+ Also see this post for more details about Wayanad.
I have done many kind of journeys, and you have read a good lot of them here – it could be a trek up some mountain, idling in a pleasant location or a sports trip. But this was the first time I was going away on a birding trip. And I was not sure what to expect. But I had with me a few people who were well versed with birds, because of whom the trip became a worthwhile one.
The idea of the trip was to just go someplace, see the colorful birds of the western ghats and try to learn about them. We chose to go to Wayanad district in Kerala. I had visited Wayanad earlier but this was the first birding trip. Three of us packed our bags and the bird books and started our drive on a cloudy afternoon. It was late in the evening when we reached Sultan Battery, and after checking in to the first hotel we could find, we just crashed for the day.
Landscape on the way to Edakkal
Next morning, we headed for Edakkal caves. It is a hill with rock formations with some carvings supposed to have been made a thousand years ago. The hill also offers some views of the landscape all around. But we were interested in none of it. It was just the birds that we were concerned. We were at Edakkal early – around 8 in the morning. It was the most successful day we had in the entire Kerala trip. We saw many rare birds that are very hard to see usually. The list included(not exhaustive) Asian Fairy Blue Birds, Paradise Flycatchers, Grey headed Mynahs, Black lored tit, Bar winged flycatcher shrike, lorikeets, gold fronted chloropsis, emerald dove, coucals, black birds, white cheeked barbets, scarlet minivets and many many more. We also did climb up the hill and had a look at the rock formations which bring in rest of the tourists. The rock formations are called caves, but I would not say cave would be the correct description for them. We spent most of the day at Edakal and returned to Sultan Battery, checked out from the hotel and headed towards Kalpetta where we stayed for the night.
A Bar Winged Flycatcher Shrike at Edakal
The next morning, we headed to Phookot Lake. Phookot is a very beautiful naturally formed lake surrounded by thick evergreen tropical vegetation. Lilies and lotus in the lake add to the beauty of this serene lake, but a government boathouse and cafeteria for the tourists is a black mark on the pristine lake. We did see many birds here too, but it was no match to the diversity of Edakal caves. The list includes Little Cormorant, Grey Wagtail, Intermediate Egret, Malabar Grey Hornbill, a few ducks that we could not identify properly, black headed shrike, yellow browed bulbul and much more.
Yellow Browed Bulbul at Phookot Lake
In the afternoon, we drove around randomly all around Wayanad hoping to see something good. We took a drive on Kozhikode highway, then turned toward Meenmutty waterfall. We did some birding on the way at Meppadi and saw pied cuckoo, chest nut headed bee eaters, lorikeet, golden oriole and many more birds. Meenmutty waterfall is around 30km from Kalpetta. It is not for the easy going traveller and requires descending down a very steep slope to have a look at the fall. The climb back can be exhausting, but the views of the valley below and the hills far away are worthwhile. The waterfall had plenty of water when we were there, but I am not sure how it is in the summer. Going to the fall requires some walking and it is better to plan it as a whole day trip. We also wanted to visit Chembra the same day and had our permissions ready, but time did not permit us.
Little Cormorant at Phookot
The third day we left Kalpetta and headed towards Tirunelli. Tirunelli is in the base of Brahmagiri hills and hosts thick evergreen vegetation. River Kalindi flows here, originating from Brahmagiri hills. Birding here was good too. The day’s sightings included Asian Paradise Flycatcher, forest wagtail, lorikeet, scarlet minivets, plum headed parakeets, lorikeets, etc. The town of Tirunelli is more known for a temple is hosts, but we were pretty tired after birding and skipped the temple. We drove to Coorg via Mananthavadi and checked in for the day at Gonikoppa.
Eurasian Collared Dove at Tithimathi
It was the last day of our birding that was slightly disappointing. It was our fault to start with – we started pretty late in the day. The day’s birding was planned at Tithimathi forest which is a buffer area for Nagarahole National Park(Also called Rajiv Gandhi National Park). We did not see many birds though it still was a nice walk. We spotted Pond Heron, Pied Wagtails, Golden Oriole, Small Green Bea Eater, Plum Headed Parakeet, Eurasian collared Dove and a few more common species.
After walking around the Tithimathi forest till afternoon, we headed further and returned to Bangalore on the same night. It was my first birding trip, and a successful and worthwhile one.
Also see this post for more details about Wayanad.
Wayanad is a district in Northern Part of Kerala. It can be reached from Bangalore, Mysore or Cochin by land. Do note that there is no town by name Wayanad, and Kalpetta is the district headquarters. To reach Kalpetta from Bangalore, drive to Mysore and take the Ooty road from Mysore till Gundlupet. You need to turn right at Gundlupet and take the Kozhikode road to reach Kalpetta. Kalpetta offers some decent accommodation and is a good place to stay for visiting all the places in Wayanad. It is around 250km from Bangalore.
PLACES TO SEE
Some of the places to see in Wayanad include Edakkal caves(around 15km from Kalpetta), Phookot Lake(around 10km south of Kalpetta) and Meenmutty falls(around 25km). For those who are looking for a trek, Chembra peak is an ideal place. Read about hiking up Chembra in my earlier visit to Wayanad. Another place to trek is the Brahmagiri Peak and Pakshi Pathalam, both of which start from Tirunelli temple. There are a couple of wildlife sanctuaries in Wayanad – The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuary. Once you reach Wayanad and settle down, information is easily available on all these places, so don’t worry much and just head there. Access to wildlife sanctuaries is with permission and you require jeeps to get inside. You can take your own vehicle or hire one at any of the towns – Kalpetta or Sultan Battery.