Monday, January 05, 2009

India Holiday - Tuesday 23 December – Kochi to Thattekadd

The car was booked for ten and despite a disturbed night (the police and soldiers turned out to be quite noisy security) we got up at dawn again for a wander around the hotel grounds and out onto the island. The Western Reef Egret was showing well in the morning light:

And a juvenile Brahminy Kite circled overhead, looking for carrion:

The first new birds we saw this morning in the half-light after dawn were Brown-headed Gulls flying towards the sea, past the rear of the hotel. In a single tree at the edge of the hotel we spotted our first ever Bee-eater, a Blue-tailed Bee-eater:

kept company by White-cheeked Barbet:

and a Common Hoopoe:

Out on the walk I finally managed a reasonable photgraph of an Oriental Magpie Robin:

Back at the hotel and packed I spotted a new bird fly into one of the trees on the harbour wall, and dashed past some slightly twitchy security folk to photograph a White-throated Kingfisher:

Then we really did need to head off, by means of a 2 ½ hour car trip, mostly through the city, to the Hornbill Camp ( on the edge of Thattekadd Bird Sanctuary. The camp is very basic, being tented huts around a communal area for eating, but it had all we needed (it was chosen for proximity to the reserve, rather than for comfort), this is our tent as viewed from the central area:

and the view along the river toward the bridge crossing into Thattekkad proper:

We had a few spare minutes to take in our surroundings, during which time we saw another couple of White-throated Kingfishers and both a River Tern and Whiskered Terns. After a curry lunch we met our bird guide, Jijo, who led us on a walk close to the camp. We were assured by the staff at the Camp that it being 2:30pm it would be too hot for much bird activity...

The first bird Jijo spotted was a Shikra, as you can see it was a very good spot as the bird is very well disguised for the perch it chose:

The first pond hosted a Little Cormorant. Other new birds on the walk included Jungle Babbler, an Ashy Drongo:

Purple-rumped Sunbird:

Purple Heron, Black-hooded Oriole, Rufous Treepie, Common Kingfisher, Greater Coucal and a Black Eagle, so very quiet :)

Jijo also kept Helen amused by finding her things to eat, like fruit from ripe cocoa pods, green nutmeg and its mace and various berries, plus pointing out other spices growing, like vanilla, pepper and turmeric; it was an unofficial spice garden tour as well as a birding walk.

We took five minutes back at Camp to take on water and then headed off to the area just outside of the Sanctuary; whilst waiting for the car we saw a Greenish Warbler by the entrance to the camp. A two-hour walk produced Yellow-billed Babbler, Thick-billed Warbler, Black-headed Cuckoo Shrike, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo:

Green Bee-eaters, including this one perched:

Which then moved surprisingly close, giving me an opportunity to take a picture I'm really quite pleased with:

Red-wattled Lapwings, a lone Rosy Starling:

sharing its time between a group of Common Mynas and a flock of Chestnut-tailed Starlings:

Red-whiskered Bulbul, White-browed Wagtail, a pair of Gold-fronted Leaf Birds, a Spotted Dove:

a pair of nesting Plum-headed Parakeets, a group of Grey-breasted Prinia:

and a Common Woodshrike:

All this with a delightful smell of ginger, as there was loads of the stuff spread out to dry on the ground. We probably only walked one-and-a-half to two miles in these two hours because the birds were coming thick and fast, sometimes three or four new birds in one small section of forest, it was actually quite hard to keep-up. The pace itself, coupled with the fading light, meant I just couldn’t photograph everything. Also any sighting, of which there were some, that was only fleeting or partial didn’t get counted or mentioned.

We headed back to camp for a well needed shower, ready for a 05:30 start on Wednesday.

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