JLR Dandeli, 22 Nov 06

…..

One of the companies that KM  consults for was looking for a venue to hold a brainstorming session; KM suggested that since the factory was mid-way between Hubli and Dharwad (two Karnataka cities, 25 km apart), they could go to the JLR property at Dandeli. So it was written, and so it was done, much to my glee!

I went to pick up KM and the other executives from the factory and whiled away my time, while they debated weighty corporate matters, by roaming around the factory campus. Apart from the pictures of the CRIMSON ROSE BUTTERFLY and the RED-VENTED BULBUL that I have already posted, I saw lots of GREEN BEE-EATERS, PURPLE-RUMPED SUNBIRDS, and the usual MYNAHS, BLACK KITES (less in numbers because we were far away from a city).
We reached Dandeli too late for the evening safari, but met Mr Basil, one of the naturalists there, who told me about a sighting of a BLACK PANTHER a few days ago. (Of course these animals are always sighted before or after my stay.) The corporate group had a musical evening but I retired early because my focus was the morning safari! Thankfully, they were not too noisy, and it was peaceful on the banks of the Kali river.

Let me start with my favourite sunrise photograph ( the “fingers of God” through the forest trees was really incredible!)

IMG_0324 Sunrise at Dandeli

Early the next morning, we all set off in jeeps (enough jeeps and naturalists for everyone, I was amazed!). KM and I were in the jeep with Mr Basil and our driver, Prakash, seemed as knowledgeable as a professional naturalist! This was, we were told, a bad time of year for mammal sightings, as the plentiful water meant the animals did not have to come to waterholes near the road, and also, vegetation cover was dense. We still managed to spot several SPOTTED DEER, some GAUR, and a MONGOOSE. But the variety of the forests is not just mammals…and Dandeli is a paradise for birders!  We saw a COMMON FLAMEBACK WOODPECKER, several ASHY DRONGOS, and BLACK DRONGOS. I was fortunate to spy a LOTEN’S SUNBIRD  near the road, and some LONG-TAILED SHRIKES. A SHIKRA soared overhead; I was pleased to have Basil confirm my id, aha, I am getting from lower kindergarten to upper kindergarten, I thought!

We stopped in wonder at a real website:

IMG_0311 Giant Wood Spider and Web

That is the GIANT WOOD SPIDER; apparently, they grow much larger than this one! Well, this one was large enough to be going on with….

IMG_0316 Giant Wood Spider 1

We drove past several ANTS’ NESTS like this one. I am now seeing such a variety of these, on the ground and in the trees, that I am glad I invested in the book on ants, that was launched in Bangalore recently!

IMG_0304 Ants' Nest 2

On the way back, we stopped to take some photos of a LONG-TAILED SHRIKE

IMG_0340 Long-tailed Shrike

and I also snapped this POND HERON nearby.

IMG_0339 Pond Heron 3

Everywhere, I found the heady perfume of the AKASHA MALLIGE trees (Indian Cork Tree) and also the scarlet flowers of another tree, which I was told, was the “HONAL” tree. I would like to learn its name in English.

We went up to see the View Point and had to rush back as the corporate program was beginning. But after I had breakfast, I asked the manager, Mr Karam Veer, if Mr Shashidhar would help me, and while waiting for him, went around the property. I saw a RED-VENTED BULBUL with a broken wing, and somehow didn’t feel like photographing the poor thing! But this ORANGE-HEADED THRUSH was certainly snappable, but these birds don’t stay put for more than a fraction of a second! It really makes me appreciate every good bird photograph that I see!

IMG_0308 Orange Headed Thrush

I found this small FROG (don’t ask me its name, and no I didn’t kiss it!) just outside my tent:

IMG_0354 A tiny frog

And all along the riverbank, I found these very large, beautiful MALABAR NYMPHs  (also, aptly, called PAPER BUTTERFLIES) floating lazily past, but still difficult to capture on camera! I got one with some interesting shadows on him (or her!)…

IMG_0359 Malabar Nymph Butterfly

Some of the duller-coloured butterflies were no less interesting….here are the CHOCOLATE PANSY (what a lovely name!) …the wings are somewhat damaged, apparently they don’t have too long a life-span, with many predators….

IMG_0426 Chocolate Fancy Butterfly

We saw a BUSH BROWN, but this is another view of the chocolate pansy:

IMG_037 Bush Brown Butterfly

And so are some of the common ones, here is the GRASS YELLOW, you can see its proboscis drawing nectar from the flower:

IMG_0390 Grass Yellow b'fly

At this point, Mr Shashidhar (pictured below against the backdrop of the picturesque little Post Office of Dandeli)

IMG_0386 Shashidhar, the Naturalist at JLR Dandeli

 joined me, and he actually remembered me from my trip last year. Considering how many visitors he must have shown around since August of last year, that’s amazing!  But then he does have an encyclopaedic memory for all the flora and fauna around.

Almost underfoot, I found this BEETLE: (update. Karthik says it is NOT a rhinoceros beetle; I will email Shyamal and correct this.)

IMG_0379  Un-id'dBeetle

And on a garden border plant, this HONEY BEE  made a good picture too!

IMG_0270 Wasp on a Flower

And even these ANTS on these wildflowers made such a lovely picture:

IMG_0424 No birds, but the bees and the flowers

And then there are these beautiful BRACKET FUNGI   on a tree next to our tent:

IMG_0456 Saddle Mushrooms

And the female COMMON IORA:

IMG_0360 Common Iora

The trees on the property were occupied by lots of HILL MYNAS and here are two of them (though I haven’t been able to catch their wattles very well)..one of them is scratching himself!

IMG_0347 Hill Mynas

I also loved this piece of artwork near a bamboo bridge on the property, made entirely from bamboo pieces:

IMG_0458 Art from Bamboo stems

Then Mr Shashidhar said he would take me to a nearby spot where I could see the two longed-for specimens of wildlife….HORNBILLS and the MALABAR GIANT SQUIRREL. This is near the Forest Guards’ Quarters, where the “Ficus glomerata” trees are in full fruit and attract the hornbills, which are frugivores. I couldn’t get any photos of the GREY HORNBILL, but here is the MALABAR PIED HORNBILL

IMG_0431 Malabar Pied Hornbill

and I love this picture because, somewhere in all the crescent shapes of the leaves, is the crescent-shaped bill of the hornbill with fruit in it!

IMG_0411 Malabar Pied Hornbill Feeding

While I was busy with the hornbill, Mr Shashidhar showed me, in the FAR distance, this FEMALE COMMON KESTREL (very comfortable on her perch, note how she has one leg up)

IMG_0388 Female common Kestrel

and then we moved to the trees where the endangered  MALABAR GIANT SQUIRRELS ran about. Here’s one:

IMG_0400 Malabar Giant Squirrel

and a  couple of pictures of the squirrel feeding. I don’t know how I managed to get a “white-eye” in some of  the photographs, but  I don’t know how to eliminate it….you already know my level of photo-taking skills!

IMG_0416 Malabar Giant Squirrel Feeding

IMG_0419 Malabar Giant Squirrel feeding

But other denizes of the insect world kept catching my attention, and here are  some dragonflies:

The Blue-Tailed Dragonfly:

IMG_0440 Blue-Tailed Dragonfly

The Red-Tailed Dragonfly:

IMG_0392 Red-tailed dragonfly

And this presumably, is the ordinary-tailed Dragonfly!

IMG_0292

After we got back, we went for a short coracle ride on the Kali river and watched some IBIS fly past, some CATTLE EGRETS wading on the far bank, a CROCODILE innocently gliding past and several BRAHMINY KITES fishing in the river (all photographs too blurred to post!) I took this picture of a WILD TOMATO ,luscious-looking, which apparently is food for the birds but not good for humans:

IMG_0281 Wild Tomato

We left by 4 pm,so that we could catch the night train from Dharwad…. but I was so well-satisfied with my trip to Dandeli!

But I have this message for all birders of Karnataka, indeed birders everywhere from the JLR team at Dandeli….please, they want you all to visit in large numbers. “If you stay for a few days, I will show you an unimaginable variety of birds, including FROGMOUTHS,” say Basil and Shashidhar. I explained that one of the logistics problems for Bangalore birders was the distance from Bangalore (it requires an overnight journey and then a road journey of 2 hours over pretty bad roads)…but they say a warm welcome awaits every birder here.

So…birders– if you enjoyed my LJ trip to Dandeli….plan a trip there, when you can!

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