4 Jan 2014

4 Jan 14 - Birding With Coffee

Munnar is about 1450 metres a.s.l. & therefore it was a cool start to the day, especially as the first morning in Munnar was spent on one of the surrounding hills with a pre-dawn start as we were after the elusive Broad-tailed Grassbird. After a couple of hours of looking, we had briefly had a responding call to the tape, but then it shut up. Outside of the breeding season, they are not easy to find & it seems to be a bird more birders don't expect to get, so not unduly surprised about our lack of success.
Vinod was prepared for the cold weather: But actually, it warms up pretty quickly when the sun comes out
Even though there were no Grassbirds, the views were spectacular
The early morning sun finally creeps over the top of the hills onto the coffee plantations
Another view of the plantations
The grassy upper slopes had very few birds, so no compensate for the lack of Grassbirds. But birding picked up as we started to walk down the road, from where Georgie the driver had dropped us. The whole hillside was a series of extensive coffee & cinnamon farms. Both crops are shade loving species & need big trees above them to shelter them from the sun. In turn, this provides a lot of cover & different heights for birds to feed & we saw a good selection of species. This is a contrast to tea estates which are a fairly monoculture hillsides as they like the sun & they don't get grown with other crop species. The morale of the story is we should all drink more coffee & less tea, as it's probably a lot better for wildlife, but something I'll struggle with.
There are lots of tea estates in the hills around Munnar
Our hillside had a lot of tree cover to provide shade for the coffee & cinnamon
Coffee beans growing
In best Blue Peter fashion, here are some coffee beans already picked & drying in the sun
Nilgiri Woodpigeon
Yellow-browed Bulbul
Square-tailed Black Bulbul: Yet another split since I last visited India. This species is split from the Himalayan Black Bulbul & is restricted to the Western Ghats & Sri Lanka
Tickell's Warbler
Blue-capped Rock Thrush: Female. The lack of dark scaling on the mantle & wing coverts rules out if being the Nilgiri race of White's Thrush 
Nilgiri Flycatcher
Southern Hill Myna: This Western Ghats & Sri Lankan species is split from Hill Myna of Northern India & South East Asia