Monday, 4 December 2017

Western Ghats - 4th December (Day 10)

We had breakfast in the hotel at 06:15 and were out by 06:45 for a short drive to the bus station at Eravikulam National Park on the Coimbatore Road at 1600m. Birding around the bus station area we enjoyed good views of Nilgiri Flycatcher but we were eager to push on as the temperature began to climb and numbers of tourists build. We took the first bus at around 07:30 to the top of the park road at 1900m, the 30 minute climb through the park was spectacular with high granite mountain tops and picturesque tea plantations. The rare Nilgiri Tahr (a wild goat) lined the roadside as we climbed higher up the road, it felt like they had formed a welcome party. At the top of the road is a small café and we walked from here for approximately one kilometre up the road through scrub and sholas (high altitude grassland). Palani Laughingthrush were fairly common in the scrub and at the first extensive area of grassland we quickly located a Nilgiri Pipit. The bird flew into pishing and then sat atop a stand of Bracken showing well. A short walk onwards and it was not long before we were staring at a White-bellied Blue Robin which showed well along the trackside. Having seen the two key birds we slowly headed back towards the café seeing Pallid Harrier, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Alpine Swift, Pacific Swift and two Grasshopper Warbler. We stopped for coffee at the top bus stop and watched the small patch of woodland below seeing female Indian Blue Robin, Malabar Whistling Thrush and more Palani Laughingthrush. After catching the bus back to the bus station we drove a short way south down the road to a small ravine and woodland patch approximately three kilometres north of Munnar. Here a male Indian Blue Robin showed moderately well in the small scrubby ravine and in the woodland we recorded Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Square-tailed Bulbul, White-cheeked Barbet, Orange Minivet and Black-lored Tit, it was remarkably birdy for such a minor area of habitat. After spending an hour here we headed back to the Hotel Tea County for lunch and a siesta.

Nilgiri Flycatcher - Eravikulam National Park

Nilgiri Flycatcher - Eravikulam National Park

Female Nilgiri Flycatcher - Eravikulam National Park

Tea Plantations and Mountains - Eravikulam National Park

View from top of Eravikulam National Park

View from top of Eravikulam National Park

Nilgiri Tahr - Eravikulam National Park

Tickell's Leaf-warbler - Eravikulam National Park

Tickell's Leaf-warbler - Eravikulam National Park

Palani Laughing-thrush - Eravikulam National Park

Nilgiri Pipit - Eravikulam National Park

Nilgiri Pipit - Eravikulam National Park

Nilgiri Pipit habitat - Eravikulam National Park

White-bellied Blue Robin - Eravikulam National Park

White-bellied Blue Robin - Eravikulam National Park

Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher - Eravikulam National Park

Palani Laughingthrush - Eravikulam National Park

Ian doing selfie with Nilgiri Tahr

Nilgiri Tahr

The descent back to the bus station produced further fantastic views

Indian Blue Robin - Near to Munnar

Nilgiri Woodpigeon - Near to Munnar

Square-tailed Bulbul - Near to Munnar

Black-lored Tit - Near to Munnar

Black-lored Tit - Near to Munnar

Scarlet Minivet of subspecies flammeus, a potential future split as Orange Minivet - Near to Munnar

After lunch we drove through the streets of Munnar and climbed a single lane track through tea plantations and past lodges to the Deshaden Mountain Resort. The road was narrow but with heavy traffic and took far longer than the distance would have suggested. We then birded the track that extends north-west of the resort. This was a pleasure to bird and we saw neither car nor a single person. Passing through forest and scrub, we saw Red Scrubfowl, Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Indian Scimitar-babbler, Tytler's Leaf-warbler, Malabar Whistling-thrush, Black-and-Orange Flycatcher, Rufous Treepie, Crimson-backed Sunbird and Yellow-browed Bulbul. We reached the end of the track and then climbed to the nearby summit at 1700m. Walking through the waist high grassland we hoped for Broad-tailed Grassbird but as the species is not breeding at this time it is very difficult to see. Predictably, we failed to see the Grassbird but recorded many Alpine Swift moving north overhead, Black-shouldered Kite, Peregrine and Black Eagle. The descent through the grassland was fairly tough, Jejo was aware of a short cut but this had not be used for some time and hence we off-roaded through shoulder high grass and tall scrub, it was hard and hot work. Once back to the track we slowly birded down track back to car as darkness fell, it had been a great days birding and cold beer was very welcome at the end of the day.

Tytler's Leaf-warbler - Deshaden Mountain Resort

Crimson-backed Sunbird - Deshaden Mountain Resort

Yellow-browed Bulbul - Deshaden Mountain Resort

Nilgiri Woodpigeon - Deshaden Mountain Resort

Black Eagle and Alpine Swift - Deshaden Mountain Resort

View from above Deshaden Mountain Resort with the resort in the foreground

Plateau above Deshaden Mountain Resort

Me on the plateau above Deshaden Mountain Resort with Broad-tailed Grassbird habitat in abundance but no sign of the bird

View from plateau above Deshaden Mountain Resort

Tea plantation from plateau above Deshaden Mountain Resort

I think this is Indian Skink Eutropis carinata - Above Deshaden Mountain Resort

View from - Above Deshaden Mountain Resort

Indian Giant Squirrel - Above Deshaden Mountain Resort

Three-striped Palm Squirrel - Above Deshaden Mountain Resort

Indian Scimitar-babbler

Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo - Above Deshaden Mountain Resort

Every morning at the Tea County Hotel in Munnar we awoke to the mournful song of Malabar Whistling-thrush and I couldn't resist getting a recording. However, even at 06:30 music can still be heard in the background ruining the peace of this beautiful location. The sound of the bird reminds me a bit of the Clangers.

Here is the distinctive 'chee-wee' call of a Greenish Warbler recorded this evening just above the Deshaden Mountain Resort. The recording has two calls while the sonogram shows a single one of these calls. The pitch of the call ranges from around 3.8kHz to 7.8kHz with two distinct notes both falling in pitch the first starting at around 7.8kHz the second at around 7.10kHz.

Links to Other Days of the Trip (Click to View)