The Dushera long weekend was here, and we couldn’t have been more excited. We had planned 2 nights stay at Jungle Lodge resorts – Old Magazine house at Ganeshgudi, Dandeli. This place is around 430 KMs from my place in Pune; so we started pretty early… at 5:00 AM. We drove via Kolhapur and Belgaum. Once you cross Khanapur, you enter the forest area and you will hear birds chirping all around and the coolness in the air. We took a total of 8.5 hours (with two breaks for 30 minutes each) and reach at 1:30 PM. Have to say that the Old Magazine House has a very rustic feel to it and you are actually into the forest. The Old Magazine House has a total of 5 cottages and 1 dormitory (can house 20 people). The staff was super friendly and ensured a seamless check-in. We had reached right at the lunch time; so we quickly got fresh and as we were heading towards lunch area, we quickly spotted few birds. It was the Brown Cheeked Fulvetta and the colorful Velvet-fronted Nuthatch. After snapping few clicks, we proceeded for lunch.
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One thing I specifically loved about the resort was the food. Good options and very tasty. After having a good sumptuous lunch, we met Mr. Vinayak (Naturalist at Old Magazine House) for planning our stay and activities for the next two days. Have to say that he is extremely down to earth and has good knowledge on flora and fauna in Dandeli. 1st thing we had planned was the short trek + hike at around 4 PM. While we were waiting for the trek time, I decided to hang around in a hope to see few birds. I did manage to click some record shots of the Malabar Barbet, 1st life of the trip. Soon it was trek time and after having a quick tea break we proceeded for the trek. Have to say that the trek is pretty short, but steep as well. Best part is that it is through thick dense foliage, so pretty enjoyable all the way. I did manage to get some super close-up shots of a Juvenile Malabar Grey Hornbill on way. Soon we reached the top which offers some spectacular views. We also saw quite a number of Little Swifts, Orange Minivets and Plum-headed Parakeets. We enjoyed the sunset from this hill top and it was definitely the highlight of Day 1 at Dandeli.
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We were back by 7 PM for snacks followed by dinner at around 8:30 PM. Vinayak was also planning activities for day 2; where-in I requested him for a trip to Timber Depot. He had got similar request from another group who was into birding and asked us if we would like to join; and we joined without any hesitation. Note that the stay does not include a trip to Timber Depot. You have to travel to the place in your own vehicle.
Day 2 started early, @ 6 AM as we started off to a place called Timber Depot. The place is around 20 KMs from Old Magazine House and takes around 40 minutes considering the small roads. Just as we parked our cars, Vinayak was quick enough to spot a White-bellied Woodpecker; another lifer. We could clear hear the sound it was making during pecking the tree park. Vinayak guided us in exploring the area and soon we were amidst a lot of birds… Malabar Pied Hornbills, Malabar Grey Hornbills, Indian Grey Hornbills, Brown-cheeked Barbets, Lesser Goldenback Woodpeckers, Plum-headed Parakeets, Orange Minivets, Grey-fronted Green Pigeons amongst other commoners. We also spotted a migrant; the Asian Brown Flycatcher. This is the time I met Ravi Sir, Leo Sir and Meganathan Sir. All were pretty seniors to me and it was pleasure interacting with them during our stay. If anyone is visiting Dandeli for birding, Timber Depot is a must visit place. After spending a good 2 hours, we were back to Old Magazine House for breakfast. After breakfast, I checked with Vinayak if any other activities were planned. He told us that we can drive on our own to Kali River and try our luck. He also informed that birds will come at Old Magazine House studio in evening… hence we did not waste much time and started off for Kali river. The river was in full flow, but no luck from birding perspective. While returning back, Shraddha wanted to make few calls and she insisted that we go towards Timber Depot where we had got cellphone range in morning. I parked my car at a spot where she had range and I could hear few calls as well. I spotted the Black-naped Monarch flycatcher, Orange Minivet, Black-hooded Oriole, Golden-fronted Leafbird and Tickell’s blue flycatcher. Once Shraddha was done with her calls, we started the return journey. While return we reached a point which had a sharp turn and I could hear the strong metallic calls of Racket Tailed Drongos and also other chirps. I parked the car and thought of giving it a shot. Just as I moved toward the tree from where the sounds were coming, I saw 5 woodpeckers on the same tree..! It had to be my lucky day. 1st it was a pair Lesser Yellow-naped woodpeckers, followed by a pair of beautiful Rufous woodpeckers and lastly a lesser Goldenback woodpecker. They showed up for just couple of seconds; somehow I managed to take few decent shots..!
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Soon we were back to Old Magazine House for lunch. After lunch Shraddha decided to take a short nap whereas I decided to hand around near the studio setup hoping if some birds would show-up. The Purple-rumped Sunbird was always around, but suddenly the Little Spider-hunter showed up… soon to be followed by the Tickell’s Blue flycatcher. Rest of the evening, we had quite a number of birds showing up that included Yellow-browed bulbuls, White-rumped Shama, White-rumped Munias, Dark-fronted Babblers, White bellied Flycatchers, Brown-cheeked Fulvettas, Puff-throated Babbler, Red-vented Bulbul and Orange-headed Thrush.
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The final day started with an early morning trail within the Old Magazine House campus at around 6:30 AM. This time around we saw Racket-tailed Drongos, Ashy Drongo, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Asian Fairy bird, Plum-headed Parakeets, Malabar Barbet and the Banded Bay Cuckoo. Time just flew by and it was around 11:00 am, when we start our journey back. On the way back, we captured some shots along the way at Ghataprabha River.
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This was my 1st birding trip and I completely enjoyed it. Especially the time spent at Timber Depot and birding trail around the campus. I am not a big fan of studio set up. Personally, I feel the studio set-up is for people who are more of photographers and less of birders. So to tell you in brief, the Old Magazine House has a set-up which has perches and pots (A pretty old set-up to which the birds are used to now); where the birds come every evening to drink and have bath in the water. I was informed that the birds come in a sequence, and at exact timings as well. From photography perspective, the best part is that you are just 15-20 feet away and you can get good shots even with 200mm or 250mm lens. If you have anything more than 400mm, you will surely be able to fill the frame with the bird. But if you are someone (like me) who likes to go on birding trails, hear and follow the calls, wait patiently for hours together and then probably manage just a record shot; that is not possible at the studio. But yes, you can surely go in and around Old Magazine House, Timber Depot and so on.
Best part about this trip for me was that I met quite a no. of people who were into birding and happy to share knowledge. It was a pleasure to meet and connect with Vinayak, Manish, Ranga, Ravi, Leo, Meganathan, Loven, Arpit, Rattan, Laxmi and Pramod. Would surely love to catchup with you all again. I was also told by Vinayak that the best time to visit is from November to February; so surely we are visiting again.
About the place: Basic amenities, excellent food, very friendly staff, Value for Money. 1 Night cottage stay includes 1 birding trail, 1 coracle ride and a short 2 KM trek + hike.
Best time to visit: November to February
Route Taken: Pune -> Kolhapur -> Belgaum -> Khanapur -> Ramnagar (Gharli) -> Old Magazine House
Roads conditions: Good (Only a bad patch of around 10-15 KMs at Londa)
All in all Highly Recommended from birding as well as photography perspective; you surely won’t be disappointed. :-).
Thanks for reading. Let us know in-case of any queries, suggestions, critics and we will be happy to respond.
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– Rudraksha & Shraddha
Here is complete list of birds we saw during our trip.
1. Brown-cheeked Fulvetta
2. Velvet fronted Nuthatch
3. Malabar Barbet
4. Coppersmith Barbet
5. White-cheeked Barbet
6. Brown-headed Barbet
7. Orange Minivet
8. Small Minivet
9. Plum-headed Parakeet
10. Malabar Parakeet (Only call heard, no sighting)
11. Long-tailed Shrike
12. Pale-billed Flowerpecker
13. Thick-billed Flowerpecker
14. Blyth’s leaf warbler
15. White bellied Woodpecker
16. Rufous Woodpecker
17. Lesser Yellow-naped Woodpecker
18. Lesser Goldenback woodpecker
19. Grey-fronted Green Pigeon
20. Malabar Pied Hornbills
21. Malabar Grey Hornbills
22. Indian Grey Hornbills
23. Asian Fairy bird
24. Banded Bay Cuckoo
25. Dark Fronted Babbler
26. Schmidt’s Babbler (Only call heard, no sighting)
27. Yellow-browed Bulbul
28. Red-vented Bulbul
29. Flame-throated Bulbul
30. White-rumped Munia
31. Black-throated Munia
32. Purple Rumped Sunbird
33. Gold fronted Leafbird
34. Black-hooded Oriole
35. Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher
36. Asian Brown Flycatcher
37. White-bellied Flycatcher (Male, Female & Juv)
38. Puff-throated Babbler
39. Black Drongo
40. Ashy Drongo
41. Racket-tailed Drongo