Saturday, January 15, 2005

Phansad Sanctuary-Jan'05

Hi All,

This comes after a long time…. Actually am recovering slowly from Hepatitis E that I acquired soon after the Phansad trip………While Vaibhav has given in detail the list of birds that we saw in Phansad W.S.during our trip on 15th & 16th Jan’05, I would like to touch upon some of the other aspects of the trip…….

Phansad is a semi-evergreen / mixed deciduous forest that lies roughly about 143 Kms from Mumbai (Sion) and about 42 kms from the town of Alibaug.

From Alibaug go south and ask for Akshi…..The road traverses parallel to the seashore going thro’ “Chaul” ( This was an ancient port…the remnants of which can still be felt) and then thro’ Rev Danda, where again remnants of an old fort still exits …It is here that we also saw a skeleton of Blue whale………
Yes an 8 month old baby (45 feet long only) whale whose carcass had washed ashore (It was identified later by an expert, we were told). Since it was stinking the villagers buried the animal…However one person from the village of “Therunda” took the skeleton out with the intention of showing it to the visitors and now after much work it is been displayed like the dinosaurs in museum with iron rods, roof et al..for public viewing free of cost. You can only appreciate the size & all only when you see it. I would advise everyone who is going to Phansad to visit this place that is on the way.

Once you cross the town of Rev Danda you come to the Bridge across the Revdanda creek. There are 2 ways to go to Phansad from here i.e. either right or left. The right road though long is recommended because it goes thro’ some splendid scenery parallel to the sea on the right and Phansad forest range on the left. Not far from here lies one of the most beautiful beach-Korlai, where an Old Portuguese fort still exits. Further down the road passes the Kashid beach and Nandgaon and then goes all the way to Murud. However there is a U turn for Phansad that is a steady climb of about 6 Kms to the village of Supegaon. The forest rest house is just opp. this village.

The forest guard Mr.Harishchandra Naik is a humble person & an ardent birder and an expert on Phansad wildlife. If you have to enjoy Phansad to its fullest then you essentially should have him with you as he knows not only the trails but also has hawk eyes & Knowledge of the local wildlife that leaves you surprised.

The rest house is very simple, each with 2 beds, a bathroom with bore well water, a dining room and a vast compound. Mr.Naik’s family lives closeby and can prepare food for the visitors. The Dept. also has some tents…so a large group ( School & college) can be accommodated comfortably.

There is a small but very dense patch of Sacred Groves or “Devrai” as it is locally called just outside the Supegaon Village and right in the middle of cultivated fields. The villagers wont dared touch this patch as they belive that the forest God otherwise will get angry and may bring ill luck to the village. Such beliefs, particularly in the Konkan region have created such Sacred groves in many places that act as a gene pool for the species that are rare or long lost.

The forest however is totally different, I thought. Phansad has some perennial water streams called locally as “Gans” like “Phansad Gan”, “Sambar Gan” ….Etc. Most of the birds seem to be concentrated around these areas as the areas hold good old fruiting trees. Even the elusive Malabar Gaint Squirrels can be encountered here. The sanctuary also has few meadow openings in between, that are called as “Mals” like “Chakacha mal”, “Nawabacha mal” where the nawabs used to hunt wildlife from machans built somewhere near the edge of these mals.

The best birding in the morning is however at the periphery of the forest. Just walking along the main road, one could find bare trees full of Pompadour & Yellow legged Green Pigeons, Blossom headed parakeets, Tree pies, Grey Hornbills, Orioles, Barbets Etc. The Nightjars are also a sure sight during night with there conspicuous calls.

The mammal sightings are good in Phansad…..Over the visits in the sanctuary I was lucky to have sighted Barking deers on many occasions, Civet cats, Wild Boar, Langurs & Bonnet Macaques, Giant Squirrels, Sambars & Mouse deer / Indian Chevrotin.The presence of Leopards can also bee sensed from the scats along the paths.

Phansad is heaven for Reptile lovers with plenty of Green wine snakes, Bronze backed tree snakes, Bamboo pit vipers, Cat snakes, Wolf snakes, Banded Geckos, and various lizard species. Also a good place for scorpions and huge cat legged spiders that reminds of the “Tarantulas” of the tropics. Butterflies are also very common what with the lantana shrubs infesting the forest floor. However during the monsoon the streams in the sanctuary are full of leeches & tree frogs and in summer the lantanas and grasses harbors plenty of ticks.

Among the uncommon birds typical of the semi evergreen / Evergreen vegetations that have been recorded in Phansad are the Blue faced Malkoha, Malabar Pied & Great Indian Hornbills; Canary & White bellied Blue Flycatchers, Fairy Blue Bird, Vernal Hanging Parrots, Black Eagles, Nilgiri & Green Imperial Pigeons (I didn’t see it this time. Vaibhav had mentioned that by mistake, probably as I continuously mentioned to him that I wanted to see this species) …..For me the lucky sighting this time was clear views of Male Black Naped Oriole.

Any birding trip always becomes interesting and exciting if accompanied by enthusiastic birders who wont mind skipping the breakfast or even lunch to see more birds and with Dr.Vaibhav Deshmukh, Dr.Sameer Mehta (Who does not get tired to take down each and every note that is mentioned, in his diary….the good habit unfortunately that I have stopped), Mr.Pravin Kawle & Mr.Harishchandra Naik, the birding gets a different meaning……………….

Phansad is one of the closest Semi evergreen forest from Mumbai that one could plan even for a weekend……….

Happy Birding,

Addi The Birde