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Birding at Dandeli

  • Submitted by: sangeeta joshi, India
  • Submission Date: 08th Nov 2006


Birdwatcing at Dandeli - A Travelogue
Date - (29th Oct to 31st Oct 2006)

I have always had a fascination for this place called Dandeli in Uttara Kannada (UK). Possibly because it sounded so mysterious; probably because it was quite difficult to get to for us Bangaloreans; more so because of my husband’s theory that birds like to live where humans aren’t allowed; maybe they sense the lower CO2 levels!!.
The inspiration to visit came after reading Adesh Shivkar’s very informative blog on Dandeli, giving intricate details (http://addithebirdie.blogspot.com). Though the more convenient but expensive option of JLR facility at Dandeli was available, this was meant to be a budget holiday and so we booked tents at Kulgi through the forest department. (Luxury tents 2 beds + bathroom for Rs 400 per night with enough space to put a third mattress. Normal tents were at Rs 200 while dorms were at Rs 50 with common but decent toilets.)
Though we decided to use public transport in view of the distance involved, having ones’ own vehicle would have been ideal. We took the Rani Chennamma express from Bangalore city station at 2130 hrs. Since the train does not have a pantry and even tea and coffee were difficult to come by, it might have been better to fill up the tea flask at Hubli which came at around 0615 and where the train was standing for a good half an hour. Since we were told that the nearest railway station for Dandeli is Alnavar, we detrained there at 0730 hrs.



There is absolutely no public transport at Alnavar station (not even a tonga) so we took a right turn and started walking to reach the main road after 5-7 minutes. There were a few autos but also a bus stop where we got a bus to Haliyal after about 15 minutes. There again we had to wait at the bus stand for 15 minutes before boarding the bus to Dandeli. Since we had been told about a “Kamat Restaurant” at Dandeli, we did not have breakfast at the Haliyal bus stand canteen, which didn’t look too bad. The bus journey was strikingly comfortable and came quite cheap. Rs 25 per head for the entire trip of about 1.5 hours. Having experienced bus journeys in north India, my faith in mofussil town bus services was restored after this journey by the KSRTC buses.




At Dandeli, the town was just waking up at about 1000 hrs and we headed straight for the restaurant. After a hearty breakfast we tried some negotiations with the auto union which stood firm at Rs 150 for the 15 km potholed road journey to Kulgi camp. (Probably our somewhat heavy luggage and presence of a septugenarian and ten year old, ruled out the bus option, the fare for which was Rs.8)
The Kulgi camp of the Dandeli WLS is nestled in pristine forest area and consists of about 12 tents named after birds.










The two deluxe tents, which we managed to book were quite spacious and well appointed with mosquito proofing, pedestal fan and even a power socket. The ultimate luxury was of course the attached toilet with electric geyser!!




Having checked in and settled ourselves, we could barely wait to hit the birding track. Even at this late hour of 1130 AM we were immediately rewarded by the sighting of the verditer flycatcher and golden backed woodpeckers in a small pond located just up the road to the left of the camp. Having got a glimpse of what was to follow, we returned to the camp for lunch.
The dining area is interestingly called Hyena Dine - but that is no commentary on the food churned up at the attached cookhouse provided by the ladies who live in the nearby village (on contract I think). It came as a pleasant surprise for us vegetarians to be served hot meals cooked on firewood, not to forget the fresh dahi.



After a short nap in the afternoon we set off on the “Safari” in the camp minibus which cost Rs 500 for the six of us. Though we had been specifically advised that this kind of safari does not serve the purpose of birding, we nevertheless went to get a feel of the terrain. We were lucky to be rewarded by the sighting of a black panther, which is supposed to be the highlight of Dandeli. We also spotted a jackal and malabar giant squirrels.



Above (from Lt to rt): Dr Joshi. Divya, Dr Sangeeta, Shivani, Dr Rajagopal, Mr E Rajagopal , at sunset point during the safari.

The night gave the children the real jungle feel and the nightjar made an appearance immediately after dinner.
The next day was a glorious morning and we were able to spot minivets in the tall eucalyptus above the tent. The velvet fronted nuthatches right in front of the tent were a real treat early in the morning. A possible heart spotted woodpecker flew by. Since we didn’t have a vehicle we confined ourselves to the areas around the camp for the evening and the next morning’s birding sessions.



The water body to the left of the camp afforded a view of the lesser golden backed and pygmy woodpecker. There was a small viewpoint about a few hundred meteres ahead, which we called the hornbill point, because of the incessant calling. We were ultimately rewarded with a view of the great pied hornbills flying past, in a pair, which was nothing short of majestic. I managed to spot the grey hornbills as well. The highlight of the morning was the spotting by Dr Joshi of the Golden fronted chloropsis seen flitting amongst some common Ioras. Some astute spotting on part of Dr Rajagopal got us a very good view of Tickells blue flycatchers calling urgently. Shivani who’s only 10 years old but a very keen birder already, got us a view of the Malabar whistling thrush which was tantalizing us every morning with its schoolboy whistles but was proving very elusive to see.
A trip to the watch tower along a path going left to the right side of the camp gate got us close to many giant female wood spiders, some leech bites, but no view of birds.

A small path leading from the camp to the museum (under construction) turned out to be what we call Shama point. The male shama was spotted every time we crossed (Divya’s persistence in the afternoon paid off when she managed to catch the song). We spotted racket tailed drongos, a pied crested cuckoo, brown shrikes, black headed female cuckoo shrike and lots of minivets- both small and scarlet. Even a baby snake decided to join us at the shama point, which was later identified as an earth boa.
We also picked up some snake moults which were identified as rat snake and cobra, by a nature group from Kolhapur which arrived the next day with about 30 school children. It was heartening to see the gennext interested in nature.
We left the camp on the afternoon of 31st October- back to Dandeli via the same autos (whose phone nos we had thoughtfully taken down on arrival). A slight change of plans here- the Joshis caught a bus for Hubli to visit some friends while Rajagopal and his father set course to Londa. We caught the Rani Chennamma express from Hubli and Londa respectively and were back next morning at Bengaluru.






List of birds seen / heard
1. Brown Capped Pygmy Woodpecker
2. Heart Spotted Woodpecker
3. Black Rumped Flameback
4. White Cheeked Barbet- heard
5. Coppersmith Barbet
6. Malabar Grey Hornbill
7. Great Hornbill
8. Indian Roller
9. White breasted Kingfisher
10. small bee-eater
11. Plum Headed Parakeet
12. Indian Nightjar
13. Blue Rock Pigeon
14. Spotted Dove
15. Red Wattled Lapwing
16. Brahminy Kite
17. Crested Serpent Eagle
18. Indian Pond Heron
19. Golden Fronted Leafbird (Chloropsis)
20. Long Tailed Shrike
21. Pied Flycatcher Shrike
22. House Crow
23. Black Headed Cuckoo Shrike
24. Small Minivet
25. Scarlet Minivet
26. Black Drongo
27. Ashy Drongo
28. Greater Racket Tailed Drongo
29. Common Iora
30. Common Woodshrike
31. Malabar Whistling Thrush
32. Asian Brown Flycatcher
33. Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher
34. Verditer Flycatcher
35. Oriental Magpie Robin
36. White Rumped Shama
37. Common Myna
38. Jungle Myna
39. Velvet Fronted Nuthatch
40. Great Tit
41. Black Lored Tit
42. Red Rumped Swallow
43. Yellow throated Bulbul
44. Common Tailor Bird
45. Booted Warbler
46. Greenish Warbler
47. Jungle Babbler
48. Tickell’s Flowerpecker
49. Purple Rumped Sunbird
50. House Sparrow
51. Grey Wagtail
52. White Browed Wagtail
53. Barn swallow
54. White Rumped Munia
55. Shikra Female
56. Rose ringed parakeet
57. Cattle egret
58. Thick billed flowerpecker
59. Red vented bulbul
60. Red whiskered Bulbul
61. Scimitar Babbler


Dr Sangeeta Joshi
Bangalore
sangeetajo@yahoo.com



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