Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Trip to Thattekad ..... A bird watchers Paradise

Thattekad become popular after Dr. Salim Ali called it the "richest bird habitat in peninsular India". We made a trip to Thattekad and Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary during the 3rd week of December 2015.  We took 7 pm special train from Chennai to Ernakulam but it was unusually 6 hours late. We got down at Angamaly railway station and took a taxi to Thettekad. It cost us Rs 1200 .  Once you cross the Periyar river, you reach the entrance to the sanctuary and the ticket counter. Thattekad Birds Song Homestay is about 200 meters walk inside the main gate of Thattekad Bird Sanctuary. We arrived Thattekad Bird Song Home stay around 11 am, bit sad as we missed the morning trek.  Birds Song has two rooms with attached bathrooms on the first floor. The ground floor is the residence of Vinod and his family. After a quick refreshment...we set to our first trek near the homestay area. 

As we started our trail, we first spotted Brahminy kite as we walked little further to a small pond which was full of Lesser whistling ducks, darter and kingfishers. The other side of the pond has rubber plantation which we sighted Purple Sunbird, Green Bee-eater and Chestnut-headed bee-eater. We returned back to homestay for our lunch. We were served with pure authentic Kerala lunch. Due to low light and the distance the images quality was poor.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus)

Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus)

Chestnut-Headed Bee-eater (Merops leschenaulti)

Indian Rock Turtle

After a small nap we got ready again at 3.30 pm to start our next trek. This time it was led by our guide Vinod Narayanan. This time we planned to go to other side of the river. We crossed the bridge which had an excellent view of Periyar river. We able to sight stock billed kingfisher and common kingfisher. We walked a little further and entered into forest area. 

Stork-billed kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis) Not able to get a good picture as it was far away...

As we walked down we saw lots of Drongos, swift, parakeet, grey hornbill, barbet etc. We had a numerous sighting of various barbets, bulbul, and parakeets. The catch of the day was Grey hornbill and Indian Pitta. With the help of Vinod we able to sight the migratory Indian Pitta.

Plum-headed parakeet (Psittacula cyanocephala) which is endemic to the Indian Subcontinent.
Racket-tailed Drongo

Crested treeswift (Hemiprocne coronata)

Indian pygmy woodpecker (Picoides nanus)

Malabar grey hornbill (Ocyceros griseus) is a hornbill endemic to the Western Ghats

Indian pitta (Pitta brachyura) 

Rufous treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda) 

The Second day we started early to the other side of the hill. It was around 30 minutes drive and reached a small hill. You can get beautiful ariel view of the forest. We able to sight good number of birds like Minivit, Hill Myna, Parrot etc... The catch of the day was Ceylon Frogmouth. From the rocky hill we moved back to Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. It was a good trik overall as lot of birds I saw was for the first time.

Ceylon frogmouth (Batrachostomus moniliger) The reddish brown colour is female and light brown is Male.


Orange minivet (Pericrocotus flammeus) - Male

Orange minivet (Pericrocotus flammeus) - Female

Black-hooded oriole (Oriolus xanthornus) 

Asian fairy-bluebird (Irena puella)

Vernal hanging parrot (Loriculus vernalis)

Malabar parakeet (Psittacula columboides)

Verditer flycatcher (Eumyias thalassinus)

Golden-fronted leafbird (Chloropsis aurifrons)

It is a place for serious birders and if your not one just skip this place. The entire day is spend to look for feathered beauties and be ready to walk the whole day. It will be sweatingBirds Song Home Stay is a good place to stay as it is just inside the sanctuary, its clean and comfortable. The verandah outside the room is cool place to see nature and relax . Vinod Narayanan is very good in identifying the birds and with his help we able see some of the rare birds. He is genuinely interested to make sure we are satisfied with the stay and trip. Airtel mobile signal was very weak, but it maybe good as u r disconnected from the outside world. It had been some incredible birding at Thattekad and we would have seen over 50 species of birds in a day. Some of the birds I saw is listed below. 

Some of Birds Sighted:
Bronzed Drongo
Black Drongo
Black-hooded oriole
Black rumped flameback woodpecker
Brahminy Kite
Brown-breasted flycatcher
Chestnut-Headed Bee-eater
Common hill myna
Common Iora
Common kingfisher
Crimson-backed sunbird
Crimson-fronted barbet
Greater Coucal
Golden-fronted leafbird
Indian golden oriole
Indian Pitta
Indian pygmy woodpecker
Indian swiftlet
Malabar parakeet
Oriental magpie-robin
Plum-headed parakeet
Purple Heron
Purple Sunbird
Racket-tailed drongo
Red-whiskered bulbul
Rufous Treepie
Spotted dove
Stork-billed kingfisher
Streak-throated woodpecker
Small green barbet
Southern hill mynas
Vernal hanging parrot
Verditer flycatcher
White-bellied treepie
Whistling ducks
White Throat Kingfisher

Birding Team

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rollapadu Wildlife Sancturary

Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary is located in kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. It is located around 45 km from Kurnool town, it covers an area of over 614 sq. km. Rollapadu is primarily a grassland ecosystem with mixed forests and thorny bushes. Cotton, tobacco and sunflower are cultivated in the agricultural lands that border the sanctuary.The sanctuary was set up in 1988 to protect the endangered Great Indian Bustard and the Lesser Florican. There are just 200 great Indian bustards in India.The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently included the great Indian bustard in its 'red list' of endangered animal species. The Indian Bustard are believed to have completely disappeared from Haryana, Punjab, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Tamilnadu. There are only 10 Bustard in Rollapadu and its found to be difficult to site this bird. (Wiki)

We took Kacheguda express which starts from Chennai Egmore at 5pm (21.11.2014) and we reached Kurnool at 4.15 am.  We refreshed ourself in a local lodge and around 5 am we started our journey to Rollapadu to sight the great Indian Bustard and blackbucks. We hired a Jeep to Rollapadu, which was very useful as it would be difficult for other vehicles to go through this grassland. We reached Rollapadu Sanctuary around 6 am.

Rollapadu wildlife sanctuary is one of the finest grasslands present in India. Picture tall brown grass welcomed us and on the way we sighted plenty of birds. If you observe closely into the grass land you can see leaping blackbucks. 

Trying to get close to Blackbucks.(Dhanjayan and Yegnaram in action)

Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) is also called as murukumaan in Tamil.  The Blackbuck is one of the five species of Antelopes found in India. These graceful animals were seen in large numbers at the beginning of the century. It is an ungulate species of antelope native to the Indian subcontinent that has been classified as near threatened by IUCN since 2003, as its range has decreased sharply during the 20th century (Wiki).  Blackbucks generally live on open plains and open woodlands in herds of 5 to 50 animals with one dominant male. They are very fast. Speeds of more than 80 km/h (50 mph) have been recorded.

Blackbuck are antelopes that congregate in open plains and form territories. They defend these territories against male intrusion. These animals are territorial most of the year in Rollapadu. Females form herds of their own with juveniles of both sexes. Blackbuck does visit the males in the territory only temporarily for short periods of a few hours to maybe a day or two. The male is alone a considerable part of the time in his territory. Female blackbuck herds move about and feed outside the territories. The females may not stop at the first territory, but move sequentially through one territory to another, till she grazes at the territory of her choice. Source: Menon, R. K. G. (2009)

Territorial Male

The maduvu or maan koombu or maru is a weapon typically consists of two blackbuck horns. The maru originated among the Dravidians of south India and was favoured by the Bhil people.

Female Blackbuck
Female herd running when we come near to it...

Jumping blackbuck
Blackbuck, when it is at the height of its long leap, is an amazing wildlife experience to photograph. The jumping Blackbuck images looks great but usually these images are captured by provoking and chasing the animals to get the photograph. It would be natural if the chase is done by some predators. I feel this behaviour should not be encouraged by wildlife photographers.

Male chasing another blackbuck male which has entered its territory.

Rollapadu is the birds paradise. some the birds clicked are listed below

Large grey babbler (Turdoides malcolmi)

Laughing dove (Spilopelia senegalensis)

Greater coucal (Centropus sinensis)


Rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri)

Ashy-crowned sparrow-lark (Eremopterix griseus)

Green bee-eater (Merops orientalis) catch an insect in mid-air, come back to their perch.

Common Hopoee

Indian roller (Coracias benghalensis)

Black drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus)

Southern grey shrike (Lanius meridionalis)

Indian bush lark

Red-wattled lapwing (Vanellus indicus)

Montagu's harrier (Circus pygargus)

Great Indian Bustard flying in the background (look like)

We spend a day in Rollapadu Sanctuary and had a great time to seeing this unique ecosystem.  Like to thank our special guide Mr.Gafoor and Jeep driver.  We missed to sight the great Indian bustard and will love to visit again to focus on Bustard, Lesser Florican, Buzzard, Kites, Owls, Eagles Night-jars etc. We enjoyed authentic Andhra meals in midtur which is around 6 km from Rollapadu. Don't miss the mini tea (50 ml)  near Rollapadu bus stand. It is an important place to visit in South India for wildlife photographers. We took the 8.15pm train to Chennai from Kurnool. We also tried the delicious Pulla Reddy sweets of Kurnool and viewed the famous Konda Reddy Fort.