07.02.2009 - 08.02.2009 35 °C
After Fort Kochi and Ernakulum, it was wonderful to visit this quiet, natural area. Our accommodation was a “homestay” in a lovely, newly built, old-style Kerala house on the shores of the lake. Two real bonuses were the delicious home cooked meals and the chance to see a small spice farm up close. Our host tossed nutmeg fruit at us, helped us extract a few cocoa seeds from the pods, insisted we try freshly dug ginger root with a sprinkling of salt and allowed us to sample fresh turmeric as well.
To visit the bird sanctuary, it is mandatory to hire a guide. This is not simply to boost the local economy, but mainly to protect the unknowing bird-watcher from the wild elephants that frequently visit the sanctuary. They had been there the evening prior to our visit, but all we saw were their “calling cards.” We were lucky to see all sorts of beautiful birds, some of them very rare: such as the Sri Lankan Frogmouth (in the night-hawk family), a Black-crested Baza and a White-Breasted Tree Pie. Most of the others may have been “common,” but were pretty exotic to us – like the Racquet-tail Drongo and the Paradise Flycatcher.
Afterwards, we met the chief biologist of the park and learned all sorts of interesting tidbits, for example about the complex relationship between the Gray Hornbills and the nutmeg farmers: The jist of the story is that the hornbills need nutmeg to stimulate the hormone production necessary for successful breeding. Fortunately, there is lots of wild nutmeg in the sanctuary and the Gray Hornbills have made a big come-back. Unfortunately, they can’t tell the difference between the wild nutmeg in the sanctuary and the cultivated trees just outside. Now that there are large numbers of these birds, they need to look outside the sanctuary to satisfy their appetites and they devour lots of cultivated nutmeg making the farmers rather unhappy! It’s a story not so unlike the ones we know from Canada, with geese and deer wreaking havoc in farmers’ fields. Christian and Sugathan could only agree that wildlife biology is a complex subject!