This is the second installment of the weblog of our visit to birding heaven, Thattekad. You will find the first installment here.
We decided to head to Munnar on the second day of the trip to Thattekad. As we wanted to avoid the crowd, we had an early start at around 4.30 AM. Eldhose had arranged for the cab and we started on time. The drive took around 2.5 hrs. We reached the outskirts of Munnar at around daybreak. The sights were truly mesmerizing. I had never expected Munnar to be so beautiful! The lush green hills dotted with tea estates looked ethereal.
We proceeded to a rocky area on the outskirts of Munnar after taking a short break for tea inside the town. The rocky sections of the hill were filled with Hill Swallows. It seemed to be impossible to shoot them as they hardly stay still and are so tiny. While Nagesh was busy chasing the swallows, I started clicking pictures of the views of the hills from the edge of the road. A Red-whiskered Bulbul was flitting around the bushes on the hillside. As we were about to leave, we spotted a Pied Bushchat and it allowed us to take some pictures.
The Eravikulam National Park would open at 8.30 and Eldhose wanted us to reach there as soon as possible to avoid crowd. However we reached the park entrance a tad too late. There was already a small queue for the tickets as well as the bus that goes up the hill. We managed to get into the second bus that left and started walking up briskly. This is a tip to anyone who wants to visit Eravikulam National Park. Get there bright and early, especially on weekends and holidays. After the bus ride of 5 km up through winding roads inside the park, we were dropped off at a point from where the last one km of the (allowed area within the) national park needs to be covered on foot. The area of the park that can be visited is very less compared to its actual size is what we felt. Being used to the “safaris” of Kabini etc, this felt weird.
It seemed to be a dry day for birding. Hardly any birds could be seen or even heard. We made use of the opportunity to shoot few more pictures of the landscape. The houses in the foothills looked so tiny from this height. We saw a few Nilgiri Tahrs which are endemic to this region and endangered. Ironically the crowd did not seem to know this and pained these poor animals by chasing them. Some even went to the extent of calling it a goat of all things! Many tried to get close to them and “pose” for photographs! There was not much point trying to educate these boors. It is really a pity that these poor animals have to bear with such boors for the sake of “popularising” wildlife.
As we were walking back towards the bus, a Nilgiri Pipit suddenly came into view. All of us were excited. The bird seemed to be posing for the cameras. The resulting pictures were satisfactory indeed. Our visit here had been worthwhile. A Common Kestrel could be seen flying very high over the hills.
The pangs of hunger had set in by the time we took the bus back and reached the cab. Without wasting further time we headed to the town and had a hearty breakfast. We headed back in the direction of Eravikulam and stopped at a spot where the bird activity was high. Our first sighting here was of a Black Bulbul. A tapping sound in the undergrowth revealed the presence of a Greater Flameback Woodpecker. A Nilgiri Flycatcher flew past us but it had vanished by the time we realized :(
We then proceeded to a field near the Government School. The Black Lored Tit posed for us on a shrub. Eldhose heard the call of a Brown Babbler and tried to make a call which he always makes to try and flush out the birds. We saw a few Oriental White Eyes and lo and behold, suddenly there were white-eyes popping out all over the tree. There must have been hundreds of them. We were blessed indeed to have witnessed this unforgettable moment. This bird had always eluded us and it seemed to be posing for us now. These super cute tiny furballs are a treat for the eyes!
As we were going back to the cab, we sighted a Long-tailed Shrike basking in the sunlight perched atop a shrub. The presence of leeches made us walk faster.
After having lunch, we went to a house surrounded by trees on the outskirts of Munnar. A Large billed Leaf Warbler posed for us beautifully. The Long-tailed Shrike was also here. An Indian Scimitar Babbler was playing hide and seek with us and not willing to let us take pictures of it. As the guys went behind the house trying to get this bird they saw a Malabar Whistling Thrush and a Grey Wagtail. The migrant Grey Wagtails could be seen in many places around.
Eldhose spotted a Black and Orange Flycatcher but we missed it by a whisker! Alas our attempts at getting to watch the brightly coloured birds for the day had been in vain. We proceeded to watch the Shola area by going to the Deshadan resort which is the highest resort in Kerala supposedly. It started raining heavily as we reached the resort forcing us to go indoors.
When the rain had stopped we stepped out to try our luck and see if any birds would come. The resort staff were excitedly telling us that two elephants could be seen cutting their way across the hills in the far distance. We tried spotting them with the help of binoculars but they were too far away. Then came a magical moment. I suddenly saw bright colours ahead of me. It turned out that a Scarlet Minivet couple had decided to come and meet us. Both birds were perched on a bare tree allowing us to take pictures. Eldhose was also super excited.
After spending some time watching these beautiful birds, we walked back towards the cab. We managed to catch a glimpse of the Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher before it went into hiding. The path was dotted with cardamom creepers.
It was time to head back to Thattekad. The day had been mediocre in terms of number of species sighted but some of the moments were priceless. On the way back we stopped at a Tea stall just outside Munnar. Eldhose had told us that this is one of the spots where we can expect to see birds. But the gloomy weather seemed to have kept them away when we were there. However we did see a Crimson-backed Sunbird, a Red-whiskered Bulbul and a Nilgiri Flowerpecker. We also saw a Giant Wood Spider weaving its web.
We spent some time here enjoying the lovely scenery in the fading evening light!
After purchasing some cardamom tea powder and homemade chocolates from the shop, we were back on the road again. We were back in Thattekad by around 7 PM.
|Bushchat, Pied||Saxicola caprata||Muscicapidae|
|Wagtail, Grey||Motacilla cinerea||Motacillidae|
|Swallow, Hill||Hirundo tahitica||Hirundinidae|
|Bulbul, Red whiskered||Pycnonotus jocosus||Pycnonotidae|
|Kestrel, Common||Falco tinnunculus||Falconidae|
|Warbler, Large billed Leaf||Phylloscopus magnirostris||Phylloscopidae|
|Bulbul, Black||Hypsipetes leucocephalus||Pycnonotidae|
|Woodpecker, Greater flameback||Chrysocolaptes lucidus||Picidae|
|Thrush, Malabar Whistling||Myophonus horsfieldii||Turdidae|
|Tit, Black Lored||Parus xanthogenys||Paridae|
|White-eye, Oriental||Zosterops palpebrosus||Zosteropidae|
|Shrike, Long tailed||Lanius schach||Laniidae|
|Wagtail, White browed||Motacilla maderaspatensis||Motacillidae|
|Minivet, Scarlet||Pericrocotus flammeus||Campephagidae|
|Babbler, Indian Scimitar||Pomatorhinus horsfieldii||Timaliidae|
|Flycatcher, Grey headed Canary||Culicicapa ceylonensis||Stenostiridae|
|Flowerpecker, Nilgiri||Dicaeum concolor||Dicaeidae|
|Sunbird, Crimson backed||Leptocoma minima||Nectariniidae|
|Flycatcher, Nilgiri||Eumyias albicaudatus||Muscicapidae|
|Flycatcher, Black and Orange||Ficedula nigrorufa||Muscicapidae|