Skip to main content

A lucky spotting at Valparai

It was a pleasant evening. I was driving on the curvy roads of Valparai. Although, it falls under the Western Ghats, the soaring temperature did not feel like one. There wasn’t any canopy cover to protect us from the sweltering heat as the atmosphere was teeming with the dense thickets of tea gardens. Over the past few decades, tropical forests (across the world) have been harvested exponentially for tea, coffee or oil palm cultivation. Valparai is not an exception. Anyways, this story is not about deforestation or conservation, but about an adorable species and the very nature of tropical forests.

Forest bungalow in between the woods
Art by Anaga N

As the road meandered, I took a sharp turn, and entered the deep-rooted tropical forest from an open tea estate. A sudden change in the temperature hit me as I witnessed short tea shrubs transforming into tall and dense tropical trees. Sunlight had a tough time piercing through tiny breaks of the canopy covers and, hence altering the temperature.

To my right, I saw one forest bungalow erected in between the woods surrounded by silver oak and red sandalwood trees. Also, some eucalyptus trees were planted in an orderly manner in between. “Typical forest department work, commented my friend with an impish smile.

Along these high-rise trees, grew some coffee plants on the ground, brimming with beans. Harvest season was just two to three weeks away.

On the other side of the bungalow, stood a bunch of neatly arranged arecanut  palm trees. Betel plants curled beautifully on these tall and slender trees. While some trees were covered completely by these creepers, others were sparsely covered; “It is quite a sight to behold,” remarked my friend. “Yeah! It totally is,” I responded back  with a grin.

The other side i.e. to my left, was also the same but without the bungalow. Hence, one can imagine the density of the woods. I saw a rough road piercing through them and was inviting. But then I recalled the conversation with the shopkeeper two days back, who warned me about the presence of sloth bears. “Appearance might deceive you, but trust me when I tell you, it is one of the most furious animals in this forest,” he cautioned.

I parked my car near that enticing rough path and saw a small group standing along the road, just outside the bungalow. Speaking with each other in sign language, they looked excited with their eyes glued onto the overhead branch of a Eucalyptus tree. Dressed in camouflaged outfits holding Nikon light-weight compact binoculars and carrying 600 mm DSLR lens, these guys looked as attractive as the jungle itself.

Seduced by these bunch of wildlife enthusiasts and an ever-attractive milieu, I got down excited and pleased, all the while eyeing to spot something striking or rare on the branches. And just as I took a  few steps, I saw that gorgeous bird. It was flitting on the branches, looking for something in between the bark, overlaying the eucalyptus trees. With its yellowish casque on top of its head, reddish eyes and elongated white tail with black stripes, it looked stunning and unique. It’s a large bird, sizing up to raptors. The small gathering did not seem to have any impact over the species, considering its extremely shy nature. Rather, it focused on  something more important.

After some minutes hard work, tearing off a few barks of the tree, the bird stuck onto something with its long and strong pointed yellow beak. Looked like its hard work had paid off. When it pulled off its beak, there was something stuck in between, trying hard to escape. But nothing can get off its sturdy hold.

After a closer look, through the binoculars, I recognized it to be a bat. The poor guy looked puny and blank, trapped in the clutches of those beaks. The bird wheeled the bat, keeping it in the tip of its beak and started munching it like a chewing gum. The bat rolled and rolled, until it turned into  masticated meat.

Gulping it, the bird took off, producing a whooshing noise, from the branches and flew into the woods over the rough road. The gaps in between its black and white feathers were responsible for that whizzing sound, which blended with the stillness of the atmosphere producing a reverberating effect.

We stood there rooted to the spot admiring this beauty which astonished us by all means – physical appearance, inventive behaviour and flight. ‘Call’ was the only thing we missed on that day, which I am sure would be unique as well. Afterall, for no reason it would have been named ‘malamulakki’ by the tribal people.

Meanwhile, in the middle of admiring this adorable species, few thoughts flashed in my mind. Isn’t it a fruit eating (frugivorous) bird? Then why would it prefer bats? Does it have anything to do with destruction of native fruit-bearing trees?

Its common food, or one can even say the most preferred, is Ficus fruits. I even remember the conversation from one of the local people who recommended this place. He said, “You can spot a big family (or  more) on one big old banyan tree. Follow the rough road trail in between the woods, hike for an hour and you will be there. But beware of the bears!”

Or is it consciously picking non-vegetarian food to feed its young ones at the early stage? This sort of behaviour is common among bulbuls. Although, they are fruit eaters, they carefully feed their chicks with worms and moths as a means of protein diet. And we consider these fellas as five-sensed beings!

With a troubled mind, I turned on my car engine and started driving, looking for similar observations hidden beneath this treasure trove, all the while polluting the atmosphere.


Did you guess the bird?


  1. Nice observations and descriptions.

    I think the bird described is great Indian hornbill.

  2. What a wonderful experience and described so well too!! Lucky you got to see this amazing bird! Hornbill is my guess too!!

  3. Beautiful description as usual. U brought tat scenario right in front of my eyes.. The bird is hornbill. Excellent writing gauti

  4. Excellent narration , sir.
    Even I think it's Hornbill.


Post a Comment

Thank you for reading. Really appreciate your time. Would be great if you could share your thoughts about the article you just read. Will be happy to discuss about it. Little bit of discussion helps! Always!

Popular post

இருப்பை இழந்து நிற்கும் இலுப்பை

தேனினை விரும்பி உண்ணும் கரடிகள் , கூட்டம் கூட்டமாக ஒரு மரத்தை நோக்கிச் செல்கின்றன , குட்டி ஈன்ற தாய் கரடி கூட தனது கூட்டத்துடன் அந்த மரத்தை நோக்கிப் பயணப்படுகிறது. மரத்தின் கீழே கொட்டிக்கிடக்கிற பூக்களைத் தின்றுவிட்டு , இன்னும் சுவையான பூக்களை நாடி மரத்தின் மீது ஏறி சுவைமிகுந்த பூக்களை உண்டு கிளைகளில் படுத்துக்கிடக்கின்றன. இந்தக் காட்சி D iscovery Channel – ல் வரும் நிகழ்ச்சி அல்ல , நமது மரபு இலக்கியமான சங்க இலக்கியத்தொகுதியில் ஒன்றான அகநானூற்றில் இலுப்பைப் பூ பற்றி இடம்பெறும் இலக்கிய சாட்சி. சங்க இலக்கியத்தில் இருப்பை என்றழைக்கப்படுகிற இலுப்பை தமிழகத்தின் நிலவெளியில் குறிப்பிடத்தகுந்த ஒரு தாவரமாகும். ஆனால் , இன்று இலுப்பை மரம் தன்னுடைய இருப்பை தக்கவைத்துக்கொள்ள போராடிக்கொண்டிருக்கிறது. கரடிகளைக்கூட கவர்ந்து   இழுத்த இந்த மரம் இன்று கவனிக்கப்படாமல் கேட்பார் அற்று கிடப்பதற்கான காரணம் என்ன என்பதை ஆராய்கிறது இந்தக்கட்டுரை. இயற்கையோடு இலுப்பை தமிழர்கள் இயற்கையின் மீது வன்முறையைச் செலுத்தாது இயற்கையோடு இணைந்து இனிமையாக வாழ்ந்த காலப்பகுதியின் இலக்கிய சாட்சியங்கள் சங்க இலக்கியங்

Kazhuveli Wetlands – Fresh and Endless Wilderness

Lone Pond Heron getting ready for hunt Sunday morning are best suited for travel and explorations due to less congested roads. People sleep and hence no traffic. What more do you need than an empty road in the winter morning? Grabbing the opportunity like a hungry cat, we decided to visit the nearby wetlands – Kazhuveli – located around 16 kms north of Puducherry along the east coast. We hit the East Coast Road (ECR) early in the morning. Winter was not at its peak but pleasing. There is something beautiful about winter mornings, especially in Puducherry. While fog keeps you cold, the warm sea breeze stimulates your senses. It’s just enchanting. Riding in ECR was fun but its short-lived as we took a detour into the village after crossing Anumanthai toll. The roads were narrow and rugged, giving us an adventurous ride. After passing through some sharp turns and a lot of humps, a water body caught our eyes. It wasn't as massive as I visualised. Wetlands flou

பள்ளிக்கூடங்களிலும் கற்றல்... தெருக்களிலும் கற்றல்...

கல்வி என்பது சில புத்தகங்களை வாசித்து, சில தேர்வுகளில் தேர்ச்சிபெறுவதுடன் முடிந்து விடுவது இல்லை. அது நம் பிறப்பிலிருந்து இறப்பு வரை வாழ்க்கை முழுவதும் நிகழும் ஒரு தொடர் நிகழ்வு. – ஜிட்டு கிருஷ்ணமூர்த்தி   கல்வி என்பது என்ன? அது எவ்வாறு இருக்க வேண்டும்?  கல்வி என்பது சமூக முன்னேற்றதிற்கான கருவி. பள்ளிகள் சமூகத்தின் முன்னேற்றத்திற்கு முக்கிய பங்காற்றியுள்ளது. முன்னேற்றம் என்பது ‘தற்பொழுது உள்ள நிலைகளைக் கடந்து, யாரோ ஒருவர் வகுத்த வேறு ஒரு மேம்பட்ட நிலையை அடைவது’ என்ற கண்ணோட்டம் ஒன்று உள்ளது. இந்த கண்ணோட்டத்தினால் மேலோங்கி நிற்கும் கருத்து, ‘சமூகத்தில் தற்பொழுது உள்ள நிலையில் எதுவுமே கற்கவோ பகுத்தாயவோ ஆவணப்படுத்தவோ மேம்படுத்தவோ தேவை இல்லை’. இதனால் கல்வியின்  உள்ளடக்கம் தற்போதைய  சமூக நிலைகளுக்கு அப்பாற்பட்டு இருக்க அன்றாட வாழ்க்கை சம்பவங்களும் நடைமுறைகளும் புறக்கணிக்கப்பட்டுள்ளன. இவ்வாறு கல்வி என்பது கற்பவர்களின் அன்றாட வாழ்வோடு தொடர்பற்று இருக்கின்றன. மனிதர்களின் பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியைப் போல, இந்த கல்வியும் அதனைச் செயல்படுத்தும் கருவிகளும் பரிணாம வளர்ச்சி அடைய வேண்டும். சமீபக் காலங்களில் க