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


Anonymous said...
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molarbear's posts said...

Enjoyed the trip report a lot; I have signed up to go in Nov 2010 with Shailaja. Thank you! -Deepa.

Nanda said...

Deepa, thanks. Good for you. Wish I could come again! Dandeli is fantastic for birds so I am sure you will have a great time. Enjoy! - nanda.

manan guju said...

hello! i love spotting birds, n this hobby i acquired as a side effect of hikes n treks.. but honestly, just like you.. i am still, just a rookie.
i am based in miraj, and i would like to join other bird watchers on trips.

Raksha Varma said...
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