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Kemmangundi and Muthodi, Western Ghats - 24 to 27 November 2005

24 November 2005
I always wanted to visit the Western Ghats and was looking for an opportunity to do so. Vijay had plans to go and shoot the Bright Headed Cisticola along with Yathin who had visited the place earlier and had got the bird. So, I also hopped in along with them. The weather was a bit cloudy and was drizzling. Also, Bangalore was hit by the depression caused at Chennai and was receiving some heavy rainfall. So we were a bit worried about the weather in Kemmangundi. But what the heck, rain or shine, we decided to go ahead with the trip. We left for Kemmangundi on the 24th morning.


We were greeted by a Short Toed Snake Eagle as we entered the hills beyond Kemmangundi. It was green and beautiful all around us. We reached Nature Nirvana in the afternoon and had some good food. The weather was dull and so we decided to just laze around the estate shooting whatever we got. There was a lake and a stream in the premises of the estate and a good place to shoot some birds. There was this Blue Rock Thrush at the estate which was acting like a big rowdy, chasing away the smaller birds around the estate. That was the first bird I shot at the estate. We prayed for good weather and hit the bed later in the night.

25 November 2005
The next morning we were all set to go and capture the brilliant Bright Headed Cisticola. After all, that was the reason for the trip. We decided to visit the same place where Yathin had shot it previously. We took it easy and shot at what ever moved in the sholas. I was a lucky to get an accipiter which we thought was the Besra. But it was later confirmed as Crested Goshawk. We reached the grassland, the habitat of the BHC at around 10am. After spending some time, we were able to spot the cisticola. But getting it in the frame was not an easy job, especially with the big lens. It used to pop up for a second and disappear under the grass. Then it used to pop up at a different place. Yathin was able to get some decent shots as he was moving around hand holding his lens. But we were fixed at one place with the tripod. After spending around 2 hrs, we decided to give it a break and try it again after some time or the next day. We proceeded further towards kemmangundi shooting whatever we got.


We were on our way back to the resort and were passing the grassland where we had tried the BHC. Also, both Yathin and Vijay had got a decent document shot of this bird and I was there without even the tail of this bird. That’s when I decided to leave the tripod behind and go after the bird hand holding my 500mm with the 1.4x converter. Even before yathin stopped the vehicle at the grassland, I got off and just walked away in to the tall grassland. I disappeared behind hills and was greeted by some 5-6 BHC’s. I was so thrilled to see them, but at the same time was challenging to get them in the view finder. I finally managed to get some decent shots hand holding the lens. I immediately called for Vijay and Yathin. After spending few more hours, we got some great shots of this, both in breeding and non-breeding plumage. We also got some juvenile shots. We all were glad that we finally got what we had come for. I noticed that the BHC were more active in the afternoon than in the morning. We reached the estate by 4pm shooting on the way and had good lunch. After lunch it was again shooting around the Estate.


26 November 2005
Now that we had got the Bright Headed Cisticola, we decided to explore the Muthodi range and left early in the morning as the entry into the sanctuary was restricted from 6:30 to 9:30 in the morning. We took a route through another coffee estate and through the forest to reach Muthodi forest department office. We took the RFO’s permission and headed into the forest along with a forest officer. Though we did not sight any mammals except for the giant squirrel, I did sight and shoot some birds which were first timers for me. By 9:30 we were out of the forest and headed towards the Shigekhan guesthouse where the bird life is abundant. While we were driving around, Vijay noticed a silhouetted Changeable Hawk Eagle. But its call was completely different. So, we took some shots of it before it flew off. When we checked our birds book, Yathin pointed out that it is the Mountain Hawk eagle. What a lifer....the forest is so full of surprises....We shot there for some time and headed back towards our estate. Since we had crossed lunch time and were shooting without having breakfast also, we stopped at a roadside shop and inquired for some food. We were served with some tasty rice and sambar. Now that we had energy to shoot more, we took it easy on our way back to the resort. The weather was good and plenty of birds everywhere. We reached the resort by 4pm and relaxed for the rest of the day, viewing the images on Yathin’s laptop and recalling the images we had captured.

27 November 2005
The next morning the sun was shining bright and the sky was totally blue without any clouds. We had an early breakfast and started our journey back. As were were leaving, the Blue Rock Thrush was there to say bye to us. We took some shots and left. On the way back, we again saw the Short Toed Snake Eagle, at the same spot where we had seen it when we came, along with a Kestrel and later with a eagle.

Overall, we were very glad since we got some good shots of the Bright Headed Cisticola and some other birds. The stay at Nature Nirvana was a memorable one with very good hospitality by the Manager Kutti, helper Chandre Gowda and excellent food by the cook Mrs Elizebeth.

All images photographed during this trip can be viewed here.