Coming down the hills of Agumbe, the first thing you notice is the change in weather; the cool weather gives way to a steady increase in temperature and humidity. And, located just in this change-of-temperature zone is the Seetanadi Nature Camp, by the banks of River Seeta, a rich basin for the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats.
Signboard for the camp, on the highway
We arrived at the camp at daybreak, after a long journey from Bangalore, and sat confined in our car until the loud, shrill calls of the Lesser Fish Eagle made us scurry in search of it. Sure that the eagle was fishing in the river, we headed there just in time to see the eagle perched on a tree stump after a successful catch. Enjoying the early-morning vistas of the river gracefully meandering through the rich evergreen forests, our attention was diverted by the whistles of the ‘phantom’, the Malabar Trogon, whistling incessantly but out of sight. Sighting the phantom took a good amount of time as the male was concealed in the tree cover.
Loud shrills drew us back to the scenic banks of the river, where we sighted a pair of White-bellied Woodpeckers pecking away on a bare tree across the river. It was wonderful to see a duel between the woodpeckers and a few barbets, and much more surprising to see the barbets chasing away the woodpeckers. What a rousing start we had received at the camp! After the initial burst of excitement and sightings, we checked ourselves into the spacious tents, and the fresh, hot breakfast was devoured in no time, setting us up for the next round of birding around the camp.
White-bellied Woodpecker pair
The area near the small stream by the bridge was abuzz with the activity of Malabar Trogans, and I was truly blessed to see 8 individuals in one place, all of them chasing each other around. But, some preferred the shade and hardly came out in the open. Incidentally, no more trogans showed up for the rest of our stay.
Malabar Trogon (female)
After the trogan mania, as we moved along the trail, the small, stunning Malabar Barbet drew our attention, and it was lovely seeing them gulp big, colourful fruits, the red of their throat standing out brightly. But, they were always high up in the canopy or amongst the greens, making it extremely difficult to photograph them.
As the sun started to show its authoritative presence, the birding activity reduced, and that pushed us back to our tents for some rest and food. Post afternoon, the activity wasn’t much, but the sighting of the extremely shy and beautiful Asian Fairy Bluebird pair made us ecstatic enough. Keeping our spirits high was the sighting of the Malabar Grey Hornbill. Greater Flamebacks, Malabar Wood-shrikes, Vernal Hanging Parrots, Crimson-backed Sunbirds, bulbuls, and flycatchers, all put in brief appearances and kept us occupied until dusk.
Asian Fairy Bluebird (female)
Inactivity at the campsite ensured we visited places outside the nature camp, which yielded us bountiful sightings – Common Kingfisher, Scaly-breasted Munia, White- bellied Flycatcher, Honey Buzzard, and snipe, to name a few. It was entertaining to watch the flock of munias help themselves to a nice swim in one of the smaller pools we saw.
Agumbe Ghats is also known for the endangered Lion-tailed Macaques, and this time, luck was in our favour, and we saw them while driving back to Bangalore.
Overall, the birding at Seetanadi Camp was excellent, and it definitely merits a visit in the monsoon for macro photography, and in the winter, for birding.