Monday, December 2, 2013

Experiencing Udupi coast,Agumbe in the Western Ghats and Bhadra Wildlife,November 2013

BNHS's Call for Nature Camp, November 2013.
Karnataka has a 20% forest cover which harbours one quarter of the Elephant population in India. The Western Ghats have been acknowledged as a Mega Biodiversity Hotspot and UNESCO World Heritage Site, as the region boasts of over 25 endemic bird species. This November come explore with the BNHS, 5 major wildlife hotspots of this beautiful state. Agumbe, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Bandipur National Park, and Nagarhole National Park will be covered in two separate camps.
Agumbe: Agumbe is a village located at 560 m above msl in the Western Ghats. It is aptly called the Cherrapunjee of South India, as it receives an average rainfall of 7000-8000 mm annually. Agumbe is famed for the elusive King Cobra. The renowned herpetologist Romulus Whitaker called Agumbe the capital of the King Cobra, as it is here that he caught his first King Cobra. Besides reptiles and the Endangered Lion-tailed Macaque, Agumbe harbours a host of endemic bird species like Great Pied Hornbill, Malabar Trogon, and Malabar Whistling Thrush.
Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary: A tiger reserve under Project Tiger, Bhadra is located near Chikmagalur town in Karnataka. Considered a biodiversity hotspot, the Sanctuary is covered by dry and moist deciduous forest and semi-evergreen forest. Large mammals like Tiger, Indian Bison (Gaur), Asian Elephant, Wild Dog, Sloth Bear, four types of deer namely Sambar, Barking, Spotted, and Mouse Deer, Malabar Giant Squirrel and Flying Squirrel can be seen here. Bhadra is also home to around 300 species of  birds: endemic birds like Red Spurfowl, Grey Junglefowl, Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon, Malabar Hornbill, White-bellied Treepie, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Flame-throated Bulbul, and other birds like Great Pied Hornbill, Orange-breasted and Yellow-footed Green-Pigeon, Gold-fronted and Jerdon’s Leafbird, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Greater Flameback.
Grade: Easy (Short walks for nature trails required at Agumbe).
Dates: 16th–19th November 2013
Group leader:  Mr. Vandan Jhaveri
Grade: Easy (Walking is required during the birding trails)
Camp Charges: Rs. 22,500/- for members, and Rs. 23,100/- for non-members (ex Mangalore)
Accommodation: Dormitory stay in ARRS (1 night) and Twin sharing in River Tern Lodge (www. (2 nights)
Reporting: Pick-up on Day One outside Mangalore Central Railway Station at 10:30 a.m. Drop on last day at 12:30 p.m. outside Mangalore Central Railway Station.
How to reach: Matsyagandha Exp (12619) starts from LTT (Mumbai) at 03:20 p.m., and reaches Mangalore Central at 10:25 a.m. Return: Matsygandha Exp (12620) starts from Mangalore Central at 12:50 p.m.
Air: Mangalore is well connected by air with several direct flights.
Cost includes: Accommodation, food (first day lunch to last day lunch), Transfers to/from Mangalore, and visit to Sanctuaries and safaris.
Registration*: Kindly contact us at 022-22821811, 022-22871202 or e-mail


The Udupi, Agumbe and Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary Trip 15-19 November 2013

Poornima Kumar,Ace Spotter, Photographer with R. Ashok Kumar, both family Members BNHS.

Photos by former, narrration by latter.  

Peek: This ranks as one of the most memorable trips ever we had with the Bombay Natural History Society in our 37 year association.
We spotted a beautiful majestic female 5-6 year old tiger (for me the third, my first being at Bandavaghar; for us the second on a BNHS trip, the first being at Corbett in 2005, both preceded by alarm calls of Sambhar deer! Could you tell me dear reader the answer? See text) who posed for us for half an hour in various stances both walking and sitting and she had such bewitchingly beautiful eyes and body, sambhar deer, two sloth bears, a family of gaur with a baby, spotted deer with baby, baby boar, beautiful spiders, Malabar Pit Viper, Cat snake, Malabar Trogon, Malabar Pied Hornbill, the common Krait, Crested serpent eagle, beautiful bamboos and Hunal trees, the crocodile bark tree, designer butterflies, the plum headed parakeets, breathtaking golden fig trees, the peacocks who had all shed their feathers, experience of never before tranquility, climaxing forests with splendid hues on the mountain sides dense and heavy, and good food with a reptile perched on the Mangalore tiled roof directly above the dining table at the Agumbe Rain Forest Research Station including a Malabar Pit Viper on the wood joist in the bathroom and at the treks in Agumbe were shown a smart camera fixed at a forest trail(during the film show in the night we were treated by the education officer Vijay to what are shot by it in the night), were mesmerized by the Agumbe leeches on our legs and the serene and crystal clear jungle stream. The Jungle lodge had accommodation also for a little yellow frog at Bhadra Sanctuary with splendid views of the waters and cormorants and their chicks of the Bhadra reservoir; the boat trips and the safaris and sighting a giant monitor lizard on the bark of a dead tree made us wonder at the loss of the diverse forest floor because of the reservoir created by the dam. In the evening on the 18th, BNHS showed us, in part, the Spy in the Jungle, a BBC DVD, a treat of wildlife filming (not logging) done at Pench by elephants!

The narrative

Its in the nature of things that we arrive at the pick up point of the BNHS one day before and depart one day later after the drop. Accordingly we arrived by the Matsyagandha Express in Udupi at 6 AM on the 15th of November 2013 and took an auto rickshaw(Rs 70) to the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple area. The autorick stopped at a convenient hotel, Hotel Swadesh (Rs 780/- per 24 hours) on our prior request on the 10 minute ride. We checked in and had a good non-AC room with TV(!), had a bath and ate breakfast of masal dose and coffee at the restaurant and visited the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple.

Poornima took a photo of me just before we visited the temple. I was seeing the sun with my eyes closed.

We then took an autorickshaw to Malpe beach(Rs 110/-). The ride reminded us of Goa trip.
And we were off to St Mary’s Island in a motorized boat with 15 people taking the ride. One was a couple from Bengaluru who also waited for the trip which wanted 15 people minimum for the trip. At 12 hrs we paid Rs 150/ per ticket and boarded the boat in which process I lost my socks as I was holding them in one hand and catching the boat rail by the other.

The 15 minute boat ride took us to the island and on the way we witnessed a lot of sea gulls on one of the rock outgrowths.
The wind was cool and was enjoyable.  We landed for an hour on a trip round the island which was strewn with rubbish at places where people picnicked. The rocks were geologically significant outgrowths:

St. Mary's Islands, also known as Coconut Island and Thonsepar, are a set of four small islands in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Malpe in Udupi, Karnataka, India. They are known for their distinctive geological formation of columnar basaltic lava (pictured).[1]
Scientific studies indicate that the basalt of the St. Mary's Islands was formed by sub-aerial subvolcanic activity, because at that time Madagascar was attached to India. The rifting of Madagascar took place around 88 Mya.[2]
88 Mya means 88 million years from the present. Deccan traps were formed 60 million years ago. (R. Ashok Kumar).
The islands form one of the four geological monuments in Karnataka state, one of the 26 Geological Monuments of India declared by the Geological Survey of India in 2001. The monument is considered an important site for "Geo Tourism".
In the picture of basalt column below I have said of the white growth-sea creatures(barnacles), compare the photo in this link:
But they aren't barnacles but lichen growth ? I remember to have peered through the binox at the white colony on a basalt column(I do not remember whether I observed on the pictured basalt formation) and they appeared to be barnacles.

We spent the hour on the Island and collected beautiful sea shells, including whelks and shanka:

See also,_karnataka

We had tasty tatinungu(Three toles for Rs 15/-), how deliciously relishing!
We then returned to Udupi and halted for lunch at Woodlands Hotel paying Rs 120/- auto fare.  We waited for twenty minutes and then had Mini thali South Indian vegetarian Lunch Rs 70/- a thali- delicious stuff- How can a man in his life of a span do anything better than dine? The food was so good we paid Rs 20/- tip to the bearer.
We dozed off at Hotel Swadesh and checked out at 1630 hrs and caught a Volvo bus to Mangalore and arrived there at Hempankatta at 1745 hrs and checked into Hotel Metro Plaza(Standard Non-AC room on the ground floor, Rs 1040/- with complimentary breakfast for next morning). We had dinner at Hotel Taj Mahal- paying Rs 45/- for mini thali. After  a night’s good rest,  at 8 AM we had breakfast and we checked out( 16 November 2013) at 940 AM and walked to the SBI ATM counter at Mangalore Central Station and waited till 1030 hrs and then hopped into the bus arranged by BNHS, having met Shri Vandan Jhaveri, our BNHS group leader who had camped at the Hotel adjacent to Metro Plaza and was unfortunately bitten by bed bugs.
Hotel Metro Plaza was scrupulously clean.
We had a two  hour comfy bus ride to Agumbe. At Agumbe at the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station BNHS had arranged for overnight stay and we were met by the Education Officer Mr Ajay. We saw some informative posters on wildlife at Agumbe.
One poster depicted scorpions and said they belong to the same family as spiders and ticks.
See an introduction to ARRS:
For lunch we had self service lunch consisting of drumstick huli, red rice, ladies fingers palya, sandige, dal and curds. When we looked up from our table at lunch we saw a cat snake comfortably napping intertwined on the truss directly above us below the mangalore tiled roof !
They are primarily arboreal, nocturnal snakes.
They prey on various species of lizards, small snakes, birds, and rodents.
Adult measures up  to 70cm but can grow up to a maximum of 125cm.
In the bathroom a Malabar Pit Viper had curled on a truss:
We both were allotted  space in the cottage for the night and we put our luggage in there. This was the hall where we would be shown a DVD in the night about the Agumbe Rainforest.
Enjoying the solace at the cottage:

Below is a painting on the wall in the hall by a visiting researcher.

We started our nature trek into the rainforest by about 1630 hrs.

1649: Drosera burmanii, an insectivorous rare plant, also Burmese sundew, many of which were found in a small area of the Agumbe rainforest:
Another shot of  Drosera_burmannii and its zoomed view

 The Drosera seen by us in Kaas:

Another view of the Agumbe jungle stream:
On 16/11/2013 at 1710 on the trek in Agumbe we saw Bagworm- a beautiful thorny plant structure, woven around the bagworm:
At 1715 on 16/11/2013 we saw bracket fungus on a dead tree log.
On the 17th night after dinner with the Education Officer Vijay present, we were conducted through the rainforest through an excellent DVD in the hall in the cottage housing the library. Mr Vijay explained about the rainforest creatures which were videographed by the smart camera located on a stand in a walkway through the forest. Leopards, deer, mouse deer, barking deer, boars, all marched past the camera. 
On 17/11/2013 at 630 precise we set out on a cloudy day at ARRS on a nature trek.
We sighted lovely fern, drongos,chestnut headed beeteaters, oriental white eye, aiora, rose ringed parakeets, and the plant PANGEND(Marathi) (Photo taken at Kaas by Poornima):

Close up of pangend:

See also another close up of Pangend:

On the morning of 17/11/2013 at birding trek at Agumbe, Poornima Kumar who won accolades from the group for spotting wildlife wherever she went posing thrilled by the serene Agumbe:

Lovely fern:

On this trek we observed on a tree, a  circus tent spider web: lacewing insect eggs.
We saw musanda tree.
0800 on 17/11/2013: sunbirds and calotes garden lizard:

We saw a crested tree swift:

And a fluffy tailed butterfly:

We saw a lovely trogon:

Sighted also ashy drongo,golden oriole and scarlet minivet.
We saw a wild suran fruit.

How can a man in his life of a span do anything better than dine with a helping of suran fruit?

We saw Draco, endemic to Agumbe rain forest on a palm tree.

“The Draco Lizard or Draco Volans is one of the few lizards that have adapted to glide. Just like their mythical brethren, the tiny lizards are capable of some sort of flight, but are actually just gliders. They jump from tree to tree and use specialized structures to catch the air and glide for longer distances.

The Draco lizard evolved by developing specialised rib cages that extend when it is in flight. The rib cages have a sort of flap of skin binding them together, which help propel the lizard through the air. It has a long, lithe tail that it uses for steering, and strong legs that help with the launch.

The animal developed this unusual flying trait as a mechanism for survival. In the dark, dank rain forests, scurrying on the ground would be too dangerous, putting the lizard at risk for predators. However, staying in the trees might not be enough, so the animal developed a way to be able to travel from tree to tree without ever having to touch the ground.”

On the 16th night there was a fascinating night trek through the rain forest where we saw frogs, spiders, scorpions and the common krait:
Common krait:

See for more information on the common Krait:

For another information blog see:



The Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary/Bhadra Tiger Reserve: The Valley of Bamboos

We reached the Bhadra Dam Jungle Lodge, in the heart of the Western Ghats by 12 hrs on 17th November after a 110 km 2 hour ride in our minibus from Agumbe Rainforest Research Station of the National Centre of Biological Sciences. We were allotted our rooms. It had an excellent view of the reservoir, the forests on the mountain sides (climax moist deciduous) were a veritable splash of various hues of green and pink. After lunch we had a boat ride through the Bhadra reservoir:

The river tern lodge where we stayed of the Jungle Lodges has a suspension bridge connecting the dining hall and the lodges and it was inaugurated as in the plaque shown here which is at the entrance of the bridge.

Another zoom:

1600 hrs. 17/11/2013 Boat Ride Bhadra Reservoir.
The above bridge view is from the boat.

Little cormorants.
Great cormorants with chicks in 6 nests.

1640: Osprey on branch on dead tree in the waters.

Then the Osprey flew away- Osprey in flight.

1700:  Another batch of great cormorants and chicks singing. Osprey in flight(Osprey wasn't shot):

Spotted deer group with baby deer(doe).

Ashy wood swallow, 7 numbers, on dead tree in water.
( See )

Grey heron on top of dry tree.  Then it flew and sat on another tree.

1720: Oriental turtle dove; shags on a tree bark.

Brahminy kites.

2 white browed wagtails.

The boat ride ended with  glorious views of Bhadra sunset :

River terns incubating on nests on tree. They incubate for 3 weeks.

18/11/2013 630 Departure Safari into the Bhadra Forests accompanied by Girish M.G, Naturalist:

640: Jungle starts:

656: Group of Chital
658: Peacock with feathers shed.
White breasted water hen
Bamboo forest
Idiotic eucalyptuses
658 Big spider
Jungle Fowl
706: Spotted deer
Crow pheasant
Wooded floor spider
Teak plantation
Female giant wood spider with  web
(5-6 months lifespan)
Long tailed langur jumped(stores food in pouch)
Salt pit
715: Racket tailed drongo.
Crested serpent eagle in flight.
Tree: Axel wood dindigul(Lagerstroemia lanceolata, Wall)
725: Monitor Lizard on the fallen dead tree having bracket fungi:

We hear a dove.
We sight jungle babblers.
740: Rosewood tree
Crocodile bark tree: Terminalia tomentosa.
It has bulged trunk: Stores water and is fire resistant.
742: Infant wild boar left alone.
Black wood spider(red cells), female.
743: Hill Myna: Black with yellow beak:
754: Jumping spider(giant wood).
800: Peacock
Langur common call
Pond heron
Antipoaching camp.
825: Garden lizard on tree.
830: Plum headed parakeets on tree.
Honey comb on dead tree.

835: Sambhar deer alarm call
840: Tiger red spotted nose, female 6 feet long 5-6 years old 15 meters behind the jeep. Looked back at jeep. The tiger walked along up into the hill side near us and sat behind the grass in full view:

In both Corbett and here OUR tiger sighting followed Sambhar deer alarm call. You know why? Its because After Sambhar call, its huli! In Kannada, the language of Karnataka, Sambhar is a delicious gravy with vegetables and it is also called huli! And tiger is huli in Kannada. Light hearted banter!

Close up of the beauty:

900: Sambhar deer and young
Strangler fig on Terminalia
2 wire tailed swallows on wire with chestnut headed bee eaters.

We returned to Jungle lodge at 930 AM and had masala dosa breakfast. After lunch and rest we started off again on Safari in Jeep, this time led by Naturalist Vijay.

1600: Honey Buzzard

Two Malabar Pied Hornbill sitting on branches on trees.

Grey Jungle Fowl

Crested Serpent Eagle on tree and then flew.

Partial parasite Loranthus
Flower pecker feeds.

1635: 4 Gaur and one baby(brown) and thereafter one more Gaur:

School of bonnet monkeys, macaque family.

Wild turmeric.

Racket tailed drongo.

1650: Three hundred year old silk cotton tree bombax ciba.

Red ant nest.
Scmitar babbler.
Plum headed parakeet.
1700: Jungle fowl.
Racket tailed drongo(steel blue).
Paper wasp nest.
1706: Wild turmeric.
Female Jungle fowl.
1709: Female Sambhar deer on salt lick.
1713: Jungle fowl.
Hunal: Terminalia paniculata tree.
Spotted deer herd
1745: Rest point.
Jungle stream.
Babblers(Smaller than warblers).
1751: Crested serpent eagle.
Herd of spotted deer.

Saw during dinner on 18/11/2013, a DVD screened by BNHS, Spy in the Jungle-A BBC film in three parts.
The elephants were not used for log transport but for filming wildlife.

Boat ride 615 AM
656: White breasted water hen.
705: Two sloth bear running(Spotted by Poornima).
The sighting was similar to this one at Yala Sri Lanka:

710: Sand Piper, Golden Oriole and Pond Heron.

Look at the climax forest we saw at Bhadra:

This boat ride on 19th November 2013 finally ended by 745 and we had a good breakfast and headed in our bus to Mangalore which we approached via picturesque Kudremukh. By 1330 we were back at Mangalore Central Station

Poornima and I headed for Hotel Metro Plaza where we checked in and rested till 1945. We boarded the Yeswantpur Express and headed for Mysore which we reached on 20th morning early by 5 hrs, took a prepaid auto(Rs 35/-) and reached home to nilekhani this story of our treks on the laptop!

Thank you BNHS.       


  1. Wow! What an amazing place to visit! But that big cat was too close for me! And alas, it's a shame about the trashy areas. Hopefully people will learn to love their planet more as they realize how precious it is. And too bad about the poisons that pour onto this nearly-pristine area day after day from places like Fukushima, thousands of miles (kilometers) away, accumulating in every living creature's body, destroying their DNA and ours. It's too bad anywhere but it seems especially so here, which has such broad and delicate biological diversity. "Evolution" is the result of mating, with all "randomness" being choice "A" or "B" from the father or mother parent, NOT random change by things like alpha or beta particles or gamma rays, which nearly always do DAMAGE and practically never, IF EVER, do anything beneficial. This place probably needs to be protected from the rising waters and increased storm activity that comes with Global Warming, too.

    1. Thanks ACE. As usual your observations are holistic and relevant. Nearer your home, Fairfax has come out with a resolution against Fukushima and needed urgent action as publicised by enenews. I commented there that San Onofre people will no doubt give them useful tips. How quickly local actions transcend boundaries and effect the whole planet for all time! Fuku has become an imminent extinction level event with uranium and its fission products spreading all over with three melted cores and a gargantuan amount of fuel pools threatening to explode. See my latest on uranium's infinite biological effectiveness at
      Thanks again.