Saturday, April 28, 2012

Birds of Periyar II

Most of the birds I spotted within the reserve's lake were water birds, like Cormorants and Snakebirds. I had a little more luck when it came to shooting these Snakebirds, as they would sit there on their spot quietly and watch us pass by in our boat.

Snakebirds, also known as Darters, are water birds found mainly in the tropics. These birds are usually found in freshwater lakes like these, as well as rivers, swamps and marshes. They are called 'snakebirds' due to their thin and long necks, which resemble snakes, especially when they swim in water with their bodies submerged.

These birds are rather sociable; they usually mix and hunt together with other water birds like Herons and Cormorants. Although they are known to gather in flocks, the ones I spotted here in Periyar were lonesome individuals.

There was another common species of Darter in the reserve, a slightly larger one. However, I could only snap a single shot of the bird, that too a rather mug one. Certainly, my 200mm can't be used for serious birding!

Apart from these Snakebirds, another common bird was the White-Throated Stork (or Wooly-Necked Stork). Despite the fact that they are rather large birds, my photographs didn't turn out too well as the birds seemed rather shy, and flew off when we got close.

An individual flies off as our boat drives closer.

I managed to grab these two shots of the bird in flight, by pure luck!

Sure enough, shooting birds in Periyar was a great experience for me and it enhanced my birding skills. What about the other wild animals in the reserve? Coming up next.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Birds of Periyar I

The lake in Periyar Tiger Reserve is filled with birds, literally. Don't believe it? Check these photographs out:

As you can see, a flock of birds, mainly cormorants, were gliding over the water surface. These cormorants are abundant in the reserve, and very often, they tend to fly in large flocks like these over the water surface, and all of a sudden, they would plunge into the water. A few seconds later, their heads and necks would show up, with the rest of their bodies submerged in the water.

I was never good at photographing birds, but this time, due to their abundance, I managed to capture some decent shots of the cormorants.

And sure enough, I guess I'm slowly starting to learn how to shoot birds and other subjects in flight!

A happy couple.

A group of cormorants perching in line along the branch of one of the numerous submerged trees in the lake.

Alright, enough with the Cormorants. I spotted several raptors in the lake too, but well, these birds were fast and pretty far away, and so I couldn't photograph them well with my 200mm. However here's one of them as it flew off with it's fresh catch - a large fish from the lake. He must have had a five-star dinner that evening!

A Yellow-Billed Babbler. This bird was found close to the Visitor Centre in the reserve. I realized why it's called 'Babbler' upon listening to its calls.

More birds coming up next, in 'Birds of Periyar II'!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Periyar Tiger Reserve

So finally, after weeks of pleading and begging, my Dad decided to accompany me to a trip to Periyar Tiger Reserve, a wildlife sanctuary in the state. The last time I visited the reserve was almost 6 years back, and I remember spotting a Giant Squirrel. It was a sudden plan, and so we only reached the reserve by noon. We passed by several tea plantations like these on the way.

The main attraction in the reserve is the boat ride through the lake, where one may encounter wildlife along the banks. The lake is filled with partially submerged tree trunks, which are used for navigation.

People walking towards the boats. The boat takes 1.5 hours to complete its course to and fro.

The weather wasn't really suitable for spotting wildlife. It was gloomy, with rain clouds above and hardly any sun. Furthermore, the mist. Here are some shots I took of the landscape, which was pretty amazing, to say the least.

In addition to the low temperature there were strong, cold breezes too.

Wildlife at Periyar coming up next.


Bell came into my life on 10th April this year, as a weak and dying baby bird. My dad had spotted him falling from another bird's claws and onto the ground. Not wanting him to die, he brought the baby bird home, hoping that my sister and I would take care of him. The initial stages of feeding were difficult; we couldn't tell what species he was, and what he actually fed on. We later managed to identify him as a Rufous Treepie, a very common bird in the area. However, over the days, he slowly started to recover, and soon became really active. He would stand on his toes, chirp out loudly with his mouth open wide, and flap his tender wings whenever we came to feed him. He was so adorable! On 19th April, something miraculous happened: When I placed him next to a line of moving ants, he slowly turned his attention towards them, and even tried pecking at the ants! His natural instincts seemed to start kicking! I was overjoyed; it seemed to me like the dream I had, of one day letting him fly off into the wild, would come true after all. But alas, the very next day, that dream was shattered. He was gasping for air, and unable to stand when I went to feed him that morning. My sister started crying. How could this have happened! He was so active and healthy the previous day! We held him in our palms for a while, and soon, he closed his eyes and stopped breathing. He was gone. I have no explanation for this; I believe I fed him the right food, and followed all necessary precautions. Maybe he was just destined to die? I mourn over his death, but yet, am glad that I managed to keep him alive for 9 more days. These days with Bell have taught me how to be responsible, and how to sacrifice time that I could have spent out there enjoying.

We had Bell buried in one of our plots. Here's a video I took of him, as my sister cleaned him with a warm, damp cloth.


R.I.P Bell
(??/4/12 - 20/4/12)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pine Forest at Vagamon

Vagamon also holds a Pine Forest covering several hectors of the mountains. Although this patch of forest is rather small, it contains a considerable number of pine trees to block out the rest of the landscape from our view. As it was a pleasant climate, the forest was perfect for a stroll too: The ground was covered with dry, smooth pine litter, and the atmosphere was great. Luckily, there weren't much people there at the moment to spoil the calmness and tranquility in the area.

One good thing was that there were hardly any waste materials or litter around. Maybe visitors are finally starting to realize the importance of clean and unpolluted environments.

Lying down on the ground and looking up at the sky through the canopy was just so relaxing!

We actually took an hour's nap here; it's really hard not to fall asleep in a place as serene and quiet as this!

As you can see, the hills and meadows are visible towards the edges of the tiny forest.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


I recently had a trip to Vagamon, a hill station around 60 kms from my house here. It is a great spot for a day's outing, and for me, it's perhaps the closest spot where I'll get to experience nature and some peace. Since I visited in April, it wasn't too cold- in winter, temperatures may go down to 5 degrees Celsius, accompanied by thick mist and fog. During the monsoons, there are several waterfalls as well in various locations around the hill station.

We climbed a pretty high mountain, called the 'Mountain of the Holy Cross', as the 14 stations in the Way of the Cross have been put up along the path to the peak. It is a famous pilgrimage center for Catholic Christians in India. The way up was so steep, that we climbed only till the 7th station and stopped as we were really exhausted. The sun was up too, but that didn't really bother us as the wind was so strong and cool.

You can see my cousin and sister posing by one of the stations, in the following photograph.

Vagamon also has vast stretches of beautiful green meadows and scenic valleys on the smaller and rounder hills.

The landscape is just breathtaking! These photographs aren't able to depict even a fraction of what it's like seeing it in real life with our own eyes.

And of course, tea plantations.

Vagamon has amenities for trekking, mountaineering, rock climbing and even paragliding! However you need a certificate and licence for paragliding and rock climbing.


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