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A Report from

Southern India, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, 9th - 22nd Jan 2006 & Goa 22nd Jan to 21st March. ,


Rod and Jeanie Atkins. e-mail:

My husband and I describe ourselves as moderate bird watchers. We are no longer beginners but are a long way from being experts.

We started visiting India, first Goa and then further afield, in 1997. This was to explore the culture and to enjoy the warm winter weather. We have returned every year since then.

On our second visit we became friendly with a pair of keen birdwatchers. They invited us to accompany them on a trip one evening and the rest as they say is history.

Since retiring in 2003 we have spent 11 weeks in India each winter. Generally 8 weeks in Goa and the remaining 3 weeks exploring different parts of India both for the history and to bird watch.

For 2006 we decided to have a South India trip. I googled birding in Kerala and was led to Kalypso Adventures,  and Commander Thomas Zacharias.

Several e-mails were exchanged since we had some idea where we wanted to go, but were open to suggestions. Having read about Eldhose, we were hoping that he would be our guide. However, since we wanted to go to Top Slip, a place he is not keen on, and also to visit the palace at Mysore, Thomas suggested the guide Satyan Mepayur as both an excellent birder/naturalist and interested in culture.

We arrived in Kochi (Cochin) from Manchester via Dubai. Emirates had lost our suitcase and it took some hours before we left for our accommodation, Emerald Isle Heritage Villa close to Allapey where we stayed for two nights. This was a delightful spot. Great for relaxing and for getting used to seeing the more common Indian birds.

We then had one night on a rice boat, wonderful during the day but full of mosquitoes during the night.

The following morning, we were picked up by our transport and met Joji the driver and Satyan Mepayur our guide. I had been concerned that it would be rather claustrophobic with all four of us in the car for long stretches but in fact we all got on well from the start and it was a very enjoyable experience.

The tour was specifically designed to sight as many as possible of the 16 endemics of the Western Ghats and the more than 500 species of birds in the peninsula. It included 13 days of intense birding which covered the Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary at Thattekkad, the highlands of Munnar and Ooty (plus a train ride up to Ooty), Indira Gandhi Wildlife sanctuary at Top Slip, the scrub forests at Masinagudi and the wetlands at Ranganthittu and Kokre Bellur near Mysore.

I am going to attach a bird list to this report so will only mention the birds that were notable for us in that we had excellent views of them or had not seen them before.

At Thattekkad, for the 9th 10th and 11th January we stayed at the Hornbill Camp. Eldhose, who was a generous and helpful host, runs this. Though not our guide, he made sure we saw the Indian pitta before breakfast.

The accommodation is in 2 excellent tents, though he can put up more tents for larger parties. It is in the middle of the forest on the banks of the river Periyar, a wonderful spot.

We visited the nearby bird sanctuary twice and the dam. There were many places to bird watch, some a distance away but since we were at the beginning of our trip, with a lot of driving ahead, we did not go very far from the camp site.

Notable birds were: At the Salim Ali Sanctuary: Greenish Leaf Warbler, Malabar Trogon, White Bellied Treepie, Dollar Bird, Sri Lankan Frogmouth, Brown Shrike, Tytlers Leaf Warbler and a stunning Black Baza.

At a forest near the camp: Fairy Bluebirds, Grey Chested Prinia and many birds that we were familiar with from Goa but we had excellent views of them. These included various bulbuls and parakeets.

Near the Barrage Dam: River Tern.

Not far from the camp we saw our first Yellow Naped Woodpecker, Yellow Billed Babbler, Crested Tree Swift and Streak Throated Woodpecker.

On the 12th we left for Munnar where we birded in the sholas (high altitude mountain forests) and grasslands. We spent 2 nights in the endearing High Range Club – the old planters club, a bit of colonial history.

Notable birds were: Black Bulbul, Black Eagle, Grey Breasted Laughing Thrush, Blue Flycatcher and the Nilgiri Pipit. We also visited Eravakulum National Park to see the Nilgiri Tahr.

On the 14th we left for Top Slip/Parambikulam. This was a 2hr drive across the Tamil Nadu border to the Indira Gandhi National Park. We stayed at a home stay called the Banyan Tree. This was excellent accommodation with superb food.

On the way we had an encounter with a wild elephant which are known to be dangerous in the area. We were looking at some birds and fortunately Joji the driver was parked next to us. He heard the elephant give a warning cry and saw it coming towards us. He shouted come, come, I thought he had seen a bird but when he threw all the car doors open and started moving forward we got the hint and leapt in.

We had very poor weather at Top Slip, low cloud causing most of the morning to be lost though we had an excellent view of a Great Hornbill flying overhead.

In the afternoon we only managed to bird one side of the area.

Notable birds were: excellent views of Malabar Parakeets, Greater Flameback Woodpecker and Dark Fronted Babblers.

Since we were travelling to Ooty by the metre gauge, rack and pinion railway from Mettupalayam, we left the Banyan tree after an early dinner and drove to Coimbatore, a journey of about 3 hours.  Kalypso, at no extra charge to us, had arranged this to save us having a very early start. The hotel was excellent but we left it at 5-30 am to drive to Mettupalayam to catch the train. It was being pushed by a steam locomotive, an extra bonus, and was a great experience.

In Ooty we stayed at the Monarch hotel for 1 night. This was allegedly a 3 star establishment but was rather a disappointment.

In Ooty, the Cairnhill Reserve Forest was the main destination. We did not visit the Botanical gardens since we had been there on a previous visit.

Notable birds were: The Black and Orange Flycatcher, White Bellied Shortwing, Grey Headed Canary Flycatcher and loads of Oriental White Eyes.

After a full morning of birding in Ooty we made our way through the Sirgur Ghats to Masinagudi. Mudumalai, at the foot of the Nilgiri Hills, is one of the many reserves located within the forest.

We spent 2 nights at the Jungle Retreat in a Bamboo cabin that was comfortable. This is in a very picturesque location and the birding is close to base so there was no need to drive anywhere. However, you must be accompanied by a guide because of danger of encountering wild elephants.

Notable birds were: The White Bellied Minivet, Chestnut Bellied Nuthatch, Grey Bellied Cuckoo and an Indian Scimitar Babbler.

At the camp we saw Red Headed and Long Billed Vultures flying overhead.

On the 19th, 20th and 21st January we stayed near Mysore at Srirangapattnam in the basic Amblee Resort. On the way we saw a Mottled Wood Owl. We visited the heronry on an island on the Cauvery River at Ranganthittu Wild Life Sanctuary. We went by rowing boat and saw Great Thicknee, Black Crowned Night Heron, Eurasian Spoonbill, Asian Openbill and Glossy Ibis amongst many others. We also took the long drive to visit Kokre Bellur to see nesting Painted Storks and Spot-billed Pelicans.

On  21st we had a day trip to Mysore to visit the palace, which is excellent and well worth a visit.

This was Satyan’s last day with us and we were sad to see him leave having become firm friends. He was a very enthusiastic guide with excellent hearing and eyesight and a humorous manner who chivvied us along when we flagged. He is an Art teacher when not guiding and had illustrated the excellent Shore Birds of Kerala. In the evening we walked by the river next to the hotel and saw Spot-billed Ducks.

We drove to Bangalore the following day to fly to Goa.

There have been many bird reports on Goa so will give no details apart from what is on the bird list. We would like to praise the guide that we use there.

Rama Govekar, known as Rayman or Raymond, has been our guide for 3 years. He had never let us down, always turns up on time, has honest prices and knows his birds. This year he found a Grey Headed Lapwing. We strongly recommend him.

Full Bird List


Kalypso Adventures


Satyan Mepayur

Rayman  Govekar, address: Siolim Oxel Bardez, Goa 403517 India
Tel: 9326139411/9923484344


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