On the 9th of May, 2013, along with wife and son, I flew from Bangalore (7.30 am flight) to “Dehradun” in Uttarakhand. We had to change flights in Delhi. The journey was uneventful and we landed in Dehradun by 3pm.
At Dehradun, I was very happy to meet Pratap Singh IFS as we quickly proceeded to “walterre”. The very first bird I saw as we reached walterre (2 hrs drive from the airport) was the “Chrimson Sunbird” in full breeding plumage! Thus, began another great birding adventure for me – all of which was initiated by Pratap Singh – many thanks PS!
Bikram Grewal's "walterre”!
We spent three nights at “walterre”. 9th, 10th and 11th . Such a lovely time. The place is owned by “Bikram Grewal” one of the most passionate and knowledgeable birder I know. His passion can be seen everywhere at "walterre"! The meticulously arranged bird paintings on every wall, the hundreds of bird related artifacts in every nook and corner of the two storied house, several hundred bird books arranged neatly in the library and the dozens of birds that visit his garden everyday! The early morning wake-up calls from these birds are a special treat indeed!
On the 11th early morning Pratap Singh led me to the WII campus. We met up with Monica and her two friends and the five of us drove over to the nearby forest. Here, I was able to photograph the “Pale-footed Bush Warbler”! a bird seldom seen and rarely photographed. A very memorable moment for me!!
Later we had a wonderful breakfast at WII and roamed around the campus a bit. We had good views of a “Chestnut-crowned Bush Warbler” another rare summer visitor to the area (could not photograph that restless tiny bird)!
May is a very hot month in India. It was very very hot at “walterre” during the day. Thankfully, It rained that evening at “walterre”. Strong winds too! We sat on the balcony and simply enjoyed the weather as we had a wonderful hot dinner. Without hesitation I would recommend a couple of days stay at “walterre” to any birder – enjoy the birds as you soak in Bikram’s passion! Many thanks Bikram for all the help, we had a wonderful time!
On the 12th Morning, Pratap Singh’s family joined us and our two families drove up to “Mussoorie” for a 3 nights stay. 12th, 13th and 14th. Mussoorie is a 35 kms climb from Dehradun that can be done by road in about 2 hrs.
“Char Dukan of Landour”
We stayed at a home stay in “Landour” called “La Villa Bethany ”. Landour is a quite little place a bit away from the busy Mussoorie town. Plenty of birding around. It was cold, windy and raining when we arrived!
On the 13th we drove up to the “Cloud End Area” for some birding. Though the number of birds we saw was less than expected, I was happy to shoot the “Collared Owlet” and The “Green Shrike Babbler” there.
“Shooting the Verditer enroute Dhanaulti”
On the 14th we drove over to the “Dhanulti” area. A fine drive of about 20 kms into the hills with good views of the Himalayas! Some fine birding too!
On the 15th we descended back to Dehradun and checked into the guest house at FRI. Back to the Heat!
“Pratap Singh takes nature lovers on a birdwatching walk at FRI”
On the 16th of May, after some morning birding at FRI, Prathap Singh and myself drove over to Kotdwar (about 4 hours via Haridwar) and met with Neha. Dr. Sudhir Oswal from New Delhi joined us there and the three of us birded in the Kalagarh and Landsdown Forest Divisions for the next four days.
Some superb birding as we moved all over the area and stayed in three different FRHs. 16th Night at the “Halduparao” FRH. 17th Night at the “Lahachaur” FRH. 18th and 19th Night at the “Nauri” FRH. All these FRHs are located inside the forest and offer plenty of birding all around. Just spending a night at these unique locations itself is a wonderful experience not to mention the superb drives through elephant country to reach these places. We did see tiger pug marks at a few places...
“... at Nauri FRH - Amit, Neha, Pratap Singh, Dr. Oswal”
On the 20th Morning, Neha and Amit joined us for breakfast. This unique couple Neha and Amit started their career in the IT industry but are now IFS officers in-charge of these divisions. Many thanks Neha and Amit for all the help!
After breakfast Pratap Singh and myself drove back to Dehradun as Dr. Sudhir Oswal headed back to Delhi. We later had a lovely closing dinner at a fine restaurant at Dehradun. What a rewarding trip for me! I finally reached the 600 specie mark on indiabirds!
On the 21st morning I briefly met with Dhananjai Mohan IFS who currently works at WII. He very kindly sent me this paper:
After a brief visit to the impressive set of forest related museums at FRI and a special lunch at Pratap Singh’s house , on the 21st afternoon we left Dehradun and reached home safely a bit after midnight! There was a five hour delay at the Delhi Airport!
“Temprature at Delhi!”
I had never birded in this kind of heat before, mostly +40*C! But, it was worth every bit of the sweat for me as I added 15 new species to indiabirds!