Southern India (Kerala and Tamil Nadu) December 2007

Published by André Weiss Pryde (andre_weiss AT

Participants: André Weiss Pryde


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

 Sri Lana Frogmouth
Sri Lana Frogmouth
Brown Shrike
Brown Shrike
Blue-capped Rock Thrush
Blue-capped Rock Thrush
Painted Stork
Painted Stork
Yellow-billed Babbler
Yellow-billed Babbler

I visited South India in December 2007 for the third time. Like the visits before it wasn’t only a birding trip. With my wife I also visited friends and enjoyed South Indian culture. However 5 days in Kerala were pure birding and I also made some trips around Pondicherry (our base) and to Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary and Pulicat Lake.

11.12. Thattekad
12.12. Thattekad
13.12. Thattekad
14.12. Munnar
15.12. Eravikulam and Bodi Ghats
20.12. Lake Ousteri
21.12 Kaliveli Tank and Yeduyanthittu estuary
23.12. Lake Ousteri
30.12. Pulicat Lake
31.12. Vedanthangal

I recorded a total of 248 species of which 58 were new for me. During the five days with my guide Eldhose we saw most of the South Indian endemics and a good range of mammals, including the endangered Nilgiri Thar.


11th December: Thattekad
I arrived in the morning at Cochin Airport and met my driver Babu. We arrived at Hornbill Camp in time for a nice lunch and some time to rest. In the afternoon I met Eldhose, my guide at the entrance of the Thattekad (or Thattakad) Bird Sanctuary.

First we explored the sanctuary. Just after the entrance Eldhose showed me a roosting Brown Hawk Owl. The first endemic I spotted was a Malabar Parakeet, followed by two Malabar Grey Hornbills. We also found a male Blue-throated Flycatcher, a Black Baza and a Sri Lanka Frogmouth, sitting motionless in a bush. A flock of White-bellied Treepies passed through noisily.
South of the river we followed the track to Eldhose’s house, where we could observe a pair of Red Spurfowls. Two roosting Mottled Wood Owls were harrassed by some Chestnut-tailed Starlings of the South Indian subspecies blythii.

Finally we spent some time around the radar of the Cochin Airport. We saw a Streak-throated Woodpecker and heard an Indian Pitta and a Collared Scops Owl.
Sri Lankan Frogmouth Brachostomus moniliger, male

12th December: Thattekad
In the morning we drove to a forest area above Kotampuzha. The ride on the bad track was rewarded with some wonderful, pristine forest. Here we recorded Grey Junglefowl, White-bellied Woodpecker, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Vernal Hanging Parakeet, Indian Swiftlet, Besra, Small and Scarlet Minivet, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Hill Myna, Puff-throated Babbler, Dark-fronted Babbler, Crimson-backed Sunbird and Little Spiderhunter. Giant Squirrel and some Leaches were also noticed, the latter without much enthusiasm.

Before Lunch we found Grey-headed and Yellow-browed Bulbul near the sanctuary.

In the afternoon we paid a second visit to the sanctuary itself. With some effort we found Malabar Trogon, Crested Goshawk and a Blue-faced Malkoha. A Speckled Piculet came as a surprise as it is usually not recored in the sanctuary. As we heard Elephants approaching we had to return.
South of the bridge we explored the area around the radar once more, finding a Jungle Owlet of the rufous southern form. Near the river we managed to attract an Indian Pitta and finally we heard and saw a flying Jerdon’s Nightjar.

13th December: Idamalayar Project Area and Thattekad
Today we made a longer drive to the Idamalayar Project Area. This area is closed but obviously Eldhose is allowed to enter. With a short stop for Plum-headed Parakeets we drove to the Idamalayar dam (also called Edamalayar). Here we noticed Dusky Crag Martins, Indian Swiftlets and White-rumped Swifts. We joined a truck, which brought us up to some good forest. After some time Eldhose heard the call of Indian Scimitar Babbler. We found them and they were together with a group of Wynaad Laughingthrushes! Other birds were Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Rusty-tailed Flycatcher, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch and Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker.

In the afternoon we birded around the airport radar, finding a White-browed Bulbul (rare here) and a Rufous Woodpecker. We passed the sanctuary with the car and walked through some rubber tree plantations to the forest. On a small hill we saw a White-bellied Woodpecker, a Green Imperial Pigeon and a very nice Brown-cheeked Fulvetta. Later we drove past the Hornbill Camp up the river. Just after a Forest Departement checkpost we went a bit uphill and waited for Nightjars. Our patience was rewarded with some good views of a Jerdon’s Nightjar and a Grey Nightjar. Additionally we heard a Great Eared Nightjar.

14th December: Munnar
In the morning we drove to Munnar which we reached in 2,5 hours. Just before Munnar we saw two Rufous Babblers at the roadside. We did some birding at the Cardamom Estate Shola. After some minutes we saw our first Grey-breasted Laughingthrush and some time later Eldhose spotted a Nilgiri Wood Pigeon! We drove onwards to the Olive Brook Hotel where a Malabar Whistling Thrush was sitting outside, singing beautifully.

Later we took the road in direction of Rajamalai (Eravikulam National Park). Just after Munnar we saw Black Bulbuls and Nilgiri Flycatchers. We stayed for some hours in a small Shola. Easily seen were Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Indian Scimitar Babbler and Tytler’s Leaf Warbler. Finally we managed to get a sight of a White-bellied Shortwing and a very brief view of a Black-and-Orange Flycatcher. The dinner at Olive Brooks was excellent.

15th December: Rajamalai and Bodi Ghat
After Breakfast we drove up to Eravikulam National Park. We arrived in time before 8 o’clock to be the firsts in the queue. From the entrance at the 5th mile we took the bus and walked up under the Anamudi, the highest mountain in South India. Grey-breasted Laughingthrushes and Nilgiri Flycatchers were easy to see. After some time we spotted our target: 2 Nilgiri Pipits at close distance. A Nilgiri Tahr far away was a nice additon to the mammal list.
We went back down and started our drive to Bodi Ghat. At the Sterling Hotel we changed our car (from Ambassador to Jeep) and noticed some Pacific Swallows. We drove through thick fog over the pass into Tamil Nadu and down the scary hairpin bends. We started our search for the Yellow-throated Bulbul. We saw a Black Eagle, a Blue-winged Leafbird, many White-browed Bulbuls (their song is very similar to the Yellow-throated), a Hume’s Warbler, a Thick-billed Flowerpecker but no Yellow-throated Bulbul. In the end Eldhose was pretty sure that he heard one, but we failed to see it.

Unfortunately we had to go back and after a rough jeep ride and a long (but comfortable) drive in Babu’s Ambassador it was time to say goodbye to the best guide I ever had. I arrived in time at Cochin Airport and took the flight back to Chennai.
Blue-capped Rock Thrush Monticola cinclorhynchus

20th December: Lake Ousteri
Lake Ousteri is an old artifical lake west of Pondicherry. I spent the morning at the Lake Garden of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. I did some digiscoping and a Grey-bellied Cuckoo, a Black-headed Cuckooshrike and a lonely Spot-billed Pelican were nice additons to the list.

21st December: East Coast Road
With a taxi I drove north along the East Coast Road. Some marshes near Kaliveli Tank and a great saltlagoon at the Yeduyanthittu Estuary harboured ducks and waders. Some Pacific Golden Plover and a Lesser Sand Plover were the highlights among the waders. A Caspian Tern and four Great Crested Terns were a nice sight too.

23th December: Lake Ousteri
With some friends from Pondicherry I visited Lake Ousteri again. First we spotted a lonely Rosy Starling then a Purple Swamphen. A wintering Osprey was a nice surprise.

30th December: Pulicat Lake
Early in the morning I left Chennai, heading for Pulicat Lake in Andhra Pradesh (Taxi including permit for Andhra about 2300 RS). From Sullurpet we took the road to Sriharikota Island. Shortly after Sullurpet we entered birder’s paradise. A large area of swamp and mudflats, holding thousands of birds. Ducks and waders were absolutely abundant.

First I stopped at a marsh to the left where I found Grey-headed Lapwings two years ago. However I had no luck this time. At a drier site I found a mixed flock of Ashy-crowned Finch-larks and Greater Short-toed Larks of the eastern race dukhunensis. Two Jerdon’s Bushlarks also appeared, so did a young male Pallid Harrier and a Pied Cuckoo.

After some stopps for terns I scanned a huge flock of Flamingos near Shriharikota. Among the thousand or so Greater Flamingos I found 4 Lesser Flamingos. At the information centre I took the track south to the island of Venadu. Marsh Sandpipers were common and among the thousands of Little Stints I found a Curlew Sandpiper. Some Lesser Sand Plovers, two Greater Sand Plovers and some Pacific Golden Plovers were present too.

The island itself is much drier. A White-eyed Buzzard surveyed the area and so did a pair of Montagu’s Harriers.

With a day list of 90 species, including 22 Waders I return to Chennai.

31st December: Vedanthangal
Today I left at 5.30 am with a taxi to Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary. We arrived after seven to find the landscape in thick fog. The fog lifted quickly and I did some birding on the road to the sanctuary. There wasn’t much activity but two perching Red-necked Falcons were a very good sight as they are pretty rare in Tamil Nadu. On the spot where I’ve seen Indian Coursers two years ago some workers were building something. A Grey Francolin and a White-eyed Buzzard were the only birds to notice here.

The Sanctuary itself was filled with water. After paying the entrance fee (5Rs, 10 for parking, 25 for the camera) I went up to the dam. The sound background was fantastic. Thousands of birds were breeding in the heronry: Painted Storks, Openbills, Spot-billed Pelicans, Spoonbills, Grey Herons, Black-crowned Night-Herons, Intermediate Egrets, Little Egrets, Cattle Egrets and Little Cormorants. In a big bamboo some Flying Foxes were sleeping.

My trip to Kerala was organised by Thomas Zacharias from Kalypso Adventures in Kerala. He was very helpful and I was very satisfied.

In Thattekad I stayed at the Hornbill Camp where food and view were excellent. The Olive Brooks in Munnar also provided outstanding food. My guide Eldhose was an incredible good birder, I can highly recommend him.

In Pondy I enjoyed birding with Dilip Patel and Atma. Kiran let me generously birding at the Lake Estate of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

In Chennai we stayed with our friend Mahendra. I thank him for his generous hospitality.

More on the internet:
Kalypsoadventures Kerala
Hornbill Camp
Olive Brook Munnar

In the field I used Inskipp, but I also made some copies out of Rasmussen (eg larks, pipits and prinias) who were very helpful at times. All three available guides have their pros and cons.
Grimmett, R., Inskipp C. & Inskipp T. 1999. Pocket Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. Christopher Helm, London.

Kazmierczak K. & Sing R. 1998. A Birdwatcher’s Guide to India. Oxford University Press, New Dehli.

Kazmierczak K. & van Perlo, B. 2000. A Field Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Rasmussen, P.C. & Anderton, J.C. 2005. Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide. Vols. 1 and 2. Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Editions, Washington, D.C. and Barcelona.

Species Lists

This list follows Grimmet, Inskipp and Inskipp in order and names.

1. Grey Francolin Francolinus pondicerianus
2. Red Spurfowl Galloperdix spadicea
3. Grey Junglefowl Gallus sonneratii
4. Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus
5. Lesser Whistling Duck Dendorcygna javanica
6. Cotton Pygmy-Goose Nettapus coromandelianus
7. Gadwall Anas strepera
8. Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
9. Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha
10. Common Teal Anas crecca
11. Garganey Anas querquedula
12. Northern Pintail Anas acuta
13. Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
14. Speckled Piculet Picumnus innominatus
15. Rufous Woodpecker Celeus brachyurus
16. White-bellied Woodpecker Dryocopus javensis
17. Heart-spotted Woodpecker Hemicircus canente
18. Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopus nanus
19. Lesser Yellownape Picus chlorolophus
20. Streak-throated Woodpecker Picus xanthopygaeus
21. Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium benghalense
22. Greater Flameback Chrysocolaptes lucidus
23. Brown-headed Barbet Megalaima zeylanica
24. White-cheeked Barbet Megalaima viridis
25. Crimson-fronted Barbet Megalaima rubricapilla
26. Malabar Grey Hornbill Ocyceros griseus
27. Common Hoopoe Upupa epops
28. Malabar Trogon Harpactes erythrocephalus
29. Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis
30. Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis
31. Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
32. White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis
33. Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
34. Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis
35. Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus
36. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater Merops leschenaulti
37. Pied Cuckoo < I>Clamator jacobinus
38. Common Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx varius
39. Grey-bellied Cuckoo Cacomantis passerinus
40. Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus
41. Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris
42. Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea
43. Blue-faced Malkoha Phaenicophaeus viridirostris
44. Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis
45. Vernal Hanging Parrot Loriculus vernalis
46. Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri
47. Plum-headed Parakeet Psittacula cyanocephala
48. Malabar Parakeet Psittacula columboides
49. Indian Swiftlet Collocalia unicolor
50. White-rumped Needletail Zoonavena sylvatica
51. Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis
52. House Swift Apus affinis
53. Crested Treeswift Hemiprocne coronata
54. Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia
55. Collared Scops Owl Otus bakkamoena
56. Mottled Wood Owl Strix ocellata
57. Jungle Owlet Glaucidium radiatum
58. Spotted Owlet Athene brama
59. Brown Hawk Owl Ninox scutulata
60. Sri Lanka Frogmouth Batrachostomus moniliger
61. Great Eared Nightjar Eurostopodus macrotis
62. Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus indicus
63. Jerdon’s Nightjar Caprimulgus atripennis
64. Feral Pigeon Columba livia f. domesticus
65. Nilgiri Wood Pigeon Columba elphinstonii
66. Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea
67. Mountain Imperial Pigeon Ducula badia
68. Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis
69. Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
70. Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
71. Pompadour Green Pigeon Treron pompadora
72. White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus
73. Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
74. Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
75. Common Coot Fulica atra
76. Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
77. Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
78. Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
79. Common Redshank Tringa totanus
80. Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
81. Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
82. Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
83. Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
84. Common Sandpiper Acitis hypoleucos
85. Little Stint Calidris minuta
86. Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii
87. Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
88. Ruff Philomachus pugnax
89. Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
90. Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
91. Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus
92. Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
93. Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
94. Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
95. Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
96. Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus
97. Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii
98. Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus
99. Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus
100. Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
101. Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica
102. Caspian Tern Sterna caspia
103. Great Crested Tern Sterna bergii
104. Common Tern Sterna hirundo
105. Little Tern Sterna albifrons
106. Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
107. Osprey Pandion haliaetus
108. Black Baza Aviceda leuphotes
109. Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus
110. Black Kite Milvus migrans
111. Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus
112. Short-toed Snake Eagle Circaetus gallicus
113. Black Eagle Ictinaetus malayensis
114. Eurasian Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
115. Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus
116. Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargus
117. Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus
118. Shikra Accipiter badius
119. Besra Accipiter virgatus
120. Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus
121. White-eyed Buzzard Butastur teesa
122. Changeable Hawk Eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus
123. Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
124. Red-necked Falcon Falco chicquera
125. Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
126. Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
127. Darter Anhinga melanogaster
128. Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger
129. Little Egret Egretta garzetta
130. Great Egret Casmerodius albus
131. Intermediate Egret Mesophoyx intermedia
132. Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
133. Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii
134. Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
135. Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
136. Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
137. Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber
138. Lesser Flamingo Phoenicopterus minor
139. Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
140. Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus
141. Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
142. Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis
143. Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala
144. Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans
145. Indian Pitta Pitta brachyura
146. Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis
147. Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons
148. Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
149. Bay-backed Shrike Lanius vittatus
150. Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach
151. Rufous Treepie Dendrocitta vagabunda
152. White-bellied Treepie Dendrocitta leucogastra
153. House Crow Corvus splendens
154. Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos
155. Ashy Woodswallow Artamus fuscus
156. Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
157. Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis
158. Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus
159. Black-headed Cuckooshrike Coracina melanoptera
160. Small Minivet Pericrocotus cinnamomeus
161. Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus
162. Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus
163. Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus
164. Bronzed Drongo Dicrurus aeneus
165. Spangled Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus
166. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus
167. Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea
168. Asian Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi
169. Common Iora Aegithina tiphia
170. Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis gularis
171. Common Woodshrike Tephrodornis pondicerianusats
172. Blue-capped Rock Thrush Monticola cinclorhynchus
173. Malabar Whistling Thrush Myophonus horsfieldii
174. Orange-headed Thrush Zoothera citrina
175. Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula
176. White-belllied Shortwing Brachypteryx major
177. Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica
178. Rusty-tailed Flycatcher Muscicapa ruficauda
179. Brown-breasted Flycatcher Muscicapa muttui
180. Black-and-orange Flycatcher Ficedula nigrorufa
181. Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassina
182. Nilgiri Flycatcher Eumyias albicaudata
183. White-belllied Flycatcher Cyornis pallipes
184. Blue-throated Flycatcher Cyornis rubeculoides
185. Indian Blue Robin Luscinia brunnea
186. Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis
187. Indian Robin Saxicoloides fulicata
188. Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata
189. Chestnut-tailed Starling Sturnus malabaricus
190. Brahminy Starling Sturnus pagodarum
191. Rosy Starling Strunus roseus
192. Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
193. Jungle Myna Acridotheres fuscus
194. Hill Myna Gracula religiosa
195. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis
196. Great Tit Parus major
197. Dusky Crag Martin Hirundo concolor
198. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
199. Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
200. Red-rumped Swallow Hirdundo daurica
201. Grey-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus priocephalus
202. Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotus melanicterus
203. Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus
204. Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer
205. White-browed Bulbul Pycnonotus luteolus
206. Yellow-browed Bulbul Iole indica
207. Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus
208. Grey-breasted Prinia Prinia hodgsonii
209. Plain Prinia Prinia inornata
210. Ashy Prinia Prinia socialis
211. Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus
212. Thick-billed Warbler Acrocephalus aedon
213. Booted Warbler Hippolais caligata
214. Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
215. Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius
216. Tickell’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus affinis
217. Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides
218. Large-billed Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus magnirostris
219. Tytler’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus tytleri
220. Western Crowned Warbler Phylloscopus occipitalis
221. Wynaad Laughingthrush Garrulax delesserti
222. Grey-breasted Laughingthrush Garrulax jerdoni
223. Puff-throated Babbler Pellorneum ruficeps
224. Indian Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus horsfieldii
225. Dark-fronted Babbler Rhopocichla atriceps
226. Rufous Babbler Turdoides subrufus
227. Jungle Babbler Turdoides striatus
228. Yellow-billed Babbler Turdoides affinis
229. Brown-cheeked Fulvetta Alcippe poioicephala
230. Jerdon’s Bushlark Mirafra affinis
231. Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark Eremopterix grisea
232. Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla
233. Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula
234. Thick-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum agile
235. Plain Flowerpecker Dicaeum concolor
236. Crimson-backed Sunbird Nectarinia minima
237. Purple Sunbird Nectarinia asiatica
238. Loten’s Sunbird Nectarinia loteni
239. Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra
240. House Sparrow Passer domesticus
241. Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus
242. White-browed Wagtail Motacilla maderaspatensis
243. Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
244. Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
245. Paddyfield Pipit Anthus rufulus
246. Nilgiri Pipit Anthus nilghiriensis
247. Black-headed Munia Lonchura malacca
248. Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus