Kabini River Lodge
Kabini River Lodge is situated on the southern fringes of the Nagarhole National Park in the Indian state of Karnataka. As usual, business meant I was staying in Chennai on the east coast of India. Getting to Karnataka entailed a flight to Bangalore and a long drive, via Mysore, to Kabini. It was well worth the effort though and my thanks to my friends at Laserwords in Chennai for organizing such a fantastic trip and especially to Santosh who accompanied me all the way.
We arrived at the Lodge at lunchtime. Before eating we had a short walk around the grounds to see what was about. My first Red-whiskered Bulbul of the trip was the first good bird. Previously I had seen this species only in Florida were there is a feral population. This was soon followed by a bird I had hoped to see in the form of five Chestnut-tailed Starlings, recently arrived for the winter. On the water were Indian, Great and Little Cormorants and a Little Egret stood on the shore. Overhead I saw a Red-rumped Swallow and a couple of Brahminy Kites, and a single female Purple-rumped Sunbird in a tree.
After lunch we ventured into a small wood where we picked up a real highlight, Black-rumped Flameback, male and female. A little further on, on the river shore we found White-browed Wagtails, Great Egret and six Red-wattled Lapwings. Heading back to the lodge buildings we had another Purple-rumped Sunbird and a Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo. About ten Common Mynas were found hunting for food around the small rubbish tip.
After a rest four o'clock finally arrived and we were to be found in an open-top jeep heading into Nagarhole National Park. We has hardly entered the park when we stopped for some deer on the track. More interesting to me was the fact that there were a lot of birds were we stopped: Eurasian Golden Oriole, Red-vented Bulbul and Asian Paradise Flycatcher started the list, and were soon joined by a Small Minivet.
A few minutes later we stopped beneath a tree to watch some very beautiful and very noisy Plum-headed Parakeets, both males and females. Commonly seen on the ground edging the track were parties of Grey Jungelfowl, a bird I was very pleased to see although they don't hang about and disappear very quickly, and the other people I was with didn't seem that interested so I didn't get a chance to photograph one. We also saw male and female Common Peafowl, although the males did not have the long tail feathers of the breeding season. The word common did fit though, we saw quite a few of the two days.
We also saw wild Indian Elephants in the park and had an entertaining time being mock-charged by a young bull elephant who charged everytime the jeep moved and backed away when we stopped. I have to admit to being made slightly nervous a couple of times when he came quite close to us. A jeep can seem very small and weak when compared to an elephant. He eventually got bored and wandered off into the forest. It amazed me that we could no longer see him as soon as he went into the forest.
During the rest of the safari I added Long-tailed Shrike, Large Cuckoo-shrike, a male Pied Bushchat, Black-headed Munia and more Greater Racquet-tailed Drongos.
Next morning we met up at 6am for an early breakfast and another trip into the forest. As we walked out of our rooms a flock of about 20 Ashy Woodswallows past as did Brahminy Kite and a Wooly-necked Stork. A small group of trees held three Purple-rumped Sunbirds, a Great Tit, Red-whiskered Bulbul and two Oriental Magpie Robins.
As we drove out of the lodge grounds a Black-shouldered Kite put in an appearance, hovering and soaring behind the jeep. We soon reached the park again and were soon watching parties of Grey Junglefowl again! As we drove around I noted similiar birds to yesterday plus Spotted Doves and a single White-cheeked Barbet. A sudden halt caused much excitement as our guide had spotted a pair of Brown Fish-owls. Fortunately, with some manoeuvering of the jeep, we managed to see both the male and the female. Whilst watching these birds I found a lone, wintering, Brown Shrike.
Our first scheduled stop was lakeside for a trip in a coracle, a mode of transport that does not inspire confidence at first sight but which was surprisingly stable although not really suitable as a base for photography. Our oarsman paddled us gently and virtually silently across the water and soon we were watching a family of Indian Elephants, including a young one, walking slowly along the lake edge. Birdwise we had Marsh Sandpiper, Red-wattled Lapwing, Little Cormorant, Common and Stork-billed Kingfishers, Lesser Whistling-duck and Spot-billed Duck, two fly-over Yellow-footed Green Pigeons and the ubiquitous Common Sandpiper.
Back on land I was scanning a bush when a mostly-yellow bird with a huge white wing bar appeared. I was stumped for a bit and then realised it was my first ever Common Iora, a very nice bird. The others in the group then went on a motorised launch whilst Santosh, me and our guide drove into the jungle for a spot of birding. We chose a likely-looking place to stop and scanned the trees. In very little time we had recorded Grey Wagtails, a very red Scarlet Minivet, Bronze Drongo, Large Cuckoo-shrike, Jungle Babblers and Malabar Parakeets. An excellent twenty minutes.
Crested Serpent Eagle
We went back to pick up the others who were sharing our jeep, stopping briefly to admire a Tiger's pug mark (footprint). Continuing through the forest added more species: Malabar Pied Hornbill, a Crested Serpent-eagle that was entirely unbothered by our presence a few metres from it, Common Woodshrike and Indian Robin plus 20+ Grey Junglefowl, more Peafowl and more Plum-headed Parakeets. As we neared our village destination our guide called to the driver to stop and told us to listen. We listened and were told we were hearing a White-bellied Woodpecker, India's second largest woodpecker I believe. Listening alone worried me. Would we see it? Then it flew and landed on a tree a little way into the forest. Phew, good views at last. Didn't want to miss that one!
Lake en route to Bangalore
That was it for Kabini and Nagarhole. Time to head back to Bangalore for the flight back to Chennai. However, that was not it for the trip. On the drive to Bangalore I saw more Pied Bushchats, a couple of Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters and an Egyptian Vulture on the outskirts of Mysore. We intended to stop at Kokkrebellur Pelicanry, about 82km from Bangalore but we ran out of time and instead stopped by a lake on the road to the pelicanry. This stop proved to be most fortuitous as I picked up six Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, hawking over the lake and sitting on wires, and a flock of 47 Black Ibis, of which three were adults with the red heads. They were quite a distance away but I tried a photograph.
Rather distant adult Black Ibis