Old Magazine House, Dandeli: the perfect birding destination

THE OLD MAGAZINE HOUSE It was the name that caught my attention first. Magazine house? A place where ammunition was stored? The photographs of the cottages looked good, but none of them told me why the place was named such. Nevertheless, a rose by another name and such and such the bard had pronounced. And I agreed. This place looks great for the likes of me, people who enjoy spending much time in the the middle of nature, and not many human beings around. So on day 3 of our marathon driving trip from Hyderabad to Dandeli, we land up at the Old Magazine House.

We had been driving a lot. We started at Hyderabad, drove for 7 hours to Hampi where we broke journey and stayed at a guest house, then drove another 5 hours to the Kali Adventure Camp in Dandeli Forest, also run by Jungle Lodges, the same folks who run the Old Magazine house place. This camp was good, good for kids and folks with families, but a little too settled and concrete for us. The Old Magazine house, on the other hand, was just the place we were looking for. Ten cottages, strung out in a row on a hillside, and a larger structure at the end that served as a kitchen, with a roof-top eating place. Basic, but comfortable. You dont come here looking for luxury, you coming here looking to be out there. In the middle of nature. There is a small clearing in front of the kitchen where some 3-4 semi-crazy folks have been waiting for the Malabar Trogon to show up. Or some such bird. I am a birdwatcher in the sense I love looking at beautiful birds, understanding their habits and habitats, and generally reading up a bit on them. But I cannot understand these bazooka-toters, and their 3 day long wait for the Trogon. What fun the trogon must be having teasing these poor guys. calling out from its hidden leafy perch once in a while, waiting for them to run, bazooka and tripod and all to where the bird seemed to be, then casually flying away to the next high perch with nary a view to be seen. If I were this trogon, I would be having a lot of fun at some peoples expense, I can tell you that. That being said, these folks are sincere folks doing their work. Not so the families with half dozen children who have decided, perhaps, that the kids need a dose of nature to get over the geeky genes that have been handed down to them. No such luck, one of them is nose down on his i-pad. We are lucky that this noisy bunch of kids, moms and three quarter shorts+socks+sneakers sporting dads leave the same afternoon! As soon as they leave, peace descends on Old Magazine House.

It is nearing evening, and we make our way up the hill behind one of the cottages. The trail is strewn with dry leaves that crackle under our feet. We are not sure what is at the top, and adopt our usual dont know dont care we are only here for the climb attitude. The view at the top though is designed to drive many a cynic to poetry – a golden sunset, with the water of the Kali reservoir sparkling in the sunlight like liquid gold. We watch mesmerised. That evening the resident naturalist of the camp takes on the role of a chef, and barbecues us some wonderful chicken. Spicy chicken goes down with some chilled beer, and the conversation flows. We sleep early, hoping to wake at dawn to hear the birdsounds. At night we hear nothing, we are too tired! As morning comes, my daughter and I go for a short walk. No bird sightings, but I can hear those damn noisy things everywhere! But what luck. An Indian pitta, with its seven colored little body is hopping about near our cottage. Our old friend the paradise flycatcher ( who is like the resident showcase bird, if not anything else at least you have seen him), makes a reentry, twirling its white tails about. And then, lo and behold – the Malabar trogon appears. It is a beautiful bird, with red patches, and striking colors. The bazooka weilders run like men with purpose, while we casually stroll to where the sighting has occured.

Everybody is happy. Hopefully the Trogon is too.

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