Friday, April 11, 2014

K. Gudi in a day!

It was about 4 years since I had been hearing about this pristine place, K Gudi, in the heart of the Biligiri Rangaswami Betta. People spoke great things about the place and showed me great photographs of birds and animals from the place.

More often than not, I was extremely jealous of those who went there. Even after I have been there once, that does not change.

Finally, I had the opportunity, thanks to my fellow adventurer and now my fiance, Shreenidhi. Yes, if you have read my writing about the Slender Loris at IISc, he's the one who shared the experience with me. This time too, he was as enthusiastic as ever. "Ah, so this is the gate... behold." Once we progressed beyond the gate, I was not surprised to see how dry the place was. It was excruciatingly hot and almost disappointing. "Looks like this is not the right season to be here?" I questioned him. With a proud face, he grinned reassuringly. "Wait and watch!" He said.

"If you see a big red boulder, tell me." He said, as we kept driving towards K. Gudi. "Why?" "Because thats what elephants look like! They look big and red with mud on them. I have seen them here in the heat!" I kept my eyes open for elephants, but we didn't seem to find any.

I strained my eyes for butterflies, but didn't see any except an Emigrant or two.

I was beginning to get annoyed by the heat, and that's when I realized the meaning of Shreenidhi's "Wait and watch." The landscape was changing drastically. It was getting greener and greener every few metres. The density of green was visibly greater in front of us than behind us. This was a remarkable transformation of habitat! As you can see here with reference to the front and back of our car, the visual changes from dry and dead branches to a more life-filled vibrance!

By the time we reached K. Gudi, the scene had changed completely. It was a lush forest full of birds from different zones. K. Gudi is located in a very interesting position geographically. One wouldn't be wrong to call it a crossover realm between the Eastern and the Western Ghats. It consists of a varied set of habitats, from dry deciduous to evergreen sholas.

 The excitement about BR Hills and K. Gudi lies in the species found here. Western Ghats endemics as well as mainland species are found here.

Blue Capped Rock Thrush (Monticola cinclorhynchus)

Streak Throated Woodpecker (Picus xanthopygaeus)

Blue Bearded Bee Eater (Nyctyornis athertoni)

Malabar Whistling Thrush (Myophonus horsfieldii)

 Brown Fish Owl (Ketupa zeylonensis)

Other birds we saw were: Common Hoopoe, Lesser Golden Backed Woodpecker, Chestnut Bellied Nuthatch, Velvet Fronted Nuthatch, Magpie Robin, Oriental White eye, Spotted Dove, White Bellied Drongo, Black Drongo, Racket Tailed Drongo, Orange Minivet, Crested Serpent Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Orange Headed Thrush, White Breasted Kingfisher, Hill Myna, Great Tit, Spotted Owlet, Jungle Owlet, Golden Fronted Leafbird, Red Vented Bulbul, Rufous Treepie, Red Whiskered Bulbul and Paradise Flycatcher. I may have missed out on a few others.

As there was mist and a lot of obstruction, I could not manage a clear view shot of the sholas. Here are a few images by Shreenidhi from a previous trip to BR Hills (2010). As it was clicked in the post monsoon season, the density of the evergreen forest is at it's peak.

All the images in this writeup are clicked by Shreenidhi.

This time of the year isn't so intensely green due to the heat of summer. Nevertheless, it was a marvellous sight! View from the safari Bolero on our journey inside the forests:

We were also lucky to see a Tree Shrew. I had never seen this animal before, and I expected it to be really tiny when I looked for it. The size of the rodent was slightly bigger than that of a Three Striped Palm squirrel. It was a beautiful creature, and we watched it crawl into the slopes of the forests.

We heard warning calls of Barking deer on two occasions, one during the afternoon drive of the first day and again during the same night. The next morning drive, we found pug marks of possibly a young tigress.

There was movement of Spot Swordtails (Graphium nomius) in the area, and we had expected them to mudpuddle in the vicinity of the waterhole. Though we did see a few, they were not mudpuddling. We also observed quite a number of Dark Blue Tigers (Tirumala septentrionis) and Blue Tigers (Tirumala limniace) on the move. There was no particular directionality or roosting, but we saw many individuals randomly.

By the end of the one and a half days we spent there, I was already attached to the place. After three bird lifers and a mammal lifer too, I was thrilled and hoped to be there again soon.

As we drove back, we stopped by to awe at the habitat change one more time. We were back in the dry scrub jungle, and this was our road home.