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Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

More birding in Uttarakhand… June, 2012

“Plenty of these colorful Himalayan Monals around the Tungnath Temple area!”

Sarwandeep Singh a keen birder who lives in Delhi had planned to visit the Kedarnath Wildlife Santuary area for some summer birding. I was happy to join him on this trip. I was waiting to test the D4 in low light conditions! I flew down to Delhi from Bangalore on the 12th of June 2012 and reached Delhi after sunset. Sarwan ensured that my brief halt in Delhi was very comfortable and we left Delhi in his vehicle at 3.30 am on the 13th and headed straight towards “ Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary” which is about 400 kms by road.

By late noon, after crossing Haridwar, we reached Srinagar in Uttarakhand for Lunch. The temperature was close to 48*C and we were looking forward to reaching the cool mountains as soon as possible. After lunch, by about 2.30 pm we reached the “Magpie Birding Camp” at Kakragad, Bhiri, Rudraprayag. We made a brief halt there and met with Yeshpal Negi who runs this place. Negi is an authority on the birds of this area and is happy to host and guide bird-enthusiasts who approach him for help.

“Yeshpal Negi runs the Magpie Birding Camp at Rudraprayag” 

Sarwan had stayed with Negi before and this time had decided to spend that night in a small place a little higher up along the road. At about 3.30 pm we made our first halt for photography. The area was full of birds, all residents, many of which I had never seen before. I felt good shooting some of these beauties with the Nikon D4!

“Griffon Vultures are common in the area” 

That night as the sun set we checked into our rooms and over dinner met with Arun P Singh (WII) and family who were holidaying in the area.

14th June we walked around a bit and drove around the area, plenty of lifers for me as I got acclimatized to the area. Arun, his wife and son were keen nature lovers and together the five of us enjoyed a couple of days of intense birding in this part of Himalayas. We found some interesting mammals too!

“These Himalayan Thars thrive in habitats that are inaccessible to other mammals” 

“The Grey Ghoral of the Western Himalayas!” 

“Yellow-throated Marten” 

“Royle’s Pika – The most common Pika of the Himalayas” 

That night we shifted to another accommodation along the road and would spend the next three nights there…Here, we met Sahas Barve and his companion, keen young researchers who were collecting data on Tits of the area.

On 15th Negi joined us and the six of us climbed up to the “ Tunganath Temple” from Chopta. Such a lovely place. Located at an altitude of 3,680 m (12,073 ft), and just below the peak of Chandrashila, Tungnath temple is the highest Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. A wonderful day’s birding with plenty of good memories and my first sighting of the Monal!

“We enjoyed a superb hot meal of Rice and Dhal right outside the Tungnath Temple” 

On the 16th Sarwan and myself drove over to Negi’s camp and birded with him till 3pm. He served us some delicious breakfast and lunch and pointed us to many a bird specie found around his camp. We continued to bird all the way back to our Rest House. Another day of fine birding!

“These Yellow-rumped Honeyguides are found along the river right opposite the “Magpie Birders Camp!” 

On this trip most of our birding was around the “Magpie Birding Camp”, along the road from Kakragad, Bhiri to Chopta, Tungnath Temple area and parts of Kedarnath Wildlife Santuary that has the main road access and a brief climb at Monal Point. If you have a vehicle you can just drive along the road and you will encounter plenty of birdlife all along the road. Many of the “Dhabas” you come across as you drive will offer you decent food and basic accommodation. Of course you can contact Negi for help … his current numbers are 09412909399 and 09720709499.

“Happy to have encountered these wonderful Bearded Vultures at Tungnath! 

17th early morning, 5am, we were on our way back to Delhi. It was the longest drive of my life! I checked into a hotel near the Delhi Airport at 1 am on the 18th! My previous record was 18hrs from Tadoba to Bandhavghar! This 21hrs on the road was mainly due to heavy weekend traffic all along the route! This cannot be explained only experienced!!

18th Afternoon I was back home after yet another of those endurance tests! The effort feels justified when I look at the images of all those wonderful birds we encountered.

Many thanks Sarwan for making this trip happen…those jacket potatoes were ultimate!

Please visit indiabirds to view bird images....

Vijay Cavale
June, 2012.