Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Trip to Old Magazine House near Ganeshgudi

Its been almost 2 years since I started Bird watching. The longest I have gone for birding is Galibore. This year we had plans to cover atleast 2 places during this winter. One being Thattekad which we are yet to visit and another being OMH(Old Magazine House) near Ganeshgudi. I had read lot about this place and seen umpteen number of blogs written about bird watching experience here. The only birds I had seen till now are the ones seen around Bangalore, so I was expecting to see lot of birds which for the first time here in Ganeshgudi.

We decided to plan a trip to Ganeshgudi in December after the onset of winter. Ajit planned the entire trip. Booked train tickets(Rani chennamma express) till Londa and the stay at OMH dormitory. Just days before embarking on our journey, got some very useful tips from Santosh BS who was kind enough to explain how we could make the best use of our short time. We had planned just for the weekend.

We all met at Railway station. Myself, Raghu and Ajit had breakfast in one of the restaurants outside railway station and after sometime Nagarj joined us. We reached Alnavar at around 7 in the morning. I had a disturbed sleep in the night for some reason, probably the anxiety was not allowing me to have a good nights sleep in the train. After getting down at Alnavar we finished breakfast at one of the hotels. From there we hired a taxi to drop us till Dandeli. There was another group of 3 people who wanted to go to Dandeli and they shared the same taxi with us. The drive through the forests to Dandeli was beautiful. We saw lot of peacocks and peahens feeding in the farms. Lot of swallows had lined up on wires on the road. The taxi dropped us in front of the timber depot.

Our first stop was the Timber depot. This is an amazing place to see Hornbills. And we were not to be dissapointed. The first bird we saw was a beautiful Malabar Pied Hornbill. This was the first time I was seeing this bird. The only hornbill that I have seen till now is Indian Grey Hornbill. So my wishlist for this trip was to see the other 3 south indian hornbills which could be sighted here. So seeing my first hornbill set the mood for the day. Nearby we heard a pecking sound and immediately recognized it to be a woodpecker sound. It was a White Bellied Woodpecker which was chipping away and eating the insects coming out of it. This fellow gave us quite a show. And we could hear these folks entire morning in the timber depot. We saw atleast 3-4 of them.

Malabar Pied Hornbill

White Bellied Woodpecker

Timber Depot Entrance

Since we could not walk the entire trail with our heavy bags we asked the forest office there if we could keep our bags for the morning. And they were more than happy to help us out. We kept our bags and started with just our cameras and Ajit's binocs. And one of the guy from the forest office was kind enough to suggested the trail to be taken for birding. We headed towards that way. We could hear lot of sounds around that area. And at one place we saw lot of activity. First we were pulled in by the sight of a forest wagtail. Again a first timer for me. Only myself and Raghu were able to see him. By the time Ajit came this fellow had gone. Then next we saw a mixed foraging group of birds which had Malabar starlings, Iora's, Leaf birds, Orange Minivet and Black lored tits. We also saw a Velvet fronted nuthatch and a brown capped pygmy woodpecker in the same area. Saw couple of pied hornbils flying over our head. I was seeing all these birds for the first time. It was like a paradise.

Forest Wagtail

We decided to go ahead and see whats more in store for us. Then came the show of Malabar Grey hornbill. A group of birds came and sat on a tree trying to enjoy their breakfast. We could see them almost fighting each other even when there were so many fruits to have. We were able to watch them at very close quarters. I never thought I would be seeing these birds at such close quarters in the wild. We decided not to disturb their breakfast anymore and decided to go ahead.

Malbar Grey Hornbill

We heard a very distinctive sound and headed to checkout the maker of that sound. Turned out to be a Hornbill. Again a pied hornbill. Meanwhile me and Ajit were a little ahead when I saw something fly right in front of me. That is when I got to see the bird which was evading me till now, "Indian Pitta". I have been waiting for last 2 years to see this bird and here I was in front of the bird just few meters away. Before I alerted others he went into the bush and vanished. Only Ajit could get a glimpse of it. We also saw an Emerald Dove fly away from there. Raghu and Nagaraj missed it. The same place we saw another shrike looking bird and Ajit identified it as a Western Ghats endemic "Bar Winged Flycatcher Shrike". Very beautiful to see under the sunlight. Since it was getting late and we had to check in at OMH by 12:30 we decided to head out. And again we were stopped midway by the Greater Flameback.

Tickell's Blue Flycatcher

Bar Winged Flycatcher Shrike

Greater Flameback

After coming near bus stop we were told we would have to wait atleast an hour for the bus. So we decided to take a shared taxi. He dropped us near OMH. We saw there were already people on the trail with their bazookas taking pictures. We heard a call on the road and Raghu decided to check it out. And after sometime he called us out to show a "Heart Spotted Woodpecker". Another first sighting for me. It's a very small bird but very cute. Before we could reach the resort we saw couple of Pied hornbills and Plum Headed parakeets.

Heart Spotted Woodpecker

Western Crowned Warbler

Plum Headed Parakeets

Checked into the dormitory and after sumptuous lunch got ready for the show near the bird bath, Looking at the crowd there we thought we will take the path leading to the main road. Before we went out of the gate we saw Velvet fronted nuthatch, Black Lored tit and Orange Minivets. The sharp eyesight of Raghu sighted another woodpecker on the trail and this time it was Rufous woodpecker. We kept walking the trail and were able to see Yellow Browed bulbul and Dark fronted babblers. Just when we decided to head back to join the trek we couple of Great Hornbills flying over head. We could believe our luck. Ajit and Raghu went bonkers. To see this majestic bird soaring against clear blue sky was just a sight to behold.

Yellow Browed Bulbul

White Bellied Blue Flycatcher

Flying Lizard

Rufous Woodpecker

Great Hornbill

Velvet Fronted Nuthatch

Black Lored Tit

We came to the bird bath spot, we were told Fulvettas, Black rumped shama, Spider hunter and White bellied flycatcher put on quite a show there. We decided to join the trek where JLR guide would take us to the top of the mountain to see sunset over Supa dam. Enroute we saw Indian Pitta on the trail. By the time me and Ajit who were in the front could react the bird vanished. What happened next was sad to see. The JLR guide started playing the Pitta song to get the bird come out again. He played for sometime and once he realized it was gone he stopped playing the tune.

The scenic beauty from the top cannot be described in words. Its just wonderful and too see sunset from there was an amazing experience. We also saw a Common kestrel hovering around. Couple of Pied Hornbills flew across. It was beautiful to watch them against sunset light.

Common Kestrel

After coming back had some snacks and decided to take rest for a while. And then after dinner we took a small walk to see the night life near the campus. We saw scorpions, spiders and geckos around the campus. The highlight being a juvenile Tarantula spider. We also saw few of the folks harassing a gecko for getting few decent photographs. Ajit tried to stop them but in vain. The same was complained to the incharge the next day morning.

After a good nights sleep I woke at around 5:30 in the morning, I saw Ajit had already gone out. After completing my morning chores I stepped out to the beautiful sounds of birds in the morning. At around 6:15 we heard a Malabar whistling Thrush whistling away and by 6:30 all sorts of sounds could be heard. Most of the folks in cottages were woken by these sounds I guess. And by 7 everyone had setup their tripods near the bird bath and were waiting for the show to start. We decided to have breakfast soon. And while having breakfast we saw the Flame throated bulbul paying us a visit. I immediately stopped eating and started taking photos of this beautiful bird. And the next bird which paid us a visit there was White Rumped Shama. I was seeing both these birds for the first time. The dining area in the campus is a wonderful place to see all this action. The Shama then went near the bird bath.

Myself and Ajit followed it to bird bath to get a good glimpse. While everyone were busy watching the Shama I saw a movement in bushes. It turned out to be Pitta again. I could not believe my luck. This was my third sighting in just 2 days. Raghua and Nagaraj were having breakfast and when I called them out to inform that Pitta has decided to show up they immediately stopped their breakfast and came near the bird bath area. Everyone started taking photos of this bird. He was standing still for about 5 minutes and then he vanished. All of us got record shots. But I think some of the folks wanted better photographs and they started to play the Pitta song. Pitta did respond after sometime with a similar call. And after a while flew right across us.Again vanishing into the bushes. The song was played again and this time the same thing happened where in it flew right across us. It was very sad to see what was happening in front of us. I know playing songs to draw out birds is a debatable point but I feel very sorry for birds. And to see this happening in JLR campus was very sad to see. I hope JLR management does something about this.

Asian Paradise Flycatcher

White Bellied Blue Flycatcher(Female)

Emerald Dove

Blue Capped Rock Thrush(Female)

Flame Throated Bulbul

Blyth's Reed Warbler?

White Rumped Shama

Indian Pitta

Red Whiskered Bulbul

Orange Minivet(Female)

Orange Minivet(Male)

We decided to take a walk towards the Supa dam. On the way we saw group of Brown cheeked Fulvettas foraging and a lone Black Lored Tit decided to join the group. Enroute we saw Heart Spotted woodpecker again. The other birds which we saw were Green Bea eater. chestnut headed bea-eater, Malabar Grey hornbill, Nilgiri flowerpecker and Hill Myna's. Hill Myna's call are much more melodious when compared to our Jungle/common Myna's. After coming back had a lunch and since I was too tired I did not join Ajit and Raghu who went for another walk. Instead I decided to watch the show near bird bath. Brown Cheeked Fulvettas, Puff Throated Babbler, Flame Throated Bulbul, Emerald Dove and Asian paradise flycatcher put up quite a show for us. And after tea we decided to start packing to get ready for our return journey. And meanwhile Malabar Trogon had showed up near the bird bath. We missed seeing this fellow which was a big miss for all four of us. Instead we came out and enjoyed watching the Orange Headed Thrush in close quarters. And then Pitta rounded it off with another visit near the area. By end of the day I had seen 32 bird species for the first time.

Hill Myna

Pied Bushchat(Female)

Brown Cheeked Fulvetta

Dark Fronted Babbler

Flame Throated Bulbul

Puff Throated Babbler

Crimson Backed Sunbird(Male)

Chestnut Headed Bea-Eater

Nilgiri Flowerpecker

Green Bea-Eater

Green Bea-Eater

Heart Spotted Woodpecker

Orange Headed Thrush

An amazing trip ended and the memories of which will linger forever. This place is really a bird watchers paradise. It is better to plan for a two night stay here during winters. Which we will doing come next winter if not by end of this winter :-)

I see lot of people following some unethical practices like playing songs, using flashes for photography and catching geckos for photographs. These could be definitely avoided. I hope JLR folks put some do's and don't boards with guidelines here. And monitoring should be improved. I did not see even a single JLR folk monitoring in the night. I heard people played Scops owl songs in the night at 1AM to draw the owls out. They stopped only on hearing barking deer calls. These incidents might turn into accident very easily.

Update:  The JLR management has spoken to the staff at OMH. And approrpriate actions are being taken. It's great to see an immediate response from the JLR management. Kudos to the team.

List of Birds seen during the trip.

1 Ashy Drongo
2 Ashy Prinia
3 Asian Koel
4 Asian Paradise-flycatcher
5 Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike
6 Black Drongo
7 Black Kite
8 Flame-throated Bulbul
9 Black-headed Cuckooshrike
10 Indian Yellow Tit
11 Black-naped Monarch
12 Black-shouldered Kite (Black-winged Kite)
13 Blue Rock Thrush
14 Blyth’s Reed Warbler
15 Brahminy Kite
16 Brahminy Starling
17 Bronzed Drongo
18 Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
19 Brown-cheeked Fulvetta
20 Cattle Egret (Eastern Cattle Egret)
21 Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
22 Chestnut-tailed Starling
23 Common Iora
24 Common Kestrel
25 Common Myna
26 Common Tailorbird
27 Coppersmith Barbet
28 Crested Serpent Eagle
29 Crimson-backed Sunbird
30 Dark-fronted Babbler
31 Darter
32 Emerald Dove (Common Emerald Dove)
33 Indian Golden Oriole
34 Forest Wagtail
35 Golden-fronted Leafbird
36 Great Hornbill
37 Great Tit
38 Southern Coucal
39 Greater Flameback (Greater Goldenback)
40 Green Bee-eater
41 Western Leaf Warbler
42 Grey Wagtail
43 Grey-breasted Prinia
44 Heart-spotted Woodpecker
45 Hill Myna (Common Hill Myna)
46 House Crow
47 House Sparrow
48 Indian Cormorant
49 Indian Peafowl
50 Indian Pitta
51 Indian Pond Heron
52 Indian Robin
53 Indian Roller
54 Indian Silverbill
55 Intermediate Egret (Yellow-billed Egret)
56 Jungle Myna
57 Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
58 Little Egret
59 Malabar Grey Hornbill
60 Malabar Parakeet (Blue-winged Parakeet)
61 Malabar Pied Hornbill
62 Malabar Whistling Thrush
63 Orange-headed Thrush
64 Oriental Honey-buzzard (Crested Honey Buzzard)
65 Oriental Magpie Robin
66 Oriental White-eye
67 Pied Bushchat
68 Plum-headed Parakeet
69 Puff-throated Babbler
70 Purple Sunbird
71 Red-rumped Swallow
72 Red-vented Bulbul
73 Red-wattled Lapwing
74 Red-whiskered Bulbul
75 Rock Pigeon (Common Pigeon)
76 Rose-ringed Parakeet
77 Rufous Woodpecker
78 Orange Minivet
79 Shikra
80 Short-toed Snake Eagle
81 Spotted Dove
82 Nilgiri Flowerpecker
83 Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher
84 Velvet-fronted Nuthatch
85 Verditer Flycatcher
86 Vernal Hanging Parrot
87 Whiskered Tern
88 White-bellied Blue Flycatcher
89 White-bellied Woodpecker
90 White-browed Wagtail
91 White-cheeked Barbet
92 White-rumped Munia
93 White-rumped Shama
94 Wire-tailed Swallow
95 Woolly-necked Stork
96 Yellow-billed Babbler
97 Yellow-browed Bulbul
98 unided sandpiper
99 unided raptor
100 Blyth's starling
101 Jerdon's leafbird