Bandipur diaries 5

Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta, at about 1450 m, is the highest hill located within the Bandipur National Park, and filled with fog through the year. It gets its name from the fog (Himavad in Kannada) and the Gopalaswamy temple that is located on the top of the hill (Betta in Kannada).

Those visiting the national park to see the wildlife usually make the trip up the hill, to see the temple. If one stays at Jungle Lodges & Resorts (JLR) for a two-day package, a trip to the temple is included and you will be taken in the government safari Bolero or bus. If you prefer to go in your own vehicle, you will be allowed till the foothills after which you will be put onto a government bus to take you to the top.

It is a nice drive up the hill, and if you are lucky, you may see elephants or other animals of the forest. Along the way, there are points from which one can get lovely views of the area around the forest.

View from the hill
Lots of trees, water bodies, and we spotted an elephant also
A view of the hills in Bandipur
A view of the hills in Bandipur
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Bandipur diaries 4

While driving through the forest, we spend a lot of time in seeing just trees and grass and mud and water. The bouncy ride can rock you to sleep, especially if you haven’t had a good night’s rest. Sometimes one can only hear the whirring of the Bolero engine, and when it goes off there is just silence. Seeing and hearing no “active” life is also soothing. It’s the feel of the wild.

Ant hills
Ant hills
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Bandipur diaries 2

“Any sighting today?” is a common question after a jungle safari. By “sighting” one usually means the tiger. In our desire to spot the tiger in Bandipur, we often overlook the amazing smaller creatures.

The vast Jungle Lodges & Resorts (JLR) campus itself is home to many birds. On our arrival, we could hear the distinct chirp of the sunbirds as they hopped all over the banyan tree at the entrance.

Purple-rumped sunbirds
Purple-rumped sunbirds
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Bandipur diaries 1

Bandipur Forest has been a family favourite ever since my children were little. We usually drove to Bandipur from Bangalore, pausing at Mysore for a break on the way. The last couple of times though, we took the train to Mysore, and then road (either bus or taxi) to Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) at Bandipur, where we always stay. From Mysore, the bus service to Ooty is very convenient with the bus halting, on request, right at the gate of JLR.

This new year, we were fortunate to be able to go for a couple of days during the week just before Sankranti (12th-14th Jan 2023), and off the peak holiday season, when there are fewer visitors to JLR and Bandipur Tiger Reserve / National Park.

About Bandipur Tiger Reserve board at JLR
Board at JLR
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Navratri Colours of Nature

Happy Dasara / Dussehra and may good win over all the evil in this world.

(Received on Whatsapp)

Leading upto Dasara is Navratri, where people worship different forms of Goddess Durga over 9 nights (hence “Nav ratri”). At the start of Navratri, everyone looks out for the colour that signifies each day of the 9 days.

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Purple pursuits

World Migratory Bird Day is celebrated twice a year, on the second weekend of May and October, to raise awareness of migratory birds and the need for international cooperation to conserve them. So today, 9th October, is the day. Migratory birds are a clear example of how the world is so closely connected and how everyone plays a role in conserving our ecosystems. Something happening in the harsh cold of Europe can affect us here in India, through the passage of these resilient creatures. We currently haven’t encountered any of the migratory birds in our limited urban space in Kandivali East, but realise that our local resident birds are very important too, and we must ensure that we do not destroy their habitats.

When you think purple, which birds come to mind? Having lived near a lake in Bangalore, the Purple Heron and Purple Swamphen are the ones I immediately used to think of. These days, it’s the Purple-rumped Sunbird (Leptocoma zeyonica), found only in the Indian sub-continent, and a resident of our park.

Distribution of purple-rumped sunbird
(Source: Wikipedia)

Tiny at just about 10 cm, and very light, weighing about 10 grams, the sunbirds are delight to watch – if you can keep track of them.

Purple-rumped Sunbird
The male is very colourful, appearing in different shades as the sun shines on it – purple above the tail (which is how it gets its name), maroon, red, brown, green, blue, black, yellow, white.
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Butterflies in our complex

[This post was updated with new sightings till December 2021. A total of 38 species were identified.]

All of us have surely encountered butterflies at some point in time (apart from the butterflies in our stomachs!). We learn about them in primary school. Sometimes they fly into us and make us jump. Often we see them just flutter by, so quick that we can’t even give them a second glance.

Ever since lockdown, we haven’t really been anywhere in Mumbai. No restaurants, no malls, no parks – except for the park in our Whispering Palms Complex, that is usually quite empty. Over the last few months during our daily walks, we looked forward to seeing the different birds in our backyard. More recently though, we noticed the many different butterflies – not surprising, given the sprawling gardens with abundance of trees and flowers, some wild and some nurtured.

Great Eggfly butterfly
Great Eggfly male sucking out nectar
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Birds in our backyard

One of my earlier posts was about some of the purple and pink flowers currently seen in our Whispering Palms Complex. Where there are trees and flowers, there will be birds and other living creatures!

Over the last few weeks we’ve been trying to catch some afternoon sun between the rains, and in the process, we’ve become more aware of the presence of the birds in the campus. The silence during lockdown has made the bird sounds more audible and we try to search them out in the direction of their calls. Many of the birds have their favourite trees and branches, so these days, we look out for them at the same spots, and usually they’re somewhere around there. [Now we know how the guides on jungle safaris know exactly where to stop to show you certain animals.]

Some of the birds sit still for extended periods of time, and even if they fly off, they return to the same place. Like the Coppersmith Barbet that allowed me to go all the way back home to pick up my camera.

Coppersmith barbet
Coppersmith barbet
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Purples and pinks

During our daily afternoon walks, we can’t but notice the hundreds of types of flowers just within our campus. Some have been specifically planted and are lovingly nurtured, but there are many that don’t need any special attention. Just the rain and sun.

The basic construct of a flower is pretty standard, but flowers are found in a variety of sizes, shapes, scents and shades. The range of colours is quite amazing, and this, along with the fragrance, is what attracts birds and insects (and humans as well) to flowers. While the green in flowers comes from chlorophyll, the other colours come from two classes of pigments – anthocyanins and carotenoids. The purples and pinks are a result of anthocyanins.

Here are some of the purples and pinks in varying shades in our campus.

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