Memories from Thattekad - I

Salim Ali bird sanctuary at Thattekad, more popularly known as Thattekad bird sanctuary, is a birder’s paradise. Had not heard of this place until a friend of mine mentioned it to me. Yeah, Yeah, should have known, but really didn’t know of it,at best,am an amateur birder yet :). Very shortly after that, another friend of mine, Sumeeth, happened to visit the place and provided me with the details regarding the place of stay and stuff. That’s it, I was set to visit the place :)

From wikipedia,

The Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, covering an area of hardly 25 km², and located about 60 km north-east of Kochi (Kerala state, India), is one of the important bird sanctuaries of India. Salim Ali, one of the best known ornithologist has described this sanctuary as “the richest bird habitat on peninsular India”. The literal meaning of Thattekad is flat forest, the region is an evergreen low-land forest and is located between the branches of Periyar River, the longest river in Kerala.

It worked out when we had to visit Palakkad, in Kerala, for a marriage.Was with my wife and my daughter, nevertheless,thought,why not take this opportunity and extend our travel to Thattekad. My wife was excited on the prospect too and gave a big YES to the idea.So, we did ;)

We hired a cab from Palakkad to Thattekad, which is approximately a 3hr journey. But, we had to visit the family temple of ours en-route, which delayed us a bit. It was quite dark by the time we were close to Thattekad. The final stretch of road leading to the sanctuary was amazing to say the least.

It was a long,serpentine road, with absolutely no street lights, huge tall trees on either side which had bared their all ( had shed their leaves )……, no vehicles what-so-ever in either direction….wow..!!..felt like a scene right out of a French horror flick. In a desolate place, with no one around for miles….only sound being, the continuous hummmm…of our cab’s engine and the swooooosh….of our cab cutting through the breeze…..indeed……was spooky…!!… For a moment we thought that we had lost our way…..After a few minutes of holding our breath, we saw the light at the end of the tunnel.. :), a small town, an intersection and some street lights. Our host for the stay, Mr Gireesh, was waiting there and directed us towards his house, which was going to be our place of stay for the next couple of days.

The place where we were put up, a home-stay, called, Jungle Bird Homestay, is run by Gireesh, his wife, Sandhya and his mother Sudha. Gireesh and Sudha are expert birders as well and very knowledgeable.They were to be our birding guides too.

We dumped our bags in our room and settled in.We were asked about dinner,but,we weren’t hungry per se, were just very tried. So, we respectfully declined and decided to retire for the night. Had to be ready by 6:30AM, next morning for our first birding jaunt.

Next morning, fresh, ready and raring to go, we set off. Gireesh and I were accompanied by couple more of his guests.

As we headed out, right near the gate of the sanctuary, Gireesh pointed us to a Brown Hawk Owl perched on a tree branch. It was day time and the bird being nocturnal, as most owls are I presume, was in deep slumber. The light was bad too, so, Gireesh said that we could try for a picture when we return from our trail, as it wouldn’t go anywhere. It leaves only after sun down. We then entered the forest area and went on our trail.

The trail began with sightings of a white-bellied-blue-flycatcher, Indian Pitta, group of lesser whistling ducks, an orange headed ground thrush, of which I managed a decent pic.

We also saw golden-fronted-leaf bird, grey headed fishing eagle, lots or racket-tailed drongos and a few more,but, not much photographic opportunities.

Then, came back to the room, had breakfast and decided to go for a walk around the home-stay. The home-stay is right inside the sanctuary and the area around it is a good place for birding as well.Went around the park area near the home-stay and sighted racket-tailed drongo, malabar grey hornbill, brown-breasted flycatcher and also managed to get a pic of the brown hawk owl, still in its slumber,though.

Coming back from the walk around, had a filling lunch, typical Kerala preparations, with boiled rice too. ( they do have plain rice just in case, but I like the boiled variety).

After lunch, lounged around in the balcony of our room.The climate was definitely humid, though not very hot per-Se. This is pretty standard as far as Kerala is concerned I would say, humidity is always in the air. Evening went without much activity. As Gireesh had some urgent personal work, he couldn’t join us,so,we just walked around in the plantations nearby. We did sight the Asian paradise flycatcher, a beautiful bird, a very frisky one too, couldn’t manage a shot of the beauty. Started getting dark and we returned to our room.And so, the day ended.

Next day, was to be the day, for the Trogan and the Frogmouth….that….will have to wait for the second installment ….. :-)

Hope you enjoyed reading this…., Do come back for the second and the closing part of this post………

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