Tucked away in the ‘lush green hills of Devala’ is a small, lesser known place. Here sitting on chair surrounded by misty tea plantations, sipping home grown hot tea, one can watch many of the endemic and endangered birds of ‘Western Ghats Biosphere’. Sounds unbelievable but take it from me you sure will become an amateur ornithologist after coming here. Most of the snaps you will see here are taken by me sitting on a garden chair sipping tea. You will have to wait for those and the name of the place as I will first list out the eco-friendly traits of this place.
It’s in the middle of a tea and pepper plantation on the gold digging hills of Devala. Far away from dust and pollution, an old colonial bungalow, maintained with very few changes will welcome you.
Wooden furniture’s give a feeling of the era of romance and grandeur. One common room has TV, little library, a pool table but rooms use very little electricity with only few lamps and no fans, diesel generators or other energy extensive gadgets. One can be free of mobiles also. Except BSNL other networks don’t work.
Awesome food mainly south Indian cuisine with all local materials. Even fish is locally caught. Water is from a natural spring flowing past. All washrooms kitchen have it. I have never felt so clean and fresh after using the water ‘softened by nature’.
Another attraction is the pool fed continuously by the same spring water which keeps draining towards the plantations. Free of chlorine and other irritants bathing in it is a bliss. Elephants come sometimes to drink the water. It happened the first night of our stay there. Though surrounded by forest, trees, streams there are no mosquitoes. One can pass the whole day sitting in the verandah sipping tea and catch the evening mist flowing inside.
Amazing flowers all over the place with optimal combination of huge trees (Jack-fruits, African tulips, bottle-brush, mango, coconut, star fruit, huge Palm-trees) inviting nectar-sippers and fruit-peckers alike.
Saw some amazing and beautiful insects and some glassy small fishes in a small reservoir downstream.(click to see more snaps of flowers)
Now comes the ornithology part. Even before we reached the place we caught a couple of endemic birds on the way.Malabar parakeet (Psittacula columboides) is a species of parakeet endemic to the Western Ghats of southern India and The Malabar lark, or Malabar crested lark (Galerida malabarica) a sedentary breeding bird in western India.
We reached in the evening so just enjoyed mist and tea on the verandah. Next morning lots of sunbirds and bulbuls welcomed us and thoroughly inspected our car.
I sat in the garden chair(snap) and waited for the birds, They were there all around in the huge trees chirping to their hearts content.
The show began with the shy lady ‘Female Malabar Hornbill’ (Ocyceros griseus)an endemic bird posing only for one quick snap and turned around.
Then came the Barbets with their sweet calls. Malabar barbet (Megalaima malabarica)and White-cheeked barbet or small green barbet (Megalaima viridis) are found only in Nilgiri biosphere.
Nilgiri Flower Pecker(Dicaeum concolor in the wider sense) wanted only a natural pose and tens of Malabar starlings(Sturnia blythii) played in almost all the trees. Both endemic to western Ghats.
Hundreds of Vernal Hanging parrots(Loriculus vernalis) were hanging upside down in African tulip trees. Though not endemic to this region but never seen in cities. Mr. Woodpecker(black-rumped flameback (Dinopium benghalense)) also visited us.
From the variety of sunbirds welcoming us in the morning ‘Crimson backed sunbird’ (Leptocoma minima) knew that it was endemic and looked at us from behind leaves.
In the evening saw a funny bird which ran up-down on tree trunks so fast that it was very difficult to catch. Got only one snap and later found it to be ‘Velvet-fronted nuthatch (Sitta frontalis)’, which unlike other tree climbers can climb down headfirst. There were many different types of warblers. Pine Warbler(Setophaga pinus) a small song bird sang for us too.
Lots of bee eaters were there too but couldn’t get their names
Finally it was time for me to stretch my legs and leave the garden chair. That’s me with my ‘chip of the old block’.
Next day we didn’t do any bird watching, but while driving down the estate we were rewarded by glimpses of two rare nilgiri birds. Nilgiri flycatcher (Eumyias albicaudatus) and Orange-black Flycatcher(Ficedula nigrorufa).
This heaven for bird watchers’ comes in 100 best nature resorts of India. Many articles have been written in papers but all reviews are about clean, fresh natural surroundings tranquillity and nothing about our winged friends. When nothing is mentioned about the main attraction it still remains quite unknown.
This is “Amberina”. Some 16 km from Gudalur and 72 km from Ooty. From Bangalore it takes around 7 hours by road and crosses two forests ‘Bandipur’ & ‘Mudumalai’. Drive itself is refreshing. Lucky ones may even get to say hello to our national animal. If you need to recharge your batteries and love birds then this is a must for you.