What would you call a person who has never travelled beyond Madhya Pradesh in 34 yrs of his existence ??? . ‘Plain Unlucky !’ and to understand why , one has to travel up NORTH…the foothills of the Himalayas……… and beyond, to understand the terms ‘FRESH’ ,’GRANDEUR ‘ , ‘MYSTIC’,’RAW’,’SPECIES’ , ‘BIRDS’ . And my chance came this year with a trip to Sattal and Pangot .

For the past two yrs , me and a fellow bird photographer , and a very good friend Shrikant Ranade had been trying to make a pure ‘bird photography’ trip together . Work schedules , my transfer from Pune to Mumbai , a new job , etc always ensured that it never happened . This year after the acquisition of a Canon 1D Mk III and the monster Canon 600mm f4 IS, there was a paradigm shift in terms of shooting more quality than quantity . Having explored most of West and South up to Bangalore , there were 2 options in front of us – KERALA or NORTH !

After much mulling over the feasibility of South vs North , we decided to go to Sattal and Pangot . The reasons were , that Kerala can be done with an overnight trip and the number of ‘lifer’ species would be limited . Pangot and Sattal were already made famous by Clement and Nitin S. in INW and their posts just added fuel to our motivation . The preparations for the trip included taking cues and help from Rahul Rao, Clement , Rajneesh Suvarna , Nitin S. and Subharghya Das . It also meant taking the all important permissions from the ‘home ministry ‘ . After a lot of lobbying , and cajoling , the file was finally passed , and we had our permissions in place !!!

All this while, we were searching for our third musketeer and finally Sandesh Dhareshwar , my elder brother and a hobbyist wild life photographer , jumped at the prospect .And this was an added advantage in gaining confidence at the home ministry !! November 20th – 26th were the days we finally decided on .We were to stay at ‘Jungle Lore Birding Camp ‘ in Sattal and Pangot and our itenary was 2 days in Pangot and 2 days in Sattal .

20th NOVEMBER 2009:

With days of staring at the bird book …..the totally new species we were to encounter ,to waking up in the middle of night happy to get a ‘full frame’ image of Silver-eared Mesia , the day of the trip finally dawned . There was a constant prayer that the flights do not get delayed . But then the wait was extended and both mine and Sandesh’s flight was delayed due to some runaway problem in Mumbai . We reached around 1/2 hr late from our scheduled arrival at Delhi and there we saw a relieved Shrikant ( after consuming 7 cups of coffee ….waiting for us ) at the airport . But the joy was a bit short-lived as Sandesh’s baggage held us up for half an hr more .

Finally , @ 12.30 pm , we got to move . The air was cool and pleasant and the afternoon light did not feel harsh at all. Traversing the city traffic took us around 1.5 hrs and then our driver wasted another 20 minutes to pay the tax for entry into Uttar Pradesh ( he was too egoistic to ask for directions !!!! ) . At around 2.30 pm we stopped for a sumptuous lunch at Hapur . The journey after the break was one filled with constant chatter and the occasional laughter between the jokes cracked . The general lack of road sense did make us a bit tense at times .

Crossing the Ganga was a first in my life , and somehow it did feel nice !! We reached Moradabad at around 5.30 pm and it was pitch dark by then . I had never experienced anything like that before . Stars at around 6.00 in the evening is unheard of in the West !!! The fog slowed us further and it dawned on us that the shooting/birding time we would have up in the hills would be really less .

The route we took from Delhi to reach Pangot was : Delhi – Ghazibad – Hapur – Moradabad – Rampur – Kaldungi – Nainital – Pangot . CLICK FOR MAP

You can also take a train from Delhi to Kathgodam ( last junction for broad gauge in Uttaranchal ) . You will need to book a vehicle for the onward journey to Nainital .

A journey which took us around 9.5 hrs . It included 1 stop( 45 minutes ) for lunch , 20 mins for a puncture . The temp. at Pangot was around 8 deg . We were greeted warmly by the Jungle Lore staff . The Lodge at Pangot is on the side of a hill and the gradient is something you have to get used to . The dinner tasted delicious and there was the talk of the birds found in Pangot . We were housed at the Upper Cottage , a very spacious and luxurious cottage made of wood . The view is awesome and the bed very cosy .

21st NOVEMBER 2009

We started early next morning and went on the Vinayak Road . The highlight was the Himalayas . It was a dream come true . The view is so breathtaking that you lose control of yourself .

( L to R ) Me , Shrikant Ranade , Babulal ( our driver ) and Ghyansham ( our guide).

The long winding road in the hills is treacherous and beautiful . So much so , that you start keeping an eye on the driver , lest he drop you in one of the sheer vertical drops !!!!

There was work going on the road and also the reason for the poor sightings on this road . We expected to sight the Cheer Pheasant and/or the Koklaas Pheasant , but we came back with sightings and pictures of the Himalayan Griffon , Mountain Hawk eagle , Altai Accentor , Eurasian Jay , Yellow breasted Greenfinch , Spot winged Tit .

We came back to the lodge , unsure about Pangot delivering on the birding for us . Lama , our guide for the rest of the trip was ready for us . Also the place around the lodge , was full of action with Red-billed blue magpie , white throated laughing thrush , Streaked  laughingthrush , himalayan bulbuls dancing around and perching for us .

We had our breakfast and then Lama took us to his woodpecker haunt near the lodge . We got some ok shots of the Rufous bellied woodpecker and the Himalayan Woodpecker . No sooner , were they getting comfortable with our presence , did the bad news in terms of the fog come about .We went back to the lodge , dejected . The lunch was a quick one , intersped with some photography , when a bird used to land on some perch !

We decided to cut our visit short in Pangot by one night and leave for Sattal the next morning .

That decided , we waited for the fog to disappear and then went down the valley to do some birding . The birding was lovely , but the fast failing light ensured that we had to shoot at high ISO all the time . We got the Rusty cheeked Schimitar Babbler , Great Barbet , Blue Whistling thrush ,White capped Redstart , Plumbeous Redstart , Chestnut bellied Rock Thrush ( female). While , the species count was not great by the region’s standards , for us , these were ‘LIFERS’ .

Bird species  seen for the first time and it was a small snapshot of the days to come .

We reached the camp at 6.00 pm and hurriedly transferred all the pics on to the external Hard Dive . There was a small drive back to Nainital , to fix the tyre puncture . After we came back , the spirits were high ( pun intended ) and we had our dinner by 9.00pm . I had to climb the hill to get some signal to call back home . The Upper Cottage is kept warm with some electric heaters , but the traditional fireplace is the one which imparts a certain amount of coziness . The fragrance of burning pine wood adds makes up for a very dreamy sleep .

22nd NOVEMBER 2009

The next day we woke up early and wandered around the lodge to get some birds in the field . We saw some dark fronted tit , rufous sibia , rock bunting , grey hooded warbler , rufous tailed shrike , russet sparrow , pink browed rosefinch . A red -billed blue magpie appeared from nowhere and flew above our head .The bird is a beauty with lovely soft colors and the tail swished in the air when it takes its wonderful flight . The bird headed straight for our resort and all three of us , lugging our equipment ran behind it to make some images . I being the heaviest and also carrying the heaviest equipment was left far behind the nimble gazelle like Sandy and Shrikant . They followed the bird across the fields and I stopped in the resort to catch my breath .

I was going to get luckier , since just metres away from me I got to see this Scaly bellied Woodpecker doing the proverbial worm stuff !! But , before I could get my Canon to lock focus, he flew away in a place where light was wanting . Beggars can’t be choosers , I thought to myself and jacking up the ISO made some images of the beauty . Shrikant too got to make some amazing images of the beauty while returning back .

The breakfast was a quick one. After breakfast ,we left for the village in the valley again .We did not hope to find many birds , as we were already thinking about Sattal . Barely a hundred metres from the lodge , we saw some more red billed blue magpies , some chestnut bellied rock thrush . We instructed Babulal to drive very slow and stop at the instant we ask him to . On the right side of the road was a female grey bushchat and unlike the Himalayan birds , turned out to be very co-operative.

A bit further down after the photo-op with the female , we were destined to catch up with a more than willing male who was not disturbed with us moving to about 10 ft from him .

After trudging down to the stream where we had sighted the Rusty cheeked schimitar babbler and the redstarts , we were greeted with ‘0’ activity . I asked Lama what would be the case beyond the stream , and he said it is normally not great . Instead , of going back , we decided to hit the unknown patch and try our luck . To our surprise , it did not take much time for our luck to change . A sighting of the White-browed Shrike Babbler , led to another one .. A Greater Yellownape Woodpecker !!! What a beauty !! The next 30 minutes were frantic birding activity . A Great barbet, Chestnut bellied Rock Thrush , Red billed Blue Magpies, a flock of slaty headed parakeets creating a huge cacophony .

After a good hour of birding , we headed back to the lodge . Shrikant , had a theory that the maximum number of birds would be found near human settlements , and we got proof of it when we got some lovely images of Eurasian Jay and Red billed Blue Magpie, in a small hamlet on the way back.

We got some Hanuman Langurs in the way and they seemed healthier than their western cousins , maybe because of a heavier coat ??

The packing at the lodge was a quick one and we bid the wonderful hosts good-bye .

The journey from Pangot to Sattal was an uneventful one , except that we were checking if we could get some batteries fo Sandy’s D 200 , which had started behaving erratically due to the cold . No such luck fo Sandy and he would have to contend with the behaviour for the rest of the trip .

We reached Sattal at around 2.30 pm, and even before we could get out of the vehicle saw a Blue Whistling Thrush at minimum focussing Distance ( MFD ) . Loved the place even before I alighted !!

We made some images and then walked down the path to the dining area of the lodge . The dining area was a cute one , but the resort had one huge problem . The bigger tents were some almost 3 stories below and since 3 of us had to share a tent , it would be one cumbersome flight up the stair-like path for the rest of the three days . I was so paranoid that I kept my lens / tripod and camera at the dining area , the whole day and would get them down only in the evening . The tents felt a bit claustrophobic after the huge space we enjoyed in Pangot and the amenities too were found wanting . The food and service though was awesome .

Our goal was not to get more species . Our evening trip was to a place called ‘Cha Fee ‘, a small hamlet on the river bank and the idea was to get as many river birds as possible . The sloping road had ended with a valley on one side and the river flowed down . We stopped at a place where the river was around 40 ft down and we walked to road to try our luck . Two minutes was all it took for me to sight a Yellow bellied fantail , a cute restless bird . A blue whistling thrush and a plumbeous redstart were playing down below in the water . The light was not great and all the images I was making were ISO 1250+ . A Streaked laughing thrush landed on a rock just in front of us and the background was fresh green grass . While the bird was one, which was fairly common , the setting was an unbelievable one .Then a  spotted forktail , was spotted and we let a cry of joy . We were reminded of the three species found there and these were high on the wish list !!! The forktail was far away , but we clicked to our heart’s content , lest we not see them again on the trip .

The light falls very quickly in the mountains . When we moved ahead , we were delighted to see a slaty backed forktail . I got some lovely images of it . A male red gorgeted Flycatcher was hopping from boulder to boulder . We sat back in the  Tavera , and drove towards Cha Fee. We had to cross a bridge , which was being freshly painted . Below the bridge was the river and the place we had to get down . From the bridge , we sighted two brown dippers . After some record shots , we walked gingerly through the winding ‘paivat’ to the river . There was the white capped redstart and the plumbeous redstart strutting its wares . A common stonechat was playing withs favourite perch . I was clear as to what I was looking out for !! ‘ Brown Dippers , forktails and the crested kingfisher ‘ . A crested kingfisher flew in front of us , but did not perch anywhere near us . The Dippers too were very shy and not approachable . Me and Shrikant thought it was better to make some images of the redstarts when the ‘surprise package’ dropped on us . There was some movement at the base of the bridge and there was a dash of yellow. I spotted it and directed Shrikant towards it . We had spotted the Yellow throated marten . A very brief encounter and I was very happy to have some record shot . The light was almost gone and I was up at 3200 and ‘+’ ISO , when from the top emerged one Yellow Throated Marten . I was making his images , when he was followed by not one , not two but three more . Phew, it was fun to watch them . They started running on top of the hillock . The grace of the martens left me spellbound. The sighting was for around 5 minutes , and it left me deliriously happy .

We trudged back to the jeep , happy with our sightings and images . We reached the resort and time was spent in transferring the images and talks ranged from what we saw and what all we needed to see in the next two days . Shrikant was awesome with his jokes and I will never forget the prayer he told us . ‘ TATA ne aapia ..mane nathi aapia , GODREJ ne aapia mane nathi aapia ‘ .Me and Sandy were in splits :)

23rd NOVEMBER 2009

After our early breakfast , we drove up a kilometre towards the village panchayat grounds . The grounds have hordes of lantana , and all the small birds come there in the morning . Lama told us the Ruby throat had arrived and we excited at the prospect of sighting one . It was funny to see red vented bulbuls ! The common birds we had seen here in West felt misplaced there . Some Common Stonechats too were doing their morning exercises . We entered a lantana field led by Lama , and we were directed to one side , as he had heard their song and he was sure we would sight the rubythroat .

And then it happened . From the lantana , a rubythroat emerged and it was such a beautiful sight , that we forgot to press the shutter .It was almost as if a real ruby was placed on the throat of a simple looking bird , to make it remarkably beautiful . Try as much, we could not sight it again there . A Russet sparrow was singing on a lovely perch . There were some grey bushchats around in great light . The light brought some good fortune to us . Some Red billed blue Magpies were making sorties across the field . The forest cover in BG made it difficult for us to track and keep them in focus . I brought down the AF sensitivity in my camera and then managed some decent images of the beautiful bird .

Shrikant and Sandesh stuck on the field still focussed on finding the elusive rubythroat . I decided to walk around the road and try my luck in the small valley diagonally opposite the fields .

A Slaty backed flycatcher female appeared in the open near the road , and then I got the catch of my trip. A Mountain Bulbul . It was just across on a tree in good light , but the background could have been better . It kept running around , but always in the shade and it was difficult to make any images . A small niltava and a rufous niltava were playing hide and seek in the lantana below . Some warbler was plyaing in the branches atop a tree . I called Shrikant on the mobile to tell him , that it was time to move . He sounded very excited on the other side of the line . They had got the rubythroat ‘full frame’ .  Me , my gear and my weight , all ran towards the field , a good 100 mtrs dash . The rubythroat had gone by then , and a rufous bellied accentor , slaty backed flycatcher , blue fronted redstart , streaked laughingthrush were the ones around .

We wrapped up the morning session to go to the resort and have breakfast . The plan was to hit the park , near the Sattal ‘lake’. On the way , we spotted the Slaty headed parakeet . We made some images and moved down to the park . All this while , me and Shrikant had this ‘keeda’ of trying some local dishes . There was a small dhaba near the entrance and we asked him about the local food. He suggested momos’ and we ordered for the veg variety . We climbed down the stairs to reach the park . The first bird to be sighted was a Asian Barred Owlet roosting on a small tree . He seemed like a calm customer , and allowed us to within 20 ft .
We shot to our heart’s content . The fella did not bother to even move from there . Lama then told us that there is a possibility of the Brown Fish Owl further up . We left the Owlet to bask in the morning sun . Shrikant ran behind a treecreeper , but it somehow escaped his lens .

The path in the park was besides a ‘nala’ which ran parallel and ended it journey , further down is a scenic lake . The forest surrounding the park is fairly thick and the light perpetually low . After searching in vain for the Brown Fish Owl , we settled down near a small stream where we were expecting some feathered visitors. The cacophony in the tree tops led us to believe that we were in for a birding treat . Lama explained how Clement had made some wonderful images on his trip last summer at that very place . After waiting in vain fo around half an hour , we decided to walk down further . Lama heard the chestnut headed tesia and we were eager for a sighting . None was forthcoming though. We heard the golden bush robin , but could not sight it . An orange flanked bush robin was dancing around us , and we did get to make some images . We decided to head back to the camp . On the way I got a Blue Whistling thrush perched on a rock , but as usual in the shade . We reached the point where we saw the owlet still waiting for us , along with some hot momos , the dhaba guy had got . We gobbled up the delicious brunch along with the chutney garlic chilly . The chutney was soooo amazing that I got some packed . The climb up to raod was hastened by Shrikant’s call . We got a chestnut bellied Nuthatch near the dhaba . I did not have time to set up my monster on the tripod and started shooting handheld.

The handholding left me with little energy by the time we drove back to the camp, I was hungry again . There was a huge surprise waiting for us at the camp. Well, the surprise was to come in small packages . While walking to the dining room, we heard some small birds down below. Imagine , a sight where 3 Red billed leiothrix are down on the ground foraging for food .

Forgetting all bout our hunger , we lay in wait for them to come near . I did make some good images , but then they were a jittery lot and flew away quickly . We also got some good images of the Grey treepie .

After lunch , we headed off to Kainchee Dham . We reached there around 4.00 pm and the first birds we saw were the red billed blue magpie feeding on garbage near a small dhaba. We stopped near a temple and the first bid we saw was a Crested Kingfisher . He disappeared quickly , and we saw some plumbeous redstart and some forktails. Sandesh and Shrikant decided to walk the bank , and I headed further down , as it was very dangerous for me to walk that terrain with the heavy lens .
I went down with Lama , further down . We stopped near a dhaba just after Kaichee Dham . There were some dark fronted tit . Failed again to make any good image . We eventually decided to hit the small path which winded down to the river . I was blessed to see the cute Whiskered Yuhina . A walk along the river did not yield any sightings . I called up Shrikant to tell me about the same , when he told me that he could see a Crested Kingfisher just 25 metres to my left . That gave my tired legs the much needed impetus and I ran towards the direction Shrikant had told me . disappointment again , as the bird had left . I was sure that the bird would not have gone very far , and decided to try my luck further down . After a wait of around 20 mins , the Crested Kingfisher sat around 25 ft away from us …but just for a moment . He took off and sat in a rock around 100 mts away in the middle of the river . But we were equal to the task and jumped boulder to boulder to ensure we make some good images of him. He was not disturbed even when I stood tall on a boulder with all my ‘jingbang’ . After some great half an hour we decided to walk back . The ‘circus’ back had its toll . I slipped and luckily for me , it was only my shoe and socks in the icy water and not the equipment . The walk back was a long one . Tired , but not satisfied !! The Crested Kingfisher is such a beauty that I just wanted more and more of it , and I promised myself, I would return .

The evening was full of frenzied activity , planning to maximise the effort on the last day of the trip . It had been a very nice one till now , and we wanted it to end on a high.

24th NOVEMBER 2009

The morning was a early one , and we had our tea , and proceeded down towards the Sattal Lake . Lama was very optimistic about finding the small birds , and we hoped he was right about it . At the first bend , on the right side there was some activity and imagine our happiness to find the blue winged minla , green tailed sunbird and the oriental white eye in a mixed hunting flock .

The undergrowth was dense and the light was low , and the birds were really quick . We did ok with the images , and then we moved on . A black bulbul was playing up in the trees . A green backed tit posed on the cactus tree . A grey hooded warbler gave some nice images . A flash of yellow kept us interested and a little ahead we identified it as the long tailed minivet . For the next 15 minutes we , we made some cool images . Then we were elated see a male long tailed minvet joining the female . The crimson colour on the bird is deeper than the sindoor on the forehead of a newly wedded dulhan . The birds did not allow us to come very close , and the terrain was such that we had to shoot only from the road . We hopped on the vehicle to go further down , and in 2 minutes , Lama saw a beautiful blue throated barbet in a bald tree trunk . It was busy digging a hole in the trunk to feed on the insects . The angle was steep, but the light on the bird was good .

At around 9.00 , after a 10 minute drive , we stopped at the very place we had seen the plum headed parakeet yesterday . The parakeets were still there , and Sandy and Shrikant , ran behind them to get some good snaps. Shrikant’s tripod had given way and he showed us a new way of shooting with the bean bag !!!  I stood my ground , not wanting to climb uphill , with all my equipment . A black bulbul was hopping nearby . And then , I got a blue capped redstart at eye level around 30 ft away !! A few good images later a blue fronted redstart , did a favour by landing on an excellent perch with a great background and also very good light . Man ! This was some luck . A rufous gorgeted flycather stood up like a grey bushchat and gave a frontal shot ! We got some images of the bar tailed treecreeper and also of the rufous gorgeted male . Babulal , our driver was sent to collect the chutney from the dhaba , and he merrily waited there waiting for it , as it was not ready . He came back after an hour , and we at the brink of blasting out !! Shrikant could not control his anger , and Babulal got earloads and truckloads of the choicest abuses for wasting our time .

Without wasting any further of the precious time , we headed for Kainchee Dham for a last try of the Crested Kingfisher. En route to Kainchee Dham , in a small ghat after the city we saw 2 Steppe eagles perched on the tree . These were at a distance of around 90-100 ft , and we stopped there , hoping to make some good images of them in flight . Up on the hill , we also noticed a Himalayan Griffon scanning the horizon . The sighting was good , but the light was harsh for photography . So we moved on , after the brief stop over . We stopped much before Kainchee Dham and decided to walk it , lest we get lucky . Some plumbeous redstart and white capped redstart were doing their regular pebble hopping under a bridge . We walked the bridge , and decided to walk parallel to the flow . After some distance we saw a striated laughingthrush , on the opposite bank . Shrikant jumped with joy when he saw the small forktail emerge from back of a boulder just a few feet away from us . Some black lored tits , green backed tits were playing in the pine trees . The laughingthrush did fly across the river to our side and gave us a better view . We trudged back to the vehicle and went to the same place we started yesterday . We were very clear that we would hang around the dhabas to ensure we shoot some good images of the birds .

The decision proved to be a winner . We got some spotted forktail foraging in the water . A group of 10-12 red billed blue magpie were perched on a small tree , just behind the dhaba. Shrikant and Sandy , went down to the river and I sat in the dhaba and ordered a moong dal ka pakora . The kotmir tamarind chutney was so amazing , that I ordered another 3 plates and was busy devouring , the same when I heard a cry . A cry which I was longing to hear . The Crested Kingfisher had arrived . We saw it perch on a small tree just across the stream . It was hidden behind a branch , but then , that was the nearest I had seen the kingfisher . After a while , it flew away , and I went back to the yummy pakoras . Shrikant came back excited , having seen the kingfisher too . We were sure that it would return and all we had to do was wait .

It was just about 15 minutes past that we saw him rest on the electric wire ‘ Taare Zameen par’ , our word for ‘ Bird on Wire ‘. But, he was near to the next hotel and we would have had to move fast to catch him . We tried to enter the hotel , but we were stopped by the doorman . We insisted, begged, requested and he then let us in . We crossed the long thin passage across to find our friend , in all its grandeur perched on the electric wire at minimum focussing distance from us . The size is to be seen to be believed . The crest seems like a badly combed bunch of black and white straws . I just fell in love with this kingfisher !!! After some 250 images of him , we saw him fly away . We climbed down the steps and entered the backyard of the hotel wich opened onto the bank of the river . We were shooting the redstarts and the forktails when a female crested kingfisher landed on a boulder just around 30 ft away . My kingfisher luck had amazed me and I happy to return from Kainchee Dham successful and elated.

We had a quick lunch and decided to go Sattal Lake for the last evening of birding . It was 3.30 in the evening and we had around 1.5 hrs of birding left .

The drive yielded a Black bulbul and a Great barbet at eye level . We got these from the vehicle itself . The birding at the park was pathetic with just some record shots of the green tailed sunbird , rufous gorgeted flycatcher and a orange flanked bush robin .

We did try the panchayat fields as a last ditch effort, but we returned with some spotted munia and russet sparrow images . It was a anti-climax  to an amazing day of birding .

That evening , we went back to the town to get some mementoes and stuff to carry back . The retails had some very costly organic tea starting from Rs 2000/- per kg . I love pickles and picked up some locally made garlic and bamboo shoot pickles . A must buy is the ‘local honey ‘ and ‘Rhododenron squash ‘ which are supposed to have medicinal values . There are a variety of local jams available too .

We went back to the resort with a heavy heart . The place had offered us so much , that we did not want to leave . We planned to bird up to 9.00 in the morning and then leave for Delhi . I slept late that night , as I was rewinding the whole trip and the exciting moments I had .

25th NOVEMBER 2009

We woke up early next morning and we rushed to the fields , after a cup of tea. We had instructed the cook at the lodge to keep breakfast packets ready , so that we could maximise our birding time . The first calls of the day was that of a rusty cheeked schimitar babbler . I managed a record shot of this very shy and elusive creature .

My target was the rubythroat , but the fields yielded a deadly image of the yellow breasted greenfinch , and good sightings of the common rosefinch , rufous breasted accentor , great tit , green backed tit and grey bushchat .

Time was running out and there was no sign of the rubythroat . I guess that was Sattal’s challenge and invitation to me for a second round . The place had so much to offer , that one trip was definitely not enough . Am sure that I will return , and in the very near future .

The trip back was a very eventful one . Shrikant and Sandy got down at the city garbage centre at Rampur . They went behind a Egyptian vulture . They got a shot alright , but were feeling pukish for an hour after that, because of the stench . A railway crossing cost us precious time, almost an hour . We barely made it in time with the snarling Delhi traffic which starts right from Noida . We were glad to make it finally , to the airport , with Babulal brushing against a car in Delhi .

Now when I think back I remember a lot of stuff. Babulal’s dialogue ” YEh to hamari knooledge mein nahi hai ji “ . Shrikant’s vision of the locals leading a lovely life because they had time to sit in the tree shade and light a ‘beedi’. Sandy’s non stop comedy show ……….And I am somehow drawn continuously to ‘The Call Of the Himalayan birds ‘.


69 thoughts on “The Call Of the HIMALAYAN BIRDS”

  1. This is one of the best birding trip reports i have seen .You have put down every moment of it. This has also heped me replenish my memories “Thanxs”

  2. awesome mate! wish I was there as well.
    Let me know if u plan any trips in the near future.
    Will definitly make it!(If home ministry approval kums through!!)

  3. Lovely info
    the pictures are superb and so is the compilation of the information in this blog
    would be helpful for anyone

  4. Wonderful writeup and classy pics Rakesh ! Maan… you did see a whole lot of stuff in four days. Next time be my guide too:-)

    Need to do a trip together buddy ..and soon !

    I didnt get the joke however on GODREJ :-(

  5. superb report, great pics – makes me want to rush to Sattal/pangot now! Actually, am planning a trip in March end – will be greatful if you could provide contact details of Lama – seems like an invaluable asset!

  6. Rakesh,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. A very well narrated!!! Really enjoyed your images from Sattal & Pangot.

  7. superb one rakesh. Absolutely a complete guide for anyone wanting to plan a trip here. Just loved it. I m def going next year :)

  8. Rakesh,
    Lovely trip report and even greater pics… everytime i read anything about this place, i go back to pangot and sattal… thanks for making me revisit the wonderland again !!


  9. Hi Rakesh,
    Fantastic trip report , one of the best I have read so far with excellent pictures.
    Just curious to know what kind of permissions are required from home ministry ?
    Would love to join you guys in your next trip !
    Regards ,

    Hemant Krishnani

    1. :) By Home Ministry , I mean the one who rules my home , my wife . On a trip , where I go alone ( which is quite rare ) , the kind of permissions are of a very difficult level ;). Thanx for dropping by .

  10. Fantastic!!! What a beautiful description… Feels like the whole journey is coming alive… Thank you for sharing this to us….

  11. Jimmy Singh
    Location: Belgaum,Karnataka

    Rakesh Bhai,

    Very well written & beautiful pictures. A truly magnificent place to be in and photography natures best. Well i hope i too can make it there in near future.

    Thanks for sharing,



  12. Nirav Bhatt
    Location: Surendranagar, Gujarat.

    Absolutely breath taking description and mind blowing photographs..

    I plan to go there next season and shall definitely have to get your help for that..

  13. Vijay Mohan Raj
    Location: Karnataka.

    Nice one this!
    Full marks on writing such a lively trip report, the pakoras were really the ‘catch of the trip’. In such a short time bagging uncluttered beauties of the Himalayas is really amazing indeed. I guess the beauties come out only in search of the well fed ones. Reason more to keep eating….

    Keep writing.


    Get going …… , Go birding.

  14. Sameer R. Rao
    Location: Bangalore,Karnataka

    Rakesh, this is a great narration. Thanks for the same and all the great image that the three of you have posted on the forum
    ( All these days I thought Sandy was your younger brother !)

  15. Streamofjoy Nirvana

    This one is awesome, dear. Made me remember Arthur Conan Doyle

    “To the man who loves his work for its own sake, it is frequently in its least important and lowliest manifestations also that the keenest pleasure is to be derived”.

    Smiling Buddha

  16. Nice Report sir…
    Awesome variety bagged in just a 4 day trip. I like the Crested Kingfisher…nice expression.
    You have inspired me to go there again…
    Beautiful writing too..

  17. As several people have said…one of the really gooooood accounts that I’ve read, with outstanding photographs (even in this size!)

    Bahut khoob!

  18. found it very VERY informative as i have planned a 12 nights tour (with home minister and ministers PA :)) in kumaon. thanks for everything rakesh

  19. You should make a pdf of this document and post it…would be a repository that anyone can carry in his laptop and wont need to access the web for the blog….. :)

    Nicely written and some great pics as usual

  20. Excellent narration and about photographs, i can only say superb.
    It was a lovely treat to visit your blog Rakeshji

  21. What a nice trip you all had and such lovely images, its a dream for me. Great shots what quality. Congratulations.

  22. halftwo
    Wird Batcher

    Location: cheshire


    A fantastic report. Loved the language: the food and birds; and the photos are stunning.

    This was a favourite phrase of mine: “The crimson colour on the bird is deeper than the sindoor on the forehead of a newly wedded dulhan.”

    I saw your post a few days ago and was looking forward to reading it. I wasn’t disappointed. It was a good thing I’d just eaten – otherwise your food descriptions would have had me hungry!


    It’s not pretty, it just looks pretty.

  23. This was a very nice read Rakesh. You are just as deft with words as you are with light. Enjoyed the pictures and would serve as a good reference for any future trip that one intends to make.


  24. What a lovely write up Rakesh. Thoroughly loved the trip report alongwith the pics (Would have loved to see larger pics of these beauties).
    I have been reading about these two places a lot off late and I am craving for these places now after reading your report :)
    – Animish

  25. Excellent writing….
    I was feeling like the whole episode is going in front of my eyes… :)
    Thanks for all helpful information also… :)


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