Manjarabad Fort

This was more of a family social trip than a nature or bird watching trip to Sakleshpur over the last weekend of Dasara. My sister has lived here for the past 25 years or so and we usually plan a trip during Dasara. However, since her house is at the end of town close to where the forest cover again starts, one can just do birding around the house itself. This time we also planned to visit Majarabad fort more for something to do than for hope of spotting birds.

On way to Sakaleshpur, we found couple of very good lakes, one 5km after Hassan and the next a few kilometers further. We were able to enjoy Bronze-winged Jacana's, Coots, Moorhens, Kingfishers and other common birds here. Our hopes to do much bird watching in Sakleshpur got a setback as there was incessant rain all through our stay. That still did not stop us venturing out with Umbrellas and jackets couple of times. The birds which also decided to ignore the rain and fly about were: Red-whiskered Bulbuls, House sparrows, Oriental Magpie Robins, White-browed Wagtails, Couple of Purple-rumped Sunbirds, a lone Grey Wagtail and a Long-tailed Shrike. Several Dusky Crag Martins were the most active doing fast low flights repititively in the same pattern as if on a race-track. My guess is that they were catching insects in the air.

As planned, we drove up to Majarabad fort in the rain saturday afternoon. It is only about 5km from the town. Look for a huge board with the name and some shops on the left at a hairpin bend. You need to park here and walk up a little and then climb 250steps (my daughter Nithila counted it!) to reach the fort. The fort itself is fantastic apparently built by Tipu Sultan in 1782 as per a ASI board at the start of the trek up. Some of the watch towers are in good condition giving good views of how the soldiers would have scanned the horizon during those times. Birding was tough due to rain. There was a raptor which disappeared too quickly. Many Dusky-crag Martins gave us company though.

On the way back, just a km before Sakaleshpur town, we stopped at the road side to scan some paddy fields. This was under a Ficus tree. (F.virens?). Looking up we noticed a lot of barbet activity and could easily spot the white-cheeked ones. I noticed a flash of red on one which was smaller in size and assumed some coppersmiths were also there. Tracking it on the binoculors gave me a flash of blue also and I knew we had something else here. It started to rain heavily and we had to reluctantly return home. We came back again to the tree in the evening about 4ish hoping for a better look. This time, the bird liked our determination and came down the canopy to the lower branches to feed on the white fruits. No doubt now. It was the Crimson-fronted Barbet(Magalaima rubricapilla), our first time ever! A truly beautiful bird to watch scampering around the tree most of the time high up in the canopy. We spent quite some time enjoying it. I made one more trip back to try and get a few images even though light was fading fast. The bird again rewarded me by coming down once helping me get some record shots. It made our trip memorable.

We were on our way back to Bangalore early next day morning. There was morning sun at the lake near Hassan for us to observe a Pheasant-tailed Jacana family with 2 really cute chicks. One final note, if you happen to breakfast at Mayura Hotel (best with a family as it has a spacious play area) near Belur Cross, check out the trees for lot of Tickells (Pale-billed) Flowerpeckers.