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Kerala, India, 10-13 July 2004
Dennis Buss

I had business in Bangalore Wed-Fri  14-16 July, and I arranged with Gurudongma Tours & Treks for four days of bird watching in Kerala.  The cost was $600 USD, which covered room and food, it covered a car and driver, and it covered the cost of a guide.  Eldhose was my guide.  I contacted Susan Ahlstrom who had taken a trip with Eldhose previously in Kerala, and she gave him a good recommendation.  Gurdongma Tours & Treks subcontracted the entire trip to Kalypso Adventures:  Commander Thomas Zacharias. 

I spent the 4th of July weekend in Vermont, spent a day at MIT and Thurs evening 8 July, I flew to Mumbai.  I arrived Mumbai Fri night 9 July and stayed in the Leela Kampanski Hotel.


Sat 10 July:  Took 5:45a flight to Cochin (Kochi) and arrived 7:45a.  My driver met me, but he informed me that he had been in an accident, the car was wrecked, and that another car was on the way to pick us up.  The other car arrived 8:45a, and we began driving for Munnar at 9:00a.  We arrived at the Tall Trees Lodge at 12:30p after a few brief stops.  The Tall Trees Lodge is in the Western Ghats at about 2000 m.  Ate lunch and birded from 1:30p to 5:00p.  It was good weather:  75oF:  cloudy, but no rain.  At 5:30p, it began to rain.  It rained off and on during the night. 17 new birds.

Sun 11 July:  I am 62 years old today.  Woke up 5:00a, but it doesn’t get light until 6:30a.  Drove and walked to a spot where Broad-tailed Grassbird is seen, Saw the Grassbird and returned for breakfast.  Then we drove for 2 hours to a spot in Tamil Nadu overlooking the plains.  Saw Yellow-throated Bulbul and other scrub birds.  Then drove 2 hours more to Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary in foothills 35 miles east of Munnar.  Sayed in Periyar River Lodge in Kuttanpuzha.  Commander Thomas visited, but didn’t stay for dinner.  In spite of all the travel, got  23 new birds.

Mon 12 July:  Left lodge 6:00a and, before breakfast, got 15 new birds.  After breakfast, we went into tall forest and got 7 more new birds.  Saw Stork-billed Kingfisher form the lodge while waiting for lunch.  After lunch, we got another 7 birds for a staggering total of 30 new birds.  We spend an hour waiting for Great-eared Nightjar to fly by without success.  Otherwise, we had excellent success.

Tues 13 July:  Got Mottled Wood-Owl early on.  Then the day got slow.  In the first three days, I saw most of the new birds that are possible.  Went to Edamalayar Dam and took a 3 km (one way) walk.  We heard Puff-throated Babbler, but Eldhose’s recorder would not record, so we missed the Babbler.  Got Brown-backed Needletail about 3:30p and headed for the airport.  6 New Birds

Retrospective

If you add up the new birds for the four days, you get 76.  In fact 4 of the birds that I thought were new I had seen previously, and the total of new birds was 72.  But 72 new birds in 4 days is phenomenal!!  Eldhose kept talking me how many more birds there are in winter.  Eldhose leads a 10 day trip in Sept in which he charges $800 for 10 days, and he guarantees seeing all 70 endemics of Southern India.  He says Jan is the best time to see birds in the Kerala area

Eldhose was phenomenal.  He could identify all the birds by call.  He didn’t have a tape player, which is a drawback.  And he didn’t have a scope.  The scope is not a limitation.  But if he had had a tape player and prerecorded calls of the birds, we would have seen a few more.

July is in the middle of the monsoon season.  It rained every day, but the rain was tolerable.  It would often rain for 20 min and would stop, and the sun would poke through the clouds

There are 16 Endemics of the Western Ghats

  • Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon

  • Nilgiri Pipit

  • Nilgiri Flycatcher

  • Malabar Grey Hornbill

  • Rufous Babbler

  • Crimson-backed Sunbird

  • White-bellied Treepie

  • Grey-breasted Laughingthrush

  • White-bellied Blue Flycatcher

  • White-bellied Shortwing

  • Malabar Parakeet

  • Black and Orange Flycatcher

  • Grey-headed Bulbul

  • Broad-tailed Grassbird

  • Wynaad Laughingthrush

  • Nilgiri Laughingthrush

I saw all except the last two.

Jimmy Singh
Gurudongma Tours & Treks
Gurudongma House, Hilltop,
Kalimpong, 734301, India
Phone: 91-3552-255204
Fax: 91-3552-259146
e-mail: gurutt@sancharnet.in 
e-mail: gurutt@satyam.net.in
web: Tours & Treks: www.gurudongma.com

Commander Thomas Zacharias: Director
Kalypso Adventures
Kochi – 682 036
Kerala, India
91 484 2092280
91 484 2310324
Mobile 94470 31032
info@kalypsoadventures.com
www.kalypsoadvedntures.com

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Bird photographs by Yashodhan Bhatia,

Ronald Saldino,  Niels Poul Dryer, Ketil Knudsen
Kalypso Adventures & Gurudongma Team
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