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Face of the Horse – Silent Valley of Karnataka

By April 2, 2020 No Comments
Western ghats of South India has been and continues to be the hotspot for wildlife. The versatility of flora and fauna is such that it plays a prime role in determining the weather conditions of most parts of southern India. It also contributes in a very big way to the human residents through its Natural resources. Nature has been considerate by providing tirelessly even though man has been taking advantage of the silence which would not last for long with such exploitation.
Kudremukh (Horse’s Face) is located in the chikkamagaluru district and the peak stands tall at an elevation of 1,894 meters i.e about 6,214 feet. The sanctuary is still recovering from the deep scar left to satisfy the greed of man through mining.
This trip was a short one to commit or post anything specific that is relevant to the population of the native species of flora and fauna. But, this report holds good for the time of visit to one of the locations at Kudremukh “Bhagawathi Nature Camp”. It was a warm Thursday morning on the 9th day of January 2020. The campsite is located inside Kudremukh National Park. The approach to campsite is breathtaking with the hills as the backdrop to the approach path which is mostly built using the granite stones. It was about quarter past two by the time we reached the gate and except for the Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercs) and a couple of Green Bee-Eaters (Merpos orientalis) all others were observing silence due to the scorching sun.
Bhagavathi Nature Camp is one of the campsites run by Jungle Lodges and Resorts which is well kept with an efficient staff. The cottages are located on both sides of the pathway that leads to the Bhadra river. Although there was not much of activity visible there was lot of calls that could be heard from the undergrowth. ‘Shola’ grasslands unique to the South Indian hills are slowly losing out the competition against the Nature’s rival human’s greed. Most of the hills were victim of logging resulting in landslides. As a counter measure the so called intelligent beings build walls around the area and think the problem is solved. Logging is causing problems that are beyond comprehension to the unintelligible human.
After a quick lunch and a nap, a walk till the gate and around the campsite was good. In a span of about 40 minutes we witnessed three Malabar Giant Squirrels busy having early dinner. A pair of Small Minivets (Pericrocotus cinnamomeus) were retreating back to their nests. Several warblers were busy hunting insects under the leaves and between the twigs of branches. A Velvet Fronted Nuthatch (Sitta frontalis) as usual was jittery on top of a bare branch. Several drongos were resting on branches getting the last rays of the ever glowing sun. It was a long and tiring walk to the stream and an exhaustive on by the time we reached back the camp site.

Nights are very pleasant and calm with the trickling sound of the stream nearby. One very special observation that startled us was that there were very few or rather negligible number of insects around the cottage even though the lights were on. This was a strange phenomenon that we noticed during the stay. Even the presence of cicadas or crickets were not felt. This could be named the “Silent Valley of Karnataka”.

The thought of Silent Valley had to be withdrawn as the Malabar Whistling Thrush (Myophonus horsfieldii) started singing its pleasant song. The morning light amidst a jungle is inexplicable and has to be experienced in person by all. A group of Brown-Cheeked Fulvetta (Alcippe poioicephala) went past quickly into the thicket and it took some time to get a glimpse of it. They are found mostly in secondary growth and undergrowth in moist forests. After walking a bit further there were about six pairs of pigeons which looked bigger than the Common Wood Pigeon. A closer look revealed that it was the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon (Columba elphinstonii), a big pigeon measuring 42 centimetres native to western ghats.  The pathway leading to the exit gate has on one side a thick vegetation and grass plain on the other side a unique landscape supporting several types of bird species. A pair of Malabar Hornbills (Ocyceros griseus) were enjoying the morning sun. They have a unique laughing call that is used to communicate with other hornbills far away. The mystery of communication between birds is something that keeps everyone bewildered. A White-Bellied Woodpecker (Drycopus javensis) flew past quickly but the unique white belly was the cue for identification. A Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis) shared the branch with a Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), a strange pair but the Natural World is always cryptic. There is a Mother tree at about two hundred meters from the pathway which must be one of the oldest trees around that area. It hosted not only innumerable birds but also small mammals and several fern like plants. A pair of Grey-fronted Green Pigeon (Treron (pompadora) affinis) earlier known as Pompador pigeon were sun-bathing. It is a common habit in birds to get rid of parasites apart from helping oil to be spread along the feathers. Drongs, Minivets, Bee-eaters and other small birds had made this tree their perching point.
The walk back to the campsite was as exciting but the sun’s rays were unsympathetic. After a heavy breakfast, a small drive around Kudremukh National Park was calming and . A Malabar Trogon (Harpactes fasciatus) which was ignorant of our presence was disturbed by the loud honking by the supposedly presumed literates who lack basic common sense and who still need to learn about the sign boards. After driving for a while we turned back to the campsite. A White-Breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) perched on one of the branchs of a tree located near the man made dam. There was not much happening apart from some barbs that swam freely in the shallow waters around the small culvert. A walk around the campsite was good and resulted in almost the same set of species that were seen in the morning.
The next day was a bit different with a walk to the nearby watch tower which was quite old. The spiral stairs of the tower is a bit of a climb but exciting. The view from the top was breath-taking and was a revelation as to what Nature is capable of. The prize of the trip was spotting the Blue-Capped Rock Thrush (Monticola cinclorhyncha). The scenic view showcases the abundance and provokes the thought as to how Nature is ever forgiving and providing without asking anything in return. After a small walk around the campsite and with a heavy heart we had to bid farewell to one of the serene and peaceful Nature Camps of India.
We all look forward to visit this campsite soon in a different season to witness the change in the colours of the canopy of trees and also spot some rare birds.
Bidding adieu for now.

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