Sunbirds & Flowerpeckers in Thattekkad, Kerala

At Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, there’s no shortage of sunbirds and flowerpeckers. Flowers were plentiful and these little birds seemed very engaged in their favorite tree! It was lovely to see some of the species just in one tree! But getting a decent picture is another story. Here are some of my best shots.. having stood by the tree for the whole morning! *Cough*

The Loten’s sunbird below (named after Dutch governor of Ceylon, Joan Loten), is also known as Long-billed sunbird or Maroon-breasted sunbird, is endemic to peninsular India and Sri Lanka.

Female Loten's sunbird at Salim Ali Sanctuary

Female Loten’s sunbird at Salim Ali Sanctuary

The male Loten's Sunbird is more obliging!

The male Loten’s Sunbird is more obliging!

Another endemic to India Subcontinent is the Purple-rumped Sunbird! There were quite a few of these sunbirds hovered about the flowering tree. The male has a beautiful collage of colours as compared to the female,  I was totally captivated by it. 🙂

purple-rumped sunbird

purple-rumped sunbird

purple-rumped sunbird-female in India

purple-rumped sunbird-female in India

Also found in the same tree was the common yet sassy, glossy looking Purple Sunbird!

purple sunbird

purple sunbird

Found in Southern India is the resident, Nilgiri Flowerpecker.  This species is said to be differentiated from the other sub species by its pale brown on the upperside, whitetish underside along with a wider white brow.. !  This little fellow had been feasting on nectar the whole morning, evidenced by the coloration on its face! 😛

nilgiri flowerpecker

nilgiri flowerpecker

And here’s us four, waiting patiently by the flowering tree. 🙂

The four of us at Salim Ali Sanctuary

The four of us at Salim Ali Sanctuary

Malabar birds at Kerala, South India

I thought it would be easy to spot a big bird at Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary (also known as Salim Ali Sanctuary) but I was wrong! The Malabar Grey Hornbill, a must-see South India endemic, preferred a sheltered spot very high up on a tree! :-/ Fortunately, hornbills are big, hence despite that its high up feasting on figs, a reasonable photo could still be taken.. It’s supposed to have an hysterical crackling call but I never got to hear it! But the Malabar Grey Hornbill had a cheeky look. 🙂

Luckily, we got to see this big bird again the next day while on a pitta hunt. The second picture was taken at eye level…!

malabar grey hornbill at Kerala

malabar grey hornbill at Kerala

Endemic hornbill to South India

Malabar grey Hornbill

The Malabar Grey Hornbill was not the only hornbill we saw at Kerala. Equally excited as us, our guide spotted the rare Malabar Pied Hornbill. As he called out in a quivering voice with excitement, I knew we’re in for a rarity! Despite it is distributed in both India and Sri Lanka, the Malabar Pied Hornbill is classified as Near Threatened species under its conservation status. At first sight, it looked pretty similar to the Oriental Pied Hornbill, but its easily differentiated by the black casque on the Malabar Pied Hornbill. 🙂 According to the guide, its a very rare record in Kerala.

Malabar pied hornbill, near threatened species

Malabar pied hornbill, near threatened species

Surely birds with the name starting with “Malabar” is an endemic to the Malabar region! Apart from these two Malabar bird species, there’s the Malabar whistling thrush- click here, and also this cute Malabar Parakeet! 😛

Malabar parakeet, endemic to South India

Malabar parakeet, endemic to South India

Eldhose Birding lodge in Kerala

One early morning, we were taken to Eldhose home which was supposed to be a very birdy site! Built in the middle of the forest, we could hear birds of all sorts sing their hearts out as we hurtled into the forest towards Eldhose’s home.

We sat at the front porch and sipped our morning coffee while waiting for the star bird…it was none other than the Black-rumped Flameback, also known as the Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker. The black throat finely marked with white spots separates it from other golden backed woodpeckers in the Indian region. This gorgeous male didn’t let us wait long! The woodpecker was just too obliging- came to the tree right in front of us and started pecking away! It was almost as it was putting a show for us! Its red crown is just too eye-catching, isn’t it? 😛

Black-rumped flameback at Eldhose birding lodge

Black-rumped flameback at Eldhose birding lodge

There were some quality birds at Eldhose birding site which included Grey Junglefowl couple, Black-throated munia, Jungle babbler, which were all endemics! There was also a Red Spurfowl which peeped through the scrubs and nosy squirrels that came for a peek-a-boo! :-/

It was a brilliant morning session before we moved on to Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary where we saw many sunbirds, flowerpeckers, hornbills and of course the Indian Pitta– a must see in India! With over 120 birds seen in that sanctuary, I need time to consolidate my thoughts before doing a write-up about it! *cough* Stay Tuned…

grey junglefowl couple, endemic to South India

grey junglefowl couple, endemic to South India

jungle babbler in South India are plentiful

jungle babbler in South India are plentiful

Black-throated Munia is a resident in foothills of Southwest India

Black-throated Munia is a resident in foothills of Southwest India

 

Munnar- Almost In Heaven

A 3 hour drive from Kerala will land you in the place of heaven and I’m not kidding! The landscape was absolutely breathtaking with peaks undulating as the car moved uphill! But the drive in the dark before dawn was hairy-considering the narrow twirls up the mountainous region, which by any mistake could also take you to heaven! >.<”

A 3 hours drive from Kerala will land you in heaven

How heaven looks like

Awesome landscape in Munnar

Awesome landscape in Munnar

Our first stop at Munnar was actually a resting area for drivers. It looked pretty bare at first sight with bits of rubbish, but according to Eldhose team, this is where the Nilgiri Pipit is! A pipit (listed as Vulnerable on IUCN list) that is endemic to the mountains of Southern India, something not to be missed and we didn’t! 🙂

Other birds we saw at this dumpster resting site included

  • Pied bushchats
  • Hill Swallows
  • Oriental White-eyes
  • Common Rosefinch
  • Malabar Whistling Thrush (pity we didn’t hear it whistle!)
nilgiri pipit can be found in Munnar

nilgiri pipit can be found in Munnar

 

Pied bushchat couple came close at the resting area

Pied bushchat couple came close at the resting area

Left-Malabar whistling thrush Right-  Hill Swallow

Left-Malabar whistling thrush Right- Hill Swallow

Situated at high altitude of Southern India, quality birds restricted to the region simply could not be missed! Some of these birds have special names which start with Nilgiri, or Kerala or Malabar! As our car sauntered along the narrow road, we spotted a bird hopping around the bushes by the curb and it was quickly identified as Kerala Laughing Thrush by its distinctive laugh! Nearby, we also saw the Nilgiri Flycatcher and hiked for a Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, which at first sight I thought it was a Spotted dove! :-/

There were also creeks at Munnar where we found the Black and Orange Flycatcher, endemic to the hills in Southern India, along with Blue-capped Rock Thrush, all colourful birds with wow factor!

kerala laughing thrush on high altitude region in Munnar

kerala laughing thrush on high altitude region in Munnar

Nilgiri flycatcher and Nilgiri wood pigeon at Munnar

Nilgiri flycatcher and Nilgiri wood pigeon at Munnar

 

blue capped rock thrush at Munnar

blue capped rock thrush at Munnar

black and orange flycatcher, endemic to hills of southern India

black and orange flycatcher, endemic to hills of southern India

Besides forests and creeks, there’s plenty of tea plantations at Munnar! It was a great day at Munnar-birds, beautiful landscape and cool weather!  By the end of the day, we had tea and local chocolates before another 3 hour hairy drive back to Kerala!

tea plantation at Munnar

tea plantation at Munnar

 

 

Owls and Nightjars in Thattekad, Kerala

Who doesn’t love owls and nightjars? According to the bird list given to us prior to birding in Kerala, we should see a few and we were not disappointed. The first and probably a common owl in Kerala is the Jungle Owlet found in Thattekad area! This one came up close to check on us.. 🙂

jungle owlet commonly seen in Kerala

jungle owlet commonly seen in Kerala

Then there was Mottled Wood Owl on the list. This was a tricky one as the pair was found in a thorn forest! We battled with thorny shrubs to get close but then they flew away before we got anywhere near! :-/ We battled our way out again and was about to leave in our torn clothes when the pair flew out into the open…phew! It’s definitely worth the scratches.. Like all wood owls, Mottled Wood Owl is huge in size. Notice its got orange eyelids. 🙂 This is a second wood owl for me, the first being Spotted Wood Owl. Click here.

mottled wood owl in Kerala

mottled wood owl in Kerala

The pair flew out from the thorny forest and landed on tree above us

The pair flew out from the thorny forest and landed on tree above us

After a day’s birding, our guide fished out a torch and told us to wait for the evening. Stood in the midst of a dense forest, birds were still very active and we were entertained by their melodic calls as we waited for the Jerdon’s nightjar. But instead came the Indian Scops Owl! The owl was very cooperative and flew to a branch right in front of us! Much thanks to the guide’s torch I had enough light to take a picture of the tiny owl!

Indian scops owl came after dark

Indian scops owl came after dark

The Jerdon’s Nightjar finally came and left in a jiffy after much waiting and again I’m left with a blurry picture of the pretty bird! Apart from the Jerdon’s nightjar, we also saw the Jungle Nightjar (tick off bird list) thanks to our guide who pointed it to us! It took me quite a while to spot the bird at the location. Kerala is a great place for birding, not only do we get to see local endemics but also Sri Lanka birds! Notably, the Sri Lankan Frogmouth. Click here.

 

The elusive nightjar

Jungle Nightjar in Kerala Can you see the bird?

Jungle Nightjar in Kerala Can you see the bird?