Monsoon Birding in the Cardamom Hills

Yesterday I visited Anavilasam near Kumaly with Adv. Sureshbabu Thomas. We were heading towards his farm there from Kumaly in the early morning hours. Adv. Paul was also with us. It was misty and overcast.

But there is hardly any rain in the high ranges these days. We were alarmed by the conditions in the reservoirs. Perhaps it could be a short break after the second spell of Monsoon.

Since it was cloudy and gloomy in the cardamom plantations we could not see many birds and butterflies.

Yet we saw plenty of hill mynas making a lot of noise and movement. We were also lucky to see two pretty white-bellied tree pies crossing the road virtually over our heads. It was a wonderful sight to begin a day of birding.

We reached Kadmankuty and began the toughest part of the journey on a four-wheel-drive jeep uphill. The one hour jeep odyssey was really challenging, intensely testing and extremely adventurous. There was hardly any road ahead but rocky crags and loose pebbles. The jeep was jumping from one stone to another.

Pied Kingfishers
Pied Kingfishers

But once we reached the top we could see Kattappana town down below. This moment it drizzles, the next moment sun shines. When it rains in our hill we can see sun shinning bright on the next one. It was a magical experience. When we were surrounded by fog; Kattappana was burning bright in hot sunlight, just a few kilometres down below!

Just before reaching the farm we saw plenty of house swifts near a rocky grass land catching small airborne insects before short spells of drizzle. they were wrooooming past us like rockets brushing hour shoulders. It was an amazing sight watching them in live action on that gorgeous hillside.

Another important experience is the long sustaining and resonant whistling bouts of Malabar whistling-thrushes. They were pouring their soulful music unending in this region. The farm seems to be full of them. we heard the birds’ artful notes literally every minute till noon. Because of the mist we could not see any, but still their whistling is resonating in the ears.

We also spotted a few raptors beside the huge granite cliff. A few pairs of freshwater crabs showed up with big right claws ready to cut through, in the small cataract. We got a few snaps of Five-ring and Dark Bule-tiger butterflies. Blue Mormons and Blue Bottles are plenty. Chocolate pansy and Wanderer also gave us some glimpses. Common Emigrents and Grass Yellows are also visible.

Later we enjoyed some farm-fresh oranges and guavas and began our return journey by the early afternoon. Along the retreat we again noticed the dismally low water level in the Idukky reservoir from atop Kalvary Mount, Cheruthony and Kulamavu.

Adv. Sureshbabu Thomas also found time to join and cheer up the little anglers waiting patiently on the banks of a small lake were lilac waterlilies bloom, before the Kulamavu police station. We reached back in Kottayam around 8pm.

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