The Land of the Vagai Trees: Biodiversity and Bird life in Vagaman and Ulpuni the Submerged Valley on the Highlands

Alpine wild date-palm called Chiteentu (Phoenix Pussilla)at Ulpuni in Vagaman, May 2019.
Edible and cherished by humans, birds and bears alike. See the darkened ones that are ripened.

Vagaman got its name from the celebrated Vagai blooms from the Sangham or Chankam age onwards like the Kurinji blooms that named the Nilgriris or the blue mountains. Vagai was once the totem tree of certain early clans of the Chera dynasty in Kerala. Vagai Perumtura on the river Perar got its name from this iconic clan tree of the early Cheras in Vanneri. Some of the Vagai trees are still surviving in pockets like Ulupooni or Ulpuni region in Vagaman above 1000 m. They are also called Eeyal Vakai.

‘Eagel-top Ulpuni/Vagaman’ by Ajay Sekher 2019, Acrylic on Canvas. 30*20 cm

Ulpuni means the vessel within. It is a quiet and submersed shola grassland bowl or green shola vessel submerged or anchored within the Vagaman highland plateau. It is a biodiversity hot-spot and is teaming with endemic rare alpine flora and fauna amidst the pressures of plantation, construction and tourism industries.

A Nightjar at Ulpuni in Vagaman around 1000 m above sea level at dusk, May 2019.
A Pipit at Ulpuni in Vagaman near the Palette People Art Residency.
Bonelli’s Eagle soaring high above Ulpuni grassland tops in Vagaman, Early May 2019
Two Bonelli’s Eagles flying together in Ulpuni, Vagaman. May 2019, there were three in this group.
Bonelli’s Eagle above Ulpuni in Vagaman. Early May 2019. Near Palette Art Residency Ulupooni.
A Pipit on the grassland sholas at Ulpuni, Vagaman. May 2019
Dusky Crag Marten in Ulpuni, Vagaman. May 2019. It is nesting there in a building.
The nesting pair of Dusky Crag Marten by the Palette Art Residency building at Ulpuni in Vagaman, May 2019.
Lesser Caucal at Ulpuni in Vagaman, May 2019.
The last remaining patches of shola grasslands in Ulpuni, Vagaman. May 2019
‘Pipit at Ulpuni/Vagaman’ by Ajay Sekher 2019. Acrylic on Canvas. 30*20 cm
Alpine and endemic ferns in the shola relics in Ulpuni, Vagaman. May 2019.
Lichens and mosses on shola trees that absorb water and create streams and springs in Ulpuni, Vagaman, May 2019.
Wild guava groves and fruits aplenty on the western ghats. Ulpuni in Vagaman. May 2019
Ficus (Kallal) shoots in dew at Ulpuni, Vagaman. May 2019
Vagai (Albizia) blooms from which Vagaman got its name at Ulpuni, Vagaman, May 2019.
A shola shrub in bloom at Ulpuni, Vagaman. May 2019.
Crested Serpent Eagle above Ulpuni grasshills in Vagaman, May 2019.
Construction and plantation erasing the shola forests forever, causing the climatic change on the western ghats grassland sholas at Ulpuni, Vagaman. The local bodies and people must show caution against such large scale alterations in the geography and ecology at large.
‘Beast Fable -Kottamala/Ulpuni’ by Ajay Sekher 2019. Pen and Oil Pastel on Paper 10*20 cm
A Pipit at Ulpuni in Vagaman, May 2019
Ulpuni grassland shola valley from the grassland top (Motta) near Palette People Art Residency (see the two green roofs below), early May 2019. Palette may be reached at 9142243866 (Mr Cyril Kochi). 8km from Vagaman town.