The south western hills of KMTR, covered by vast areas of high elevation grasslands are one of the southernmost strongholds of Nilgiri thars,one of the two hardy mountain goats in india whose other relative is found in the Himalayas with a large disjunction between them and the Hills near Valve house and Muthukuzi (in the southern tip of the western ghats )are indeed one of the best places to catch a glimpse of these hardy mountain goats.The hills are also home to the Great pied Hornbill, they though not disjunctive as the thars are equally rare and elusive; hills of Top slip being an exception.
On our recent trip to Valve house, I spotted a solitary male Thar on a hill almost two kilometers apart (encircled) and was also rewarded with generous sightings of Great pied horn bills on six occasions.
the hill where i spottedthe thar.
The thar seemed to be well at home on the hill, resting on a rocky outcrop soaking the sun, the hill so steep that no human must have set foot on it was riddled with green grass, intermixed with Pheonix sp trees and many more rocky areas seemed to be a perfect for the goats. On further exploring, we came on to a rock where we could see the Hope’s lake and lower Kodayar settlement and for the next three hours our noses were drowned in the pungent odour of thar urine!
The scent, so strong, kept lingering long after we left the place.
It dint take much time to realize that we were on the rock which thars use to defecate and there were at least 50 odd dung piles of various sizes and since they all were of different decay conditions we realized that the rock was a common defecation ground for the thars. Having enjoyed the serene atmosphere and making some images, we headed back towards the bike and caught a glimpse of the Rufous bellied hawk eagle, a couple of Pipits and Hornbills!
The Loud harsh call of the bird made us halt on the tracks to see two birds flying out of the forest going past very close to the rock where we earlier sat. While we were observing them, one more came out from the same place and followed the other two; though they were about a kilometer away, we were able to enjoy the sight through good field glasses.
Stopping for a quick brunch of boiled egg, vada and wild mangoes, we continued our walk along the road and sighted four species of butterflies and saw the hornbills on three more occasions.
The clouds no where in sight till then, suddenly built up and seemed as if it would pour in an hour’s time which sent us scurrying to the bikes and reach Kodayar before the rain starts.