A journey to the pheasant kingdom!
A journey to the pheasant kingdom!
After being introduced to the prolific world of birds, my desire to unearth their secret lives drove me to many astonishing places. One such trip that remains permanently etched in my mind was unwinding the majestic folds of the Himalayas.
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The journey of this incredible birding trail kickstarted at the break of dawn in Kathgodam Station where my naturalist Govind appeared from the thick blanket of morning mist and greeted me. Situated at the foot of the Shivalik Hills, Kathgodam is one of the few railway stations that connect tourists to the prolific hill stations of North India. While heading towards the car, Govind was briefing me about the places I will be covering on this trip. Being native to the region he was well cognizant with the topography and the roosting points of several rare species who have made the green hills of Uttarakhand their humble abode.
As we were driving up to reach our first destination Pangot, I was awestruck by the magnificent sight of the snow-clad mountain range that was shining like a glorious crown in front of us. The reverberation of the melodious chirping was, in fact, a signal that we have entered the secret birding paradise of the Himalayas. The dusk was falling rapidly but that did not deter the valley to show off the wide range of winged species dwelling here. We enjoyed the presence of Red-billed blue magpies who were frolicking in the forest, and the lone Collared Owlet was keenly watching us from one of the pine trees. We checked-in at an ecolodge and enjoyed the rest of the day strolling in the lodge's vicinity.
Next morning as the sky was turning crimson, we were already on the road driving towards Cheer Point. En-route we passed through the beautiful congregation of 5 male and 3 female Khalij Pheasants sauntering in the region. Named after the critically endangered Cheer Pheasant, the Cheer Point unfurls the perching ground of several Himalayan birds who find solace in its peaceful surroundings.
As soon as we reached our destination, we walked through the undergrowth in our quest to see one of the gorgeous Cheer Pheasant. We came across three species of woodpeckers, the Himalayan, the rufous-bellied and the Common Flamebacked. We also chanced upon looking at Chestnut-crowned and White-throated Laughingthrushes. While the later is a commonly sighted bird in the region, we hardly skipped looking at their flocks at every nook and corner, the former appeared only two or three times on the way. Eurasian Jay, Black-headed Jay, Mistle Thrush, Scaly Thrush, Grey-winged Blackbird, Common Rosefinch are some of the beautiful Himalayan Birds that grabbed our attention. We trailed for a few hours with no luck in finding our target species, the sun was already at its peak and so we decided to return. We were trailing back to our car suddenly our eyes caught hold of a long tail scratching the ground, a few seconds later a male Cheer Pheasant in all its glory came out of the bushes and made way to the other sight of the hill.
I was all elated by the sight, it was a beautiful start to the day. In the evening we explored the dense thickets of Kilbury. The endless stretches of this dark jungle provide shelters to many delightful winged species. We had the wonderful opportunity to gaze at Siberian Rubythroat, Himalayan Rubythroat, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Great Barbet, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler Ultramarine Flycatcher, and Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo.
The following day we headed towards Sattal, another secret hamlet of the Himalayas which is surrounded by seven freshwater lakes. Besides being soaked up in its picturesque views, onecan take pleasure in sighting a wide variety of winged species that call this place their humble abode. We chanced upon sighting a pair of Wedge-tailed green pigeon, Common rosefinch, Lesser Yellownape, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Chestnut-bellied rock thrush, Himalayan bluetail, Yellow-bellied fantail, and Slaty-backed forktail. We also caught a fleeting glimpse of Long-tailed broadbill for whom Sattal is a winter home. As we were nearing to the edge of the lake we discovered a group of 4 Rufous-throated resting with their little ones resting, moving a few meters further we crossed path with a hurtling Black Francolin.
With this, my Birdwatching Tour came to a beautiful end. The trip not only enhanced my bird watching experience but also made me explore the untouched destinations of Uttarakhand.