A monsoon weekend in search of frogs...
Reptiles and Amphibians are found in plenty during the rains and June-September is a good time going in search of them. Coorg is a diverse, diversity rich location and Honey valley estate is one such place full of life forms, both in the day and night! So, it was no surprise that we chose to visit the place again specifically for frogs and snakes in the rains. Jagdeesh drove me, KKT and Sandesh in his Indigo to Kabbinakadu junction and back.
Coorg / Kodagu come alive during rains, you can literally breathe the greenery around and the vistas of greens everywhere are a sight to behold. Rains during monsoon are continuous and sometimes pretty heavy, you need to be prepared to get wet and move around in the rains else you would be pretty much stuck indoors without anything to do. Leeches are again very active during this time and you need to take care as to minimize the number of bites you get ;)
Driving overnight, we reached Café Coorg near Hunsur at dawn and had a good rest before moving on as the road conditions deteriorate thereafter. We avoided taking the Gonikoppal road for two reasons, bad roads and elephant menace. Tackling elephants in the middle of the night in the rains traversing on bad to worse roads is not at all a good idea! So we chose the other route via Siddapura, Ammathi that was pretty much in the same condition, a restless rattling rain drive.
Our agenda at the estate for the day and a half we stayed was very simple, to be out in the field with your camera, you never know what you would find where and when! We checked in, had some nice tea/coffee and off we went on a trail looking for everything we could see, flowers, insects, moths, caterpillars, bees, birds, mushrooms, butterflies, shrubs, vines, trees, each and every thing that was on offer around us. If you have keen and sharp eyes, there are so many interesting things to see and observe that we generally overlook around us.
The rains had held up for a small duration with the sun poking out teasing us and making us sweat on the trail. The estate has many trails mapped in a small book that you can choose to go on and come back safe without any guides. Each of the trails are interesting and with full of life. The sun soaking up the fresh green moss on the trunks of the tree made for some amazing vista’s that I can’t describe further. Those little droplets of water look like diamonds sparkling with the sun’s rays falling on them and the entire moss covered branch glows in the sunlight.
Rains couldn’t be far behind and while tracking our way to a waterfall nearby, we were drenched completely in the heavy downpour that lasted all of just 10 minutes! Luckily, we were pretty prepared with all rain covers, leech socks and enough wear to not get wet and not let our cameras get wet too! After a long trail and hot lunch back at the estate, a quick nap ensured all the energy was back for the night trail. In the meanwhile, while I was lazing in the courtyard enjoying the rains, a pretty Emerald dove made its appearance and vanished as quickly as it came, I could locate it no further anywhere else.
Soon after the sun sets and darkness envelops, the nocturnals make their presence felt with croaking, shrieking and hissing sounds all over the place. Crickets, Cicadas and Frogs are very vocal and their calls can be heard almost at every place. Night trail in search of frogs is very tricky if you are not aware of their behavior. In general, frogs are small in size and very skittish, the move around their territory calling aloud and warning intruders or attracting females. As soon as they realize, they are spotted they go silent and it’s a pretty long task to figure out where they are perches, either on a leaf, or a branch, or under the leaf, or on the ground…
Finally, after extensive searching and tracking, we got to see a lone Yellow Bush Frog (Raorchestes luteolus) located on a bush under a leaf croaking away to glory. The specimen’s croaking sound was so loud that you could hear it reverberate in your ears but when you see him, it’s a tiny little frog! This was the only specimen we found and we could not trace out any snakes or other frogs on our trails.
After a long productive day, we were late to bed but early to wake up the next day. Again, we went on a trail to a stream area nearby and it was pretty good the see just the stream flow, the cold water trickling down the boulders and stones making whirlpools and small rivulets, I had a good time capturing them with long exposures getting that silky effect of the flowing water stream. We got to see the same variety of frog again but in a different location and for the first time I held the tiny little fellow on my hand and it was a pretty good experience ogling at the fine details on the frog in your hand.
We left the estate at noon after bidding a customary bye to uncle Suresh Chengappa and his son and on the way we came across a dead Coral snake, pretty rare and venomous, heartbreaking indeed! At Virajpet, we met a kind hearted doctor, a brilliant photographer and a down-to-earth person, Dr Bishen Monappa (his works are amazing) at his residence. Further, on the return we took a different route to pass via Nagarahole national park.
The entry closes by 6pm and we just made it in to pass through. The drive has to be slow and being dusk, a lot of wildlife movement happens and you need to be careful not to scare them or bump into any. The road was littered with numerous frogs and the atmosphere full of croaks and we also saw a couple of Russell’s viper on the road. Luckily, as we were ahead, we could stop and allow them to cross over being subject to some irate honking from the vehicles behind us.
Place: Honey Valley Estate
Contact: Mr Suresh Chengappa
Route: Bangalore-Srirangapatna-Hunsur-Periyapatna-Siddapura-Ammathi-Virajpete-Kabbinakad junction (a left here on the cement road will take you to the estate about 5kms away)
Return: Kabbinakad junction-Virajpete-Srimangala-Kutta-Karmadu-Hunsur-Bangalore