blue throated||Cyornis rubeculoides||Muscicapidae|
|Frogmouth, Srilanka||Batrachostomus moniliger||Podargidae|
|Fulvetta, Brown cheeked||Alcippe poioicephala||Timaliidae|
|Heron, Indian Pond||Ardeola grayii||Ardeidae|
|Hornbill, Malabar Grey||Ocyceros griseus||Bucerotidae|
|Junglefowl, Grey||Gallus sonneratii||Phasianidae|
|Kingfisher, Pied||Ceryle rudis||Cerylidae|
|Kingfisher, White throated||Halcyon smyrnensis||Halcyonidae|
|Lapwing, Red wattled||Vanellus indicus||Charadriidae|
|Minivet, Scarlet||Pericrocotus flammeus||Campephagidae|
|Munia, Black throated||Lonchura kelaarti||Estrildidae|
|Munia, White rumped||Lonchura striata||Estrildidae|
|Myna, Common||Acridotheres tristis||Sturnidae|
|Nightjar, Jerdon’s||Caprimulgus atripennis||Caprimulgidae|
|Parrot, Vernal hanging||Loriculus vernalis||Psittaculidae|
|Pitta, Indian||Pitta brachyura||Pittidae|
|Robin, Oriental Magpie||Copsychus saularis||Muscicapidae|
|Snipe, Pintail||Gallinago stenura||Scolopacidae|
|Spurfowl, Red||Galloperdix spadicea||Phasianidae|
|Sunbird, Crimson backed||Leptocoma minima||Nectariniidae|
|Tailorbird, Common||Orthotomus sutorius||Cisticolidae|
|Teal, Lesser Whistling||Dendrocygna javanica||Anatidae|
|Tit, Great||Parus Major||Paridae|
|Treepie, Rufous||Dendrocitta vagabunda||Corvidae|
|Wagtail, White browed||Motacilla maderaspatensis||Motacillidae|
|Warbler, Large billed Leaf||Phylloscopus magnirostris||Phylloscopidae|
|Waterhen, White breasted||Amaurornis phoenicurus||Rallidae|
|Woodpecker, Heart spotted||Hemicircus canente||Picidae|
|Woodshrike, Common||Tephrodornis pondicerianus||Tephrodornithidae|
|Woodswallow, Ashy||Artamus fuscus||Artamidae|