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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
|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|