It is definitely a paradise, where else would you be woken up early in the morning by the call of the Malabar whistling thrush. Yes, it is the Old Magazine House forest camp in Ganeshgudi, the birders pardise located on Londa – Dandeli Road. The history of the camp can be traced back to the late seventies, when the mega Kali Hydro Electric Project in Supa came up. This was built for the purpose of storing of ammunitions and dynamite used for the blasting of rocks for the construction of the hydro electric dam. The camp is surrounded by some of the finest moist deciduous forests. These forests support a wonderful assortment of wildlife. One could get completely immersed in the layers of Sal,teak, mango and rosewood trees complemented with shorter trees and evergreen foliage. The forest is filled with fruit bearing trees which provides food for the birds. It is a biodiversity hotspot more known for armchair birding where you do not have to strain yourself for spotting birds. An ideal location for a family outing where there is so much greenery and wild life around.
The bird baths near the dining area is the main attraction. A flock of stern looking dark fronted babblers come and have a dip in this bath. When suddenly there are hushed tones of whispers and you turn around to see a white rumped Shama makes an appearance the smaller birds dissappear then the Shama steps in to take a dip. It is interesting to observe how some birds wait for their turn to have dips in the bird bath. Community bath is also prevalent here where different species of birds come together to have a dip.
The Racket tailed drongo, Blue naped monarch, Indian pitta, Emerald dove,Vernal hanging parrot,Ruby throated bulbul and Blue capped rock thrush are regular entertainers in the migrant season.Birding is complete when one sights the Malabar trogan couple . There is excitement in the air when the Malabar squirrel jumps from one tree to the other. All this drama can be observed by just sitting on a chair sipping tea or having lunch. The kids get excited when a green vine snake slithers down a tree. A colorful caterpillar keeps them occupied when the elders are busy watching birds and butterflies. The malabar pit viper on one of the trees offers enough distraction to feed a child who otherwise would be glued to the television.
The tarantula spider’s nest is indeed fascinating as to how it has managed to scoop out a hole on one of the side walls away from the ground. One manages to get a peep of this scary spider.Lying on the hammock after lunch one can savour the sounds of the Woodpecker and the gentle rustling of the leaves. One could keep gazing at the magnificent ceylon oak tree with different shades of red glistening leaves. When a Red Helen and the Southern birdwing flies past you gracefully, the hammock is abandoned as one does not want to miss out any drama that happens in this place. The Blue mormon which could be easily mistaken for a bird by its size enthralls one when it chases its pair and disappears in the greenery to suddenly appear again.
The Lacewing’s stunning wing pattern sets one to ponder about the intricate patterns in butterflies. It is indeed a wholesome experience where one gets to experience wildlife at such close quarters in the pristine forest.
The link to the article on Ganeshgudi which appeared in The Traveller – Hindu.
The Noctuidae or owlet moths are a family of robustly-built moths . Most have dull fore wings, Although some have brightly coloured hindwings. There are usually few differences between the sexes. The noctuids fly at night and are almost invariably strongly attracted to light. Many are also attracted to sugar and nectar rich flowers.
A moth’s eyes, like a human’s eyes, contain light sensors and adjust according to the amount of light the sensors detect. A moth’s dark-adapting mechanism responds much more slowly than its light-adapting mechanism. Once the moth comes close to a bright light, it might have a hard time leaving the light since going back into the dark renders it blind for so long.
Some of the family are preyed upon by bats. However, many Noctuidae species have tiny organs in their ears which responds to bat echolocation calls, sending their wing muscles into spasm and causing the moths to move erratically. This aids the moths in evading the bats.
Moth caterpillars are often more attractive than the adult, this caterpillar which belongs to the Tinolius species (Noctuidae family ) being a good example. We found this awesome caterpillar in Ganeshgudi. It was moving in a very odd manner . It was curling its body to move.
This is an Erebus hieroglyphica female moth belongs to the same family Noctuidae. It is an owlet moth, the largest family of moths in the world, with maybe 100,000 species. These eye spots mimic the eyes of an owl or other nocturnal bird of prey. When the moth is disturbed by an enemy, it will suddenly flash the eyespots by opening the wings in an intimidation display. This serves to frighten predators away. Eyespots on the wings of butterflies and moths usually occur on the hindwings and are tucked away from view until needed.
Many species of owlet moths have become major pest of agricultural crops . With their enormous appetite they can cause serious damage to plants. Many owlet moth caterpillars are commonly called cutworms. These larvae feed in the underground on the roots and the lower stems of plants, cutting right through the plant killing it outright.
Photo credits : Anirudh Kannan
Species id credit : Guru-G, H.M.Yeshwanth ,Ashok Sengupta and Peter Smetacek.
The Old Magazine House at Ganeshgudi is located on Londa – Dandeli Road. The entire camp is covered with thick tree-growth constituting the Reserve Forest, which is out of bounds for the general public.The camp is surrounded by some of the finest moist deciduous forests. These forests support a fine assortment of wildlife.It is a biodiversity hotspot more known for armchair birding of birds where you do not have to strain yourself for spotting birds.
After I started buttering ( Butterfly watching) this was my first trip to Ganeshgudi, I realised that it is a treasure trove for butterflies too. Southern birdwings, Red Helens and Blue mormons, Cruisers and Lacewings ,Malabar tree nymphs flutter by so gracefully past you, it is a treat to watch them . Some images below show a snapshot of the trip.
The Blue mormon was nectaring on lantana . The flight of this butterfly is a treat to watch.The blue mormon has a rapid unidirectional flight and frequently changes course, hopping up and down in its flight path.The Blue Mormon is an important pollinator of Cardamom .
The eye-like markings on the forewings of the Glad eye bush brown butterfly appear to wink at the observer when it flicks open it’s wings.
Cruiser butterflies came by their name due to their robust flying and soaring abilities, allowing the species to propagate over long distances, even across the oceans of the Indo-Australian region. Their wings, spanning nearly 2.5 inches, are covered with both scales and fur. While males are more commonly seen on the ground or flying low, patrolling for mates along edge habitat, females achieve greater heights, even laying eggs at more than 5,000 feet in the tropical rainforest canopy.
Like many species, cruisers utilize mimicry and camouflage to reduce the risk of predation. All Vindula species possess one or two pairs of small, circular “eyespots” on the rear of each hindwing. Eye spots have been shown to reduce susceptibility to predators, not by mimicking the eyes of larger animals as once thought, but by startling predators with the conspicuousness of the spots.
The Lacewing dazzled in the sunlight. One of the brilliantly colored butterflies. The intricate patterns on it justifies the name lacewing.
The Southern Birdwing is the largest endemic butterfly found in southern India. It looks more like a bird flying due to its huge wingspan, it is seen sailing as high as 30 to 40 feet over the countryside. It flies in a leisurely manner circling around jungle clearings and also frequents hill-tops.
We found Red Helen and Malabar raven mud puddling. Males seem to benefit from the sodium uptake through mud-puddling behaviour with an increase in reproductive success. The collected sodium and amino acids are often transferred to the female with the spermatophore during mating as a nuptial gift. This nutrition also enhances the survival rate of the eggs.
The list of butterflies seen are
Red Helen (Papilio helenus)
Tamil Lacewing (Cethosia nietneri)
Water snowflat (Tagiades litigiosa)
Monkey puzzle (Rathinda amor)
Danaid eggfly (Hypolimnas misippus)
Gladeye bushbrown (Mycalesis patnia)
Common blue bottle (Graphium sarpedon)
Malabar raven ( Papilio dravidarum) Common wanderer (Pareronia valeria)
Restricted demon (Notocrypta curvifascia)
Tawny coster (Acraea terpsicore)
Malabar tree nymph (Idea malabarica)
Common cruiser (Vindula erota)
Common Lascar (Pantoporia hordonia)
Common hedge blue (Acytolepis puspa)
Bamboo tree brown (Lethe europa)
Common rose (Atrophaneura aristolochiae)
Crimson rose (Atrophaneura hector)
Small grass yellow (Eurema brigitta)
Lemon pansy ( Junonia lemonias)
Yellow pansy (Junonia hierta)
Pshyce ( Leptosia nina)
Blue tiger (Tirumala limniace)
Common grass yellow (Eurema hecabe)
Chocolate pansy (Junonia iphita)
Southern birdwing (Troides minos)
Common castor (Ariadne merione)
Common gull ( Cepora nerissa)
Common baron (Euthalia aconthea)
Common sailer (Neptis hylas)
Southern Rustic (Cupha erymanthis)
Common imperial (Cheritra freja)
Common leopard (Phalanta phalantha)
Tailed jay (Graphium agamemnon)
Srilankan Common quaker (Neopithecops zalmora)
Common mormon (Papilio polytes)
Blue mormon (Papilio polymnestor)
Great eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina)
Common peirrot (Castalius rosimon)
Common line blue(Prosotas nora superdates)
Some interesting links about Armchair birding at Ganeshgudi are given below
The link below highlights the importance of butterflies to our Ecosystem
Since I started birding Ganeshgudi was one of my dream destinations . It was a nail biting start for me as I managed to board the train five mins before it started. I had missed to notice that the boarding point was City which was pretty far from my house, I was so desperate that I let Kannan drive as fast as he could. Lakshmi, Deepa, Mohan ,Yash , Harish , Sugandhi and me took the Rani Chennama Express to Londa.From Londa we took a cab to reach Old magazine house Ganeshgudi.
When we reached there and started unpacking our bags, the bird show started and this lasted till we left this place.The Jlr staff here are very knowledgeable and help us in birding. I did not expect to see so many rare birds at such close quarters. Many sightings are etched in my memory.The Naturalist there Mr.Joma helped us in identifying the birds and advised us to stay near the bird bath to see the birds .
White bellied blue flycatcher and brown cheeked fulvetta having bath in the same bird bath.
When we sat down to have lunch this Malabar whistling thrush came to pose for us. This was my first sighting of this beautiful bird.It stood and sang for us. It was a mind-blowing display of music and beauty.Believe me you can never have your meal at a stretch ,with so many birds coming to this bird bath .
This dainty looking emerald dove stole our hearts.
This fig tree was a magnet for birds,this Eurasian golden oriole was feeding on this fig, no wonder its lips is the colour of the fig.
I have always wondered how this paradise fly-catcher will reach its tail for preening itself, this one cleared my doubt by having a dip in the bird bath and preening itself.
This delicate female of the white bellied fly-catcher came to have its bath .
This blue capped rock thrush enthralled us with its display.The blue capped rock thrush, white bellied blue fly-catcher and the emerald dove were declared common species as all our team members had many good clicks .
The dark fronted babbler preening itself after its bath.
Frankly speaking my heart lost a few beats seeing this veriditor fly-catcher come and have bath .
The Indian Pitta put up a show for us. We saw it mostly on the ground and it sat for a short while on the bird bath to take a sip.
Racket tailed drongo comes to the birdbath to have a sip of water. Never expected that I would see this one so close.
It was past afternoon after this enthralling session of birding some of us decided to rest,Some went back to the rooms to take a nap.I took a long trek to see more birds,all we saw was a racket tailed drongo and a veriditer fly-catcher,little did we realise that we would see them in the later afternoon at the bird baths . I wanted to lie on the hammock and savour the sounds of the trees and the birds, But the birds there never let you rest.Lying on the hammock, I spotted a heart spotted woodpecker , a velvet fronted nuthatch and a racket tailed drongo. I still remember the sounds of the hornbills , they sound so human as if somebody is giggling , really we started giggling at our own jokes .
We found the white bellied blue fly catcher come to the bird bath more frequently than the other birds,One of us passed a witty comment ” No wonder that its belly has turned white as it keeps coming every now and then to have bath” !!.
Towards late evening we had a good spread for dinner and a bonfire ,we were entertained by two very good singers Dr. Sugandhi and Deepa Mohan.
It was a memorable trip for me , Want to be back soon to Ganeshgudi with the same group again.