Grasshills & Flying Squirrels! New Year’s eve luckily came on a weekend and it was possible to take a 3-day break to Valparai in the Anamalais. Swarna & I were able to continue our long-lasting tradition of staying as far away from the crowds during New Year’s eve. We chose to go to Valparai to spend time yet again with the NCF folks & their extended family of wildlife scientists. Divya, Shankar & Anand had very kindly offered to plan a quick trip to Grasshills National Park in the upper Anamalais. This was very special as this park remains out of bounds for general visitors. Plus, the last time I had gone there was in 1988 – almost twenty years ago!
Other than visiting Grasshills, where we got good views of a shy tahr herd, one of the objectives of this trip was to try and photograph a couple of nocturnal arboreal mammals with the help of Nandini — a wildlife scientist researching flying squirrels in the area. The last time I came to Valparai in Nov 2006, I was so focused on Great Hornbills that I completely forgot to take my camera during the night walk. Nandini very kindly took us ‘spot-lighting’ on two consecutive nights in the nearby sholas and we got spectacular views of Brown Palm Civets and Indian Giant Flying Squirrels. I was thrilled to finally make sense of flash mechanics (or electronics) as well as my Better Beamer flash extender. I realized it’s a superb tool for night photography as it can throw a focused beam over 50 feet to enable well-lit images. The LTMs were around in their usual haunt and I never get bored of photographing them. The Great Hornbills were still around in large numbers (40+) but would have gone into the jungle by now (in pairs) preparing for nesting in the coming months prior to the monsoon. Of course, the highlight of the trip was a fantastic & unforgettable open-to-the-sky barbeque party hosted by Robin (who studies shortwings) & Nandini. The party was a wonderful showcase for Robin’s talents as a highly innovative chef! In all, a great start to the New year! Cheers, –r@mki Bangalore | Feb 2007