Southern India Jan 29—Feb 18, 2018

Posted by Dion Hobcroft

Hobcroftdion

Dion Hobcroft

Dion Hobcroft has been working for VENT since 2001. He has led many tours (more than 160) to Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Bhutan, Indonesia, India, China, Southwest ...

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We had yet another fantastic trip to South India—highly rated by all participants for great wildlife, food, and culture. The people everywhere were fantastic, and the trip ran seamlessly. Here is an account of our adventures in the southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.

We met up in Bangalore where we were entertained by a magician at dinner. He was so convincing that I decided to take all the birds off my world list, as I could no longer believe my eyes! The next morning it would have taken a magician to extract our bus, which got firmly wedged in the fort door of the Nandi Hills. We did the honorable thing and left our driver to extricate himself from his predicament while we went birding. The birds were well-behaved and tame. We enjoyed beautiful Indian Blue Robin, Tickell’s Blue-Flycatcher, Indian Paradise-Flycatcher, the scarce endemic Yellow-throated Bulbul, a rare first winter female Kashmir Flycatcher, Blue-capped Rock-Thrush, and Indian Blackbird. Returning to the bus, the driver had managed to thread his bus through the needle, and we motored on towards Kokkre Bellur. This beautiful, somewhat idyllic village with its brightly painted houses protects large numbers of Painted Storks and Spot-billed Pelicans that nest in colonies in large trees amidst the dwellings. Nearby rice fields were heaving with Wood Sandpipers and good numbers of the unusual Red-naped Ibis. We made it through to Mysore for a superb dinner of tasting plates of local specialty cuisine from different districts.

Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl

Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl— Photo: Dion Hobcroft

 

Ranganthitoo Wildlife Sanctuary was our first port of call the next day. Outside the park we had a Common Hawk-Cuckoo almost land in our laps, and a major highlight was a juvenile Indian Spotted Eagle perched and giving superb views of its gape and head structure—a rare event. Once inside the sanctuary, which is set on the Cauvery River, we took a boat trip in a rowboat among the islands that heave with nesting waterbirds. Before we had even set off, a party of Smooth Otters materialized and went on to bite and menace some loafing Mugger Crocodiles that reacted furiously, swinging around, jaws agape, making for some serious action. We paddled past Great Thick-knees, River Terns, nesting Streak-throated Swallows, White-browed Wagtails, a camp of restless Indian Flying-foxes, and numerous nesting waterbirds including a few Eurasian Spoonbills and the curious Intermediate Egrets with black bills in breeding condition. The tour of the Mysore Palace was enjoyed by all—fabulous riches and astonishing craftsmanship from an era only recently past. We drove through to Kabini, our home for the next four nights, and managed to get out into the Nagarhole National Park for our first safari with Lokesh, our trusty guide. We found our first Asian Elephants almost immediately, plus abundant Black-footed Gray Langurs, Spotted Deer, and the occasional Sambar. New birds came thick and fast including favorites like numerous Eurasian Hoopoes, electrifying Indian Rollers, and our first good views of the outrageous Indian Peafowl. Breaking news of a Leopard saw some speedy driving, but we just missed it. Woolly-necked Stork, Black-rumped Flameback, Streak-throated Woodpecker, Small Minivet, White-bellied and Greater Racket-tailed drongos, Forest Wagtail, and White-headed Starling distracted us while we searched for a spotted feline. 

Read Dion’s full report in his Field Report.