How colourful a bird can get? To find that out, you don’t have to go much if you are in Kerala. Black and Orange Flycatchers (, a bird of the high altitude areas, high altitude sholas to be specific, are a treat to watch. These are endemic to South Western Ghats and cannot be seen in any other part of the world. These small burning jewels of forests prefer dense undergrowths.
Though they are brightly coloured in black and red, its not an easy task to locate them from the bushes. They can camouflage surprisingly well among dense bushes. In the mornings, these birds can be seen taking short flights with restless movements looking for the small insects. They make a rather harsh sound unsuitable for their body. Its like ‘chee—ree—rrrr’ .. The male is brightly coloured in black and orange, while female will be having a dull orange colour. But the best way to detect the males from the females is that there is a pale ring around the eyes for the females which is absent in the males. The breeding time usually falls around March to June when they are in their best spirits (quite naturally). The building of nest is monopolized by the females. The eggs are grayish with speckles on them.
It was from Mannavan Shola (now part of the Anamala National Park), that I got a glimpse of this bird first. There was a pair actively feeding in the dark shades of the dense shola forest. It was so beautiful and I was quite captivated. If you ask me where is the best place to spot or photograph this bird, I’d definitely say ‘Ooty’. Ya, Ooty is the best place to locate this bird. That too at Doddabetta and Botanical Garden, where tourism is playing havoc with the surroundings... If you search for the bird in the internet, you can see that about more than 90% of the images of this bird is taken from Ooty only. But, I was thoroughly unlucky even to spot this bird there despite trying a couple of times specifically for the same. It was at Pambadum Shola, that my luck changed for better. I spotted a couple of them on one fine evening under the bushes and was determined to get an image at any cost. The next morning, I went to the exact spot and to my amazement, there was not even a trace of this bird. Then I carefully combed down the entire stretch. And after about half a kilometer, I heard the distinctive sound. Waited there for the bird to come. Didn’t have to wait much. One handsome male crossed the narrow path where I was sitting. And, I saw it sitting cosily on the branch of a small herb. The light was very poor… and I knew that if I wanted a decent picture, I’ll have to get closer. It did notice the intruder crawling noiselessly. But, luck was with me. Some small insect caught his concentration and I took my chances. [ I am really thankful to Sivaprasad sir, Mathew sir and Shinu, who were extremely co-operative and sacrificed some of their time to trek ]