Bangalore Bird Race - Jan 2009 : Grey Junglefowls

Locations: Valley School, Lakes along Kanakpura Road (Kaggalipur, Gabbadi or Akka-thangi, Harohalli), Byramangala Tank
Date: 18th Jan 2009, 6am to 5pm

January in Bangalore means the HSBC birdrace which is held the 3rd Sunday of each year. I was fortunate to team up again as the Grey Junglefowls with Harish, Arun and Sridhar. However Balesh was replaced by Raghavendra this time around. Last year (report), we did fairly well bagging 85 but the focus was more on the fun side than really competing as we enjoyed camping the previous night, did late night astronomy and had good food all through. So, this year we made a pledge to reach atleast a respectable 100 which meant the need for some preparations. The first decision to make was north or south Bangalore. After much debate south was picked more for a change from last year than anything else. Plan was to spend most of our morning at Valley school and in the afternoon visit the lakes along Kanakpura road.

So, there we were, up before dawn and parked along the road to Valley school around 6.15am. Just like last year, first light brought along with it a burst of calls and experts started calling out the bird names. I have to confess that I still could only make out the Red-wattled Lapwing and maybe the Red-whiskerd Bulbul. Have to work on this important skill. The thrill this time was we heard the call of our team bird ie Grey Junglefowl which we had missed last year. The sun brought up along with it lots of bird activity. We managed to tag Bulbuls, Babblers, Golden Oriole, Shrike, Greater Flameback woodpecker among others before we even reached the school gate.

After getting the required permission, we took a path which goes through the school, next to a man made pond and reached some paddy fields on the other side of the school. Using a roundabout route we got back on the road which leads back to the parking lot. If that sounded long, it was. I feel we trekked maybe 4-5km in about 6 hrs making it back to the car around 12+. Near the pond, Harish along with Raghavendra scaled a viewing platform quite adroitly and called out Common Kingfisher, Cormorant from up there. While trekking the paths we kept a constant look out in the dense shrub for Indian Pitta with no luck.

At the paddy fields we were rewarded with good views of a Grey - bellied Cuckoo (ID confirmed later). Near the valley school guesthouses a Tickels Blue Flycatcher was happily singing. Harish mentioned that it jerks its tail up in exact sync with the number of notes in its call, which I thought was pretty neat. It was confirmed to be true by our amateur observations at that time. He also noted that the Tickels Blue likes to nest in the cup shaped barks of the wild date palms (Phoenix sylvestris) of which there were several. Around that area we were able to observe a Copper-smith Barbet for a long time digging away actively at a tree. One of the most colorfull birds I feel. We also saw a Monarch Flycatcher (or The Black-naped Blue Flycatcher), Monarch azurea briefly. I say briefly because I had only a glimpse and spent the short amount of time it posed for us trying to photograph it, in which I failed also. A bit disappointing there as it is a very beautiful bird. On the road back, we were very lucky to spot a pair of Common Rosefinches which we later nominated as our bird of the day.

We now got back onto Kanakpura road and made stops at lakes along the way. Kaggalipura Tank gave us Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plovers, Egrets etc. We stopped for our lunch in a school yard beside a large lake. Here, we could add only a Black headed Ibis which flew by but our bodies got a much needed boost of energy at this stop! Next lake Gabbadi (or Akka-Thangi Kere) which in reality is a twin waterbody one hidden behind a bund was a little better with many Garganeys and Pintails. We continued until we reached Harohalli which has a large lake near its Bus Stand. Here there was quite a bit of water plants and therefore a lot of swamp birds. We checked off Purple Swamphen, Common Coot, Moorhen, Purple Heron, Spot-billed Pelican, etc., An Oriental Honey buzzard gave us several fly-bys at this spot.

The time then was around 3pm and we had about an hour of birding left. We drove on towards Byramangala hoping for more ducks. On the way we added Black shouldered kite and Tree pipit. The tank itself is very huge but was disappointing birds wise. My first visit here and I got to know where all our garbage ends up! Not a very pleasant sight. We saw Glossy Ibises, Wagtails, Sandpipers among others thriving prosperously here. The drive back was uneventful with quick stops again near the previously visited lakes yielding nothing more.

Though this time around we tried to focus on the "race" we still found time to just simply explore for natures sake and ended up with some more knowledge in the bargain. How a Shrike stands as a lookout, notes on Tickells Blue Flycatcher behaviour, palm swifts build nests using saliva, etc..etc. Nature with its never ending mysteries to be understood, learnt and unravalled can never be boring! And ya, this time we did manage to crack 100. Final count 105. Winning team, Pied-Harriers had a count of 145!

More bird pictures taken during the day can be seen on Picasa

Notable birds from our checklist:
  1. White-browed Bulbul
  2. Black-headed Cuckooshrike
  3. Grey-bellied Cuckoo
  4. Ashy Drongo
  5. Garganey
  6. Northern Pintail
  7. Crested Serpent Eagle
  8. Short-toed Snake Eagle
  9. Asian Brown Flycatcher
  10. Black-naped Monarch Flycatcher
  11. White-browed Fantail
  12. Pheasant-tailed Jacana
  13. Small Minivet
  14. Spotted Owlet
  15. Tree Pipit
  16. Common Rosefinch
  17. Rosy Starling
  18. Ashy Woodswallow
  19. River Tern
  20. Black-winged Stilt
  21. Little-ringed Plover

Hornbills and other birds of Dandeli

Ever since I started bird watching about a year back I was hoping to make a purely birding overnight trip to a sanctuary with fellow like minded people and hopefully some experts. That opportunity came by when Shailaja Yadawad proposed to organize a 2 day, 1 night Dandeli Trip to welcome 2009 and had got Dr. S. Subramanya or Subbu to lead the group. It was too good to be missed and once I got the family consent, the excitement started.

The group met at Bangalore City station at 8pm to catch the Rani Chennama Express to Hubli. Subbu, Deepak Arya, Cavery, Sree, Girish, Vinay, Geetha, Gayathri, Vishnu, Sashikanth and myself completed the team of 12 with Shailaja to meet us at Hubli. Bird talk started in earnest in the train itself with Subbu recounting his many experiences from Eagle nest, Arunachal Pradesh until we all got so excited and loud that we had to be shushed by others in the train who felt sleep was more important that bird talk... is it really?

We were out of Hubli early in the morning and stopped for breakfast along the way near a small lake before Haliyal. It turned out to be a great spot as within minutes of getting out the experts were calling out first timers for me! White-bellied Drongo, Plum-headed Parakeet, Black-rumped Flameback, Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker were among the many we sighted. A Malabar Grey Hornbill also made a brief appearance as if to welcome us to Dandeli.
As we were too early to check-in at Kulgi Camp, we headed towards Coal Mines, about half an hour away. There we spotted a pair of Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters doing their typical flight to catch food. On a nearby tree a Draco was also seen, my first time, and we saw its very interesting yellow green throat flap being popped far out in front of its body. A very difficult lizard to spot as its coloration and texture is exactly that of a tree. Subbu wanted to look for pipits in a nearby fallow paddy cultivation and we undertook a "dangerous" trek across some really wet fields trying to keep up with the master who managed it across with some ease and then watched the fun as the rest of us struggled thankfully with no disastrous falls! :). This is a skill he said we have to master if we wish to keep bird watching. Oh well, we are now more experienced for sure.

We then reached Kulgi camps and after checking in settled down for a good homely lunch in a gazebo kind of structure with nature all around us. Birding didn't leave us even then as a Velvet-fronted Nuthatch chose that time to also look for food on a tree next to the hut. We scrambled to get our binoculars and cameras and enjoyed its antics for several minutes. The afternoon schedule first took us to Bommanahalli Reservoir close by which turned out be a bit disappointing as far as water birds were concerned though there were several Red-wattled Lapwings, Little Grebes and Pond Herons. Subbu suggested trekking around the lake and we were rewarded with a pair of Rufous Woodpeckers pecking away industriously on a thick Bamboo stem. They were least concerned with us and continued with their task until one decided to fly away. From the ID (scarlet patch below the eye), both appeared to be male which seemed a bit strange to the experts. Reluctantly we headed back to our vehicle to make it to the Timber Depot, next stop for the evening. There, for some reason the bird activity was lesser than expected. I personally was able to spot only the Greater Racquet Tailed Drongo. However, couple of mammals, the Malabar Giant Squirrel and Hanuman Langur provided us with alternate entertainment with their antics. As the skies darkened we headed back to Kulgi camp. There we enjoyed a resident Grey Nightjar which went about its business of catching insects totally oblivious to all us gaping at it from less than 20ft and taking shots with our camera to our hearts content. A night walk after this did not let us experience any Owls as we had hoped for.

Morning, we were up and in the vehicle by 5.30am as this was planned to be our "Hornbill" day. Our local guide was in the front seat looking out for them as we huddled expectantly behind. We drove towards Ganeshgudi. The first spot came up empty as did the second trail, about 7km from Ganeshgudi, which was too covered to do much spotting. Out on the road there though, there was much activity and we saw a Greater Flameback, Hill Myna (missed by me :( ) among others. We reached a spot close to Supa Dam and GaneshGudi where a Bridge crosses over the River Kali and were finally rewarded with great sightings of the Malabar Pied Hornbills and Malabar Grey Hornbill. The Pied Hornbill is an incredibly colorful and big bird and we were fortunate to view several of them for a long time being active, flying or just sun bathing! We next went along a path, towards a Rafting Point operated by Hornbill Resorts along the Kali River, hoping for a sighting of the Black-capped Kingfisher and lo and behold it did make its appearance albeit a very short one. It is also a very beautiful bird and we wish it had co-operated to stay around a bit longer. A stop at Hornbill Resorts for Rafting to a birding island did not turn out to be too fruitful except a few of us had nice joy-ride...

We checked out from Kulgi and headed for Hubli with plenty of time in order to bird at Moulangi, a place close to Dandeli. This turned out be a bonanza as the trail was teeming with bird activity. The experts started calling out birds rapidly every minute if not seconds, most of them first timers for me, that I could not decide what to see! Amidst this frenzy, I was able to enjoy Plum-headed Parakeets feeding among Bamboos, a thrilling sighting of the Brown-headed Barbet which the team tracked after hearing its distinct call and a Black (or White-bellied) Woodpecker which was quite active for a long time on a large tree. Reaching the end of the trail we also got to see Pompadour Green Pigeon and Yellow-footed Pigeon sharing a tree at quite some distance. On the way back I was lucky to see the Ruby-throated Bulbul which I had missed when we started on the trail.

Reluctantly (or I should say forcibly!) we were bundled back into the vehicle in order to make it back to Hubli in time to catch our buses and trains. After much excitement and near non-stop bird watching for close to 36hrs, we relaxed, had dinner and made it in time to catch the train back to Bangalore.

Stay Location: Kulgi Camps, Dandeli
Dates: Jan 10th, 11th 2009
Summary of Birding Locations: We birded at several places during this trip. Day 1 morning from our vehicle during ride from Hubli to Dandeli. Lot of birding activity was observed at breakfast stop near a tank before Haliyal. Around 11ish we stopped near Coal Mines and trekked across some paddy fields also. Throughout our stay there was quite a bit of activity at the camp itself with the Leafbird and Nightjar pretty much residents and occasional fly by of an Emerald Dove. Evening of Day 1 we visited Bommanahalli Reservoir and Timber Yard near Kulgi. Day 2 we started out early in the morning and birded close to Supa Dam and before Ganeshgudi along river Kali. On way back in the afternoon we stopped at Hornbills Resort at their Rafting Point. Evening from 4 to 6pm we did some memorable birding near Moulangi area.

Trip photos having people, landscapes, birds and mammal shots:

Bird images by Girish Krishnamurthy:

Bird images by Shashikanth:

Bird images by Nanda Ramesh:

DANDELI BIRD CHECKLIST (By Dr. Subramanya or Subbu; the abbreviations next to bird names indicate sightings of the species in different birding locations on the trip):
HD=Hubli to Dandeli
HT=Around Tank before Haliyal
CM=near Coal Mines
KC= Kulgi Camp
BR=Bommanahalli Reservoir
TY=Timber Yard near Kulgi
SDG= close to Supa Dam and before Ganeshgudi
RP=Rafting Point
M=Moulangi area

1. Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) HD,BR
2. Indian Shag (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis) CM,BR,SDG,RP
3. Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) HD,BR,RP
4. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) HD
5. Large Egret (Egretta alba) HD
6. Median Egret (Egretta intermedia) BR
7. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus coromandus) HD,KC,RP,M
8. Indian Pond-Heron (Ardeola grayii) HD,RP
9. Little Green Heron (Butorides striata) SDG
10. Asian Openbill-Stork (Anastomus oscitans) HD
11. White-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus) RP
12. Lesser Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna javanica) HD
13. Oriental Honey-Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhyncus) CM
14. Black Kite (Milvus migrans) HD,CM
15. Brahminy Kite (Haliastur Indus) TH,CM,BR,SDG,RP
16. White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) BR
17. Red-headed Vulture (Aegypius calvus) M
18. Crested Serpent-Eagle (Spilornis cheela) CM,RP
19. Grey Junglefowl (Gallus sonneratii) TH,TY,SDG
20. Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) BR,TY,SDG
21. White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) HD,BR
22. Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) SDG,RP
23. Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) TH
24. Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) HD
25. River Tern (Sterna aurantia) BR
26. Blue Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) HD,SDG
27. Little Brown Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis) M
28. Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis) HD,TH,CM,M
29. Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica) KC
30. Pompadour Green-Pigeon (Treron pompadora) M
31. Yellow-legged Green-Pigeon (Treron phoenicopterus) M
32. Mountain Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula badia) M
33. Indian Hanging-Parrot (Loriculus vernalis) CM,KC,TY,SDG,RP,M
34. Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) HD
35. Plum-headed Parakeet (Psittacula cyanocephala) TH,KC,M
36. Malabar Parakeet (Psittacula columboides) TY,SDG,M
37. Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) HD
38. Small Green-billed Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus viridirostris) M
39. Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis) KC,TY,M
40. Indian Jungle Nightjar (Caprimulgus indicus) KC
41. Brown-backed (throated) Needletail-Swift (Hirundapus giganteus) DG
42. Crested Tree-Swift (Hemiprocne coronata) TH
43. Small Blue Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) BR
44. White-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) HD,BR,RP,M
45. Black-capped Kingfisher (Halcyon pileata) RP
46. Small Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis) HD,TH,CM,BR,TY
47. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (Merops leschenaultia) CM
48. Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis) TY
49. Malabar Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros griseus) SDG,M
50. Malabar Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros coronatus) SDG,RP,M
51. Brown-headed Barbet (Megalaima zeylanica) TY,M
52. White-cheeked Barbet (Megalaima viridis) CM
53. Coppersmith Barbet (Megalaima haemacephala)? CM,TY
54. Speckled Piculet (Picumnus innominatus) TH
55. Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker (Dendrocopos nanus) TH
56. Rufous Woodpecker (Micropternus brachyurus) BR
57. White-bellied Woodpecker (Dryocopus javensis) SDG,M
58. Common Flameback (Dinopium javanense) SDG
59. Black-rumped Flameback (Dinopium benghalense) TH,SDG
60. Greater Flameback (Chrysocolaptes lucidus) KC,SDG
61. Dusky Crag-Martin (Hirundo concolor) SDG
62. Common Swallow (Hirundo rustica) HD,SDG
63. Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica) SDG,RP
64. Northern House-Martin (Delichon urbica) TY
65. Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus) TY
66. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba dukhunensis) HT
67. Large Pied Wagtail (Motacilla maderaspatensis) HD,TH,M
68. Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava thunbergi) CM
69. Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) CM,M
70. Oriental (Olive-backed) Tree Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni) TH
71. Black-headed Cuckoo-Shrike (Coracina melanoptera) TH
72. Small Minivet (Pericrocotus cinnamomeus) TH
73. Orange Minivet (Pericrocotus flammeus) SDG,M
74. Unidentified Minivet TH
75. Pied Flycatcher-Shrike (Hemipus picatus) SDG,M
76. Common Woodshrike (Tephrodornis pondicerianus) TH,KC,BR,M
77. Flame (Ruby)-throated Bulbul (Pycnonotus gularis) SDG,M
78. Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus) HD,KC,RP,M
79. Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) HD
80. Yellow-browed Bulbul (Iole indica) SDG
81. Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia) TH,CM,BR,M
82. Jerdon’s Chloropsis (Chloropsis cochinchinensis) TH
83. Gold-fronted Chloropsis (Chloropsis aurifrons) KC
84. Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus) HD,KC,RP
85. Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach) CM
86. Blue-headed Rock-Thrush (Monticola cinclorhynchus) SDG
87. Malabar Whistling-Thrush (Myiophonus horsfieldii) KC
88. Oriental Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis) M
89. White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus) KC
90. Indian Robin (Saxicoloides fulicata) HD,CM
91. Indian Scimitar-Babbler (Pomatorhinus horsfieldii) SDG
92. Jungle Babbler (Turdoides striatus) M
93. Quaker Babbler (Brown-cheeked Fulvetta) (Alcippe poioicephala) M
94. Blyth’s Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus dumetorum) TH,CM
95. Booted Warbler (Hippolais caligata) TH,KC,SDG,M
96. Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) BR
97. Greenish Leaf-Warbler (Phylloscopus trochiloides) HD,CM,KC
98. Asian Brown Flycatcher (Muscicapa dauurica) SDG
99. Red-throated Flycatcher (Ficedula albicilla) M
100. Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva) ? TH
101. Tickell’s Blue-Flycatcher (Cyornis tickelliae) M
102. Grey Tit (Parus major) TH,M
103. Black-lored Yellow Tit (Indian Yellow Tit) (Parus xanthogenys) M
104. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch (Sitta frontalis) KC,TY
105. Plain Flowerpecker (Dicaeum concolor) TH
106. Purple-rumped Sunbird (Nectarinia zeylonica) CM,KC,SDG
107. Small Sunbird (Nectarinia minima) KC,SDG
108. Purple Sunbird (Nectarinia asiatica) TH,CM,KC,SDG
109. Little Spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra) SDG
110. White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus) TH,KC
111. Common Rosefinch (Carpodacus erythrinus) female? TH
112. White-rumped Munia (Lonchura striata) RP,M
113. Black-headed Munia (Lonchura Malacca) M
114. Spotted Munia (Lonchura punctulata) TH
115. Malabar White-headed Starling (Sturnus blythii) M
116. Brahminy Starling (Temenuchus pagodarum) HD
117. Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) HD
118. Jungle Myna (Acridotheres fuscus) HD
119. Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa) SDG, M
120. Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) SDG,M
121. Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus) TH,M
122. Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus) HD,TY
123. White-bellied Drongo (Dicrurus caerulescens) TH,CM,M
124. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) TY,M
125. House Crow (Corvus splendens) HD
126. Jungle Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos) TH,BR,SDG

Chennai to Puducherry (pondicherry)

A short post here. I just wanted to share some images I took when we drove from Chennai to Pondicherry (ya, I still prefer the old name!) along the East Coast Road or ECR. We stayed at the Dune Resort which has an Eco friendly goal for one of those days.
If you do make this drive, make sure to add couple of hours to your drive time to do some bird watching along the way as there are a number of water bodies with good bird activity. The Black shouldered Kite gave us quite a treat hovering for several minutes before finally settling on a tree right next to our car! Western Reef Egret, Eurasian Curlew ( both first time for me) were also found in the water bodies. We found several shrub birds like sunbirds, prinias, rollers, bulbuls at the resort. Highlights were Lotens Sunbird, Shikra, Yellow billed babbler, Plain Prinia. On the way back we were lucky to see the Open-billed storks, Red-wattled Lapwings and Black winged stilts. Enjoy all the images at: