I have a 6 mega pixel Nikon S4 digital camera, that is as good or as bad as most digital cameras, except for a decent 10X optical zoom, and a swivel screen.
That said, I can now be forgiven for the quite sad to very sad quality of pictures that I took of birds I saw during a recent birding trip to Pangot.
The Jungle Lore Birding Lodge in Pangot, is such a wonderful place to holiday in, and if you are a birder (or are trying to become a birder, like me), then it is heaven on earth.
It is about 15/20 kilometers from Nainital, ahead of Kilbury. The road leading to Pangot, from the point where it turns off from the main Haldwani Nainital road, itself is a high. A meandering badly maintained but safe road that sees not more than two vehicles an hour, it goes through beautiful forests and swerves along streams and then reaches the hamlet of Pangot.
Red Billed Blue Magpie
I’ve been to Pangot many times, and sadly each time there is a little bit more construction around the Jungle Lore Birding Lodge. I feel a little bit sadder, but it remains and will remain a fabulous getaway. Just a few cottages, very carefully placed on a hillside, with just the right balance of trees, shrubs, open space and natural beauty.
As it happened on almost every visit to Pangot, there was an expert birding guide in the lodge, and he was relatively free. As soon as he saw my binocs hanging from my neck, he asked me if I was a birder. I replied with a ‘uh uh… kind of…’ answer, and told him that I was a very keen learner.
Ganesh was from Nepal but shifted base to India about seven years back and has since been working with Mohit Agarwal, who runs the lodge and several other nature-laden properties across India.
I sat in the porch of the main wooden kitchen cum dining cum meeting cottage, and started to spot birds. Ganesh was busy for some time, so I walked a little downhill and sat on a quaint little bench amidst trees and shrubs and low bushes. As I looked around, I saw a beautiful green bird with orange around the edges of its wings (Orange Flanked Bush Robin). I got clicking, getting some awful pictures, what with auto focus, that usually focuses on the background, lighting problems that doesn’t let any photo be taken unless it is bright sunlight and the many other problems of trying to take a picture of a bird that keeps moving and flying off, with a regular digital camera.
All of a sudden I saw several other varieties of birds, and my heart started to
pound with excitement. It was a mixed feeding flock, birds of several species flying and feeding together in the forest as it becomes easier for them. I was overjoyed and didn’t know where to look, where to focus my binocs or what to click.
A little later I was joined by Ganesh who started to point out birds so fast that I became dizzy. His knowledge was incredible and his ability to recognize birds from their call was simply astounding. At one point Ganseh stood in front of a bush that held a couple of Black Headed tits, and began to make bird calls that were humanly impossible. I stared at him and quickly realized that his hands were making the sounds. That's when I saw his amazing brid-sound-making device. He had got it from a birding site abroad, and it was a round wooden piece that rotates around a metal centre, which then makes ultra realistic bird sounds. A very simple and basic mechanism, but must have needed great precision to make. Here is a picture.
Ganesh's amazing bird song device
Anyway, to cut a long story short, in the next few days I saw an incredible variety of birds, seventy percent of which flew away and vanished before I could focus the camera on them and in fact before I could switch on the camera after it auto switched off.
Most of the birds came hopping across to take a drink of water from the small bird pools in Jungle Lore Birding Lodge itself. The laughing thrushes, black headed jays and red billed blue magpies were constantly around.
Black Headed Jay
Frankly, I can write reams and reams describing all the things that happened, and I am tempted to do it, but I know how tiresome it becomes to read really long blog posts, no matter how interesting, so I am going to cut it short.
It was a good birding trip, and I saw a few completely new birds (lifers, as birders call them). The place is beautiful, the food is awesome, the people are extra kind and the birds are divine. Hope you can make it to Pangot sometime too.
Common Rosefinches, males and females
Green Backed Tit
Orange Flanked Bush Robin
Grey Hooded Warbler
Grey Bushchat Female
Blue Whistling Thrush
Rufous Bellied Woodpecker
Red Vented Bulbul
Pink Browed Rosefinch
Oriental White Eye
Orange Flanked Bush Robin
Olive Backed Pipit
Grey Winged Blackbird
White Capped Water Redstart
White Throated Laughingthrush
Ruddy Shelduck (En route to Pangot at a barrage)