Valley School area: A write-up for Ramki Sreenivasan

As part of the Bannerghatta Biosphere, the area of scrub jungle adjoining and abutting the Valley School ( a day school run by Krishnamurthy Foundation India) has for long been a birding hotspot.

The area that birders frequent comprises surprisingly varied terrain, for such a small acreage. There is scrub, open grassland, and a wooded area; a small stream that can run either full or reduce to a trickle in the dry months, adds a water body. This, of course, does not include the actual School campus, which, after a few instances of drunken behaviour, is not accessible for local birders in general.

As one walks along the path next to the barbed wire from the main gate of the school, one can take a right and get to the open grassland area. Sightings in this area include many flycatchers such as the White-throated Fantail,

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and the Tickell’s Blue (resident)

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Verditer

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or Ultramarine (migrant)

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in the strip of Pongaemia trees, the Yellow-wattled Lapwing and the occasional Grey Francolins

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or Quails

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in the long grass, and several raptors, like the Crested Hawk Eagle,

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which often perch on the distant trees, keeping a sharp eye out for prey.

Returning to the now well-marked path and walking along, one can see Red-vented,

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Red-whiskered

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and White-browed Bulbuls;

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Jerdon’s Bushlarks

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and Hoopoes

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forage on the ground or can be seen perched on the trees. The many interesting trees, including the Palash (Butea monosperma) and Date Palms ( Phoenix dactylifera), and even the small Tacoma stans bushes, and the Singpaore Cherry (Muntingia calabura) , are good places to sight the smallest birds we know in India…the Pale-billed Flowerpeckers

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and the Purple

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and Purple-rumped Sunbirds,

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with the rarer Loten’s Sunbird making an appearance now and then. Yellow-billed Babblers may be sighted everywhere along the path.

As one nears the building that was once built as a guest house for the School, and demolished by the Forest Dept in a legal tussle (which the School won), it’s time to look for Blue-faced Malkohas, Small Minivets and the rare delight of a Sirkeer Malkoha in the Eucalyptus trees.

The roof overhang of the abandoned building houses two nests of the Little Swifts,

which are used year after year.

As one walks further down the path, and passes the Coral Jasmine tree( Nyctanthes arbor-tristis), several kinds of babblers, like the Puff-throated

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or Tawny-bellied Babblers,

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make their appearace. The calls of several Flycatchers can be heard in and around the bamboo thicket, as also the unmistakable call of the resident family of the White-rumped Shama.

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Really lucky birders can sight the Mottled Wood Owl

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or the Brown Wood Owl… and a Rufous Woodpecker.

Back again, and returning along the “main” path, one can look up…to see the resident Honey Buzzards

soaring on the thermals; Indian Grey Hornbills

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scissoring their way through the air, and perhaps a Black-winged Kite, a Bonelli’s or Short-toed Snake Eagle to add to the species count. I cannot forget the day I saw a Black Baza in the air! Of course, the Black Kites and Brahminy Kites are always around.

The huge Peepal tree (Ficus religiosa) is often a good place to sight Golden Oriole

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and Black-naped Oriole,

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too, and several kinds of Munias, like the Scaly-breasted Munias,

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and Silverbills,

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can be observed foraging amongst the grass seeds.

The Banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) is a great place for the White-cheeked and Coppersmith Barbets,

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and for other birds like Rose-ringed Parakeets,

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Jungle Mynas,

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and Rosy Starlings

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as they busily take advantage of the ripe figs. Jungle

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and House Crows,

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and the occasional Leafbird

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may also be seen.

There has not been a single time when any of us have returned from a birding trip to the Valley area disappointed; that is the kind of bird diversity that this hotspot offers.

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