Enchanting Muthodi

Date: Oct 9th-10th 2008

Every year we have a family get-together during Dasara usually at my sisters house in Sakleshpur. This year we decided to change it a bit and meet at some place around Chickmagalur first and then spend time in Sakleshpur. My brother-in-law was able to book 2 rooms at the forest bungalow in Muthodi through a friend of his in the DFS. It is called the Sighekhan Estates and is open for all public for booking as well as a vista point during daytime. Muthodi is one part of the Bhadra Wildlife Reserve which I believe is spread over 492 Sq Km. Other parts are Lakkavali and Hebbe.

We left Bangalore around 6.30am, planning to reach Belur via Kunigal, Chanrayapatna and Hassan by 11am where we hoped to connect with my sister. But Bangalore traffic thought otherwise and it took us more than an hour just to get out of the city itself even at that early hour and it was past 12 by the time we got to Belur. Sister couldn't wait and they proceeded to Chickmagalur and then Muthodi while we followed at a much leisurely pace looking out for birds. My daughter was thrilled to get a count of close to 30 on the drive. The best was a wonderful lake and swamp just before Chickmagalur where we got to see Purple Herons, Spot Billed ducks, River Terns, Grey Herons and a Bronze-winged Jacana (our first time). The road from Chickmagalur to Muthodi is quite tough going and took more than an hour before we drove the 30km to he Bhadra Check post. From there the Sigekhan Estates was a steep climb up the hill, 1st gear all the way! The thick forest was a welcome relief. My wife spotted this Giant Wood Spider web as soon as entered.

The bungalow is nicely located on top a hill with a wonderfull view of the Bhadra Valley. As soon as we settled in, the meti (man-in-charge) suggested that we could go on the Safari at 4pm as if it rains during the night the next day safari's will be cancelled. The reason being we need to cross a river to enter the forest. So, we immediately drove down to the pick up point. As the river was already swollen we had a squeeze into a Jeep. It was also getting dark forcing the driver to get through fast. The most exciting or rather scary part of the safari was the realization that leeches were everywhere! You could hardly step down for a minute without a leech scrambling up your leg. The mystery to me is, where do all these leeches find the food (blood) required to survive?

Next day morning, I was up before dawn hoping to catch the sunrise. It was indeed a good decision as the valley is almost magical with layers of clouds in between green covered hills slowly becoming brighter as the dawn breaks. The cloud or mist on the group is very fast moving and changes within minutes climbing up and with the dawn breaking into its orange and red colors, it is too beautiful to describe in words. Instead I tried to capture it with my camera and ended up moving my tripod from on end of the balcony to the other unable to decide what I wanted to click. It may have been better to just pull up a chair and soak it in. I think that way this langur had the right idea using a branch for a chair! :)

Once the sun brightened and it was truly morning, we were greeted by much activity and calls. That is when I wished we had few veteran birdwatchers to identify the calls. Instead, it was sighting a bird and trying desperately to find it in our Grimm Skipp. :). The most active early morning birds were the Scarlet Minivet, Racket-tailed Drongo, Small (Crimson-backed) Sunbird and BulBuls. The minivet was my first time and its colors matched the dawn. The male and female pair of Crimson-backed Sunbird had a nest just off the balcony and was very active trying to feed its young. After few minutes we could understand its routine. Get some food, land on bush in front, then high up on a tree next to the nest, wait for few seconds, then dive quickly into the nest opening. It stayed on the nest for less than a minute before starting all over again. The male visited maybe once for every 10 visits by the female. A giant Malabar Squirrel became very active on a tree close by. Its call is loud and ferocious coming from a squirrel. We got to watch it quite nicely though it was difficult to get any good photos.

We then walked on the road which continues around the hills. We saw lots more drongo activity and calls. Another bird that we spotted and were finally able to identify was the Malabar Parakeet. We also got to experience what Mr Subramanya termed as a “fashion show” on bngbirds. That is sudden burst of activity where we get calls from all sides and at least 4 to 5 different species of birds seem to be on the move around us. It lasts for about couple of minutes and things become quiet again. Under the thick forest cover we were not fast enough to spot and identify most of them but the experience is quite exhilarating. I realized that taking shots of these colorful spiders was much easier than that of birds.

Afternoon was spent lazily on the balcony where we managed to spot a Gold fronted leafbird. The sunbird was also actively feeding its family and I was able to get few shots of its home from the balcony itself without disturbing it in any way. Later in the evening, unfortunately some guests arrived to take the single room left Since they seemed to be in the party mood we decided to return to Sakleshpur in the evening itself and avoid any incidents. That spoilt our plan for the evening and the next day morning rounds. We did a quick round before departing and saw some Ashy Drongos and Black lored Tits. On the drive back it got dark before we left the forest area and though we hoped for some tigers, you can always hope :), we didn't encounter any mammal.
That ended my first trip to Muthodi. It is indeed a very beautiful place and the experience is quite different from Kabini or Nagarhole due to the majestic Baba Budan Giri range.

For booking this bungalow or the cottages you can contact the Forest Offices at: 08262 234904

Other birds we were able to spot and identify (click on the links to see the image):

Malabar Parakeet
Racket-tailed Drongo (silhoutte)
Ashy Drongo
Black Drongo
Female Scarlet Minivet
Female Small (crimson-backed) Sunbird
Gold fronted Leafbird

Other articles on Muthodi/Bhadra:http://westernghats.blogspot.com/2006/03/wildlifing-in-indias-youngest-tiger.html


Alok said...

Nice blog and images. I will be back here again for more info and good read :)

Meera Kumar said...

Good informations and eye-catching pictures.Some of them are too good .You can even print them as post cards/saesons'Greetings.
Continue thiscreative hobby.

November 3rd,2008,
Meera Kumar.

senthilkumar pk said...

Super we tried now to book in shigekhan guest house in DCF office in chickmangalore. They said it is closed now due to heavy rains & leaches. Just i want to know when the place is good to vist & i want to we need influence in booking the place. My mail id drsenthilkumarpk@gmail.com mobile no 08428988779. Please help us to vist the place.