This post is a long delayed final post of a series that describes our time at the Old Magazine House in Ganeshgudi, Karnataka in December 2020. The lodge and the birding had exceeded my expectations by a large margin and I was already looking forward to my next visit even before this one had ended. We had seen most of the species that this region is known for and even had a sighting of the great hornbill even though we couldn’t get any photos of the majestic bird. So I was hoping that this last day would give us a peek at the Great Hornbill once again.
On that morning both me and the better half had done our own thing. I had enjoyed the company of my feathered friends while the better half, always the adrenaline junkie had enjoyed white water rafting down the Kali River. (Old Magazine House, Part 3 – A quick visit to the timber depot and more birds at the hide! ). Having enjoyed the morning in our own way we had finished another delicious lunch at the common dining area of the lodge and were just sitting at the hide and talking about the birding that all of us there had done in the past and how this pandemic had led to a spate of cancellations of trips that everyone there had planned and were eagerly anticipating. So all of us were happy to be there and doing what they loved -birding! Little did we know that we were lucky to have made that trip when we did and that the pandemic would return with a vengeance and put paid to any plans that most people would have had for the summer of 2021.
But in that moment we were just happy to be there and enjoy the beautiful birds that the region has to offer. We didn’t have to wait for long for the activity at the hide to resume or maybe it just seemed that way because we were all gathered there and talking about things that interested us the most. Either way the birds made us stop chatting and resume clicking away to glory. First to pose around for the adoring crowd was a juvenile Asian Paradise Flycatcher ( APFC). He posed around on all the perches and even sang his short tune. In the months that have passed by, an adult APFC has started frequenting the hide according to the lodge WhatsApp group that I am now a part of – one of the few groups I am happy to be a part of!. Maybe it’s the same juvenile that entertained us that day and I hope that he continues to frequent the hide and I am able to see him one day infall his white tasseled glory.
A juvenile Asian Paradise Flycatcher posing for the camera
The paradise flycatcher was the first of the many small but pretty colourful birds of the flycatcher family that made their appearance that afternoon at the lodge. We were treated to a checklist of the flycatchers – black naked monarch, the female white bellied blue flycatcher, rusty tailed flycatcher all made their presence felt and we were spoiled for choice. Everyone went after the bird that according to them they didn’t have a satisfactory photo of. I just went after all of them! It was my last afternoon there and with birds you can never have too many photos.
The Black Naped Monarch showing why it’s named that
A female white bellied blue flycatcher has a drink
A rusty tailed flycatcher poses against an amazingly uniform background!
Pretty poses by the Tickell’s blue flycatcher
I was photographing a couple of brown cheeked Fulvettas enjoying themselves in the bird baths when out of the corner of my eye I saw something bright green fly in and sit on a perch. I turned my camera in that direction and lo and behold it was a golden fronted leafbird that I had taken photos of at long distances at the timber depot. Maybe it was not satisfied with poses it had given there and flown over here so that I got some great photos of the bright green bird. It posed around for a short while had a drink and then satisfied with itself left, leaving a big smile on the face of everyone at the hide. The leafbird is not a regular visitor at the hide, so even the regulars who come here every year were happy to have good photos of the bird.
Brown Cheeked Fulvettas enjoying a dip in the bird baths
The Golden fronted Leafbird (female) makes a rare appearance at the OMH hide
After the leafbird left we all turned our attention to the pair of yellow tits that had been making merry at the bird baths. I have had some tremendous bad luck with photographing black lored tits in my trips to the Himalayan foothills, so I was happy to capture their peninsular cousins at such close quarters. Maybe it breaks my jinx and I will get good photos of the black lored tit whenever I am lucky enough to be able to visit the Himalayas again.
Various poses of the yellow tit at the OMH hide
After that hectic session there was a lull at the hide and the light was going down. I was going to call it a day when the regulars and Vinayak both told me that there is always a flurry of activity when it starts to go dark. Maybe it’s those birds who don’t like being photographed or at least try not to be photographed. With the advances in camera these days they can’t escape unless its almost pitch dark. So we just jacked up the ISO in our cameras and waited.
As usual the experts were correct, first to reward us for waiting was a small group of emerald doves. These are one of the prettiest species of doves in India and even in the dull light I was extremely happy with the photos that I got.
A male Emerald Dove in all his green glory
A female Emerald dove poses for the camera
More photos of the Emerald dove
Next to visit the hide at dusk was an Ashy Drongo. Even though most of us must have seen and photographed the bird countless number of times, we still took a few photos. Why not!
An Ashy Drongo at the hide at the OMH
Then as the sun set there was one final flurry of activity as if it was happy hour at the local bar before it closed for the day! We weren’t complaining, even though there were no new species on display , a few more photos of the beauties doesn’t hurt anyone. Especially in this age of digital photography, if I had to put in film and develop it later I wouldn’t have taken even a tenth of the photos I took on this trip. So I am glad I started photography in the age of the digital SLR.
A puff throated babbler comes for one last drink
More photos of the dainty little Brown Cheeked Fulvettas
The bright colours of the OrientalWhite eye can’t be dulled even in the awful light
Even the APFC and Tickell’s blue came to say goodbye
It was now almost too dark even for our DSLRs but the OMH still had one surprise left. A pair of Orange headed thrush descended on the baths and made us jack up the ISO even more. At such high ISO you can’t expect a crisp and clear photo, but we made the most of what the conditions and the birds offered. Even though the bird posed around to the best of it’s abilities I hope to be able to see it in better light some day soon.
The Orange headed Thrush makes an appearance in near darkness
Once they left it was almost dark and we returned to our cottage guided by a torch to rest for some time. We returned to the common area for our last dinner of this visit before retiring to a peaceful night’s sleep. We had to travel back to Mumbai the next day so we had planned to sleep in till bit later and not go for the morning bird walk. As you might have guessed the birder in me got the better of the sleeper in me and I let the better half sleep while I went with the group for one last birding walk in the forests around the lodge.
We had just reached the main road when I was rewarded for my sincerity! Not one, not two but three pairs of Great Hornbills decided to give us a fly by and I got some photos of the massive bird in flight. Finally!
The Great Hornbill in flight at Ganeshgudi
Mighty pleased with the start we walked on and reached the fruiting tree slightly off the road to find that on of the pair were sitting on the high branches of the Eucalyptus tree beyond. We tried from various angles but there was no unobstructed view. Beggars can’t be choosers , so I took the photos I could before the skittish birds had enough of us and flew away with a mighty swoosh of their wings. As a person who hadn’t seen a great hornbill since I started photography I was happy. I will get better photos some day but for now I was happy with these!
First photos of the Great Hornbill sitting -am sure there will be more in the years to come
With all the attention on the great Hornbills I had totally ignored a pair of Pied Malabar Hornbills that were sitting in brilliant light and without any obstructing branches. They must have wondered why nobody was looking at them. With the mega stars gone we turned to these lesser but admittedly striking stars of the region and took photos.
Malabar Pied Hornbills in the beautiful sunlight
I even took some record shots of the Malabar Barbet and the Grey fronted green pigeon that were sitting high in the trees. With no sign of these birds descending down we moved on.
A Malabar Barbet high upon the Eucalyptus Tree
A grey fronted Green pigeon high up in the Ficus tree
We finally went to the area with the flowering trees where the Vernal Hanging Parrots were seen. They didn’t disappoint again and once more I got some excellent photos of the only parrots found in this country in beautiful morning light. It brought a great end to a spectacular birding trip .
The Vernal Hanging Parrot in beautiful morning light
I returned to the lodge where the better half was ready and waiting for me to return to have breakfast. With a heavy breakfast in our tummies we collected our luggage and checked out. But we had one final activity left.
Even though the better half had gone rafting in the rapids she still wanted to do a coracle ride and I readily agreed. So we accompanied the lodge vehicle to the site where the coracle was kept and we had a pleasant half an hour ride on the now calm Kali River.
Enjoying a coracle ride on the Kali River
With the coracle ride done we bade goodbye to the great staff from the OMH and started on our long journey back home to Mumbai. We stopped once to take photos at the view point over the back waters of the Supa dam as we hadn’t stopped here before and it was a beautiful place.
At the view point over the backwaters of the Supa Dam
We had a peaceful ride back home with great memories from 3 days spent at a relatively lesser visited part of the country. The Old Magazine House has gone into the list of birding destinations that I almost surely want to visit again. With the pandemic back with a bang and travel for leisure banished from our thought for the near future I am glad that I got the chance to take a short vacation to recharge my batteries.
Who knows when the next vacation will be, hopefully the world is in a better place in a few months and we are given a chance to visit some of its countless wonders without fear in our minds.
We can just wait and hope.