Friday, 14 December 2012

The Day of the Dog

So how could we top yesterday then…..? Well on entering the safari vehicle the naturalist-guy asked kinda smugly what we’d like to go for today, having been with us yesterday afternoon for the Tiger. So naturally we said Wild Dog or Leopard which really wiped the smile off his face I can tell you. So we drove out to the open areas near the river and had a look, and there were a few birds around but I suspected it was going to be a bit dull this morning. Well how wrong can you be? As I scanned the far side of the grassland I picked up a couple of Dholes (Wild Dogs) and rather frantically said “dogs, dogs, dogs…!” Not too cool really. But then what transpired couldn’t have been more amazing as there were 7 Wild Dogs and they had tried to reach a calf Gaur which was hiding behind a group of adults just inside the forest. Then a huge bull Gaur came charging forward and tried to scare the pack away but only succeeded in getting surrounded and it looked at one point as if it would get taken down. 

Wild Dogs Attacking Gaur

But three other adult Gaurs came charging out and saved the lone bull. So the dog pack quickly gave up and settled down for a play in the middle of the meadow where they remained for several minutes, a picture of serenity and calm. But just then a couple of domestic dogs ambled out into the grassland and the Dholes saw them immediately and gave chase. They were unbelievable fast and came hurtling past our jeep and soon caught up with one of the domestic dogs and the last we saw of them was when they disappeared into the forest. The chase was enlivened by the almost Attenborough-esque commentary from Jeff although it couldn’t be repeated on a public forum such as this, but I think you were right and those domestic dogs definitely did poop themselves!

So with that excitement over we headed back to the lodge and after breakfast we left, checking out a nearby area where we had Richard’s Pipit, Malabar Lark, Indian Black Ibis, and both Woolly-necked and Painted Storks before driving on to Mysore, a long and boring journey which eventually resulted in our arrival at a nice hotel in time for a late lunch. We did check out the nearby hills a little later but saw very little, so had to settle for a lovely evening meal to round the day off nicely.

Indian Black Ibis

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright.......!

This morning’s jeep safari took us inside the Tiger Reserve, but minus the tigers! There were plenty of Spotted Deer and the odd Wild Boar, but no predators on offer. In truth, we spent the 3 hours or so birding rather than searching for mammals, but with tape playing not allowed this severely dented our ambitions. There was plenty to look at, such as Indian Cuckoo, Bronzed and Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, Malabar Starlings, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, and Indian Pygmy Woodpecker.

 Lunch back at the ranch and a little time off in the heat of the day led to the first of two sightings of Jerdon’s Leafbird beside our cabins, and with a Short-toed Eagle and a dark-phase Booted Eagle soaring overhead just after we had been looking at a pair of Mottled Wood-owls in the gardens and we were flying! More birds here than in the reserve huh?

The afternoon jeep safari started off promisingly as we prompted the driver and park naturalist that we were primarily interested in tracking Tigers, which I think confused them a little after our protestations earlier today about only looking for birds. Well, we got a few miles inside the park and checked out a waterhole where there had been a sighting yesterday – but nothing. Then as we were driving away, we heard the alarm call of a Spotted Deer up ahead. And another. So we drove rapidly along the bumpy track and killed the engine. Waiting for more calls. And waited. Then another call moments later, so we sped off through the trees and up ahead was another jeep with all its occupants staring intently into the forest. They’d just had a Tiger walk in front of them and it melted away into the forest. Oh no! We waited and our guide and tracker looked forlorn. “Sorry” they said, as if it was all over. I was reluctant to go, so we waited a while in the forlorn hope of the beast returning. With a few glum faces in our jeep everything came sharply into focus; the responsibility mainly and having done 5 tiger tours in the past, I knew there was always a chance. So I asked the driver if there was a track running parallel to the one we were on and preferably in the direction the Tiger had gone. There was and we were off. 

Err it's a Tiger

And a few minutes later we were driving slowly along another track. Up ahead there was some movement between the trees and there it was….. a young male Tiger. I just couldn’t believe our luck. We slowly drove closer and stopped. And even though I’d seen maybe 30-40 before, seeing this majestic creature still got the pulse racing. We watched it walk on a bit further before sitting down in the middle of the track where it watched a herd of Gaur further along. It stayed for maybe ten minutes until another jeep came from the opposite direction, so it walked inside the forest and sat down again, this time partially concealed. Wow, what a sighting! To say we were buzzing afterwards is an understatement. Can’t really remember seeing anything else after that and we had a few beers to celebrate later…. 

Monday, 10 December 2012


We drove a short distance to a nice open forest and walked along a dirt track and very quickly found a Jerdon’s Bushlark which I called in and then scoped on top of a small tree. It was nice views after yesterday’s events when rain stopped play. Then we continued our walk further along the track and picked up lots of Brahminy Starlings and eventually a few Rosy Starlings and Grey-headed Starlings as well. 

Brahminy Starlings

Overhead both Indian and White-rumped Vultures were soaring around and towards the end of our walk we also saw a very low flying Red-headed Vulture

Indian Vulture

Red-headed Vulture

Continuing the raptor theme and a Shaheen flew over – although only a race of Peregrine it was still nice to see. Flocks of Yellow-footed Green-pigeons were perched up nicely in the trees and Chris picked up a Brown-headed Barbet. As we were just about finished with our walk a wonderful White-bellied Minivet was spotted and everyone saw it very well. We also came across a lone Gaur crashing through the scrub, had a brief look at a Grey-headed Bulbul and White-rumped Shama, saw a Yellow-eyed Babbler very well, several Common Rosefinches and had reasonably close view of a Sykes’s Warbler.

Yellow-eyed Babbler

 Leaving Jungle Huts behind we set off on the drive north to Nagarhole, which was long and tedious but enlivened, inevitably, by some good new birds for the list. So we added Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark and Indian Black Ibis and saw plenty of other commoner things.

Eventually after a four and a half hour drive we arrived at the wonderful Kabini River Lodge, and by now it was almost 2.45pm so went straight for lunch and then right onto the boat for our ‘safari’ along the huge reservoir. This turned out to be pretty good with hundreds of River Terns present, along with a few Whiskered Terns

River Tern

Some small islands held lots of Pygmy and Indian Cormorants, Oriental Darters, with a few Great Cormorants as well. Black-headed Ibis, Asian Openbill, Eurasian Spoonbills, a few Painted Storks, Purple and Grey Herons, and Black-crowned Night-herons all added to the spectacle. 

Eurasian Spoonbills

Indian Cormorants

Flocks of Pintail and Spot-billed Ducks also contained smaller numbers of Common Teal and Garganey which took flight as we sailed by. Raptors included several Brahminy Kites, an Osprey and best of all, a superb Grey-headed Fish-eagle which was perched prominently on one of the numerous dead trees protruding from the water. 


Grey-headed Fish-eagle

On the grassy banks herds of Spotted Deer also included some Sambar, along with a few Wild Boar, however the Asian Elephants stole the show. Several groups were seen digging up the grass for food, and one small herd included a young baby! 

Asian Elephant

Asian Elephant

As we watched this one particular group a Malabar Pied Hornbill flew over and gave really nice views against the clear blue sky. 

Malabar Pied Hornbill

However, probably the best sighting this afternoon were of the 3 Small Pratincoles perched on a bank beside the water and were a species I had not expected to see on this tour. 

Small Pratincoles

We also saw Stork-billed and Lesser Pied Kingfishers as well. As the light began to fade huge flocks of River Terns congregated over the water, which made for a spectacular sight and a Brown-headed Gull was seen on one of the small islands. So by the end of the day we had seen 116 species, our biggest day total by far and by now had seen 98 endemics of varying degree! Not bad going, and we’d break the 100 barrier tomorrow as well…

Sunday, 9 December 2012


After another leisurely breakfast we left a misty and drizzly Ooty and headed down into the foothills and our next base at the edge of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Along the way we stopped to check out some Hill Swallows, much to Roy’s delight and then continued lower, stopping to admire a couple of endemic Nilgiri Langurs

Nilgiri Langur

The going was slow along the winding road but eventually we passed into the reserve and started seeing a few new birds, with a cracking Crested Hawk-eagle and our first Brahminy Starlings and Indian Black Robin

Crested Hawk-eagle

Having been slightly worried by the name of our next lodge, simply called Jungle Huts, my imagination had been running riot and I feared the worst – but upon arrival we were all pleasantly surprised. A couple of neat blocks of rooms in some well-wooded sprawling grounds were very clean and comfortable, and we even had hot showers! A Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher greeted us and as our host tried to show us to our rooms we became distracted by a flock of Orange Minivets and a Taiga Flycatcher. After lunch we drove a short distance and then walked along a lane and into a very open forest where we were shown a White-naped Flameback in its nest hole, and had some very good views of another one flying around and perched in a bare tree. The same spot also had Coppersmith Barbet, Bay-backed Shrike, a lovely Indian Nuthatch and a Streak-throated Woodpecker

Streak-throated Woodpecker

Unfortunately the low mist covering the surrounding crags materialised into rain and we had to take shelter a couple of times in people’s houses! So our attempt at Jerdon’s Bushlark didn’t end to our liking and we had to settle for a few Malabar Larks and Yellow-throated Sparrow instead. 

One of the local guides accompanying us took us to a day roosting Savannah Nightjar and we also had nice views of an adult Bonelli’s Eagle flying over and perched in a big tree, as well as Yellow-crowned Woodpecker. By 5.30pm we had had enough, drenched to the bone and thankful of Francis (our driver) suddenly appearing in his minibus. 

Oriental Scops-owl

Before dinner I spotlighted a Brown Fish-owl in the garden and eventually an Oriental Scops-owl as well – our 12th species of owl on the tour so far.....