Friday, 27 September 2013

Birding at Honey Valley Estates, Coorg


(Warning! Tons of images ahead!)

This has been the best birthday gift to me by the husband (though a little belated). Two days of respite from office work and domestic duties, to breathe in the fresh mountain air and forget all the worries in the world. I was also promised uninterrupted reading hours, good food and a break from taking care of the little brat. The last one, I realized later, was a joke. 


The birthday gift? Two nights (21-23 September) in Honey Valley Estates in Coorg, once again. The last time we were there, we could not spend much time in the estate itself as we were out gallivanting all over Coorg. At that time I had expressed my wish to spend time only in the homestay, and nowhere else. It came true and turned out to be one of the best birding experiences of my life! 


The drive to Coorg from Bangalore was a beautiful experience. A thick veil of mist engulfed us as we started our journey uphill. It was like being in a wonderland, cleaving our way through the sheet of whiteness. The statue of Field Marshall Cariappa appeared as a ghostly apparition, floating mid-air, as we entered Madikeri. On crossing Madikeri, the mist disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared, leaving no clue. The rest of the journey towards Honey Valley was accompanied by intermittent drizzle and weak sunlight. 




Monsoon had left its print on the Coorg landscape and achingly lush green paddy fields, brimming with rain water, enthralled our visual senses. Honey Valley looked refreshing, too, bathed in the monsoon rains. The tiny trickle of water falling over the rocks, that we had seen last time, had turned into a roaring waterfall. Even the stream running across the road to the homestay had increased in girth. 





We found the homestay booked to the gills with several groups of trekking enthusiasts. All the better for us, since we had the whole area to ourselves once the groups left for their treks. We roamed around the premises, up and down and across, looking for our winged beauties. While we were delighted with the sheer variety of birds, we could not click too many good pictures. I mean, WHY THE HECK DID THE BIRDS HAVE TO PERCH AND FROLIC AT THE TOP OF THOSE ABSURDLY TALL TREES, out of our clicking range? Our poor camera lens could capture only that much distance. Couldn’t they just scour for food and have discussions with the family on ground level? Like the pretty Orange-headed Thrush?


Orange-headed Thrush

The tall trees

Again, WHY THE HECK DID THEY HAVE TO CAMOFLAGE THEMSELVES SO PERFECTLY AMIDST THE LEAVES, leaving us to strain our eyes in spotting them? As it was, the light was horribly low and we could make out only the silhouettes most of the time. A typical bird sighting would go like this:


Me (to the husband): Bird, bird, bird!! Click, click, click!! 


Husband: Which bird do you think it is? 


Me: We will download and find out later. For now, just click!


We would then download the images and peer at them for at least 5 minutes, trying to locate the bird in the frame. It was like a ‘spot-the-bird-in-the –picture’ game. Here, try these:



Golden-fronted Leafbird

Little Spiderhunter

Another fun fact that came out of these pictures was that while we would be focusing on one bird, invariably there would be another tiny bird in the frame, which we had failed to notice then. It was like ‘buy one, get one free’ type situation! Too bad all the images turned out to be record shots because of the low light, camera lens limitation and CRAZY bird behavior. 



Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher



Orange Minivet



Black Bulbul


Indian Yellow Tit

Yellow-browed Bulbul

But all said and done, this trip has been an amazing one. We got to see so many birds that we had only seen on bird forums. I had never imagined such rich bird life in Honey Valley. For some reason, they were very active in the late afternoon, rather than in the morning. The highlight of the trip, for me, was the sighting of the beautiful Asian Fairy Bluebird, its brilliant iridescent flash of purple still fresh in memory. That was the closest thing to my Bird of Paradise dream.


Asian Fairy Bluebird



Grey-fronted Green Pigeon



Lesser Hill Mynah


Black-throated Munia

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch

Other than birds, we had a really lovely time in the homestay. Did I mention the huge, bright coloured butterflies, which we almost mistook for birds? And the sound of the gurgling brook, carried up to our rooms? Meanwhile, the little brat, who had just recovered from a long sickness, splashed around to his heart’s content in the stream and puddles of water. We did not have the heart to pull him away from his joyous activity. Our hosts, the Chengappas, were as amicable as ever and satisfied all our requests gladly. No wonder people come back to this place so often. 

And so, let me say this one more time, this has been one of my best birthday gifts!



Speckled Piculet

Loten's Sunbird

Oriental White Eye

Crimson-backed Sunbird


Malabar Parakeet


For more images, do take a look here.

List of birds sighted in Honey Valley Estates, Coorg (could not identify some):


Asian Fairy Bluebird, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Black-throated Munia, Orange-headed Thrush, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Black Bulbul, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Indian Yellow Tit, Orange Minivet, Golden Flameback, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Flowerpecker (no sure which one), Loten’s Sunbird, Crimson-backed Sunbird, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Malabar Parakeet, Little Spiderhunter, Speckled Piculet, Grey-fronted Green Pigeon, Oriental White-eye, Oriental Magpie Robin, Southern Coucal, Oriental Honey Buzzard, White-eyed Buzzard, Warblers (not sure which ones), White-cheeked Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet, Lesser Hill Mynah, Jungle Mynah, Common Iora, Spotted Dove, Laughing Dove. 


27 comments:

  1. A lovely account and really good pictures. This has motivated me to do a trip to coorg sometime soon. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! Do make that trip, soon!

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  2. Quite a collection you managed....good going!!!

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  3. Sangeeta, Loved your post!
    The ornithologist in you rocks!
    Great pics with the intention to 'click-click-click'! :)
    I had been to Coorg too, but missed all these birds!

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    1. Thanks, Anita. Next time keep the birds on your agenda :)

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  4. I have never been to Coorg, just heard a lot about the place from hubby when he was posted in Blore before marriage. Wish to visit some day!
    Fabulous captures...it's so fascinating to know abt such beauties...never been much of a bird watcher...but your post inspires me!
    Reading this post a bit late....hope it's not too late...here's wishing you a very Happy Birthday! Keep blogging and exploring and sharing your incredible adventures outside n in the kitchen as well!

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    1. Thank you so much, Aditi! I really hope your wishes come true :)

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  5. Wow! that list looks impressive. How about frogs / snakes and the variety of butterflies you find there is mind boggling! You sure have got some enviable sightings :)

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    1. I saw a dead snake, don't know the species, and what variety of butterflies!! Frogs, didn't see any...I think was too preoccupied avoiding the leeches!

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  6. Replies
    1. Thanks!! But no comparison to your tiger sighting :)

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  7. Hi Sangeetha,

    Nice blog. I will be travelling to Honeyvalley next week. Can you please tell me the common birding spots over there..I've been there during the rains...so I could recognize the spots u mention...I'm going there mainly for bird photography :)

    Regards
    Arun

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    1. Hi Arun, I am sure you will enjoy birding there. I actually can't think of exact spots, you know...there were a large number of grey fronted green pigeons just outside the dining hall, on the adjoining tree. Minivets and orange headed thrushes were plenty on the trees and the coffee plants near the cottages below, and by the side of the road leading upto the dining hall. Fairy blue birds and whistling thrushes can be seen from the landing below the owners cottage. And white-eyes and leaf birds frequent the trees near the double storeyed bungalows. Roam all around the estate and I am sure you will have much better luck than us!

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  8. Hi enjoyed your coorg sojourn impressive sightings and clicks....cant wait to go there

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    1. Do visit the place, Vinod, I am sure you will be delighted.

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  9. Your blog posts motivated to restart writing my blogs. You have a very nice collection.
    Thank you :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Arun. The irony of life is that, now I barely have time to open my blog, leave alone update it. But I wish you all the very best in restarting your blog. It is a beautiful one and definitely deserves attention :)

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    2. Hope you get some time out and write new blog posts soon....

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  10. You write so well Sangeeta..
    I am going to Coorg next week and will be staying in Chingaara and honeyvalley(1 day) Hope I will also see all these beauties there. Specially Asian Fairy Blue Bird :)

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    1. Oh I am sure you will get some amazing shots of birds there, Mousumi! Waiting to see your pics :)

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  11. Beuatiful Article Sangeeta..Your blogs have become my go to place to plan my weekends :)

    Planning to stay at Honeyvalley during Oct End..

    Can you let me know which Lens did you use to capture these pics :)

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    1. Thank you so much for the kind words. My husband is actually behind the photographs in the post. We had just started out then and the lens we used was Nikon 70-300 mm. Since then we have upgraded to a 600 mm :) Hope you have a great stay at Honey Valley!

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    2. Thanks Sangeeta. Had a great time at Honey Valley. Planning for Ganeshgudi and Dandeli next. Can you kindly suggest a place in Dandeli? Something similar to Honey Valley. JLR seems to be costly for me.

      Thanks a ton for your lovely travel blogs.

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    3. I am so glad that you enjoyed staying at Honey Valley :) We haven't been there in a long time now. Must make a trip :)

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