Kumaon Birding Diaries – Pangot and Around

The second post on birding in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand state. This time it was Pangot, Binayak and Timlapani which are beyond Nainital and nestled high up in the hills. This one day trip led us to some amazing places which we would not have heard of, let alone going there, if not for birding. The unparalleled beauty of some of the places that we saw will remain etched in our memories forever. Makes us so thankful to our avian friends! As mentioned in my previous post on Saattal, we stayed in Naukuchiatal and our birding guide was Sunil whom we found through Birdingpal.

Pangot

Pangot is a small village situated beyond Nainital. Our cab arrived at 4.30 AM as it would take us one hour to reach Nainital and we wanted to be near Pangot by sunrise. We picked up Sunil from Nainital around 5.30 AM and proceeded towards Pangot. The view-point just outside Nainital proved disappointing as it was foggy and the clouds blocked a view of the Himalayan peaks. We crossed Pangot and headed towards Binayak high up in the hills. Our first sightings were that of Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush and the Grey-winged Blackbird. Light was pretty bad and we managed to get only a record shot of the Thrush.

Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush

The hills looked so enchanting with fog rising up and the clouds rolling over seemed to envelope and engulf the hills. We felt lucky that we had come to this out of the world place solely because of our birdwatching hobby. Completely off the tourist radar, this place is a total contrast to the crowded hill stations.

Envelope and Engulf

Clouds roll over

Binayak

As we went past Binayak, we saw a couple of Eurasian Jays foraging on the road. We stopped the car and Nagesh got out slowly and started walking ahead. One of the Jays seemed so fearless and came closer and closer inquisitively it seemed :) It posed beautifully for the camera! Visibility was improving gradually but the fog kept rolling over at regular intervals.

Eurasian Jay

Down the winding road

At the next spot where we stopped there were plenty of birds. Sightings here included Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Hill Partridge, Ultramarine Flycatcher and Rufous Sibia. We saw plenty of women walking along the path to climb the hills and cut grass. As the birds would have got disturbed already by the arrival of the women, we decided that it was no use going further up.

A touch of light

Rufous-bellied Woodpecker

Rufous Sibia

All in a day's work

On our way back we waited at a spot frequented by the Pheasants. While we heard the Koklass pheasant loud and clear from down in the valley, no amount of craning our necks gave us any clue as to where the pheasants were. Disappointed we started walking back. The surroundings looked so ethereal. Brightly colored flowers are abundant in this state in the wild. They enhance the beauty of the hills.

Lavender delight

Two colors

Hiding

As the fog gradually blocked our complete view, we stopped at a tea stall between Binayak and Pangot. There were plenty of Yellow-breasted Greenfinches flitting about right next to the stall. We were shivering as it was so cold and the tea really helped us to keep warm. As we were sipping tea, a guy arrived in a jeep and told Sunil that we had just missed a very good sighting of the shy and elusive Koklass Pheasant. Apparently it was on the main path and stood confused for a good five minutes looking at the jeep. What an opportunity had been denied to us! But then that is birding for you. They, i.e., the birds, decide when they can be seen and when not!

Yellow-breasted Green Finch

We went back to Pangot to have some breakfast. We stopped at Raj restaurant which seemed to be the one and only general store cum restaurant in this tiny hamlet. We had some amazing Maggi and tea here. There were a handful of huts and a tiny post office.

Timlapani

Our next destination was Timlapani which can be reached by taking the only other road (path really!) in Pangot off from the main road. On the way we spotted Scarlet Minivet, Black-headed Jay, Grey Bushchat, Ashy Drongo, Long-tailed Shrike and the Himalayan Woodpecker.

Black-headed Jay

Ashy Drongo

Timlapani is a small hamlet. There is a waterfall here and a small shrine next to it. The view was spoilt by some men washing carpets used at functions. Probably the running water on the road made their job easier. As we walked along the cluster of houses we spotted a Siberian Stonechat, Streaked Laughingthrush, Himalayan Cuckoo, Common Babbler and Common Kestrel. Every home here had some ferocious looking dogs who did not like our entry into their territory. They followed us for some distance and then decided that it was safe to let us be.

Siberian Stonechat (female)

Streaked Laughingthrush

On our way back to Pangot we saw Red-billed Blue Magpies foraging on the road. As we stopped and started walking towards a cluster of trees we sighted a Great Barbet. Further up we saw a Grey-headed Woodpecker and a pair of Brown-fronted Woodpeckers. The fog was rising again and we decided to head back.

Great Barbet

Grey-headed Woodpecker

Brown-fronted Woodpecker

We stopped briefly for some tea at Pangot. Nagesh sighted a Black Eagle for a brief moment soaring high up in the mist. Sunil decided to give a shot to Kilbury. But the visibility seemed to be worsening. There was absolutely no activity at Kilbury. The place looked so beautiful bathed in fog. Naini Lake was also engulfed by the fog and we got a beautiful view of it as we went towards Nainital. We reached Nainital by 3.30 PM and were back at Naukuchiatal around 4.30 PM. A good day of birding had come to an end!

From Darkness to Light

Naini Lake

Nainital

On the next day we went with our family to Nainital. Our cab driver suggested that we go to the view-point which is on the Pangot road and then walk on the trail to the Snow View point which is nearby. We could then take the cable car down to mall road where he would be waiting for us. Nagesh had left his 400 mm lens which he uses for birding in the car and was carrying his other lens. As we walked on the trail to Snow View point we saw plenty of bird activity in a cluster of trees next to the path. There were lot of tiny birds like Tits and Warblers. Nagesh repented not having got his lens and rushed back towards the car. Unfortunately by the time he was back all the small birds had gone away. However there is a silver lining in every cloud. In this case he got a Streaked Laughingthrush and a Black-headed Jay at extremely close quarters. He also got a picture of the Bonelli’s Eagle which glided past the clump of trees and disappeared from view the next moment.

Streaked Laughingthrush

Black-headed Jay

Bonelli's Eagle

Bird Log

Common Name Species Family
Thrush, Chestnut-bellied Rock Monticola rufiventris Muscicapidae
Blackbird, Grey-winged Turdus boulboul Turdidae
Jay, Eurasian Garrulus glandarius Corvidae
Woodpecker, Rufous-bellied Dendrocopos hyperythrus Picidae
Partridge, Hill Arborophila torqueola Phasianidae
Flycatcher, Ultramarine Ficedula superciliaris Muscicapidae
Sibia, Rufous Heterophasia capistrata Timaliidae
Greenfinch, Yellow-breasted Carduelis spinoides Fringillidae
Minivet, Scarlet Pericrocotus flammeus Campephagidae
Jay, Black-headed Garrulus lanceolatus Corvidae
Bushchat, Grey Saxicola ferreus Muscicapidae
Drongo, Ashy Dicrurus leucophaeus Dicruridae
Shrike, Long-tailed Lanius schach Laniidae
Woodpecker, Himalayan Dendrocopos himalayensis Picidae
Stonechat, Siberian Saxicola maurus Muscicapidae
Laughingthrush, Streaked Garrulax lineatus Timaliidae
Cuckoo, Himalayan Cuculus saturatus Cuculidae
Kestrel, Common Falco tinnunculus Falconidae
Babbler, Common Turdoides caudata Timaliidae
Magpie, Red-billed Blue Urocissa erythrorhyncha Corvidae
Barbet, Great Megalaima virens Megalaimidae
Woodpecker, Grey-headed Picus canus Picidae
Woodpecker, Brown-fronted Dendrocopos auriceps Picidae
Eagle, Black Ictinaetus malayensis Accipitridae
Eagle, Bonelli’s Aquila fasciata Accipitridae
Tit, Green-backed Parus monticolus Paridae
Warbler, Grey-hooded Phylloscopus xanthoschistos Phylloscopidae
Treepie, Grey Dendrocitta formosae Corvidae
Bulbul, Himalayan Pycnonotus leucogenys Pycnonotidae
Pheasant, Koklass (heard) Pucrasia macrolopha Phasianidae
Pipit, Upland (heard) Anthus sylvanus Motacillidae
Francolin, Black (heard) Francolinus francolinus Phasianidae
Tit, Black-lored Parus xanthogenys Paridae
Parakeet, Slaty-headed Psittacula himalayana Psittaculidae
Flycatcher, Verditer Eumyias thalassinus Muscicapidae
Pheasant, Kalij Lophura leucomelanos Phasianidae
Laughingthrush, White-throated Garrulax albogularis Timaliidae
Wagtail, White-browed Motacilla maderaspatensis Motacillidae
Dove, Oriental Turtle Streptopelia orientalis Columbidae
Dove, Spotted Spilopelia chinensis Columbidae
Drongo, Black Dicrurus macrocercus Dicruridae
Minivet, Long-tailed Pericrocotus ethologus Campephagidae
Tit, Black-throated Aegithalos concinnus Aegithalidae
Thrush, Blue Whistling Myophonus caeruleus Turdidae
This entry was posted in Himalayas, Uttarakhand and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Kumaon Birding Diaries – Pangot and Around

  1. Pingback: Bhutan Birding Diaries – Part I | Travels without plans

  2. Excellent work. Nice photography

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s