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Old 31st March 2014, 00:21   #1
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Default Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire

In the weekend of March 15 to 17th, me and my wife made a trip to Thirunelli in Wayanad, Kerala and stayed there for a couple of nights. While returning to Bangalore, we spent a night at Bandipur forest. This is my first travelogue in Team BHP, hope you like it.

First of all, a big thanks to T-BHP members Deepak (Denver85) and Sandeep (Sandsun7) who helped me in preparation of this trip with their inputs on road conditions & directions to Thirunelli. Thanks to HV Kumar too for directions to reach Bandipur from Thirunelli. Without their guidance, this trip would not have materialized.

The route map:
Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire-bangalore-thirunelli.jpg

Day 1: 15-Mar-2014 (Staurday)
Started from my home near Marathalli at 6 AM. The original plan was to start at 5 AM and avoid weekend rush. As usual there were some last minute preparations to be done, finally it was 6-30 AM when we reached NICE road toll at electronic city end. Surprisingly there was not much rush at the toll booth. Paid Rs.90/- and within 15 minutes, we were cruising on Mysore Road (SH-17). Not much traffic on Mysore road for a weekend.
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Our breakfast stop was at Kamath Upachar, the one with McD & BP bunk. It was 8 AM when we reached this place. Enjoyed puri-sabji and fresh filter coffee.Spotted a zoom rental VW vento in the parking lot.
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From here till Mysore, it was a sedate drive. Faced some traffic while crossing Mandya town. We crossed Srirangapattana and reached Columbia-Asia hospital junction at Mysore. We did not enter Mysore city, decided to bypass via Outer Ring Road. Some sections of Mysore ORR is still in incomplete state. One needs to be careful in these sections. In 10 mins, we reached Hunsur Road junction.

Hunsur Road is a drivers delight. Smooth tarmac lined with trees invite you to rip your ride. A spirited drive took us to Coorg Cafe, Hunsur at 10:30 AM.
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Coorg Cafe is now renamed to Cafe County,looks like it has undergone ownership change. Still a good place to stop & freshen up on the way to Madikeri.
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We enjoyed some nice pastry.
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From Hunsur we ditched Mysore-Madikeri main road and turned left. We took the road towards Kutta through Nagarhole forest. This road was not so smooth compared to Madikeri road. There was no traffic at all on this road. The weather was beautiful. I rolled down the windows and enjoyed the fresh air rushing in.
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Soon we reached the entry to Nagarhole forest. Stopped at he checkpost and entered vehicle details.
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Summer had already started in Karnataka. Most of the trees had shed their greens; dry leaves created a carpet on the forest bed.
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The road through Nagarhole forest was narrow, patchy & pothole ridden.
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But the pristine beauty of the forest made me forget all my travel woes. A few clicks of the scenic winding road through the forest.
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Old 31st March 2014, 13:47   #2
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Default Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur tour (Day 1 contd. )

Day 1 (contd. )

It was 12 o'clock in the noon when we were crossing Nagarhole forest. It was very sunny & hot outside; I guess most of the animals preferred to rest in shade deep in the forest. We were not able to spot any animal except a few herds of Cheetal (spotted deer). Here are a few clicks of them.
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I drove sedately to enjoy nature inside the forest. It took me another 30 mins to cross Nagarhole. I took the road towards Tholpetty bypassing Kutta town area. Kerala is another 2.5 KM from Kutta junction; this last stretch of Karnataka is a nightmare to drive. The surface is ridden with potholes. There is no tar at all. Add a few speed breakers to the mix.
Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire-20140316_164912.jpg

As soon as we entered Kerala, the road surface changed magically. The tarmac was butter smooth. The smooth winding road meandered through Tholpetty sanutary and went towards Mananthwady. Being peak summer season, forest safari was closed in Kerala.
The road that passed through Tholpetty.
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After crossing Tholpetty, I took a right turn towards Thirunelli temple. The scenic road snaked its way up without much steep incline. The trees in this section of the forest had bloomed offering a visual treat to our sore eyes.
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Most of the trees had flowers. I wonder why such colors were not present in Nagarhole, where it was mostly dry trees.
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Our accommodation was reserved at KTDC hotel Tamarind. Its a budget hotel with AC rooms and an attached restaurant.
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KTDC tamarind is flanked by Agraharam resort and Himagiri homes on each side. I saw these lanterns adorning the entrance of Agraharam resort.
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After resting for an hour in the hotel room, we decided to visit Thirunelli Vishnu temple. Its located around 1 KM from our hotel. It was around 4 PM, we decided to walk this distance. The hilly road passes though some lovely woods and is a pleasure to walk.
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Unfortunately the temple was closed, so we were not able to enter the sanctum sanctorum. There was a beautiful statue of Lord Vishnu in Garuda avatar.
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On the way to the hotel room, we stopped at a local shop selling handicrafts and ayurvedic medicine. Saw this line-up of toy auto-rickshaws. We had our dinner in the attached restaurant and called it a day.
Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire-dsc_0221.jpg

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Old 31st March 2014, 15:25   #3
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Default Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur trip - Day 2

Day 2 : 16-Mar-2014 (Sunday)
Slept like a log and woke up next morning to a symphony of bird calls. I was feeling too lethargic to even get up from the bed. This was what we could see from the window : the Bramhagiri hills.
Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire-dsc_0234.jpg

These 2 sparrows were making a racket.
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Finally got up from the bed, had breakfast in the restaurant and decided to head for Kuruva island. On our way, google maps showed we were passing through Begur reserved forest.
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Kuruva is a small island formed on river KAbini. We parked our car and paid ticket for the raft to take us to the island. A note of caution: No plastic is allowed on island. For plastic water bottles, there's a refundable deposit of Rs.20/- per bottle.
The raft which took us to the island.
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There were signboards claiming presence of crocs in these waters.
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A long walk through tree lined alley took us to the area where we can play in the river.
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We relaxed for sometime in the water.
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Finally we returned to main land by the same raft. Had delicious kerala paratha for lunch at the Kuruva island restaurant. It was 2 o' clock in the afternoon. Me and wifey discussed what to do next; and both of us wanted to visit Nagarhole forest again. So we headed back to Karnataka for the evening safari. Reached Nagarhole forest at 3-15 PM. The road through the forest was absolutely deserted.
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I really enjoyed the forest safari. For me, the attraction of a forest is not only the animals, but the forest itself with all its flora & fauna. This time, I got to experience forest during hot summer afternoon. Spotted a malabar giant squirrel resting on a tree.
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A solitary vulture was keeping watch near a small pond.
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Cheetal spotting again.
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There were a few sambar deers.
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Spotted a gaur family (dad, mom & kid) . Seeing us, the mom & kid hid themselves behind a bush. Dad was curious about us. A couple of photos.
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We both were feeling satisfied after the safari finshed. Sedately drove through Nagarhole again and entered Tholpetty. Just after the right turn at Thirunelli crossing, we saw a couple of cars parked on the road. There was a police patrol car with 4 cops preventing everyone from proceeding further on the Thirunelli road. We were 8 km away from our hotel. Somewhere in the way, a forest fire just started. We waited there for more than hour. Saw fire brigade trucks rushing in and then coming back for refill. Saw a lot of forest dept vehicles rushing towards Thirunelli. The locals started demanding the road to be opened. After refusing for sometime, the cops relented.
I started to proceed slowly towards our hotel. The cops told me not to stop anywhere in between at all costs. The fire was still razing and the wind was helping in spreading it even further. Herds of deer were running panic stricken on the road. Trees on both sides of the road were on fire sputtering smoke & ashes everywhere. White ash layered on the road like carpet till the wind was blowing it away. The smoke & flying ashes, at dusk, hampered visibility. It was the first time I witnessed a forest fire. The scale of devastation made me speechless. To my horror, I witnesses how fire 'leaped' from a slope of a hill to another slope within a few minutes. I wanted to stop and take a few photos, but was reminded what the cop said about not stopping anywhere on the road. My wife managed to take a few photos. Please excuse as these were taken from a moving car at low light conditions.

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Old 31st March 2014, 22:37   #4
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Default Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur trip Day 3

Day 3 : 17-Mar-2014 (Monday)

Started the day with late breakfast of hot puri-sabji & delicious dosa. Our plan was to reach Bandipur by afternoon and avail the safari. Checked out of the hotel at 10 AM and took the route to Sulthan Bathery. Here's the google map:
Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire-thirunelly-bandipur.jpg

Along our way, we could see the devastation caused by forest fire last night. The forest bed had turned to white ash for miles.
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I was surprised to find out the fire was not entirely put out overnight. Bigger trees were still sputtering smoke.
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While crossing Wayanad santuary, we came across this cute elephant family.
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We went past Mananthvady & Panamaram and merged with NH 212 (Mysore - Kozhikode highway). Soon we crossed Sulthan Bathery and entered Muthanga reserved forest. It was a pleasure to drive inside Muthanga. The road was smooth, wonderful curves and not a single vehicle in sight.
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Just after a blind turn, we noticed the result of a horrible accident. A fully loaded lorry overturned and landed in a ditch. A swift with its rear and left side badly damaged. And another vehicle lying in the ditch (facing he lorry; not visible in the photo) so badly crushed that its was not possible to identify the model.
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Soon we crossed Muthanga forest and entered Karnataka. NH 212 took us to Gundulpet town where we had our lunch. Post lunch, we headed towards Bandipur. The beautiful Nilgiri range greeted us from far away.
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Finally we were there.The entrance to Bandipur Tiger Reserve.
Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire-dsc_0583.jpg

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Old 1st April 2014, 14:40   #5
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Default Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur trip Day 3 (contd. )

Day 3 (contd. )

Our accommodation was reserved at Bandipur Forest guest house. We checked in at around 2 PM, dumped our suitcases in the room and went for a small walk around the forest dept property. Came across this old statue probably from a nearby temple.
Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire-dsc_0630.jpg

The forest safari started from 3 PM but the first safari trip was already full. We booked our tickets for 3-30 PM slot. The weather was very very hot outside. There were reports of forest fire in some parts of the jungle. There was this fire brigade truck waiting in the jungle.
Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire-dsc_0639.jpg

As usual, all the animals were avoiding this hot sunny afternoon. A herd of Cheetals were grazing nonetheless.
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The safari went on for 20 mins without any animal sighting. Suddenly, on our way back, the safari vehicle slammed brakes. There were 2 huge elephants standing bang on the middle of our track. They were 30 odd yards ahead. One of them completely blocked our path; another elephant took an aggressive stance and made aggressive movement towards our vehicle.
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Our safari driver killed the engine and asked all of us to be very quite. Then we found out the reason behind their aggressive posture. A herd of elephants from the same group were crossing our track. There was a small baby elephant in this group and the whole group was very protective about the baby. So these 2 big elephants were doing a recon for their group.
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The 2 big elephants 'manned' the track till their families crossed over to the other side of the jungle. Only then, after issuing some cautionary trumpets, these 2 giants moved away and let us pass. The rest of the safari went uneventful. We spotted a serpent eagle waiting for prey.
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It was almost 4-30 PM when our safari ended. Me and wifey decided to drive leisurely through Bandipur , go to Masinagudi (TN) and simply absorb evening descending on the forest. So we started off. The road through Bandipur.
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There was a solitary elephant grazing just beside the road. Somehow the loneliness of this elephant made me a little bit sad.
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Soon we entered Mudumalai reserve forest in Tamil Nadu.
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We spotted tourists spending time with elephants at Theppakadu elephant camp.
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Slowly drove to Masinagudi and returned. Spotted a sambar and a majestic peacock.
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Dusk turned to evening. We had our dinner at forest dept dining hall. A simple but tasty menu of chapati, rice, sambar, rasam & curd. Before going to bed, I heard some grunting noises outside our room. Saw these fellows grazing without a care to the world.
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Old 1st April 2014, 14:57   #6
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Default Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur trip Day 4

Day 4 : 18-Mar-2014 (Tuesday)

We had planned to catch the early morning safari. So we got up before sunrise and freshened up. It was start of a beautiful day. The whole world turned a shade of pink at dawn.
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This little fellow seemed used to presence of human beings.
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Early morning is the best time for introspection.
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A fire-brigade truck was parked nearby. This group of monkeys seemed to be automobile enthusiasts.
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Our safari started at 7-00 AM. A thin layer of fog shrouded the woods.
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A herd of cheetals where basking in the early morning sun.
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We spotted a blue flycatcher.
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And some more cheetals.
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We made our way through the narrow safari track.
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Spotted a green flycatcher.
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A beautiful forest fowl.
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Beauty of a forest in an early morning is magical.
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Finally, our safari ended at 8-00 AM.
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We had yummy lemon rice & kesari bhath for breakfast in the forest dept dining hall. It was 10 AM when we packed our bags and hit the road. We reached home at 3-30 PM with a lunch break at Adigas, Maddur.
The return journey route :
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Old 2nd April 2014, 16:08   #7
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Default Re: Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 2nd April 2014, 22:20   #8
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Default Re: Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur trip - Day 2

Nice report !!! No picture of your ride in the backdrop of western ghats?

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Originally Posted by ankan.m.blr View Post
Somewhere in the way, a forest fire just started.
There were reports in local media that the Thirunelli fire was started by a localite and police/forest officials arrested him 2 days later. As per the report, that person is a local fisherman and the fire was started after a standoff between the forest guards and the local fishermen. Those guys know very well that a forest fire means so much of work for Forest guards.
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Old 2nd April 2014, 23:03   #9
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Default Re: Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire

Beautifully crafted, composed and processed snaps! The forest has its own charm, even if it means a dry one.
If I may ask what camera do you use, and whats the post processing flow ?
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Old 2nd April 2014, 23:32   #10
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Default Re: Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire

Quote:
Originally Posted by arjithin View Post
Nice report !!! No picture of your ride in the backdrop of western ghats?
Thanks! Unfortunately, I did not take any photo of my ride in Western Ghats. However, here's a photo of my ride resting in the shade at Bandipur on a hot sunny afternoon.
Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire-dsc_0623_1_2_3_4_fused.jpg

Quote:
Originally Posted by arjithin View Post
There were reports in local media that the Thirunelli fire was started by a localite and police/forest officials arrested him 2 days later. As per the report, that person is a local fisherman and the fire was started after a standoff between the forest guards and the local fishermen. Those guys know very well that a forest fire means so much of work for Forest guards.
After seeing the heavy environmental & financial loss due to this fire, I hope his punishment should act as a deterrent to such acts in future.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ampere View Post
Beautifully crafted, composed and processed snaps! The forest has its own charm, even if it means a dry one.
If I may ask what camera do you use, and whats the post processing flow ?
Thanks for the kind words,Ampere! I use a Nikon D-90 normally with 18-105 mm VR Nikkor. For this trip, I borrowed a 70-300 mm VR from a friend. Most of the image processing is done with gimp & adobe lightroom.
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Old 3rd April 2014, 13:06   #11
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Default Re: Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire

Awesome photos Ankan, hope you have really enjoyed your holidays.
The Nagerhole forest will be in an entirely different look after the Monsoon (Aug to Dec). Plan to visit there during that time, it will be a different experience.
Nice to know that the details provided has helped you
Happy to see the patchworks in Nagarhole forest road
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Old 3rd April 2014, 14:00   #12
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Default Re: Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire

Beautiful snaps and a delightful writeup. We had driven thru Mudumalai and Bandipur forests couple of years ago on our way from Trichur to Bangalore. Your writeup and pics brought back fond memories of that drive.
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Old 3rd April 2014, 16:03   #13
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Default Re: Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire

A pretty comprehensive trip log of the Nagarhole-Thirunelly-Bandipur regions. Nice snaps, especially of the Bandipur Safari ride. Very informative post.
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Old 3rd April 2014, 16:33   #14
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Default Re: Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur Trip : Forests & Fire

Excellent write-up ankan!! Beautiful Pictures as well.
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Old 3rd April 2014, 20:44   #15
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Default Re: Bangalore - Thirunelli - Bandipur trip Day 4

Ankan: it is the Indian Roller and not what you mentioned.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ankan.m.blr View Post

We spotted a blue flycatcher.

Attachment 1225510
And this is the European Green Woodpecker.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ankan.m.blr View Post

Spotted a green flycatcher.

Attachment 1225513
And this is the Pea-fowl.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ankan.m.blr View Post

A beautiful forest fowl.

Attachment 1225514
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