Early yesterday morning, Gourvjit and I met Saleem and Deepthi, a graphic designer who was collecting information about wildlife in the Periyar, for a trek into the forest. Because Gourvjit and I had recently been with Amie and Milo on a path typically followed from the boat landing–which was where we were meeting our guide this morning–to avoid touring the same land we asked the guide to lead us on a different route. He told us there was one which might yield some interesting wildlife sightings, but that the terrain would be a bit more difficult. We took the challenge, of course.
What our guide had neglected to tell us then, but which we soon realized, was that the route he had planned for us to take wasn’t really a ‘route’ at all. That is to say, to make our way we had to cut through 7 ft tall elephant grass and other underbrush, and we followed no well-worn groove in the dirt, or footpath. But in this manner we carved our way up a hillside, conquering some slippery rocks under foot, to a clearing, from which we could see a broad landscape of savannah hills and waterways.
Yet on the way down from the clearing these minor travails were justified as, after tramping through another patch of thick grass, our guide told us to be still while he pointed to what looked like a lump of tree–but with eyes. Deepthi whispered to me that we were seeing a Sri Lankan (or Ceylon) Frogmouth, a nocturnal bird native to the Western Ghats, whose skill at camouflage makes you about as likely to spot it as one of the Periyar’s 50 tigers. I can say very honestly that I have never seen a bird I was so taken with, with its wide-set and perfectly round eyes, and its blocky, brown, and perfectly rigid form. Because the Frogmouth hides in the daytime by keeping still, we were able to get unusually close to it for a good while before it was threatened and flew off to a tree with thicker foliage.
It was a really unique experience to see this bird, and one I’ll not soon forget. Luckily, Deepthi was able to capture some great shots of the bird. Check them out!