One of the re-discoveries of a nature location is Muthyala Maduvu, which translates in Telugu to "Pearl Drops"....which is how Pearl Valley gets its name, where the water droplets of the small cascade are likened to pearls.
Participants on one outing.
is a fairly accurate description of this location. What it does not tell us is that the locals (acting for themselves or for the Karnataka Forest Department, we don't know) let everyone in, and lower a boom across the road and charge Rs.30 per vehicle to let people go!
When I had visited this place perhaps two decades ago, it was so filthy with accumulated trash, and noisy with boisterous tourists, that I, like hundreds of others, stopped visiting.
However, recently, some visitors spotted a very unusual bird, the Eyebrowed Thrush, at this spot, and this sparked fresh interest in visiting the area. Let me not deny that there is still a fair amount of trash, especially along the bed of the stream that flows away from the cascade...but it is nowhere near as bad as it used to be. Granite steps have been built, going down the valley to the cascade, which falls into a small pool before tinkling over the rocks as a small stream. There are two gazebos that overlook the valley, providing a great view of the birds in it on the way down, and, on the return, raptors riding the thermals in the skies above.
Since I am not a "tick" birder (one who goes to a location with a specific, unusual bird in mind) it took me a while, and the requests of several birders, to conduct outings here. I may as well clarify immediately that I never ever got a glimpse of the "Hubbu" (eyebrow in Kannada) Thrush. In fact, I got sightings of the Thick-billed Warbler, which is a bird with no supercilium...but that is another story!
On our visits, we seemed always to start with the Barn, Wire-tailed and (later, in increasing numbers) Red-rumped Swallows
sitting on the wire in musical notation formation, at the backwaters of the reservoir. On entering the turnstile, we usually located the featherball Spotted Owlet in the vicinity, while Purple and Purple-rumped Sunbirds flitted and feasted on the Moringa flowers on a tall tree. Coppersmith and White-cheeked Barbets welcomed us with audio and sometimes a video too.
As we descended the steps to the gazebos, Red-vented, Red-whiskered, and White-browed Bulbuls caught our attention. White-eyes, Cinerous Tits, Prinias and Munias flitted through the bushes.
Sujith and his team from Carl Zeiss setting up the birding scope and letting everyone use it. They brought along five pairs of binoculars too. Here Sangeeta is trying it out.
Gazing at the valley from the gazebos, we found a lot of activity; Scimitar Babblers, Blue-bearded
and Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters,
Paradise Flycatchers...they delayed our descent down into the cascade area. Ashy and Black Drongos competed with
in bringing black to our attention when we were looking at other colours!
When we reached there, however, (provided there were no casual visitors there (which sometimes happened) the pool area was excellent for sighting many Flycatchers. Apart from the resident Paradise, Spot-breasted and Tickell's Blue, we also sighted the Asian Brown, the Brown-breasted, the Ultramarine, and the Verditer flycatchers.
The stream that flowed away from the pool rewarded our patience with so many beautiful birds....the Indian Blue Robin, the White-rumped Shama, the Orange-headed Thrush and many more. Some superb DSLR photographs from the participants bear witness to this statement!
The path slowly leaves the stream below and goes as a single-file, rocky path up the hill; many of us explored right up to the brow of the next hill, coming back with sightings of the Indian Eagle Owl as well. However, on one visit,I had just finished telling people in the group that they would have to walk quite a bit to see the Eagle Owl....and as if taking pity on those of us who could not walk up the path, the Owl once sat directly opposite the first gazebo, far away but quite rewarding!
Nor were the birds the only things of interest. Starting with the tall, flowering Moringa tree and the Rain Tree in which the Owlet could be found,and the ever-present Eucalyptus at the backwaters, we found several Honge (Pongaemia sp), Pala Indigo (Wrightia tinctoria), Nile Tulip (Markhamia lutea), Jacaranda and Gulmohar (Delonix regia) trees, some of them beginning, and some of them ending, their blossom cycle. Ficus trees, both Peepal and Banyan, provided dense shade. We noticed several beautiful wildflowers, including Wild Petunias (Ruellia tuberoas), Mexican Clover (Richardia scabra),
Jamaican Spike or Devil's Coach Whip (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis),
Coat Button (Tridax procumbens), and the beautiful ruby seed pods of Piluki (Combretum indicum).
The beauty of the Wood-Apple (Bael) Tree.
Our visits were generally too early for a lot of butterfly activity, but we did notice many...
several Blues, Emigrant, Jezebel, Common Lime, Chocolate and Lemon Pansies, Common Sailers, Plain and Striped Tigers, and Common Grass Yellow, too.
We noticed a Black-naped Hare running across once, as also a Mongoose; the other mammals were the Bonnet Macaques, and we had to be very careful when we shared our snacks. On one visit, a monkey snatched away the ketchup bottle which Padma had brought to serve with her delicious cutlets. After expertly opening the screwtop lid, the monkey put the bottle to her lips, and was puzzled when no liquid flowed into her mouth! She persevered, but did not like the taste of the ketchup that did finally ooze through. That was, however, the last we saw of the bottle!
The monkey tries to get something from the bottle.
Which reminds me....our snacks were always varied and delicious, and after climbing down and back up the steps, very welcome indeed! Crunchy, healthy, sweet and home-made...all kinds of eatables were downed!
We also enjoyed the easy camaraderie that we had been missing during the time of the lockdown, the forming of new acquaintanceships, and the cementing of previous ones.
Well, we did not expect that Covid would rise again, and put paid to these outings for the present, at least....but the visits to Pearl Valley, and the lovely times we spent there, will not be quickly forgotten by us. As we sit at home, limited to walking only around our apartment buildings, we can think back to these pleasant mornings!
You can see two of the albums of some of the Pearl Valley outings
Wishing you all good health above everything else in these strange times,