A Short & Sweet Winter Visit

The very basic thought of a winter visit to Indian subcontinent connects me immediately to a destination which I have been visiting successively almost every year – Keoladeo NP, Bharatpur !!

Thus with all the usual excitement, I again planned another trip to this sanctuary -  but unfortunately I had to make last minute changes to my plan – due to the not so encouraging situation at this once upon a time "wetland paradise".Thanks to the prompt feedback by all my birding/wildlife photographer friends in this regard.

During this visit - I did not intend to do the big national parks with ravishing gypsy drives and hassles of entry permits. Instead - I wanted  to keep it short and sweet - which indeed turned out to be a very enjoyable visit combined with more social interactions - family and friends!!

After my London-Delhi flight - I preferred to head off to the Himalayan habitat as an alternative plan and indeed it was a better decision considering the short time and limited accessibility available with me. 

Sattal Environs - True delightful setting for nature lovers !
Rufous-bellied Niltava (Niltava sundara)
 Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush (Garrulax rufogularis)
Greater Yellownape (Picus flavinucha)
Crested Kingfisher (Megaceryle lugubris)
Staying at Sattal in the wonderful tented accommodation at Sat Tal Birding Camp has always been a pleasurable experience. This time Mohit Agarwal (the owner) empowered me with Hari Lama – a deserved companion in the field for most productive birding! Thanks to all the team at this cosy birding camp for the lovely stay, food and field visits.

Exploring Sattal is always a delight for any bird lover because any corner in this wonderful habitat provides very interesting and significant opportunities to see variety of species just within a radius of few miles. The place is always vibrant with bird activities and pleasant surprises for a birder is a way of life here.

Rufous Sibia (Heterophasia capistrata)
Magical surroundings - Uttarakhand hills 
Blue Whistling Thrush (Myophonus caeruleus)
Although the overcast sky and some interior forest areas compelled me to use very high ISO setting on my camera, however during a short span of two days – I managed to bag some decent images and more importantly – a wonderful birding experience!!

Frozen rivers - cold mornings and a diving delight
In all, I captured loads of images and a whole big list of species and it is practically impossible to include all the species/images here, but here are a few glimpses - 
Streaked Laughingthrush (Trochalopteron lineatum)
Yellow-bellied Fantail (Chelidorhynx hypoxantha)
White-throated Laughingthrush (Garrulax albogularis) 
Great Barbet (Megalaima virens)
Blue-fronted Redstart (Phoenicurus frontalis)
Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch (Sitta cinnamoventris) picking up an insect from the tree bark
Ashy Bulbul (Hemixos flavala) 
White-throated Laughingthrush (Garrulax albogularis) 
Striated Laughingthrush (Garrulax striatus)
Stripe throated Yuhina (Yuhina gularis) 
Indian Black-lored Tit, (Parus aplonotus)
A prize catch - Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler (Pomatorhinus erythrogenys)
White-crested Laughingthrush (Garrulax leucolophus) 
Some highlights –
For past several years I had been trying to search for the rare Cheer Pheasant in this and had no luck until I spotted Six of these elusive pheasants together – Wow, what a rewarding sighting after years of wait !!
An extreme rarity - Cheer Pheasant, (Catreus wallichii)Add caption
Three Cheer Pheasants together  

The Rarity in big numbers - 6 Cheer Pheasants !!
      And the other Rare Pheasant - Koklass Pheasant (from my previous visit) -
Koklass Pheasant (Pucrasia macrolopha)
It was lovely to witness the “Disguise” face of a Collared Owlet (Glaucidium brodiei)-where this cute little owl uses a “fake face” to fool its prey. The images below are self-explanatory-
Collared Owlet - Face in Disguise
 I love the birds that are spotted on the mountain slopes where one can stand on the edge of the valley and the birds could be photographed against the magnificent backdrop of mountains. I got some wonderful settings for this kind of photography -
Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Dendrocopos hyperythrus marshalli
Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia)
The Seed sucker 
Peeping Tom  - White Throated Laughing thrush !
Tree Creeper
I had a couple of short trips into the great outdoors while being in Jabalpur. It was great to visit some of the birding / wildlife locations which were my favourites during my days at the engineering college. Visiting the Long Proof Range (LPR) and Rani Durgavati Sanctuary was indeed a very refreshing experience. Thanks to Saptarishi Saigal, Rahul Pandit and Rohit Agrawal for the wonderful company. The best bit about the outskirts of Jabalpur is that – you can still expect some exciting wildlife there in-spite of the urban growth and other developments. Sometime one might see a few deer near the runway as the ATR aircraft lands on the little airport there !
Rani Durgavati Sanctuary 
Good morning with a Drongo
The Flight of Fancy 
Raptor power
Every time I visit Indore, a “ must Do” visit is to the local lake “ Sirpur”  which I  always  dreamt to be a wonderful bird sanctuary right from my childhood  days. I always cherish my days where I  used to visit this place on bicycle and there were hardly any “ birdwatchers” in Indore  at that time. I was seen as a “crazy” guy who visits weird locations to watch birds !! A wonderful morning at Sirpur with a finishing touch of Pohe, Jalebi and chai (the true icons of any Indorian) is a million dollar experience!!Thanks to Dhruv Arora & Abhishek Shriwatri for the great company.
Following this visit, I also had my presentation session at MCTE, Mhow which always is a very elevating experience for me. Thanks to Dev Kumar Vasudevan and the whole Army team at Mhow for this opportunity and being a wonderful audience.  
The duo 
Wintering Seasons
My last destination in this visit was Pune and I squeezed a fine morning with my younger brother and the families to visit the Ujani Dam. It was a fantastic trial of his new car and an enchanting experience with some aquatic wingsters just within a two hours’ drive from Pune. Some Flamingo images are here – which tells well about all the joy we had ..
Flame on the wings

Lets Fly with all the joy !
Mirror mirror !
Wrapping up this lovely trip and leaving behind the sunny days and the blue skies..I returned  to the UK ..back in business with those windy, rainy days and grey skies……but the colours and vibrancy of the recent trip will surely keep me propelled until I plan my next wildlife visit in a few weeks time !
The habitat and me !