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

 

 

Birds love Waterhole

Thattekad, being the best birding destination in South India is a place covered with lowland and montane forests with various eco habitats that are ideal for forest birds! The 4 of us- Owen, Siuyuen, Davis and I were birding in a forest in noon when our guide Eldhose came up to us and said “one of you follow me first, and next one tomorrow, etc.” Everyone was puzzled and scared! But surely its safe?! So I volunteered and the next minute I was in a tuk-tuk waving goodbye to my friends and they wished me well! >.<”

The tuk-tuk ride seemed like forever! My heart pumped  hard- where is he taking me? And at that moment, I realised I left my wallet with my friends and various scenarios popped in my head. The tuk-tuk went off trail and uphill to some quiet paddy field which made me worry more! But very soon I was comforted by the sight of a birding hide!

Slowly we made our way to the hide. I could see now why only one person could bird here- the path was small to only accommodate a one-man hide! As I positioned myself in the hide, I could see a small waterhole in front of me. Very soon birds came out for a drink and bath, the first being the Orange-headed Thrush followed by Puff-throated Babbler, White-cheeked Barbet, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Black Crested Bulbul, etc!

orange-headed thrush at waterhole at Thattekkad

orange-headed thrush at waterhole at Thattekkad

puff-throated babbler had a bath at waterhole

puff-throated babbler had a bath at waterhole

 

white-cheeked barbet

white-cheeked barbet

 

yellow-browed bulbul came for a drink

yellow-browed bulbul came for a drink

Left : Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher. Right: Tickell's Blue Flycatcher Easily separated from throat colour

Right : Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher. Left : Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher
Easily separated from throat colour

Black crested Bulbul also a waterhole fan!

Black crested Bulbul also a waterhole fan!

It was a cool way to bird and while I watched the birds come by the waterhole… I heard a loud shrieking call from behind. The call was constant and had shifted to my left. I peeped through the small “window” from my hide and I was astounded…my dream bird! It very quickly flew to the waterhole and I had no time to change the setting in my camera! It took a dip and flew off! :-/ And what I had was a blurry picture of the Asian Paradise Flycatcher, male! None of my friends who visited the waterhole after me saw the Asian Paradise Flycatcher..

the bird that got away

the bird that got away

Waterhole is a great way to see birds up close! This was my second time birding at a waterhole. First time was in Thailand, please click here! My South India Guide, Eldhose has delivered his birds as promised. I highly recommend him! 🙂

South India Guide

South India Guide

 

Who loves a Frogmouth? 印度观鸟 (领蟆口鸱)

I finally pulled myself together to write about Kerala, South India…but with over 120 birds in just 5 days, I really don’t know where to start! >.<

Joined by a few friends, we hired a bird guide who is a pioneer in South India and leads an avid team that served us! I remembered Eldhose promised that we’d see some raptors and nightjars and I was very surprised, because I have not met any bird guide that promises anything!

On one afternoon, we went to a low forest plantation area in search for the frogmouth, but to no avail. but we were promised that we’d see them the next day! And sure enough we did! It seemed that our bird guide recruited another team to help search the frogmouths for us! It was amazing to see 2 individuals and 1 pair of Sri Lankan Frogmouths (领蟆口鸱), as these species is only found in the Western Ghats of southwest India and Sri Lanka! We moved in quietly and carefully not to disturb them as its their breeding season (January to March)! They roosted so low in the plantation area, and so camouflaged that if the guide hadn’t pointed them to me, I’d thought they were just leaves!!! 🙂 They look awfully cute! Who loves a frogmouth? 😛

Sri Lankan Frogmouth

Sri Lankan Frogmouth

Sri Lankan Frogmouth

Sri Lankan Frogmouth

A pair of them!

A pair of them!