When I wanted to get away for a weekend, all I thought were the lovely hill stations near Delhi. True, they are serene with nature’s bounty, and staying in one of the cottage holiday homes amidst clouds is the most relaxing thing, yet I was yearning for something more. Perhaps fulfillment from a journey of exploration, discovery of the secrets of Mother Nature, but wasn’t quite sure what.
Until a friend mentioned bird-watching!
Bird trails… seriously?
This got me going! I did my homework and found that most hill stations near Delhi have wonderful birding trails! Off the commercial sides, tucked into the innumerable forest and woods, these havens for winged creatures thrive. And many a traveller find delight in spotting, photographing and tracing the magnificent flying marvels.
The state of Uttarakhand is blessed with birding destinations, I was surprised to learn. There are 1303 species of birds in India, out of which more than 50% are spotted in this hill-state! And then there are so many alcoves that are quite popular amongst bird lovers – Chopta Valley, Sattal, Bhimtal, Naukuchiatal, Pangot and Kilbury bird sanctuary – to name a sumptuous few! These are off-the-normal-track tourist places near Delhi within 300 kms.
(Image Credit: Partha Sen)
Well-planned for pure pleasure!
These birding trails are now included in proper travel packaged tours, complete with camping experience, heritage tours, along with birding expert guides to help you spot the rare species. So here I was off to Sattal and Nainital region via a road trip from Delhi to make friends with the rulers of the sky! A getaway with a difference, with a purpose.
Excited, my first destination was Pangot, passing via deep green forested areas, as if protecting the prized possessions that lay ahead. I crossed Snow Peak Point and stopped at the Kilbury first and then at Pangot. I didn’t know the lush treetops could hide so many of them. My avian knowledge now included Warblers, Dollarbirds, Himalayan Bulbuls and Streaked Laughingthrushes. Of course, I learnt to identify a number of tree species too, so that was a bonus!
Fellow (and surprisingly regular) birders also told me that there were more to look out for. There were 150 resident and migratory birds recorded here, God knows how many more may actually be hiding in the green foliage! Our guide was a pro surely, he could spot a little tail from amidst leaves in a jiffy!
These are expeditions with a mission!
The birding expedition can last from a couple of nights to even a week or more, it depends on how much one would like to stay in company of the chirps and tweets! And, an occasional hoot or a shrill call made everyone in our group rustle up in excitement. Binoculars were focused and camera lens adjusted, necks craned to find the source of the pleasant sounds! And every successful spotting was met with a heady rush of emotions that can best be felt, not described!
My challenge to myself was to learn about and identify various types of Woodpeckers – Crimson Breasted, Scaly Bellied, Yellow-Crowned, Rufous, Grey-headed, Common flameback! Then there were Jays, Blackbirds, Parakeet, Blue-winged Minla, types of Sunbirds, Kingfishers, Barbets, Owlets, Babblers! Small and big, with their vibrant hues and varied beaks!
A lot more in fact!
Empowering, exhilarating, enriching – this trip taught me a lot – about nature and its myriad colours, about life beyond the obvious, educating me about the ways of God’s own creations. Most of all, it taught me patience, and in the process, I found another wonderful chance to connect with myself! It’s a perfect detox recreation – pure and novel, easily manageable via weekend trips from Delhi!