Saturday, May 7, 2011

Vellari Combai

Vellari Combai is one of the oldest Kurumba villages in the Nilgiris. This village lays on the eastern slopes of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, north of Coimbatore hills, west of Mettupalayam town. From Kotagiri- Mettupalayam road one need to walk 1.30 hours and had to cross Chundapatty (another kurumba village) to reach this village.
There are around 20 families in this village, they are engaged in small scale agriculture, they grow jack trees, arecanut trees, coffee, coconut trees, pepper vines etc. Major portion of the landholding has been left uncultivated for more than seven years because of regular cropraiding by elephants and Indian gaur. Major portion of the landholding looks like a degraded forest now. Soil is cultivable with a color range of brown and black. As the village is on the steep slopes there are no wells so they get drinking water from the hill top through a pipe connection provided by the Hill Area Development Program. We could see that it was raining on the south east hills of the village and feel the change in the atmosphere but not even a drop fell onto these slopes. On the same day of May 2011, by 02.00 hours, as though a huge cloud which could not hold any more water, rain started and continued till 06.30 am.
Impacts of land use change in the upper region can be seen within the village and near by slopes also. Two kilometers south-east of this village there is a rock with ancient paintings, villagers call this as ezhuthupara (a rock with inscription). If traveling towards this rock we need to cross four mountain originated streams. One of them is perennial and in summer months villagers depend this stream. The first stream from the village had a massive land slide in the last year still we can see huge rocks and large amount of mud fluxed down.
Drawings on Ezhuthupara
 As I mentioned earlier this area looks exactly like a forest area. To prove this lets look at the number of bird species observed here. 39 bird species from morning to afternoon! All of them are forest birds. A pair of Great Indian Hornbill, Streak throated woodpecker, Velvet fornted Nuthatch, Malabar shama, Yellow browed bulbull, Scarlet minivet, Brown crowned pygmy woodpecker etc.
Brown Crowned Pigmy Woodpecker


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Crested Serpent Eagle

Eagles, birds of prey were always an attraction to me. Their their flight, wings, wings span, keen senses especially sight, talons, beak and power to terrify other birds etc. Birds of preys are also called as raptors, which is derived from a Latin word rapere meaning to seize or take by force.
On the way a to a village called Vellari Combai, in the eastern slopes of the Nilgiri hills facing Mettupalayam.
 A Crested Serpent Eagle was looking for a prey in a moist deciduous forest. It came to a huge albesia tree where there were nests of a White cheeked Barbet and a Plum Headed Parakeet are found. Next to the albesia tree there was ficus tree which was fruiting to attract seeds carriers to disperse next generation to other regions. copper smith barbet, fairy blue bird, yellow browed bulbuls, red vented & whiskered bulbuls and brown crowned pygmy wood pecker were feasting on this five star tree. As soon as the eagle came to albesia, one of the bulbuls made alarm calls. With in a minute 3 Ashy Swallow Shrikes joined the bulbuls. I did not notice a single myna in the close vicinity but as soon as ashy swallow shrikes started the attack two jungle mynas also arrived.  Those mynas and swallows heard the alarm call gave by bulbul? I do not know how!! It was amazing to see 3 Red whiskered bulbuls, 2 Jungle Mynas, 3 Ashy Swallow Shrikes attacking a common enemy, relatively a much larger predator. Swallows were the best, they attacked like a boomerang with a shirrr... shirrr...call and they were really aiming at the head of the eagle but eagle hardly bothered they were attacking. But this attitude continued only till the mynas joined to party. Jungle mynas were wild in the onslaught, they crackled and  pecked with fury. I don't know by what this eagle got disturbed but  there was a change in eagle's attitude and it turned to the other direction to take off and with the next attack from myna the raptor took off.
Team work, I would call it.
Crested Serpent-eagle