At times you make a trip just because it is been too long you have not been anywhere. Such trips usually include a regular place and when you look back you realize that you didn’t do anything special. My recent trip to Devbhoomi Uttarakhand was also like that. I ate, I slept, I spent a day looking at the non-stop rain, I didn’t do much of photography either. I didn’t go trekking, I didn’t wake up early in the morning, the only thing I did was non-stop-no-sense “bakar”. But then, that is what it was meant to be. A long drive, lots of rain, lush green hills, self-cooked food, endless talks with my mates and lots of laughter. These are the things that one misses more often than not. In between, we drove to a few nearby places to try our hands with the extra weights we were carrying (cameras).
The Small blue kingfisher of Naukuchiatal ( the lake with nine corners):
We didn’t count those corners but there was one corner where we found this little beauty. A Small Blue kingfisher or Common kingfisher as it is commonly known. He saved the overcast day and we spent a lot of time with this one. In between he made few dives and caught three fishes which prompted us to decide our menu for the dinner. It was not easy to find good fish but we managed a kilogram from the Bhimtal market.
I used my phone to capture some images which otherwise could not have been possible with a 300mm prime. Here is the Naukuchiatal from a hilltop captured by the phone camera.
As I saw the clouds coming towards me and gradually I found myself amidst the clouds carrying zillions of water droplets(or life), I took a deep breath. I tried to inhale the smell which most of the time hovers hundreds of meters above us. I tried to feel the warmth from the thick blanket of cold clouds. So now you go figure out this oxymoron I just stated.
The Crested kingfisher of Sattal:
The regular birding spot which is popularly known among the bird lovers as the studio of Sattal was submerged under water. During our last trip we have counted more than 20 species of birds in that spot. Birds were around but they were scattered. I was obviously disappointed until we saw a Crested kingfisher sitting on a brunch with his eyes fixed at the water stream which carries the excess water from Sattal. That was a close encounter.
When we’re walking through the jungle which was damp and became denser, I came across lots of shrubs and undergrowth. These undergrowth and various types of shrubs, algae and vines add multiples hues of green and saturation to the forest during the monsoon. They add patterns and showcase an ecosystem which we often ignore. I took few photographs using my phone camera to capture some of this vibrancy.
The Asian barred owlet of Chafi Village:
Despite the odds (rain, diffused light etc.) we went to Chafi village. The villagers told us that the Khaleej pheasants still come to feed during the early morning and the evening. A pair of Great barbet has chosen a hole in a Neem tree adjacent to a house to build their nest. After a brief gap during May-Jun, the White crested laughing thrush have returned to this area. A Brown fish owl was photographed few weeks back in that area. I saw a Spotted forktail wadding in the volatile stream which passes through the village. The noise of the water thrashing against the rocks can be heard from quite a distance now. The river was flooded too. The tiny water streams (otherwise dry during winter) have turned into water falls. While we were observing one such small water fall we realized that we were being watched by an Asian barred owlet from very close quarters.
My fondness of owls or owlet is quite old. They are the cutest. I may have many photographs (good or bad) of owls and I might have seen them hundreds of times but I still feel so excited when I find one.
We also found a Crested kingfisher near the village. The below image is of the river near the village which is otherwise dry during winter season till the monsoon. Last year when we visited this place during April, we crossed this river on foot to photograph a Crested kingfisher. There were a few common kingfishers too. This is also a good site to photograph White capped red-start. You can also find Striated Laughing thrush on either side of the road that leads to this place.
As I am writing this note, my friend poked me to update that some one has found an Accentor while on a leisure trip to Mussorie – another prime tourist destination of Uttarakhand. Well, we did not find any lifer on this trip but spending three days in Uttarakhand itself was a lifer. However, life is not so easy in Uttarakhand as this Devbhoomi has it’s own sorrow. Over 50 people have reportedly been killed following floods and landslides in the state in the last few days.