Western Ghats Mountains runs parallel to the Malabar cost of the Arabian Sea. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a biodiversity hotspot, biologically rich yet threatened. The mountain range immensely influence the weather of the region, furthermore, plays a major role in India’s Monsoon weather pattern. Here the types of forest vary from montane forests in the higher altitudes as high as over 2500 meters above sea level to deciduous, semi evergreen forest patches at the height of 1000 meters to scrub, dry deciduous forests in the plains.
Tropic Trails Western Ghats Endemic Birding Holiday is covering Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, three states with numerous renowned National Parks with over 30 species of endemic birds found in these unique habitats.
On your arrival at Trivandrum International Airport a Tropic Trails representative will pick you up and transfer you to the airport hotel. This is the capital of the Kerala state.
Away from the urban life, to the east lays the Sothern most tip of the Western Ghats Mountain Range. You will drive towards these slopes where we begin our birding expedition of Western Ghats, our prime target here is the confined Ashambu Laughingthrush found in the Montane Forests of Southern Kerala. Other notable species to lookout for includes, Malabar Starling, Nilgiri Flowerpecker, Malabar Barbet, Flame-throated Bulbul, Malabar Imperiel Pigeon, Black Baza and Heart-spotted Woodpecker.
You will set off towards Arippa forest today, which is located to the northeast of Trivandrum, with its rich flora and fauna, this lowland evergreen forest attracts a large number of birds endemic to the Western Ghats. Malabar Trogon, Malabar Parakeet, Grey-headed Bulbul, Crimson-backed Sunbird, Malabar Woodshrike, White-bellied Treepie, Blue-bearded Bee-eater and Sri Lanka Frogmouth are numerous species we will be looking out for.
Thattekkad is one of the birdiest places in south India. Here, most of the birding is done, in and around the Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary
The avifauna of the sanctuary includes residents and migratory birds. The lush tropical rainforest bears many endangered and endemic species, the wetland formed along the river Periyar and the foothills covered with semi-evergreen forest and teak trees forms unique habitats and attracts species restricted to such ecotones. The area has the most endemic birds of the Western Ghats, Crimson-backed Sunbird, Grey-headed Bulbul, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Flame-throated Bulbul, Malabar Woodshrike, Malabar Barbet, Grey-fronted Green Pigeon, Malabar Starling, Nilgiri Flowerpecker and White cheeked Barbet etc.
A good number of nocturnal species is also expected from here, both during the day and at night such as Mottled Wood Owl, Oriental Scops Owl, Indian Scops Owl, Brown Fish Owl, Brown Hawk Owl, and Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Jerdon’s Nightjar and Great-eared Nightjar etc. We will also be spending a considerable amount of time in search of the Sri Lanka Bay Owl another species every birder seeks to see.
Periyar Tiger Reserve covers an area of 777 sq. km and is home to a wide range of flora and fauna. The lush green forest gets its name from River Periyar which origin deep inside the reserve. We will be birding in the moist deciduous and evergreen forests of the reserve
The top bird to see here is Wynaad Laughingthrush, other Birds to look out for include Great Indian Hornbill, Malabar Trogon, White-bellied Treepie, Grey-fronted Green Pigeon, Jungle Owlet, Black Baza, Woolly-necked Stork, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Oriental Scops owl, Rufous Woodpecker, Large-billed Leaf Warbler, Malabar-grey Hornbill, Malabar Parakeet and Indian Scimitar babbler. The trails in the reserve offer a good chance of seeing a few mammals as well, Elephants, Sambar Deer, Indian Gaur, and Nilgiri Langur are a few to name.
We will set off for Bodi Ghats. This dry deciduous forest is the idyllic habitats for the rare Yellow-throated Bulbul. Other species we may see here are Brown-headed Barbet, Jungle Prinia, Yellow-billed Babbler, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Blue-faced Malkoha, White-browed Bulbul, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Black Eagle, Common Woodshrike, Chestnut-head Bee-eater, Indian Swiftlet, Common Iora, White-bellied, Bronzed Drongo, Purple Sunbird, Asian Palm Swift, Booted Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Common Kestrel and Tawny-bellied Babbler.
Concluding the morning birding session in Bodi Ghats, we head towards Munnar. Here the montane forests reach as high as 2600 meters above sea level. In the heart of these Sholas found numerous unique inhabitants of the Nilgiri mountains, here we will be looking out for the most sought-after western Ghats endemic birds like Nilgiri Pipit, Nilgiri Flycatcher, White-bellied Blue Robin (or now called White-bellied Sholakili), Palani Laughingthrush, Nilgiri Thrush, Black and Orange Flycatcher, Nilgiri Flowerpecker and Nilgiri Wood Pigeon.
One of the remarkable parks we visit during this birding is Eravikulam National Park at Munnar, the flagship species is the ungulate of these hills Nilgiri Tahr. The soaring rocky hill and the grasslands, alpine plants covering the hill slopes and Shola Forest carpeting the valleys, the view from the park is breath-taking. The park attracts a remarkable number of endemics such as, White-bellied Blue Robin, Palani Laughingthrush, Black and Orange Flycatcher, Nilgiri Pipit and sometimes Broad-tailed Grassbird which seen extremely rare.
Today we setoff northwards as we descend from the Nilgiri Hills into the plains to Coimbatore, enroute we will stop for birding and also will pick up few mammal species as well such as Tuted Grey Langur and Grizzled Giant squirrel.
Species to look out for at Coimbatore includes, Painted and Chestnut- bellied Sandgrouse, Rock Eagle Owl, Barred Button Quail, Bay-backed Shrike and Indian Courser
Ooty town in the Nilgiri Hills was found by the British in 1821 and used as the summer headquarters for the Madras Presidency until the independence in 1947. The town is set at an elevation of 2300 meters above sea level. The majority of the land is either tea or eucalyptus plantation, most of the birding here is done in the Shola Forest patches and grassy meadows. Key species to lookout for includes, Nilgiri endemics such as Nilgiri Flycatcher, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Nilgiri Laughingthrush (or Black-chinned), the striking Black and Orange Flycatcher, Nilgiri Blue Robin, Nilgiri Pipit and the top-notch species of the region Nilgiri thrush.
Amongst the endemics, other species we may see well are Painted Bush-Quail, Square-tailed Bulbul, Tickell’s Leaf Warbler, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, White-spotted Fantail, Indian Yellow Tit, Grey Jungle Fowl, Indian Blackbird, common Rosefinch, Indian White-eye, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher and Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike.
The dry deciduous forest and the short grass covered open country has many more birds to add to your list, Blue-faced Malkoha, Jordon’s Bushlark, White-bellied Minivet, Tawny-bellied Babbler, White-bellied Drongo, Bay-backed Shrike, Long-tailed shrike, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Plum-headed Parakeet, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Black-headed Cuckoo-Shrike, Grey-bellied Cuckoo, Coppersmith Barbet, Yellow-eyed Babbler, White-browed Fantail, Indian-blue Robin, White-rumped Shama and Crested Hawk-Eagle are few notable species.
At the final destination of the tour awaits you another Western Ghats endemic, the Banasura Laughingthrush.
Departure from Calicut International Airport (02 hrs.)