Wednesday, January 07, 2009

India Holiday - Friday 2 January – Kumarakom to the Dewalokam Resort at Thodupuzha

We were later heading off to our last destination in India at Dewalokam (, being collected by Praveen at 11am, so decided for another early start and a boat ride out onto the lake and to the same paddy-field as two days previously, to see what else might be about.

In general it was quieter, I get the impression the New Year’s noise may have moved some birds on, for a while at least. One unusual element of the morning was the number of Stork-billed Kingfishers, from seeing one fleetingly in Thattekkad, then one snap two mornings back, there were loads of them about this morning, we counted five individuals on our cruise:

Other birds sighted on this cruise out included a Great Tit and Little Cormorants, Indian Pond Herons and Cattle Egrets. Also perched on a post was a Black-headed Gull, familiar at home, but not so familiar here. The Asian Openbill was still around too. On the paddy-field the pair of Black-winged Stilts were still present, this time in better light:

And our second new species for this cruise was the Common Snipe, like the Black-headed Gull, relatively common at home but the first we’ve seen on this trip, though the photographs were only distant. The Indian Roller was also still around, together with Ashy Woodswallows and White-billed Kingfishers. A third new species for this cruise was a very pale Yellow Wagtail:

And the fourth and final new species for the cruise and new species for us, was this Clamorous Reed Warbler:

The ride was again very relaxing and enjoyable and the boatman delighted with the 500 Rupee payment. Tips for taking a boat – taking your boat from the third security checkpoint (near the mouth of the inlet) gets you more time on the water, also make sure you ask for both the lake and the paddy-field – they’ll want more cash but the trip takes 90-100 minutes and is worth it as you’ll add more birds. The typical lake-only punt seems to start at 200 rupees with the longer trip starting at 300 rupees. One bird we've seen a lot of of late is the Eurasian Golden Oriole:

Off for a bit of gift shopping and to get some more cash before the very promising Dewalokam Resort. The government shop in Kottyam had a significant range of local handicrafts and we could have filled a suitcase with gifts, trinkets and nice things for the house but we resisted and just bought gifts.

On arrival at Dewalokam we were received with a fresh coconut for drinking, a garland of frangipani flowers and a ceremonial Bindi. We followed our baggage to our room and then took five minutes to get ourselves ready for lunch, after which we sat outside on the river bank:

watching for birds. We counted two new species sat there in little over an hour, namely Oriental Honey Buzzard:

and a distant Eurasian Collared Dove as well as twenty-one previously recorded species, the most notable of which include Darter:

and a female Greater Flameback woodpecker:

At four pm it was time for tea, which has to be a direct carry-over from the days of the Raj, or at least is based on an understanding of British and European tastes, including cake and biscuits. After tea the owner of the property led us on a guided tour of his garden, which is in part a kitchen garden, in part a repository of native plants used in medicine or with folk associations and part for market. He clearly knows a lot about the plants and is engaged in building up an extensive collection, the walk was both informative and interesting, though being filmed for the duration made it a little more awkward (I guess they are putting together some promotional material). The property also includes a lot of farm animals a subject I’m altogether less comfortable with, thankfully a mosquito intervened so I headed in to get apply some repellent. Tomorrow, our last day in India, looks very promising as right across the river is the start of the teak forest, and we’re planning on walks in both the morning and the afternoon, so fingers crossed for some new species or better sightings of more familiar birds.

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