Last Friday (4 Dec. 2009)I rode through Bison Valley in the southern slopes of Munnar. It was a bright sunny day to enjoy the phenomenal landscape that spreads beneath the heights of Munnar, the Gap Road and Choka Mudi. I used to watch the valley from above with wonder and amazement while passing through the Lockhart Gap high above at around 2000 mts above sea level.
The Bison Valley Panchayat derives its name from the Britishers who named the valley after the wild cattle abundant in the late 19th century. Indian Gaur, Tigers, Leopards, Wild boar, Sloth bear and Barking dears were common in this beautiful valley till the large scale migration that changed the ecology in the early 1950s.
In a nearby village called Muttukad terraced paddy fields and ancient Megalithic dolmenoid cysts are still seen. Higher up in the granite cliffs of Choka Mudi ruins of rock-cut caves and sleeping beds are also visible. The place has central importance in the cultural and ecological legacy of South India and Western Ghats in particular. The area was also part of the ancient trade rout that connected the Chera and Pandya kingdoms in ancient Tamilakam from the Sagham ages onwards. Now the valley is a bowl of spices rich with cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, coffee, ginger, nutmeg, aracka and clove plantations.
Bird diversity has also come down. Plenty of Malabar Parakeets and Hill Mynas are seen here on sunny days. Vernal Hanging Parrots and Malabar Grey Hornbills are also abundant. Cuckoos and Scarlet Minivets are also common.
This time as I was riding down from Khajana Para to Bison Valley I spotted a large raptor on a partially bare tree by the road. I stopped the bike and took the camera. It was an Oriental Honey Buzzard in dark morph. The red eyes and dove like head was clearly visible (See the image posted in the Photo Section). The sight of the perched bird overlooking the valley and the scenic backdrop of awesome Choka Mudi and Munnar Hills in the background was simply ecstatic. After a brief and friendly photo session my avian friend dived down to the valley where a mosaic of canopies welcomed and comforted it, it seemed.
As I was riding down again I got its second glimpse. It was soaring high above the canopies in swift and gentle motion. The sunny Friday morning was a magnificent one for me as I was really excited and contended with the sight and a few snaps.
Later I climbed up the heights of Munnar through Anachal-Chithirapuram route. As I entered the gateway of Munnar, The Pally Vasal, literally meaning the entrance of the temple (Old Jain/Buddhist shrine of worship)in Tamil a few Oriental White-eyes and Sunbirds welcomed me with light banter and cozy chirping.
Near the hydel park I also saw some Long-tailed Shrikes and Great Tits. Little Cormorants are plenty in the lakes here. After resting in the Eucalyptus plantation in the Old Munnar town near the KSRTC stand and visiting the fruit and vegitable market in New Munnar I began my return journey to Kottayam with some wild passion fruits and straw berries.