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?
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:
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
Indian Yellow Tit
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
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!
Oriental White Eye
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.