We took the Bangalore-Tumkur-NH4-Chitradurga-SH13-Kudligi-Hospet-Kamalapura and the road stretch on NH4 is great while the SH13 is a two lane laden with heavy truck traffic, yet passable. The last few kms just after TB dam is almost non-existent and you can easily be ridiculed by the non stop honking and the dust and the maddening traffic.
Our agenda was simple, birding all the way… be it the filthy lake on the outskirts of Chitradurga or the canal area at Kamalapur or the FRH campus or the world heritage site Hampi or the fields around Daroji sanctuary and we were amazed by the amount of birdlife in the region what we encountered. Mid way we were also joined by Dr SK Arun and Dr Nagraj from Bellary, both excellent photographers who also helped us in finding many a species, specifically the globally threatened Yellow-throated Bulbul in Hampi and treated us to a sumptuous lunch at the ethnic Mango tree restaurant in Hampi, quite a famous joint there for locals as well as foreigners.
( future perfect or imperfect...? )
We were split into 2 groups and as one of them had a delayed start, we in the other group got plenty of time for birding and butterflying on the Nice road and at a junction near Hiriyur where we spent more than a couple of hours. We had lunch at Chitradurga where the deviation is to be taken towards Hampi, we also spent some time at the filth filled lake on the outskirts of Chitradurga town. The drive thereon was a little slow owing to the dense lorry traffic and the last few kms after TB dam is a nightmare and finally we reached the Kamalapur FRH after a not-so-good dinner at Kamalapur village.
We stayed at the forest department rest house/FRH at Kamalapur close to the JLR Sloth Bear resort. A nice place to stay that has options of rooms, tented cottages as well as dormitory and the food prepared by the cook is needless to say, awesome! I relished each of the dishes with aplomb for the 2 days we stayed there. Summers are pretty hot and winters are better (hot in the day and cool in the night) and monsoon months are unpredictable. Watching birdlife is best during the winters and Jan-Feb is the best time for watching the piggy-back as its the breeding time for the bears.
We started off the next day with a lot of canal birding in the morning and mid-way we were joined by Pompayya, Dr Arun, Dr Nagraj to show us more of the species around. Till then, what was a normal activity for us seeing, spotting, shooting all we could see turned into an exciting journey with Mr. Pompayya leading the way; his spotting skills are amazing going by the fact that he could pin point the exact location of the Eagle Owl’s from a moving vehicle. Highlights of the morning birding activity for me were weavers, munias, cuckoo, wagtails, spotted owlets and the eagle owl.
Mid-day we set out on a mission or I would rather state a wish of seeing the globally threatened Yellow-throated Bulbul that is found near the matunga hill at world heritage site Hampi. It was no mean task as it was pretty hot at 12 noon and we were boiling over and carrying our cameras and lugging ourselves searching for the elusive bulbuls was not cool either. Finally, after patient waiting and some persistence by Dr Nagraj, I was lucky enough to sight a couple of the elusive ones while many others missed it by a whisker, not a problem as there is always a next time.
After this 'hot' outing, we were treated to a sumptuous lunch at ‘Mango Tree’ restaurant and the dining area here is a terraced slope overlooking river Tungabhadra and yes the name so because of the big mango tree located right in the middle of the restaurant and I could also say that the restaurant is built keeping the natural settings as pristine as possible. Another specialty is that you need to sit on the matted floor, cross-legged in the typical South Indian style and no footwear is allowed inside the restaurant. The food and the spread is worth every penny and this jaunt is visited by a horde of both local and international visitors.
coming up: bears and more bears…