Saving the world while you wait

A jaunt across Mudumalai – Trip Report

Our quick, packed trip to Masinagudi and Ooty yielded few lifers, but it gave us plenty of top-quality sightings
We stood at the junction of two worlds in Bangalore City Railway station. The arched stone buildings on Platform 6 were relics of a distant past and across the tracks were the eye-catching coaches of a new-look Shatabdi Express. Arun, Beej and I were headed to Mysore where Sandy was waiting to join us for our trip to Mudumalai, also his last birding trip from his base in Mysore, which he was to leave in two weeks. Sahastra, away in Uttar Pradesh, joined us occasionally in thoughts and conversation.
The long sighting of the Changeable Hawk Eagle was a highlight of our safari

We arrived at Mysore at 3:45 AM and were whisked away in Sandy’s car towards Bandipur. We entered just after the gates opened at 6 AM and were pained to see the noise generated by the trucks plying through the park. Needless to say, the disturbed environment ensured a drive devoid of any sightings save a few chitals inside Bandipur.

A misty morning at Masinagudi

At Theppekadu, Mudumalai, we embarked on our first safari close to 7:30 AM. As we entered the safari we found a Sambhar lazing in the morning sun; it bolted at the sight of multiple telephoto lenses focused on it. Meandering through the serpentine safari tracks we chanced upon Chitals gilded by the morning sun. Arun and Beej directed our attention to Chitals in the velvet phase of their antlers. Chitals continued to hog the frame for most of the safari that ended with a cameo by a Indian Peacock sunning itself on the trunk of a dead tree.

Indian Peafowl

 

A baby langur learning to leap
Wanting more we headed out on our second safari, which took us through repulsive patches of lantana shrubs to begin with – not surprisingly, we saw nothing but a Hoopoe (Upupa epops). We started seeing more life as we left the lantana behind; first we came across a troop of frolicking Tufted Gray Langurs (Semnopithecus priam), a pair in the troop was indulging in games of passion. We watched like voyeurs as the langurs went about their pleasures unperturbed.
Hoopoe

 

Excuse us for intruding into their private life
Our next sighting on the safari was a dress circle view to a performance by the Changeable Hawk Eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus). We found the eagle on a ground-level perch right in the middle of our safari path. It sat there sipping from a water puddle aloof of the low rumbling sounds from the engine of a gigantic body of metal headed its way. We proceeded gingerly towards the eagle, stopping frequently to observe. The bird held its ground until we were about 15 feet from it. Then it took flight and perched on a branch close to our safari van. An occasional flaunt of the crest, an occasional draw of the nictitating membrane were included in the performance. We moved on towards more chitals and eventually to our dwelling at Masinagudi.
Changeable Hawk Eagle

 

Chital Stag with full antlers
At our place of stay we found company in an Intermediate Egret (Mesophoyx intermedia) and a Red Wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus), which had taken refuge in a pond nearby. We also found a pair of Small Minivets (Pericrocotus cinnamomeus), which we watched until our lunch was ready. With a satiated appetite and eyes hungry for more we left for the evening leg of our safari.
Red Wattled Lapwing in flight
We started the evening safari from the Peacock Dormitory side and found a Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus), a Brown Fish Owl (Bubo zeylonensis), and a cow elephant with a male calf (whose tusks had just begun to appear). The calf made several mock charges – running around in circles, throwing up blades of grass and an occasional grunt. We left leaving the mammoth forest inhabitants to enjoy their peace. As we headed into the last safari of the day, we chanced upon Mr Dayanidhi Maran, the former union telecom minister, in the driver’s seat of an Innova parked by the Mudumalai-Bandipur road. We glanced and moved on; this sighting did not merit a checklist entry.

An agitated male calf

 

A Brown Fish Owl in its safe haven

After tea at the forest canteen we headed back to Masinagudi. The next morning we left early for Ooty via the Kalatty Ghat, hoping to spot Black-and-Orange Flycatchers and White-bellied Shortwings at the Botanical Gardens. On the way up, we spotted Rufous Treepies (Dendrocitta vagabunda), Brahminy Starlings (Sturnia pagodarum), Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus), Redvented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus cafer), Chestnut-headed Bee-Eaters (Merops leschenaulti), Grey Junglefowl (Gallus sonneratii) and Bonnet Macaques (Macaca radiata).

 

“Click me if you can,” teased the Black and Orange Flycatcher

 

A very hungry caterpillar
After reaching the Botanical Gardens in Ooty we spotted the Black-and-Orange Flycatcher (Ficedula nigrorufa), which dared us to photograph it by frequently hopping around in a hedge. On the way out we spotted a Crested Goshawk (Accipiter trivirgatus) nibbling away at a kill. Oriental White Eyes (Zosterops palpebrosus), Pied Bushchats (Saxicola caprata), and a Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii) all flew in to have their names checked on our list.
Eyes are white, lovely sight — An Oriental White-eye
We finished with the Botanical Gardens and headed back to Masinagudi via Pykara. After a quick lunch we sped back to Mysore, making it just in time to catch our bus to Bangalore. With not even enough time to accord Sandy a sentimental farewell on his last birding trip ex-Mysore. But then again, we Ogres have tough layers. Sniff!Trip List:

  1. Grey Junglefowl (Gallus sonneratii)
  2. Indian Robin (Saxicoloides fulicatus)
  3. Laughing Dove (Stigmatopelia senegalensis)
  4. Blue Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)
  5. Malabar Parakeet (Psittacula columboides)
  6. Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
  7. Vernal Hanging Parrot (Loriculus vernalis)
  8. Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)
  9. Jungle Myna (Acridotheres fuscus)
  10. Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus)
  11. White-browed Bulbul (Pycnonotus luteolus)
  12. Purple Sunbird (Nectarinia asiatica)
  13. Purple-rumped Sunbird (Nectarinia zeylanica)
  14. Oriental Magpie Robin (Merops leschenaulti)
  15. Intermediate Egret (Mesophoyx intermedia)
  16. Small Minivet (Merops leschenaulti)
  17. Red Wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)
  18. Black and Orange Flycatcher (Ficedula nigrorufa)
  19. Rufous Treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda)
  20. Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus)
  21. White Bellied Drongo (Dicrurus caerulenscens)
  22. Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii)
  23. Ashy Woodswallow (Artamus fuscus)
  24. Black Headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus)
  25. Changeable Hawk Eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus)
  26. Crested Goshawk (Accipiter trivirgatus)
  27. Brown Fish Owl (Bubo zeylonensis)
  28. Blue Faced Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus viridirostris)
  29. Plum Headed Parakeet (Merops leschenaulti)
  30. White Throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)
  31. Chestnut Headed Bee-Eater (Merops leschenaulti)
  32. Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
  33. Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus)
  34. Jungle Babbler (Turdoides striata)
  35. Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus)
  36. White Browed Wagtail (Motacilla maderaspatensis)
  37. Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
  38. Brahminy Starling (Sturnia pagodarum)
  39. Red Whiskered Bulbul (Merops leschenaulti)
  40. Red Vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)
  41. Oriental White Eye (Zosterops palpebrosus)
  42. Pied Bushchat (Saxicola caprata)
  43. Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis)
  44. Velvet Fronted Nuthatch (Sitta frontalis)
  45. Pale-billed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum erythrorhynchos)
  46. Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch (Sitta cinnamoventris)
  47. Hair-crested Drongo (Dicrurus hottentottus)
  48. White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus)
  49. Common Flameback (Dinopium javanense)
  50. Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker (Dendrocopos nanus)
  51. Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

Text: Anand Yegnaswami
Photos: Arun Menon and Anand Yegnaswami