Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Hornbill Camp & Thattekkad - India Part 4

Sri Lanka Frogmouth

After a week in the dry Indian state of Gujarat (see the following three posts), Bill Watson and I met up with Sandra Watson and Glenn Scherf in Delhi for a bit of cultural activity around Agra (more on that later) before flying to Kochi, the capital of Kerala state in the south-west of the country. We were looking forward to the change of scenery and birds.

White-cheeked Barbet

Kochi-based Kalypso Adventures organised our 12-day trip through Kerala and Tamil Nadu states, and they did an excellent job. We opted not to have a birding guide full-time, using locals on occasion, but we wanted a driver who more-or-less knew where to go for the birds. That driver, Joji, was very good and is highly recommended. Our first call was three nights at Hornbill Camp, birding the Thattekkad area in the forests of the Western Ghats.
Local guide Danish Trogon in the Western Ghats

 Our local guide at the camp, Danish Trogon, proved to excellent at tracking down specialties. Contrary to what has been written in some reports, you do not need to visit Periyar for the regional specialties.

Hornbill Camp

Jungle Babbler

Around the camp, common birds included the Western Ghats endemic, White-cheeked Babbler, and Jungle Babbler.

Flame-throated Bulbul

Our first morning saw us in an excellent dry forest patch amid rocky outcrops at Kallypar. Here we scored the elusive Grey-headed Bulbul, a Ghats endemic along with fellow regional endemic bulbuls Flame-throated  and Yellow-browed.

Yellow-browed Bulbul

The birds came thick and fast and we had quickly ticked off Malabar Trogon, Malabar Parakeet, the soon-to-be-split Fork-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike and Malabar Woodshrike.

Malabar Woodshrike

Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike female
Fork-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo
Other than Kallypar, our time in the region was centred on several visits to forest patches at Urulanthanni and Idamalayar. We saw loads of Grey Junglefowl, a wonderfully close pair of Red Spurfowl and a few Heart-spotted Woodpeckers. Regional specialties included Grey-fronted Green Pigeon, Orange Minivet, Indian Blackbird, Indian Scimitar-Babbler, White-bellied Blue-Flycatcher, Crimson-backed and Long-billed Sunbirds, Dark-fronted Babbler and Malabar Grey Hornbill, while more familiar species included Common Hawk-Cuckoo. A pair of Sri Lanka Frogmouths at roost during the day were admired in a patch of scrub; a single third bird was found nearby. Indian Pittas also showed themselves here.

White-bellied Blue-Flycatcher
Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon was an unexpected find as this is usually a high-altitude species. Other Western Ghats endemics included White-bellied Treepie, Malabar Whistling-Thrush and Rufous Babbler.

Common Hawk-Cuckoo

Malabar Grey Hornbill
A nice find near the camp was Brown Fish-Owl at its day roost. Jerdon's Nightjar was taped in at the camp, though we dipped on the resident Mottled Wood-Owls nearby. We were fortunate to track down a Sri Lanka Bay Owl just before dawn one morning and to see a rare Wynaad Laughing-Thrush in thick bamboo at a site we have been asked not to reveal. Here, as in other parts of the region, elephants were an ever present hazard and we had to exercise care in trawling the forests. We heard and smelled elephants on several occasions when they were close by, and in this part of the world they are highly intolerant of people.

Brown Fish-Owl

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