Nilgiri Tahr

Nilgiri Tahr
Nature Beckons you....Listen to her whispers.....

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Punchakari Wetlands.......A Bird's Abode

Just about 6 kms away from Thiruvanthapuram railway station is the vast wetland known as Punchakari.Very close to the Vellayani lake this place in unknown to many city dwellers!It might look like any other paddy field you see around Kerala.But this one is different.The paddy-wetlands are home to a no.of migratory birds.

Pond Heron takes off......

So it was time for us to visit Punchakari in right earnest.Warblers&Waders,a city based birding group was organising a morning-till-noon bird-watching-walk at Punchakari in early November.We reserved our participation and waited for the day to arrive.

Quite path.....

We met at 7AM near the Punchakari canal lead by Susanth Kumar,senior member of Warblers&Waders.Susanth was very friendly and possessed a lot of knowledge about birds.The other senior members Kishore and Abhiram Chandran added to the list of experts leading the walk.Susanth was very forthcoming in clearing all our doubts about the birds of Punchakari.

Google Earth map of Punchakari...
Quite a no.of pond herons welomed us to Punchakari.The vast tracts of green paddy and the straight flowing canal looked bautiful in the early morning sun's rays.We walked by the side of the canal keenly looking for some special birds.A no.of Common Moorhens were produding a pcculiar sound of their's at a distance.A pair of binoculars is very helpful.I was relying more on my 55-250 lens!

We took a left turn towards more greenish looking paddy section.A Cormorant was sitting alone on the branches of a barren tree but getting close to it proved unsuccesful as it flew away denying the opportunity to take a real close picture!

We could see a large no.of butterflys and dragonflys.They are the staple diet of many migratory birds and the presence of this prey base was very encouraging to see.A common tiger butterfly greeted us with full spread wings and provided us with a good photo-shoot opportunity.

Bea Eater.......

A group of Green Sandpipers flew above us which are migratory avians coming from Southern Europe.Then we saw a no.of Barn Swallows perching on the electric wires.They come from Haridwar and other parts of the Himalayas.But photographing them is a tough task as they fly away on even littile disturbance.


The presence of Common Stonechat was very significant.Susanth explained that the Stonechats prefer drier places and its presence at Punchakari reinforces the fact that the area was getting hotter.

A pair of Pied Kingfishers were trying to catch some fish.They flew around us for quite some time taking a break by sitting on the live wires.They are less shy compard to the Sandpipers and we were able to get some good pictures.

A White Ibis was feasting on some insects at a distance to the right of us.It was really wet area and we found it diffficult to get closer.We also saw Wood Sandpipers and Yellow Wagtails flying past us.

Another interesting sight was the presence of Blue Bee Eaters.We saw a Blue Bee Eater(Migratory) sitting along with two common Bea Eatrs(Non-migratory).

By around 10AM we called it a day as the sun was bearing down on us.We wanted to contiue but Punchakari is just a stone's throw(or shall we say Stonechat's throw)away from the city!

Please click on the following link to read about the camp which was published in the New Indian Express....

The no.of Birds observed during the camp;

1.Pond Heron
2.Common Stonechat(Migratory)
3.Barn Swallow(From Himlayas)
5.Wood Sandpiper(Migratory)
6.Green Sandpiper(Migratory)
7.Common snipe(Migratory)
8.Little ringed Plover(Migratory)
9.Common Bea Eater
10.Blue Bea Eater(Migratory)
11.Black winged stilt(Migratory)
12.Green shank(Migratory)
13.Pied Cuckoo(unusual at this time)
14.Brown Shrike(From Mongolia and Siberia)
15.Indian coot
16.Cotton Teal
17.Lesser Whistling Duck
18.White Ibis
19.Asian Open Bill
20.Painted Snipe
21.Water cock
22.Oriental Darter(Migratory)


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Another Sojourn at Eravikulam National Park,Munnar

A Nilgiri Tahr Standing tall at Eravikulam NP

It was time for one more trip!

Yes it has been long since we visited the most serene place in Kerala(At least for me!),the abode of the gentle mountain goats,Eravikulam NP near Munnar.Munnar as everybody agrees is one of the most visited hill stations of Kerala by tourists from all over the world.The gentle climate,misty mountains,wet tea plants and the serene environs attracts one and all.
Cute and Curious......

The right of way is for the Tahr...
So we packed our bags and headed stright to Munnar.It was middle of April(2013) and heat was unbearable.My idea was to dip my head in the first stream we encounter on our way to Munnar.But disappointment was in store as the first river we saw was hardly flowing!

We passed Kottayam and reached Kothamnagalam.Then we were entering the gateway to Munnar,the Nerymangalam bridge.The sight of this bridge over Periyar gives a cool feeling.As usual we stopped at the other end of the Neryamangalm bridge and had a cup of tea.

The next stop was Cheeyapara Waterfalls.Despite the dry season the waterfalls was cascading with reasonable amount of water.But standing underneath the falls was out of question as it is right by the side of the main road.We admird the beauty of Valara falls without stopping and headed straight to Munnar.
Crossing......Tahr style

We started the early morning the next day so that we can catch the first Forest bus to Eravikulam NP.Thinking that we would be the early birds to come to the park we were excited about the possiblility of encountering a few Nilgiri Tahrs on the route itself.But how wrong we were in assuming to be early birds!

Looking out......
There was already a long queue of about 30 people.We didin't make it into the first bus.The second one started the upward climb towards Eravikulam NP with us.But the Tahrs didn't disappoint us as a bunch of them were standing right in the middle of the road blocking the bus.

The driver was patient and waited for the mountain goats to move to the side.The bus finally came to its destination all of us disembarked.Some of us walked towards a bunch of Tahrs standing nearby and started clicking in right earnest.

A Beehive at Eye level seen at the Park
The Eravikulam NP is spread over 97 sq.kms in Idukki district of Kerala.There are about a 1000 Tahrs living here.The females outnumber males.I am unaware of the exact proportion.One has to climb 3-4 hairpin bends if you want to see at least a part of the National Park.

Eravikulam NP is famous for the Nilgiri Tahrs.But other animals like the Nilgiri Marten,Otter nad ruddy mongose are also seen.But the common public is not that fortunate to see them.

We moved up one hair pin bend(of course on foot).A bunch of around 5 Tahrs were cooly munching on the grass.One of them was a baby Tahr.It looked so cute and cuddly.They were at touching distance of all the toruists.But today's tourists are responsible and no one tried to touch the animals which was wonderful.The Tahrs are wild and let them remain that way..

Calm and cool.....
The Tahrs were unmindful of the human presence and constantly were gobbling up the dry grass which are aplenty in the region.Many tourists stood near the Tahrs and took pictures.

Suddently I saw a female Tahr grotesquely showing her teeth.It looked like a wild grin.I continuously started clicking my Canon 400D and got few reasonable shots of the smiling Tahr.I still dont know the exact meaning of the gesticulation.Probably it was thirsty or was that a mating call?We have to find out.

Showing faces.....
We moved up from this bunch and started to climb.Another 3 hair pin bends landed us at the end of the Park(Or that was the limit for the tourists to go).Another group of Tahrs were roaming freely and munching on the grass there.

Serene looks of a Tahr......
We spend close to 2 hours in the Park and after having light refreshments at the restaurant boarded the forst bus for the backward journey.We were satisfied in that this trip didn't disappoint us as we met so many Tahrs...........

Stare sometimes.......