Day 263: Ganesha Chaturthi

The elephant god watches as Noah and friends bird in tiger country.

September 20, 2015: Masinigudi, India — This weekend falls during Ganesha Chaturthi, an annual 10-day festival that celebrates the intellectual Hindu god, Ganesha (the one with an elephant-like head). As Harsha and I traveled across the dry plains today, we saw festivities in every village. Communities traditionally make elaborate, statue-like idols of Ganesha, then parade them to a nearby body of water and immerse them, with a lot of loud drumming and dancing along the way. “It’s popular in this part of India,” said Harsha, “but Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated more in some places than others. Mumbai is crazy right now!”

The party atmosphere lent a certain extra energy to our birding. We met a local man named Sidda this afternoon who took us to a few spots in the foothill dry forest at the edge of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO world heritage site that encompasses four national parks. Besides birds, this place hosts large populations of Asiatic elephants and tigers, and Sidda seemed to be on high alert while we walked in the forest.

“He’s got stories of being chased by both, and so do all the other local guides here,” said Harsha. We didn’t bump into any elephants or tigers, though we did hear some elephants trumpeting in the distance.

As dusk fell, we were still missing a couple of woodpeckers that I won’t find farther north, and quick-thinking Harsha called up a friend named Daniel, who arranged for us to stay nearby so that we can try again for the birds early tomorrow morning. We got settled in, then, after dinner, found two young elephants grazing about a hundred yards from our room! It’s interesting to think that tigers are prowling out there, too, as I fall asleep tonight.

New birds today: 13

Year list: 4410


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