Muthodi and Coorg- A Trip Report

 

Muthodi (Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary)

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I was introduced to Muthodi during the late 1980s. From that time I have been completely smitten by the place and I always would find excuses to go to Muthodi because of this. The forest – its beauty, moods and the variety, the stream – Somavahini, the rustic nature of the place, lack of electricity and the particularly tall bamboo of the Muthodi Range of the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary were among some aspects.

The bamboo would be the first thing anyone visiting Muthodi would notice. In 2002-03 the bamboo after flowering began to wilt away. Subsequently, the place also experienced some bad fires and the dead bamboo got burnt down. One could see a few scars of the fire as one walked the forest. In fact, I can still some of the trees that stood testimony to all that had happened.

Due to a variety of reasons, I had not visited the place for four long years. So I decided to go there during Christmas of 2007. My wife, couple of friends and I planned this long-awaited trip to this enchanted setting. During this visit, if I missed one thing, it was the bamboo! The swaying of the bamboo in the gentle winter breeze, constantly complaining, on a moonlit night would have been a sight to behold; a moment to experience. Otherwise the place was charming as always.

The two days were spent walking about the forests dabbling in a bit of birding, a bit of photography, spending some time by the stream and of course soaking in the beauty of the place. Besides the 60 odd species of birds that we saw and heard, we also enjoyed seeing some of the other denizens of the forest – stately trees, a variety of fungi, the mud walls draped with ferns, some interesting spiders including the last of the Giant Wood Spiders for the season and some butterflies. I bumped into a friend and a knowledgeable wildlifer and shared notes of the “silent” times. Could you ask for more on a holiday?

Some fungi…

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Maiden hair ferns that draped the mud walls…

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…perhaps the last of the Giant Wood Spider for the season.

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I have always associated Muthodi with the diurnal Malabar Giant Squirrel and the nocturnal Flying Squirrel. Being late December, the trees were sparsely clothed. And the Malabar Giant Squirrels were very visible. But the secretive Flying Squirrel was not to be seen on the first night. The following morning was chill and the moonlight was bright. I stepped out of my room and was enjoying the forest bathed in a ghostly light. This was when I caught a fleeting glimpse of the Flying Squirrel. That night, I heard them call. They were perhaps visiting the fig tree that was attracting a lot of birds, Malabar Giant Squirrels and Bonnet Macaques during the day.

We also saw interesting birds like the Greyfronted Green Pigeon, Green Imperial Pigeon, Whitebellied Blue Flycatcher, Brownbreasted Flycatcher, Paradise Flycatcher, Barbets (3 species), Whitebellied Treepie, Racket-tailed Drongo, Malabar Trogon, Malabar Whistling Thrush and many others. But the one bird that stole our hearts was the male Small Sunbird. It would sit in the open and prance about. The plumage catching the sun rays would throw off some brilliant metallic hues.

The second night at Muthodi was chill too. We retired early. Being a light sleeper, I was woken up from time to time by the calling Flying Squirrels. We all finally woke up to the song of the Malabar Whistling Thrush and the soothing sound of water flowing in Somavahini. Soon after breakfast we were ready to leave.

Mercara (Kalluru)

The landscape (a mosaic of fallow fields, coffee estates, and forests)

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Having enjoyed the two days at Muthodi, we packed and were soon on our way to Mercara. The drive was a long one but across some nice landscape. On reaching Mercara, we moved bags to a jeep from the car and set off on some difficult roads to a destination beyond Galibeedu. It was almost dark by the time we decided on a camping site. We quickly pitched a tent and got things ready to cook dinner. Our friends, who are pros at camping in the outdoors, whipped up a simple but tasty dinner.

The sky was absolutely marvellous. I perhaps had never so many stars in one frame for a long time. There was not a wisp of cloud in the sky. By the time we finished dinner, we realised that the stars had vanished. We were enveloped by thick mist that persisted until late the following morning.

The misty morning…

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Spider webs covered with dew were visible as far as the eye could see. The cold did not spare the bugs, dragonflies and spiders. They were almost frozen and would get active when the sun was high enough to thaw them.

The frozen Jumping Spider and …

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… the dragonfly (with our tent in the backdrop);both waiting for the sun to warm them up.

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I had this feeling that we would get to see a good number of butterflies. And, when we went out post breakfast, my hunch turned out to be right. We did see a good number of butterflies. The list included the Map, Blue Tiger, Glassy Tiger, Dark Blue Tiger, Common Spotted Flat, Malabar Flat, Lascar, Southern Rustic, Common Albatross, Painted Sawtooth, Line Blues, Pea Blue and many more. At this point, we were joined by a couple of friends who are fond of the outdoors and camping.

Our route took us past some cultivated fields and we were to enter into some good evergreen forests. The tall trees were inviting.

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Before we could enter the forest, we had to cross a stream. There was plenty of butterfly activity here. Mudpuddling Bluebottles, Club Beaks and Maps were a treat to watch. And, so was the Cruiser feeding off a dead crab. The Sunbeam was seen sunning itself. As we walked through the forest, we disturbed several Bushbrowns and Evening browns. As we walked along we saw a whole variety of plants including some tree ferns.

Frond of a Tree Fern

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After a gradual climb, the path opened out to a meadow only to be welcomed by the Common Birdwing. The vista was quite spectacular the rolling hills and valleys extending into the horizon. While resting in the shade, the Black Eagles put on a show of their effortless flying abilities. We admired the forest as we walked back towards the camp. We rested awhile and it was again time to cook some hot dinner.

The following day saw us waking up to a misty morning. We made some tea, lazed about, had breakfast and packed. Soon we were on out way back to Mercara and on to Bangalore. It had been a wonderful experience and a memorable vacation.

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