1 Jan 2014

1 Jan 14 - Indian Health and Safety Bingo

We left as soon as breakfast had finished as it was a several hour journey to get to Parambikulam Tiger Reserve for early afternoon. Overall, a dull journey livened only by playing a game of "Indian Health & Safety Bingo".
A good score here at this "he who dares wins" (or occasionally gets seriously hurt?) road junction
Somehow they all carried on moving like starlings in a tight flock

Bonus points here for sitting side saddle
More points for side saddle & two passengers
A top score here for three passengers
A highly commended award goes to this single driver
Using a cow on the road means other drivers will try to avoid you to avoid the bad luck of hitting a sacred animal (obviously the cow will be more important than the cart driver)
The overloading award for the day
Eventually, we arrived at the Top Slip Tiger Reserve (in Tamil Nadu) & saw our first decent forest of the day. Frustratingly, we weren't allowed to stop in the first 10 miles after the gate checkpoint until we reached the checkpoint, where we left Top Slip (in Tamil Nadu state) & cross into the adjoining Parambikulam Tiger Reserve (in Kerala state). Soon after that was what looked to be another checkpoint, but it was actually the office for our accommodation for the next 2 nights.
Some fancy art work at Top Slip
Finally at Parambikulam Tiger Reserve
The accommodation consisted of 2 beds in a tent on a solid base, with a brick bathroom at the back. All this was underneath a solid thatched roof. We were told to put all our edible bits into a steel cupboard as there were rats getting into the tents. The guy proudly showed us the hole where there were getting in. We asked why it wasn't blocked & was told it would be when the tents are replaced later in the year. Insisting this wasn't good enough, we told him to block it now with a large stone & we were rat proof for the next 2 days. A typical lack of initiative for a government run place in India. Once the hole was blocked, it was perfectly adequate accommodation for the next 2 days.
Parambikulam is a tented camp: The tents are under thatched roofs, with a brick bathroom attached. Inside the accommodation was quite comfortable
Despite the camp being well established, the outside cupboard & this stool had only just arrived
Back to the Health & Safety Bingo: Something to definitely avoid
Fortunately, as we crossed over into Kerala we started to see some birds with an Asian Openbill & a Black Eagle flying over. There was a reasonable selection of species around the tented camp. In late afternoon, a local forest guard took us to a nearby clearing, which provided views around the edges of the adjacent forest. The highlights were our first Malabar Starlings & White-bellied Treepie, as well as a good selection of other species. On the far side of the clearing, we could clearly hear a commotion from the local Nilgiri Langurs about 50 metres into the forest. We didn't want to explore on foot (& wouldn't have been allowed to anyway). At the time, the guard through it was probably a Leopard, but the following morning he went into that area & found a dead Sambar Deer which meant it was a Tiger that was involved (as Sambar are too big for a Leopard to kill). Glad I saw a female Tiger & 3 cubs on the first trip to India, otherwise being so close to a Tiger & not seeing it would have been harder to accept.
Asian Openbill
Black Eagle
Indian Peacock: Male. Am I on Brownsea?
Indian Peacock: Female 
Red-wattled Lapwing
Blossom-headed Parakeet: Male
Blossom-headed Parakeet: Female
Malabar Parakeet: This is a female as she has a black bill, an orangey red billed male was photographed at Jungle Hut (see Dodging Elephants Blog)
Small Green-billed Malkoha: This Southern Indian & Sri Lankan endemic is also known as Blue-faced Malkoha
Jungle Owlet: This is a fairly common diurnal hunting Owl
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch: One of the best Asian Nuthatches
Indian Golden Oriole
Ashy Drongo
Common Myna
Malabar Starling
Nilgiri Langur
Wild Boar: There were a number around the camp who clearly figured that humans were safer than Tigers & Leopards
Wild Boar: The ones around the camp were generally approachable
Indian Giant Flying Squirrel: We spotlit several of this excellent mammal after dark. They are obviously vegetarian
Indian Giant Flying Squirrel: This photo clearly shows the skin around the legs which allows this Squirrel to glide