Saswat Mishra

The Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary isn’t just a getaway from our busy city lives, its an emotion altogether. This silent forest is home to some of the most elusive and beautiful forest birds for which I planned a visit in June 2019, a season which is not at all pleasant to bird in, but still a few species can be ticked off in summers only due to least density of forest. Still Kuldiha doesn’t allow much sunlight through canopy, the forest stays the same whole year. It is usually closed during the peak monsoon season which typically falls between July and September.

Hill View Resort

Kuldiha WLS can be planned by contacting Manarajan Das, a pure hearted naturalist working really hard from many years now to make his guests happy with all their desired species. Manaranjan babu owns a beautiful homestay amidst the gorgeous hills of Panchalingeswar. One can stay in Govt. Rest Houses too here, by booking via Odisha Govt. Website.

Panchalingeswar is one of the most famous Mahadev temple of Balasore District, Odisha. The adjoining forest areas of Simlipal Tiger Reserve is what it makes of Kuldiha WLS, it's not a very vast sanctuary but very fruitful if one visits multiple times. I had only 2 days on my mind for a few specific targets this time.

We reached Balasore Railway Station on early morning of 14th June 2019, and reached homestay first for some coffee and breakfast, then met Manaranjan babu who took us to Kuldiha WLS after an hour, it was 7am when we reached the gate, our naturalist already had taken care of paperworks and permits.

It was cloudy day at the start, Manaranjan babu advised to first try to scan an area for Blue eared Kingfishers, this bird was the only reason to plan for this trip. They usually have a fixed location where they hunt fishes and mostly stick around as a pair. My luck and sunlight both were low, we failed to sight any and moved ahead on the road towards FRH.

Red Jungle Fowls

We reached the Kuldiha FRH after an hour drive, we saw a few Spotted Deers and Wild Boars here and lot of White-rumped Shamas, literally they were everywhere. We were also welcomed by this resident mammal species.

Indian Giant Squirrel

Manaranjan babu said this area is specially good for Crested Serpent Eagles, so we started scanning the patch. We waited at an artificial salt pit made for animals of Kuldiha, this provides animals & birds with required minerals and tourists an opportunity to see elusive animals at ease from a distance.

A Black crested Bulbul…a surprise sighting for me. All Thanks to Manaranjan babu
A Peacock Pansy Butterfly….my favourite !

We waited for a few minutes, as our first target of the day was here in good numbers….Orange breasted Green Pigeons.

After these sightings we were so tempted by the beauty of this pigeon species, that we expected to wait and sight a Pale capped Pigeon maybe…it's a rare species and one of the most shy ones. After a few minutes we saw a male individual and it hopped a bit lower than usual, I fired a few frames but was extremely dark condition as well as fully overcast conditions.

We exited the FRH compound and started exploring more new areas in search for Woodpeckers and Raptors.

We came across this amazing Red Junglefowl (Male)

Along with this, we recorded the first Jungle Myna for Kuldiha which was really special

Jungle Myna collecting nest material
Chestnut headed Starling

We reached a patch where we saw a lot of Shamas, so thought to stop and click record images from Kuldiha too, as I have lot of pictures of this beauty from Vansda in Gujarat already.

We entered the Trogon core area to start the search for our target of the day…and within minutes Manaranjan babu found a male trogon.

Our first Malabar Trogon for the day

After first 2 clicks, the trogon got nervous of our presence and flew inside dense canopy and started calling continuously, our naturalist said “He won’t come back” and smiled. After a few minutes, we continued on the route until we found this gorgeous raptor

Crested Goshawk….a beautiful raptor !

After tracking a male trogon, I wanted to get a shot of female trogon as it was something which had eluded me from quite a few years now. Finally, we got a beautiful female Malabar Trogon…everything was perfect here !

One of the best things I loved about Kuldiha was the amazing population of various kind of butterflies, these insects are really special to me as I started my photography journey with shooting them.

It was 12 noon already and sun was harsher than ever, and the humid forest was killing the birding mood. But we reached the another FRH, target here was probably the rarest sunbird, Ruby cheeked Sunbird. We tried searching for this species in deep forest trails for an hour but got no signs of any bird.

Finally after a long walk, got this another surprise lifer at the end of trail.

We returned around lunch time back to homestay, had an amazing meal….took a much needed rest whole afternoon.

Later that evening, our plan was to explore outskirt forests of Panchalingeswar, so we headed on Manaranjan’s bike to the temple and climbed around 500 steps straight, reached a high altitude forest patch.

Enroute the Panchalingeswar Temple

Got some birds including one of my lifers but light was awful because of super dense forest. We heard calls of Malkohas and Scimitar-babblers too.

My lifer….Pin stripped Tit-babbler

This ended the first day, and we returned back to homestay for dinner. After dinner, Manaranjan babu and I had a great chat about birding and other aspects like post processing images which was fun, we interchanged some knowledge, and he suddenly showed me pictures of Indian Scops Owl, this got me interested as this was my lifer, he laughed and said meet me after 9pm, you’ll get it on the same branch today. We went around 9pm to try our luck for this nocturnal species…and we got it within few seconds but the owl wasn’t very slow vanished and never seen again that night even after several tries.

A Lovely and Soothing Evening at Panchalingeswar

That night I slept hearing a pair of Spotted Owlet and a Large tailed Nightjar.

Next day was my last at Kuldiha, so we started off early around 6:30 am in the morning and reached gate, again went through all same routes, I was determined for Blue eared Kingfisher….didn’t even click a single picture of any bird throughout whole drive.

We waited again for 2 hours for Blue eared Kingfisher pair, finally we saw one perched at a distance but he was very agile, just dived and grabbed a fish and flew away….we waited for another hour and then we got it !

Heard a few Indian Scimitar babblers calling right above the tree, managed a record shot somehow

Indian Scimitar Babbler
Bronzed Drongo
Orange headed Thrush

We returned back to FRH, and did some trailing ahead for the sunbird, and luck was with me today, we got to see a pair of the rarest sunbird of India

Finding sunbirds in this patch….interesting and tiring at the same time :)

While returning back we waited at the Trogon spot again, and got lucky with sighting of a Male Trogon again

A Male Trogon !! Bumper sighting

This epic sighting ended our tour of Kuldiha….until next time !

Your truly !

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Hope you enjoyed the images, do share your thoughts in comments or reach me on my e-mail (paulmshr@gmail.com)

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Travel Blogger, Birdwatcher and a Wildlife Photographer