Blackbucks at Basur Kaval, Chickamagalur, Karnataka, India.
Day 1 - December 20th, 2008
Early this morning, I drove out to a place I had never heard of -“Basur”! and hold your breath, the other two in the vehicle were none other than M N Jayakumar, IFS, Chief Conservator of Forests (Communication & Information), KFD, and the veteran Tanjavur Nateshachary Ayyam Perumal himself! For the very first time I was shooting in the company of such eminent wildlife photographers. Though I was the baby in the team, never did I imagine I would be in for the “endurance test” of my life! This trip more importantly helped revitalize my long-term goals!
Inspired by Jayakumar, the three of us left Bangalore early morning on the 20th December 2008. We reached Birur by noon after a pleasant drive via Tumkur, Tiptur, Arsikere and Kadur. A superb hot lunch was waiting for us as we checked into the conveniently located “PWD IB” (Public Works Department – Inspection Bungalow!) at Birur and met up with Lingaraja and his staff.
A Kaval is basically a grazing space for cattle. Government in the Department of Animal Husbandry and Veternary Services have in their possession thousands of acres of Amrut Mahal Kaval lands in various locations. These Kavals were meant to raise Amrut Mahal Cattle, a unique breed of draught resistant animals that required vast extents of open grazing areas. Many of these Kavals offer excellent habitats for several grassland dependant animals like Blackbucks and Wolves.
Amrut Mahal Cattle at Basur Kaval, Chickamagalur, Karnataka, India.
One such Kaval of about 1400 acres is situated at Basur just off the Birur-Yegati road. About 200 kms from Bangalore, Birur is a town in Chickamagalur district in the state of Karnataka, India. Lingaraja S S, IFS, who is currently the DCF at Chickamagalur, one day decided to explore “Basur Amrut Mahal Kaval” ! He was amazed at the bio-diversity he found in the area. Basur is the only place in Chickamagalur where these Blackbucks (Antilope cervicapra) an endangered species of antelope found mainly in India have survived. He was also able to find and photograph a pair of wolves in the area. Here is his full report - > CATTLE RANCH IN KARNATAKA SUPPORTS BLACK BUCKS, INDIAN WOLF!!
Kardi Kal Betta near Basur
At 3pm we were off to explore Basur Kaval! A short (30 kms) drive from Birur through some small villages brought us to Basur Kaval. On the way we passed “Kardi Kal Betta” (Bear Stone Hill) as I heard a fascinating story of the man-eating Panthers of the area. At first we saw nothing, but, as our eyes and ears settled down we saw and heard plenty of birdlife. A pair of “Southern Grey Shrikes” gave us good photo opportunities. By sunset we would have seen over fifty species of birds including larks, pipits, doves, shrikes, various raptors (migratory and resident), warblers, sandgrouses, francolins and quails. We did come across a few Blackbucks hiding in the grass as they ran on our approach. Finally, as the light began to fade and we were preparing to leave – a pair of wolves! All of us had wonderful views of the two healthy animals – such a nice feeling! No photo opportunities though as the light was fading and the wolves were trotting away.
M N Jayakumar, T N A Perumal and S S Lingaraja!
A wonderful dinner at the IB and off to bed. How time flies!
Day 2 - December 21st, 2008
Early morning we were back at Basur Kaval. Almost until noon we spent in the wonderful “grassland”. We were able to photograph the blackbucks and various species of birds. No wolf luck that morning.
At noon, Jayakumar led us to a delicious “brunch” at “Preeti Canteen”! This hotel at Birur offers some of the best south Indian snacks I have ever tasted!
After “brunch” we bid goodbye to Lingaraja and staff and left for Muthodi, Bhadra Tiger Reserve!
MUTHODI, BHADRA WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
Situated about 40 km. away from Chickamagalur town in Karnataka state and covering an area of about 500 sq. kms., the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary is surrounded by several scenic hills including Mullaianagiri, Hebbegiri, Gangegiri and Babaudangiri . At the western border of the sanctuary is the back waters of the Bhadra Reservoir which has a catchment area of 1,968 km² . Several tributaries of the Bhadra river flows all through the Sanctuary, that abounds with wildlife.
On our way to Muthodi via Kammengundi!
We drove from Birur to Muthodi via Kemmangundi. After a scenic (120+ kms) drive through winding narrow roads, we reached Muthodi just in time for the evening round. As we entered the forest, a couple of elephants disappeared on our approach. The Muthodi area is a favorite habitat of the “Barking Deer”. We had about twenty different sightings of this deer during our short visit! On our drive out of the forest, we had some good views of a Civet Cat browsing off the road and a Pitta hopping on the road.
Barking Deer, easily seen at Muthodi
At dusk we settled down at the popular “Seegekhan Inspection Bungalow” for some well-earned rest.
Day 3 - December 22nd 2008
What a day!
Perumal decided to opt out of the morning round. Jayakumar and myself left the IB at about 6.45 am. We suggested to the cook that we would have breakfast on our return at about 9.30 am. I never realized how cold the morning was until we descended into the forest!
The 40+ kms drive cutting across the sanctuary (from Seegekhan to Sukalatti) was truly breathtaking! Surely the less-traveled path! On the way, we visited several anti-poaching camps deep inside the forest. At one camp, I could not resist tasting the hot food that the forest workers had prepared – Rice and Hurali (horse gram) Saru! Remember, we were to be back for breakfast at 9.30 am?
Some breathtaking views, the feel of the deep forest and the backwater ambience were the highlights of the drive as we reached the Sukalatti IB at Lakkavalli.
After a very short halt at the Sukalatti IB we started back! Well, we actually returned to the IB at 4 pm! Yes, we had spent 9 hrs on the drive – how about that for endurance? Wait there is more!
After hungrily gobbling some late lunch and quickly taking a shower, we left for Chickamagalur! It was almost dusk as we hit the road and suddenly we had a glimpse of a panther that quickly disappeared into the thicket. The sighting of a big cat always makes one's heart race!
At about 8 pm we reached Khalid Ghani’s house. Langaraja and Girish joined us. We had a wonderful dinner and some pleasant interaction.
After dinner, we drove back to Basur! Yes, the three of us checked back into the “PWD – IB” at Birur by midnight!
What a day indeed!
Day 4 - December 23, 2008
Early morning we were back at Basur Kaval! It was the morning of the fox. We had splendid views of a pair of foxes. They were too quick and always out of reach for good photo opportunities. No wolf luck that day though!
Indian Fox at Basur
Another “Brunch” at our favorite hotel at “Birur” and we were on our drive back to Bangalore!
Thank you very much Jayakumar – an eye-opener on endurance for me! Thank you very much Perumal – your energy and perseverance puts me to shame. Thanks Lingaraja – the poet in you will surely make us meet again! I do hope “Basur Kaval” thrives despite human pressure.
Sunrise - Basur!
I reached home at about 9 pm and hit the sack like I had never done before! I knew this would be my last trip for 2008 and what a trip! Did you notice four days go by?!
Another wonderful year full or wildLIFE, flew by for me!
See you soon, in the next!!