September 14, 2015: Munnar, India — India’s highest peak south of the Himalayas is in Eravikulam National Park, in the Western Ghats, where I spent this morning with Harsha. Eravikulam protects a grassy, alpine landscape with scattered forest patches and it’s particularly famous for its endangered Nilgiri Tahr (a type of endemic sheep-like animal). We saw some tahr, but, as always, birds were the main target today, and they did not disappoint!
It’s nice to be on a fresh continent where practically everything is new. I reveled in hanging-parrots, scimitar-babblers, flycatcher-shrikes, canary-flycatchers, magpie-robins, whistling-thrushes, and other hyphenated delights this morning. The park was full of young Indian couples and lacked foreigners—a total reversal from East Africa, where all the parks were full of Westerners without locals. Things are a bit more poetic and spiritual around here. An interpretive sign at the park’s visitor center summed up birdwatching thus:
“You grab the binoculars, swing and focus; your mind scans rapidly through the field guides. A fleeting glimpse, a dash of colours, a momentary burst of song—angels fly away.”
Around lunchtime Harsha and I stopped at a tourism office in Munnar to ask a man where to find Broad-tailed Grassbirds. He gave us some brief directions, then, after hearing about my quest, all he wanted to talk about was the Guinness Book of World Records (which is enormously popular in India and which, after eight months, has yet to review my application this year). “We had a man in this community get into the Guinness Book,” he said. I asked what for, and he beamed. “Breaking iron rods with the bare hand.”
I think I’ll stick to birds, thank you! Thirty-nine to go for a new world record!
New birds today: 36
Year list: 4303