I am always amazed at my ability to wake up before sunrise when I am out on vacation. I think it is one of those unsolved mysteries of the universe. On a normal day I need multiple alarms and sometime cold water to wake up. Anyhow, I like waking up to the sweet, melodious call of Whistling Thrush I think. Crisp and cold mountain air would send chills up my well protected spine. Anyone who wants to try this in winter, should read-up on dressing in layers. Beats freezing one’s tush though.
A lot of birders would know it already, Negi Ji had his earlier camp at Kakragad. Unfortunately he lost it to floods in Uttarakhand. I have read many good things about that place. Negi Ji and I agreed on visiting the place a couple of days to see what we can find. We started early morning and reached there as the day was breaking. Kakragad has hills surrounding it with a river flowing by. I think total population of the place should not exceed 20 (might be wrong though). By the time we reached, it was freezing cold, surprisingly it was colder than what we had seen at higher altitude. Reasons for this extra cold was the river and lack of sunlight till quite late (due to the mountains).
The bird-life around Kakragad was fantastic. We started instantly and birds started rolling. Just a few minutes walk from the main road bought us to the other side of the river, near an abandoned inspection bungalow. Whiskered Yuhina, Himalayan Bulbul, Spotted-forktail, Rusty Cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Streak Brested Scimitar Babbler, Black Bulbul to name a few. As we walked around, we were looking out for some specialties like Rufuous Bellied Niltava, Small Niltava, Chestnut Crowned Laughingthrush etc. Glad to say that during both visits, most of the species obliged us.
The river that flows through Kakragad is a great spot for Brown Dipper, Plumbeous Water Redstart, White Capped Redstart, Spotted Forktails and Little Forktail. While Little Forktail eluded us, the rest did show up and gave me a small opportunity to grab some images. Every time I saw a Brown Dipper, I could only think of calling it a little brave-heart. The way these little birds “dip” into the icy water, calling them anything less will be not justified. Photographing the dipper was a bit of the challenge, once the bird goes under the stream for foraging, it can come up anywhere. By spending some time with the birds, I was able to grab a few images of it.
Around the inspection bungalow, we were able to find plenty of bird activities. A flowering tree there acted as bird magnet and we spent a lot of time observing and photographing some of the visiting birds. Fire-breasted Flowerpeckers posed a challenge in photographing due to their hyperactive nature. During the second visit, we even found ourselves a Rufus-bellied Neeltava that obliged and posed.
While wondering around Kakragad, Negi Ji decided to look for scaly breasted wren babbler. WE started scouring the area around the river for this little bugger. We heard this bird long before we got a glimpse of it. However being the skulker that it was, it always lurked in the shadows. While we were searching, we came across a Chestnut Headed Tesia, who was quite trusting. I clicked away to my hearts content. In fact we encountered Tesia again as we were having tea. Right in the back of the shop, a Tesia kept me glued to the spot by just casually jumping around the shrubs.
After having enjoyed couple of really fantastic days around Kakragad, we were just getting started with Himalayan birds. We had a nicely planned itinerary planned for next few days and I was all excited to go looking for Monal. That will be next installment..