Saturday, May 28, 2011

24-26 May 2011, Munar and Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Thattekkad, Kerala

En route to the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in Thattekkad, we passed through Annaimalai where we saw this temple peaking above the other buildings.  We decided to go in and left our shoes in the car.  Wow was the pavement HOT!

As with most temples, there was a market all around it.

After Annaimalai, we passed these windmills in the Udumalaippettai area.

In the evening of the 24th, we reached the hill station, Munar.  Because of the extreme heat all over India right now, this is the high season for hill stations.  The approach to Munar was gorgeous.  But Munar was sooo crowded, and we hadn't booked anything and ended up in a very mediocre residency lodge.  I'm assuming, with better knowledge, there are some great places in Munar, both to stay and to eat, but we sure never found them.
But in the morning, after a terrible breakfast (we had had a terrible dinner the night before, also in Munar), we roamed the markets.

And then the temples.  Right around the market were a church (Catholic), a Hindu temple (this one -  a Murugan temple), and a mosque which wouldn't let in women or foreigners (no comment).

We visited the Hindu temple.

The mosque was beautiful, but ......   Sara is a Muslim and didn't think much of our exclusion.

We left Munar around noon and headed for the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in Thattekkad.

Jack fruit tree

Black pepper vine

This picture is to show you how cute we are while traveling.  Sara and I ride in the back seat with all the windows open.  She always looks very elegant.  I, on the other hand, take my dupatta (the long scarf that we wear with our salwar kameez and I wrap it around my head to keep the hair out of my face.  Works beautifully, but looks like ______.

We finally reached the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in Thattekkad.  It was unbelievably hard to find.  No signs anywhere, so we had to keep stopping people along the road asking if we were headed in the right direction.  Even when we got close, no one seemed to know about it.  So we drove right past it.  But eventually we found it!  Boy, was it worth it.  Here's a link to an article in one of the Indian newspapers about it.

Two Red-wattled Lapwings
We saw so many birds, but I didn't write them down on the trail.

Asian Open-Billed Stork

White Throated Kingfisher
Red Junglefowl

Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill

One of the first topics we discussed with our host, Sudha, was butterflies since they are fluttering around everywhere you look.  I told her I had been unable to find a book on Indian butterflies, so she ran downstairs and brought a book, "Damsels from Heaven" with photographs by her friend Unni Krishnan Pulikkal, published by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Ohio.  I grew up in Cleveland and was very familiar with the museum of natural history there.  What's exciting to me is that I am now starting to identify and look up butterflies in addition to birds.  I have a terrible time seeing them well because they move so quickly, but here are a few I know I saw.
The Southern Birdwing is the largest butterfly in India.

The Common Jay.

And the Common Tiger

A miniature dragonfly

Sambar deer in a protected area

What a juicy place!

Darter, drying its wings

This is a papaya tree just off our balcony.  There's a little papaya hanging there that's hard to see.

This is a rose apple bush also off our balcony.  Sara and Prabhu harvested some for our trip home.  The fruit is not very sweet, but pleasant, waterier than a green pepper, crunchy.  I really like them.  They're about an inch long.

Our host's son, Gireesh Chandran, took us on a nature walk the next morning.  It was wonderful.  He was well-supplied with bird calls, so we were able to see many birds.  At this time of year, it is really hot and there are no migratory birds to see.

Gopal got this shot of a hornbill.

When we first arrived at Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, we were directed to this home stay just inside the gate.  It is a truly wonderful place!  Very comfortable accommodations, great Kerala home-cooked food, and very warm and well-informed people.  Our host, Sudha, was charming, warm and a bird guide in her own right.  I wanted to stay longer and look forward to coming back.

Gopal, Sudha's 87-year-old mother, a grandchild, and Sudha

After leaving the bird sanctuary, we passed through Kalady where we saw this monument to Adi Shankara

from Wikipedia -- Adi Shankara was an Indian philosopher from Kalady of present day Kerala who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta. His teachings are based on the unity of the Atman and Brahman—non-dual Brahman, in which Brahman is viewed as without attributes.
Shankara travelled across India and other parts of South Asia to propagate his philosophy through discourses and debates with other thinkers. He is reputed to have founded four mathas("monasteries"), which helped in the historical development, revival and spread of Advaita Vedanta. Adi Shankara is believed to be the organizer of the Dashanami monastic order and the founder of the Shanmata tradition of worship.

for more about Shankara -