Wildlife At Blackberry Hills
FLORA & FAUNA
Follow the long whistle to find a black beauty singing on the branch of a cinnamon tree. He is the ‘whistling school boy’ who wakes you up in the early morning! Continue your trek till you watch and identify several birds, few of them endemic and endangered. We have identified 52 varieties of birds last summer. Golden backed woodpecker, kingfisher, bulbul, jungle fowl, black eagle, kestrel, crow pheasant, quail, green and imperial pigeon, and grey hornbill are some of them that are frequent visitors – we call them frequent flyers. ‘Domain of Kestrel’ in the middle of Blackberry Estate is the area where a kestrel and its mate do their routine surveillance during the days of good sunshine. Blackberry Estate is a natural habitat for numerous moths and other insects. The strictly organic nature of the estate attracts such beautiful seasonal visitors. We have published a list of the moths that we were lucky to have photographed from their natural surroundings. It is illegal and unethical to disturb such beautiful creatures and hence we never try to catch them for the purpose of photography. Some of them end their life cycle in the estate but collection and preservation of them is also restricted. The Great Malabar Squirrel is another frequent visitor to Blackberry Estate. Wild boar, barking deer,jackal etc appear once in a while as guest artists. Blackberry Estate is rich with a variety of rare trees such as cinnamon, rose wood etc. We have a stunning variety of 12 ferns. Agave Sisal is here since Scots and their plantation adventures. we have added a collection of 18 other rare Agaves. Within 10 years time, we plan on having the largest collection of Agave plants in India.
Agaves Sisal. We have a collection of 23 agaves.
Ferns. We have identified 12 varieties in the valley.
MOTHS OF BLACKBERRY HILLS
Organic nature of Blackberry Estate ensures a natural habitat for many beautiful creatures including moths. Some are as large as a bird. If you come accross one, please take a snap without disturbing the VIP.
BIRDS OF BLACKBERRY HILLS
COMMON INDIAN MYNA
Local name (Kavalam Kili, Madatha, Nattumyna) A familiar, perky, well groomed, dark brown bird with a black head, neck and upper breast. It has bright yellow bill and legs. There is bearskin round the eyes. A large white patch on the wing is conspicuous in flight. Bird’s length is 23 cm. Sexes alike. Birds seen in pair. Omnivorous. It has varied assortments of sharp calls and chatter. Eggs fourfive. Beautifully glossy turquoise blue coloured.
SOUTHERN HILL MYNA or SOUTHERN GRACKLE (KATTU MYNA)
Somewhat larger than Myna. Length 25 cm. Highly glossed with purple and green colours with a conspicuous white patch on the wings. Yellow bill and legs. Bright orange-yellow naked patches on the head. Sexes alike. In pairs or noisy flocks up to twenty birds. Loud sharp creaky shrieks. Their flight is noisy. Have the habit of settling on the bare topmost branches of lofty dead trees in forest clearings at sunset and uttering their loud creaking calls. They learn to talk with astonishing clarity.
SOUTHERN JUNGLE MYNA (KINNARI MYNA)
Size same as common myna. Length 23cm. Characters similar to common Myna, but distinctly grayer brown. No bare yellow skin round the eyes. A prominent treft of erect black feathers as base of bill on forehead. Large white wing patches, conspicuous in flight. Sexes alike. In pairs or loose flocks. Frequently seen in association with grazing cattle for the sake of grass hoppers disturbed by the animals movements. Food consists of insects and nector. The feather tuft on the forehead functions as an efficient pollen brush. Its calls and voices are similar to those of common myna.
RED WHISKERED BULBUL (IRATTATHALACHI)
Length 20 cm. Crimson whiskers. A diagnostic crimson patch under root of tail. Seen in scrub jungle, light forest and semi cultivation. Narrow pointed upstanding and forwardly curved black crust and white under part. The broad black band across the breast and the crimson whiskers and under tail patch are other diagnostic features. Sexes alike
SOUTH INDIAN BLACK BULBUL (MYNA BULBUL, KARIMPAN KUTTU BULBUL)
Length 23 cm. Slightly slender. A dark slate coloured bird with an untidy pointed crust, a slightly but distinctly forked tail, red bill and legs. Sexes alike. Noisy flocks in leafy tree tops. Eucalyptus, Rhododendron and Erythrina are favorite flowers for nector.
SOUTH INDIAN REDVENTED BULBUL (NATTUBULBUL)
Smaller and slimmer than Myna length 20 cm. A perky smoke brown bird with partially crested black head, scale like markings on breast and back and a conspicuous crimson patch under the tail which is tipped white rump particularly noticeable in flight. Sexes alike. Pairs or parties, in gardens and lightly wooded country. Usually seen in pairs both near and away from human habitation. Some times collects in large numbers where food is plentiful. This species has a number of pretty and joyous call notes, but nothing in the nature of ‘song’ as popularly understood.
SCARLET MINIVET (THEEKURUVI)
Length 20 cm. Slim Brilliant flame coloured. Pairs or small flocks in leafy treetops. In adult male head throat neck and upper back glossy blue black. Lower back and under parts orange scarlet. Wings and graduated stale partly coloured orange scarlet and black. In female yellowish gray above, bright lemon yellow below. Wings and tale black and yellow. Seen in flocks up to twenty birds. They flit restlessly among the green thick foliage.
SPOTED DOVE (ARIPRAVU, CHAKKARAKUTTAPRAVU)
A slender Pigeon, Pinkish brown and gray, above spotted with white, conspicuous black and white chessboard on throat and white on abdomen. Vent and under tail coverts. The white border to end of tail becomes prominent when it is spread out before the bird alights. Sexes alike. Pairs or loose parties. Feeds entirely on grains and seeds. Flight swift strong and direct, attained by vigorous wing stroke. Soft, pleasant or mournful call repeatedly.
NEELAGRI WOOD PEGION (MARAPPRAVU)
Length 42 cm. A large pigeon with gray head and black and white chessboard on the hind neck. Upper plumage brick red brown with glistening sheen of metallic purple and green on upper back. Sexes are alike. Singly, pairs or small parties in forest. Its call is like “Hoo” somewhat under tone, followed by three or four quick repeated owl like notes “Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo”. But it is a silent bird on the whole.
EMERALD DOVE (OMANAPRAVU)
A brownish pink dove with glistening emerald bronze-green upper parts (excluding tail) and conspicuous white forehead and eyebrows. In flight the chest nut undersides of the wings are arresting features. Sexes alike. Single or in pairs in forest. Usually seen feeding on the ground along paths and roads through jungle or flying across appearing in forest at top speed. Seeds and berries comprise its staple food. The call is soft, deep and very low ‘hoon’ with a nasal ending.
Length 35 cm. Slender grass green or yellowish green with a bright bluish plum coloured head, Maroon red patch on shoulders, and broad white tips to the long pointed central tail feather. In female, the head is grayer with a bright yellow colour. In the flight the conspicuous white tall tip and the sharp monosyllabic interrogative call “toot……..” are diagnostic. Mixed fruit garden surroundings homesteads are favorite to them. Flight is very swift. They like nector very much.
Smaller than sparrow. Length 10 cm. Head, Upper part, chin; throat and breast are brightly coloured. In pairs, in open lightly wooded country on flowering trees. Affects open deciduous Jungle and neighbourhood of cultivation and villages. Also gardens and compounds. Very fond of nector of flowers. The song of the male uttered while he pivots from side to side on his perch and excitedly opens and closes his wings and tail while singing. Beak is long pointed, narrow and curved downwards which enables the bird to suck honey.
WHITE EYE (VELLIKANNIKURUVI)
Length 10 cm. Tiny square tailed bird, greenish yellow above, bright yellow and greyish white below. A conspicuous white ring around the eye. Slender pointed slightly curved bill. Sexes alike. In parties and flocks of 20 numbers in wooded country on flowering trees and shrubs. Occasionally flocks of a hundred or more may be seen. Fond of nector. Restlessly hunts for food.
TICKELL’S LEAF WARBLER (PODIKURUVI)
Length 10 cm. A restless little bird, olive brown above, bright yellow below. Sexes alike. Singly or in loose parties on ground or in bushes. Winter visitor. Not common. Apparently on hills only. More gregarious. Flicks its wings nervously from time to time and utters a monosyllabic sparrow like “tisp”. Insectivorous.
VELVET FRONTED NUTHATCH (TANDON KILI, GOULIKILI)
Length 10 cm. A tiny sub tailed bird, purplish blue above, grayish lilac below with stout longish pointed coral red bill. Forehead velvety black chin and throat whitish. White strap above and behind the eye absent in the female. In pairs or family parties. They are very active in their movements and creep jerkily downwards on the under side of a bough and scuttle along it with astonishing celerity. Spiders, insects and their eggs are the food.
MALABAR WISTLING THRUSH ( CHOOLAKAKA)
Length 25 cm. Large glistening blue black thrush with brilliant cobalt blue forehead and shoulder patches and stout black legs and bill. Sexes alike. Singly or in pairs in rocky hill streams. Often close to human habitation. Every now and then the bird does a “bend-stretch” on its legs and raises and lowers its tail, some times very slowly and deliberately. Diet consists of aquatic insects snails and crabs. Its loud and rich whistling sound heard from earliest done, rambling aimlessly up and down the scale is remarkably human in quality and has earned for the bird its popular name of whistling schoolboy.
NEELAGIRI FLY CATCHER (NEELAKKILI PAATTAPIDIYAN)
Length 15 cm. Size about that of sparrow. A common resident bird. Freequents overgrown hill streams, cardamom plantations and edge of forest clearings etc. Greenish indigo blue coloured with bright blue forehead and supercilium. Female dull gray brown washed with bluish green. Males have a pleasant trilly song. It lasts from five to ten seconds and is constantly delivered from some exposed twig on the top of a tree.
BLACK & ORANGE FLY CATCHER (MAENYPAKSHI, KARIMCHEMBAN PATTATPIDIYAN)
Size about that of sparrow. Length 13 cm. An arrestingly coloured flycatcher, well named and unmistakable for any other. In the female the orange is pale and the black parts replaced by greenish brown and dark brown. Singly or separated pairs in evergreen undergrowth. Keeps to the under story and low bushes. Usually tame and easy to observe. The male utters a some what metallic high pitch “chiki-riki-chiki” sound. More commonly heard than seen.
GRAY JUNGLE FOUL (KATTUKOZHI)
Size that of domestic hen. 60 to 80 cm. General effect of the cock streaked gray, with a metallic black sickle shaped tail. Hen brown above white below with blackish streaks, singly, pairs or small parties in forest and scrub jungle. Come out in to the open to scratch the ground and feed in the mornings and afternoons. Usually very shy. Flies well and strongly. The crowing is heard chiefly in the early morning and at desk.
PAINTED BUSH QUAIL (MENIKKADA)
Length 18 cm. A highly coloured quail with conspicuous deep red bill and legs. Male olive brown above finely streaked with white and spotted with black chest nut below. Female’s under parts are brick red. The birds keep to grass land and come out into the open. On forest path etc in the morning and evening they dust themselves. Food consists mainly of grass seeds. When flushed and flying off they utter a short whistle.
PIED BUSH CHAT (CHUTTEENDALKILI)
Length 13 cm. Male jet black with white patches on rump, abandon and wings. Female earthbrown with pale rusty rump. Usually Seen perched singly on bush tops flicking its tail, but in variably has its mate some where close at hand. Purely insectivorous. Darts to the ground every little while to pickup an insect. In the breeding season, the male has a pretty whistling song. Nesting season- February to May
PIED BUSH SHRIKE (ASURAPPOTTAN)
Length 14 cm. Small black and white fly catcher like bird. Head and back glossy black. Under parts pure white and pinkish white. A white colour round the neck. Wings and tail black and white. In female the black portions are replaced by sooty brown. Seen in pairs in jungle. The individuals follow one another from tree to tree searching amongst the leaves and springs for insects. Its characteristic posture on a perch is rather hunch backed with neck telescoped and tail depressed. Food consists entirely of insects.
INDIAN KESTREL (VIRAYAN PULLU)
This is same as European Kestrel , but more brightly and richly coloured with very rufous under parts. Singly or pairs. Fairly common but not abundant. Breeds in Western ghats complex. The most characteristic feature of this falcon is its spectacular method of hunting. It glides in the air at a height of 20 meters, remains poised stationary in the mid air on rapidly vibrating wings, pounces up on the prey silently and bears it away in its claws.