31 Dec 2013

31 Dec 13 - Nilgiri Bonanza

It took us a while to get out of the Highland Hotel car park, as Vinod had found one of the key Nilgiri endemics, Nilgiri Pipit, by the car as he was waiting for us to finish breakfast.
Nilgiri Pipit: This endemic Pipit is the size of a Blyth's Pipit. While superficially looking like a streaky Tree Pipit, the streakier appearance, buffy eyebrow, dark lores & lack of a malar stripe confirm it is a Nilgiri Pipit
Plain Prinia: A couple of birds were also feeding in the gardens
The early morning plan to try & beat the hordes to the top of Doddabetta Peak, almost failed at the first point as the entrance road was closed. So we walked the road before the traffic appeared, but only saw a few species in the conifers & bushes alongside the road. By the time we had arrived at the car park, the first of the local grockles were also appearing. While there were less Indian tourists than the previous afternoon initially, the place quickly got noisy as it warmed up. The highlights of the walk to the car park included more views of Grey Junglefowl & Gaur, as well as the Malabar race of Greater Flameback Woodpecker & several Tickell's Warblers (in addition to the species seen on the walk up on the previous afternoon).

At the top, I tried a small trail I found, but that proved to be very quiet & disappointing. Got back to the top to find Brian & Vinod had seen a Black & Orange Flycatcher (until it disappeared after being shouted at by 2 Indians) & another Nilgiri Pipit. Fortunately, the Nilgiri Pipit was still around & while I was photographing it, Vinod spotted a Nilgiri Woodpigeon nearby. To add to our growing Nilgiri day list we had several Nilgiri Laughingthrushes, as well as the first Nilgiri Shortwing.
Early morning views from Doddabetta Peak
Grey Junglefowl
Nilgiri Woodpigeon
Greater Flameback Woodpecker: This is a male of the Malabar race (which Clements doesn't split, but Rasmussen does as the endemic Malabar Flameback)
Nilgiri Pipit: This bird was at Doddabetta Peak
Indian Blackbird: Male
Nilgiri Shortwing: This endemic is also known as Nilgiri Blue Robin
Nilgiri Laughingthrush: Several individuals of this cracking endemic were seen
Tickell's Warbler: This locally common Phyllos is easily distinguished by the strong yellow wash to the supercilium & underparts and lack of any wingbars
Rather than try Doddabetta Peak again, we decided to try the botanical gardens in the centre of Ooty. Ordinarily, this would probably have been a reasonable idea, but on New Years Eve it was heaving with people, making birding more difficult. However, we did see a couple of new Raptors for the trip & we probably wouldn't have seen much that was new at Doddabetta Peak.
Indian Pond Heron: Looks like this bird had a leg injury, which probably explained its approachability 
Bonelli's Eagle: Adult (See comments)
Bonelli's Eagle
Buzzard: A Raptor shape that will be more familiar to Dorset Birders. This is a Steppe Buzzard race which is a winter visitor to the Western Ghats
White-breasted Waterhen
Large Pied Wagtail
Outside the botanical gardens were some well stocked fruit & veg stalls
Unfortunately, there were no signs to indicate the history or significance of these cannons in the botanical gardens
A second cannon
A set of funky bins helped to keep the place cleaner than normal in India
After a while you stop being surprised by the sights you see in India