Wings and Chirps

Wanderings of an Itchy Feet

Tag: birds

#TravelDiaries – Birds of #Himalayas

Summers can make even the coolest person want to wander away from Delhi. With the school vacations on, it was absolutely difficult to handle the girls at home. And hence we decided on a 3-night trip to Binsar. We wanted the property to be something exciting and far away from the city. And thus we ended up booking our stay at Ayush Guest House in Almora for three nights. My review of the place is now up on TripAdvisor.

We had a fun road trip and reached the guest house by evening at around 6 pm after gobbling up almost half a kilogram of Kaphal (wildberries). By early next morning, the family of four was down with dehydration. Day one had been completely ruined. But the adventure seekers that we are we couldn’t stay in bed for long and got up to trek to the nearest village. The place is so beautiful that we ended up extending our stay by two more nights. And though we didn’t find anything except a laughing dove in Binsar Bird Sanctuary, we did manage to spot quite a few species within our guest house itself. Here’s a list of the beautiful birds from the mountains of Himalayas.

1. The Himalayan Bulbul

The Himalayan bulbul or white-cheeked bulbul, is a species of songbird in the bulbul family found in in and near the Himalayas. We were lucky to have had the privilege of having this Bulbul family which was mothering their newborn chicks on a bush right outside our room.

The Himalayan Bulbul

The Himalayan Bulbul

It was a delight to watch this family through the glass window of our room sitting at the window sill, my favourite spot. My #NikonP900 helped me zoom into their nest and capture some precious moments.

The Himalayan Bulbul feeding its chicks

2. Kalij Pheasant

The Kalij Pheasant (Lophura leucomelanos) is a pheasant found in forests and thickets, especially in the Himalayan foothills, from Pakistan to western Thailand.

Kalij Pheasant

The first time I saw this guy climbing up from the valley beneath, dusk was falling and hence light was not in my favour. I woke up around 4 am each morning and kept waiting for him. At last, I managed some clicks though nothing to be proud of.

Kalij Pheasant

3. Black Francolin

The black francolin (Francolinus francolinus) is a gamebird in the pheasant family. It was formerly known as the Black Partridge.

Black Francolin

This fellow used to call out continuously with a loud voice as he climbed up from the valley that even if I was away capturing the sunrise, I would rush down to click him.

Black Francolin

4. The Great Himalayan Barbet

The great barbet (Psilopogon virens) is an Asian barbet. They get their name from the bristles which fringe their heavy bills. It is a plump bird, with a short neck, large head and short tail.

Great Barbet

I heard him since the very first day but was able to spot him only on the last day when he was perched on a tree right outside our room.

Great Barbet

5. Oriental White-eye

The Oriental white-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus) is a small passerine bird in the white-eye family. They forage in small groups, feeding on nectar and small insects. They are easily identified by the distinctive white eye-ring and overall yellowish upperparts.

Oriental White-eye

This little chick we found near the fence at the backside of our cottage. Li’l Love carefully put it underneath a dense bush to save it from the rains.

Oriental White-eye chick

6. Verditer Flycatcher

The verditer flycatcher (Eumyias thalassinus) is an Old World flycatcher widespread in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

Verditer Flycatcher

He gave us a direct view as we stepped out to start our journey for Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary. Mighty happy to have got some really good shots even though it was perched on a faraway tree.

Verditer Flycatcher

This species is named after its distinctive shade of copper-sulphate blue and has a dark patch between the eyes and above the bill base.

7. Brown-fronted Woodpecker

Also known as Yellow-crowned woodpecker.

A medium-sized, pied woodpecker with yellow in crown. White-barred (rather than spotted) black. Underparts, prominent black moustache extending to breast and black-streaked white underparts. Vent deep pink. In male forecrown brown, centre yellow, rear red with black rear neck. In female whole crown yellow.

Brown-fronted Woodpecker (Male)

It ranges across the northern regions of the Indian subcontinent, primarily the lower-to-middle altitudes of the Himalayas. It is found in Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan.

Brown-fronted Woodpecker (Female)

8. Scarlet Minivet

The scarlet minivet (Pericrocotus speciosus) is a small passerine bird. This minivet is found in tropical southern Asia from India to southern China, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They are common resident breeding birds in forests and other well-wooded habitats including gardens, especially in hilly country.

Scarlet Minivet

9. Jungle Myna

This bird is a common resident breeder in tropical southern Asia from Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Burma east to Indonesia.  The jungle myna builds a nest in hole.

10. Streak-throated Woodpecker

Streak-throated Woodpecker (Male)

A medium-sized, green woodpecker with streaked throat and scaly whitish underparts. Green above with yellowish rump, white supercilia and white and black moustache. Crown red in male, blackish in female. Tail dark and plain. Small, dark bill.

11. Blue Whistling Thrush

The blue whistling thrush (Myophonus caeruleus) is a whistling thrush present in the mountains of Central Asia, China and Southeast Asia. It is known for its loud human-like whistling song at dawn and dusk.

Blue Whistling Thrush

12. Blue-capped Rock Thrush

This thrush-like Old World flycatcher breeds in the foothills of the Himalayas and winters in the hill forests of southern India. During winter it is found throughout Pakistan, Bangladesh (passage migrant), parts of Myanmar and India, especially in the Western Ghats region.

Blue-capped Rock Thrush

13. Rose-ringed Parakeet

Abundantly found all across India. Yet it looks so elegant every single time.

Rose-ringed Parakeet

14. Oriental Magpie-robin

The oriental magpie-robin (Copsychus saularis) is a small passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but now considered an Old World flycatcher. They are distinctive black and white birds with a long tail that is held upright as they forage on the ground or perch conspicuously. Occurring across most of the Indian subcontinent and parts of Southeast Asia, they are common birds in urban gardens as well as forests.

Oriental magpie-robin

15. Green-backed Tit

The green-backed tit (Parus monticolus) is a species of bird in the Paridae family. It is found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Laos, Burma, Nepal, Pakistan, Taiwan and Vietnam. Its natural habitats are boreal forests, temperate forests, and subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

16. Red-billed Blue Magpie

The red-billed blue magpie (Urocissa erythroryncha) is a species of bird in the crow family, Corvidae. It is about the same size as the Eurasian magpie but has a much longer tail, one of the longest tails of any corvid.

17. Black-throated bushtit

The black-throated bushtit is a small passerine, around 10.5 cm long and weighing 4-9 g. It ranges from the foothills of the Himalayas, stretching across northern India through north-eastern Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, northern Myanmar, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

He said, “Can you please give me some privacy?”

18. Indian Spotted Creeper

This small bird has a marbled black and white plumage that makes it difficult to spot as it forages on the trunks of dark, deeply fissured trees where it picks out insect prey using its curved bill. It is found in patchily distributed localities mainly in the dry scrub and open deciduous forests of northern and central peninsular India. It does not migrate.

19. Grey Bushchat

It is found in the Himalayas, southern China and northern Southeast Asia.

20. Streaked Laughingthrush

It is commonly found in the northern regions of the Indian subcontinent and some adjoining areas.

21. Scaly-breasted Munia

Also known as Spotted Munia. It is a sparrow-sized estrildid finch native to tropical Asia.

22. Slaty-headed Parakeet

The slaty-headed parakeet (Psittacula himalayana) is the only psittacid species to exhibit altitudinal migration. The species’ range extends from Pakistan, to Western Himalayas in India through Nepal and Bhutan and up to the Eastern Himalayas in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. They descend to the valleys in winter, approximately during the last week of October.

23. Plum-headed Parakeet

The plum-headed parakeet (Psittacula cyanocephala) is a parakeet endemic to the Indian Subcontinent. Plum-headed parakeets are found in flocks, the males having a pinkish purple head and the females, a grey head. They fly swiftly with twists and turns accompanied by their distinctive calls.

Plum-headed Parakeet (Male)

Plum-headed Parakeet (Female)

24. Treepies

The treepies comprise four closely related genera (Dendrocitta, Crypsirina, Temnurus and Platysmurus) of long-tailed passerine birds in the family Corvidae. There are 11 species of treepie.

 

Rufous Treepie

Treepies are similar to magpies. Most treepies are black, white, gray or brown. They are found in Southeast Asia. They live in tropical forests. They are highly arboreal and rarely come to the ground to feed.

Grey Treepie

25. Rufous Sibia

It is found in the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent, ranging across India, Nepal and Bhutan. Its natural habitat is the temperate forests of the Lower to Middle Himalayas. The species has an unmistakable appearance with its rufous-dominated colouration and black head, and is often seen with its crest raised. It is a vigorous, melodious singer.

26. Indian Golden Oriole

The Indian golden oriole (Oriolus kundoo) is a species of oriole found in the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia. Adults can be told apart from the Eurasian golden oriole by the black of the eye stripe extending behind the eye.

Indian Golden Oriole

27. Upland Buzzard

Also known as Tawny Eagle.

The upland buzzard (Buteo hemilasius) is a species of bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. This is the largest buzzard, though it is equaled in size by the North American ferruginous hawk. Normally found in open montane grass lands and cultivation in summer, wintering to lower altitudes. Frequently hovers. Hunts from air or ground.  Nest is made of sticks and well lined. Feeds on small mammals, birds and insects.

28. Scaly Bellied Woodpecker

Large, green woodpecker with distinct scaling from breast to vent. Similar to streak-throated woodpecker but larger and with unstreaked throat and upper breast. Black moustache and black bored white supercilia. Tail strongly barred. Crown red in male, blackish in female. Large pale bill.

Binsar has been declared an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International with over 200 bird species. And I’m glad that as an amateur I have been able to spot, capture and identify over 25 of them. But the thing is, none of these birds were captured at Binsar Sanctuary. These were captured from our Guest House in Paparsali, which is about twenty kilometers before Zero Point in Binsar.

Photos clicked by self using #NikonP900. Bird information sourced through internet and birder groups.

#QuoteCafe #2 – The Kiss (3 pictures)

The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions – the little, soon forgotten charities of a kiss or a smile, a kind look or heartfelt compliment. ― Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“The sunlight claps the earth, and the moonbeams kiss the sea: what are all these kissings worth, if thou kiss not me?”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley

“What would you do if I kissed you right now?”
I stared at his beautiful face and his beautiful mouth and I wanted nothing more than to taste it. “I would kiss you back.”
Michelle Hodkin, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous. ― Ingrid Bergman

“We kiss all the time.” I clear my throat, then add, “We just…do it in private.”
“A smug expression crosses his face. “I don’t buy it for a second, ’cause if you were my girlfriend and a stud like me was livin’ in your house, I’d kiss you in front of the guy every chance I got as a reminder.”
“A reminder of w-w-what?”
“That you were mine.”
― Simone Elkeles, Rules of Attraction

“Laugh, even when you feel too sick or too worn out or tired.
Smile, even when you’re trying not to cry and the tears are blurring your vision.
Sing, even when people stare at you and tell you your voice is crappy.
Trust, even when your heart begs you not to.
Twirl, even when your mind makes no sense of what you see.
Frolick, even when you are made fun of. Kiss, even when others are watching. Sleep, even when you’re afraid of what the dreams might bring.
Run, even when it feels like you can’t run any more.
And, always, remember, even when the memories pinch your heart. Because the pain of all your experience is what makes you the person you are now. And without your experience—you are an empty page, a blank notebook, a missing lyric. What makes you brave is your willingness to live through your terrible life and hold your head up high the next day. So don’t live life in fear. Because you are stronger now, after all the crap has happened, than you ever were back before it started.”
― Alysha Speer

* Pictures clicked at Qutub Minar, Delhi premises with #Nikon #P900.

#DailyBites #1 – Rose-Ringed Parakeet (Female)

Picture clicked at India Gate, New Delhi, India with #Nikon #P900.

#TravelDiaries – Sultanpur National Park

“Cultivate the habit of early rising. It is unwise to keep the head long on a level with the feet.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Northern Shoveler (Migratory)

Our interest in Wildlife, especially birds, started when the firstborn was about five years of age. Unlike other children who were hooked onto cartoon channels (courtesy the house-helps or us, parents), this girl used to watch wildlife documentaries on Animal Planet, Discovery and National Geographic. Her thoughtful father observed her interest in wildlife and encouraged her by gifting her various books/encyclopaedias on animals and birds. Our vacations also meant travelling to various forests within India.

And then a few years ago we watched this beautiful documentary together as a family. Do watch it. You can thank me later.

This little girl of ours could identify almost 60% of the birds that are discussed here. That was the turning point in my life as well. I did have an interest in nature photography, but my interest in birds is all thanks to this daughter. An early riser I am and hence my rendezvous with these winged creatures dates back to my school days. But I never bothered to find out what their names were, what they fed on, how they differ from each other and why some of them were visible only during certain seasons. These I started noticing only now.

Purple Moorhen or Western Swamphen (Resident)

Common Moorhen or Common Gallinule (Resident)

Bird watching is indeed a beautiful hobby for people like me who prefer solitude than company. I can gaze at them swimming in the lake or flying in the vast sky for hours and hours.

Spot-billed Duck

It is indeed the most refreshing thing to do in case you’re feeling down. Walk along the lake and watch these winged friends fly without inhibitions. No borders, no fences, no characterization can make them stop. They are just themselves. Vegetarian or non-vegetarian, water birds or field birds, residents or migratory, they coexist and share the resources provided by nature.

Purple Heron (Resident)

Painted Stork (Resident)

We, humans, have a lot to learn from them. Most importantly symbiosis and coexistence. Nature has provided us with enough to survive if only we learn to respect and value it.  These creatures in the wildlife teach us how to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both parties.

Painted Stork

Painted Stork

Sultanpur Lake Bird Sanctuary is located about 15 km away from Gurgaon, Haryana. Established in 1972 as the Sultanpur Bird Reserve, this place was upgraded to a National Park in 1989. Spread over an area of 1.43 sq km, this bird sanctuary is inhabited by over 250 species of birds.

Little Grebe

Spoonbill

After our first visit to Sultanpur National Park, a birdwatcher’s paradise, on day two of our stay at Golden Creepers Farm Retreat, I was not very happy because the foggy day spoiled almost all my photographs. The birds were all very close yet the pictures were far from good. And in between the husband injured his ankle while playing with the children. He said it was just a sprain and so we continued our stay. The next day I visited the sanctuary again with the sun still playing hide and seek. The daughter, my got-to-person for wildlife information, gladly joined me ‘for my protection’. Such fun this date was!

Spoonbill

Darter or Snakebird (Resident)

With Li’l Love, my younger one, a visit to any place is fun yet crazy. She’s still too young to enjoy such places. She’s fine for some time but starts acting cranky almost at the same time when I start clicking. So this trip with just me and A was not only fun but absolutely perfect for my photography craze. She kept guiding me by spotting birds and identifying them while I clicked them. One of the few things we have in common is our love for photography.

Northern Pintail (Migratory)

Bar-headed Geese

Hand in hand, we kept walking around the lake, climbing on top of the watch tower and spotting various birds. This kind of individual time is very important with each child as it brings us closer in indescribable ways and also is a reassurance for the child that he/she can count on us for anything at all times.

Black-headed Ibis (Resident)

Blackwinged Stilt (Resident)

The park is right now abundant with lots of resident as well as migratory birds. Breeding has been extremely good this season and hence you have a good chance of witnessing a fairly good number of species.

Intermediate Egret (Resident)

Greylag Goose (Migratory)

I’m sure these pictures and my extempore around the trip has made you envious. And that’s why I need to share this incident. Wildlife is beautiful, peaceful and rejuvenating. But wildlife is also full of dangers from unexpected corners. The daughter and I were almost lost in the wilderness clicking non-stop when we saw a pair of Nilgais and started clicking.

 

She started recording them when she saw another pair a little farther. As I turned to click the other pair I saw about five more running from behind an island in the lake. It looked like once in a lifetime shot. But within seconds we realized that almost seven-eight of them were running fast towards us. The daughter was almost in tears as we were standing just a foot or two away from where they crossed us. It was not their fault at all. Some miscreants in the park were pelting stones at them. Trust me when I say that ‘we humans are the most disgusting species on planet earth‘.

Nilgai or Blue Bull

Not just the animals, these anti-social elements were passing lewd remarks on almost all of us and it took some of the professional photographers to warn them and get them out of the park with the help of the authorities. A forest is not a place for picnic. Unfortunately most of our people are not aware of it. It is a protected area. It is the home of these birds and animals. We are only visitors who must graciously exit after visiting them.

I have tried my best to leave you with the best shots possible. Yet I can vouch for the fact that what my eyes witnessed can never be caught on camera. Such is the grandeur of nature.

#TravelDiaries – Golden Creepers Farm Retreat, Gurgaon

The school was to close only for a week starting New Year and the man had to take his leaves before year end which would otherwise lapse. That’s when we spoke to the teachers and got their nod for taking two days off without much pending work stress for the daughters.

As always the man gave me three choices and asked me to check out the reviews and get back to him with a few hotels and their reservation charges. From Jodhpur to Jaisalmer to Udaipur to Jaipur, we finally zeroed down on Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary. Why? Only because of Golden Creepers Farm Retreat which the husband had noticed on some of his friends’ timelines.

We stayed for three nights at this boutique property near Gurgaon. Just 12 kilometers from Gurgaon and about 4 kilometers to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary is this lush green farm spread over 45 acres of land.

A farm by all means. Don’t expect the luxuries of air-conditioners and electric water heaters. Room heaters are provided in the tents and hot water is provided as and when requested.

They have a few rooms and a good number of Swiss Style cottage tents to make your stay cozy, comfortable as well as adventurous. Though we love staying in tents, late Decembers in Delhi can make anyone change plans. Daljeet was thoughtful enough to offer us their lavish cottage which they refer to as Baithak (Lounge in English) because we were accompanied by kids. 

That’s Baithak, their ancestral remain that they are still preserving. Hygienic linen and clean bathrooms are a must for us and we were not disappointed at all.

Farm stay is something we enjoy as a family. The commotion of the city is extremely chaotic. So this was the perfect place for a family like ours who wanted to spend the new year away from the mayhem.

As you can see there’s enough to keep the children busy and active. And there’s enough for a budding photographer to sharpen their photographic observations and techniques. You’ll slowly know what I mean.

I was telling Daljeet that he should get the farm declared as a mini bird sanctuary. They have resident owlets  (about five of them) and a resident peacock family.

Apart from these resident family members they also have many guests that grace their farm with their beautiful presence.

Indian Grey Hornbill

Pied Bushchat

Fork-tailed Drongo

Red-wattled Lapwing

White-throated Kingfisher

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Indian Roller

White Wagtail

Hoopoe

Hoopoe

Red-vented Bulbul

Black Redstart

Indian Peafowl

Food is another concern while travelling. You can imagine our delight when we munched on this farm fresh organic meal.

 

A perfect balanced diet. That salad says it all. Juicy and pure organic stuff. And what’s not to like about those three different kinds of hot chapattis (wheat, corn and maize) that my namesake served me with.

We just kept hogging on all that delicious food plus the finger-lickingly delicious snacks that were served around the bonfire in the chilly winter breeze in the evenings. These angithis used to keep the food warm took us back to our time with our grandparents when natural resources were still used for cooking and cooking ranges, LPG and CNG were unheard of.

But the best thing about our stay was what the girls learnt. Going Back to Basics. Advancement has been misused and health has been taken for a ride. It is in these farms that you learn why you should promote organic. The fresh produce that is grown organically is something we city-dwellers miss. And thus our health has gone for a toss.

Be it milk, veggies, cereals, pulses, eggs or poultry, everything is organic. What I love about farms is that it is a ‘Zero Waste’ project. Absolutely eco-friendly. Something we want our children to learn. The touch of soil is so soothing and refreshing.

Kitchen waste goes into composting or as fodder. Paddy, Wheat, Carrot, Cauliflower, Radish, Turnip and other leaves get consumed by the rabbits, cows and buffaloes. Milk, ghee, Paneer, Dahi and all from home-fed cattle. Dung used for manure and dung cakes for cooking and bonfire.

And such a huge setup will not function effectively enough without personal involvement. That’s where Daljeet and his parents, Mr.& Mrs. Ajit Singh Kataria, play a vital role. Their energy, enthusiasm and determination is what is behind the warm hospitality that you enjoy in this serene village-like atmosphere. I was mighty impressed by the way both uncle and aunt kept themselves busy in the overall functioning and maintenance of the farm. Their hard work and positive outlook towards life is infectious.

Daljeet and his lovely family made our stay absolutely homely and  our New Year a memorable one. The children bonded so well that I was free enough to enjoy my stay around the place.

Stay tuned for the next post on the migratory birds at Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary. A Birwatcher’s paradise indeed.

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