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A Report from

Kerala 31st October– 15th November 2004,

John Kirby

We arranged this holiday totally online. After searching for a local Indian company we decided on Window to the World. ( I sent an email listing places we wanted to go and we received an itinerary which suited us well with just a few minor adjustments.  We chose to stay in small hotels and Home stays - a very good choice as it turned out. The cost of this trip was £850 a couple to include a lot of meals, all accommodation and a Toyota Qualis 7 seater and driver.

Our flights were booked through Opodo with Qatar Airlines. This involved changing planes in Doha was but well worth it for the comfort of a scheduled flight. A first class airline with excellent service. Cost approx £560.

We were met at the airport at Trivandrum by our driver and headed to Tamil Nadu and our first destination. Mayuram Farm.


This farm is in a superb location in the foothills of the Western Ghats and contains mixed habitats of farmland, scrub, forest and small reservoirs. It is quite hard to find along muddy tracks from the village of  Govindapperi.

The farm has 3 three double rooms. All rooms have en-suite bathrooms. We had a balcony along the back of the room and the views across the property and to the Ghats was wonderful. We spent a lot of time while it was raining birding from this balcony! The staff here prepare and serve excellent food. The owner, Rajesh George, will show birders around the property and is very good company.  The place is under-watched and has a bird list in excess of 150. There are probably a lot more not yet recorded. We saw 83 despite the wet weather that restricted our walks and stopped us having a good look at the reservoirs. A bird was seen thought to be a Spotted Flycatcher but Mayuram is well south of its recorded range. (Has anyone any ideas?)  Quail are best seen by driving the tracks in the late afternoon. Rajesh took us on this drive and we saw both Bush Quail and Rain Quail.

Altogether a very enjoyable couple of days. Just a pity we had so much rain. Ideally 3 or 4 nights should be spent here.

Birds seen at Mayuram.

Grey Francolin.                                                Jungle Bush Quail
Rain Quail                                                       Indian Peafowl
Spot-billed Duck                                              White Cheeked Barbet
Common Hoopoe                                              Indian Roller
Common Kingfisher                                           White-throated Kingfisher
Green Bee-eater                                              Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Pied Cuckoo                                                    Grey-bellied Cuckoo
Asian Koel                                                      Blue-faced Malkoha
Greater Coucal                                                Rose-ringed Parakeet
Asian Palm-swift                                              Spotted Owlet
Rock Pigeon                                                    Laughing Dove
Spotted Dove                                                  Eurasian Collared Dove
White-breasted Waterhen                                 Wood Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper                                           Red-wattled Lapwing
Black-shouldered Kite                                        Black Kite
Brahminy Kite                                                  Crested Serpent eagle
Short Toed Eagle                                             Pallid Harrier
Eurasian Marsh Harrier                                      Shikra
Black Eagle                                                     Little Cormorant
Little Egret                                                     Cattle Egret
Indian Pond-heron                                           Black Ibis
Spot-billed Pelican                                           Indian Pitta
Brown Shrike                                                  Rufous treepie
House Crow                                                    Large-billed Crow
Eurasian Golden Oriole                                      Black-headed Cuckooshrike
Black Drongo                                                  Oriental Magpie Robin
Asian Paradise Flycatcher                                 Indian Robin
Chestnut-tailed Starling                                    Brahminy Starling
Common Myna                                                 Barn Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow                                        Red-vented Bulbul
Red-whiskered Bulbul                                        White-browed Bulbul
Zitting Cisticola                                               Plain Prinia
Spotted Flycatcher                                          Jungle Babbler
Rufous-winged (jerdons) Lark                             Purple-rumped Sunbird
Purple Sunbird                                                 Chestnut-shouldered Petronia
Baya Weaver                                                   Streaked Weaver
Scaly-breasted Munia                                        Plain Flowerpecker
White-browed Wagtail                                       Blyth's Pipit
Common Iora                                                   White-rumped Spinetail
Eurasian Hoopoe                                               Ashy Prinia
Pied Bushchat                                                  House Sparrow
Common Rosefinch


The next two days were spent cruising the backwaters on a houseboat. The accommodation was really good with 2 en-suite bedrooms and far more good food than we could ever eat! Although this was a wonderfully relaxing couple of days it wasn't ideal for birding. It was lovely to watch daily village life continuing along the backwaters.

Birds seen from Houseboat

Great Cormorant                                                  Little Cormorant
Darter                                                               Grey Heron
Purple Heron                                                      Great Egret
Little Egret                                                        Western Reef Egret
Indian Pond Heron                                               Cattle Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron                                   Black-headed Ibis
Yellow Bittern                                                    Black kite
Brahminy Kite                                                     Western Marsh Harrier
Black Eagle                                                        Rock Dove
Spotted Dove                                                     Asian Koel
Greater Coucal                                                    Asian Palm-swift
Stork-billed Kingfisher                                           White-throated Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher                                                     Green Bee-eater
Blue-tailed bee-eater                                            Indian Roller
Peregrine Falcon                                                  Indian Swamphen
Bronze-winged Jacana                                          Red-wattled Lapwing
Common Sandpiper                                               Gull-billed tern
Common Flameback                                              Eurasian Swallow
White-browed Wagtail                                          Grey Wagtail
Red-whiskered Bulbul                                            Red-vented Bulbul
Plain Prinia                                                          Oriental Magpie Robin
Indian Robin                                                        Purple-rumped Sunbird
Black-hooded Oriole                                              Black Drongo
Ashy Drongo                                                        Ashy Woodswallow
Rufous Treepie                                                     House Crow
Jungle Crow                                                         Jungle Myna
Black-headed Munia

TOTAL - 53

We spent one night on the way to Periyar at a rubber plantation called Vanilla County near the town of Teekoy. Once again this was a home stay with there being just 4 rooms. Baby and Rani - the owners - were delightful. Rani is a superb cook and served us some amazing food. While there we went for a short walk around the property and also drove to see a working elephant at an area where logging is taking place. Birding was limited as we only had a short time here.

Birds seen at Vanilla County.

Little Egret                                                          Indian Pond Heron
Cattle Egret                                                         Black Kite
Brahminy Kite                                                       Spotted Dove
Malabar parakeet                                                  Asian Koel
Greater Coucal                                                     Stork-billed Kingfisher
White-throated Kingfisher                                      Green Bee-eater
Blue-tailed Bee-eater                                            White-cheeked Barbet
Common Flameback                                              Eurasian Swallow
Large Cuckooshrike                                               Small Minivet
Red-vented Bulbul                                                Asian Brown Flycatcher
Tickells Blue Flycatcher                                         Purple-rumped Sunbird
Eurasian Golden oriole                                           Black Drongo
Ashy Drongo                                                       Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Rufous Treepie                                                    House Crow
Jungle Crow                                                        Common Myna
Laughing Dove

TOTAL - 31

We travelled on to Kumily, a town near to Periyar national Park. Here we stayed in Silver Crest Hotel. It wasn't the best place we stayed in but the rooms were large and well appointed. The swimming pool was empty and there were a lot of school children staying here who ran riot till about midnight!

Heavy rain restricted our birding in Periyar. The boat trip is a waste of time from a birding point of view but you can see some of the mammals around the waters edge. The guide we had from the Centre was very good. Leeches are a real nuisance in the forest. Leech socks can be hired from the centre and are essential!!

Birds seen in Periyar.

Great Cormorant                                                              Little Cormorant
Darter                                                                           Grey Heron
Little Egret                                                                     Indian Pond Heron
Woolly-necked Stork                                                        Brahminy Kite
Spotted Dove                                                                 Mountain Imperial Pigeon
Malabar Parakeet                                                            Malabar Trogon
White-throated Kingfisher                                                 Pied Kingfisher
Blue-tailed Bee-eater                                                       Malabar Grey Hornbill
Red-wattled Lapwing                                                        Common Sandpiper
White-cheeked Barbet                                                      Rufous Woodpecker
Common Flameback                                                          Eurasian Swallow
White-browed Wagtail                                                      Grey Wagtail
Large Cuckooshrike                                                          Scarlet Minivet
Black-crested Bulbul                                                         Red-whiskered Bulbul
Red-vented Bulbul                                                            Yellow-browed Bulbul
Common Iora                                                                   Orange-headed Thrush
Grey-breasted Prinia                                                         Western crowned warbler
Asian Brown Flycatcher                                                     Asian Paradise Flycatcher
Puff-throated Babbler                                                       Jungle Babbler
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch                                                   Purple-rumped Sunbird
Brown Shrike                                                                   Black Drongo
Ashy Drongo                                                                   Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Ashy Woodswallow                                                           White-bellied Treepie
Rufous Treepie                                                                 House Crow
Jungle Crow                                                                     Jungle Myna
Red Spurfowl                                                                   Great Tit

TOTAL - 52

Our next stop for 3 nights was Olive brook Homestead. An excellent home stay with superb food, probably the best we had all holiday. There are just 3 rooms. The two we had were facing the most beautiful view over the tea plantations. This is about 3 km outside the town of Munnar and again it's lovely to see people going about their daily life away from the tourist trail. The road in front of the Homestead is good for birding by walking towards Mount  Trigore School. Also take the road towards Dalashan resort. Here we saw Black Bulbul and Scimitar Babbler.

Erivakulum. Rajmalai..

This is the park famous for the Nilgiri Tahr, a type of sheep only found here.  We found them quite easily but made 3 mistakes at the site.

1.  We went on a Sunday. Not a good idea as it was very crowded with local people enjoying a stroll making it bad for birding.
2.  We went in the afternoon. Ideally we should have gone in the morning.
3.  We should have walked to the top from the Ticket Office, birding on the way. Instead we drove to the Visitors Centre so missed the best site for White-bellied Shortwing.

However, we still managed to see a pair of Nilgiri Pipits. These are markedly striped and buff coloured. Also a pair of Grey-breasted Laughing Thrushes.

Munnar - Top Station

This is 38km from Munnar along a reasonable road. At the dam we saw Oriental Goshawk. By the time we reached the top a heavy mist had descended and then it began to rain. So after seeing a pair of Nilgiri Laughing Thrushes we gave up and returned to Munnar.

Birds seen at and around Munnar.

Little Grebe                                                                          Little Egret
Crested Serpent Eagle                                                           Crested Goshawk
Black Eagle                                                                          Nilgiri Wood Pigeon
Greater Coucal                                                                     Moorhen
Red-wattled Lapwing                                                             White-cheeked Barbet
Coppersmith Barbet                                                               Common Flameback
Grey Wagtail                                                                        Scarlet Minivet
Red-whiskered Bulbul                                                             Yellow-browed Bulbul
Black Bulbul                                                                          Blue Rock Thrush
Malabar Whistling Thrush                                                        Common Tailorbird
Greenish Warbler                                                                  Western-crowned Warbler
Nilgiri Flycatcher                                                                   Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher
Pied Bushchat                                                                      Nilgiri Laughing Thrush
Grey-breasted Laughing Thrush                                               Brown-cheeked Fulvetta
Black-lored Tit                                                                      Little Spiderhunter
Brown Shrike                                                                        Large Woodshrike
Black Drongo                                                                        Ashy Drongo
Indian Scimitar Babbler                                                            House Crow
Jungle Crow                                                                          Jungle Myna
House Sparrow                                                                      Oriental Whiteeye
Southern Hill Myna

TOTAL   -      39

From Munnar we drove back to the coast. We spent the night in Ann's Residency in Cochin. Next morning after a tour of the city and a visit to the Chinese Fishing Nets we drove to our beach hotel.

Alleppey Beach Resort is a small hotel with a few rooms right on the beach front. We had these rooms which were large and we had a fridge too. We ate at a table on our patio overlooking the beach and sea.  The only birds of note were a few Brown-headed Gulls and Western Reef Herons which were always present at the waters edge.

Salim Ali Reserve, Thattekad.

We visited this site via a place called Bird Lagoon. We were assured Mr Eldhose - the top birder for the area would be available to guide us on this day and we booked a boat trip on a country boat. On arrival we discovered this to all be untrue although the resort is very nice. The lagoon has long since dried up and there were very few birds about. Our Country Boat looked as if it had been high and dry for many a month!!  We were allocated another guide to take us to Salim Ali Reserve. He took us on a walk through the forest and to the rivers edge. He was very pleasant but as a bird guide was useless as he barely knew the common birds and didn't even have binoculars with him.

Birds only seen at Thattekad.

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
Grey-headed Bunting
Malabar Trogon
Brown-breasted Flycatcher


All in all it was an excellent trip. We thoroughly recommend the company we used. The arrangements were spot on and the standard of accommodation and transport were superb. Our driver Mani was great.  Nothing was too much trouble for him.

Kerala is definitely a very good place for birders.  Guides are hard to find although we did have a good one in Periyar. Plenty of research needs to be done in advance if birding independently.

We maybe went a few weeks too early. The monsoon was still around and I think maybe a January trip would be better to maximise the birding time, especially in Periyar where the rain did affect us and also at  Mayuram Farm.


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