Bhutan, Druk Yul, Land of the Thunder Dragon

Nestled among the mountains of the mighty Himalayas. Mystical to many. You could, or atleast Pico Iyer did, call it “off the map”. Till a few years ago, this was the land of the unknown. Even now much of the country remains close to that. Bhutan or as the Bhutanese call it, Druk Yul, had been a “to do” for quite many years now.

Taktsang aka Tiger's Nest

We had a wonderful two week long holiday in this “Land of the Thunder Dragon”. That is what “Druk Yul” translates to. To say that this was possibly one of the most special places we’ve ever been to would be an understatement!

Bhutan isn’t exactly “foreign” to us Indians. The Indian Army protects Bhutan’s borders with China and also trains the Royal Bhutan Army. Even then very few venture out to Bhutan. Many of those who do, stick to the standard “tourist” circuit in the western part of Bhutan, namely ParoThimphuPunakha. Our trip had this of course. But we went beyond, into central Bhutan. We landed in Paro, spent few days in Thimphu. Moved to Punakha for a few more. Then on to Trongsa for a couple more. Followed by the enchanting Bumthang and then the super special Phobjika valley before ending back in Paro. Unfortunately we could not include the eastern, and supposedly lovelier, parts of Bhutan. That remains for the next trip!

Bhutan for many is about Buddhism. For some others it is the bird life of the Eastern Himalayas in this unspoilt ecology. Some more come for the mystical festivals and rituals. Landscape lovers rejoice too. Bhutan is all this and so much more. This is an attempt to capture the gist of the Bhutan we saw. Hopefully I will do justice to it. This will be followed by more posts on pointed areas of interest. Throughout these posts I will be referring to “history” because the Bhutanese believe so. However many of these could well be called “mythology” I suppose. The lines between the two blur easily! I suppose not just in Bhutan when it comes down to religion!

Kuensel Phodrang

Bhutan has managed to retain its own unique identity as a result of centuries of isolation from the world. Hard to imagine that there was no television or internet until a few years back!! Until the seventeenth century it was a land divided into multiple warring fiefdoms. The entire land was unified by a Lama called Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal who had fled from the neighbouring country of Tibet. The language spoken is Dzongkha and there are various dialects of it across the country.

Buddhism was introduced in Bhutan sometime in the seventh century. It is believed that the Buddhist saint Padma Sambhava popularly known as Guru Rinpoche came to Bhutan in the eighth century. Buddhism is the predominant, and also state, religion in Bhutan. Religion plays a very important role in everyday life here. The omnipresent prayer wheels, fluttering prayer flags with the prayers written on them, monasteries clinging to the hillsides, robed monks walking around and Chortens (Stupas) at every other corner are testimony to this fact.

A gathering of monks

Bhutan has moved to a Constitutional Monarchy in the recent past. The second election ever was about to take place when we were leaving. The King remains head of the state. The current king Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk is the fifth king. The Wangchuk dynasty has ruled since the early 20th century.

There is a Dzong or a fortress at a strategic position in every significant place which serves like a district administration office in addition to housing monasteries and temples. The tsechus or festivals are held in the courtyards of the dzongs. In olden times these served as the defensive military checkposts and the warrior monks used to guard them. The buildings within the dzongs, and in fact all conventional Bhutanese buildings, are built out of wood. Nails and the likes are not used. The usage of wood makes them susceptible to fire. The usage of butter lamps within them for religious purposes have aided this too. Most have already faced the consequences and have had multiple fires through their history. Many have been razed to the ground by fire and have been rebuilt multiple times too!

Punakha Dzong at night

Dzongs of Bhutan

The Tashichho Dzong in the capital city of Thimphu is the seat of the government. The royal palace and the parliament are located next to it. It also serves as the summer residence of the head Lama.

Trashicho Dzong

The picturesque Punakha Dzong located in the old capital of Punakha city was where the administrative centre and seat of the government was till Thimphu became the capital. Punakha dzong is still the winter residence of the central monastic body and the Lama resides here during winter. It is an important place for the royal family. Important events like coronation of the king and the royal wedding took place here. The dzong houses important relics and remains of the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.

Punakha Dzong (eXplored!)

The largest dzong is the Choetse Dzong located in Trongsa in central Bhutan and an important one from administration point of view. The King gets his crown only if he has worked as the district administrator of Trongsa district. The third king did not get his crown as the second king passed away at an early age and the prince had to be coronated at a young age.

Trongsa Dzong

People and Culture of Bhutan

The temples are very colourful inside. The lamps are lit with butter and incense sticks are burnt giving a distinct fragrance. Most of the temples that we visited had huge idols of Buddha, Zhabdrung and Guru Rinpoche. The walls are normally covered with beautiful Thangka paintings. The offerings to the god are in the form of food like packets of biscuits, snacks etc. The beautiful and colourful ritual cakes kept near the altar are unbelievably carved out of butter entirely!

Khamsum Yuley Namgyel Chorten

An important figure who played a role in the Bhutanese history has been Drukpa Kunley popularly known as the Divine Madman. He was a popular poet and a teacher of Buddhism in his own eccentric ways thereby earning the above title. There is a strange monastery dedicated to him near Lobesa village in Punakha district which is also called the temple of fertility. The strange custom here is to bless visitors with a wooden phallus. Most of the houses in the countryside have a wooden phallus hung from their roof or a painting of the phallus on the outer walls. It is a belief that praying here has caused childless women to have babies and mothers with newborn babies come here to give offerings and choose a name for the babies.

Divine Madman Village

Almost all people are dressed in their traditional attire most of the time. The men wear a gho which is a knee-length robe tied at the waist by a belt called kera. The women wear a kira which is an ankle length dress accompanied by a long sleeved blouse. Both men and women wear scarves and the colour of these indicate their social status. The Bhutanese law has made it mandatory for the government employees to wear the traditional dress for work as well as other citizens while visiting government offices and other public places.

Entrance to Punakha Dzong

The dances of Bhutan are a topic by themselves! There is a lot of Tibetan influence in the dances. A visit during the festival season, October – November, will allow one to enjoy the festivals in each of the many districts. These are called tsechus and mostly held in and around the Dzong of the district. The one festival we were lucky to witness was the Rhododendron festival at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Lamperi. School kids from nearby villages put on a great show for us!

Kids dance at the Rhododendron festival

Most of the houses are built in traditional style using ample amount of wood which is found in abundance here. The outer walls have beautiful paintings of the lucky signs that the Bhutanese believe in like the conch shell, dragon, tiger etc. In some places, like Bumthang, there is a mandate that no building may be constructed in modern style.

A typical Bhutanese house in Thimphu

The monks form a sizeable portion of the people. Our guide Tshering told us that at-least one person from a family becomes a monk at a young age either by personal choice or by the choice of the parents. These monks study for around 10-15 years. They are trained in the religious scripts, meditation and traditional music.

Monks, a dog and a Jacaranda tree

The Lama is revered and people come from all over to seek his blessings. On the day that we landed in Bhutan the Lama was moving from Punakha to Thimphu to spend his summer. The roads were blocked as people were lined all along the way waiting for the Lama to arrive.

The wait of the monks

The staple food is rice accompanied by Ema Datshi which is a dish made using lots of spicy red/green chillies, onions and cheese. There are variations to Ema Datshi like the Kewa Datshi where the main ingredient is Potato and Shemu Datshi where Mushroom is used.

Ema Datshi

Bhutan – Nature at her bountiful best

Bhutan is landlocked between India, Nepal and China. The landscape is dotted with hills, valleys with the rivers snaking through them around the hills, dense forests and mountain passes making it a dream come true for all nature lovers. It is a place where dreams come true for landscape photographers!

Mo Chhu River snakes along

The valleys are fertile and there are lush green fields all around. Step cultivation is widely practiced in the hills. Rhododendrons bloom in the forests during spring and we were lucky to see quite a few varieties. Mt Gangkar Puensum which is a strong contender for the highest unclimbed mountain in the world lies in Bhutan. The highest peak is Mt. Jomolhari.

Lush Green Valley under stormy skies

The various districts of Bhutan are separated by high altitude mountain passes which you need to go through to get from one district to the next. These passes in being high up in the mountains provide for fantastic views of the valleys on either side & the mighty Himalayas on clear days. One thing common in all the passes when we went there was that they were shrouded in fog! That added a surreal and mystical touch to them! In Bhutanese culture these passes are revered and there are typically chortens and tons of prayer flags which adorn these passes. The grandest is probably the Dochu La Pass between Thimphu & Punakha districts. At Dochu La, one will find the fantastic 108 Chortens which was commissioned by the Queen Mother in memory of everyone who lost their lives in the conflicts that raged with militant outfits.

108 Chortens at Dochula Pass

Around 600 species of birds can be found in the country. The birding hotspots are more towards the central and eastern parts of Bhutan. We had our fill of around 90 species of birds through our trip. The prize sightings for us were the pheasants of the hills and we were lucky to see all 4 found in this country! Add to that some long awaited ‘wishlist’ birds and you know why this place will always remain memorable for us!

Red-billed Leiothrix

Spot-winged Grosbeak (male)

How to get there

By Air

Druk Air is the only choice to fly into Bhutan and the only international airport is at Paro in Western Bhutan. The airline operates flights to Paro from various places like Delhi, Kolkata, Kathmandu, Mumbai (still not operational), Dhaka and Bangkok. We flew to Paro from Delhi. This choice of ours was driven mainly by the phenomenal views of the Himalayas one is treated to enroute on this flight. Mt Everest, Mt Kanchenjunga, Mt Makalu to name just a few!

If you take this flight, try to ensure that you take seats on the left hand side on the flight from Delhi to Paro and on the right for the return flight. The views are better in the flight from Delhi to Paro as the flight is early in the morning. The return flight is at mid-day and the fog, at least in summer, tends to have taken over by then.

The below pic is of Mt Everest (obviously the highest mountain top in the pic!) as the plane was flying by.

Mt Everest

By Land

From India, one can enter Bhutan on land at Phuntsholing or Samdrup Jongkhar. Indian vehicles are allowed into Bhutan based on permits and we did see many from the neighbouring Indian states of West Bengal and Assam within Bhutan.

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Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Lakkavalli

Another post on one of the forests of Karnataka. This time its Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary at Lakkavalli near Shimoga. We spent 3 days there in September of 2010. This sanctuary is a Tiger Reserve and the forest is very dense.

Journey

We started early in the morning around 6.30 AM. The traffic was heavy due to it being the start of a long weekend. It was a struggle to get some breakfast at the crowded Kamat Upahar near Dobbaspet on Tumkur Road. It took us almost 5 hours to drive down to Lakkavalli. We had booked a cottage at River Tern Lodge, a Jungle Lodges resort. Lakkavalli is the place where a dam has been built across the Bhadra river. The last stretch of the drive gave us a glimpse of the river and it looked so serene.

River Tern Lodge

This beautiful property is spread across the main land and an island in the Bhadra reservoir. There is a wooden bridge connecting the island to the main land. We were put up in one of the newer cottages on the island which had a fantastic view of the dam and the reservoir. The cottage was also very good. Jungle Lodges has never disappointed us! The whole area was lush green as it was the end of monsoon. This also meant that the reservoir was brimming with water!

River Tern Lodge

The resort itself had some interesting flora and fauna. Butterflies of various varieties could be seen all over. I’ll let the pictures do the further talking.

Orange Butterfly

Moth

Some of the birds that we spotted in the resort were Common Iora, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Crimson-backed Sunbird and Puff-throated Babbler.

Common Iora (female) with feed | Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary

Crimson-backed Sunbird

Puff-throated Babbler

Bhadra Safari

When we went for lunch on the first day we were informed that the sanctuary was closed due to pathways being unfit for even the safari jeeps to go due to the recent heavy rains. It was disappointing. Only boat safaris would be possible. The other option was to go to the Tyavarekoppa Lion and Tiger safari.

We went on the boat safari on both evenings that we were there as well as the morning on the day we left. The first evening was drab with respect to sightings. The only sightings were of Little Cormorants, Brahminy Kite, Indian Peafowl and White-throated Kingfisher. We spent time enjoying the serene vistas instead. The forest was lush green and a solitary male Chital added the attraction to the frame.

Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary

Little Cormorant

The second safari was a tad better as we spotted the majestic Osprey, a group of Ashy Woodswallows huddled together on a bare branched tree and a herd of Chital sauntering on the banks of the river in addition to what we had sighted in the previous safari. The morning safari did not change the situation much. The above usual suspects were joined by White-browed Wagtail, Greater Coucals and Spot-billed Ducks.

Osprey

Osprey about to take off

Osprey taking off

Ashy Woodswallows

Ashy Woodswallow

Chital

Pied Wagtail | Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary

Spot-billed Duck

Tyavarekoppa Tiger and Lion Safari

Since the sanctuary was closed for jeep safari we opted to go to Tyavarekoppa which is similar to Bannerghatta National Park in Bangalore. We were taken on a bus to watch the Tigers and Lions. It was intimidating to watch the tiger moving around marking its territory.

Royal Bengal Tiger | Tavarekoppa Tiger and Lion Safari

Royal Bengal Tiger | Tavarekoppa Tiger and Lion Safari

Apart from the cats we saw a few varieties of deer, geese and crocodiles in enclosures. A huge group of guys were pestering the crocodiles to no end and pelting stones at them which made us feel very bad. What a pity that these animals have to bear such a nuisance!

Amruthapura

On the way back to Bangalore we took a small deviation off the highway after Tarikere to head to the village of Amruthapura. We had heard about the Amruteshvara temple that was built in the twelfth century by the Hoysalas in this village. This is not such a well known temple as compared to Belur or Halebidu. But the grandeur of the temple is no less. We were impressed with the marvels of architecture here. We took a guide and went around the temple. This was helpful as we could understand the sculptures from epics on the walls.

Amrutheswara Temple, Amruthapura

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Chikmagalur

A post on a long weekend trip to the land of Coffee. Located amidst lush green hills is the district of Chikmagalur (which literally translates to the younger daughter’s town) in Karnataka. We spent 3 wonderful days here in december of 2012.

Journey

We started from home around 6.15 AM and reached Tumkur road by 7 AM. The route that we took was Bangalore-Chennarayapatna-Hassan-Belur-Chikmagalur-Joldal-Jakkanahalli. The traffic was moderate and we decided to stop for breakfast near Adichunchanagiri. It was a foggy morning and we managed to reach Hotel Mayura for breakfast by 8 AM. After a sumptuous breakfast we were back on our way. We decided to visit the Hoysala temples at Halebidu and Doddagaddavalli. By the time we were done with going to these places it was 1 PM. We then started for Chikmagalur and reached our destination around 2.30 PM.

The lonely cart

Cattle Traffic

Halebidu

Halebidu was the capital city of the Hoysala dynasty that ruled the Malnad region during the 12th century. It was called Dwarasamudra in those days. Halebidu translates to the city of ruins and gets its name due to the destruction of this city by the Bahamani Kings who ruled North Karnataka. Halebidu is popular for the Hoysaleswara Temple which is a brilliant masterpiece of Hoysala architecture. The temple was built-in honour of the popular King Vishnuvardhana of Hoysala dynasty. Close to 200 years were spent in building this majestic temple and it was not completed despite this much time. The details carved in stone are mind-blowing to say the least. Hiring a guide here is an ABSOLUTE MUST!

Halebidu Temple Complex

The temple complex has two shrines. Hoysaleswara dedicated to the King and Shantaleswara dedicated to the Queen Shantala. The sculptures have amazingly been carved on the soapstone after placing it. The outer walls have eight levels of friezes. The lowest frieze has marching elephants which symbolize strength and act like a stable foundation. This is followed by Lions that stand for courage and bravery. Then come the ornamental flowering creepers, Horse riders depicting speed, another set of flowering creepers, figurines from the Hindu epics, the mythical beast Makara and Swans. The Makara is a mythical animal that possesses extraordinary characteristics of a set of animals. Trumpet of an Elephant, Feet of a Lion, Eyes of a Monkey, Ears of a Pig, Mouth of a Crocodile and the Tail of a Peacock.

Friezes of Halebid temple

There are two Nandi statues carved out of monolithic stones on one side of the temple complex. Observing the statue of a dancer lady we can come to know the dressing style of those days! Every detail has been depicted beautifully. The skilled artisans get full marks for their astonishing work. Sadly we can no longer claim that we are as talented though we have sophisticated technology at our disposal.

Immortalised in stone

Doddagaddavalli

This is a small village off the HassanBelur highway. The twelfth century Lakshmi Devi temple which is an example of early Hoysala architecture is located here. A lake at the rear end of the temple adds to its beauty. It is quite different from the popular Hoysala temples like Belur and Halebidu. The temple was constructed by a merchant. There are small shrines at the corners of the temple complex. The temple was closed when we were here. We walked around the temple and bid adieu to this hidden gem of a place.

Lakshmi Devi Temple at Doddagaddavalli

Woodway Homestay

We had booked our stay at Woodway Homestay at Jakkanahalli which is a village beyond Chikmagalur town. The homestay belongs to a family of Planters and is located in a Coffee estate. The location is awesome with a beautiful view of the hills. The house was constructed by the British and now it has been renovated and additional rooms have been added to the original property. There are 6 rooms and each one of them have been furnished tastefully. Family photographs adorn the walls of the common area.

Woodway Homestay

Woodway Foyer

Woodway Living Room

The owners live in another of their estates nearby. Our host Shreedev Hulikere made sure that we were comfortable staying there. He spent some time chatting with all guests and suggesting what places could be visited etc. The food was excellent too. Authentic Malnad cuisine! Piping hot Akki/Ragi rotti, Kori Rotti, Neer Dosa, a gravy of ground Colocasia leaves and Kadubu were some of the culinary delights that we munched on :) Not to forget the cups of heady Coffee that we savored multiple times a day. A bonfire would be lit every evening and we would sit around it savouring some hot Pakodas and Coffee.

We walked around the estate looking for birds. Sightings included Malabar Parakeet, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, White-cheeked Barbet, Scarlet Minivet, Common Tailorbird, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, White-browed Wagtail, Rufous Babbler and Blyth’s Reed Warbler. The prized sighting was of an Indian Pitta which was walking around the Coffee bushes early in the morning.

Rufous Babbler

Indian Pitta

Coffee Estate Walk

No trip to Chikmagalur can be complete without a walk in a coffee estate! Shreedev took us on a walk around the estate and explained quite a bit about Coffee. Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia by a Shepherd who saw that his goats were getting high on the Coffee beans. He took the beans to a monastery. The monks there started brewing Coffee and consuming it as it would help them stay awake for longer. Coffee then gradually spread to the Arabs who wanted to monopolize the Coffee trade. A Sufi saint Baba Budan stole some coffee beans from the Arabs and smuggled it to India in the 17th century. He planted Coffee on a hill in Chikmagalur. The hill got its name as Baba Budangiri due to this. The Britishers realized that Coffee trade was quite lucrative and the climate in this region was conducive to the growth of Coffee. Coffee estates sprang up everywhere in this region. The local people got a chance to own some of these estates much later. Shreedev’s family has been into Coffee for four generations now.

The two main species of Coffee plants are Arabica and Robusta. The estate had Arabica species which needs a lot of care. The lifetime of a plant is typically 40 years if it is tended to properly. It was harvesting time when we were here. Most of the berries looked ripe. While plucking a berry the node that attached it to the main stem should not be cut lest it hamper next year’s crop. Due to the unduly terrain it is difficult to automate harvesting making it a tough job for the laborers who work here. We realized that running a Coffee estate is not as easy and romantic as it seems to be at first sight.

We visited the Chinnenahalli estate where Shreedev stays and got to know how the Coffee beans are processed and made into the powder we love. The making of coffee is a very difficult process. Of this process we witnessed the ripe beans (see below) being segregated by weight and size and then being dried in the premises. This drying process takes many days for each lot only after which they can be passed on to be roasted and powdered. Through this process spanning multiple days, there are multiple pitfalls and nuances to take care of! Not for those who want to be in this for the fun of it!!

Coffee Berries

Kavi Kallu Matha

We wanted to avoid crowds and therefore decided to skip a visit to Mullayanagiri which is the highest peak in Karnataka. Instead we visited the lesser known hill called Kavi Kallu Matha. We went on a jeep arranged by Shreedev. The views of the surrounding lush green carpeted hills from atop were lovely. We took a brief walk and saw plenty of birds.

Kavikallu Matha

Muthodi

We went on a jeep safari on one of the evenings to Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary from Muthodi which is an hour away from Woodway. I spotted a Malabar Grey Hornbill as we were waiting for our jeep before the safari. The forest was very dense and the foliage prevented us from getting any views beyond it. The sightings included Malabar Trogon, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Black Drongo, Mongoose, Sambar deer, Plum-headed Parakeet, Chital and Barking Deer. The safari itself is nothing much to write home about. Too many people and unorganized handling of the crowd given the very few vehicles available and the lack of naturalists. One would be better served going over to the other points in Bhadra WLS if safaris are to be done.

Belavadi

We went to Belavadi to visit the Veera Narayana temple built by the Hoysalas on our way back home. This temple was built by the Hoysala king Veera Ballala II. The temple has a hall with a hundred pillars. There are three shrines within the temple. The central shrine is dedicated to Veera Narayana. The second shrine is for Yoga Narasimha while the third is for Lord Venugopala whose idol is very ornate. This is considered to be the most beautiful idol of Lord Krishna. The temple is operational and the priest explained briefly about the architecture and history of the temple. This temple is a good example of Hoysala architecture.

Veera Narayana Temple at Belavadi

We stopped by a lake near Belavadi to watch aquatic birds. A juvenile Brahminy Kite posed for us on a dead stump in the water. Other birds that we sighted included Painted Stork, Common Sandpiper and Purple Heron.

Brahminy Kite (Juvenile)

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Birds of Nandi Hills

A place which I have begun to love quite a bit and started  spending few hours at almost every other weekend this year. The charm of this place for me lies in its unique avifauna. At a stone’s throw near Bangalore this is a convenient place for those who are interested in bird watching/photography. I am talking about Nandi Hills or Nandidurg as it was called during the days of the Raj. Some of the birds found here are endemic to Western Ghats with the exception of this place. Though it is just 60 kms from Bangalore, the terrain is quite different. The elevation of Nandi Hills is 1478 m which makes it around 500 m higher than that of  Bangalore. A winding road with 40 curves leads you atop the hill where the vehicles can be parked and one can walk around. There are many trails and we are still in the process of exploring them. We have been seeing some new species or the other on each visit to Nandi Hills. At times we have not seen/heard any birds for a while and the situation changes all of a sudden with the birds giving us an appearance when we are on the verge of giving up.

Asian Paradise Flycatcher
The Asian Paradise Flycatcher is one of the most beautiful birds found in India with the males of the species having long plumes. It is usually found in  forests and other well wooded areas. It had eluded us on a few occasions before we started visiting Nandi Hills for birdwatching. On every visit to Nandi Hills we have seen one of either White Morph Male or Rufous Morph Male or the female. The body of the bird is small compared to its tail. The eye has a blue ring around it and there is a small blue patch below the eye. The Paradise Flycatchers used to be classified with other flycatchers in the old world flycatcher family of Muscicapidae. Now they are placed in the Monarchidae family along-with the Monarch Flycatchers. We saw this beautiful bird following a group of Tawny-bellied Babblers who were foraging for insects and feeding on the insects that they found.

Rufous-morph male
Asian Paradise Flycatcher
White-morph male
Asian Paradise Flycatcher

Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher
The male of the Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher is a brightly coloured bird (Striking Blue with a dash of Orange/Yellow). I had seen the female of this species which is of a duller hue compared to the male only once before on a trip to Masinagudi.  The male is a songster and we have been entertained by these tiny birds during multiple visits with their sweet tune. We have seen the male on almost every visit.

Male front view
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher
Male rear view
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher

Red-breasted Flycatcher
This small bird is a migrant and was a lifer for us. Both male and female have greyish-brown upper parts and white underparts. The distinction being the Reddish throat on the male. Most of our sightings were of the female. We got to see a first winter male with the red throat just about there and a brief glimpse of an adult male before it flew away. Hopefully next winter we’ll get better glimpses of the male.

Female
Red-breasted Flycatcher
First winter male
Red-breasted Flycatcher

Blue-capped Rock Thrush
The Blue-capped Rock Thrush is another bird which we have managed to see on almost every other visit. Both the male and the female birds have posed for us! These birds freeze when they sense human presence nearby. The female especially gets camouflaged as she is Brown in colour with scales on the underparts and blends well with the branches of the trees. The male is a bright blue with an orange belly and white spot on the wings. The male also has a slightly varying blue color and that is the reason it is called the Blue-capped Rock Thrush. On one occasion the grounds around the parking lot were wet due to a drizzle on the previous day. The Thrush was on a hunting spree and gobbling up termites. When we tried to get nearer to it the Thrush posed for us  like a proud hunter with the hapless termite at its feet.

Female
Blue-capped Rock Thrush (Female)
Male
Blue-capped Rock Thrush
Male as the proud hunter
Blue-capped Rock Thrush as the Proud Hunter

Malabar Whistling Thrush
This majestic bird which can be mistaken for a Crow due to its coloration and size when seen from far had eluded us for a long time. On many occasions before during trips to Kabini, Masinagudi and so on, we had woken up to the whistling sound made by this bird which is also called the Whistling Schoolboy! An elusive bird, this is endemic to Western Ghats. In the last few visits here we have managed to see this bird from close quarters regularly. Not sure if this is a migrant or a resident here. It is predominantly dark blue in colour interspersed with black. But the blue colour stands out only if one sees it nearby and the light is good. When you do get a closeup view of the bird, the iridescent blue patterns on the chest stand out.

Malabar Whistling Thrush

Pied Thrush
An elegant bird which has been a lifer for us. What grace in its movement! This lovely bird migrates from the Himalayas every year during winter and returns back on the onset of summer. The Pied Thrush is not what you’d call common in Nandi Hills and we’ve seen many wanting to sight this lovely bird. The fact that the bird is very secretive only makes this more difficult. We were fortunate enough to have a good glimpse of the bird once. We saw only the male. The body of the male is covered in a combination of black and white. Like with most birds, the coloration of the male is the reason behind the common name of the bird.

Pied Thrush

Orange-headed Thrush
The Orange-headed Thrush also comes under Zoothera Thrushes.  This bird has orange head and underparts while the mantle is bluish grey in case of males. A good friend calls it as the “Ninja” Thrush due to the stripes near the eye. This bird is capable of creating quite a rustling sound as it forages for insects in the dense undergrowth. This would be one way of catching on to its presence. But then the rustling could well be a snake. So… :)

Orange-headed Thrush

Eurasian Blackbird
Another lifer for us has been the Eurasian Blackbird or the Indian Blackbird which is classified under Zoothera Thrushes. The bird is black all over with an orange beak and an orange circle around the eye on the male. The female is duller on the orange. From a distance, one could easily mistake it for a Myna and the absence of the yellow of the Myna is what will make one look again to be certain! Our first sighting of the male of this species was when it was foraging on the ground oblivious of our presence. We got a brief glimpse of what we thought was either a female or a juvenile. This bird is a migrant. There is a reasonably popular nursery rhyme featuring the blackbird, also quoted in Agatha Christie‘s novel “A Pocket Full of Rye”.

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye;
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie!
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Oh wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the king?

Eurasian Blackbird

Indian Blue Robin
Another migrant which was also a lifer for us. The male has dark blue upper parts and orange underparts with a white supercilium. These birds breed in the Himalayas and winter down south. These are very unlike the more regularly seen Indian Robins. Both in terms of colour and also the way they look. The Indian Robins tend to have their tail up and about as they go around which wasn’t visible in these birds. In fact I felt the Indian Blue Robins were more similar to Thrushes in their behavior.

Indian Blue Robin

Oriental Magpie Robin
The Oriental Magpie Robin is a songster. We have sighted both the male and the female on most of our visits. They typically flit around branches of trees. The male is predominantly black with a white underparts and a white streak across the wings while the female is grey instead of the black. You can notice this difference in the pictures below. They have a reasonably long tail which is held upright when they move about foraging on the ground or perch. This is the national bird of Bangladesh.

Male
Oriental Magpie Robin
Female
Oriental Magpie Robin

Olive-backed Pipit
The Olive-backed Pipits can be seen all over the place. They keep foraging in groups on the grass. You can stumble upon them all of a sudden as they blend inconspicuously with the ground. I am told, some of them could also be the Tree Pipits but we haven’t conclusively identified a Tree Pipit till date on Nandi Hills. It does not help that the distinguishing factor is minor differences in patterns on the back and the degree of streaking on the underbelly! :|

Olive-backed Pipit

Ashy Drongo
You will find many an Ashy Drongo on Nandi Hills. This bird is the joker in the pack given the antics that they are up to and is an excellent imitator of other birds. Given this imitation behavior, many a time they can put you off the track while looking for birds. With the onset of summer, a good experience was to watch these birds flitting across a pond drinking water.

Ashy Drongo

Oriental White-eye
These tiny little fur-balls as we like to call them are one of our favourites. They get their name due to the prominent white circle around their eyes. They are yellow in colour with white underparts and super cute in appearance. The Oriental White-eyes are also one of the tiniest birds in the Indian subcontinent and difficult to photograph given how active they are. The size of the bird, or rather the lack of it, may not be completely evident by the first pic below. So adding the next one to just show the actual size of the bird.

The small size of the bird may not be evident here
Oriental White-eye
This pic shows up the size
Oriental White-eye

Shikra
The Shikra is one of the smallest raptors found around here. It had been eluding us for a while. We managed to watch a juvenile from pretty close quarters here during a couple of our visits. On one occasion, we were chasing a Blyth’s Reed Warbler among the pots in the orchard and I happened to look up and noticed the juvenile Shikra perched right above us and keeping an eye on us! On another day as we were shooting a greenish warbler, the bird flew past us onto a tree far away. May be it was a little tired, but it allowed us time to walk all the way there and get a good glimpse of it before taking off.

The stare of the Shikra
Shikra
Side on
Shikra

Tawny-bellied Babbler
These tiny Babblers  are coloured orange and brown and super cute to look at. They keep moving around in groups and can be pretty noisy. They frequent the bushes around Nehru Nilaya a lot, especially the area around the water tank at the back of Nehru Nilaya. Again another bird, which unlike its cousins the other babblers, is quite small. The second pic below should again show off the size.

The small size of the bird may not be evident here
Tawny-bellied Babbler
This pic shows up the size
Tawny-bellied Babbler

Puff-throated Babbler
The Puff-throated Babbler aka Spotted Babbler can be seen foraging in low undergrowth. They can be very difficult to spot in those areas. They also frequent lawns in the garden area and in the thick grass are nearly invisible as they forage for insects. On one rare occasion, on an early summer morning, we had the fortune to watch some of these bathing at a spot where water was leaking from a pipe.

Foraging in the grass
Puff-throated Babbler
Bathing at a leaky tap during summer
Puff-throated Babbler

Tickell’s Leaf Warbler
A colourful Phylloscopus Warbler this one! We could not identify this one on our first visit here. The greenish brown and yellow hues on this bird made us feel curious to figure out which bird this was. It has a prominent supercilium. During some of our subsequent visits we saw some worn birds where the colours were much paler. They breed in the Himalayas and come down south for winter.

Fresh
Tickell's Leaf Warbler
Worn Plumage
Tickell's Leaf Warbler

Greenish Warbler
Another Phylloscopus Warbler which breeds in the Himalayas and winters in the South. This one is greyish green above with off white underparts. Like any other Warbler it is difficult to photograph this too as it is very active and keeps flitting from branch to branch making it hard to keep up with it.

Greenish Warbler

Tytler’s Leaf Warbler
I would consider ourselves very fortunate to have seen this tiny beautiful bird which is near threatened due to loss of its natural habitat. It breeds in the Himalayas and winters down South. We had an opportunity to go around this place with Vinay Das, a seasoned birdwatcher from Bangalore and it was on this visit that we saw this bird. It was oblivious to our presence and gave us enough time to watch it clearly. Vinay mentioned that he had always seen this bird during winter here. He identified it based on the dark & longish bill, supercilium and dark legs.

Tytler's Leaf Warbler

Blyth’s Reed Warbler
The Blyth’s Reed Warbler comes under the Acrocephalus Warblers. It is slightly bigger than all the other Warblers that we saw here. It is found in bushes and rarely comes out in the open. It is heard more often than seen. However it chose to become oblivious of the presence of people and kept foraging in the open for almost half an hour during one of our visits. It was a joy for us to watch this beauty out in the clear for such a long time. It has Olive-brown upper parts  and pale underparts. The call of this bird is an intoxicating “tchuck tchuck”.

Blyth's Reed Warbler

White-cheeked Barbet
The White-cheeked Barbet is an elusive bird heard more often than seen. It is excellently camouflaged in the tree cover due to its green body and streaks of brown and white on the head. Its call is an intoxicating “Kotroo Kotroo”. These birds use their bill to make holes in the tree bark where they nest. They start breeding during onset of summer. We sighted these birds on quite a few of our visits here. A White-cheeked Barbet perched on a Jacaranda tree (lavender coloured flowers) in full bloom is definitely a sight to behold!

White-cheeked Barbet

Ashy Prinia
The Ashy Prinia is a small bird found in most of the places in India. It has Greyish upper parts due to which it gets its name and rufous underparts. Another striking feature is its red eyes. It holds its tail upright most of the time. It can be seen mostly around bushes and scrubs. I always call it the machine gun bird due to its incessant calls which sound like a machine gun being fired :)

Ashy Prinia

Common Tailorbird
The Common Tailorbird is another tiny bird which is super cute in appearance. It has a rufous crown and olive-green upper parts. We have been seeing this one on most of our visits. This particular day as we were contemplating whether we would have any sightings as there were quite a few photographers around, a tailorbird came nearby and posed for us. This moment will always remain in our memories.

Common Tailorbird

Grey-bellied Cuckoo
There haven’t been too many recorded instances of the Grey-bellied Cuckoo from Nandi Hills. We were lucky to sight a couple of them and photograph this one. This bird too like the other cuckoos (and koels) is a brood parasite. However, unlike their more common cousins the Koels or the Common Hawk-Cuckoos (“brain fever” bird), whenever we’ve seen these birds they’ve been quiet and kept to themselves.

Grey-bellied Cuckoo

Common Hoopoe
Technically speaking this is not from the Nandi Hills but from the vicinity. We saw these wonderful insectivorous birds at the Bhoganandeeshwara Temple in the village of Nandi at the foothill of Nandi Hills. The striking feature of these colorful birds has to be the crown they sport. Aristophanes called it the “King of Birds” in his ancient Greek comedy “The Birds”. Possibly due to the crown too! It is also the state bird of the state of Punjab in India and the national bird of Israel.

Common Hoopoe

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Auroville

A post on a short duration road trip that we did in April of 2012. We had planned a last-minute getaway in Auroville near Pondicherry and had to go to Chennai later for a friend’s wedding.

Journey
On a Friday evening we started from Bangalore around 5 PM. Our overnight halt was at Ramana Residency Hotel in Thiruvannamalai which we reached around 9 PM. After a sumptuous breakfast at Hotel Kanna the next morning we started towards Auroville around 10 AM. The road was excellent. On the way we stopped to watch the Gingee fort which has been a witness to many bloody battles. Today the ruins are surrounded by lush green fields. A Black Drongo arrived on the scene promptly and posed for us. We managed to reach Auroville around 12 PM.

Red yesterday, Green today. Gingee for you.

Black Drongo

Auroville Township

Auroville is an experimental township located a little north of Pondicherry. Auroville’s intent is to have people from multiple cultures, nationalities and sensibilities live together in harmony and peace without being affected by religion, politics and the likes. Auroville is governed by the Auroville Foundation. This foundation, and not individuals, owns the properties in the township. More details on Auroville can be read on the wikipedia. The roads within Auroville are private and in many parts are not paved dirt roads. Cycling is a common mode of transport within the township.

Roads within Auroville

Visitor Center is the nerve center of this township and any visitor will begin from here. If you want to stay at Auroville, there are a set of guesthouses, of different budgets. You will find the guesthouses listed at www.aurovilleguesthouses.org. We chose the Afsanah Guest house based on our preference and availability.

Afsaneh Guest House
The place looked promising in the pictures online and it lived up to our expectations. The architect Poppo has designed the whole place marvelously! The whole setting blends well with the surrounding. The elegant Japanese cottages were a delight with lots of space. The decor was impressive. Another highlight of the architecture is the impressive Lotus pond next to the dining area. The only thing that we didn’t like here was the bland food that we had here for our breakfast.

By the wayside

Afsanah in Auroville -The perfect getaway

Japanese cottage - Afsanah Guest House

Battered and Weary

Water Lily

Camouflaged frog

Afsanah Guest House premises

Dining Hall - Afsanah Guest House

We had a good time watching birds from the terrace atop the dining area. An early morning walk within the property yielded sightings of a few birds. The sightings included Black Drongo, Yellow-billed Babbler, Rufous Treepie, Loten’s Sunbird, Jungle Crow, Greater Coucal, Common Iora and White-browed Bulbul. We need to head back here someday and spend more time.

Loten's Sunbird

Greater Coucal

Jungle Babbler

Matri Mandir

The Matri Mandir which translates to the temple of the mother is dedicated to the mother of the Aurobindo Ashram. It is located in a huge open space and can be seen from the highway itself at certain points. It looks like a massive golf ball that is golden in colour. There is an inner chamber for meditation where entry is restricted. Visitors can walk around the garden but it was closed when we went. We had to be content gazing at it from outside the fence.

Matri Mandir

Eat-outs
On the day of our arrival here we headed to the Visitor’s Center for our lunch. The restaurant here serves some awesome European food! The desserts were a delight too. For dinner we headed to Roma’s Kitchen but decided to stop at Tanto’s Pizzeria on the way instead. Our choice proved to be right as the Pizzas were delicious. The desserts were also good here.

ECR drive
We started from Auroville around 12 PM and took the East Coast Road (ECR) to head to Chennai. The road was good and scenic as a result of which our drive was pleasant. We saw the Bay of Bengal at regular intervals when there were no obstructions. Other notable views were that of the Salt Pans and Backwaters. This road passes through Alamparai Fort and Mahabalipuram. We did not stop anywhere as we had to reach Chennai by evening. Need to head back here some day was the thought in our minds throughout this trip.

Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.

 

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Shettihalli

A post on a weekend outing to a place which had been on my wish-list for a reasonable amount of time. A monument that has withstood the ravages of time. That is the Rosary Church at Shettihalli! It stays submerged in the waters of the Hemavati River reservoir built near Gorur in Hassan District during the monsoon period. Here is the link for finding the church on Google Maps.

Withstanding the ravages of time and tide

Journey

We started from Nelamangala around 9.30 AM. We were near the road to Shettihalli by 12 in the noon. As we wanted to be in Shettihalli in the evening around sunset, we decided to drive till Sakleshpur and have lunch there. On the way we spotted quite a few Indian Rollers, Pied Bushchats and a Black-winged Kite.

Indian Roller

The terrain changed as we entered Sakleshpur. The dry land gave way to lush green hills. We had a sumptuous meal at Ossoor Restaurant next to Ossoor Coffee Estate in Sakleshpur. As we were heading back to the car after lunch, we spotted a Scarlet Minivet couple on a tree nearby. They seemed to be nesting there. We decided to head to the Manjarabad fort as we were too early for Shettihalli.

There was a huge crowd near Manjarabad. We decided not to head to the fort as it would be literally useless to climb and not be able to have a peaceful time. We drove back towards Shettihalli. The road was not so great as we approached Shettihalli. On the way we stopped wherever we saw birds. Sightings included Plain Prinia, Purple Sunbird, Black Drongo, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Long-tailed Shrike, Rufous Treepie, Greater Coucal, Common Iora, Spotted Dove, Green Bee-eater, White-cheeked Barbet, Cattle Egret and the Red-vented Bulbul.

Fields of Gold

Purple Sunbird (Male)

Purple Sunbird (Female)

Chestnut-headed Bee Eater

Rosary Church

This church was built by French missionaries in the nineteenth century. It was built in the European Gothic style very elegantly. In the 1960s the Government relocated the surrounding villages for the purpose of constructing a reservoir across Hemavati river to supply water for the nearby areas. Since then the church lies submerged in the water. Every year it is visible when the water level recedes. The church has an elegant charm to it though it is in ruins. It is hard to imagine how it might have looked in its heydays.

Ruins basking in the sunlight

Once a church, now a picnic spot

Planning a future with the past as witness

We took a brief walk around the ruins. There were a group of men who seemed to be drunk and creating a ruckus all over the place sadly. They marred our visit here. We decided not to take a coracle ride across the water. We walked away from the church and settled at a spot close to the river further away. A juvenile Brahminy Kite was hovering above us. We then spotted a River Tern, Pied Wagtail and a Common Sandpiper.

Brahminy Kite (Juvenile)

River Tern

The ruins looked so charming as the sun set beyond the hills far away and the moon rose above it. Flocks of Little Cormorants were flying back home. It was time to call it a day and we were on our way back by 6 PM. We stopped for dinner at Kamat Upachar resturant near Chennarayapatna. It was 11 by the time we reached home.

Capturing the eye in the sky

Eruption at Sunset

An idyllic sunset

The golden orb sets

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Madurai

This post is on the most impromptu long distance trip that I have ever done. There are times when surprises crop up and this was one and a pleasant one at that. I am not very religious, but it was as if Meenakshi Amman wanted an audience with us. I am talking about our trip to the city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Madurai had always been on my wish list. We were in Madurai for exactly one day. Chitra who is a very good friend was driving down to Rajapalayam which is 2 hours away from Madurai to shoot a wedding on a saturday in December last and we decided to join in till Madurai.

Journey

We started from Bangalore at 6.30 AM on a foggy morning. We managed to cross Hosur and stop for breakfast at Shree Krishna restaurant a little after Hosur around 8 AM. We ended up spending around 45 minutes as our food was served late. Traffic was pretty reasonable and we did not manage to go fast till we crossed Salem. After this the drive was a breeze. There were hardly any vehicles and we zipped through the awesome highway. After crossing Karur and Dindigul, the hills which were bathed in sunlight loomed into our view.

We reached Madurai around 1 in the afternoon. Nagesh had booked a room at Hotel Madurai Residency the previous day. So we headed towards the hotel which was located close to the Meenakshi temple. The hotel had a rooftop restaurant on the seventh floor from which there was a good view of the city as well as the gopurams of Meenkashi temple.

Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace

As this was a last-minute trip, I had not managed to spend time finding out about the places to visit. One of our friends Lakshmi who is an avid travel blogger helped us in this regard. She told us not to miss the Thirumalai Nayakkar palace. The palace was built during the 17th century and the construction took 15 years of time. In its hey days the magnificent palace was considered to be one of the wonders of the south. Today only a quarter of the original palace is intact. The remaining three-quarters of palace were destroyed and today the place has been eaten up by houses and shops. The King Thirumalai Nayak hired an Italian architect to build this palace. He wanted the palace to be the grandest in South India.

The entrance to the palace is via the courtyard which is flanked by huge pillars built using the mud from the Mariamman Tank in Madurai. The ornate walls and ceiling of the palace adds to the grandeur. The frescoes that adorn the top of the pillars are majestic. The two main sections of this portion of the palace were the Swarga Vilas and the Ranga Vilas. Swarga Vilas faces the courtyard and was the place where the King would be seated with his family and the general audience would be in the courtyard. Ranga Vilas was the dance hall. Today it serves as a museum of artifacts. We had hired a guide and he explained about the palace to us. He informed us that the song ‘Kehna hi Kya‘ from Maniratnam’s movie ‘Bombay‘ was shot here.

Pillars of Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace

Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace

From pillar to pillar

Ornate roof of Nayakkar Palace

Swarga Vilas in Nayakkar Palace

Ranga Vilas in Nayakkar Palace

The palace is open from 9 AM to 5 PM. There is a light and sound show at 6.45 PM in English and the next show is sometime around 8 PM in Tamil. As we were pretty impressed by the palace we decided to watch the show. The content of the entire show proved to be boring. However we sat through till the end just to watch the lit palace. We felt that there was no story as such to entertain for such a long time. But I would still recommend it just to watch the lighting. Another point to note is that this place seemed to be infested with mosquitoes at least when we were there. We repented that we had left behind the mosquito repellant in the hotel room.

Lit up Symmetry

Multicolor Pillars

Meenakshi Temple

The 16th century Meenakshi Amman Temple was one of the contenders in the top 30 nominations for the new seven wonders of the world. People from all over come to Madurai to visit the temple. We decided to visit the temple early in the morning around 6.30 to beat the crowd. The temple has 5 main towers. There is one large tower on each of North, West and South directions while the East has two towers. Apart from these there are four smaller towers. We entered the temple via the North tower. The towers are very colourful and adorned with idols of gods, animals, demons and dragon like creatures. We hired a guide to go around. Normally at temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati you need to visit the Shiva shrine first. But here Goddess Meenakshi (literally translates to the one whose eyes are in the shape of a fish) has to be prayed to before Lord Shiva. The sacred temple tank also called as the lotus pond is serene. The architecture in the passage (especially the pillars in the shape of horses) had a striking resemblance to Vijayanagara architecture.

Madurai Meenakshi temple

South Gopuram of Meenakshi Temple

Corridors of the Madurai Meenakshi Temple

Madurai Meenakshi Temple Courtyard and Gopurams

Paintings on the roof at Meenakshi Temple

Vijayanagara Architecture at Meenakshi temple

We headed inside to pay our obeisance to Goddess Meenakshi. The darshan would be at 7.30 AM. We purchased the entrance tickets and stood in the queue for a little over half an hour as we were early. People were let inside in batches and fortune had it that we were right at the front of the line (in our batch of people). The idol of the Goddess is of black stone and has a charm of its own. We next went into the shrine of Lord Shiva, called as God Sundareswar in this temple. Here again we managed to get a glimpse of the idol from close quarters.

We then proceeded to the huge monolithic Ganesha idol. The idol is believed to have been found buried in the ground below Mariamman Tank. While digging this place to get the mud for construction of the Nayakkar palace, the idol was found and reinstated in the temple. There is a sculpture depicting the marriage of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Shiva with Lord Vishnu handing over the Goddess (legend has it that Meenakshi is the sister of Vishnu). Another statue worth mention is that of the King Thirumalai welcoming people to the temple along with his two wives. There is an idol of Nandi too with a golden flagstaff nearby. Both the main Shrines have gold gopurams which can be partly seen from a certain point in the courtyard near the North tower as well as from near the lotus pond.

Vishnu handing over Meenakshi to Shiva

Meenakshi temple at Madurai

Nandi at Meenakshi Temple

Ganesha idol at Meenakshi Temple

We then went to buy some prasadam. As we were buying only Laddoos, the guy at the counter asked us to try some vada too. We bought vadas to eat there itself. And the Vada turned out to be extremely lip smacking. It was hot, crispy and just melted in our mouths :) We decided to skip going for breakfast to Meenkashi Bhavan restaurant which had been recommended by a friend and settled for more vadas and sweet pongal which was also very delicious.

What else to do in Madurai

We had the “Jigar Thanda” which is a popular drink in Madurai. It was super delicious. We felt that it was molten Kulfi with a dollop of solid Kulfi and some Kishmish sprinkled in it. Unfortunately we forgot to take a picture in the excitement of having it and the shop was closed when we went back the next day :(

We bought Madurai Cotton Sarees from one of the shops near the North tower of the Meenkashi temple.

The older area at the city centre is congested with very narrow streets and the traffic is too unruly and chaotic. We did not attempt to walk here though both the temple and the palace were pretty close to our hotel.

Some of the other places that we saw were the St.Mary’s Cathedral and the Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam (Mariamman Tank) which had dried up completely. The Mariamman Tank is the biggest in Tamil Nadu. We decided to skip the Gandhi museum as we did not want to exert ourselves too much.

St. Mary's Cathedral in Madurai

Mariamman Teppakulam in Madurai

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Hills of Kumaon

A journey to the hills is always refreshing. A post on an exciting and memorable journey to the foothills of the mighty Himalayas. This was our third visit to Uttarakhand the first two being to Mussoorie and Valley of Flowers. This was our first visit to the Kumaon region. More specifically we went to the lake district of Nainital.

Journey
We took the afternoon flight from Bangalore to Delhi followed by the overnight train journey to Kathgodam which serves as a gateway to Kumaon. The Ranikhet Express was bang on time and we reached around 5 AM. We had booked rooms in Club Mahindra Dancing Waters Resort at Naukuchiatal which was around 35 kms from Kathgodham. The resort had arranged for a cab to pick us up. We reached Naukuchiatal just as it was getting light.

Club Mahindra Dancing Waters Resort
This resort is located midway up a hillock overlooking the Naukuchiatal lake (which gets its name due to its nine corners). A 5 minute walk leads on to the lake. The rooms are cozy and well furnished. The garden is very colourful.

Club Mahindra Dancing Waters

Playground

The staff was a delight throughout our stay and made us feel at home. The food in the restaurant was also good and the Head Chef would drop by to talk to all guests and take their feedback and inputs. The front desk people were friendly especially Manoj and Varsha who was cheerful and giving us tidbits of information about the place that she had gathered from guests since she herself had come to Nakuchiatal recently. Alok from the travel desk was also helpful in arranging transport to places that we wanted to visit. Arun who waited upon us most of the times in the restaurant was another cheerful person who did his job to perfection I can say!

We got a room on the ground floor overlooking the garden. It was a pleasure for us to sit on the divan next to the french windows and watch birds in action from the comforts of our room! We sighted the Himalayan Bulbuls, Blue Whistling Thrush, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Grey Bushchat, Verditer Flycatcher, Streaked Laughing Thrush, Grey-hooded Warbler, Scarlet Minivet, Grey Treepie, Oriental White-eye and the Red-billed Blue Magpie.

Naukuchiatal
The place gets its name due to the large Naukuchiatal lake. It is a popular local belief that a person who can spot all the nine corners of the lake together will attain salvation. The waves in the lake change direction at different times of the day. Colourful boats and Shikaras adorn the lake. The lake is adorned by hills and looks serene.

Which boat for you?

We took a boat ride along the lake for half an hour.The boatsman was an old gentleman of seventy who claimed that he was the oldest and most experienced (sabse sayana in his own words). He showed us the corners of the lake and mentioned that the water levels had gone down this year due to a not so effective monsoon.

Experience

Leaning over

Solitude

We had seen the beautiful Hanuman temple en-route the resort. It was just a 5 minute walk away and we spent some time here. It is hard to miss the towering statue of Lord Hanuman. The temple complex is pretty large and has multiple shrines dedicated to various other gods and goddesses. There is an artificial cave in addition to all this. The whole place has been done up very nicely. This temple has been constructed by Mauni Ma who is a disciple of Neem Karauli Baba of Kainchi. An elderly gentleman told us that Mauni Ma has been on a vow of silence for the last 60+ years and she is around 95 years old.

Hanuman

A walk in the hills is very soothing. We went along the road up the hillock that goes past the resort towards the lake. We passed by a beautiful house belonging to an admiral. The garden was dotted with marble statues and filled with colourful flowers. What a place to stay! The view of the lake was great along this stretch of the path and we stopped for a brief while near the KMVN Parichay guesthouse to watch birds. The KMVN hotels and guesthouses are located at very good spots and not too hard on the purse. Overall a good option to consider for any trips to this region! The trail ended at Lake resort next to KMVN which seemed a good place too.

Bhimtal
A short drive of around 7 kms from the resort leads to Bhimtal town named after Bhima of Mahabharata. It is a belief that Bhima had visited this place during the vanvas or exile period.The Bhimtal Lake is huge with an aquarium on a tiny island in the centre. An ancient Shiva temple is located on one side of the lake.

Approach

Parking Lot

Headed back

Drawing a line

Alice fell through here into Wonderland

On a hillock near the lake is a butterfly research centre and museum. A room of a 150 year old British Bungalow located in the Jones Estate houses a huge collection of butterflies and moths. The Smetacek family has been into butterfly collection and research since 1949 when Victor Smetacek a retired Forest Councillor arrived here from Germany. Today Peter Smetacek (the grandson of the founder) and his wife Rajini Smetacek continue to do the research. Rajini explained about the various butterflies and moths ranging from beautiful to poisonous to largest to smallest.

Saattal

Saattal is a collection of seven lakes which are named after various characters from the Ramayana. It is more popular as a tourist destination as compared to either Bhimtal or Naukuchiatal. Saattal beyond just the lake is considered one of the birding hotspots and you may have read about birding around Saattal in one of my previous posts. Given that the place was crowded, atleast relatively speaking, we did not spend much time here beyond the cursory stop to take in the scenery. Some of the “activities” here were a little funny including a farcical zip-lining near one of the bridges on the lake, especially for us having done the real deal at Jodhpur. Near Saattal lake was the Saattal estate within which we spotted a large cross. What a final resting place for someone!

Activities at Saattal lake

What a final resting place!

Ghorakhal
Ghorakhal is a quaint little town near Bhowali whose name translates to a pond of water for horses. We went to visit the famous Golu Devata Temple here. Golu Devata is the mythological god of Kumaon region and believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The temple seemed to be filled with brass bells of various sizes. An old man in the temple courtyard told us that people have been tying bells here for more than a hundred years. When the wishes of the devotees come true they come back and offer the bells. There is a shop at the main entrance to the temple where bells can be purchased.

Bells adorn every available spot

Mukteshwar
The town of Mukteshwar will be familiar to all Jim Corbett fans as he mentions them in some of his stories. It gets its name due to the 350 year old Shiva temple located here. It took us close to two hours to cover the 54 km distance from Naukuchiatal. The town is surrounded by dense forest. Some old British houses and a Church can be seen here. The Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) is also present here.

A house on the edge

A unique feature of the terrain here is the overhanging cliffs next to the temple complex called Chaulli ki Jaali. We took a walk in the wooded area next to the temple along with a guide to go watch some nice views. There are a lot of Deodar trees here. For the real adventurous lot there is rock climbing near the cliffs. Apparently the local women who are childless have to pass through the bizarre opening in the cliffs and nets are spread around to prevent any falls during the annual fair.

Sinister plans?

Chaulli ki Jaali

For the foodies a good place here is the Bisht Mishthan Bhandar where one can inform an hour or two in advance and get some home cooked food. We tasted Bal Mithai and Choklate which are famous sweets of Kumaon and they did not fail to disappoint us.

Choklate being prepared by Bishtji

Nainital
Nainital is a famous hill station of Kumaon. It is believed that Sati’s eyes fell on this place by which the place got its name. Our first stop here was at the view-point just outside the city on the road to Pangot. We reached around 10 AM by which time the fog and clouds had built up hiding the Himalayan peaks behind them. We then walked on for nearly a kilometre to reach the snow view-point. On the way we saw lots of tiny birds like Warblers and Tits chirping. Devoid of tourists as the season was yet to begin this place looked so empty. We climbed a small hillock to get some views of the surrounding.

After spending some time here we headed for a cable car ride that took barely 5 minutes and dropped us on Mall Road. It was lunch time and we were glad to see that the restaurant that I wanted to go to was right next door to where we had gotten off the cable car. Sakley’s is an old and popular restaurant famous for its pastries and momos/dumplings. Started by a Swiss confectioner and then acquired by an Indian family this restaurant has two other branches at Gurgaon and London. The pastries lived up to their expectation and we had a sumptuous lunch.

As the crow sees

Sinful Blueberry Cheesecake

We took a walk along the banks of the Naini Lake. Hawkers were busy trying to sell clothes, toys and other nick knacks. The Boat House had an elegant look and members of the Nainital Boat Club can avail the facility of yachting in the lake. Overlooking the lake is the Bara Bazaar and the Tibetan Market which is the place for shoppers to head to. Nearby are Naina Devi Temple and the Masjid. An old cinema house called Capitol Cinema can be seen though I doubt if it still serves its original purpose.

One fine day at Naini Lake

The chosen one

We visited the temple and paid our obeisance to Goddess Naina Devi. Then came some shopping for the famous candles of Nainital. We then crossed Mall road in search of Mamu Halwai shop to taste Bal Mithai for which it is famous. The narrow roads of the old city had their own charm and we enjoyed the walk. The Bal Mithai was an ample reward for our walk.

Naina Devi Temple

Next on the cards was the St.John in the Wilderness Church which is the oldest church in that region and built during the British era. Today the church wears a some what dilapidated look but is beautiful nonetheless. Opposite the church is the elegant British era building housing the High Court.

St. John in the Wilderness

Gagar
A tiny village in Ramgarh Orchards en route Mukteshwar. The Nanda Devi and Trishul Peaks can be seen from here and a sneak peek into the Yamunotri and Gangotri peaks is also possible. When we went to Mukteshwar we reached this village around 11 AM and managed to barely see a small portion of the peaks as clouds and sunlight had already engulfed them.

Our driver advised us to come back early in the morning around 5.30 AM and catch a glimpse of the peaks before and after sunrise. We followed his advice and were duly rewarded. It was a heavenly sight! We spent close to 3 hours gazing at the beautiful scene.

Folds of earth

The mountains bring peace

The fruit trees in the orchards along the slopes of the hillock in this village are in full bloom during Spring (April till June). ApplesOrangesPeaches and Walnuts grow here. We only got to see the dried up trees. The area was rife with Birds and we enjoyed watching them. A Verditer Flycatcher seemed to be watching the Himalayan peaks from atop a tree!

Jungliya Village Road
We went on the road to Jungliya village which is a deviation off the main road close to the resort. The winding road up the hill resulted in beautiful views of both Bhimtal and Naukuchiatal lakes as well as a distant view of Nainital city.

A tale of two lakes

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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
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Kumaon Birding Diaries – Saattal and Around

This was our first trip to Kumaon. Almost all species that we sighted were first timers for us. We stayed for a week at Club Mahindra Dancing Waters resort in Naukuchiatal. We had arranged for birding for two days at Saattal and Pangot with Sunil Kumar whom we found on birdingpal.

Naukuchiatal

The resort and surroundings itself had many birds whom we watched daily. As soon as we got our room, a pair of Himalayan Bulbuls came outside our window. It was a treat watching the couple who seemed to be having a gala time. The other birds that we saw here were Black Kite, Blue Whistling Thrush, Scarlet Minivet, Grey Treepie, Grey Bushchat, Oriental White-eye, Grey-hooded Warbler, Verditer Flycatcher, Streaked Laughingthrush and Dark-sided Flycatcher. On the day that we left a group of Red-billed Blue Magpies came to bid us farewell.

A little tete-a-tete. In conversation with a flower

Black Kite

Scarlet Minivet

Grey Treepie

Female Grey Bushchat

Grey-hooded Warbler

Dark-sided Flycatcher

Red-billed Blue Magpie

Coincidentally the Ruskin Bond book on Legends and Folk tales of India that I had taken with me during the trip had an interesting folk tale about the Blue Whistling Thrush. Having seen this bird I could relate to the story which goes like this. It was a hot summer day and Lord Krishna was wandering in a dense forest. He found a nice place near a stream and slept off under the shade of the trees. He was woken by a tuneless sound being played by someone on his flute. He was annoyed to find an urchin boy dressed in rags trying to play his flute. Since it was a sacred object that belonged to him he cursed the boy to suffer for 10,000 years. The boy pleaded and told Krishna that he was a fan of him and intended to learn music from him. Krishna felt bad for the boy but there was no way in which he could revoke the curse. He consulted Lord Brahma and reduced the effect of the curse. The boy would always try to play a tune but he would never be able to complete it. The boy begged that he be allowed to stay forever in the forest as it was dear to him. Krishna agreed and the boy was transformed into a Blue Whistling Thrush. The Blue colour being attributed to Krishna! This explains why the Thrush starts off a tune beautifully but stops in between as though it forgot the tune.

Blue Whistling Thrush

Gagar and Ramgarh

Gagar is a tiny hamlet on the road from Bhowali to Mukteshwar and an hour’s drive from Naukuchiatal. We went there early in the morning around 5.30 AM to try our luck and catch a glimpse of the Himalayan peaks. We were duly rewarded with beautiful views of the peaks getting lit by sunlight during sunrise. A lone Verditer Flycatcher seemed to be giving us company in watching the peaks as it was perched atop a bare tree facing the peaks. A Black Eagle was soaring high up in the sky and we managed to get a brief glimpse before it glided down the hill. We stopped for breakfast at a village close to Ramgarh. There were plenty of birds around. The sightings included Rufous Sibia, White-tailed Nuthatch, Great Barbet, Whiskered Yuhina, Oriental White-eye, Common Sparrow, Russet Sparrow and Grey Bushchat. A group of Rhesus Macaques were also seen on the road.

Rufous Sibia

White-tailed Nuthatch

Great Barbet

Whiskered Yuhina

Rhesus Macaque

Saattal

Our guide Sunil arrived promptly at our resort at 5.30 AM to pick us up for birding around Saattal. He had arranged for an Alto car for us. Off we went on a day which proved to be memorable though at the end of the day Sunil was a bit dejected as we had not managed to see too many species. We were nevertheless happy to have gotten to see so many new species in a single day. A few words about Sunil. He is very knowledgable on birds and having been born and brought up in Nainital, knows the area like the back of his hand including the right spots to go for birds! He was super friendly and wonderful to get along with! It was a delight to go birding with such a wonderful person.

Our first stop was on the road that leads to Saattal. We watched the sun rise and light started getting better. Till then we had heard the chirping of birds but not been able to take pictures due to low light. We sighted Crimson Sunbird, Grey Bushchat, White-throated Fantail, Himalayan Bulbul, Grey Treepie, Great Barbet, Black Bulbul, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Brown-fronted Woodpecker, Black Drongo, Verditer Flycatcher, Scarlet Minivet, Grey-hooded Warbler, Black-lored Tit and Slaty-headed Parakeet.

Black Bulbul

Brown-fronted Woodpecker

Black-lored tit

As we approached Saattal we saw 2-3 Kalij Pheasants duck for cover. These birds are extremely shy and seldom venture out for long in the open. We just managed to get a glimpse and some shaky pictures. Sunil spotted a Bar-tailed Treecreeper which was brilliantly camouflaged against the tree bark. A solitary Slaty-headed Parakeet was perched high atop a tree. Throughout our birding we saw plenty of these Parakeets but did not manage to get pictures as they were too fast.

Bar-tailed Treecreeper

We stopped near the Hanuman tal just before Saattal lake. After a brief walk we crossed a stream and sat on rocks near the water waiting for the birds to arrive. According to Sunil around 50 species of birds could be seen here. But we were not so lucky. We spent a good 2 hours here. The birds that came here were the Green-backed Tit, Ultramarine Flycatacher, Verditer Flycatcher and the Oriental Turtle Dove.

Ultramarine Flycatcher

Verditer Flycatcher

Oriental Turtle Dove

We walked a bit into the woods around Hanuman Tal. Sightings here were of a Common Kingfisher, Dark-sided Flycatcher and an Ashy Drongo. We sighted a Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher too but it was a fleeting glance only.

Common Kingfisher

Ashy Drongo

A walk in the Saattal estate proved to be in vain as we did not see any birds. We decided to have breakfast and go to Chanfi. Breakfast was lip-smacking Parathas at Humble restaurant near the fork in the road leading to Saattal while coming from Bhimtal.

Chanfi

On the way to Chanfi we stopped near a stream. The area was wooded on both sides of the road and teeming with birds. We saw the Red-billed Blue Magpie, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Greater Yellownape, Striated Laughing-thrush, White-crested Laughing-thrush and a Blue Whistling Thrush. A Slaty-backed Forktail and Grey Wagtail were foraging for food in the stream. As we were about to head back to the car we saw an Asian Barred Owlet. It was very cute and made Nagesh run around from one side of the road to the other like a tennis ball before he managed to get its picture :)

Grey-headed Woodpecker

Greater Yellownape

Striated Laughingthrush

White-crested Laughingthrush

Slaty-backed Forktail

Grey Wagtail

Asian Barred Owlet

The next halt was at Chanfi. The village was scenic and we walked by the banks of the river. As there was a noisy group near the river, all birds seemed to have gone away. We managed to spot only a Scaly-breasted Munia and a Red-vented Bulbul.

Kainchi

The last place for the day was Kainchi. We walked into the wooded area around the Kainchi Dham temple. We saw the Plumbeous Redstart, Spotted Forktail and a Brown Dipper in the stream. A Besra landed on one of the trees as we were walking. Further up the path were cabbage fields that had been abandoned by the people due to the prevailing Langur menace. The Langurs were present and running around. We spent some time here and saw a Grey Bushchat at close quarters. A good day of birding had come to an end. We were back at the resort by 4.30 in the evening ready for tea and food!

Plumbeous Water Redstart

Spotted Forktail

Brown Dipper

Besra

Gray Langur

Grey Bushchat
Bird Log

Common Name Species Family
Bulbul, Himalayan Pycnonotus leucogenys Pycnonotidae
Thrush, Blue Whistling Myophonus caeruleus Turdidae
Minivet, Scarlet Pericrocotus flammeus Campephagidae
Treepie, Grey Dendrocitta formosae Corvidae
Bushchat, Grey Saxicola ferreus Muscicapidae
White-eye, Oriental Zosterops palpebrosus Zosteropidae
Warbler, Grey-hooded Phylloscopus xanthoschistos Phylloscopidae
Flycatcher, Verditer Eumyias thalassinus Muscicapidae
Flycatcher, Dark-sided Muscicapa sibirica Muscicapidae
Laughingthrush, Streaked Garrulax lineatus Timaliidae
Magpie, Red-billed Blue Urocissa erythrorhyncha Corvidae
Sunbird, Crimson Aethopyga siparaja Nectariniidae
Fantail, White-throated Rhipidura albicollis Rhipiduridae
Barbet, Great Megalaima virens Megalaimidae
Bulbul, Black Hypsipetes leucocephalus Pycnonotidae
Woodpecker, Grey-headed Picus canus Picidae
Woodpecker, Brown-fronted Dendrocopos auriceps Picidae
Drongo, Black Dicrurus macrocercus Dicruridae
Parakeet, Slaty-headed Psittacula himalayana Psittaculidae
Tit, Black-lored Parus xanthogenys Paridae
Pheasant, Kalij Lophura leucomelanos Phasianidae
Treecreeper, Bar-tailed Certhia himalayana Certhiidae
Tit, Green-backed Parus monticolus Paridae
Flycatcher, Ultramarine Ficedula superciliaris Muscicapidae
Dove, Oriental Turtle Streptopelia orientalis Columbidae
Kingfisher, Common Alcedo atthis Alcedinidae
Drongo, Ashy Dicrurus leucophaeus Dicruridae
Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary Culicicapa ceylonensis Stenostiridae
Yellownape, Greater Picus flavinucha Picidae
Laughingthrush, Striated Garrulax striatus Timaliidae
Laughingthrush, White-crested Garrulax leucolophus Timaliidae
Forktail, Slaty-backed Enicurus schistaceus Muscicapidae
Wagtail, Grey Motacilla cinerea Motacillidae
Owlet, Asian Barred Glaucidium cuculoides Strigidae
Munia, Scaly-breasted Lonchura punctulata Estrildidae
Bulbul, Red-vented Pycnonotus cafer Pycnonotidae
Redstart, Plumbeous Rhyacornis fuliginosa Muscicapidae
Forktail, Spotted Enicurus maculatus Muscicapidae
Dipper, Brown Cinclus pallasii Cinclidae
Besra Accipiter virgatus Accipitridae
Eagle, Black Ictinaetus malayensis Accipitridae
Sibia, Rufous Heterophasia capistrata Timaliidae
Nuthatch, White-tailed Sitta himalayensis Sittidae
Sparrow, House Passer domesticus Passeridae
Sparrow, Russet Passer rutilans Passeridae
Yuhina, Whiskered Yuhina flavicollis Zosteropidae
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