Hyderabad Birding Pal’s 150th birdwalk to Maredumilli

The team

Maredumilli is a village in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, India situated 80 km. from Rajahmundry on Bhadrachalam road. It has a rich biodiversity, semi-evergreen forests with undulating terrain.

“The Eastern Ghats roughly north of Godavari river (and a tiny area on the southern bank in West Godavari district) are known to have avifauna quite distinct from the rest of the southern peninsula — though there are no reported endemics, this is an area where species with both Himalayan and peninsular Indian affinities co-exist. As per, some species are present here only as relict pockets, with nearest populations either in the Western Ghats or North-eastern India or both, which makes it all the more interesting.” says Mr. Sathyanarayana Srinivasan in his “Notes on some birds of the northern Eastern Ghats in Andhra Pradesh”. Thus, this is an unique place for bird watching.

Hyderabad Birding Pals (HBP) organised its 150th birdwalk here from 29th April to 1st May 2017, twenty one members participated. Locations covered were Chinturu to Maredumilli road, Coffee plantation, Rubber Nursery, Jaltarangini, Kutrawada road. Weather was hot and humid, rained in the evening on second and third day. Notable sightings include Abbott’s Babbler, Pale Capped Pigeon, Ruby Cheeked Sunbird, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Rufous Bellied Hawk Eagle, Blue Eared Kingfisher, Malabar Trogon and 9 species of woodpeckers with Grey Headed Woodpecker and Fulvous Breasted Woodpecker being noteworthy.

During our visit, the breeding season was on and most birds were busy with nest building and courtship. It was a delight to see a pair of Black Eagle with the male stooping down with wings closed towards the female in high speed and going back above in a loop. At many occasions drumming of woodpeckers was heard possibly of Greater Flameback, Rufous and Greater Yellownape woodpeckers. Greater Racket Tailed Drongos were seen in pairs chasing each other, Black Crested Bulbul was seen with nesting material. Lot of calls and activity of White Rumped Shama was observed at various locations. Early in the morning at the foothills three Indian Pitta were heard giving their calls. Calls of Pin Stripped Tit Babbler were heard almost everywhere.

Keeping a lookout for mixed species hunting parties was essential part of birding here. Many a times we found the jungle silent with no activity untill a group of birds came out of nowhere and us scrambling to identify them before they were gone. Typically Rosy Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, Specked Piculet, Brown cheeked Fulvetta, Indian Nuthatch, Velvet fronted Nuthatch, Greenish Warbler, Black naped Monarch, Bronzed Drongo and Fulvous breasted Woodpecker were the participants of the flock. Identifying a core species among these that starts and maintains the flock needs further investigation.

Little Spiderhunters in a group of threes and fours frequented flowering banana trees giving their distinct calls. Red whisked Bulbul were abundant possibly more than Red vented Bulbul. Strangely of the many Malabar Trogon we saw, all were males. Reason can be the female occupying the nest and male is out looking for food. We even spotted a male on a low cable just off the road immediately after it rained.

Raptor activity was good, mostly seen in pairs. Good numbers of Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Goshawk and Oriental Honey-buzzard were there. Others being Shikra, Besra, Crested Hawk-Eagle, Black Eagle and White-eyed Buzzard. We were fortunate to spot Rufous-bellied Eagle soaring in the sky. It was a first for the place. In spite of keenly searching, we did not see Jerdon’s Baza, last reported few years ago by other researchers.

The road towards Kutrawada had many streams crossing it. Looking around them yielded Blue Eared Kingfisher, Grey Treepie, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater. Oriental Pied-Hornbill was also spotted here as was previously reported.

Pigeons and doves include Spotted Dove, Asian Emerald Dove, Rock Pigeon, Orange-breasted Pigeon, Yellow-footed Pigeon and Pale-capped Pigeon. Cuckoos like Banded Bay Cuckoo, Gray-bellied Cuckoo, Common Hawk-Cuckoo and Indian Cuckoo. Banded Bay Cuckoo is common resident forest cuckoo, was vocal most of the time. Six drongo species were seen.

Red Jungle foul, Large Woodshrike and Oriental White-eye were commonly seen at many places. Other interesting species include White-rumped Needletail, Green-billed Malkoha, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Vernal Hanging-Parrot, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Common Hill Myna and White-rumped Munia. Curiously, Owl sightings were fewer than expected with future visits shedding more light on it.

Thank you to members Ashis Kumar Pradhan, Gopalkrishna Iyer and Sriram Reddy for organising this birdwalk and passing information gathered through previous visits. Work published and ebird checklists of Mr. S. Srinivasan was of immense help for this trip. We’re thankful for his dedication and meticulous reporting of sightings. Also, the camaraderie and passion for birds of HBP members made all this possible.

This region is underexplored and thus holds a lot of potential for greater understanding of its bird population. This visit gave excellent sightings, thus paving the way for more bird-walks in future. Moreover, with climate change, political interference and human activity threatening to disturb this place, it is essential to get people know about its fragility. We hope that more birders, photographers and researchers visit this place and contribute in preserving this treasure.

Typical habitat of the Maredumilli forest
Birding was done mostly along the road
Coffee plantation
Rubber Nursery
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