Pangot hail storm, dense fog and the pheasants

After a deep and close to perfect sleep we woke up early in the morning and moved further up to the mountains. We decided to have a late breakfast as we wanted to explore the grassy slopes for Cheer Pheasant as early as possible. The morning was simply beautiful, sunny and quiet. On our way up we stopped at a water fall where we saw two Spotted Forktails. At the break we met a British birding team and I had a short chat with the leader who was actually one of my Facebook friend. Peter Jones and me have had many discussions on birding before and it was nice to meet him far away of our home.

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The Nanda Devi group with Nanda Gunti (6,309 m), Trisul (7,120 m), Maiktoli (6,803 m) and Nanda Devi (7,817 m) (from left to right). © Gyorgy Szimuly

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The snow-capped Nanda Devi. © Gyorgy Szimuly

At our next stop Balazs woved by the scene we had in front of us. The early rays of the Sun hit several very high peaks of the Himalayas, including the 7,817 meters (25,646 ft) high Nanda Devi. The picture was magical how the peaks emerged from the grey clouds bellow. The whole moment lasted for 10 minutes only then the golden peaks disappeared.

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Cheer Pheasant habitat before storm. © Gyorgy Szimuly

By moving to the other side of the mountain it showed its other face with grassy steep rocky slopes. Again the early Sun painted the slopes gold and we just enjoyed to be out and feel the warming morning. Our main target was to find the Cheer Pheasant on its typical habitat but we had no luck. After several hours of slope scanning any of us neither Peter’s team could see a single pheasant. The birding was, however very nice and productive with spectacular clear views to most of the birds we found.

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Me, as scanning the slopes. © Balázs Molnár

Birds we saw this morning included Bearded VultureHimalayan Vulture, Griffon VultureBlack Eagle, Steppe EaglePeregrine Falcon, Himalayan Swiftlets, Eurasian Crag Martin, a large flock of Black Bulbuls, Grey-hooded Warbler, Bar-tailed Treecreeper, Blue-fronted Redstart, Chestnut Thrush, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, Rufous SibiaBlack-throated Accentor, Altai Accentor (seen by our leader only), Spot-winged Tit ssp. of Coal Tit and Rock Bunting.

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Both an adult and an immature Bearded Vultures were flying over us in the morning. © Gyorgy Szimuly 

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Himalayan Vultures were warming up in front of us while we were searching for Cheer Pheasant. © Gyorgy Szimuly 

After giving up finding the Cheer Pheasant we returned the resort for a nice breakfast and an obligate break as the weather decreased drastically. Soon after our breakfast there was a very heavy hail storm making any birding impossible but forced us to sleep a bit. Before the storm some Black-headed Jays showed up in the garden and a lovely Pink-browed Rosefinch was landing on a tree next to the restaurant.

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Visibility was just 5-10 meters and birding seemed to be hopeless. The scenery was fabulous though. © Gyorgy Szimuly

At about 3PM we returned to the same morning slopes in a very dense fog (cloud).

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Developing weather. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Mossy forest just after clearing up. © Gyorgy Szimuly

When the cloud dissolved some activity was seen on the slopes. We saw a pipit species which we could not identify and I possibly saw an Altai Accentor but could not ID 100%. On our way back to the resort we stopped at turn where a pair of Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers were calling loudly. This is an awesome looking woodpecker species. I enjoyed the view through the Swarovski ATM 80 HD spotting scope I took with me. The sharpness and feather details was just outstanding. Unfortunately a heavy shower sent us back to the car too soon.

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The slope where Koklass Pheasants were seen. © Gyorgy Szimuly

We thought we have finished birding for today when we suddenly stopped as a male Koklass Pheasant was crossing the road just ahead of our car. We jumped out the car and watched the bird when I spotted a female Cheer Pheasant next to the Koklass. The Cheer was rather shy and soon after it disappeared in the grassy slope with some short bamboo grass vegetation. At the same place we spotted three more Koklass Pheasants what the guys could photograph resulting some decent frames.

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Male Koklass Pheasant north of Pangot. © Balázs Molnár

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Birds were feeding under fallen trees and on decaying branches. © Balázs Molnár

In heavily decreasing lights I was scanning the slope for more Koklass Pheasants when I stopped by Gaurav as something was moving down on the slope. We saw a large bulky bird with a prominent white patch on its back. There was no chance to see its colouring due to dusk. The bird flew away after a few seconds of observation but that was enough for a positive identification. We were quite sure that we saw a male Himalayan Monal what had not been recorded in that area for 40 years. It spends the winter time in forests at lower elevations and its breeding grounds are not so far from the place we saw it so this record is not impossible at all.

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We were happy by the productive evening. Our success was due to our endurance for birding despite the bad weather. © Gyorgy Szimuly

An Indian guide, from other part of the country, was rather sceptic by our observations but we are sure about both identification. There are no rules written in stone in birding!

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3 thoughts on “Pangot hail storm, dense fog and the pheasants

  1. I am loving it 🙂 .. I will request you to consider posting your Indian bird images on indianaturewatch.net also if you feel like it.

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