Saturday, September 27, 2008

Magic of Kathlekan!

Western Ghats are always refreshing...
Its after quite a long while since I had been to my native! As I dint have a single monsoon photography trip this time [ I had planned for at least two this season! :( ] I decided to take some break and head towards Sagar - Sirsi region and explore some new places which I haven't visited before. Incidentally I had met Ashok T.Hegde on India Nature Watch (INW) and he was forcing me to visit his place in the monsoons when the place will be at its best. He is located in a beautiful place - Mavinagundi which is very near to the renowned Jog falls. The place is very near to the pristine forests of Kathlekan where some new species of frogs and plants are still being discovered!

I was very much excited to visit the place just to enjoy the feel of the dense forest of Kathlekan region. The word Kathlekan means 'the dark forest' and why not it should be called so? It is a perfect name for the forest region over there. Such a lovely vegetation! You should be there to feel and enjoy it. To reach Kathlekan region you need to take the road from Sagar which heads towards Jog Falls and then towards Honnavara. The first checkpost that you encounter will be the place Mavinagundi. There is a high mobile transmission tower just beside the check post and the beautiful home that you see just behind that tower is where Ashok T.Hegde lives with his wife. It is such a lovely place!
The morning that I landed there infront of their gate, I was on my toes right from that moment as I had decided not to waste any time in taking rest. The light was fantastic outside.

After a small breakfast we started to head towards Kathlekan region. My friend Adithya U.N. had also joined us for the day and we are hoping for some good time. I went very curious when Ashokji mentioned that there are really large number of Lion Tailed Macaques(LTM) in that region. I remember hearing that some people have sighted LTMs from that region but I dint know that it is so much big population. Later when we met Mr.Sunil who is studying the behavioral ecology of Primates in that region we come to know that there are minimum of 630 LTMs in the region, which makes it the largest population region in the world! But as their territory is very big and they are canopy lovers it is tough to find them and very tough to photograph them from that region. But I want to give a try.... let me see when that time comes....
Till the afternoon there were no sightings of either LTM of any interesting bird species. Only couple of sightings of Yellow Browed Bulbuls were the only thing that we got. Then headed towards Gerusoppa to have some lunch. On the way you will see a beautiful falls at a distant mountain. The view was fantastic. Decided to spend some time while coming back to make some good image of the falls, hoping that it wont rain then... :) and it didn't...!

The day went in shotting some landscapes and other attempts and no interesting sightings. Adi disappointed a bit as his gun was sleeping almost idle without any bird for food! :) He had to satisfy the camera and himself with some landscape images which I have absolutely no idea if he enjoyed of not... ;)
While coming back I had decided that we will go the same view point where we went in the afternoon, the next morning as well as I was expecting to get some good moody images in the morning when the forest is covered with clouds and the heat from the canopy forms a fantastic scenery. I was visualizing something like that and I never know when I got asleep!

The next day Sun was welcomed by the calls of the Malabar Gery Hornbils and a thin line of cloud in the sky! I was happy with the first one but the second one disappointed me a bit. Hoping for a good light in the time to come, we had a good cup of coffee and headed towards the place. I must admire the enthu of Ashokji and his encouragement towards the nature and nature photography!

When we reached the place.... it was almost no change.... as clear as the last day afternoon... no mist.... no clouds!! Disappointed big time! Plan flopped! What else?? Then we planned to go the same place where we had seen Yellow Browed Bulbul last day. That is a small hilltop kind of place where there is a half constructed temple and a watch tower for the sight seeing. But the place is abandoned as the accessibility is a bit tough and the road is horrible! So it forms a nice open space around the thick forest and ideal for the bird activity. So we just went around the temple and I sighted one White Bellied Blue Flycather. Second time for me after my sighting in Kodachadri region. Then saw couple of Velvet Fronted Nuthatches and Scarlet Minivets.

The luck began to change when a pair of Scarlet Minivets decided to spend their time around the canopy of a tree which was at very close to the place where we were standing. I rushed to have a place where I can get a good view and started burning the images! The view was fantastic and so was the atmosphere around. Made some good images and then it was time of the Nuthatches to perform the show. They are one lovely cute birds. The red beak and the blue wings give a very very cute outlook to their appearance. After spending quite some time at that place, I was happy, so as Ashokji! So, we decided to head back and try our luck to see if we get any luck with LTMs!

While we were driving back I was glued to the window and was enjoying the distant calls of Whistling thrushes. It is so fantastic to listen to them. You tend to think that there is surely some one out there in the woods who is whistling so beautifully! They generally whistle in the early mornings . Because of its melodious song in the breeding time, they are popularly called as 'Idle Schoolboy'! :) Salim Ali says so! Absolutely true! So, as I was totally into that pleasant mood Ashokji took a bend on the road which was having a beautiful stream beside. I just noticed something perching on the rock beside the stream and screamed "STOP STOP!!".

I just rushed out of the car and slowly approached the stream and found the beautiful fella - Malabar Whistling Thrush! What a beauty it was! So shiny blue and black and what a setting it was sitting in! I just could not take my eyes off the view finder and as I dint want to miss any moment to witness this bird from so close! That guy was having some food in its mouth and he must be having a nest nearby, may be under the pool where we were standing. After spending some good 15min with him he decided to go to his nest to feed his children and we decided to head back to feed ourselves too!

The morning was amazing and worth spending. My sincere thanks to Ashokji who took all the pain to take me to that place that too in the wee hours of the morning.

Came back to home by 9:30 and both were very happy. A morning well spent. After having breakfast we decided to try our luck with the Malabar Grey Hornbils which were having a party at the other side of the paddy field. The effort was not wasted as they allowed us to approach close and I got some decent images. Another good luck of the morning.

Time was over and it was the time to head ahead towards Sirsi for me. The time that I spent in Mavinagundi was something unforgettable and I would want to go back to the place again and again and I bet if you go there just once, you will not disagree with me.

That is the magic of Kathlekan...

Thanks once again Ashokji for all the help. Will see you soon... :)



A said...

Amazing snaps...Loved your blog.

Anush Shetty said...

Lovely.. the Malabar Whistling Thrush with the habitat is fantastic.

Anonymous said...

amazing writeup.. ill surely visit this place...
BTW - we met at the INW meet in mysore..

Gautham said...

Fantastic write up & lovely images you got from there. Buzz me when you're going next time. Will call you & tell you what's happening at my front.


Ganesh H Shankar said...

Looks like your trip was very eventful Ashwin ! Nice images there. Congrats of D300 too :)

- Ganesh H Shankar
Nature Lyrics

Hamadryad said...

This was a good read, Ashwin ... Enjoyed it. Seems like you had some great burning sessions.. What about the frogs there? Did you come across any? .... I plan to visit Kathlekan to see the froggies there.