• Saloni Rose

Wildlife in Bonacaud, Kerala

Updated: May 28, 2019

Last weekend I visited Bonacaud, a base station and a former tea plantation started by the British close to Vithura for the second time (I don't mind going there again). Unlike Ponmudi (a touristy hill station nearby), Bonacaud is not crowded making it a perfect weekend getaway. After all, isn't the main purpose of hiking to escape reality?

We took the bus from IISER TVM as personal vehicles are not allowed (possibly due to the wild elephants). In fact, we came across herds of elephants on the road the second time we visited this place. After a wobbly bus ride that involved crossing multiple hairpins, we reached the hilltop. A picturesque view of the Pepara Dam and clouds kissing the hills took my breath away!!

I walked along two different hiking trails, one towards the Picket Station and another towards Kurishumala. The trail towards Kurishumala was rather monotonous, we came across many Red-whiskered Bulbuls and White-cheeked Barbets (both of which are the most common generalists in the western ghats). The path was blocked mid-way(for some reason we don't understand), so walked towards 25 GB, an abandoned bungalow. Constructed in the 1950s, it used to be owned by a tea plantation owner. Now, it is an ugly grey building with vandalized walls and floors covered with cow dung. The only thing appealing about the house was a gigantic pine tree (Araucaria columnaris) right outside it.

The trail towards the picket station was more interesting, it started near an abandoned tea factory. We were warned by the villagers not to go deep into the forests as we might encounter wild animals. We crossed the stream and the village to reach a mud-path carved by the forest department. We saw several birds including:

1. Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) 2. Ashy Woodswallow (Artamus fuscus) 3. Orange Minivet (Pericrocotus flammeus) which was previously considered as a sub-species of Scarlet Minivet 4. Square-tailed Bulbul (Hypsipetes ganeesa), endemic to Western ghats and Sri Lanka.

Mid-way through the hike, I almost stepped on a green vine snake. I was walking with my eyes glued to the canopy searching for birds when my friend pointed me towards the snake. Luckily, it moved it's head away as I sprung backwards. Its scientific name is Ahaetulla nasuta (Aheatulla translates to "eye plucker" in Sinhala as the snake is known to strike the eyes of the handler). It is mildly venomous, but the bite is not lethal.

A few meters before the Picket Station, we came across few narrow-banded bluebottles mud-puddling (Check out my previous post). It is such a satisfying feeling to see them mud-puddle! I was also very excited to see Southern Birdwings hovering around the Flamboyant (Delonix regia) trees. Southern Birdwing (Troides minos) is the largest butterfly in India(reaching a wingspan up to 19 cm) and the state butterfly of Kerala. We also saw a variety of butterflies including Blue Mormons (second largest butterfly), Blue Tigers, Pansies, Pierrots and Blues.

Towards the end, we decided to take a break near a lovely stream. We were sitting on the rocks, drenching our feet in the water and just enjoying the view. The stream was packed with damselflies and dragonflies. One species of damselfly particularly caught my eye: a Stream Glory(Neurobasis chinensis). Stream Glory is a name that does it justice, they have a green metallic body and lustrous emerald green wings. Check out the video below!

If you are living in Trivandrum or visiting the city and you want a quick hassle-free getaway, Bonacaud is the place for you.