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In Search of the Brown Fish Owl - Abhi Madangeri

Galibore, situated on the banks of river Kaveri is a beautiful place nestled deep inside the jungles of Kaveri Wildlife Sanctuary. Although the rapids here are known for the huge Mahseer fish, it is also the place for grey headed fish eagles and brown fish owls.

 

Our search for the Brown Fish Owl started with birding from outskirts of Bangalore when we spotted Ashy Prinias flittering around the hotel boundary fence where we had stopped for breakfast. This was followed by quick stops at lakes encountered on the way which were filled with Painted Storks, Eurasian Open-Bills, Egrets, Herons, Spot Billed Ducks, Lesser Cormorants, Moorhen and Kingfishers. Then there were Rollers, Shrikes, Bushchat and Doves all along the road in the shrubs and on power lines.

As we were driving slowly looking around for the birds, I saw some movement on a tree just in front of our car and I thought it was a Sirkeer Malkoha. We stopped the car and on close inspection we got to know it was a Large Grey Babbler. The tree diagonally opposite was filled with Rosy Starlings, Brahminy Starlings and Jungle Mynas. We moved ahead after spending some time with them when a Coucal crossed the road leading to the discussion of the different names of the bird and how sighting one is considered lucky. We had to wait and watch whether it was indeed lucky or not and so we kept our fingers crossed for the Brown Fish Owl.

The final 10 kms was a slow drive through the jungle with eyes all around looking for our feathered friends. We did see a lot of Rose Ringed Parakeets, Jungle Babblers, Yellow Billed Babblers, but the highlight was the Brain Fever Bird or the Common Hawk Cuckoo perched comfortably in open.

On reaching the resort, after freshening up and a refreshing lime juice we were all set to go again for some photography and birding along the river bank.

With lots of butterflies which kept us company when the birds were missing, at last we settled by the sandy river bank clicking some landscapes and other interesting things. A few Green Bee-Eaters kept us occupied for a long time when suddenly a lone River Tern emerged out of nowhere drawing our attention towards it. There were a few Eagles (unidentified) flying high up in the sky at the place we were busy shooting the Bee-Eaters.

We reached the resort all tired and very hungry but the birding was not yet over. As soon as we entered the resort, our guide had spotted an Owl and called me saying 'Sir, Owl Mari (small one)'. All excited expecting a Brown Fish Owl we reached the spot only to find that it wasn't a Fish Owl but a Barred Jungle Owlet. Even this was a lifer for many of us and we clicked it from all possible direction.

After a heavy meal, we tried hard and succeeded to fit ourselves in the jeep, which was ready to take us for the coracle ride. On the way, our driver told us that they had seen a Tusker sometime back on this route, when Mohan shouted 'Elephant over there'. We moved back and far away we saw it standing deep inside the wood, but very soon our excitement died down when we realized it was just a Buffalo.

As soon as we got into the coracle all our tiredness vanished, the cold water, cool breeze and the lovely air of the valley rejuvenated our senses. We flowed smoothly through the valley with the wind blowing against our hair, Darters and Cormorants perched on the rocks on both sides, River Terns flying over our head, the Pied Kingfisher hovering above the water and the Grey Headed Fish Eagles crossing the river, was a heavenly feeling.

After a group photo, it was time to leave the place and head back to the concrete jungle.

Those piercing eyes eluded us on this outing but we had no regrets as we looked back at the beautiful sunset over Galibore and promised to be back soon in search of the Brown Fish Owl.

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