28 Dec 2013

28 Dec 13 - Dodging The Elephants To See The First Nilgiri Endemics

In mid afternoon, we met Vinod for our first birding into the bamboo and tree covered hillside behind Jungle Hut. To assist us we had a local Jungle Hut guide, who knew both the sites & local species and it was an additional pair of eyes & ears for Asian Elephants. There was plenty of evidence that Asian Elephants fed in these areas & whilst mainly at night, there was no guarantee that we wouldn't encounter them. The following day, I couldn't resist introducing Vinod to my sense of humour, explaining how we had gone birding that day after lunch without a guide & seen an Elephant. He was getting more & more worried as I explained how I staked it & got some photos, which I then showed him.
Elephant: This was the nearest we came to seeing Elephants here, but plenty of droppings seen, some worrying with plastic in them
The slopes behind Jungle Hut had some stunning stands of Bamboo
Spotted Dove
Malabar Parakeet: Male eating seed pods
Malabar Parakeet
Blossom-headed Parakeet: Also know as Plum-headed Parakeet
Note, a lot of my English names for Indian birds on this blog still reflect the original name I got to know the species as (generally the UK field guides or the Ali & Ripley Pictorial guide to the Birds of India) which had the great advantage of species being in a traditional & sensible order. I found it was incredibly frustrating when preparing for this trip & reading reports, that many reports had followed the order & names in the Inskipp Indian Handbook, which randomly seemed to move families around (which I'm sure the authors thought was justified at the time). Guess there was a lot of adverse comments about this, resulting in a more traditional order in the more recent paperback issues. While the order had been improved a bit, it had left a big legacy of reports adopting that temporary order. Also there were still some odd names in that book & adopted also by the Rasmussen book, certainly no dafter in my option that any names I use. So you will see good old fashioned English names like Avocet on this blog rather the names used in the field guides following the trend that all names have to be prefixed to avoid possible confusion (even when there are no confusing species in the continent). I also have a strong dislike for the modern naming convention of removing the early Ornithologist's from bird names. Given the widespread use of Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler in European field guides, it's depressing to see this being called Rusty-rumped Warbler in both recent guides (thus in a stroke of a pen doing away with both the sub family name & related Ornithologist). Anyway, will get off this hobby horse now, before I get accused of being a Daily Mail reader or UKIP voter (both of which are far from the truth). So back to the birds on the slopes.
Small Green Barbet: Also know as White-cheeked Barbet
Rufous Woodpecker: A locally common species around the bamboo stands
Orange Minivet: Male - A few years ago this was the Western Ghats and Sri Lankan subspecies of Scarlet Minivet, but it is now treated as the monotypic Orange Minivet
Orange Minivet: Female
Red-vented Bulbul: This was a common secondary habitat species
Rufous-tailed Flycatcher: Also known as Rusty-tailed Flycatcher
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher: The clear orange throat separate this from Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher
Yellow-billed Babbler
Puff-throated Babbler: Great to watch this excellent Babbler feeding under a small bush 
Puff-throated Babbler: This was one of the best birds of the Western Ghats for me
Indian White-eye: White-eyes are one of my favourite families
Cinereous Tit: Another recent split from the previously more widespread Great Tit
Nilgiri Flowerpecker
We had to leave the forest by 17:30 as the Asian Elephants tend to move down the slope to feed at night. They weren't the only mammals to become more active as dusk approached with small parties of Chital Deer moving into the open grassy edges to the camp where I guess they felt a lot safer.
Chital Deer: Also know as Spotted Deer or breakfast (by the local Leopards & Tigers)

Tufted Grey Langur: I find Mammal taxonomy even harder to keep on top of than birds. It seems the Grey Langur of the India Subcontinent is now split into 7 species & I believe this is Tufted Grey Langur
Indian Giant Squirrel: We ran into this metre long species on a number of days & always great to see. After a few frames using the motor wind, the green nut was eaten