KOCHI: There! He yelled, pointing out the slim grey form as it flicked through the bushes, chirping gaily. My guide was an expert bird-tracker. I squinted through the camera eye and spotted the ‘White Bellied Minivet’ ensconced on a twig not too far off. The light was petering out on this grey November evening under cloudy skies. And the excitement and enthusiasm of my guide was inspiration enough for me to set forth across the grassy plains. We walked close to a quarter of a mile before catching up with the male. The female kept darting off from clump to clump. Finally out of sheer exhaustion I had to give up and head back to the jeep. This land is Masinagudi, a village on the buffer zone of the Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary.
Earlier in the week, we had driven down to Masinagudi from Coimbatore—a distance of about 100 kilometres. This beautiful spot is perched at the foothills of the Nilgiris on the fringes of Mudumalai and Bandipur national parks.
We reached Masinagudi on the buffer zone of the Mudumalai forest range, and our guide was waiting for our arrival with his jeep and we just followed his tyre tracks to reach our private forest-stay where a wonderful lunch awaited us. After lunch, we just explored the fringes of the forest and that was indeed rewarding. This is from among the rough list of what we saw from there: Jungle Myna, Brahminy Starling, Golden Backed Woodpecker, IndianNightjar, Red Whiskered Bulbul, Malabar Parakeet, Purple rumped Sunbird, White-Bellied Drongo, Coppersmith.
After a sumptuous dinner, we retired to bed listening to the alarm calls of Spotted Deer, Langur and Peafowl. We made ourselves comfortable in our warm quilts and slept with one eye open though the window pane gaping at the twinkling stars. Only the screech of an elephant reached us a little late in the night. Kuruvi Siddhan our guide in Masinagudi joined us in the morning. He knew the entire area so well and could lead us to amazing birding spots.
Masinagudi is an unforgettable experience. This land lies like an open palm amidst the darkness of the mixed evergreen forests of the western ghats. Innumerable bamboo clumps dot the undulating green and from within the deep shadows floated out the most melodious calls of the White-rumped Shama. I believe that it was my fated quest to follow the Shama and image it in this lovely surrounding. But for days on end, the Shama deluded my camera, skulking in the dark but egging me on. The writer is a professor and former chair, Department of English, Pondicherry University. (The views expressed are his own)