Vikas Madhav is doing his 6th grade in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu in India (Southern State). He loves to travel to various places, walk along nature trails, bird watch, and photograph wildlife. His 4 years of traveling has taken him to different places, all in India, such as the Sunderbans – the worlds largest mangrove forest in West Bengal; Pitchavaram, the world’s second largest mangrove forest, in Tamil Nadu; Andhaman; and Nicobar Island, in the Western Ghats. His travels have given him true insight into culture, people, nature, and so on. His dream and aim is to make a discovery in Avian fauna in India (Western Ghats in particular). Spread the message of “Nature Awareness” to as many people as possible.
Malabar Grey Hornbill
Coorg is a hill station located in the southern most districts of the state of Karnataka in Southern India. Coorg is famous for its Coffee, picturesque coffee plantations, and scenic views. It is at an elevation of about 1525 meters above the sea level. It is called a Kodaku – which means “dense forest.” It is a part of the Western Ghats. The Western Ghats are a chain of hills that run from Gujarat in the Northwestern Region to Tamil Nadu in the south. The forest of Coorg is moist evergreen forest. Coorg is set amidst verdant valleys, imposing mountains, and teak wood forests. It is one of the most beautiful hill stations one can visit. Coorg lies on Karnataka’s southwestern end, covering an area of 4,102 square kilometers. The River Cauvery originates here at Talacauvery and is worshipped by the locals.
This place is rich in flora and fauna. It is home to many animals, like elephants, the Indian Bison, and wild boar. As a bird watcher, I give more time to the avian fauna. The evergreen forest is so rich in food that it attracts birds like the Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Parakeet, Scarlet Minivet, Golden-Fronted Leaf Bird, and Vernal’s Hanging Parrot, to mention a few. Among the reptiles, the King Cobra is the longest venomous snake found here. Sighting this magnificent snake is a rarity. The monsoon season is from September to November. In winter, many species of birds can be sighted. During the colonial rule, the forest was denuded, – or deforested, for coffee cultivation on a large scale.
I stayed in a place called Orange County. In Orange County there is a huge, man-made lake near three hundred acre plantations. There is a small forested patch near the lake called the Hornbill patch. As the name suggests, one can find the Malabar Grey Hornbills there. This patch also supports other life forms such as the Dusky Stripped Squirrel. I was fortunate enough to see a squirrel, who totally ignored my presence and was busy collecting nuts. It kept itself busy for the day. It was so fascinating to observe these small mammals go about their day-to-day works with such precision. When I made enquiries about this squirrel, I found that no one had taken a note of this cute creature’s very existence. The people in Orange County and the locals thought it to be the regular Three Stripped Squirrel; on the contrary this was its own species just like the Malabar Giant Squirrel and the Giant Grizzle Squirrel. The natural world has a way of getting used to the fast changes made by man. I could appreciate this as I saw the active life of nature around me, despite the fact that Orange County has been in the process of being converted into coffee plantations for over a quarter of a century.
Our tour guide was Mr.Ganesh, a local from the well known Kurumba tribe. I was told by my grand father that the Kurumbas have a close affinity and association with the Todas and the Badagas of the Niligiris, which again falls in the Western Ghats belt. It was Ganesh who told me the meaning of the word Kurumba – “jungle dwellers.” I did not get to see any other member of the Kurumba tribe besides Ganesh. Small populations of the tribal members are found inside the forest and in the foot hills. Many have mingled with the society. I got to see the tribe through a few wall hangings, which were kept in Orange County.
Female Sun Bird
What I personally liked about Orange County was the coffee lounge. It was like a mega home theater where one could see nature unfolding its story in front of one’s eyes. A repeat show is not possible, a pause is not possible, and a rewind is not possible, but a continuous show is always going on. I was a lucky spectator as I got to see many amazing, action-packed sequences here. The beauty of the coffee lounge is that one gets to see a lot of bird activity without disturbing nature.
White Breasted Water Hen – threat display
I witnessed something extraordinary form the natural world that I would like to mention. From day one, I had been observing a pair of White Breasted Water Hens. During the course of my observation, I saw a threat display by the breeding pair, who were guarding their chicks from any intruder. I have heard of the proverb “to fight tooth and nail,” but I actually got to see “to fight beak and foot” to safeguard ones territory. The intruder was not a mammal, a reptile, or a raptor bird, but from the same species. It was another White-Breasted Water Hen. The intruder gave up after a 30 minute tough fight. It was two against one.
When we went for a walk around the lake, I saw a huge Checkered Keel Back. I think it got its name from its appearance. It had checks on its body and a distinctive black mark on its head. I was lucky because I saw the snake once again the following day. I was told by Mr. Ganesh that this is a resident snake and he has seen it many times.
Checkered Keel Back Snake
Life on a vacation is the best because there is no pressure from school and it escapes the fast-paced city lifestyle. While I was relaxing and enjoying myself, I also got to learn a lot about the different geographical locations that India has. The uniqueness of Western Ghats still mesmerizes me. I got a first hand field experience being with nature and learned things you cannot learn in a classroom setting. I was disturbed to see the forest being converted into agricultural land.