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A drive through some of the National parks on the Western Ghats


Earthian

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Tom Kellie

I think your robin is an oriental magpie robin. Love the lion tailed macaques. My mum grew up in the Bangalore area and went to boarding school in the nilgiri hills. Nice to see a report from this area.

 

~ @@kittykat23uk and @@Earthian

 

Throughout southern China, Copsychus saularis, Oriental Magpie-Robin, is ubiquitous.

In the Hong Kong Wetland Park Oriental Magpie-Robins seem to pop out from under every large shrub.

Several years ago, when yours truly was dipping my toes into wildlife photography, I found that Copsychus saularis was a consistently obliging model, helping a bumbling newbie to take presentable images.

Assuredly, none of those early Magpie-Robins was even remotely as lovely as @@Earthian's photograph.

I'm pleased to learn that their range extends into southern India.

Tom K.

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Continuing with the narrative.... All of us, including the driver turned to her." i have left my medicine in the fridge at the cottage" - she said with woebegone face. Not retrieving the medicine wa

The rain continued through the night. No way we are going to postpone again. It was still drizzling in the morning and my parents ( we were staying at their place) had some misgivings - We quickly loa

The next morning we were off on the morning: surprise! Nagaendra's ( guide at Bandipur) brother Ravi was our guide. Seems that serving the environment is the family's priority! Ravi had grown up in th

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Another Phantom reader here. But not a fan. So don't know about his marriage status.

 

Glad to hear people in Sri Lanka will be friendly and helpful. Repeated posts on TripAdvisor forum by DE are desrcibing that self-driving is just like trying to commit a suicide, just more expensive ...

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Earthian

~ @@Earthian

 

The unidentified bird species — is there any possibility that it might be a non-breeding or immature Lesser Coucal?

Tom K.

could it be the bulbul?

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Earthian

Another Phantom reader here. But not a fan. So don't know about his marriage status.

 

Glad to hear people in Sri Lanka will be friendly and helpful. Repeated posts on TripAdvisor forum by DE are desrcibing that self-driving is just like trying to commit a suicide, just more expensive ...

I find self driving very satisfying, if one is in for the journey and not just the destination. i have been to Sri lanka thrice and while i have always been driven around, i found the drivers quite polite and adhering to rules- though it is relative.

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Earthian

I think your robin is an oriental magpie robin. Love the lion tailed macaques. My mum grew up in the Bangalore area and went to boarding school in the nilgiri hills. Nice to see a report from this area.

Yes, on perusal of Grimmett and Inskipp, it is clear that it is an oriental magpie robin.

A question, if i may. What is the difference between a redstart and a robin?

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kittykat23uk

Your unknown bird is, I believe, either a jungle babbler or a yellow-billed babbler. You'll need to check the distribution and call to be sure which one I think.

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Treepol

@@Earthian I am loving your report, its great to read of the lesser visited southern Indian parks. I confess I have never heard of Silent Valley but it looks quite a wild area and you had a great sighting of the lion-tailed macaque.

 

Looking forward to more stories and photos from this epic trip. Shame about the weather at the outset.

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Earthian

Well our robins and redstarts are both members of the chat sub-family of the old world flycatchers but in different genera. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_World_flycatcher

That was interesting. Must check if there are any tutorials available on identification

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Earthian

The weather had cleared, though it was a bit cloudy, and we were invigorated by the cool breeze on top of the watch tower. Reluctantly, we made our way down since we were conscious of the fact that we had to maintain time discipline ( forest road closing at 1800 hrs? or 2100 hrs?) Gopalakrishnan had packed some tea and biscuits and also thrown in a loaf of bread and some jam. We had the tea and biscuits at the shelter which has been put up and used the conveniences.

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Nazier asked whether we wanted the bread and jam and when we replied in the negative, asked whether he could give the bread and jam to the guards?

 

Some background:

There is a guard camp at the base of the valley ( where we were), the main purpose of which is to ensure that poachers as well as wood smugglers are discouraged from carrying out their illegal and nefarious activities. These guards stay for 60 days at a time here and go on their daily patrol- sometimes for a couple of days- ensuring that the environment is protected. They carry their own rations and cook by themselves. While the basic staples are delivered by the forest department, they often have to depend on jeeps coming into the valley for getting other supplies (remember- the valley is 1.5 hours away from the nearest village)

 

We felt very bad. Here are some dedicated humans protecting the environment and they live a hard life. The least we could do is to ensure that they are appreciated for the work they do. We went to where a guard was going about his daily chores and picked up a conversation with him. We found that it was indeed a monotonous and hard life- without any social contact for 8 weeks at a time. They tend the garden, grow some vegetables to keep occupied in their spare time. We appreciated the work done and made some small talk- making a mental note to put this issue on ST so that in future visitors could both engage them, appreciate their work and unobtrusively carry some extra supplies of hard to get snacks.

 

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Time was getting on. We hastened to the jeep and set off for our return journey. With all the frequent stops and the time spent with the guards, we reached the cottages only at 1:30 pm and after quickly packing, we sat down for lunch. It was a sumptuous lunch- Gopalakrishnan had really done us proud- it was a full Malayalee spread, comprising of some 12 dishes. My only grouse was that there was no dessert or a sweet dish. I had to make do with bananas.

We tucked in, loaded our stuff into the jeep, bade goodbye to GK and off we went to Mukkali where we had left our car. Some 30 minutes later, my wife suddenly said: "oh no" Stop!!
What now?

Edited by Earthian
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Earthian

Your unknown bird is, I believe, either a jungle babbler or a yellow-billed babbler. You'll need to check the distribution and call to be sure which one I think.

 

Both are known to be residents of the region. Another expert also opined that it was a jungle babbler.

Thank you.

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elefromoz

The Silent Valley is beautiful, one of those places where it's hard to believe it's actually India, wilderness for miles. What a wonderful win for conservation in protecting it from damming. Yes, a real shame the guards are doing such an important job with little recognition of the value of their work. Thank you for showing us some more of incredible India and her lesser known beauty.

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michael-ibk

What now? No fair stopping there, I need to know! :)

 

 

Don't know if he ever married his long time girlfriend, Diana?

 

Sorry, not up to date with the Phantom´s love life. ;)

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Earthian
Continuing with the narrative....
All of us, including the driver turned to her." i have left my medicine in the fridge at the cottage" - she said with woebegone face. Not retrieving the medicine was not an option and hence the options available to us were to request GK to bring it by motorcycle to Mukkali ( which would save time and he would hopefully be there by the time we paid our bills) or we would have to go back and fetch it- which would mean a delay of at least an hour. We were already late as it was and i was already imagining all types of nasty things happening to us when we were stuck on the border for the night; and so we decided to explore option one and Nazier dialled GK. Well, just to remind you folks that it does not pay to slight Mr Murphy. GK's motorcycle had been borrowed by someone and hence he would not be able to bring the medicine. The next brainwave was to ask the womenfolk to go ahead and do the exit formalities at Mukkali, whilst i hotfooted it back to the cottages by taking a lift or hiring a rickshaw which we saw plying on the roads. Murphy, it seems anticipated this move too. No rickshaws were seen for about 10 minute wait nor was anyone going that side. :( We had no option but to go back. On the way, about 10 minutes later we saw someone on a motorcycle coming from the opposite side, frantically waving to us. It was a stranger with the medicine! GK had asked some good samaritan to deliver the medicine.
After thanking him profusely, we hastened back to Mukkali , where we paid the dues, loaded our car and set out for Bandipur. It was 1530 hrs and the map predicted that we would take around 4.5 hours to reach Bandipur. That is 2000 hrs if all went well. However, we had no idea how far from the lodge was the forest entry gate. The route was as under:
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By 1800 hrs it started darkening and by 1830 hrs it was quite dark. Worse the road from Gudalur to BNP is very bad. Out of the total 32 odd kms, about 13 kms are very bad. Very bad means very bad. There were times when my daughter got out of the car and had to guide me over the rims of the huge potholes. To add to our misery, it had started raining and the potholes had filled up. We took more than an hour to cover the 32 kms and we reached the forest entry gates at 2030 hrs. Phew! Just made it. Happily, the lodge was just 5 minutes away.
Bandipur safari Lodges are run by the Government of karnataka (see:http://www.junglelodges.com/bandipur-safari-lodge-tariff/ ) and located just outside the National forest. The property is vast, the cottages made of brick and mortar, unnecessarily big and modestly appointed. The bathrooms are clean and functional.
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There is a central dining room where everyone congregates for breakfast, lunch, evening tea and dinner. This is also the meeting place before embarking on the safaris where you meet up with your guide and driver.
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After checking in, we freshened up and had a buffet dinner. Dinner is mostly south indian fare, with some north indian dishes - passable. After dinner, we went to bed. Wake up call was 0530 hrs and safari start time was 0600 hrs.
In the morning, we met our guide, Nagendra and were off at 0600 hrs to the entry gates where you have to get a permit. This is all arranged by the lodge and entails waiting for about 15 minutes or so and i used this time to take a few pictures:
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There are buses available to those who don't want a jeep or those who come only for a safari.
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The Government of Karnataka is making efforts to encourage eco tourism though the per diem price ( Rs 8000+ per day per person- about US$125) could be a bit high for those who want to stay in the safari lodge. hence i guess they try and encourage people to come for a day trip only and use the buses.
About 10 minutes into our safari, we saw a stripe necked mongoose. Evidently, it was not too happy that we had disturbed its morning breakfast hunt.
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It was quite early, when we came to this water hole and Viola!!!

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@@Earthian

 

Great sighting! Driving after dark ... nerve wrecking experience.

 

With D3S you should keep your iSO between 3200 and 6400 all the time! Getting a sharp photo below 1/500 with 600 mm lens is almost Mission: Impossible even for the best of VR's.

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madaboutcheetah

@@Earthian - I have been following the reports from Bandipur a lot - that might be the Tiger they call, Prince?

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Earthian

@@madaboutcheetah
No Hari, this was not the famous Prince. In fact our guide, Nagendra specifically mentioned that this was not Prince, but again he did not know the name of this one.

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elefromoz

@@Earthian, now thats not fair, Tiger in a waterhole just like that, that un-does all the "murphys" so far.

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Earthian

@@Earthian, now thats not fair, Tiger in a waterhole just like that, that un-does all the "murphys" so far.

Yes, just like that! We rounded the corner and our guide was like" Shhh! Tiger!!. I couldn't believe it.

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Earthian

We had a 10 minute sighting. Then a noisy bus came and the tiger walked away. He had killed a gaur a day back and had just had a full protein meal. The guide informed that after a full meal, the digestion heats up the stomach and hence though it was cool in the morning, the tiger had preferred to immerse his belly in water. No idea if there is any substance to this? But do know that blood rushes to the stomach after a meal and that could give a feeling of warmth- but not enough to immerse yourself- that would in fact be counter productive.

 

We had made it clear to our guide that we enjoyed all the elements of the forest and were not fixated only on the big predators ( though how i wish i could get a leopard in my sights!). However, since majority of the tourists they associate with, are there for a leopard or tiger sighting, i believe that they, over time, become tiger centric. It is also a sad commentary that these naturalists and drivers are tipped only if a "big" sighting is made and hence they tend to unconsciously follow that. Being poorly paid also doesn't help.

Nagaendra was happy that we seemed to genuinely enjoy all elements of the forest and he cast aside the tiger fixation.

 

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Lantana Camara, for example, is known to us as a nice, colourful, flowering plant. However, this shrub, imported from South America, has now invaded the entire forest-so much so that the original endemic species of plants are all lost.

 

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Every where that we looked we saw Lantana. There is a debate taking place amongst the environmentalists whether Lantana should be cleared from the forests. No outcome yet- for now they have cleared it from either side of the road.
What do you all think?

 

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Earthian

That is a streak throated wood pecker, isn't it?

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Earthian

Some more birds:

A pied kingfisher

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Shrikes?

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Shrike?

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and then we saw the elephants:

 

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There was a tusker which wanted to cross the road. While we stopped our jeep a respectable distance away, we saw some prize asses stop their car and try and take a selfie with the tusker. Selfie of ass with elephant. :) A most dangerous move as one motorcyclist found- It charged him and in his terror the motorcycle stalled. Quick thinking by our driver who brought our jeep near and allowed the cyclist to get his nerve back. It may have been a mock charge, but mock charges could become real if the elephant gets irritated.

 

 

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Earthian

Here is the one i was talking about. Unfortunately, i was so irritated that this photograph is blurred.

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The evening gave us some splendid sights:

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Tom Kellie

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~ @@Earthian

 

Is it possible that they're Sturnia pagodarum, Brahminy Starling?

As I've never visited India and am thus uncertain, perhaps @@kittykat23uk or @@inyathi might correct my uninformed conjecture.

I'm greatly enjoying this trip report's photos!

Tom K.

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kittykat23uk

Yes they are brahminy starlings.

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