Thattekad

By June 15, 2015 Trip Reports 2 Comments
Birds 157 - Ceylon Frogmouth

Note: This post is very lengthy, I recommend a good free time.

Planning

End of the year 2013, I had few leaves left which should be consumed, otherwise they will be lapsed.
So I started thinking whether I should visit any place for bird watching as it was winter.

After little bit of research on net, I finalized two places, Thattekad and Ganeshgudi.

Preparations for Thattekad

As always this time too I was alone for these trips without any company, for the reasons, one I didn’t know anyone who is into birding personally and the other, I know people who were not into birding!
Added to that, I was utilizing my lapsing leave and others wouldn’t be able to get that much leave in such a short notice.
So it’s only me again.

With the contact information available on the net, called Mr. Gireesh, Jungle Bird Homestay at Thattekad.
I asked for the availability for the dates from 19th to 23rd Dec for five days, and he quickly checked and informed me that no bookings were available from 10th Dec to Feb mid. So I had to change my plans
from Dec to Nov last week and finalized those dates in Nov after four phone calls and discussions.

Gireesh was suggesting it’s better if there were atleast two persons and asked me whether anyone could join me. I told him no one was there and asked whether it was mandatory.
He said it’s fine, not a problem and asked me to come. I got to know how it matters only on the last day of my trip, at billing time. But Girish was kind enough to me :)

Just before booking my train tickets next day, I called Gireesh for the confirmation and he did not remember at all about our conversations!!!
I was little bit worried and told him that he had informed me to come on those dates. Then he simply said “If I had said, then you could come, it should be in my diary”.

I was clueless on this until I met him. One can clearly see the traditional ways of booking still exists, noting in a Diary than in a laptop/iPad.

The Journey

Started by train from Bangalore and got down at Aluva station at 8:30 am and had a quick breakfast in a hotel next to the station and reached the bus stand which was a minutes walk from the station to catch the bus to Thattekad. People at enquiry were kind enough to guide me to the bus which goes to Kothamangalam (got into a bus to Munnar from where one should catch another bus to Thattekad).

I had to stand in the bus till Kothamangalam as the bus was full, and as I was alone with very less luggage it wasn’t a problem.
I got Thattekad bus immediately from Kothamangalam and I got a seat too.

Finally I reached Thattekad around 11:30 a.m. (the bus stop was at Dr. Salim Ali Sanctuary entrance).
I was confused about where the homestay was after seeing that place and then called Gireesh.
He told me to walk right inside the Sanctuary and told me to ask the person at the gate about the homestay.
Followed the instructions blindly and the good news was I have to walk inside the sanctuary only.

After a minute walk, I found few houses and tried to recognize the homestay with the pics I saw on net.
Surprisingly I was unable to recognize, but to my luck, saw Mrs. Gireesh at the gate. She smiled and asked me whether I was Sravan.
I had a great relief.

Why I am writing in this fashion is when we are clueless about the place we go that too alone, we’ll have lot of anxiety till we reach our destination, so this is just to project that :)
(To some extent Google Maps are helping now a days but not completely. In this case the map was showing Thattekad somewhere and the bus stop was somewhere else, I can see Dr. Salim Ali Sanctuary but the map was not showing that place near Thattekad, lot of confusion is there)

About the Homestay

Homestay is very basic and decent. A single room can accommodate three people and had three beds.
I had a luxury of staying alone.

The room had an attached bath but no hot water was available even in winters.
They had one A/C room and had plans to convert one room with A/C every year.
Mostly those were occupied by foreigners.

Food was pure authentic Kerala style. So initially I had some problems but got adjusted to that.
So if anyone is going with their family they have to think about the facilities and food especially for Kids.
But the best part was Gireesh and his family, they were very good. “Gireesh told me that one can cook for their kids if required”.

As the Homestay was in the Sanctuary, one can expect lot of insects around and also mosquitoes.
So it’s better to prepare for that and carry some insect/mosquito repellents.

Mobile signal was another problem, one should walk till the main road to get the signal.
In one way it was good, no one would be disturbed during the stay mostly while taking rest :)

The sanctuary road was not fully lit so it was mandatory to carry a torch if one wants to roam around in the night, esp. while talking on the phone.

No Wifi hubs too here :)

Tariff and Booking

While visiting in winters (peak season Dec-Feb), it’s better to book atleast 3-6 months in advance.
Lots of foreigners also visit during that time (so even more demand). I had atleast two foreigners with me in every birding trip.

In other months there won’t be much demand.
(That’s one reason Gireesh is a lawyer too by profession as he has to take care of his family during those dry months)

The tariff consists of following breakup.

1. Food and Accommodation per day
2. For each Birding trip (Two in a day, so have to pay for each)
3. Fuel cost for each Birding trip

I am not giving the price as it varies every year/as per the local rates.

This is where visitors can save money if they go in a group/atleast two as the fares like Birding trip are calculated for a minimum of two.

Gireesh set a good model here, the tariff was same for both Indians and foreigners.
He says all humans are equal, hence even foreigners get the same food (no continental) and no special treatment/facilities too.

As there were no ATMs/swipe/online transfer facilities, one must carry plenty of money there.
I remember the nearest ATM was around 15kms away from this place.

Bird Watching

By default, two birding sessions (morning and evening) are planned as per the day program.
But the most important one is the third one, that is after the breakfast on your own!
Typically I suggest to plan for this from 10:00 to 13:30 hrs.
Buy a ticket at the sanctuary entrance and walk into the permitted sanctuary area on the opposite side of the road.
It’s an “invaluable” treasure, where I saw lifers like White-Bellied Treepie, Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon and Rufous-Bellied Eagle.
I went on my own without any guide.

It will be tiring but most rewarding.

My suggestions/recommendations

During rains, there would be millions of leaches. One must be prepared for that.
Personally, I was ready to loose any greatest of greatest wildlife moment for a leech :)

Leech proof clothing:
I suggest people who are sensitive, to wear ankle length water resistant shoes.
Otherwise thick winter socks, and insert the trouser, preferably Jeans/Corduroy in the Socks.
This idea changed everyone’s life from leaches :)
Full hands shirts/T-Shirts too required to get rid of leeches from hands (surprising but a fact).

Camouflage clothes definitely help in approaching birds as mostly everyone will be on foot.

A camo hat too is useful, Mr. Gireesh always wears it.

Umbrella/Polythene covers for quick wrap-up of Camera/Lens when it suddenly rains (Have to take risk on cloudy days, cannot sit idle at homestay :) ).

Cameras which support High ISOs atleast ISO 6,400. Lenses a minimum of 300mm. I was using Nikon AF-S 70-300mm VR.
In some specific places 2,000-2,500 mm are recommended :)
Not many places for landscapes, hence no wide angle lens is required.

High power torch, sometimes required for nocturnal wildlife. I prefer this to a flash.

I prefer light weight gear as one has to walk and hike extensively.
For me, for these kind of trips, Tamron 150-600mm lens is a God send where a normal tripod is good enough and overall gear will be under 5Kg.

And finally I recommend Gireesh’s Jungle Bird Homestay for a memorable trip.

Few words about Gireesh

Trip report will not be complete without mentioning few words about Gireesh.
Very knowledgeable, he guessed a Frogmouth seeing the habitat at a new place we’re exploring http://www.indianaturewatch.net/displayimage.php?id=456743
A very hard working and busy person with two professions to support his family.
Away from internet, no time too for him to access internet hence all the reservations are noted down in his diary itself.
A kind person and important to note “He never had a harsh talk or scolded even once his wife”. I was joking with him saying he should have time for it :)

Way back home

Gireesh arranged a taxi for me to Ernakulam railway station at morning 6:00 and it took around 1.5 hours to reach there.
Had an amazing breakfast at IRCTC restaurant and boarded the train.
Reached Bangalore at 6:30 pm and had a different birding experience overall.

Birds Check List

First timers to me

1.  Banded Bay Cuckoo
2.  Black Baza (A total of 5 were seen)
3.  Black Headed Oriole
4.  Black Naped Oriole
5.  Blue Throated Bee-eater
6.  Brown Breasted Flycatcher
7.  Brown Hawk Owl
8.  Ceylon Frogmouth (A total of 5 were seen)
9.  Common Sandpiper
10. Crested Goshawk (only 1)
11. Dollar Bird
12. Golden Fronted Leafbird
13. Greater Flameback
14. Green Imperial Pigeon
15. Heart Spotted Woodpecker
16. Indian Blue Robin
17. Indian Swiflet
18. Lesser Whistling Teal
19. Little Spider hunter
20. Loten’s Sunbird
21. Malabar Trogon (A total of 5 were seen)
22. Nilgiri Wood Pigeon (only 1)
23. Oriental Scops Owl
24. Pompadour Green Pigeon
25. Rufous Bellied Eagle (only 1)
26. Rufous Woodpecker
27. White Bellied Treepie (only 1)
28. White Bellied Woodpecker
29. White Rumped Needle-tail

Other birds

30. Ashy Drongo
31. Asian Fairy Blue
32. Asian Paradise Flycatcher
33. Black Drongo
34. Black Headed Cuckoo Shrike
35. Black Kite
36. Black Naped Monarch
37. Black-rumped Flameback
38. Brahminy Kite
39. Bronzed Drongo
40. Brown Capped Pygmy Woodpecker
41. Brown Shrike
42. Chestnut tailed Starling
43. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
44. Common Iora
45. Crested Serpent Eagle
46. Crimson Backed Sunbird
47. Crimson-fronted Barbet
48. Emerald Dove
49. Eurasian Golden Oriole
50. Greater Coucal
51. Greater Rocket Tailed Drongo
52. Green Bee-eater
53. Grey Jungle Fowl
54. Hill Myna
55. Indian Cormarant
56. Indian Pitta
57. Indian Pond Heron
58. Intermediate Egret
59. Jungle Babbler
60. Jungle Crow
61. Lesser Naped Woodpecker
62. Large Woodshrike
63. Little Cormarant
64. Little Egret
65. Malabar Grey Hornbill
66. Malabar Parakeet
67. Malabar Whistling Thrush
68. Orange Headed Thrush
69. Oriental Magpie Robin
70. Pale Billed Flowerpecker
71. Plum-headed parakeet
72. Purple Heron
73. Purple Rumped Sunbird
74. Purple Sunbird
75. Red-whiskered Bulbul
76. River Tern
77. Rock Pigeon
78. Ruby throated bulbul
79. Rufous Treepie
80. Rusty Tailed Flycatcher
81. Scarlet Minivet
82. Shikra
83. Small Blue Kingfisher
84. Stork Billed Kingfisher
85. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch
86. Verditer Flycatcher
87. Vernal Hanging Parrot
88. White Bellied Blue Flycatcher
89. White Breasted Water Hen
90. White Browed Wagtail
91. White Cheeked Barbet
92. White Throated Kingfisher
93. Yellow browed bulbul

Mammals Check List

Flying Squirrel
Hare
Spotted Deer
Palm Squirrel
Bonnet Macaque

Almost every image in this trip has atleast a small story behind it, some have bigger stories for a change when compared to my regular bird photography trips. Already this post is too lengthy so no more stories :)
I have added few rubber extraction photos for the people who are interested.

Given worst light and reach throughout the trip, I managed only record shots in terms of photography but more memories.
Some Record Shots can be seen here: https://picasaweb.google.com/asravan/ThattekadTripReport?authkey=Gv1sRgCOmym9b1q5mPPg#

Hope this is not boring. Thanks for your very valuable time.

Many thanks for stopping by,
Sravan

2 Comments

  • VJ says:

    Cool! Was really helpful. Thankyou for your long post. If I get time, I would definitely like to visit this place.

    Regards,
    VJ

  • Kartik says:

    Hey Sravan,

    This was a fantastic read. I had been meaning to visit Thattekad but never got around to it. Hopefully I will be able to plan something.

    thank you for a detailed writeup, it was very very informative. :-)

    Cheers,
    Kartik

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