Friday, January 9, 2009

BR Hills - Ranganthittu - Mysore

Well a trip with mixed luck. Christmas weekend and no wonder i was scouting for some getaway place for the long weekend. With bandipur, nagarahole, k gudi and jodigere trek failing to materialize it was BR hills which we decided to visit. We tried tried tried in vain to get the IB booked and finally settled for a room booked at a lodge there "Rajathadri Hill Villa" (80-41204126 / 4803) - a bright orange and yellow building and it was a fairly decent accommodation but w/o food, thats what we wanted - a base place to just rest and rejuvenate because we would be roaming for most part of the day. On searching the net we found 5 routes to BR hills from Bangalore:
  • Bangalore - Kanakapura - Malavalli - Kollegala - Yelandur - BR hills
  • Bangalore - Maddur - Malavalli - Kollegala - Yelandur - BR hills
  • Bangalore - Mysore - Nanjangud - Kaulande - Santhemarahalli - Yelandur - BR hills
  • Bangalore - Mysore - Nanjangud - Chamarajanagara - K Gudi - BR hills
  • Bangalore - Mysore - T Narsipura - Santhemarahalli - Yelandur - BR hills

and the best advised was the 3rd & the 4th routes mentioned above. Well with no definite planning for 3.5 days at BR hills, we planned to include an early morning visit to Ranganthittu and then proceed ahead via Mysore and Nanjangud towards BR hills, and the visit at Ranganthittu turned out to be our best visit till date. A great start to our adventure and who knew what was in store for the next 3 days!!

We started off early in the morning with me, Raja and Nag this time (Guru was missing as he was in Delhi) to reach Ranganthittu as early as 7:30 am. Just last week I was here along with Joshua and Ajith and then we were advised by the boatman to come early in the morning before the crowd pours in. At 7:30am and there were no souls around, the first we got to see were a pair of Bulbuls in the shining orange light of the sun. The beautiful Asian Paradise Flycatcher made its appearance from nowhere and that heralded our day of good luck. We arranged for a boat ride for Rs.500/- for the 30 minutes ride. Finally after many long waits I was blessed to see the 3 Kings (Pied / White breasted / Small blue - Kingfishers) @ Ranganthittu and that made my day. In the boat ride we were near to the Spoonbills / Openbills / Night herons and they tend not to care our presence.

What all we got to see @ Ranganthittu was:

1)Red Whiskered Bulbuls 2)Asian Paradise Flycatcher female 3)Openbilled Storks 4)Spoonbills 5)White breasted Kingfisher 6)Pied Kingfishers 7)Small blue Kingfisher 8)Night Herons 9)Large Indian Egrets 10)Peacocks (first time @ ranganthittu) 11)Stone Plovers 12)River Terns 13)Grey Herons 14)Purple rumped Sunbird 15)Munia Pair 16)Tickell's blue Flycatcher 17)Rose ringed Parakeet 18)Marsh Crocodiles and many more...

After a good breakfast at the restaurant there, we started towards BR hills via Nanjangud. After Nanjangud, there's a deviation to the left (a board there indicates route to K.Gudi) and further ahead one can reach BR via Chamarajanagar or take another deviation towards Kaulande-Yelandur and then to BR hills. We reached there by afternoon and checked in to the hotel. Spent the whole day going around BR hills and got to see the wonderful sunset view from there. The temperatures were down and it was getting chill by the hour. If you have your own SUV, you are allowed to enter the K.Gudi (Kyatadevaragudi forests) forest range after taking permission from the forest department. However we could arrange for a safari after hiring a private jeep for Rs 1400/- for the next morning.

K.Gudi forests were green and wet (surprised to see such dense greenery all around) but the safari ride was dry with the lone sighting of an Indian gaur and some barking deer / spotted deers. The rest of the day was spent birding around the place with wonderful birding oppurtunities (one of our best birding activities).

The avians we spotted were:

1)Small blue Kingfisher 2)Indian Robin 3)Orange Minivets 4)Flame backed Woodpecker 5)Great Tit 6)Booted Warbler 7)Plain Prinia 8)Red Whiskered Bulbuls 9)Blue beared bee eaters (a lifer for us) 10)Golden fronted Leafbird 11)Coppersmith Barbet 12)White Cheeked Barbet 13)Jungle Babblers 14)Brahminy Starling 15)Indian Rock thrush 16)Pied Wagtail... and many more

(1. Golden fronted Leafbird 2. Booted Warbler 3. Jungle Babblers 4. Blue bearded bee eater)

As the laziest we are, the next day our initial plans of viewing the sunrise went for a toss as we were busy snoring at that time and got up only post 7am. Did some light birding and we left the place to Mysuru enroute Chamarajanagar (we had to leave as we had done our booking for only 2 nights). We chose a different route (no 4 as given above) to return as we didn't want to take the same route that we came by. From BR hills to K Gudi, the roads are excellent, newly tarred and right through the jungle where you dont get to hear anything other than the sound of the birds and animals. After the checkpost crossing at K Gudi, the road stretch is horrible till you reach the fringes of Chamarajanagara. Pathetic roads and wonder how the stretch is during the monsoons! Chamarajanagar was really hot and we needed some Tender coconut drink to cool us down! (U see we just need a reason to have something!!!) We reached the City of Palaces Mysuru mid afternoon and with difficulty got a room @ Deepak Lodge just behind the suburban bus stand @ Rs. 1000/- for a day. This time around we didnt want to miss the Karanji lake and we were off for birding there in the evening (We wasted 2 hours at the lodge and later got to know that Karanji lake is open right through the day till 5pm).

Saturday evening and as usual, maddening crowd and Karanji lake was no exception. People queing up for the boat ride, ice cream parlors mobbed by children, couples whining away time, all the same everywhere... The walk through avian housing exquisite birds is a wonderful and first of its kind concept where we get to see rare species not found commonly in India. The butterfly park was another that we got to miss due to shortage of time here. Good, well maintained park and strictly you are supposed to be out by max 5:30 pm. The water body also covers a decent area and you get to see quite a few varieties of birds only if you are interested in bird watching.

(1.Juv. Brahminy Kite above -- not Shikra as mentioned! Regret the error!!! 2. Karanji lake)

1. Juvenile Brahminy Kite, 2. Waterhens, 3. Purple Moorhen, 4. Small blue King, 5. Egrets, 6. Spot billed Ducks, 7. Indian Cormorants, 8. Snake bird (Darters)... The next morning we decided on visiting Lingambudhi lake (the last major lake of Mysuru that was missing from our list for birding). Finding the way was a bit difficult as its located at the tip of Mysuru near Vivekanandanagar.

Some pointers to reach Lingambudhi lake are 1. Ramuswamy circle 2. Court road 3. Ramakrishna nagar 4. Vivekanandanagar last bus stop (bus nos 67c / 72 -- not very sure of this)...

After a tiff with the lodge owner on the room allotment, we were out early finding directions to this lake. A cup of hot tea with biscuits and then asking few people around we reached there by 6:45 am and mark my words we were shivering in the early morning cold... All of our initial snaps were shaking because of our shake but as the sun rose, we were stable and there wer a lot more birds than expected to give us company. Lingambudhi lake is a very good place for birding but grossely neglected with slush and weeds all around and many places inaccessible, still there is a relatively big unmarked jogging area that you find many people using and you also get to see many birders camping there. The list of avians we saw here (or rather we recognized) was pretty good...

1) Pied Bushchats 2) Indian Robins 3) Pied Wagtails 4) Spot billed ducks 5) Shovelers 6) Painted Storks 7) Purple rumped Sunbird 8) Golden Oriole 9) White breasted Kingfisher 10) Red legged Stilts 11) Rose ringed Parakeets 12) Greater Coucal 13) Babblers..... (i have lost my records and my memory too...)

It was a good meeting with Ravinaryana Chakravarthy, an experienced birder and and INWian.... he gave some good tips on birding and quickly identified some species before we could even realize...

Seeing the number of birders, we feel like david's in an area full of goliath's.

After birding session, we left mysore and after an heavy lunch at Haripriya hotel in Mandya, it was time to be at home. Finally ended our eventful trip sans wildlife and with lots of birding... wish to be more on such adventures.

Place: Rajatadri Hill Villas (BR hills)

Ph: 080-41204126 / 4803 / 9845338234

Srinivas (caretaker) - 9972727006

(@the BR hills temple)

Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!

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