Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Birding in the Nilgiris - Western Ghats

The Nilgiri (literally meaning blue mountain) hills are sub range of Western Ghats mountain chain with about two dozen mountain peaks that are above the height of 2,000 metres. Blue Mountains are the little known places in India and quite famous for the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, along with its amazing flora and fauna. Every twelve years, these Nilgiri hills of southern India turn blue as the flowers (Kurinji or Neelkurinji) that give the range its name are in full bloom, making it a UNESCO natural heritage site.

Our journey this time started from a quiet village 'Kotagiri" which is just a couple of hours from the city of Coimbatore. Kotagiri is one of the oldest hill station in the Nilgiris apart from Ooty and Coonoor and has vast landscapes of tea estates. 

The locals call the region as Sholas. The scenery around was gorgeous and had this undeniable charm. The nearby hills and forest were sensational for birding.

SIMS park was the chosen place to help us photograph the Near-threatened Black and Orange Flycatcher. We were the first ones to enter the park that opened at around 7 am. We walked through the lush garden beds and some native shrubs and mature trees.
Black-and-orange Flycatcher Ficedula nigrorufa   - Male
The Nilgiri Wood Pigeon is found in the canopy of dense hill forests and sholas of Western Ghats. Nilgiri Wood Pigeons are also listed as one of the vulnerable species of birds in India.
Nilgiri Wood Pigeon Columba elphinstonii  
The best place to see the endangered skulker the Nilgiri Sholakili alias Nilgiri Blue robin. These birds are very active during the early hours of the day.
Nilgiri Blue Robin Myiomela major  
We did sight two pairs in the vicinity and while we were enjoying its company, heard some sound and saw the Brown Wood Owl fly out to another far away tree and kept an eye on us. 

Later by early noon, we visited a tea garden, situated on a hill, to look for the endemic and endangered Black-chinned Laughingthrush. Glad, we found the bird, and could skip going to Doddabetta, which is also the highest point of the Nilgiris.
Black-chinned Laughingthrush Trochalopteron cachinnans 
The Kashmir flycatcher a vulnerable species that is endemic to the Indian Subcontinent, it breeds in the north-west Himalayas in the Kashmir region, migrates and also winters in the Western Ghats. The female was being sighted in another location, about 7-8 kms away from where we saw the male.
Kashmir Flycatcher Ficedula subrubra 
The naturalist who took us around was none other than Aggal Sivalingam, whom we have known for more than 3-4 years, through my friends who have known him for more than a decade. Aggal ji after a brief stint in venturing into a family business, had started his career in the wild and has helped many professional and hobby wildlife enthusiast see and photograph the lovely winged avian endangered species in the Nilgiri forests. He indeed has a keen sight and interest, to show the birds that are otherwise difficult to sight in his carrier, which spans to almost two decades.

The forests around the region is also good to see the endemic Nilgiri Flowerpecker, apart from other commoners like the Booted warbler, Scaly-breasted Munia, Red-whiskered Bulbul to name a few.

 Nilgiri Flowerpecker Dicaeum concolor 
There a couple of locations where Aggal ji has built machans (a platform erected in a tree, used for watching birds and animals ), where one can wait and get many endemic and resident birds. However, different species are seen at different times of the year.

Streak-throated Woodpecker, Malabar Parakeet, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Chestnut-headed bee-eater to name a few were sighted apart from White-rumped Munia, Indian Oriole, Bank Myna.
Malabar Parakeet Psittacula columboides
Streak-throated Woodpecker Picus xanthopygaeus 
Indeed the increasing human population has led to increased illegal encroachment into Western Ghat forests, cattle grazing and the harvesting of fuel wood, notably for tea factories has led the species to be threatened with extinction.

Another species which is fairly common in the region, but is near-threatened and an endemic resident in the Western Ghats of southern India, the Nilgiri Flycatcher can been seen here.
Nilgiri Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias albicaudatus 
Would like to mention and thank my fellow birder Vinod Sharma, who accompanied and traveled along with me to the region during the fourth week of November 2018 for three days. 

Hoping the species survive and thrive with time to come. Thanking all readers and wishing you all Happy Birding in The Nilgiris...

Happy Birding!

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  1. Fun read with lovely introduction and discriptiin of the region and it's endemic/migatory bird species.

    1. Thanks a lot, yes the region was indeed beautiful and had very unique birds, that are either endangered or near-threatened!

  2. Hi Aseem, as always a wonderful read! Kotagiri, if I rightly remember, also has one of the oldest surviving tribe that does a beautiful red and black traditional embroidery. Regards, j

    1. Yes Jassal Ji, you are right. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment full of appreciation. Regards,

  3. Lovely wirteup with beautiful images

    1. Thank you so much Gautam, indeed a great place to see the endemics. Happy Birding!

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you very much James for your lovely comment, glad you liked the report and images. Happy Birding!

  5. As usual,feel nice to see & read about your journey's from time to time😊

    1. Thanks Pramod, you have been with me all along, literally 🤠, by the way the next post will be from your region, Kerala!

  6. One thing never disappoint me is reading your wonderful blogs ..and again this one is no exception.... your photos are always excellent but this time they seems to be from out of world ..they appeared to be specially posing for you ..perfect eagar to read your kerala blog ..greeting

    1. Vilas bhai, thank you very much for your lovely feedback. Have been trying to complete the blog and shall do it in a day or two. Thanks again and Happy Birding!

  7. Great narration. Great tour. Hope to be with you on a wild life tour sometime in !!future

    1. Thanks a lot Makarand ji, will surely plan a trip together sometime. Happy Birding!

  8. Aseembhai,

    I have always enjoyed your travelogues for their simplicity, important information and the painstakingly taken photographs that go with it.

    But this time I am seeing it from a different angle, as I was your co-birder on this tour.

    What strikes me the most is the lucid manner in which you have narrated the experience without dramatizing the efforts to take those nice photos.

    I got to know the warmer side of you as a human being and readiness to help other co-birders with authentic information that is so hard to come by in a world where right information is scarce.

    Thanks for sharing your wide knowledge in all fields of life from the technical to the spiritual.

    Wishing you all the best in all your future trips.

    With warm regards


    1. Dear Vinod ji, it was indeed a wonderful trip. Thank you so much for your kind words and good wishes. Looking forward to birding more often, regards and Happy Birding!

  9. Hello Aseem, thank you for this very detailed blog. I am planning few days in Ooty-Coonoor in last week of April or 1st week of May. I'm not sure if this would be right birding season? Would it be too hot for birding?

    1. Hello Rashmi, thanks a lot for appreciating. The season would be fine, as these places are hill stations. . You can connect with Aggal sir for other details. Birding would be good too. Happy Birding!


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