Drive to the Sahyadris
3 Feb 2017: Day 34 (Kotagiri – Masinagudi, 66 km, 2 Hrs)
The original plan was to spend the next few days at Thattekad, but since no naturalist was available in Thattekad, we contacted Siddan, the naturalist at Masinagudi and fixed up the next few days of birding with him. Vyjayanthi bid us farewell with some amazingly delicious Uttapams and idlis and we commenced our drive to Masinagudi at 0850 Hrs.
We took the shortest route via the Sigur Ghats and enjoyed every bit of driving the 36 hairpin bends. The ghat section was well managed with proper road signs, traffic convex mirrors at each hairpin bend and of course the many warning signs. As we drove down the ghats, it was also interesting to observe the terrain gradually change from evergreen hills to a combination of dry deciduous and thorn forests.
We called up Siddan as we neared Masinagudi and he advised us to meet him at the Bokkapuram temple from where he took us to the nearby Mount View Farm Stay. While there were many homestays and resorts around, we did not waste time and just negotiated the best price with the owner and settled down there itself. We then shared our Masinagudi Bird wishlist with Siddan and based on it, he chalked out a plan for the next days.
In the evening, Siddan picked us up from the homestay and took us to a nearby patch of bamboo forest where he pinpointed the location of our first wishlist bird, the Jerdon’s Nightjar. Even when Siddan had pinpointed the location, the bird was so well camouflaged that it took us a few minutes to spot it.
Thanking Siddan for the sighting, we proceeded to the main Safari zone which was nothing but a paved road where we drove to and fro spotting birds like the Jungle Bush Quail, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Crested Hawk Eagle and mammals like Grey mongoose, Gaur, Sloth Bear and Elephants. We also stopped by at the Chikkamman Temple overlooking the thorn forests hoping to spot the White-bellied Minivet, but were unable to do so.
4 Feb 2017: Day 35 (Masinagudi and around)
As Siddan was preoccupied with another group of birders, he delegated his team member, Sidhu to guide us for the day. He arrived at the homestay early in the morning and we drove to the Mavanalla village from where a short hike across the agricultural fields led us into a thorn forest. A brief search of the area yielded a White-bellied Minivet perched on a scrub and a Jerdon’s Bushlark foraging in a rocky clearing.
We then proceeded towards the Vibudhi Malai Murugan Temple and parked our car at the base of the hill and hiked from there on. The hike proved worthwhile as we spotted a Malabar Lark foraging on the dry grass-covered hill top.
Sidhu knew the area well and keenly showed us a roosting Jungle and a Savanna Nightjar close by.
While returning to the homestay, a Blue-faced Malkoha and a Barred Buttonquail were also sighted in the roadside bushes.
In the evening we explored the forest behind the “Jungle Hut” resort and walked mostly along the dried river bed spotting several birds like Puff-throated Babbler, Malabar Whistling Thrush, White-rumped Shama, Indian Pitta and a Malabar Woodshrike.
Some of the other birds we sighted during the day were Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Spotted Owlet, Streak-throated Woodpecker, Lesser Goldenback and Greater Goldenback.
After getting back to the homestay, we called up Vinod, the naturalist at Thattekad and got a confirmation that he would be available for us from the next day. As such, we planned to leave for Thattekad the next day.
5 Feb 2017: Day 35 (Masinagudi – Thattekad, 276 km, 8 Hrs)
Early morning calls of a Indian Scimitar Babbler attracted us to the fruiting trees around the homestay where we located the bird feeding in the canopy while giving us a good opportunity to take a few pictures of this otherwise shy bird.
Before proceeding to Thattekad, we also made a quick round of the safari road and sighted a few more birds like the Yellow-billed Babbler, White-bellied Drongo, Greater Spotted Eagle, Steppe Eagle and a White-rumped Vulture.
We finally commenced our drive by 1130 Hrs and reached Thattekad by 1930 Hrs.
Siddan: Siddan is a smart and energetic naturalist who knows the area pretty well. While we did not spend much time with him, he maintained contact with us during our time at Masinagudi and ensured that we see most of our wishlist birds.
Contact: +91 94 86 34 1655, +91 95 8588 1655 and +91 9489789463
Sidhu: Sidhu turned out to be a highly efficient naturalist. While his bird knowledge was limited to the Masinagudi area, he knew the local bird movement very well and was instrumental in showing us most of the local birds.
Contact: +91 94 86 933 854
Mount View Farm Stay: Decent place to stay at Bokkapuram and most of the birding is nearby. Room was spacious but had a few niggles here and there.
Phone: +91 97 87 84 8393 and +91 75 988 42 885
Please feel free to ask us any question that you may have about our time at Masinagudi. Also, stay tuned for details on the next leg of our road trip.