Tuesday, January 29, 2008

TG Halli

Misty Dawn

This republic day we decided to head to TG Halli, which, going by the rich haul posted on INW, is pretty much Bird-Central. Using directions (see below) from Shivakumar and Ganesh HS, we set out at 5:00am. We got there at dawn, just as the birds were rousing themselves for a hard days work, posing for cameras.

Kestrel on the Rocks
Kestrel on the Rocks

For the first time in 1.5 yrs of birding, we weren’t the only people at our birding site. Our first sighting was the Kestrel, near the rocky area towards the left ride of the lake, just as the sun was rising over the trees.

Paddy Field Pipit
Paddy Field Pipit

The vegetation is sparse consisting of a few shrubs and dry grasses. At the edge of the lake, we could see two little ringed plovers. After initial the fear, they warmed up to us and we got some photos.

Little Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover

The birds here are easily spooked, unlike their brave cousins at Manchinbele. The cormorants and herons in particular are the most scared of the lot, taking to flight even when photographers are half a km away. We had to creep up on a lot of birds.

Egret Flight
Spooked Egret taking flight

Large portions of the area around the lake looks dug up or quarried and truck tire tracks can be seen everywhere. There are some small constructions happening nearby and rumbling sounds can be heard often. On the far end on the left, there seems to be a camp where laborers seem to have made a makeshift accommodation for themselves. This was our first visit, but it seemed that TG Halli had seen better times.

Sitting Zitting Cisticola :)
Zitting Cisticola

Jewel Bug
Jewel Bug

On the right side of the lake, among the dried grasses we sat down a while to photograph the Sparrow Lark. There was a little brown bird who put up quite a show; flying straight up into the sky, then folding its wings in completely and diving straight down while whistling ( "Twweeeeee" ). It repeated this several times. Couldnt get a good look at it, would be grateful for an ID of it.

Ashy Crowned Sparrow Lark
Ashy Crowned Sparrow Lark

Rufus Tailed Lark
Rufus Tailed Lark

Being Republic Day, some geese/ducks obliged us with a fly by in V formation, we were very grateful.

RepublicDay Aerial Show at TG Halli

Getting There

We used this excellent map provided by Shivakumar of INW to get as far as Magadi road.

Take the Magadi Road toward Magadi.. 4 kms beyond Taverekere (Tavereke is easy to locate - lots of boards) take a diversion to right. Drive slowly, its easy to miss. It is a kuccha road going steeply down. Village is called Nagenhalli.

Once on this road, we headed straight ahead, ignoring a rough road turning left.
Going further, we stopped and asked for directions when the road forked. The man suggested going straight and said that the previous rough road would have also taken us to the lake. We stopped at a huge tree from where we could see the lake.

We got a tad lost since I can’t read Kannada and could not read the Nagenahalli board. Having learnt from this, I have now started to learn to read the language. So far I have learnt all the vowels and 10 consonants (25 more to go). Wish me luck, folks.
Btw, for those interested I’m using a book called “Learn Kannada through English” – part of the National Integration series and easily available in most book stores.

Suggestions and observations

In general drive slowly, invisible speed bumps and sudden crators are in large number. It may be a good idea to secure cameras and lenses in bags with seat belts.

Take along water and food. There is very little shade; a hat and sunglasses are a must; it gets very sunny and increasingly hot as the day progresses. Binoculars would be a good idea since some birds are too far away. We took just one tripod between us.

A Car can be brought till right in front of the lake through a narrow path. A great place to park is under the shade of the big tree near the lake, there are some houses nearby. However, your car won’t be in sight when you wander about.

Local people are very friendly and give good directions (if you can speak broken Kannada), and are very excited when they know you are going to photograph birds.

There is sadly a lot of litter about, plastic bags and bottles. We saw a few stray dogs too.

Bird List
Pond Herons
Egrets (Intermediate Egrets I think - black feet, yellow beak)
Little Ringed Plovers Pair
Parakeets (flew by)
Wire Tailed Swallow (I saw just 1)
Ashy Crowned Sparrow Lark (first sighting)
Common Kestrel
Pied Wagtails (Pair)
Grey Herons - several
Brahminy Kite - 1
Zitting Cisticola - 1
Rufous Tailed Lark -1
Paddy Field Pipit (2)
Drongo – several
River Terns (2)
Several flocks of ducks/geese flew by
Yellow Wagtail (1)
Coucal (2)
Indian Robin (Male)
Pied Bushchat (Male)

What we missed
Pratincoles, Tawny Eagle, Egyptian Vultures
Does any one know why there seem to be no kingfishers at TG Halli?

Bug List
Common Jezebel
Crimson Rose
Jewel bugs (3)

Rock Agama - several

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Devrayana Durga

View from the Temple

Winter in Bangalore is a most beautiful time, of clear skies and sunny weather with a chilly breeze. Its the perfect weather to roam outside the city limits away from the maddening traffic, noise and pollution. If you have the same idea as we did, Dev Narayan durga is the place to go.

DevNarayanDurga Lake and Trees

Getting There

We set off as usual around 5:30am from home, going towards Yeshwantpur and taking the Tumkur highway. 45-50 km on this highway, theres a flyover that bypasses a village. We took the flyover and then took the first possible U - turn. We continued on the kaccha road that runs parallel to tumkur high way.
Continuing for 17 kms (road is pathetic); there after direction boards are available.

Once the bad road starts, the birding begins, we kept our eyes peeled, spotting several swallows sitting on the electric wires, Indian Rollers, Kingfishers and a Spotted Owlet; all up and looking for breakfast as the sun rose. Bee eaters are plentiful all around.

Dev Narayan Durga Lake Scape

Our first real halt was at the Lake at the foot of the hills. The arched gateway leading to the lake was under repair, we look a parallel road just a few feet after it. The lake was deserted, save for a few washer women.

Pied BushChat (F)
Pied BushChat - Female
Small Green Bee Eater
Small Green Bee Eater

A Pied Bushchat couple lead us on a merry chase, till finally the female relented and stopped to pose. The male was a lot more restless and would not sit still. The bee-eaters were more patient.

Pied BushChat (M)

On the opposite side of the bank, we saw a pair of Red Wattled lapwings, and a lone grebe bobbed in the water. A pair of energetic White browed (large pied) wagtails flew about. We walked about for a while, and sat down on some rocks on the edge of the lake. It is a perfect spot for a picnic, but please be careful not to litter or disturb the peace.

Going up the winding road, through some dense vegetation, we paused to see some little active birds, sadly they flew away as soon as the car stopped! We made our way up the hair pin bends to the temple at the top. There is ample space to park and a couple sell refreshments there.

Winding RoadHillSide Scape

We munched on fresh cucumber and watched red vented bulbuls and prinias darting about. Also seen were purple sunbirds and red whiskered bulbuls. The rocky area is perfect to see rock agamas and other little reptiles. We saw a beautiful little skink under a rock and waited for around 10 minutes for it to come out for a photo. But it was shy and we were baking in the sun, so we left it in peace.

Lizard Pose
Rock Agama - Non Breeding colours

We went further up the hill till we reached the highest point, and then made our way back home following the same route back. We stopped for lunch at Kamath Upchar. The other option was Coffee Day.

Wear full sleeved clothing - I returned several shades darker. Sun screen and water is a must. Water is available at the temple, but no where else along the way.
Carry food - we carried biscuits and chocolate. ( I still remember the taste of Ghirardelli - Twilight Delight and Lindt - Intense Orange )
Keep some chocolate in reserve for the drive back to the city, it will be very much needed. [ :-) ]

Driving directions were provided by Keshav, his photos can be seen here

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Ranthambore - Stalking the Tiger

Female Tiger Pose
Tigress, posing - Route 2 - afternoon - Safari 1

We reached Ranthambore from Bharatpur by the Golden Temple Mail (No. 2904). The train was running late by 2 hrs. We arrived at Sawoi Madhavpur RS at 3:15pm. We were received by a jeep that drove us straight to the Ranthambore Park Gate for our afternoon safari.

Tiger Yawn
Yawning Tigress - Route 2 - afternoon - Safari 1

On arrival, we were told by our driver, “We heard your train was late, Madam; so we have kept the tigers waiting for you”. A short 10 minute drive into the Park took us to our ‘waiting’ Tigers. The two female tigers, 24 months old, were waiting for their mother. They lounged about, unmindful of the excited tourists and cameras for an hour. They were splendid, majestic and frankly massive, and they posed like seasoned models.

Tiger Sisters

Nature does its best for Ranthambore’s Tigers. The landscape is breathtaking in most places and the vegetation is varied over the many safari routes of the Park.





Ranthambore has five safari routes, labeled 1-5. Each route is allowed only 4 jeeps, which makes it a total of 20 jeeps in the park at a time. This is a small number, given the number of tourists that flock to the place. This limitation is what makes getting jeep safaris extremely difficult. Each route is also allowed 4 canters. A canter is like a large army truck with an open top and several individual seats (like in a bus). A canter holds nearly 30 people, while a jeep holds a max of 6.

RR Parakeet
RR Parakeet
Grey Francolin Cropped
Grey Francolin
Black Winged Kite
Black Winged Kite
Rufus TreePie
Rufus Tree Pie

Each forest dept. jeep is accompanied by a Forest department guide. The guides speak in broken English. Unlike in Kanha or Bandhavgarh, there are no private jeeps with guides.
Routes are extremely important in Ranthambore, no jeep is allowed to deviate from its assigned route. The route is picked through a lucky draw; a passenger from each jeep pulls out a number from a bag at the gate. This is routinely rigged; Rs1000 can get you the route of your choice in a jeep.

Caracal - Route 4

Cute Sambar Deer
Sambar Deer

Route 1 is considered the worst, we did not see it to verify. Route 2 was our first safari which yielded 2 tigers and it is also very scenic, as is apparent from the photos. Route 3 is considered the best; it includes all of the lakes of Ranthambore and comes with guaranteed tiger sightings (we saw 3 – Machli and 2 female cubs). It is highly sought after and we were only able to see it in a canter. Route 4 is also very scenic; we took this route twice – yielding 1 leopard, 1 sloth bear and 1 extremely rare caracal. Route 4 also has a tigress with tiny cubs, and the famous tigress ‘Bachhi’. We did not see Route 5.

From our conversation with the guides, we learnt that there are far too many guides available so there is a roster system that determines who is working on which days.
I would recommend route 3 in a jeep, it is well worth the thousand rupees.

We stayed at TigerMoon Resort following our excellent experience with their sister resorts in Kanha(Wild Chalet) and Bandhavgarh(Tiger Trails). We were delighted with their service, simply wonderful. It is quite close to the Park gate, this is significant since the jeeps have to travel from the Park to the resort to pick you up.

They have a wonderful garden and several birds can be seen there (list provided below). Food was excellent as was the accommodation. Running hot water was available all day and night long. Mom had an upset stomach, carried forward from Bharatpur; we really appreciated the care they took of her.

Black Winged Stilt Stabbing
Black Winged Stilt

Bee & Eater
Bee & Eater
Pied Avocet Lone
Pied Avocet

Seen at Nature Walk, Tiger Moon resort

What I liked
Rajasthan actively promotes its tourist spots and connectivity between them is excellent.
Sawai Madhavpur Railway Station though small, is well maintained and has ramps and an SBI ATM.
Bharatpur RS has a book stall and sellers of fruit. The first class waiting room has clean toilets.
TigerMoon resort – a wonderful experience all round, well worth the expense.

What I disliked
We booked and paid for TigerMoon online, sadly their Mumbai office is extremely slow and inefficient. Several phone calls and reminders had to be given.

The safaris at Ranthambore are very Tiger centric. Much has been written about tourists hounding after tigers, it must be said that the guides from the Forest Dept also suffer from the same problem. They simply refuse to stop to see birds or other mammals and need to be sternly told at to wait at some points where the landscape is very scenic.
Some guides are frankly completely clueless and will simply roll off what ever species names they know. I once stopped the jeep to photograph a friendly Black Winged Kite that was posing, two Americans in our jeep asked for the name of the bird, Honey Buzzard was the answer they got.

Tiger Full

Canter Safaris – must be avoided at all cost – too many people and far too much noise. If you must take a canter, take Route no.3 and sit on the left side. (All the lakes will come on the left)
It is an extremely commercialized park, hawkers of jackets and hats will hound you at the Park gate.

Unlike in Kanha and Bandhavgarh, the guides keep a watch on the clock (safaris are very short here - 3 hours long). The jeep drivers are uninterested and simply drive, where as in most parks (south or north) the driver too is a guide, giving us two pairs of keen eyes.


Safari 1 – Route 2 (afternoon)

Tigers – 2, Juvenile Females
Small Blue Kingfisher
White Breasted Kingfisher
Blossom Headed parakeet
Rose Ringed Parakeet
Rufus Tree Pie - several
Oriental White Eye – Several
Fan Tail Fly catcher – 2
Indian Silver Bills
Red Vented Bulbuls (several)
Grey Tit – 2
Safari 2 – Route 4 (morning)
Leopard – 1 - glimpse
Sloth bear – 1- glimpse
Indian Roller
Black winged Kite
Chinkara – 1
Sambar Deer
Langoors – troupe
Shikra Hawk – glimpse
At the Resort – post breakfast
Small Green Bee Eaters – 4
Indian Robin (M & F)
White Bellied Drongo
Magpie Robin (M&F)
Oriental White Eyes
Bay backed Shrike – 1
Safari 3 – Route 3 (in Canter)
Tigers – 3 (Two18 month old cubs, Machli II – Lady of the Lakes)
Wooly necked stork – 2
Crocodiles – 5
Brahminy Duck Pair
Sambar deer
Spotted Deer with small fawns
Dancing Peacock
Safari 4 – Route 4 (again)
Caracal - 1
Painted Stork in flight
Wild Boar
Honey Buzzard in flight
Nature Walk
Purple Sun birds
Brown Chat
Indian Robin (M&F)
Pied Avocet – 1
Black Winged Stilts – several
Fork Tailed Swallows
Sand Martins
Egyptian Vulture – In flight
Red Throated fly catcher Female – 1
Female Red Start

Nitty Gritties
TigerMoon Resort – Rs. 3300 per person per night all inclusive (2 nights, 2 safaris per day)
Pickup and Drop from Station in Jeep Rs.900
Nature Walk at TigerMoon – Rs. 200 per head.


From Ranthambore we went to Jaipur by Train – Ranthambore Exp –No. 2465
Jaipur RS has prepaid autos. We stayed at Anurag Villa, 4 km from the RS. Not recommended for a stay longer than one night.
Shops open at 10:30am in Jaipur. We shopped for Saris and shawls at “Purohitji ka Kotla” – at Jauhari Bazaar - it is a wholesale bazaar. The prices are extremely low and variety is mind boggling. Shops are tiny but neatly maintained and the shop keepers are extremely hospitable and enthusiastic.

Auto to Jauhari Bazaar from Anurag Villa – Rs.75
Lunch : (Rs. 45 per thali) at CM Regency a small hotel that serves excellent Rajasthani Thalis (jain) was recommended by our Auto driver.

Click on the photos to see a larger size.
Many thanks to Dad for lending me his caracal and yawing tigeress.
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