In heaven in Hornbill haven! It was a visit to the high ranges of the Anamalais after almost a year — an unpardonable offense! Anamalais is undoubtedly the biodiversity capital of the Western Ghats and I have been extremely fortunate to show up in these ranges frequently.
I made a solo weekend trip (Swarna was down with a terrible cough) and I was based at the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) field station in Valparai. The NCF Team in Valparai (led by Sridhar, Divya & Anand) do sterling work in rainforest restoration (in degraded plantation fragments) which are both pioneering and hugely successful. NCF has recently also set-up a fantastic interpretation center in Valparai to drive awareness towards the biodiversity and the conservation issues in the Anamalais. It is well worth a visit as you make the final curves towards Valparai. I covered a wide area in the Valparai plateau including almost a full day at the beautiful Thalanar valley. Fortunately or otherwise, the entire Valparai plateau is made up of private estates (mainly coffee and tea) bordered by protected land of the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary & National Park. I managed to photograph Great Hornbills again though the highlight of this trip was to photograph a variety of smaller and more elusive birds like flycatcher-shrikes, bee-eaters, minivets and flycatchers. We also saw a pair of Rufous-bellied Hawk Eagles performing spectacular aerial acrobatics. Not sure whether they were a pair in courtship displays. I saw the customary Nilgiri Tahr on the drive down (9th hairpin bend) and chose not to photograph the Lion-tailed Macaques (for a change) in Pudhuthottam! Enjoy the images! –ramki