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.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Munnar, Ooty & Chinnar in the Western Ghats - India Part 5

Nilgiri Laughingthrush

Following our successful forays in the lowlands of the Thattekkad area in Kerala province in south-west India, and in the dry north-west province of Gujarat (see following posts), it was on to the high country of the Western Ghats in search of regional specialties. After Hornbill Camp, we moved to the elegant and highly recommended Olive Brook Resort in the hill town of Munnar (1600m).


 Our first afternoon saw us beating through shoulder-high shrubs and grasses to reach the top of a ridge known as the key site for a particularly scarce endemic, the Broad-tailed Grassbird. A Besra was a familiar face early in the hike but we were rewarded for our physical efforts by decent flight views of two grassbirds as well as Nilgiri Pipit, Nilgiri Flycatcher and a very close covey of Painted Bush-Quail.

Grey Junglefowl

Grey Junglefowl were plentiful about the Munnar area, as they were throughout our south-west Indian visit.

Yellow-throated Bulbul
The morning of our second day at Munnar had us out of bed very early for the long drive to Bodi Ghat, where we succeeded in seeing several Yellow-throated Bulbuls in roadside shrubs on a steep stretch of road; this is one of the more difficult Western Ghats endemics.

In the late afternoon we visited the Kunniamally shola near Munnar, a tiny scrap of native forest that has several specialties in residence. We saw Kerala (Grey-breasted) Laughingthrush and Blue-capped Rock-Thrush here.

The next morning we went high into the mountains to visit Eravikulam National Park, battling the throngs of local tourists as they crowded onto the buses which must be patronised to reach the park.

Grey (Jungle) Nightjar

We had a Grey (Jungle) Nightjar at its roost close to the bus on the way up.

Hill Swallow
 We saw quite a few Hill Swallows around the park entrance and along the main walking trail. This bird is a recent split from the Pacific Swallow, differentiated mainly by its glossy upperparts.

Nilgiri Pipit
We had close views of Nilgiri Pipit and plenty of Kerala Laughingthrushes along the walking trail.

White-bellied Blue-Robin
In the afternoon we returned to the Kannimalai shola, where after some effort we finally connected with close views of White-bellied Blue-Robin, or White-bellied Shortwing.

Black-and-Orange Flycatcher
Black-and-Orange Flycatcher was another nice find in this decrepit looking bit of habitat.

Malabar Whistling-Thrush
Malabar Whistling-Thrush was plentiful but painfully shy, as this image suggests.  We left Munnar after three nights, heading through the dry scrub of the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary where we scored Blue-faced Malkhoa from the car. We walked along a rocky creek bed with a park ranger, failing to find the resident roosting Spot-bellied Eagle-Owls but seeing nice birds such as Puff-throated Babbler and Asian Paradise-Flycatcher.

Asian Paradise-Flycatcher
Our final destination in the highlands was the resort town of Ooty for two nights in the noisy Monarch Hotel, which appears to host a constant string of traditional, very loud wedding ceremonies . Our first morning saw us at Doddabetta, an area of shola forest near the town which holds most of the local specialties. We saw plenty of Nilgiri Laughingthrushes (first image in this post) along with Indian Blackbirds.

Indian Blackbird
The birds were oblivious to the constant stream of human traffic making its way through a forest trail to some sort of theme park.

White-bellied Blue-Robin
It took a while to catch up with the main target, the White-bellied Blue-Robin, or White-bellied Shortwing, which like its Nilgiri cousin, is endemic to a very small patch of south-west India.

Mountain Hawk-Eagle
Another nice find was a distantly perched Mountain Hawk-Eagle. In the afternoon we visited Ooty's Botanic Gardens, where we saw another White-bellied Blue-Robin feeding at a rubbish dump at the top of the gardens, along with an unexpected Nilgiri Thrush.

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