Trip Reports
National Parks > Dudhwa National Park
Posted by Susan Sharma on May 05, 2008

Dudhwa National Park-26-28 April, 2008

Anthill in Dudhwa

Situated on the Indo-Nepal border, in Uttar Pradesh, the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve with an area of 614 sq. Km is one of the few remaining examples of the diverse Terai region. The northern edge of the reserve lies along the Indo-Nepal border and the river Suheli marks the southern boundary. It is home to a large number of rare and endangered species which includes Tiger, Leopard, Swamp deer, Hispid hare, Bengal Florican, etc.

The grasslands of the reserve are the habitat of the largest kind of Indian deer-the Swamp deer or the Barasingha, so called because of their magnificent antlers (bara-twelve;singha-antler). Decline in their habitats led to a drastic decline in numbers and a small area named Sonaripur Sanctuary was set aside in 1958 for the conservation of this rare species of deer. Later, it was upgraded to cover an area of 212 sq. km and was renamed the Dudhwa Sanctuary. In 1977, the area was further extended to include over 614 sq. km and was declared a National Park. Eleven years later, in 1988, when Dudhwa became a part of Project Tiger, the area of the Kishanpur Sanctuary was added to create the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.

It was the time of wheat harvesting and one could see neatly stacked wheat stalks at several places enroute to Dudhwa via Bareilly from Delhi. We had been told the journey to Dudhwa would be about nine hours. and also that we can expect narrow roads for about 50 km or so. But the roads we encountered came out to be really bad both on the way up via Shahjehanpur and the way down, when we came via Pilibhit. Fourteen hours by car to a Tiger Reserve one had heard little about!

Once we entered the reserve the roads were well maintained and the first surprise was a meter gauge railway right into the forest, in fact right into the core area as we observed later. Villagers we met at a tea stall were excited that the track had been approved for conversion into broad gauge.

We had booked our stay in Forest Rest Houses inside the reserve. The place was well lit with CFL bulbs running entirely on solar cells. Even the adjoining staff quarters had solar power.

Early next day we were told that two of the elephants allotted for safari had been requisitioned by Forest Dept for “operation man-eater leopard”. The leopards in Dudhwa lift cattle and turn man- eaters often. Compared to 77 tigers in the Reserve, the leopard numbers were only ten.

We are allowed to explore the forest in our own vehicle and that is what we did. Smoldering ash from a recent forest fire greeted us first. Soon we glimpsed chital and swamp deer and tiger pugmarks.

We also managed an elephant ride into the 20 sq. km rhino enclosure . The rhinos seemed placid , chewing on elephant grass, which came to life with jumping hog deer as we maneuvered our way.

The jeep ride into the forest in the evening proved exciting- Herds of swamp deer could be seen from the machan. The deer had shed their antlers, which were sprouting again for the next mating season display. The pugmarks of an adult tigress and four cubs seemed very recent and we followed them. Sure enough the huge tigress surprised a herd of sitting swamp deer into sudden action. Calls by langur and deer filled the forest air. The whistle of a train came from the distance and a speeding train could be seen in the horizon view from the machan. The Gonda-Bareilly railway line passes through the National Park. Animals in this reserve must be quite used to this noise by now. One tiger and two elephants died in the tracks recently, Sonu, our guide informed. Ten trains run through the reserve in one day and every now and then we encountered people collecting fodder and dried wood in the forest. The train station located right inside the reserve carried people in and out regularly making a mockery of National Park rules.

Tigers and people are living on the edge in this Tiger Reserve, which obviously had a very good prey base. Herds of hog deer and a few barking deer and chital greeted us on the jeep route. Wild hog, another favorite of the tiger also showed themselves often. Swamp deer herds, which kept near water bodies, avoided tourist routes, but were obviously thriving as well.

Swamp deer in Dudhwa

The guide pointed out to a distant herd of wild elephants, they are our guests, he said. “They have come from Kosi Tappu wildlife reserve of Nepal”.

A large partridge scampered away. Could it be the swamp partridge? Our guide for the day was not very sure. A serpent eagle displayed itself on a large tree. The cry of the brown headed fishing eagle made us reach for the binoculars. Bird life in the forest is good though not as plentiful as in Corbett Reserve.

I almost forgot to mention the wildlife spotted near our dwelling. As I was opening the locked room of the forest hut, a sound of something falling behind me made me look back. A pit vper had just decided to drop down from the roof of the verandah. As I moved away, it started hurtling towards me. Soon, the hot floor made it difficult for it to move. The canteen boys came, swirled it around a stick a few times and then dropped it across the wall of the adjoining forest. What if someone gets bitten, ( vipers seldom bite though) I asked. The local Hakim has herbal medicines for the bite and they work, he said. According to him, no one he knew died of the bite.

I remembered having read in an article in the BNHS magazine that the violet spikes of Pogostemon bengalensis, seen in the forests around, is the only confirmed herbal antidote for the venom of the viper. Thank God I did not have to try it!

The Reserve is dotted all around with anthills- a sure sign that sloth bear are likely to be around. Though we came across footprints and scat often, the bear himself proved elusive.

The Park did not have too many visitors as many of the forest guest houses were under renovation. A tree house with a good view of “Tiger Tal” is complete and is sure to be a hit with tourists. On the whole, a Park with huge tourist potential, if managed right.

Serpent eagle
Little Known Destinations > Daroji Bear Sanctuary
Posted by Susan Sharma on April 04, 2008

Daroji Bear Sanctuary, Karnataka






As we entered Hampi, the ancient city of Vijayanagar, scattered with the ruins of bygone splendour in granite stone, WILDLIFE was far from my thoughts. Still, a simple board announcing "Daroji Bear sanctuary just 15 km from here" caught my eye. We asked our guide if it was worth the trip. "sure," he said," be there between four and five in the evening and you are sure to see the sloth bears”. I looked at the watch. It was 11 am. After walking through the Vitthala and Virupaksha temples during the day we can hope to make it to the sanctuary before dark since we had hired a vehicle for the day.

I had heard about Wildlife SOS rescuing dancing bears and releasing them in rescue centres. May be this was one of them, I thought to myself. We reached the sanctuary in the evening, after driving through barren stone covered landscape for the most part. We drove through the sanctuary gate into an expanse of more granite blobs and keekar trees. Well placed sign boards throughout the sanctuary (the sign boards were there on the road along the drive to Daroji too) made sure we reached the watch tower by 5.30 pm or so.

To our surprise, there were a few tourists including a forest guard already there waiting for the bears to come out of their stone caves and descend to the tree and stone top where platefuls of jaggery had been placed by the guards to lure them. The bears are wild and are the residents of this area since time immemorial. Besides sloth bears, leopards, wild boar ( the symbol of both Chalukia and Vijayanagara dynasty) and peacocks are easily seen, the forest guard said. The peafowl were already tasting the food on the trees. Wild boars cannot climb the trees but a couple of them patiently waited for the bears, hoping for crumbs falling to the ground, no doubt.

Everyone was quiet and the only sounds were those of the partridges, which could be seen scampering about. ‘There he is’, muffled cries went out. A huge black figure had come out and was on his hind legs searching for something on a high rock cleft. ‘There is some food there too’-the guard informed. Soon three more bears emerged from under the rocks-huge hefty and black -very unlike the craggy bears one remembered from childhood-the bears, which danced for the kalandahar.

One huge bear climbed the tree and started eating. Peafowl and boars in attendance on the ground. One could watch the magnificent creatures through some powerful binoculars. They were too far away for my still camera to capture them.

I remembered seeing sloth bears in Ranthambore a few years back. I had also seen them in Corbett National Park during a visit nearly 25 years ago. ( See a snap of the bear which came to Dhikala below). From those days the sloth bears have reduced steadily in numbers due to poaching and habitat destruction that the forest department found it necessary to protect the species in an exclusive sanctuary. The sanctuary was formed in the year 1994.

The rock-strewn hillocks that stretch between Daroji of Sandur taluk and Ramasagar of Hospet Taluk in Bellary district have been the abode of Indian Sloth Bear (Melursus ursimus) since ages. In October 1994, the Government of Karnataka declared 5,587.30 hectares of Bilikallu reserve forest as Daroji Bear Sanctuary.

It is estimated that about 120 Sloth Bears are living in this sanctuary, apart from Leopards, Hyena, Jackals, Wild Boars, Porcupine, Pangolins, Star Tortoise, Monitor Lizard, Mongoose, Pea Fowls, Partridges, Painted Spur Hen, Quails etc. About 90 species of birds, and 27 species of butterflies have also been identified in this sanctuary in a preliminary survey.

Here is a link to the youtube video showing sloth bear from Ranthambore


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ9QxZ7hS5U


The bear which came to Dhikala 25 years ago!

 

National Parks > Gir and Velavadar National Parks
Posted by Susan Sharma on February 24, 2008

Published by Arpit Deomurari (deomurari AT gmail.com),

Participants: Arpit Deomurari (Birding Expert), Mr. Ken Hatshorn (UK) and Mr. John Hollyer (UK). 

Birds: 283 Species

 DAY 1 Sat 17th Nov: ARRIVE MUMBAI

DAY 2 Sun 18th Nov: MUMBAI – BHUJ – TERA/KERC


Fly this morning on Jet Airways from Mumbai to Bhuj. Met on arrival and transferred 1 ½ hours to KERC at Tera Village.

DAY 3 Mon 19th: KERC/NALIYA GRASSLANDS

Full day birding looking particularly for Great Indian Bustard.

DAY 4 TUE 20th Nov: KERC – CHARI DAND

Full day birding in consultation

DAY 5 Wed 21st Nov: CHARI DAND – BHUJ

Full day birding before driving back to spend the night in Bhuj – 1 hr 15 minutes.

DAY 6 Thu 22nd Nov: BHUJ – DASADA/LITTLE RANN OF KUCHH

Drive about 6 hours to the Little Rann of Kutch where the last of the Indian Wild Ass has been given protection in a dedicated sanctuary. The Rann is a fascinating terrain – essentially the shallow bed of the sea that drains out in the dry months and gets flooded during the monsoon by the sea surging inland on the one hand and the seasonal streams in monsoon flood bringing in fresh water on the other. This mix of salt and sweet water provides ideal conditions for the prolific growth of crustaceans and other aquatic food for the flamingoes and other birds that breed and winter here in enormous numbers. Apart from the Wild Ass the Little Rann is also the home for a wide variety of species that include wolf, chinkara gazelle, nilgai,  blackbuck antelope, desert fox and Asiatic Wild Cat.

In addition to the game drives this evening and the next morning you can visit Kharapat Rabari and Bahrwadi villages, tribes who have their own distinctive style of embroidery; then there are the nomadic Bajanias and Mirs, and the Paddhars, a tribe of fisher folk. Your accommodation here is in pleasant and comfortable rooms based on the local mud hut architecture.

DAY 7/8 Fri/Sat 23rd/24th Nov: LITTLE RANN
Rann Riders/Dasada

DAY 9 Sun 25th Nov: LITTLE RANN – GIR

Drive 4 – 5 hours to Gir and check-in at Lon Safari Camp. Game viewing to begin from the PM drive.

DAY 9/10 Mon/Tue 26th/27th Nov: GIR

Two full days of game viewing and bird watching

DAY 11 Wed 28th Nov: GIR – BHAVNAGAR/VELAVADAR


At one of the good hotels in Bhavnagar. Pm: visit Velavadar

DAY 12 Thu 29th Nov: BHAVNAGAR/VELAVADAR

Full day Velavadar

DAY 13 Fri 30th Nov: BHAVNAGAR – AHMEDABAD

Drive 4 hours to Ahmedabad. Overnight at House of Mangaldas.

DAY 14 Sat 1st Dec: AHMEDABAD


Tour Ends

GIR National Park:

GIR National Park the last abode of Asiatic Lions produced some very good birds, some of them …Brown breasted Flycatcher (Muscicapa muttui), Jungle Prinia, Excellent view of Mottled Wood owl Pair, etc. We had very good sightings of 2 Lioness with 2 subadult cubs.

 

Velavadar Blackbuck National Park:

This park is famous as the largest concentration of Blackbuck  in India and also Asia’s largest Roost of Harriers. We had all the harriers eg. Pallids, Montagu’s, Hen and Marsh Harriers etc. Apart from other birds we had really great sightings of Striped Hyena in the park for 3 visits. And we had good sightings of Indian Wolf also.

National Parks > Kishanpur Wild Life Sanctuary
Posted by Vikrant Nath on February 22, 2008

VISIT TO THE KISHANPUR WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

“Well the beautiful dream is over!” that is exactly what I felt, when I returned from back from the Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary. The two days at Kishanpur were like a dream, a dream come true.

My friends and I started from Lucknow on a Saturday morning at around 8 A.M.  Kishanpur Wild Life Sanctuary, a 4 hour drive from Lucknow, lies 13 km from Bhira town in Lakhimpur Kheri District. Spread in a compact area of 200 sq Km, it is a part of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.  We reached Kishanpur Forest Rest House at around 1 P.M. The Rest House lay 6 km deep inside the Sal and Teak forest. It is an austere British style mansion with two suites, a kitchen, dining room, fireplaces, flush toilets and solar light arrangement. It was a real paradise; a place where I oft dream to live.
We had our packed lunch and were ready by 2 P.M. to visit Jhadi Tal. Jhadi is a large clear water wetland formed by the flood waters of the Sharda.  But we were told that we could only visit after 4 P.M. So, we stationed ourselves on the resting chairs under the shade of a huge Ailanthus tree. Here we spotted the grey tits, treepies, woodpeckers and black headed orioles.

By now, a Forest personnel was ready to take us to Jhadi Tal. It was a great pleasure driving on the forest dirt track canopied by the tall Sal tress. In fact, this was a real ‘long drive,’ a city dweller ‘longs’ for. With no other vehicle on the track, the smooth forest road was a treat.   We soon reached Jhadi Tal. A number of migratory birds graced the Tal.  On the far end, we could see the grasslands locally referred to as the phantas. We spotted a large herd of barasingha or swamp deer. It was, in fact, a harem dominated by a solitary handsome stud in the company of some 24 females. They were all squatting on a circular island like mound.  We made our way to the second machan. Here we saw an even bigger herd of swamp deer. I counted 47 of them. Most of the members of the herd were males. Their mighty antlers glistened brightly. Most of members were seated near the grassland. The herd was waiting for the dusk so as to proceed concealed into the jungles to munch the soft grass. This was the largest herd of any deer species ever seen by us. Infact Dudhwa Tiger reserve, particularly Jhadi Tal is the last refuge of Northern Swamp Deer.

We drove further ahead to the Sharda River. A narrow stretch of silted land separated the river from the Jhadi Tal. The river has been rapidly changing its course. It has shifted almost 4 km towards the Jhadi Tal over a short period of time. We could see a number of uprooted trees on the banks. We also spotted a lonesome croc on the far bank. We made our way back to the second machan, eager to glimpse the evening retreat of the Swamp Deer into the Sal Jungles. But, unfortunately, the forest guide insisted that he had orders to return.  It was soon nightfall. The waxing moon was shining bright. We could not see many stars in the sky. We spent some time with the Forest Staff. Around the fire, we discussed about the mystical ways of nature. The jungle was now wide awake. We heard the scary sounds of the jungle. The owls announced their presence. At close quarters, a cheetal hurled a call of alarm. The very feeling of the jungle king, the tiger, lurking around and observing you, was very exciting.

We went back to the Rest House tand had barely switched off the light, when I was awakened by some scratching noise. I fidgeted for a while wondering what it was. But the noise continued and continued, for ages it seemed. I reckoned that some people were trying to barge inside the Rest House. Fearful, I awakened my friends. We braced ourselves for an impending crisis. After a little awhile, we discovered the cause; a stout rat perched on the tube-light. He made a mess  the entire night with nibbling antics. We couldn’t catch a wink of sleep.

Next morning, armed with binoculars, bird-books and breakfast, we were ready to visit Jhadi Tal again. As we moved on the jungle track, we saw the pug marks of a tiger. He was brazing our trail. I am certain, he saw us, liked us and blest us as well.  We reached the second machan. The moment we stepped out of our vehicle, the birds started to literally run away on the waters of the Jhadi Tal. We stationed ourselves on the machan and enjoyed the bread, butter, jam and grapes and watched birds at ease and peace. It was for the first time that we saw the Red Crested Pochard. The distinct reddish pink beak was glittering. The tufted orangish hair on the head of the drake was very interesting; while his white body was a total contrast. The duck had a brown head. We also saw the dabchicks, grebes, common pochards, pintails, mallards, shovellers, river terns, the distinct white eyed pochard, spoonbills, egrets, snakebirds, herons, black necked storks, Indian Water hen, purple moor hens and the cormorants.

A herd of swamp deer, numbering around 29, was also to be seen. Some active members locked their antlers for a rather brief mock fight. Oh! And how can I ever forget the naughty, chubby otter family. We saw five of them. At one moment they were perched on the barringtonia tree just underneath the machan. And soon afterwards, they were swimming merrily and effortlessly in water. They would dive in and pop out their head with a glistening fish in their teeth. They gobbled up their catch in great gusto, gup-gup-gup. They were indeed quite an amusing sight; but they also shooed the birds away. Wherever they went the birds drifted elsewhere. After sometime the otters were back on the same tree, looking very cute in their shinning coat.

We drove towards Jhadi baba (a mighty banyan with pillared ariel roots). Soon the Sal forest gave way to a dried and burnt grassland at the other end of Jhadi Tal, Hence, we entered the dense green riparian forest, which extended till the river. I prayed to Jhadi Baba to save the precious Tal and to call us time and again to this great paradise. In this jungle of jamun, gular, khair, rohini, peepal, bargad we spotted a few chetals, hog deer and peacocks.

We returned back to the rest house at around 12:30 P.M. After lunch, we spent a leisurely afternoon napping in the winter sun on comfortable armchairs.  Around 4:30 in the evening, we drove to the Tar Kothi area with the chowkidar. The track passed through dense Sal and Teak forests. Tar Kothi was an uninteresting forest post near a bio-fenced farm; with a canal flowing nearby.  We returned back through an interesting untouched forest track and spotted a Sambar mother and child duo on the way. In the Terai jungles, the sambar deer is even rarer than the tiger. We also drove to Kishanpur Village around 2 km from guest house. This village of 500 voters is a big threat to the wildlife of the Sanctuary. The villagers have been provided with full fledged track for the movement of their vehicles. From early morning till late night, the rattling tractors and bikes ply on the road, disturbing the tiger habitat. There was not a single sighting or even a trace of wildlife in the dense forest around the track.

On our return to the Rest House, the chowkidar set the fireplace ablaze. It was a real romantic setting for us. We sat near the fireplace for long time chatting, gossiping and philosophizing. The hot food was a treat as well. The troubling rat too was absent and we could finally get some sleep. I was woken by the chital’s alarm call which was followed by the roar from the king himself. The king had come himself to greet us, but we were asleep! Well! We shouldn’t be complaining. It was our fault. We didn’t dare venture outside the Rest House. Early next morning we packed our bags and drove back to Lucknow with indelible memories of the jungles of Kishanpur.

Bird Sanctuaries > Gujarat and Kutch Birding Tour
Posted by Susan Sharma on February 21, 2008

12 Days Gujarat & Kutch Birding and Wildlife Tour - 18-11-2007 to 30-11-2007  
Published by Arpit Deomurari (deomurari AT gmail.com),
Participants: Arpit Deomurari (Birding Expert), Mr. Ken Hatshorn (UK) and Mr. John Hollyer (UK). 

Birds: 283 Spec
 
Kutch (Great Rann of Kutch):

As we  started from Kutch (Great Rann of Kutch), We had very good sightings of 5 White napped tit, 2 pairs were on the same Bush and another single individual was 5-8 mt. away on the other bush. Another important sighting for Kutch was the Red-throated Pipit. We came across this very dark pipit on the coastal wetland near Pingleshwar in Kutch region of Gujarat India on 19-11-2007.
            After seeing this bird only two species come to our notice Pechora Pipit Anthus gustavi and Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus. This is the first authentic record for the Gujarat state.   After visiting Naliya Done and other area on the last day we had visited Chari Dhandh, A famous hot spot in Kutch for Raptors and Grey Hypocolious, We sighted 12 Grey Hypocolious on the roosting time. And in the morning in the same area we had seen many raptor species including Steppe Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Common Buzzard, Long legged buzzard, Marsh Harriers, Oriental Hobby etc. This seasonal wetland has also large population of White Storks, and other wetland birds.

            Also the Rock Eagle Owl, A recent split form Eurasian Eagle Owl was seen nesting on the “PAKHI BHEET” area of chari dhandh. This small hill in the Rann provides very good habitat for many species which also include Red-tailed Wheatear, Brown Rock Chat etc. A pair of Jungle cat with its kitten was observed on both days at PAKHI BHEET area.

LRK ( Little Rann of Kutch):

       The marshy habitat of Vanod Saran, nr. Dasada is also a very good hotspot for birders you can find good number of species over here including, white tailed lapwing, grey lag geese, bar headed geese, cranes, crakes and rails, etc. The show master of this wetland were the rosy pastor they were atleast in 2000-5000 in strength comes here for roosting and their acrobatics are really great to see at sunset. The flocks of rosy pastor were also having small no. of Common or European Starling. 

            The biggest attraction of Little Rann of Kutch was sightings of 45 Sociable Plover. 22-11-2007, at Little Rann of Kutch near Vanod Village. A flock of 45 birds were seen roosting at a site where the author (Arpit Deomurari) has reported 27 same birds last(2006-2007) year also. This flock is considered as the largest flock of sociable lapwing found in India till date.


 

This Lapwing is also listed in the Red Data Book as a Critically Endangered Bird Species. They breed on open grassland in Russia and Kazakhstan. Three to five eggs are laid in a ground nest. These birds migrate south through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey, to key wintering sites in Israel, Syria, Eritrea, Sudan and north-west India. Birds winter occasionally in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Oman. It feeds in a similar way, picking insects and other small prey mainly from grassland or arable.

In 2004 BirdLife International categorized this bird as critically endangered, due to a rapid population decline for poorly understood reasons. The current population was estimated to be between 600 and 1,800 mature birds in 2006 (BirdLife International), but is currently being revised.  The current IUCN

 

 

 

 

classification is CR A3bc -  meaning that the population is expected to decline in the next decade or so by 80%, but based on theoretical considerations and the known habitat destruction rather than direct observation of the birds. Thus, the new discoveries might mean that as more data becomes available, the species could be down listed to Endangered.

A Scientist working on the Sociable Lapwing Mr. Johannes Kamp has ringed 140 birds (mostly juv.) in Pavlodar region, NE Kazakhstan, this year (two colour rings on each leg, combination always starting with a yellow ring). These birds are at the easternmost distribution border and thus supposed to go to India/Pakistan. Author (Arpit Deomurari) would like to ask any future observers to check these birds for color rings? The yellow ring is quite obvious to seeing the field. 

Another highlilght of the Little Rann of Kutch were 8  Macqueen’s Bustard (Chlamydotis macqueenii) in a 3 hours game drive and of course the largest lark of the world, Greater Hoopoe Lark(Alaemon alaudipes) 

Bird Sanctuaries > Thattekhad “ The” Birding destination of South India-Dec 2007 ( Part II)
Posted by Susan Sharma on January 30, 2008


Thattekhad “ The” Birding destination of South India-Dec 2007 ( Part II)

-Posted by Partha Pal in Delhibird yahoo group

 


Post lunch trip was with Girish (Mrs Sudha’s son) . I accompanied Girish and three Foreigners(Swede birder and Australian birding couple) to a different part of forest on lookout for Waynad laughing thrush. Though it eluded us I got my first sighting of Malabar hornbill,  Malabar parakeet, Hill mynah ,Ruby throated Bulbul and Pompadour green pigeon. However the location for Waynad laughing thrush and the path was full of leeches . I was literally hooked on to shoes removing every time a leech crawled up, still I had eighteen bites around the ankle to calf muscle. Other guys also met with the same fate except the lady. Reasons unknown ,probably fairer sex has advantage even in jungles.

Next two days were with Eldhose and I was looking forward to them. So much was written about him that I already had image of him bigger than life. Well he turned out to be very soft spoken, gentle ,down to earth person, whose only love is birds.    His preciseness of the location , sharp hearing , recognition of calls , all are amazing. There were so many incidents in two days you could only be stunned with Eldhose’s magic.

So we started of with Red spur fowl behind his house, white cheeked barbet ,Malabar grey hornbill at the Papaya tree next to his house.  For photographers he also creates a hide sort of situation where you can have really close photos of birds. Then it was the time of Mottled wood owl little distance from his home, followed by Blyth’s pipit. We took a brief break for breakfast. Post breakfast session yielded Grey breasted prinia, Crested hawk eagle – As per Eldhose , a sub species of changeable hawk eagle which does not change, in sanctuary area – we saw Grey headed bulbul, Crimson backed sunbird, Brown breasted flycatcher, Crested serpent eagle,Grey jungle fowl, White bellied treepie, fleeting glimpse of Crested goshawk a grizzly squirrel , flying lizards ,Asian Bird southwing and other butterflies.

Post lunch session produced a amazing collection of birds. We visited another part of the sanctuary. Blue throated flycatcher,Dark fronted Babbler, Chestnut tailed starling the south India sub species, Heart spotted woodpecker, Large cuckooshrike,Black headed Cuckooshrike, Drongo cuckoo, Black napped monarch, Asian paradise flycatcher – all this at one location. Little further in the Jungle we saw a giant squirrel, plum headed parakeets, Fleeting glimpse of Besra and Chestnut winged uckoo.Malabar Parakeet, and the Highlight of the trip – The beautiful Malabar trogon. I was so sucked up by the beauty, I forgot to shoot photos. The day does not end here. In absolute darkness Eldhose tracked down Indian Pitta and with the help of a small torch another species has etched onto my memory.

Next day was my last day at Thattekhad and we had still lot of names in the list.. We started of with Black Baza – a beautiful princely bird. We had to wait nearly 45 minutes for the lone baza sighting. While waiting for Black baza, White bellied and Rufous treepie, Large cuckoo shrike, Brown shrike, Black naped, Black hooded and Golden oriole , Black crested bulbul (Ruby throat -south Indian sub species)were seen. Next  in line was Blue bearded beater . Post breakfast sightings produced,Lesser yellow naped woodpecker – south Indian sub species, Streakthroated woodpecker and Yellow billed babbler . Then we took a long and beautiful drive to Edamalyar barrage where we saw Dusky craig martin, White bellied treepie, Rufous babbler and on the way Common hawk cuckoo, Shikra and Paris peacock butterfly.

After having a hefty and late lunch at one of the Kerala dhaba we proceeded toward the sanctuary gate. Target was White bellied woodpecker, however due to less time I opted for Dollar bird. As usual Eldhose tracked down the Dollar bird and in process we saw lots of Hill mynah,Malabar hornbill, Grey jungle fowl, Rufous treepie with a kill, hordes of caterpillar and a lone Oriental honey buzzard.

Quite a few names were still pending in the wish list, but I ran out of time, probably I can cover in my next trip.Eldhose has given a open offer - ten days in south India. He will show you 300 species.

Treated to a Icecream by Eldhose I said bye to Thattekhad . Thanking Eldhose and my stars that at least some part of the dream has been fulfilled. Those who are interested in hiring Eldhose services need to book minimum month or two in advance.

 

 

 

 

Bird Sanctuaries > Thattekad Bird Sanctuary
Posted by Susan Sharma on January 22, 2008


Thattekhad “ The” Birding destination of South India-Dec 2007 ( Part I)

-Posted by Partha Pal in Delhibird yahoo group

 

Roughly 25 odd square kilometer of area but it boasts of 270 species and above. Two and half days of birding yielding 33 lifers and the greed to continue was still there, unfortunately time didn’t allow.


Reached Thattekad around 11 a.m . Ashy wood swallow were the first ones to greet perched on the wire across the river. Happy with the good omen I continued and reached the sanctuary gate.

Sudeesh the young guide who is under tutelage of Eldhose was wating for me at the sanctuary gate. Since Eldhose was already booked for that day Sudeesh took me around for the first part of the day . My staying arrangements were done with a family who lives within the sanctuary.  Fresh home food and family atmosphere, very good host added to the good birding. The lady of the house Mrs.Sudha and other family members were extremely nice and caring. Incidentally her son is lawyer and also a birding guide . His free time is taken up as birding guide.

My first foray into the forest - actually before that ,just next to the gate
a pair of brown hawk owl were roosting.(1st lifer of the trip) 12 hours of bus journey in normal circumstances I would have been sleeping like a log but here I was excited like a kid who has just been given a free hand. Late morning visit resulted in sighting of five Srilanka frogmouth (really strange looking birds infact the way they sit still – just like statues.  Sudeesh advised that they won’t move unless you touch the bush they are sitting on.  We saw Giant wood spider with a huge web , fleeting yellow
browed bulbuls, Greater racket tailed drongo as common as black drongo in north, Bronzed drongo, Black napped monarch, Asian paradise Flycatcher, Forest wagtail and of course The Pit Viper (We managed to go as close as 12 inches . It lay lazily ,tummy was bloated ,must have good kill.

 

 

 

 

(Continued in next part)

National Parks > Big Bend National Park ( U.S.A)
Posted by Susan Sharma on November 17, 2007

 

Big Bend National Park (Texas)

 

"Off we were looking to get away, relax, enjoy nature, and forget about the daily distractions of life. I called a Texas Park Ranger to be our family trip planner hoping she could point out the best Texas RV Park. She suggested.....

 

Read the full report at

http://blog.tripwiser.com/roadtrip/2007/11/texas-road-trip.html

 

Little Known Destinations > Mandakini Magpie Bird Watcher’s Camp
Posted by Govind on September 08, 2007

The Mandakini Magpie Bird Watcher’s Camp!

Even as some of us sit in Delhi and discuss the intricacies of ecotourism and how it’s different from tourism, there are people all over this country who are practicing the former – in the real sense of the word (‘eco’-tourism). One such person is Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi who runs a bird watching camp christened, ‘The Mandakini Magpie Bird Watchers Camp’.

Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi bird watcher mandakini magpie

Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi

One such person is Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi who runs a bird watching camp christened, ‘The Mandakini Magpie Bird Watchers Camp’. The camp is located in Kakragad on the bank of River Mandakini en route to Sri Kedarnath, a few hours drive from Rudraprayag.

 

Devbhumi Uttranchal/Uttrakhand Magpie Bird watcher camp billboard

The Camp

Mr. Negi is a wonderful person who is not only dedicated towards his work but also has in-depth knowledge about birds and the Himalayas. He has been running this camp for the past seven years which is wonderfully exemplified by his experience and expertise.

Apart from bird watching, Mr. Negi also takes interest in collecting good books on orinthology. He even has a good collection of abandoned bird nests and also of some classic books on bird identification, wildlife and Himalayan Biodiversity. Lately, he has also started making a herbarium of those plant species in which the birds make their nest or feed.

 

nest collection by Mr. Negi

Nest Collection

 

Ecotourism!

 

 

Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi may not know the difference between Tourism and Ecotourism.

He may not have even heard of ecotourism.

But how he runs his bird watchers camp can be a basic case study of ‘ecotourism in the Himalayas’.

 

 

tent houses at the mandakini magpie bird watchers camp

 

Tent houses

He runs his camp all himself with some help from other people of the area. The tent houses are well maintained and are very inviting with names like ‘Woodpecker Tent, Sparrow Tent, etc!

In his camp, very little of ‘transmitted’ electricity is used. He has solar lanterns which are extensively used instead of the regular electricity.

Solar lanterns at Mr. Negi’s Mandakini Magpie Birdwatchers camp

Solar Lanterns at Mr. Negi’s Camp

 

All in all, a visit to the Mandakini Magpie Bird Watchers Camp is a must for every bird watcher, nature lover or for anyone who wants a lesson or two in Ecotourism!

Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi can be contacted at the following number: 09412909399

 

Little Known Destinations > Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary - A pictorial travelogue!
Posted by Govind on September 07, 2007

Travelogue: A Visit to the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary!

Location: District Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand

Visited in: Feb-March, 2007

While words may fail...pictures never! 

1. Sonprayag Township: The Base Camp. While it is difficult to find a place to step a foot during the warm season (of the Sri Kedarnath yatra), the town is lazy and ghostly during the rest of the year.

2. Sonprayag: Concfluence of Songanga (on the left) and Mandakini (seen in the middle) Rivers 

3. Entry bridge to the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary - just above Sonprayag.

4. Gaurikund: The last motorable town en route to Sri Kedarnath. Steps lead to the entry-gate of the 14 Km. trek to Sri Kedarnath.

5. and 6. Poly-bag menace at Gaurikund

   

7. To Sri Kedarnath

8. and 9. An interesting fungus and the HIMALAYAN TAHR!!

      

10. and 11. Leopard Pug marks..apparently not alone!! (Verified by Dr. Sinha of the WII)

             

 

 

 

 

 

12. Jangal Chatti

13. Nature is kind enough to the wildlife - to prevent people from going above Jangal Chatti (owing to avalanches, snow, etc.) Am glad it is! So, the best view of Sri Kedarnath that I got.

14. Back to Sonprayag - to make the long journey back home.

15 . A View of the Chaukhamba peak several kilometers away from where it is (zoomed into focus)! Just a reminder of the glorious glory of the Himalayas. Reminded me of a poem I had read long back in my Hindi class.."Giriraj Himalaya ka Bharat se kuch aisa hi naata hai...."

P.S. The above was a University of Delhi Research trip. Unless one has a permission (at times not even then), it is not possible to go beyond Gaurikund during off-season.

The images can be used for any socially useful purpose after proper citation.

Category
1 Hindi Trip Reports
2 Marathi Trip Reports
3 Tamil Trip Reports
4 Bengali Trip reports
5 Malayalam Trip Reports
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Little Known Destinations
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