For long I have longed for armchair birding. Two main reasons for that are I am lazy. In case if you were looking for second reason, you must realize that I am too lazy to articulate the other one. Yes, I know I run the risk of being disowned if I keep making jokes like that. Anywho, when I was researching my destinations, I had planned to spend some time at Ganeshgudi. This place has promised to be all that I was looking for. I wanted a place away from it all, rustic, with good food (I cant let go of some of the things) and a place that could be hiding an adventure at any corner. All that in my mind. However keeping in mind how my relaxed Goa birding involved trudging around with gear, I was a bit skeptic.
Pankaj Lad had arranged for me to be dropped to Ganeshgudi. It was a 2-3 hours journey with mostly okay road condition. Deteriorating road conditions indicated that we might have entered a new state. At one point we saw a huge population of bats taking off to the sky. This is a mystery to me and I am still waiting for someone to give me a clue. May be a bat sanctuary (Bhimgad WLS??) or may be secret entrence to the lair of the Dark Knight. Who can tell..
After entering Ganeshgudi, we took the turn for JLR’s Old Magazine House. The path leading to the OMH was bad, beyond bad for the cars. We were worried that it might break something for vehicles driving over it. However we reached without any incident. At the reception, we were greeted by Parshuram who sorted out my cottage and other formalities. Even while signing the register, I rushed to a shrub nearby to click a Flame Throated Bulbul. That got the staff breaking into a knowing smile. Little did I know that I was behaving like a kid in candy store. Light was fading and I was treated to the famed bird show at the birdbaths. Browncheeked fulvettas, dark fronted babblers, Orange rock thrushes… I gotta stop. I am getting ahead of myself. That night when I went off to sleep, I was glad that I finally came to Ganeshgudi.
The cottages in OMH are rustic and I hope JLR does not change them in the name of renovation. They provide a clean bed, water heater, fan and light. If you compare them against Kabini, they will not score in luxury (yes, I think Kabini is a luxury) but ambiance, service, location, surround sound effects in the night, bird life, on foot trekking, white water rafting and economical are the factors that will work for OMH. I believe this is about setting our expectations right. OMH is in an area that receives heavy rains and has tall trees all around, hence the rooms have that moist feeling. Let the doors be open for a while everyday and it works itself out, in my experience. Food is typical and wholesome. I retired to bed quite early and was sleeping soundly till a deer alarm call woke me up. I thought I heard a faint sawing sound too, but slowly I went off to sleep again. This time I woke up to a beautiful note of Malabar whistling thrush. This shy songster then became my morning alarm for all 5 days. However try as much as I want, I never caught a glimpse of this beauty in the open.
Then started the morning activities. Flycatchers and minivets right outside the cottages. Birdbath areas providing non-stop entertainment. In fact there was a certain order to things. If a group of birds are using the bird bath, new visitors would hang around and wait for them to finish. Obviously there were a few exceptions. This turned out to be a place where I can spend whole load of time even today. I would plant myself under the big tree and watch the activity. Also walking around the campus itself resulted into sightings of Blue-caped rockthrush, Paradise Flycatcher, Vardieter Flycatcher, Nuthatches etc. A short walk up the main road further gave us views of Chestnut headed bee-eater, Common Iora, Brown shrike, Bar-winged flycatcher shrike and Rufous woodpecker. Pundalik (one of the JLR naturalists) was excellent at spotting the birds and drawing my attention towards them. We also found a very very obliging Nilgiris flower-pecker on the main road. On the way back to the OMH, Pundalik asked if I heard the leopard call in the night 😀 ..
After spending a leisurely afternoon at the resort, I got a treat at the bird baths with birds visiting there. Whitebellied blue & tickell’s flycatchers, Emrelad doves, Bulbuls (red whiskered, yellow browed and ruby throated), Blue-capped and Orange thrushes, Black-naped monarch, Puff-throated and Dark fronted babblers, Oriental whiteeye and Brown-cheeked fulvettas were the visitors to name a few. Yes, I was glad to be that kid in the candy store. I borrowed the field book (birds of Indian subcontinents) from JLR office. After a quick dinner, I started with sorting and identifying the birds with help of book. I need to get better that IDing the birds. When I got signal, I made a quick call to Santosh as well. As I said earlier, his blog Huchchara Santhe was my guidebook and he himself had given me a lot of guidance for making my trip a success.
When I went off to sleep that night, I was looking forward to getting up for leopard call, but next call I heard was from the Malabar whistling thrush. I had slept straight through the night and have no recollection of it. I would call it a good nights sleep.
To be continued..