Dec 31, 2011

Adios 2011, Welcome 2012

2011 has been a mixed bag of emotions for me, a little joy, a little sorrow, hard decisions, inconsistent health, exciting travels, overall can be termed as a good year!

A new year and a new job straight away :) Kicked of the year with our group outing at Ganeshgudi OMH camp (see) and river rafting on the Kali was the highlight.

Maddur and Ramanagara visit happened clubbed with a in house function. Raja and me had a good time birdwatching here...

Kudremukha trek was long due and finally we did it again as a team. Bad health and probably the first time I thought of returning mid way, thankfully with god's grace completed the trek. This is our only dedicated 'trek' for the entire year!

Brother's wedding and I sneaked out to Maidenahalli for a super quick visit along with Raja. Curse me or Praise me :)

In the meanwhile a new beginning called "Indiblogger" kicked off for my blog, what a game changer it has turned out to be!

Peak summer and Bandipura was not to be missed, but somehow turned out to be a dampener and horribly expensive!

Visit to Kasargod happened all of a sudden and so got a chance to re visit Bekal fort along with Raja.

Biggest game changer of my life - attended the "Naturalists Training Program" (NTP) conducted by our guru S Karthikeyan!

After this NTP, every other weekend I'm at some lake or any forest patch in and around Bangalore itself looking for birds, insects, butterflies, anything and everything :)

Family Piligrimage to Mantralayam - a visit long due finally happening, I'm blessed! Thanks to Raja for lending the Figo, it was a cruise.

Monsoons and next were the visits to Ganeshgudi OMH camp again and Aditya's Simha farms for 'macro' activity.

7 months done and only 6 odd outings, very untrue to our normal behavior, work and personal commitments in the way, can't help it sometimes!

A quick trip to Agumbe with half the team during end of monsoons happened, things were about to change after this.

Family health problems and other issues kept me occupied for some weeks together, tough times, now relieved that it got over!

Raja got busy with his wedding and finally one bachelor from the team got hooked up during October. Directly proportionally his participation reduced thereon, its a normal phenomenon and we support it :)

Off went my bike and waiting for the new one to arrive...

Got to know Amit, having similar ideologies and fancies, immediately happened the small trek and bird watching around Muninagar, Bangalore.

A delicious outing for me and Nag at Food street, Bangalore here...

Then self and Nag camped at Honey Valley estate, Kodagu and came back heavily impressed!

Then with fellow NTPians, bird watching sessions happened at Shivanahalli, Nandi hills and Madiwala lake.

The next events are yet to appear on the blog, so can only summarize for now :)

As a group, we were back to Ganeshgudi for a couple of days and had a jolly good time with the newly married groom coming along :) The last group outing for 2011!

Never thought I would be tripping alone w/o my group so early but it happened faster than anticipated on my solo trip to Bandipura during November, eventful trip but missed my buddies.

An early morning visit to Hesarghatta lake, had a good session along with Amit.

Last day of the year and ends with an early morning bird watching outing near Bannerghata Zoo, an eventful outing irrespective of the bad cyclonic weather :)

The blog has risen to a new level especially this year due to the increase in the visitors and the readers and I'm thankful to each one of you for the constant encouragement and support provided.

Got to know some wonderful travel bloggers like Arti, Dhiraj, Anu, Amit, Aravind and it has helped me in a lot of ways. Thank you people! My bows :)

All in all Adios 2011, Welcome 2012...

More greetings will follow!

Dec 25, 2011

Birdwatching at Madiwala Lake, Bangalore

Last visit to Madiwala lake was quite some time ago and I was put off by the stench and bad maintenance. Cut to present and the lake looks much better and clean and more importantly the migrants have started visiting the lake and should be here for the next couple of months!
Lately, I was getting good feedback and decided to visit the backyard lake once with Sumeet, fellow NTPian. Was very pleased to sight my first Marsh Harrier here and the Pelicans and the Sandpipers, all being winter migrants.
We spent a couple of hours early in the day and I returned back in the evening primarily to test my Canon 40D on field and to get used to it prior to my mega trip kickoff.
Bird checklist:
Eurasian Marsh Harrier
Oriental Honey Buzzard
Brahminy Kite
Black Kite
Spot billed Pelican
Grey Heron
Purple Heron
Little Cormorant
Little Grebe
White breasted Waterhen
White breasted Kingfisher
Purple Moorhen
Barn Swallows
Red wattled Lapwing
Grey Wagtail
Ashy Prinia
Common Coot
Bay backed Shrike
Little Egret
Pond Heron

To add more clarity, this visit to Madiwala lake was in November 2011 and the mega trip happened at the end of November itself, well forgot to mention the dates!

Dec 19, 2011

Bird watching at Nandi hills

A previous account here way back in 2009.
All NTPians, myself, Deepa Mohan, Sumeet Moghe, Kannan, Poornima Kannan, Nandan Bhatkal and Naveen grouped along and visited the place for some bird watching activity. The Devanahalli road was foggy enough to reduce the visibility to bare minimum and a cuppa of hot tea later, my sleep had vanished as we reached the ticket counters. Weekend, long queue and I did the honor of grabbing the tickets and we drove up and got off well before the parking area. 
Highlights of the day for me were the Indian blue Robin and the Asian Paradise flycatcher (male, female and sub-adult) and also not to forget the Blue capped Rock thrush that was very co-operative all along.
We strolled around the area scanning for the birds and the Grey Wagtail was the first among them to gather our attention and the Greenish leaf Warbler kept calling all around us only showing glimpses of himself. Being such a small birdie, wonder how he manages to fly so long for spending the winters here...amazing!
The area around the Tippu drop has been reconstructed and the edges of the cliff all fenced due to the many people who tend to jump off from this cliff and that's a good move but sacrificing the natural beauty of the place with iron barricades all around. Monkeys are pretty large in number and sometimes very volatile snatching whatever they can from your hands and bags.

A day well spent and a wonderful getting back to Nandi hills, need to visit here back soon before the winter vanishes and thanks to Poornima Kannan for those sooper Idlis that all of us gobbled in no time!

Bird checklist-
Asian Paradise Flycatcher
Blue capped Rock Thrush
Indian Blue Robin
Greenish Leaf Warbler
Tawny Bellied Babbler
Olive backed Pipit
Oriental white Eye
Tickell's blue Flycatcher
Grey Wagtail
Ashy Drongo
Black Drongo
White cheeked Barbet
Common Buzzard

Bird watching at Shivanahalli

Shivanahalli Ramakrishna Ashram

One of the good trails for small treks / nature trails / bird watching around Bangalore is the Shivanahalli Ramakrishna Ashram near the periphery of the Bannerghatta forest area about 25kms away from BTM layout, Bangalore. The resident Swamiji, Swami Vishnumayanandaji here is quite unusual, a tech savvy person, he has greened a lot in the campus and the forest patch adjoining, encourages students there to accompany visitors on nature trails, very hospitable and tea/snacks are offered to everyone who visit.

I had heard a lot about this place through bngbirds group and their blog, and finally got an opportunity to visit the place along with Sumeet, fellow NTPian. Residing in the same part of the city, we left early in the day to get advantage of the early rising sun.
How to reach- Take the left turn towards Anekal at the Bannerghatta circle junction, a couple of kms away at the Ragihalli bus stop, you will find the Ashram board and a Ayyappa temple hoarding, turn right here and after 10kms you would reach the Ashram at Shivanahalli. Our first stop was enroute near the Peepal tree for the Spotted Owlet that is a regular there, my first Owlet sighting till date and the Rosy starlings kept us occupied for some time with their flying antics until some crows decided to take over and chase them away.

Had to wait for some time till the guide arrived and we passed the time sipping the hot tea offered and loitering around chasing the Asian Paradise flycatcher and capturing the wood spiders around. We walked, lugging around slowly on the trails passing through many private properties and forest tracks uphill and downhill, crossing small streams and finally reached a peak top to get a good view of the valley around. By this time the sun was up and hot and the bird activity had reduced considerably and we made our way back slowly observing the chasing the lovely wonderful butterflies all around. Overall, our nature trail lasted more than a couple of hours and it was quite rejuvenating.
Back at the Ashram, thanked the swamiji and Sumeet had some donation to do, finished it and were on our way back home. The swamiji is open for donations and would love to meet the person upfront whatsoever the donation amount may be.

Bird & Butterfly checklist-
Rosy Starling
Spotted Owlet
Asian Paradise Flycatcher
Plum headed Parakeet
Crimson backed Sunbird
Purple rumped Sunbird
Oriental White Eye
Bay backed Shrike
Green bee Eater
White cheeked Barbet
Greater Coucal
Pied Bushchat
Indian Roller
White breasted KF
Cattle Egret
Pond Heron
Black Kite
Brahminy Kite
Pale billed Flowerpecker
Indian Robin
Yellow Wagtail
Pea Blue
Common Leopard
Danaid Eggfly
Mottled Emigrant
Common Sailer
Common Rose
Striped Tiger
Common Tiger
Common Jazebel
Grass Yellow
Common Hedge Blue
Plain Grass Blue

Deepa Mohan and Vaibhav have some wonderful write-ups and lots of information about Shivanahalli, Ragihalli and more... Check them out :)

Dec 7, 2011

Butterflies Part II

Some more butterflies in part II of the series...

Common dart butterfly
The Common Dart (Potanthus pseudomaesa) is commonly known as the Indian Dart or Pseudomaesa Dart, is a butterfly belonging to the family Hesperiidae. It’s abundant in the hills and jungles and in fairly wet regions. A fast and powerful flier, it settles frequently on flowers and leaves.

Three spot grass yellow butterfly
Three-spot grass yellow (Eurema blanda) is a small butterfly of the family Pieridae, i.e., the Yellows and Whites found in India. A butterfly of lowland forests and resembles the common grass yellow.

Chocolate pansy butterfly
The Chocolate pansy (Junonia iphita) is also known as the Chocolate soldier is a butterfly found in Asia. Individuals maintain a territory and are usually found close to the ground level and often bask in the sun.

Fulvous pied flat butterfly
Fulvous pied flat (Pseudocoladenia dan) is a butterfly of the family Hesperiidae. An inhabitant of moist, cool and dense jungles, it visits flowers, bird droppings frequently and water rarely. It’s fond of basking in the sun on the upper surface of leaves close to the ground. With extremely rapid flight, it makes long lasting aerial sorties occasionally in shady clearings.

Part I here...

Honey Valley Estate, Kodagu

Got to know about this retreat from the always helpful Aravind, Sankara and Amit. Called up Suresh of Honey Valley Estate, Coorg and after a long discussion booked the 2 thatched huts for the weekend for 3 of us as Raja was not in and me, Guru and Nag were supposed to go.

Honey valley estate is located near Kabbinakad junction in the heart of Kodagu(Coorg) district, about 250kms from Bangalore. Finally Guru also dropped out and out went the idea of biking to this place, finally we traveled by the ever dependable KSRTC services. Karnataka Sarige express buses ply directly from Bangalore to Kabbinakad junction and Virajpet is the nearest point if you prefer to travel the Airavata way and from there lot of private buses travel on these routes.
(Shot by Nag who says has no interest in shooting but lifts my camera stealthily and fires a couple of shots...)
Generally thatched huts are not let out to the general visitors as they are very basic, rustic and would not suit people looking for comfort, but we managed to convince Suresh that we would be fine and we enjoyed staying in the hut. You don't need an AC when the chill wind blows from all 4 sides right :)
As we traveled by bus, either we had to hire a jeep or walk up the distance till the homestay from Kabbinakad junction and no guesses for what we opted for! Landed prior to 6am at Kabbinakad junction and the weather still being gloom, cloudy and dark. Rested at the post office till traces of light appeared and then started the uphill early morning walk towards our destination.
Concrete roads are laid till the parking lot from where only 4*4 vehicles traverse for the rest couple of kms. As we ascended slowly taking our time, we were treated to some wonderful valley views and vistas with the sun trying to break cover from the clouds and in constant companion of the chirping birds.
As you proceed ahead, we first get to see the Chingaara property, a little more luxurious than the Honey valley estate property that is managed by Suresh Chengappa's son. Past this and uphill further, we finally reached the homestay, a little tired but worth the effort nevertheless. Stunning vistas awaited us and we loved the locale no end, absolutely wild, in midst of thick estates and hills surrounding you closer to the Tadiandamol peak (Kakkabbe, the place where we started for Tadiandamol was hardly couple of kms away from Kabbinakad junction).
We had plans to wander out to visit a couple of waterfalls nearby as we are so well known, our laziness played a domineering role and so it ended that for the time we were there, we went nowhere except for a small hike behind the property :)
Well, there are lot of trails in and around the property and they have documented it and made a small handbook of it, great! But, as it should be, whatever books you carry, you should follow your instincts to not get lost and if lost too, use back your instincts to get back and that's what most of the casual travelers won't do. The trails are smaller and bigger taking hours to a complete day and it sure is a wonderful experience in itself.
Food served at Honey valley is more of a general cuisine rather than a Coorgi delight, We discussed about this with Suresh and he had a valid point in saying people prefer it this way and the lot of foreigners to who visit this place. The home made jam and honey were a real treat as were the locally prepared chocolates.
Leeches were omnipresent everywhere and probably for the first time not one bit me and all thanks to the Ruggers socks that I wore. Just recovering from an bad foot infection, I didn't want to take any chances and so was well stocked and it worked. Poor Nag bore all the brunt of few bites he got all over and some in places you can't believe :)
Birding was sparse and limited with the cloudy weather not helping, but still a few walks and patient waiting yielded a few results, I would need to visit here only for bird watching sometime soon. The sunbirds were all over the place, so as the wagtail, wagging nonchalantly. The Parakeets were a real treat hovering all around with their tweet tweets and so did I got a glimpse of Asian Fairy bluebird couple in the open, but at a distance.
We thought we had just come in and it was already time to move, we left the place with an absolute no liking to go back... it happens to us always :) We took more than a couple of hours to reach the main road buttering all the way slowly downhill. What I meant is watching those lovely little butterflies and trying to capture them whenever I could. If you are behind butterflies, an hours journey will easily take more than a couple and we had planned ample time for that. Nag was patient enough accompanying me and that's the bonding in our group (however wrong our thoughts may be, they never let me down in the field, blessed to have such pals!).
We took the local bus to Virajpet and after the dinner at the local eatery (till now I have not been able to figure out a good veggie eating place in Virajpet :() boarded the Airavata Volvo towards Bangalore. Rode back home from the SMTC bus stand (KSRTC Mysore road bus terminal) on Nag's bike that we had parked there and thus ended our eventful Kodagu visit.
Butterflies are added to my new list of interests and they never cease to amaze me. Being the size of my thumb and how gorgeous they are created, those intricate patterns, looks like a designer crafted their wings. There are separate posts showcasing these butterflies and that portfolio is rapidly expanding. Few of them that I have succeeded in identifying are:-
Blue Tiger
Grey Pansy
Common Hedge Blue
Gladeye Bush Brown
Common Dart
Three Spot Grass Yellow
Chocolate Pansy
Fulvous Pied Flat
Blue Mormon
...and wish I had the patience to see more!

Bird check list:-
Cattle Egret
House Crow
Jungle Crow
Greated Coucal
Jungle Mynah
Hill Mynah
White Cheeked Barbet
Coppersmith Barbet
Purple Rumped Sunbird
Crimson Backed Sunbird
Grey Wagtail
Black Drongo
Ashy Drongo
Racquet Tailed Drongo
Rose Ringed Parakeet
Plum Headed Parakeet
Malabar Parakeet
Vernal Hanging Parrot
Malabar Grey Hornbill
Orange Minivet
Laughing Dove
Spotted Dove
Oriental White Eye
Red Whiskered Bulbul
Red Vented Bulbul
Yellow Browed Bulbul
Eurasian Blackbird
Asian Fairy Bluebird

Honey Valley Estate -
Chingaara -
Contact - Suresh Chengappa
Phone - 08272 238339 / 200325

Dec 5, 2011

Waterfalls In Karnataka III

Part 3 from the series...

V. Apsarakonda falls (Uttara Kannada district)

Apsarakonda falls is located in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka and about roughly 6kms from Honnavara town and about 28kms from the temple town of Murudeshwar on the Konkan coast. The water falling from a height of 10 meters has formed a small waterfall. A high hill, a fine view of the sea and the sunset from the hill and a huge natural cave are the attractions of the place. It’s a visual treat of the sun going down the Arabian sea on a clear day from the viewpoint on the hillock.

Reach: Roughly 6kms from Honnavara town, 28kms from Murudeshwar and 435kms from Bangalore. Murudeshwar, Gokarna, Idagunji are other tourist locales nearby.


June to October is a good time when the water levels are high but be prepared for unrelenting and continuous rains.

VI. Unchalli falls ( Uttara Kannada district)

Unchalli falls (Lushington falls) is created by a 116 metres drop in the Aghanashini river located in the Siddapur taluk, Uttara Kannada distict in Karnataka. Its named after JD Lushington, a distict collector of the British empire after he discovered this in 1845. The nearest village is called Heggarne, 5kms away and the last 2kms to be covered on foot. The river here takes a deep plunge to create this spectacular, picturesque falls. This falls is also known as Keppa Joga because of the deafening sound it makes. There are view points constructed to view but the dense surrounding make it difficult to get a complete view of the falls. Rainbows and mist are a common occurrence because of the height from which the river takes a leap and lands with a deafening roar sending up water droplets that eventually shower back again.

Reach: 25kms from Sirsi, 35kms from Siddapur and 425 kms from Bangalore.

Bangalore-Tumkur-Sirsi-Heggarne-Unchalli falls

Best time would be end of monsoons and winter.

should continue further right... :)