Monday, October 02, 2006

"RAJMAGIC" Experience

Hi All,

Maharashtra is blessed with the Sahayadri Range and though unlike the south where the mountains are covered completely with green, here the green is restricted wherever the trees and shrubs could get hold on amongst the otherwise rugged cliffs and rocky terrain. The Sahayadri's offer a great blessing to the trekkers, however, there are few such places like "RAJMACHI", that offers both the trekking as well as nature trail pleasure. After a long break, I decided to do Rajmachi, with another 9 equally enthusiastic nature lovers (see photo above with Shrivardhan & Manoranjan forts at the background). Thanks to Animesh (Mandrekar) for organizing this wonderful outing for 2 days (30 th Sep'06 and 1st Oct'06)….In all 65 bird species, Kaarvi in bloom, Bioluminescent fungus, Bamboo Pit Viper, E.Eagle Owl, Atlas moth and much more.
October is always a best season for nature trails, as the migratory birds start to return, the butterflies emerge from their pupa, and flowers start to bloom in a backdrop of the lush greenery...... We started a bit late at around 8.30 am after having a sumptuous breakfast at Lonavala. The total distance from Lonavla to Rajmachi would be approx. 13-14 kms of undulating (But never tiring) continuous walk. However nature had plenty of things in store for us and we got our first reward…..a Small minivet female sitting in a neatly made cup nest lined with cobwebs and fed by her mate, followed by a Red-Vented Bulbul nest, beautifully hidden amongst a roadside plant, followed by House swift's mud nest high up under a water tank and followed by the Spotted dove's delicate home……. One has to traverse thro' the Tungarli village….cross the Mumbai-Pune Express way under a bridge, to start the actual trail. This is a well wooded path, where we came across more birds and migrants like Pied crested cuckoo, E.Golden Oriole, Ashy Drongo, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Tree frog etc….and plenty of wild flowers. The Tungarli Lake at the base is a small lake surrounded by a picturesque forest where one can see some water birds in late winter. A Malabar crested lark looked handsome sitting on a rock and a baby Monitor lizard was seen basking majestically on a rocky outcrop. The different shades of wild flowers and the pleasant wheather left us mesmerized thro'out the trail....

The Cliffs along the way to Rajmachi were once famous for Vulture's roosting and breeding and it was painful to see its deserted appearance. However, my eye caught an outline of a bird while surfing through my Bino's on the rocky cliffs , which I was sure, was a Falcon. A closer look thro' the scope, revealed it to be a Peregrine Falcon ( ssp.Calidus - Shahin) which was scanning the area from its throne. For a moment I imagined, how would the scene be from that height, I was brought back to my senses with a sudden dash of movement… was a fighting / chasing of 2 species of Shrikes…..The Baybacked shrike being chased by a Long tailed Shrike ( ssp.Erythronotus) ….

The whole area and the rocky slopes were clothed with various shades of colours sprinkled by wild flowers and the accompanying mist made a heavenly experience. In between them were some Kaarvi plants in bloom (They are expected to bloom en-mass in 2007 after 7 years) that was a lifer for many in our group.

A blackish looking bird was seen on top of a mango tree, that turned out to be an immature Blue rock thrush from the S.scope, A Pied Bush Chat pair flitting from one cacti to another, and a couple of Common Kestrels were seen scanning the rocky cliffs……..The commonest and most abundant wild flowers were the yellow "Sonki".

On the way Sahas spotted a female Atlas Moth (The Largest moth in the world) and we (including that moth?) then witnessed a photo frenzy…. And after satisfying ourselves (And not disturbing her), we continued walking and exploring the wonders of nature. As our destination approached, a lone Nilgiri Wood Pigeon gave a nice fly-past over the tree tops from a close distance and Sahas, who went ahead, sighted an Indian Pitta (They are passage migrants to our region)…….

Finally after reaching our destination (a newly built cement house with few rooms for trekkers) we were welcomed with a hot cup of Tea and just soaked ourselves with the day's wonderful sightings and experiences……..A short night walk rewarded us a Juv. Bamboo Pit Viper (The first reward for my bright Maglite torch) and the famous "Bioluminescent Fungus" glowing like radium on the dead fallen branches.

We had planned to go to one of the forts of Rajmachi on the second day morning, but the consistent rains washed our wish and so we headed towards a plateau, that is situated east of the village and which traverses thro' a sacred grove. It was here that we spotted 3-4 Malabar Grey Hornbills and Green Pigeons. There is a small pond with an 1100 AD plaque on one of its steps and at one of the corners, is situated a quaint little ancient Shiva temple… The rains didnt stop and so we decided to have a small but hot debate on the Sewri–Nhava sea link issue. The rains stopped briefly and as we came out of the temple, we got a glimpse of a largish bird being chased by a crow. Looking at the size, shape & flight, it was not difficult to guess that it was an Eurasian Eagle Owl. The Owl obliged us by perching on a nearby tree and allowing us close views for a considerable amount of time thro' the S.Scope……After all the mess created by rains, this was surely a jackpot for us. I could see excitement in almost all in our group including the ever enthusiastic 65 yrs young Mr.Thiru…….I think it is not only enjoyable to watch birds, but also the happiness that oozes on the face of the birders …….I was lucky to experience both at that moment.

We had decided to descend from Karjat side (Via the village of Kondivade), which was steep and with consistent rain, we could not risk to spend more time on the top, so we cancelled to go on the forts and instead just had a small walk to an ancient temple of "Bhairavnath" that is situated in a valley, between the 2 forts……I personally like this temple, for its mystic looks and the location.

The homely "Thali" food (don't read it as "Thai" food) served at the place we stayed, was delicious enough to compete with the 5 star hotels back here. The return descends was a bit heavy, what with the downpour making our luggage heavier than our weight and the ground more slippery than a glass…..but we did hear the Malabar Gaint Squirrel once.

Well !! It was not just the number of sightings / listings or wild flowers or Atlas moth or birds or the wonderful birders…..but it was more about the whole bunch of goodies that made our trip memorable….what I would like to call a "RAJMAGIC" experience!!

Happy Birding,
Addi The Birde

The trip was made all the more lively with Radhika Borkar and Kamolika Roy Choudhary's presence (they were our official camerawomans:), with's Mayur Kadrekar & Hemant Tripathi, The buoyant Sahas Barve, The explorer Neil Fernandes (He was the only one who quickly went on top of one of the fort, tough missed on the owl), Curious Parag Damle, our Manager :-) and advisor Animesh Mandrekar and the Evergreen and wonderful 65 yrs young Mr.Thiru.
Photo Credits: Taken from all the participants (I did not take any photographs)
To Know more about Rajmachi...Please click the links below:

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