Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Western Ghats - 5th December (Day 11)

After clearing up in the Munnar area yesterday we headed off to Periyar Tiger Reserve a little earlier than planned and so by 06:30 we were on the road for the 90 kilometre journey with some birding on route. Our first stop was in an area of scrub and forest along the roadside on the Theni Bodimettu Road at an elevation of 790m the view was fantastic and it was still relatively cool at this time. We had a couple of target birds here and the first soon appeared when Jijo played a recording and a pair of smart Yellow-throated Bulbul flew in and proceeded to circle us. Next, a Grey-headed Bulbul, our second target, flew in and perched for all to see, its green plumage contrasting with its blue grey tail making for a distinctive appearance in flight. Also here were Loten’s Sunbird and White-rumped Munia. We continued the descent and near to the small village of Munthal we made another stop. It was far hotter here and we were now at an altitude of 420m and birded an area of acacia dominated scrub. We quickly found a Grey-bellied Cuckoo a species that breeds in the Himalayas and is a winter visitor to the area. A Pitta called from the scrub and playback soon produced stunning views of a superb pair of Indian Pitta perched at head height in the acacia scrub. Also here were a pair of Blue-faced Malkoha, Black-headed CuckooshrikeJungle Prinia, Oriental Honey Buzzard and Booted Eagle (both pale and dark phase). Travelling south-west through flat plains and through the town of Uttamapalayam it was a relief to see that we would be climbing once more into the hills and the relative cool to reach Periyar Tiger Reserve. We arrived at the Abad Forest Hotel in Kumily at lunchtime, checked in and had our now familiar buffet lunch of various delicious curries.

The hills at sunrise wast of Munnar

The hills at sunrise west of Munnar with a branch of the Anayirankal Dam

The town of Pooparra

The spectacular Theni Bodimettu Road

Nilgiri Jewel Fourring Ypthima striata on the Theni Bodimettu Road

Yellow-throated Bulbul, listed as Vulnerable and found only in Southern India - Theni 
Bodimettu Road

Loten's Sunbird - Theni Bodimettu Road

Grey-headed Bulbul, endemic to the Western Ghats - Theni Bodimettu Road

White-rumped Munia - Theni Bodimettu Road

Booted Eagle (pale phase) - Theni Bodimettu Road

Black-headed Cuckooshrike- Theni Bodimettu Road

Indian Pitta - Theni Bodimettu Road

Indian Pitta - Theni Bodimettu Road

Indian Pitta - Theni Bodimettu Road

We were out in the field again by 15:00 and headed for the Periyar Tiger Reserve entrance where we donned leach socks and were joined by two forest guards for our afternoon walk. The first bird was an actively calling Green Warbler (see recording below) which showed moderately well in the canopy. Next we took in a tree containing two Oriental Scop’s Owl well disguised high amongst the foliage of their chosen tree. We spent the rest of the afternoon in a small valley within the reserve at 900 metres. Here we recorded a number of new species. Flocks of Malabar Parakeet and Plum-headed Parakeet raced through the canopy. Grey-fronted Green Pigeons gave their rather peculiar rising and falling whistling songs from the treetops and Southern Hill Myna dominated the soundscape with their various rising and falling whistled calls. I spent a fair bit of time trying to get views of a small family party of Rufous Babbler but they were pretty elusive - I love Babblers, they have great character. As the sun began to set we positioned ourselves within the bottom end of the valley, a mixed group of Racket-tailed Drongo and the stunning White-bellied Treepie appeared and soon after, just as the light was dying, our main target, a flock of six of the endemic Wynadd Laughingthrush appeared. These birds perched in a low tree preening before going to their night time roost. We headed back to the hotel room and did the days log over a cold beer in our rooms (it is not permitted to drink alcohol in the hotel restaurant) before heading for dinner.

Coffee beans drying in the sun at Periyar Tiger Reserve

Oriental Scops-owl of subspecies rufipennis - Periyar Tiger Reserve

Brugmansia suaveolens, native to South America but widely naturalised - Periyar Tiger Reserve

Lady collecting wood - Periyar Tiger Reserve

 Periyar Tiger Reserve

Entrance to part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve

We spent the evening birding this small valley in the Periyar Tiger Reserve seeing many new species

White-cheeked Barbet - Periyar Tiger Reserve

Malabar Parakeet, confined to South-west India - Periyar Tiger Reserve

Malabar Parakeet, male - Periyar Tiger Reserve

Malabar Parakeet, female - Periyar Tiger Reserve

Green Warbler winters primariliy in the Western Ghats and on Sri Lanka, it appears to be more arboreal than Greenish Warbler - Periyar Tiger Reserve

Southern Hill Myna, confined to South-west India and Sri Lanka - Periyar Tiger Reserve

Rufous Babbler, endemic to South-west India- Periyar Tiger Reserve

 Birding at Periyar Tiger Reserve

The stunning White-bellied Treepie, endemic to the Western Ghats - Periyar Tiger Reserve

Right at the last few minutes of daylight and beyond the limits of a decent image this group of Wynadd Laughingthrush -  - Periyar Tiger Reserve

Here is the distinctive 'zilip' call of a Green Warbler recorded this afternoon at Periyar Tiger Reserve. The recording has a number of calls while the sonogram shows a single one of these calls. The pitch of the call ranges from around 3.8kHz to 7.8kHz (much as Greenish Warbler) but has at least four distinct elements to the call making it sound lesss clean and crucially the final note is distinct being upward inflected  ('zilip' and not 'chee-wee') finishing at around 6.3 kHz (downward inflected and finishing at 3.8kHz in Greenish Warbler). A recording and sonogram of Greenish Warbler can be heard/seen at the end of this post here.

This is a family party of Rufous Babbler active in the under scrub mainly foraging and interacting.

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