Monday, August 31, 2009

Rapid Survey at Rayakottai RF on August 29, 2009

The third rapid ground survey was carried out at the Udedurgam Reserve forest. This RF forms part of the Rayakota range and is the largest tract of forest in this range.

Trek Path: Kadur to Panchapalli Dam along the left bank Pennaiyar River. (time 11:00 AM to 3:45 PM)

The Pennaiyar stream enters the RF near Kadur and flows diagonally nearly bisecting the RF. The stream empties into the reservoir at Panchapalli Dam at the intersection of the Udedurgam and Aiyur Extension RF.

The teams started from Kadur and trekked along the left bank of the Pennaiyar stream looking for scat, pugmarks, hoofmarks and other indirect evidences of mammals, birds and reptiles.

Late start of the trek at 11:00 AM could be the reasons for the low level of bird activity and lack of any direct sightings of mammals.

All indirect evidences were noted down on the data sheets. A noteworthy highlight of the trek was the fresh trail left behind by a Leopard adult and cub along a sandy stretch on the pennaiyar river.

Spoor of Chital, Gaur, wild pig etc were found along the stream. Scat samples collected were handed over at the field station at Aiyur.

Team members:

1. Karthikeyan
2. Khusro
3. Chandrakant Konar
4. Yedhunandan
5. Manivanan

Forest Department:

1. Venkatagiri
2. Chellappan
3. Madhu
4. Lakshmanan

Sanjeev Kumar S. R.
Vice President
Kenneth Anderson Nature Society


Friday, August 7, 2009

Rapid Survey at Thally RF on August 1/2 2009

A field survey of mammals, reptiles and birds in the Thally Reserved Forest was carried out on 1st and 2nd August, 2009, by a joint team of ANCF and KANS volunteer naturalists supported by nine Forest Guards from Jawalagiri Range. Thally area was divided into 31 grids of 1.7km X 1.7km. Grid numbers 1-5 placed horizontally (East-West) were designated for sampling. There were 9 such horizontal segments for sampling. However, after consultation with forest guards only 5 segments were sampled, as the linear strip part on the south had highly degraded forests with Lantana infestation.

Thally region is known to be an area with high human-elephant conflict. Keeping in mind the safety of participants, known trek paths were chosen in consultation with the forests guards of the region.

Five paths were chosen to cover the following areas:

1. Gummala Agraharam-Muthurayan Gudi-Belakkeri
2. Ganganahalli-Bolari-Balemadu
3. Oddarpalaiyam Foothpath-Janpokantai-Bajjaitank
4. Devarabettam via Vanabanda – Muddenaattam tank
5. Puduyeri (Hosakere)-Sankareshwaran temple-Karnataka border

The Divisional Forest Officer and Range Forest Officer were informed about the survey program and a request for the support of Forest Department field staff for the survey had also been conveyed to the concerned Range Officer. Participation from the forest department personnel was excellent. There were 9 forest guards present for the survey along with a person from the village for each team consisting of 4 volunteers. Members of the Kenneth Anderson Nature Society took the responsibility for all the local logistical support for the two-day survey program.

The participants were given a presentation on the survey plan and methods by Dr.Geetha Nayak, ANCF, on 31st evening. Herpetologists Mr. Ganesh and Mr Chandramauli, consultants of ANCF, conducted a rapid survey and made a checklist of the reptiles and amphibians species of the region.

The survey recorded mammal and reptile species by (1) direct sighting, (2) indirect evidences such as the droppings, pug/hoof/pad marks and feeding signs and (3) interviews with local inhabitants using photographs to gather information on the presence of mammals and reptilian species in the region both at present and in the past.

Participants were divided into three teams with each team having 4–5 people. On 1st August there were 3 teams going to the trek paths 1, 2 and 3. On 2nd August there were 2 teams that took paths 4 and 5.

Background materials such as a map of the study area, documents of pug/hoof/pad marks of larger mammals, survey methods, and data sheets along with a GPS unit were given to each group.

Due to the heavy rain on 31st evening many footprints could easily be seen on the wet ground on 1st August. Most commonly seen footprint was wild pig (Sus scrofa), elephants (Elephas maximus) and spotted deer (Axis axis). Teams also recorded the foot prints of Leopard (Panthera Pardus), Sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), Indian hare (Lepus nigricollis) and Indian porcupine (Hystrix indica).

Mammals sighted during the survey were Bonnet Macaque (Macaca radiata), Common Indian Mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) and Three-striped palm squirrel (Funambulus palmarum). Bird sightings were also recorded in the survey, and some of the amateur bird watchers felt that Thally area was exceptional for raptors. One of the teams also recorded a species of butterfly, Red Admiral, which is known found mostly in the wetter parts of the Western Ghats. The herpertologists also recorded an unidentified species of toad, which did not belong of any of the genuses that they were familiar with. They have recommended a thorough investigation of the area for reptile and amphibians species.

A checklist for birds is given below and for remaining taxa is being complied.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Rapid Survey at Sanamavu RF on July 25/26 2009

A field survey of mammals, reptiles and birds in the Sanamavu Reserved Forest was carried out on July 25, 26, 2009, by a joint team of ANCF and KANS supported by a group of volunteer naturalists. This was the first field survey under the year long Hosur–Dharmapuri Biodiversity Survey (HDBS) Project. The survey covered a relatively isolated forest patch of Hosur Forest Division located on the north-eastern side, on either side of the National Highway 7.

On the first day [25th July 2009], the participants were given a brief presentation on the survey plan and methods by Dr. N. Baskaran & Dr Geetha Nayak from ANCF. At the end of the briefing, each team was provided with survey data sheets along with a document on the known mammals of the region to record the direct sightings. Instructions were given to photograph reptiles. Additionally, a copy of ‘The book of Indian Mammals (S.H.Prater) or Field Guide to Mammal (Vivek Menon) and The Book of Indian Reptiles (J.C. Daniel) were provided to each survey team. Each team carried at least one digital camera to photograph direct wildlife sightings besides indirect evidences of target animals whenever possible.

The survey planned to record the mammal and reptile species by (1) direct sighting, (2) indirect evidences such as the droppings, pug/hoof/pad marks and feeding signs and (3) interviews with local inhabitants using photographs to gather information on the presence of mammals and reptilian species in the region both at present and in the past.

Participants were divided into three teams with each team having 4–5 people. The area to be surveyed [Sanmavu RF forest patch on northern side of NH 7] was divided into three survey units, viz. (1) eastern, (2) central and (3) western units. Each survey team was to cover one survey unit traversing from the NH 7 (south) to the northern end of the RF patch and then back to NH 7 (south). On the second day [26th July 2009] the southern side of NH 7 in the Sanamavu Reserved Forest was surveyed with one team surveying the forest along the NH, the second team traversing from Sanamavu village to the northern part ending at the NH 7, and the third team moving from Sanamavu village toward the southern part.

Direct Sightings: The teams recorded only three species of mammals, namely Grey Mongoose (Herpestes edwardsii), three-striped palm squirrel (Funambulus palmarum) and black-naped hare or Indian Hare (Lepus nigricollis). Among reptiles, two species were recorded and these include Snake Skink and Rock Agama (Agama agama). The reptiles were also photographed and their identification will be confirmed by an ANCF herpetofauna specialist. A list of birds sighted during the survey was also compiled from the data sheets of each team.

Indirect evidences: Indirect evidences such as feeding signs of wild boar and scats of small carnivores (mongoose? and jackal?) were noted. Recording the presence of mammals from the indirect evidence was not a very productive exercise, since the teams did not have sufficient background materials such as photos/features for identification. Most of the volunteers still had to gain experience in identifying the indirect evidences of various species.

In this particular survey programme the forest department personnel were not able to participate owing to a sudden deployment of staff to tackle a problem elephant herd in the Oothangarai region.

The boarding arrangement for the entire programme was sponsored by KANS and lodging was provided by the Forest Department. Accommodations for the last programme was arranged at the Forest Research Centre located at NH 7, which is an unused bio-fuel extraction demo plant unit that does not have basic sanitary facilities.