Birding Tour in Chail
This experience of a birding trip that I wish to share is of the days when I lived in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh. Though Baddi falls in Himachal Pradesh, cold winters and harsh summers are typical to the plains of Punjab.
Shivalik ranges seen behind the town of Baddi are the foot hills of Himalayas that according to me were quite huge. But for my colleagues who hailed from Chamba, Mandi, Kullu etc. didn’t even consider the Shivaliks as hills, as they compared them with the mighty Himalayas. Himalayas that stood taller than the clouds !
One fine Saturday afternoon, Ashish (my dear friend) returned home from work and was tired. When I shared my plan of a birding trip to the place of highest cricket ground, he agreed by packing his bag.
Cool breeze welcomed us at Parwanoo when our vehicle glided smoothly on the NH22. It was 8:00PM when we reached Solan, a district head quarters in Himachal Pradesh. The town was half asleep when we could find a decent hotel to dine and rest.
Solan is a beautiful city that is surrounded by hills. Chirping of birds made us to jump out of the bed in joy. Beautiful hills covered in high altitude Deodar trees, morning mist, greenery, cool himachali faces brought a broad smile on our faces.
Deviation to the right from NH22 at Kandha Ghat leads to Chail village. Unhurried morning rides on the country roads of himachal Pradesh is an experience to be experienced, as words fall short!
We stopped for breakfast at Sadhuphul on the banks of Aasan River. A roadside dhaba fed us hot parathas, while young ones of a Swift were fed by its mom in the nest in the verandah. The young ones seemed ever hungry and the parents made countless rounds for food.
Sadhuphul is a small picturesque hamlet to be imagined on the river bank in a valley. While we were enjoying the climate, Blue Whistling Thrush a resident bird of Himalayan region was hopping & whistling and stopping in between to pick some insects. We observed the Small Blue Kingfisher swaying its gyroscopic head to lock on a fish in the river but flew suddenly with a shrill chee chee to land on a rock.
On the other side of the river a lone Crested Kingfisher was meditating in the sunlight and seemed like it was in no mood to catch a meal! Himalayan Bulbuls, the northern cousins of Red Whiskered Bulbuls of South India were chirping in joy on a hibiscus plant.
Winding roads ahead of Sadhuphul took us to Chail. This is where the palace of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh sits amidst the green hills. Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, was expelled from his summer retreat in Shimla by British a Officer. In the year 1892 Maharaja built the lavish palace at chail and made it as his new summer retreat. He also got a Cricket ground constructed which is famed as world’s highest cricket ground. The ground is now utilized by the Military School at Chail. Chandimandir that sits atop a hill in Chail gives a beautiful view of Shivaliks. And we decided to start back to Baddi but we didn’t want to retrace the route. Scrolling through the pages of Himachal map, we decided to take an unpaved and adventurous route! Steep descent from Chail to Gaura village kicked the adrenaline.
I have sighted decent number of Vultures in Himachal when compared to Karnataka and this time I sighted a Himalayan Griffon flying at the eye level. Vulture population across India has dropped by more than 90% due to the use of Diclofenac drug in cattle. Diclofenac, a strong pain killer for mammals is a killing chemical for Vultures that eat carcass of dead cattle. Though Diclofenac is banned for veterinary use in India, it has already made the considerable damage to Vulture population.
We stopped at Gaura village for some refreshment at 4 PM and further up the road at Ojhaghat we sighted a pair of Red Billed Blue Magpies. We witnessed male bird was pleasing the female by dancing and offering food. I could click some pictures of the duo.
We reached NH22 after getting directions from the smiling faces and hot pakoras frying at a dhaba were a delight in the chill weather.
We both got the rejuvenated much needed and we felt we were back from a slice of heaven !