Our eleventh and final entry is from Dr. Prasanna Sriya from India. A dentist by profession but very interested in the natural world, Dr. Sriya sees the outdoors as a learning ground.
The geography of India is diverse and can be divided into three main regions. The first is the rugged, mountainous Himalayan region in the northern part of the country, while the second is called the Indo-Gangetic Plain. It is in this region that most of India’s large-scale agriculture takes place and rest of India depends on its food from here. The third geographic region in India is the plateau region in the southern and central portions of the country.
Confluence of rivers
My 14yr old son (Vikas Madhav, from Blog-A-Thon entry 10) and I had an invitation to participate in the 5th birding census called the Great Himalayan Bird Count, held in Garhwal region in Uttrakhand; Coordinates: 30°30′N 78°30′E / 30.5°N 78.5°E / 30.5; 78.5 which is the north western region of North India, organized by an NGO – ARCH. The census was from October 27th to October 30th. We need to note the number of species of birds and number of birds of the same species.
A group of 6 people formed a team, each team was given a gasoil filled Jeep, driver and a trail for the bird census. Our team was no 18 and it had young avid birding couple Sashidhar from Hyderabad and his wife Aakansha from Bangalore working for Google India, Trekkers Aarti Salvi of Gujarat working for Esser India Pune and her elder brother Dhananjay working for MNC in Mumbai, avid bird watcher and photographer Vikas Madhav my son and myself from Chennai a dentist by profession and a naturalist by passion. We met our team for the first time in our lives at the Survey of India Auditorium at Dehradun on the 27th. Our trail was Agustmuni – Gupth kasha- Chopta Peak – Ukhimat.
Our Team – Dr. Prasanna Sriya and son Vikas Madhav, Dhananhay, Sashidhar, Aarti and Aakansha.
English was the language of communication among our team members as each of us came from different parts of India. Language is always a contentious issue in India. So much so that much of India we know now is re-drawn based on languages spoken in a particular region. Hindi was widely spoken in our team to the locals as most of our trails were located in remote, inaccessible areas to the common man and we had to get to these places. Even as a child Geography was one subject which fascinated me as it connected people from various part of the world.
Day one 27th – From Dehradun to Agustmuni 179 kms the travel time was 8 hrs + by road, since it was a hilly mountainous terrain the journey was not a smooth one. Augustmuni is a small town situated on the banks of the river Mandhakini in Rudraprayag district. I got the first ever glimpse of the snow covered peak in my life. We could not bird much as we spent most of our time on travel.
Guptkashi 28th – is a fairly large village located at an elevation of 4,327 ft.We met a bird guide Yashpal Singh Neigi who took us across on the Kakragad Brige on a trek to 3000 ft where we saw amazing birds like the slaty headed parakeet, Black bulbul, Chestnut bellied nuthatch, Niltava, Golden Bush Robin, Tree creepers, sunbirds,Yuhina all were hawking or fly catching; many birds had a combined
strategy of both hawking insects and gleaning them from foliage.
Since we saw all this happening in front of us we were amazed. Vikas coined a new name called bird bloom or bird blast as we have not seen a congregation of different species of birds in a given tree /place in our urban setting of life. As we were returning back from our trail we had this wonderful sighting of the Yellow Throated Martin, a shy mammal which cannot be sighted that very easily.
Chopta Peak 29th – This is one of the most enchanting treks in the Garhwal Himalayas, popularly referred to as the Mini-Switzerland of India because of its undulating green meadows and a breathtaking view of the majestic Himalayan peaks. The minimal signs of civilization add to the beauty of the place. One can trek or use the mule to reach Chopt. From here one can trek up to the Tungnath temple which is at a distance of 2.5 kms. We saw many women pilgrims use the mule we could not scale this last trek as the air became thinner and we found it difficult to breathe. As for me and my son, this was our first experience and we did not want to push it any further; we were already at a height of 12,500 ft above the sea level. We were happy seeing the Golden Jackal chasing a flock of Himalayan Monal, the Lammergeier, Vultures, Ravens, Indian Tortoise shell butterfly, Indian Admiral.
Himalayan peaks viewed at eye-level
Ukhimat 30th – It is at an elevation of 1311 meters. We had to stay at the PWD rest house. The next morning we had to head back to the base – Dehradun another 8 hr journey ahead of us. We still managed to do some decent birding. We were by the river Mandakani, I got to see the Yuhina , Himalayan Bulbul, Folk tail, Plumbous water Red Start , Crested Kingfisher at close quarters. We were 217 kms from Dehradun.
We reached Dehradun by 3pm on 30th October with a bird count of 87 species in total, of which 25 species were sighted for the first time by Vikas Madhav. He was satisfied as it added on to his 500+ specie seen by him from his other trips.