Tag Archives: Vazhachal

Raining Hornbills and Elaphants: Riparian Rain Forests of Vazhachal and Atirapally

Malabar Pied Hornbills at Vazhachal, across the river above the canopy. 8 June 2019

The low-lying riparian or riverine forests of Vazhachal and Atirapally are home to four species of Hornbills in Kerala: Great Indian, Malabar Pied, Indian Grey and Malabar Grey Hornbills. The resonant calls and wing beats of these huge birds make these rain forests ethereal, sensational and dynamic with vibrant life energy. It has a micro climate and its own unique rain oriented forest ecosystem that is to be admired, studied and conserved.

Southern Bird-wing Butterfly on Gulmohar at Vazhachal

After the floods in August 2018 the river Cholayar or Chalakudipuzha originating from Sholayar and Malakkapara, is gaining its lost sand beds and natural beauty. It is one of the most diverse biodiversity hotspots in the lower foothills of the Western Ghats in central Kerala.

Mother and calf in the river Cholayar, through the thickets darkly

It is also part of an important cultural corridor between ancient Tamilakam and Keralam. The trading and travelling groups used the pathways along the river in summer to cross the Western Ghats. The current tribal settlement or Kudi of Kadar tribes in Vazhachal is a resettlement after the Parambikulam dam construction in the 1940s.

Black-tipped Forest Glory damselfly at Vazhachal; 8 June 2019

Vazhachal literally means the stream of the plantain. It could be related to the abundance of wild plantain or some wild trees locally called Vazha in the surrounding riparian forests. It is still a favorite hound of elephants and Hornbills.

Malabar Pied Hornbills across the river Cholayar on a wild fig at Vazhachal, 8 June 2019.

Atirapally literally means the Pally on the frontier or border. It is one of the ancient Buddhist sites on the border land between Kerala and Tamil country. Beyond Atirapally towards Malakkapara above upper Sholayar we have a place called Manampally or Manambolly that denotes a Vihara up above the skies. It was once, one of the highest points on the ancient cultural route that housed a Buddhist Pally.

One on the left guards as the mother and calf are having some water in river Cholayar, at Vazhchal

The abundance of birds and mammals is still luring the curious visitors and travelers to this dense and moist forests of Vazhachal. In morning we may see the Great Indian Hornbills on fig trees in fruition. At dusk we would see a pair of Malabar Pied Hornbills chasing and playing with each other flying and diving from tree to tree and sometimes across the river. The crossing of the great birds may be visible at the old British iron bridge as well.

A playing pair of Malabar Pied Hornbills at Vazhachal, across the river above the conopy.

This biodiversity hotspot needs to be conserved for future and the posterity. The lessons of the 2018 floods must teach us to be careful and conservationist regarding the vernal forests and sources of life giving water, air and earth.

Mother and calf in perfect camouflage in the rocky river Cholayar at Vazhachal after the floods2018, 8 June 2019. The floods exposed the ribs of the river, it requires time to heal the wounds of the floods.

Black Eagle of Atirapally: Birding the Birthday of the Birdman 2013

Black Eagle at Atirapally in the after noon of 10 Nov 2013. Below the waterfall. Taken astride on the bike.

Black Eagle at Atirapally in the after noon of 10 Nov 2013. Below the waterfall. Taken astride on the bike.

Temminck's Stints at Puzhakal Kol, 10 Nov 2013.

Temminck’s Stints at Puzhakal Kol, 10 Nov 2013.

 

Spotted or Wood Sandpiper at Puzhakal Kol, 10 Nov 2013

Spotted or Wood Sandpiper at Puzhakal Kol, 10 Nov 2013

Black-winged Stilt and Sandpipers at Pullazhi Kol, 10 Nov 2013.

Black-winged Stilt and Sandpipers at Pullazhi Kol, 10 Nov 2013.

Malabar Giant Squirrel at Vazhachal Bridge, 10 Nov 2013.

Malabar Giant Squirrel at Vazhachal Bridge, 10 Nov 2013.

Adat Kol wetland on the morning of 10 Nov 2013.

 

M G Squirrel at Vazhachal Bridge.

M G Squirrel at Vazhachal Bridge.

Malabar Grey Hornbill at Peringalkuthu. 10 Nov 2013. On the return journey shot from the bike again.

Malabar Grey Hornbill at Peringalkuthu. 10 Nov 2013. On the return journey shot from the bike again.

White-bellied Woodpecker at Peringalkuthu. 10 Nov 2013.

White-bellied Woodpecker at Peringalkuthu. 10 Nov 2013.

Yellow-browed Bulbul at Anakayam. 10 Nov 2013.

Yellow-browed Bulbul at Anakayam. 10 Nov 2013.

Rufous-bellied Eagle near Peringalkuthu. 10 Nov 2013.

Rufous-bellied Eagle near Peringalkuthu. 10 Nov 2013.

Nilgiri Langurs or Karimanti at Sholayar pass. 10 Nov 2013.

Nilgiri Langurs or Karimanti at Sholayar pass. 10 Nov 2013.

Bonnet Macaques preening at Vazhachal Bridge, 10 Nov 2013.

Bonnet Macaques preening at Vazhachal Bridge, 10 Nov 2013.

Black Eagle @ Atirapally

Black Eagle @ Atirapally

 

I started from Thrissur and through Puzhakal and Pullazhi Kol wetlands reached Adat Kol.  Plenty of Spotted Sandpipers and a few Golden Plovers and Stints were seen. Marsh Harriers and Raptors were missing in the Kol.  Last year there were plenty of them, even Booted Eagles were here last season.

Then went to Atirapally, Vazhachal, Peringalkuthu and Sholayar the origin of Cholayar or river Chalakudy around 1000m above sea level.  I was fortunate to see and shoot the Black Eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle and White-bellied Black Woodpecker.  Nilgiri Langurs and Malabar Giant Squirrels were also seen. Bonnet Macaques are really straying all along the road.  Family groups are feeding and pampering them in gross violation of the law.  These sedan parties are also leaving huge garbage and plastic toxic waste in the last remaining patches of low lying rain forests in the Western Ghats which is home to all the four types of hornbills in South India.  The forest dept guys who allow them in must check their eating and drinking.  Most of the so called family picnic parties are bringing alcoholic drinks and leaving their toxic wastes in the biodiversity hotspots.

Also heard the call of a Serpent Eagle at Tumburmuzhy at noon.  Some Common Albatross butterflies were seen there mud-puddling.  a lonely Chocolate Albatross was also in the group. Blue Tigers and Common Crows were aplenty.   The newly rubberized road is a biker’s delight.    A few Malabar Grey Hornbills also showed up on the return journey.  Reached Abad at Nedumbasery at 7.15pm and returned to Thrissur after the meeting and dinner.

 

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