After flight cancellations, endless hours of traveling we found ourself at a quiet and beautiful place at the Himalayan foothills. The village we drove to for 9 hours from Delhi is named Pangot, which is just a few kilometers to the north of Nainital. Our idea was to make some foothill birding outside the Corbett National Park boundaries in different habitat types to make our trip even more diverse.
Despite the never ending and not always safe driving, we enjoyed the day with some birding stops en route to Pangot. Some lifers blot the madness on the Indian roads out what seemed completely non-managable for us, Europeans. Birding was nice from the car while crossing rural landscapes and villages resulting several lifers including Indian Pond Herons, River Lapwings, House Crows and Bank Mynas. Black Kites, Red-wattled Lapwings, White-throated Kingfishers and Common Mynas were the commonest birds on the way.
During a tea break at the Nainital offset we saw our first Rose-ringed Parakeets and we were taught, by our guide, the difference of calls of the local parakeet species. Later we stopped in a forest where a nice flock of birds were seen. Lifers included Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, White-browed Fantail, Green-backed Tit, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Jungle Babbler, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch. Grey-headed Canary-flycatchers were singing assiduously. Other species seen included Blue Whistling Thrush, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch and Oriental White-eye.
Just before we reached Pangot, we found an unusually large flock (we were told) of Red-billed Blue Magpies. 35 birds were crossing the road just in front of us. These beautiful birds made us really happy. I personally enjoyed the view through the new SwaroViosion EL 10×42 binocular. Those colorful moments made me forget about the photography gear I had in the back of the car. A bit further up some Himalayan Vultures and a Steppe Eagle was spotted above the rocky hillsides.
The resort is located on the foothills of the Himalayas and the garden was a nice entry place for finding some other new birds. A pair of Hill Pigeons was flying over the village soon after we arrived. In the garden Black-headed Jays, Rufous Treepie, Himalayan Bulbuls, Streak-throated Swallows, loud White-throated Laughingthrushes, Streaked Laughingthrush, Rufous Sibia and Yellow-breasted Greenfinches were seen.
The lovely Rufous Sibia was one of the garden bird at the resort. © Gyorgy Szimuly
Streaked Laughingthrush was a bit secretive but yet often seen. © Gyorgy Szimuly
A view to the opposite hills from the valley. © Gyorgy Szimuly
Shortly after having a break we made a late afternoon walk down to the valley. At the end of the the 6 kms long track I became completely exhausted as we missed the lunch what resulted a drastic drop of my energy level. Situation was not so funny but the late dinner was really nice. Anyway we found several lifers on our way including the long since hunted Great Barbet which provided a very good view just before the dusk. We heard the bird frequently from the bottom of the valley and finally it landed just next to us. On our way down to the stream we found a Lesser Yellownape. Its yellow crest was sparkled by the golden lights. Other notable birds included Bay-backed Shrike, Grey Treepie, Blue-capped Redstart and Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush.
A singing Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush was a nice surprise. © Gyorgy Szimuly
Himalayan Bulbul was a common but lovely species in the area. © Gyorgy Szimuly
Gaurav Kataria, the head of tour company (left) and Rajesh Bhatt, our bird guide (right) were really nice and helpful people with good sense of humor. My friend, Balázs Molnár is in the back. © Gyorgy Szimuly
Kids in their very rustic home near Pangot. © Gyorgy Szimuly
Nice forest alongside the stream where we were searching for the Slaty-backed Forktails. © Gyorgy Szimuly
Locals have been involved in the search of forktail. They used our equipments to find them but we had no luck. © Gyorgy Szimuly