Krishna Girish is a 13-year-old birder from Bangalore, India. When he’s not birding in the lakes and nature reserves around Bangalore, he is planning, dreaming of visiting Peru and Papua New Guinea. To read more of his birding adventures, visit his blog here.
Thattekad, located 65 kilometers from Kochi, Kerala is a bird sanctuary which is home to over 300 species of birds in Southern India. It is part of the Western Ghats belt. We spent three days there in the summer of 2013.
I have listed two of the excursions that we undertook during our stay at Thattekad here. The rest can be found on my blog.
TORRENTS AND TRAILS (Day 1 Morning)
I did not worry much when a few drops of rain hit the ground in the afternoon. But soon, the little drizzle became a torrential rain. In the pause between the downpours, we could see winged ants emerging from the crevices of the tiled roofs of the next door house. Many of these were caught by deft Loten’s and Purple-rumped Sunbirds. We could see a few Lesser Whistling Ducks flying about, unperturbed by the strength of the downpour.
When we eventually started out on the walk, our guide, Eldhose took us outside the sanctuary. There was a bridge across the Periyar River outside, and we saw around 20 Whiskered Terns sitting on a wire.
On a bare tree on the other side of the river, we saw 3 Ashy Woodswallows, one eating a butterfly after disposing of the wings. We went the other way, where there were some water bodies with lilies. We saw a Common Kingfisher, 2 White-browed Wagtails and a Darter on the branches of a tree in the water. The next water body had a surprise; a Stork-billed Kingfisher had got caught in a net and one of the forest officials had come to free it. When it was freed, it flew right past us.
After walking a little more, we had reached our destination; the Salim Ali Bird Trail. As we walked down it, we saw many birds; Jungle Babblers, Hill Myna, Oriental Magpie Robins, White-cheeked Barbets. Even an Orange-headed Thrush darted across us. We reached a watchtower, but couldn’t go to the forest beyond that because the area had become waterlogged. We turned back, to see Lesser Whistling Ducks, Asian Palm Swift, Indian Swiftlet, Greater Flameback and Common Tailorbird.
THE PHANTOM OF THATTEKAD (Day 2 Afternoon)
We left at 3 PM to a forest 14 km away, hoping to see the Ceylon Frogmouth, which I describe as ‘The Phantom of Thattekad’ due to its elusiveness and camouflage, even if spotted at close range. We tried a dozen different roosts without luck. When I was pretty much giving up hope, Eldhose tried a new roost, and we were successful, with a male and female.
Even with the bird right in front of us, we lost sight of it sometimes. The male was grey, the female was a slightly warmer brown, which makes them look exactly like dead leaves in a tree. It was a bird which I had never thought I would see in daylight, and there it was at a height I could reach, motionless, unblinking, trying it’s best to make itself blend. The sighting will stay with me for long. Thank you, Eldhose sir!
On the walk back to the jeep, we saw a dung beetle trying to roll up some fresh cow droppings. It sensed our move and immediately flipped over and acted dead. In a patience competition, we miserably failed, the dung beetle continuing its act, while we had to move on.
It had been some incredible birding at Thattekad over the past 2 days; we had seen 113 species, 25 of them being lifers for me. I hope to return back there some day.