Friday, October 5, 2007

Bannerghatta National Park

Bannerghatta National Park

It is our last day in Bangalore. Tonight we pack up and leave the poor internet we have here and head into the jungle and NO internet until Monday evening, if then. This may be my last dispatch until then.

I decided that I may have sounded unduly negative about Bangalore and the Hotel- not so. Bangalore, if you strip out the air pollution, the squalid slums, and the traffic you have a beautiful tree lined city- "The Garden City" as it is called. The hotel is comfortable and clean but its charm is in its staff. Wonderfully warm with beautiful, genuine smiles. I will miss them. Here is a tale from last evening:
Sally, my wife, is here on business. She heads off after I have left for my birding trips with my guide but she arrives late each evening after working hard. Last night the company took her out to eat and I was left alone. I went down to one of the three hotel restaurants, the Indian one, of course. I took my seat and one of the wonderful waiters who remeber you and all your preferences was at my side immediately, "Two sir? Where is Maam?" I tell him where she is and that I will be dining alone. I ask for a KIngfisher beer and tell him that I am sad to dine alone. He says with all sincerity - "Oh sir, I am sad too".
The next morning Sally and I are back in the restaurant together and the waiter is very pleased indeed. While we eat we see a Jungle crow land on one of the outside tables and he picks up a foil wrapped pat of butter. He places it on the table in front of him and begins reaching for another. His foot knocks the first to the ground. He peers over and almost shrugs, turning for another one. He places it in front of his feet, then picks out another one and places it in a line with the first. He then deftly scoops both up into his bill and off he goes. He returns in a few minutes to repeat the theft.

This day will be my last day with my guide Dr. Kumar Ghorpade. I like to think we have hit it off. He picks me up at 7:30 with the driver Ankrum, a man with startling green eyes and a hot temper in traffic. We head off through the city to Bannerghatta National Park just south of the city. The city is growing so fast that its outer reaches now butt up against the park. A vast trench is dug around the park to keep the elephants, guar, and deer inside. The villagers have other ideas.

Under cover of night they fill in the trenches and bring their goats in to feed in the rich jungle. Naturally the elephants walk right out and stomp on the village, which then complains to the authorities.

Dr. Ghorpade has arranged to get us in a few hours before the park opens. He has also gotten permission to wander on for for an hour or so. Regular visitors can only ride around in a huge safari bus with armored windows (what should I know?). We spend the morning birding and running into these huge Guars, Chettal, and Spotted deer while looking for birds. After a bit Kumar wanders off to net his beloved hover flies and I am left alone in the jungle. A motion catches my eye and deep in the branches of a ficus, I see a strange head looking at me. It is blue and green with a large de-curved bill and golden eyes. I manage a photo and when Kumar returns I say that I have seen something odd and as I describe the bird he becomes agitated. I say , "well here it is on my camera". He exclaims "You have a record! It is the Blue-bearded bee-eater, unrecorded around here and he shows me his range maps.

Another wonderful bird I saw today was the stunning Asian Paradise-flycatcher. I had seen the outrageous male earlier in the week but could not photograph it. Today I stalked the female until I could get a very nice photo.


Nate said...
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Vanessa said...

Hey Steve,

Wonderful picture of the beeeater and red whiskered bulbul! I went bird watching yesterday and had an amazing time. I saw turtles, frogs, goldfinches, house finches, tufted titmouse, some sort of hawk (broad shoulder), that was 4 feet away, a great egret, warblers, white throated sparrow,a pair of cardinals and many more. We should go birdwatching soon.

Cybil said...

Well written article.