My encounters with birds and animals, butterflies and trees, and anything else in nature…

B R Hills

Hill forest

There is something inexplicably wonderful about going into the forest in the rains – the green is fresh and bright, and though the sightings of birds and animals are not as frequent and varied as in the dry season, the lush greenery soothes the mind and heart immensely. And when the forest is on a range of hills, like in BR Hills, it makes the trip all the more special.

Imagine shivering with cold in the middle of June! The sky was covered with clouds, and chill breezes accompanied our jeep rides through the undulating forest.

Cloud covered forest

Cloud covered forest

 

K Gudi

The K Gudi Wilderness Camp has quaint log cottages, with thatched roofs hanging low. One night, we awoke at 3 am to the sound of someone or something pulling at the thatch! Madhavi managed to photograph the culprit the next day. She has also got some amazing shots of the landscape at BR Hills.

The camp had some really interesting denizens – on the walkway outside the cottages, I saw this colourful character…

What a dung beetle!

What a dung beetle!

 

Our constant companions at K Gudi, especially during mealtimes, were very bold and fearless. One of them leapt onto our breakfast table as we jumped away, and another stole up to the buffet and made off with a stack of toast!! But most of the time, they were busy relaxing and bonding 🙂

There were wild boars running around in the grounds, wary, but not frightened of people. Our jeep surprised this one as we drove out.

Don't be fooled by my white whiskers - I'm very young - look at my eyes!

Don't be fooled by my white whiskers - I'm very young - look at my eyes!

 

And just outside the camp, we met someone as curious about us as we were delighted to see him!

I'm the original 'bright-eyed and bushy-tailed'! Well, maybe not so bushy...

I'm the original 'bright-eyed and bushy-tailed'! Well, maybe not so bushy...

Look at his smile! Unfortunately this beautiful stripe necked mongoose didn’t hang around too long… he walked off leaving us beaming at this wonderful encounter!

We saw the usual suspects – a small herd of sambar that stood very still…

Is this still enough for your pic?

Is this still enough for your pic?

Several herds of spotted deer, including this lone stag who decided that the lush grass around was not good enough to eat…

We got caught in a sudden downpour and had to stop the jeep, and to keep us company, there was this herd of gaur, completely unaffected by the rain!

Hmm... the rain tastes good!

Hmm... the rain tastes good!

Maybe, but I don't like getting my eyelashes wet...

Maybe, but I don't like getting my eyelashes wet...

Oh give me a break! Don't be all wet!!

Oh give me a break! Don't be all wet!!

Yeah yeah! You stop trying so hard to be funny...

Yeah yeah! You stop trying so hard to be funny...

Of course, no trip to BR Hills can be complete without the elephants! In the dense forest, they are quite difficult to spot. One can come upon them suddenly, and then just as suddenly, they vanish into the greenery. We saw this little family for only a few seconds …

And no discussion of mammals in an Indian forest (except Gir!) can be complete without the tiger. No, we didn’t see one. A newbie couple (new to wildlifing) – capless, camera-and-binocularless, the guy in a pink shirt and the girl in a colourful kurta, with a new JLR employee driving them, saw one – it ambled across the track in front of their jeep! That’s life! (We’ve resolved to wear pink shirts to tiger reserves from now on :))

We did, however, see fresh signs of a tiger on our morning trek. A pugmark…

Fresh pugmark

Fresh pugmark

...fresh scat...

...fresh scat...

...and fresh scent marking

...and fresh scent marking

The birds

We saw numerous birds, several lifers for me among them. But I couldn’t get good pictures, possibly because of the dense canopy and the cloudy weather. Here’s one…

Asian fairy bluebird

Asian fairy bluebird

There was an abundance of orange-headed thrushes and Indian blackbirds, and the forest resounded with the song of the Malabar whistling thrush. Here’s a grainy video of one of them singing, with Garima joining in towards the end.

Another bird that we saw fairly often was the Southern hill myna, flying around in rather raucous flocks!

Having been used to shy, skulking rufous treepies, I was pleasantly surprised to see two of them sitting and preening for a long time on a bare tree!

That brings us to my favourite category of birds – the woodpeckers! A lifer for me was this yellow crowned woodpecker…

We saw of three of these cuties together, though I could film only one…

 

 

Some interesting trees…

A rather common yet fascinating sight; a strangler fig eating into another tree…

Killer tree and its victim

Killer tree and its victim

The tree that bleeds… the honne mara (Dalbergia ougeinensis) whose sap looks like blood…

Would you want to cut me now?

Would you want to cut me now?

 

And this strange tree with deformities on its trunk looking like carvings in an ancient temple…

Hanuman? or dancing apsara?

Hanuman? or dancing apsara?

…and creatures…

A very co-operative common toad, who allowed us to pick him up and did not jump away even after we put him down…

Sigh... nobody kissed me :(

Sigh... nobody kissed me 😦

 

The largest crab I’ve seen – almost the size of a dinner plate!

Hmph! So long as you don't think I'm dinner!

Hmph! So long as you don't think I'm dinner!

 

And this tiny pond terrapin (just two inches long), alongside a minuscule pool of water in the hollow of a large rock! I wonder how he got there… and I wonder what will happen once the pool dries up. Narayan, the naturalist at K Gudi, said that he would most definitely become a meal for a bird of prey sooner rather than later…

You're sooo in my face!

You're sooo in my face!

For a species reputed to be slow moving, this one was quite chipper – and was most glad to get back into the water, where he shot across to the darkest corner. Here he is trying to get away from my camera…

 

…and the EVENTS!!!

Mother Nature is not exactly compassionate. We saw several instances of this on the trip.

Our second morning found this unfortunate stag near the camp’s lake, unable to get up. He had probably injured his spine in a rutting fight with another male. A vet was called for; but it seemed highly unlikely that he would be able to walk again…

Cruel nature...

A victim of cruel nature...

 

On our trek, we came across a small water body where a life-and-death drama was in progress. A large crab had caught hold of a common toad, and held fast as the toad struggled to get free.

Who will win?

Who will win?

The toad was almost as large as the crab, and for as long as we watched, both of them refused to give up.

And just a couple of feet away, the production of new life was busily in progress…

Life in the making...

Life in the making...

 

Finally, the most exciting experience of the trip – while watching this black drongo busy collecting flies on the ground…

Drongo momma?

Drongo momma?

…our attention was drawn to this unusual looking bird…

Why is everyone staring at me?

Why is everyone staring at me?

A juvenile Indian cuckoo!! As we excitedly clicked away at this magnificent find, it fluttered its wings and uttered a high-pitched call. And the drongo that was busy collecting flies flew up to it and fed it!! All of us were too stunned to get any pictures or videos of the event. But we followed the cuckoo with our cameras as it flew to another branch, and then, it happened again. This time both mommy and daddy drongo came to feed their darling thief of a baby! And luckily, I managed to get a video of sorts…

 

And so, though we did not see a tiger, or leopard, or sloth bear, it was an extremely interesting and satisfying trip. Narayan, the naturalist at K Gudi, accompanied us on all our safaris and took us on a lovely trek. Thank you, Narayan, for all the time and attention you lavished on us! A ton of thanks to Garima for making the bookings, and to her and Jainy for driving us all the way to and from BR hills!

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to going there again – this time hopefully we’ll see a leopard!

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29 responses

  1. Siva

    Great stuff – though I’d probably draw the line on picking up a toad. The Mongoose, the Gaur(s) and the Bluebird are the pick of the lot, along with the Drongo-Cuckoo.

    July 31, 2009 at 20:08

  2. Prashant

    brilliant post Uma. Video with Life and death scenes side by side was absolutely awesome capture. Great work. This post stands true for the punch line of this blog “An account of my travels – with more pictures and videos and less text”

    July 31, 2009 at 20:23

  3. GT

    amazing….how long did yo spend in BR hills ?

    July 31, 2009 at 20:36

  4. Rohin

    Veeery nice Uma! For a while it was like I was out there 🙂 You’re taking to blogging/facebook like a pro I must say!

    July 31, 2009 at 21:43

  5. Nisarg

    Neat!

    July 31, 2009 at 22:17

  6. Ramakrishnan

    Well, simply loved reading through… excellent documentation and very well presented too. You made an excellent piece of document of the Drongos feeding the juv cuckoo.. .Brilliant! Thanks for sharing!

    Cheers!
    Ram.

    July 31, 2009 at 22:31

  7. This is great. It was like going on a safari. Excellent naration with some great images and videos. I especially liked the combination of the images and videos.

    August 1, 2009 at 08:56

  8. Just want to get there asap..its been on the plan since two months and the pictures and videos are stunning..I remember seeing the asian blur fairy bird in our Hoysala trail..what a bird 🙂

    August 1, 2009 at 09:49

  9. The long wait between your trip and this posting was well worth every moment. You have done justice to the place by looking at various forms of life – big and small – without discrimination and enjoying every bit of it. Interesting footage of the drongos feeding the cuckoo.

    August 1, 2009 at 10:57

  10. Amazing….you have really captured the Spirit of Nature. Your narrations are very good. Keep up the good work.

    August 1, 2009 at 16:33

  11. Pushpa

    Hey Uma,
    You have an eye for detail. Very well explained. I too liked the death and life video. Especially the one that is happening side by side and the thought revolving it. This also serves as a guide to my daughter’s journey into the wild for the time being. Thanks for sharing.

    August 1, 2009 at 16:56

  12. Very nice trip report. Look forward to more.

    Apana

    August 1, 2009 at 19:03

  13. Usha Shetty

    Hey Uma – enjoyed your videos & pics – looks like u had a great trip!! WHEN did u go? That stag clipping was cute!

    August 1, 2009 at 20:34

  14. deponti

    What a wonderful e-trip I had! Thank you SOOO much for the images and words!!

    Let’s plan a trip to BR Hills when I get back…

    August 1, 2009 at 21:54

  15. Ajit Deshmukh

    Very nice and enchanting!

    August 2, 2009 at 08:47

  16. Manish

    Fantastic report! Some precious moments captured in text, video and photographs. Really enjoyed it!

    August 2, 2009 at 15:39

  17. Superb !!!!
    Excellent narration coupled with images and videos. TFS

    August 2, 2009 at 18:31

  18. Excellent post. Loved the narration couple with images/videos.

    August 2, 2009 at 18:32

  19. Gowtham

    Wonderful post with lovely images and videos

    August 3, 2009 at 18:39

  20. Loved this post. Great work!

    August 4, 2009 at 15:33

  21. Uma,
    I completely agree with you – going to the forests in the monsoons is awesome. You brought out the beauty in the forest through your post – the wet weather, lush greenery and the animals in rain. Loved your videos…and that picture of the mongoose is great. I love how you cover every aspect of the forest in your post – the trees, birds, insects, reptiles etc.

    BTW, It took me 5 attempts to load your page. Your website would crash my internet every single time:) I swear I am not kidding….otherwise you would have seen my comments on day 1.

    August 4, 2009 at 16:49

  22. sreejith

    nice narration and images i liked it very much

    August 10, 2009 at 21:43

  23. Anil

    Uma,
    Very good report with amazing snaps and naration,
    Thanks,
    Anil

    August 12, 2009 at 11:55

  24. Smita Kale

    Hey Uma,
    This is simply great. You have taken blogging to a new level with those videos and apt comments. Some of the macros are superb. Keep it up.

    August 19, 2009 at 15:35

  25. nice photos. lovely watching i admire ur thoughts

    August 31, 2009 at 12:06

  26. WOW! The photographs were enough to let me know that u had a great time out there!

    How have you been….it has been such a long time since I have met you.

    Bye

    November 25, 2009 at 16:35

  27. Wowwwwww! Superrrrb. Enjoyed every word, every pic, every video.What a variety!
    Why haven’t you given the link to this on the NTP egroup yet Madam?

    January 19, 2010 at 15:57

  28. You have beautifully captured the wildlife.

    September 30, 2010 at 13:28

  29. Excellent Snaps… actually that trees is not carved out.. it had caught disease and it grew like that. It looks like 5 Gods form different Views. This was told by the forest guard on our visit to the place

    We had to do the coldest ride out of banglore since 117 years !!

    Found a good hotel on top of the Hills too… details are given in the link below :

    http://theloapers.blogspot.com/2011/03/26-br-hills-241210.html

    March 17, 2011 at 19:26

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