Thursday, July 22, 2010
Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary!
A visit to Gopinatham
Background: The River Cauvery flows through the major part of this protected area. The sanctuary has riverine, dry deciduous forests and some patches of scrub forest. This area has been recognized as an Important Bird Area having a rich diversity of birdlife with nearly 127 species of birds identified here. The stretch of Cauvery River that borders the sanctuary is an ideal breeding ground for the rare mahseer.
MM Hills serves as an important elephant corridor between the Western and Eastern Ghats.
Gopinatham is one of the small villages in the reserve. Soligas and Lingayats are the dominant communities in the MM Hills.
This was my second visit to this place. I loved my first visit and was ecstatic when my work took me there again. I was looking forward toward the lovely weather and beautiful lake out, hoping to catch some shots of the Birds. On reaching the Cauvery river side I noticed a group of Babblers whacking a Crested Serpent eagle. He had his feathers ruffled and seemed confused. Suddenly he took flight with the babblers not far behind.
On reaching I was in for a rude shock. The lake had dried up and the streams were empty. The lovely weather was replaced by a humid feeling and the forests were dry. It was pouring in Bangalore but it hadn’t here as yet.
We freshened up and set out to trek. We had gone to work on the Trail booklets. My colleague and I, with a forest guard set out on our trek. The lake which was buzzing with activity the last time was duller. There were little pockets of water left. The kingfishers I saw was the White Breasted Kingfisher gliding over the water for his meal. The other kingfisher I spotted was the Common blue Kingfisher. Other water birds like the Cormorants were seen near the lake and the noisy Red Wattled Lapwing. Red rumped Swallow’s were gliding and perched on the wires. There’s a temple built near the dam and the locals offer prayers. The temple was built at the same time the dam was built. This is dedicated to God Muneshwara. The signage board is the start of our trek into the forest. Lots of Blue jays or Indian Roller is seen as it’s hard to miss them in flight, flashing its brilliant wings. (This is the State bird of Karnataka).
As I was walking I realized there were a lot of Lantana Camara bushes. Here in this forest, Lantana invasion is high (covering 80%) of the land. This happened due to the mass felling of native vegetation - especially bamboo, leaving the ground open for the rapid spread of lantana. This has had an impact on the native flora and fauna. (Atree involves locals to make furniture out of these Lantana bushes to reduce the spread of theses bushes).
Interesting note: Lantana (Lantana camara) is native to tropical America. Lantana was brought to India by the British in 1807 as an ornamental plant for the Calcutta Botanical Garden.
As I was walking I suddenly spotted a sambar, I walked further and could hear an alarm call of another Sambar close by. The trek took me mostly around the lake. I saw lots of indirect evidences of sloth bears and dung of elephants. The guide told us that during the monsoons lots of elephants flock to the lake. Bird life is good as I heard the constant calls of the Brain fever bird (Common Hawk Cuckoo), Rufous treepie and the crimson throated barbet. All the stream beds I passed were dry. The trek was pleasant and I saw lots of butterflies. While passing a stream I spotted a lovely peacock. Nearing camp there seemed to see lots of bear activity. We saw the bears foot prints and all the termite mounds were broken. We crossed the dam and headed to camp as it was getting dark. The camp is being renovated and it’s basic. The forest at night is lovely and quite. The camp is being done up and is called The Mystery Camp. We had our dinner at camp and headed to bed as we had a long trek ahead the next day.
We awoke early and set out on the trek. I spotted a lovely Pied Cuckoo near camp. We headed along the lake to see the memorial of the Late Shri P. Srinivas the DCF who was murdered by the late forest brigade Verappan. In honour of his Chivalry he’s been awarded the Keerthi Chakra.
I observed lots of butterflies’ mudpuddling and took decent pictures of them :) From there we turned back, to head to camp. On the trek I noticed a squirrel screeching and suddenly a monitor lizard is up on the tree and enters a hole. It was amazing.
I noted a lovely smooth greyish-white bark tree with a silvery luster with soft leaves called Gyrocarpus americanus. (The seeds are sometimes strung into necklaces) I found this everywhere. On one particular tree I saw a bear’s foot print. We didn’t see much wildlife on foot but nevertheless this place is unique in its habitat.
A Fallen Egg: Looks like a Jewel.
Bear Foot prints:
We reached camp, freshened up and left. On our way after passing MM Hills we saw a Jackal on the road, trying to cross. But it proved difficult for the fellow as the vehicles were zooming by.
This place is home to a variety of flora and fauna as this is a unique habitat. The disturbance seen in this forest is high. I truly wish this place survives as its an important wildlife corridor.
A Photo log :-
This is a social activity where at times several hundred butterflies, especially males of one or more species can be seen on damp sand or mud banks.