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janzin

Birding the Himalayan Foothills: Corbett, Nainital, Pangot, Sattal

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Atdahl

Wow, stunning is right.  The detail on your photos is outstanding Janet.  Talk about a successful drive up the mountainside.

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janzin
Posted (edited)

thank you @TonyQ , @Atdahl and @Biko!

 

Edited by janzin

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kilopascal

I never tire of looking at your photos.  Absolutely amazing. 

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Atravelynn
Posted (edited)
On 4/20/2020 at 3:30 AM, Soukous said:

 

The dreaded VIPs, it is amazing who is considered a VIP and allowed to break the rules in India's reserves :angry:

VIPs took my room at Dhikala Forest Resthouse in Dhikala and kicked me out.  I ended up being to find a replacement spot at the last minute, otherwise I was going to have to leave a day early.

 

Your birds continue to be magnificent.  Even without an animal subject, your sunbeams are beautiful.

Edited by Atravelynn

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janzin

thanks @kilopascal and

@Atravelynn  I do remember reading about your being kicked out in your trip report, which I reread before my trip! I think Dhikala has definitely been refurbished since then. 

 

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Galana
Posted (edited)

More terrific photos. Very interesting to see another race of Eurasian Jay. Hardly seems like the same bird.

 

You have to smile at the Indian's wish to see snow.

Edited by Galana

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michael-ibk

Simply beautiful Janet!

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Towlersonsafari

I do love looking at your photos @janzin

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janzin

The next morning we sadly said our goodbyes to Abbotsford Estate and Janhavi and headed off to Sattal for our one night stay at Birder's Den. I gathered that we couldn't check in until the afternoon, so we made several birding stops along the way. Today was the type day where it really paid off to have a local guide who knew all the little back roads and where to find the specialty birds.

 

Our first stop was right in Nainital town, a path behind "the Polytechnic", at least that's what I think Hari said. I spotted this little dining establishment right where we parked the car and I couldn't believe my eyes, I just had to take a photo. I don't think Hari had any idea why, and I'm not going to explain it :D 

 

IMG_6943a.jpg.39c700e03ff2c4d1c5eddcd4ea904bd5.jpg

 

Needless to say we did NOT eat here :lol:

 

We walked down a narrow path which was a small residential street, on a hillside where people were dumping trash behind the houses, and I'm wondering what birds could possibly be here. Hari told us that (some kind of) partridge often comes to the trash. To be honest I don't remember what partridge he was referring to :rolleyes:

 

We parked ourselves above one promising looking pile of trash, and watched various birds come in. Some curious young girls came out of their houses and when they saw we were looking at the birds, they brought out some chapati and threw out some crumbs. Which brought up a couple of nice birds to this rock.

 

grey_winged_blackbird_JZ8_8194a.jpg

 

grey_treepie_JZ8_8147a.jpg

 

But alas, no whatever-kind-of-partridge. Off to another spot...

 

We took some back roads which yielded some very small patches of agriculture, these seemed to be just personal plots of wheat or other grains behind people's houses. One target Hari was looking for was Bluethroat, but we dipped on that. We did pick up a few species including this juvenile Black-throated Thrush.

 

black_throated_thrush_JZ8_8203a.jpg

 

Continuing towards Sattal, our next stop was...well heck, I have no idea where we were. According to the GPS on my phone we were outside of the town of Bhowali. Anyway, there was an interesting area of terraces that seemed to actually have a trail. At least there was a map, no idea what it says. But its NOT TO SCALE :)

 

 

IMG_6947a.jpg.4105e0facf40755d386a79e0d50e1d04.jpg

 

It seemed to be some sort of agricultural station but at this time of year, nothing being grown, just some cows grazing.

 

IMG_6946.jpg.176080774cbe563360ca66dd29133772.jpg

 

Honestly it didn't look that promising for birds, but I got the feeling we had to kill time before getting to Birder's Den, so we started walking along the top of the ridge where there was a flat, maintained path.

 

We did see some nice birds and even a new one.

 

There were lots of Black Redstarts.

 

black_redstart_JZ8_8222a.jpg

 

black_redstart_JZ8_8237a.jpg

 

grey_hooded_warbler_JZ8_8214a.jpg.5dc1c83160063b4d92796cb476c516be.jpg

 

And a new bird for the trip, and one which apparently isn't that common as Hari seemed eager for us to get a good look. Unfortunately it wasn't all that cooperative in terms of having its picture taken. Record shot, Chestnut Thrush.

 

chestnut_thrush_JZ8_8230a.jpg

 

At the end of the path, or at least as far as we went, there was a stand of tall pines and here we found several woodpeckers, and a nice group of Striated Laughingthrushes which we spent some time with trying to catch a photo. But they did not cooperate AT ALL. That was too bad because its a striking bird with a large crest; we'd seen them up in Pangot as well, but no photo there either.

 

I'm not sure we saw much else but it was a nice and easy walk.

 

A few more short stops along the road yielded a better opportunity for Black-headed Jay photos...this one was all puffed up in our honor.

 

black_headed_jay_JZ8_8253a.jpg

 

And Black Bulbul, this was the only time we saw one.

 

Singing his heart out. It was starting to drizzle a bit again...

 

black_bulbul_JZ8_8306b.jpg

 

black_bulbul_JZ8_8339a.jpg

 

A bit further up the road, we came upon an unexpected delay.  Uh-oh! All that rain had caused a landslide! Would not want to have been there when that came down.

 

IMG_6950a.jpg.be22425489f86545d46aa5925095a955.jpg

 

I fully expected to be sitting there for quite awhile--I remember mudslides in Peru and Ecuador where we just got out of the car and started birding since it was such a long wait. But this operation was very efficient, and they let a line of cars through in each direction every ten minutes or so, so we weren't delayed very long at all.

 

Now it was getting on to lunch time, and Hari started looking for somewhere for us to eat. Lunch on most days was a crapshoot, as Hari didn't seem to be prepared with places he knew, and sort of expected us to choose. We turned down one place that looked dicey but he soon found another that seemed okay.

 

It was during that lunch that we learned, from the giant TV in the restaurant, that our U.S. President (he-who-will-not-be-named) was in India. There's no escaping! We had been totally, blissfully out of touch with news since leaving Delhi. It was quite the scene with all the workers in the restaurant, along with Hari, watching the spectacle, which at that moment was taking place in Gujarat. 

 

IMG_6952.jpg.e9b4e6fa8f7e0c941377b10b347be1fe.jpg

 

 

After a not-that-great lunch (which might have been a mistake which I paid for later...) we headed to our final destination, Birder's Den. I was really looking forward to this stop!

 

 

 

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xelas

Beautiful birds can be found in India. But not everyone can show them in such splendour as your photos, @janzin!

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Soukous
18 minutes ago, xelas said:

Beautiful birds can be found in India. But not everyone can show them in such splendour as your photos, @janzin!

You'll get your chance Alex. 

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janzin
6 hours ago, xelas said:

Beautiful birds can be found in India. But not everyone can show them in such splendour as your photos, @janzin!

 

aww thanks Alex. Yes, you must get there someday, and I know you and Zvezdana will come back with tons of great images. Its such a photogenic country.

 

 

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janzin

So a little bit about Birder's Den. Its a very simple lodge with its main focus being the birding hide on the property. Its the home of probably the most well-known birder of the area, Hari Lama, and he built a few rooms to let to bird photographers. I can't imagine anyone staying there that isn't a birder and also a bird photographer. In fact, everyone staying there was a) a photographer b) male c) Indian.  It was like a total 'boys club' of bird photographers. I definitely felt like the odd woman out; I don't think there are too many female Indian wildlife photographers. It rather felt like what I'd imagine it feels like bunking in an Army barrack, especially since just about everyone was wearing camouflage :lol:

 

It was actually my request to stay there; Vikram of Wild World India was a little hesitant to put us there as he'd not had any clients there and couldn't vouch for its comfort. Originally he had booked us into a standard hotel right in the town of Sattal. But I really wanted to stay here because of the hide. As it turned out, we probably should have listened to Vikram; I think we could have booked time at the hide without actually staying at the lodge. I could deal with the simple room, and there was actually hot water--but no heat in the room. It was so cold we slept in all our clothes and it was definitely too cold to take advantage of the hot shower. The beds were rock hard. Also, the food was really terrible.  It was here that I got sick, the first time I've ever been sick in India. But more on that later.

 

First, to the hide! We arrived around 2 pm and there was no one around to check us in, so Hari sent us off to the hide and told us he'd deal with it later. Unfortunately when we got to the hide there was absolutely no room to sit--it was wall-to-wall photographers. Obviously some had been there most of the day. However, I was able to set up my tripod between two others and stand, and Alan was just using a monopod so he managed to squeeze in. There was quite a variety of levels of camera gear in this hide, from 600mm lenses to bridge-zoom cameras.

 

This is the set-up in front of the hide. Many perches and feeding stations. 

 

IMG_6954a.jpg.f4a4c6a32b5c98f59c6f5f893f0cf771.jpg

 

It really was a fantastic set-up, normally I don't like to take photos of birds at feeders but for the most part it was possible to shoot so it seemed like a natural setting. We saw several birds here that we'd not seen before on the trip, and some we'd seen but not photographed.

 

From time to time, I was able to move from one side of the hide to another, as people shifted or left. Eventually someone in a front position left and I quickly stole his seat ;)

 

So without further ado, I'll just post the birds from this awesome afternoon, in no particular order. Almost all were taken with the Nikon D850 + 500F4 E FL + 1.4 TC on the tripod. (A few, like the pheasants and the magpies, were without the TC.)

 

Red_billed_Leiothrix_JZ8_8414a.jpg

 

Red_billed_Leiothrix_JZ8_9110a.jpg

 

 

rufous_sibia_JZ8_8758a.jpg

 

kalij_pheasant_JZ8_8914a.jpg

 

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Even without the Teleconverter I still couldn't fit in the whole tail!

 

red_billed_blue_magpie_JZ8_8494a.jpg

 

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black_lored_tit_JZ8_8942a.jpg

 

great_tit_JZ8_9159a.jpg

 

himalayan_bulbul_JZ8_8573a.jpg

 

blue_winged_minla_JZ8_8756a.jpg

 

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rusty_cheeked_scimitar_babbler_JZ8_8844a

 

rusty_cheeked_scimitar_babbler_JZ8_9030a

 

 

There's more, but I think I'll stop here and divide this into two posts. Some of my favorite birds coming up, so stay tuned....

 

 

 

 

 

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kittykat23uk

Loving all the birds, wish we'd stayed longer in the area, and that I'd had a better camera back in 2007!

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Galana

Superb. Almost but maybe not quite worth getting sick for. If I get back to Corbett, Nainital, Pangot and even Sattal will be in the itinerary. It's surprising how long a chap can go on just Bananas and Beer. Gin is a good disinfectant too.

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Zim Girl

Superb report so far @janzin, a masterclass in bird photography. Beautiful pictures, although I also particularly loved the sunlit forest ones in Corbett.

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janzin
On 4/28/2020 at 3:05 PM, kittykat23uk said:

Loving all the birds, wish we'd stayed longer in the area, and that I'd had a better camera back in 2007!

Thanks @kittykat23uk, wow 2007...time to go back for sure.

 

On 4/29/2020 at 10:09 AM, Galana said:

Superb. Almost but maybe not quite worth getting sick for. If I get back to Corbett, Nainital, Pangot and even Sattal will be in the itinerary. It's surprising how long a chap can go on just Bananas and Beer. Gin is a good disinfectant too.

@Galana although I'd rather not have gotten sick(!!) it was worth it.  Unfortunately no beer or gin at Birder's Den! Barely any food!

 

2 hours ago, Zim Girl said:

Superb report so far @janzin, a masterclass in bird photography. Beautiful pictures, although I also particularly loved the sunlit forest ones in Corbett.

Thanks @Zim Girl those Corbett sun rays are some of my faves too.

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janzin

A few more from our afternoon at Birder's Den. I saved some of my favorites for last :)

 

Love Nuthatches. There was another Asian Nuthatch, the Velvet-fronted Nuthatch--which we saw, but couldn't photograph, in Pangot. An incredibly striking bright blue with a bright orange bill. Wish I'd been able to photograph it, but this Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch ain't bad!

 

chestnut_bellied_nuthatch_JZ8_8646a.jpg

 

Woodpeckers are my favorite genus of birds and I was eager to see the Yellow-napes. There's a Lesser and a Greater, we saw both but for some reason I only seem to have photos of the Greater. The Lesser looks similar but has red on the head.

 

greater_yellownape_JZ8_8371a.jpg

 

greater_yellownape_JZ8_8721a.jpg

 

Another woodpecker, more common...

 

grey_headed_woodpecker_JZ8_8429a.jpg

 

grey_headed_woodpecker_JZ8_8447a.jpg

 

The Grey-hooded Warbler is super common everywhere.

 

grey_hooded_warbler_JZ8_9140a.jpg

 

It took me awhile to ID this Chestnut-bellied Rockthrush, because the female, seen here, is completely different than the male. We never saw the male.

 

chestnut_bellied_rock_thrush_JZ8_8854a.j

 

And last, but certainly not least, the bird at the head of my trip report: Great Barbet. Its the Toucan of Asia, I think! Huge and colorful bird! He deserves multiple photos :)

 

 

great_barbet_JZ8_8366a.jpg

 

great_barbet_JZ8_8543a.jpg

 

great_barbet_JZ8_8818a.jpg

 

What a great afternoon, most definitely a highlight of the trip. I never thought I'd enjoy sitting in a bird blind but as a photographer it really is heaven.

 

I was excited because the next morning we had a reservation for a different blind at a different location. But unfortunately...it was during this afternoon that I may have made my foolish mistake...at some point, Hari handed me a cup of water and I drank quite a bit of it. He said it was filtered.  Only afterwards I realized...uh-oh, filtered doesn't mean bottled.

 

Oh no....

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TonyQ

Your superb photos continue!

Sorry to hear about the filtered water.

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Towlersonsafari

@Galanaa said

Quote

Gin is a good disinfectant too.

you just want to inject it don't you!

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Galana
Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Towlersonsafari said:

you just want to inject it don't you!

Inject or Ingest? The latter is much safer. There is always some in my Travel Kit in case I can't buy local.

 

 

Oops. Forgetting my manners. Great photos Janet.

Edited by Galana
Additional updated comment.

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Soukous

More terrific photos Janet. I am impressed (very) with how you manage to find such unobtrusive backgrounds for your bird shots. Is this good positioning or great PP skills?

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janzin
5 hours ago, Soukous said:

More terrific photos Janet. I am impressed (very) with how you manage to find such unobtrusive backgrounds for your bird shots. Is this good positioning or great PP skills?

 

In terms of the hide photos, its mainly the way its set up.  The perches are at a distance from anything behind so most backgrounds just fall naturally out of focus. And of course, even when something is slightly in the background, (i.e. the 1st Barbet photo above) the bokeh of the 500 F4 lens, even with the TC, is amazing, far superior to that of the 500PF.

 

Some of these were at fairly high ISO and those were processed with Topaz AI Clear which does an absolutely incredible job of noise reduction and sharpening in one go.

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elefromoz

So many beautiful birds Janet, glad you got the Lammergeier too, so exciting when one pops up amongst  the other Vultures. Mmm, "rock hard beds, freezing and terrible food" and a dose of the "belly", Im glad the birding was so good  to compensate. I'm thinking you were pretty brave with your roadside eating, we stuck to confectionary lunches on the road, chocolate and potato chips. 

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Galana
On 5/1/2020 at 3:28 PM, janzin said:

the bokeh of the 500 F4 lens,

I've got to ask!

Is 'bokeh' a typo, if so for what or am I missing something I should learn about?  Serious . Not a wind up.

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