It was dark, and I was guided by a series of hurricane lanterns, hanging on wooden stakes driven into the ground, at regular intervals. I found my way to the tent that I had checked into earlier that day. The lights of Chamrajnagar glimmered in the distance, though the surroundings were dark. The weather was fairly pleasant.

I was visiting the K.Gudi Wilderness camp located in the famous Biligiri Rangaswamy Wildlife Sanctuary. After a day of intensive treks, I had fallen asleep soon, but was woken up by a curious sound. I lay awake, hoping to hear it again. There it was again — the call of the Indian Cuckoo.

I was kept awake for most of the night by the pleasant and incessant calls of the bird. After a night filled with futile attempts at catching some sleep, I woke up to the call of the Common Hawk Cuckoo, got ready and headed for the morning safari. The forest was quiet, and a hint of mist hung in the air. There was enough light to discern the outlines of the trees surrounding the camp area. As the sun rose, the Jungle Owlet emerged with a lengthy raucous call, which increased in tempo as it progressed, and ended rather abruptly. Soon, the Malabar Whistling Thrush took over with long string of mellow, fluty whistles that sounded almost human.

Salim Ali — the father of Indian Ornithology — has likened the call to a school boy whistling joyously when returning home from school. In due course, the Crow Pheasant pitched in with a booming ‘whoop, whoop, whoop …’ and was joined by several birds, including the Spotted Babbler, whose morning call comprised a long series of short whistles.

The shy Slatyheaded Scimitar Babbler decided to make its presence felt with a hollow sounding ‘hut huhuhu’ call. Albeit a little late, the Grey Junglefowl ushered in dawn with its ‘kru kooo kurru kuk kuk’, and went silent after calling a couple of times. The male Koel added its loud ‘kuoo’, repeated several times. From a nearby tree, a Quaker Babbler gave a melodious rendition.

As I got ready and ventured for the safari, I was treated by a Magpie Robin sitting pretty on the wooden stake outside my tent, and uttering the shrill ‘sweee, sweee, …’ call. The mist slowly lifted and it flew away too!

It felt that the birds were playing their part in an orchestra played without a conductor. It was perfect — a symphony I will not forget for a long time.