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Tracking the calls

Recently, I had travelled to the Barot village in Himachal Pradesh, with a friend. One fine day, after having a scrumptious breakfast of aloo ke paranthe, achar and dahi, we decided to trek up a mountain to reach a tiny village of only 25-30 houses. Oh! What a phenomenal day it was. We were carrying a pair of binoculars and a bird book and luckily for us, our trek had turned into a bird watching fiesta.

The trek began from a waterfall where we were nearly confounded by the call of many whistling thrushes* that seemed to be coming from everywhere. Not being able to see the birds, we decided not to waste much time searching for them and started the trek to the village.

Trailing the tales

Midway through the trek, we were greeted by a wonderful sight of a pair of long-tailed minivets*. The male and female, like most other minivets, had a splash of red and yellow respectively. The deep orange underparts and slightly longer tail of this minivet, tells it apart from its close relative, the scarlet minivet. As we were relishing this beautiful encounter, a fight broke out. The minivet couple was fighting off an intruder, one of the thrushes. Once the fight was over and we could finally catch a glimpse of the thrush, we identified it as a blue-capped rock thrush. It was a male. He was a bright shade of blue and chestnut in colour with a white patch on the wing, while the female of the species is an entirely dull brown. Among birds, the males generally exhibit a brighter and more ornamental plumage, when compared to the females, to attract them as potential mates. However, this also increases the visibility of the male birds and makes them more vulnerable to predators. To think to the extent some will go for a mate!

Soon, we reached the village and decided to take a walk through it. Its residents were very welcoming. A few of them were generous enough to treat us, total strangers, to a meal of leftover lingdu ki sabzi, a seedless non-flowering fern that grows wildly in the hills, and rotis accompanied with hot chai.

No sooner had we started trekking downhill than we came across a yellow-billed blue magpie*. With a long, arched blue tail, blue wing feathers and a bright yellow bill, this bird was hard to miss. I remembered seeing another one on the bus to Barot, but that bird had a red bill. I later learnt from the bird book that the red and the yellow-billed blue magpies are birds of different species belonging to the same genus. They are members of the Corvid (crow) family. The red-billed blue magpie is usually seen at lower altitudes than the yellow-billed blue magpie.

We saw two more birds on the remainder of the trek. The chestnut-bellied rock thrush that we saw was very shy, unlike the rest of the birds we had spotted on the trek. At only 12 to 13 cm long, a Green-backed Tit* that we observed was the smallest bird we had seen on that day. It was busy rushing to and from its nest, which was nestled in between two rocks, to gather twigs. On reaching the waterfall again, perched on top of a rock in between a stream, was a blue whistling thrush, that we had heard, but missed seeing earlier. The blue whistling thrush is also infamous by the nickname ‘whistling schoolboy’ for the very human like whistling call it makes at dawn and dusk. All in all, our gentle trek to a village had turned into an awesome experience that we would always cherish.

*These are different families of birds of which some species are found in the Himalayan region.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 2:47:40 AM |

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