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Old 17th December 2017, 14:18   #1
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Default A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy

Our car gently meandered through the twisty narrow roads of the tea estates and entered the thickly wooded coffee plantations. All eyes were planted on the canopy of high tree tops. After a few patient turns there he came.. fluttering his huge wide wings sounding as if a chopper was landing and perched upon a huge tree. At last there he was.. The Great Indian Hornbill.. The State bird of Kerala. The one whom we were on the lookout for.

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We jumped out of the car and hid behind the coffee plants. He was a fully grown adult male. He kept restlessly jumping from one branch to another tearing apart the tree bark and searching for insects hiding beneath. Luckily a huge tree bark fell a few feet away from us or else it would have been a different story altogether.

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He then started making his characteristic barking call which gives him his Malayalam name "Malamuzhakki" meaning one who resonates the hills.

Very soon we could hear another fluttering sound and his partner came and joined him. They greeted each other by striking their beaks. Started playfully hopping around the branches. The male caught an insect and started feeding his love.

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We felt as though we were in another world mesmerised by their love in the woods.

The journey

Myself and couple of my friends Kannan and Deepak decided to head to Nelliyampathy hills for the weekend.

Nelliyampathy is a quaint hill station located in Palakkad district of Kerala. Commonly known as poor man's Ooty this hill station tends to get crowded on weekends and holidays. So we decided to stay there over night and to explore the lesser crowded areas. Our main aim was to shoot the rare and elusive Great Hornbills.

Stay was arranged with a couple of phone calls at Pulayanpara. We all geared up for the trip and our ride was Kannan's Punto Abarth. He was at the wheels as he wanted to test the Abarth on the hills and we were the photographers.

Reached the checkpost at Pothundy by around 4pm and started the climb up the ghats. We moved slowly, listening to birds and calls from Malabar Giant Squirrel. Stopped at many locations to take pictures of birds and the Pothundy dam views and of course the Punto Abarth which turned out to be the photoshoot model throughout this trip. A few clicks enroute.

The stare

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Concentration

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Abarth all the way

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Reached kaikatty which is the first small human habitation after 18kms of ghat roads. Stopped over for some black tea and cakes and meanwhile enquired about the probability of Hornbill sightings from the shop owner.

He became vocal about the increasing wild animal encounters in Nelliyampathy since the time it has been taken over by the Parambikulam tiger reserve. Wild animals could be seen even during day time and he also mentioned about the attack of a wild gaur on a plantation worker couple of days back.

He advised us not to venture out after dark and also assured us that Hornbills could be seen in the area early in the morning.

We headed to our hotel and had dinner. Took a few short walks along the adjoining tea garden and finally slept early.

The next day we woke up early and set out in search of Hornbills. We had to go another 15 kms through tea estates and coffee plantations to reach hornbill territory.

The sun was lazily waking up on the winter morning. Climate was chill and the tea estates looked glorious in golden light. Since I had my 150-600mm lens, couldn't click much of the beautiful landscapes. So posting a few pics here taken by my friend Deepak about the misty morning in tea estates. Owing all credits to him for the landscape clicks throughout this TL.

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We didn't waste much time as we wanted to see the Hornbills when the light is good.

Great Hornbills are inhabitants of high trees and prefer dense forest canopy. This makes them all the more difficult to locate. Nelliyampathy is one of the few places were we can observe them. We were moving into the canopy when this guy caught my eye.

Crested serpent eagle

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He looked well fed. Signs of abundant prey.

Sunlight slowly seeping through the trees

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Eyes still wandering on the tall tree tops. Suddenly saw some movement on the top of a tree and before we could even stop the car two Hornbills flew away from us. That was our first sighting. Disappointed at not getting a shot we moved ahead. But somewhere in the corner of my mind I was confident of spotting another.

Our route was going to end and nearly 2kms before the last motorable point I saw a sudden flash of colours plummeting from the skies. Immediately stopped the car, jumped out and ran into the coffee plants.

That was our moment of reckoning. Joy unbounded. Cameras started clicking and we were witnessing a hornbill love story unfolding right infront of our eyes. Let the pics do the talking.

Looking for partner

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Caught an insect

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Waiting for partner

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Finally partner arrives

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Sharing the meal. More like a French kiss.

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Going for a toss

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We thanked God. Luck was on our side. There have been times when it was very difficult to spot even a single one. We spent a good hour with them until they bid adieu and vanished into the distance.

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We went to the last stop called Karappara. Had breakfast from the only tea shop available and walked towards the waterfalls. A local guy warned us that elephants were present on the route. So we were on guard. Clicked a few pics and came back.

Pair of black birds

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Karappara Waterfalls. More like a river than the falls.

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Headed to Victoria after that. A Nilgiri langur started showing tantrums at us.

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Signs of rich biodiversity

A red Pierrot butterfly

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Damselflies

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Reserve Forest was lying ahead of us. It was forbidden area ahead as we didn't have permission to enter. Saw a couple of gaurs at a distance who suddenly vanished into the thick bush. There were lion tailed macaques playing on the interior trees. We decided to head back.

Continued...

Last edited by i20ian : 17th December 2017 at 15:28.
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Old 17th December 2017, 14:49   #2
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Default Re: A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy

On the return route we again came across another hornbill couple. They too provided good photo opportunities. It was a turning out to be a great day as even at 11am Hornbills were out in the open. We could also spot nearly four of them on a huge tree far away on the mountains. Sheer bliss.

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We left them in their natural territory and returned back to our hotel. Clicked a few Abarth shots and nature.

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Karappara river

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Vibrant Foliage

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This guy was on the lookout for some lunch.

Crested hawk eagle

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Had some biryani for lunch and took a quick nap. Woke up by evening and headed out to see the common tourist destinations.

A few bird clicks on the way

Malabar parakeet

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Oriental magpie robin

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Pompadour green pigeon

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Seethargundu.. Crowded and full of monkeys, I usually tend to avoid this place but since my friends were here for the first time, accompanied them. A few snaps.

Famous Nelli tree symbolic of Nelliyampathy.

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Family is a feeling of oneness

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Checked out Keshavanpara too. Another view point giving good panoramic views of Pothundy dam. A new ticket counter is under construction there.

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As it started getting dark we headed back with happy minds after having captured the elusive Great Hornbills.

Parting shot of Abarth

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Sun setting over the hills

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Finally it is upto us to preserve these magnificent creations of nature for our future generations. Let commercialisation not take its toll on this beautiful place.

Time to say good bye

A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy-img_07251600x1066.jpg
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Old 17th December 2017, 19:04   #3
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Default Re: A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy

Mod's note: Moving from Assembly Line to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 17th December 2017, 22:23   #4
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Default Re: A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy

Lovely experience you guys had amidst nature, flora and fauna and a good set of wheels in the Abarth Punto, time well spent, you couldn't ask for more.
Beautiful pictures too, thanks for sharing

Rating the thread a much deserved Excellent/5 stars.

The roads seem good too (from the pictures).
How are the overall conditions of roads from Alathur side ? If possible please do share a map of the routes you took on this trip till the reserve forest check post.

Last edited by NPV : 17th December 2017 at 22:42.
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Old 17th December 2017, 22:34   #5
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Default Re: A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy

Lovely photos of one of the most amazing birds in our country!! This place is definitely a must in my list now. Thanks for sharing
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Old 18th December 2017, 09:32   #6
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Default Re: A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy

Thanks for sharing. This is one species I have wanted to see in real life and capture with the camera if possible. You're very lucky to have got such a great time with them. Will put this place down in my places to visit soon.
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Old 18th December 2017, 09:55   #7
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Default Re: A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy

Beautiful pics, gave my dull Monday morning at work a huge delightful dose of torque, just like the Abarth.
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Old 18th December 2017, 12:17   #8
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Default Re: A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy

Quote:
Originally Posted by NPV View Post
The roads seem good too (from the pictures).
How are the overall conditions of roads from Alathur side ? If possible please do share a map of the routes you took on this trip till the reserve forest check post.
Thank you NPV. Glad that you liked the post. Here is the route map.

A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy-img_20171218_121232.jpg

There is a bad stretch between Thrippalur and kottekulam. Barring that the roads are good throughout.
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Old 18th December 2017, 12:34   #9
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Default Re: A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy

Great photos. Interesting to see the Hornbills feeding each other. This is the first time I am seeing such a thing.

Kerala, nature, and an Abarth = fun.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 18th December 2017, 19:55   #10
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Default Re: A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy

Awesome i20an. Great snaps for the Hornbill

Quote:
Originally Posted by i20ian View Post

Stay was arranged with a couple of phone calls at Pulayanpara
This is interesting - where did you stay?

Quote:

The stare
The jungle owlet is an equally big catch

Quote:

Crested serpent eagle

He looked well fed. Signs of abundant prey.

This guy seems to be a resident there - you can always spot him there. The guy has chosen his home well

Psst...I can tell you a location there where you can find flocks and flocks of hornbills
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Old 18th December 2017, 20:12   #11
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Default Re: A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy

Quote:
Originally Posted by mallumowgli View Post
Awesome i20an. Great snaps for the Hornbill



This is interesting - where did you stay?



The jungle owlet is an equally big catch




This guy seems to be a resident there - you can always spot him there. The guy has chosen his home well

Psst...I can tell you a location there where you can find flocks and flocks of hornbills
Thank you. We stayed at orange valley resort in pulayanpara. Now a days there are many decent hotels and resorts in pulayanpara. So stay is not a problem.

Yes.. to spot a jungle owlet is pure luck.

I'd be more than happy if I could pm you to know details about the location of hornbills..
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Old 19th December 2017, 09:42   #12
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Default Re: A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy

Those are some lovely birds(hornbills) you captured with your lovely bird(Abarth) , if I may say.

Really loved the pictures. I loved the last two pictures the most where you bid goodbye.
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Old 19th December 2017, 15:30   #13
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Default Re: A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy

Thanks for sharing, awesome pictures !!
Just googled the location, honestly, I didn't that such a place existed within 80 kms of where my native is. Been to Top slip, but never knew that the other side is this good. The roads look very scenic, how is the traffic on the route you shared?
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Old 20th December 2017, 22:06   #14
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Default Re: A day with the Great Hornbills of Nelliyampathy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vishnuk View Post
Thanks for sharing, awesome pictures !!
Just googled the location, honestly, I didn't that such a place existed within 80 kms of where my native is. Been to Top slip, but never knew that the other side is this good. The roads look very scenic, how is the traffic on the route you shared?
Traffic is moderate. In weekends and Holidays it can get busier.
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