Winged Visitors around our home in Mandi, Himachal || Birds of the Himalayas

One of the great pleasures of visiting our home in a village in the Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh is waking up to the songs of countless birds of different varieties. There's a little brook that flows behind our home, and it may be because of this that birds are especially fond of hanging out around our home. 

Every time we visit our home, we see new birds and this time was no different. The only aspect that changed was that this time, the camera was in my hands instead of VJs. And some birds that we had never seen before decided to make an appearance. 

One of the most important skills required for bird photography is patience. In most cases, going after these birds is of no use. The more you chase, the more they elude. However, if you sit back and lie low, chances are that these birds will come to you and provide you with some really cool shots. This was the major learning for me during this trip. 

One surprising factor about birds of any place is that locals hardly ever notice them. Even if they do, they have some very generic names for these birds, such as "khuggi" for all types of doves, "goraiya" for all sparrow-like birds, and "lambi poonch waali chidiya" for magpies. They are so used to having these wonderful birds around that they take them for granted. For them, city-dwellers like us, running after these birds to click them is amusing. And more often than not, you will find it very difficult to identify a bird using the local names.So most of the times, we concentrate on clicking pictures when we are at home and then work on the identification later. 

Let us go through all the birds we happened to photograph this time, starting from the very common Jungle Babbler. Also known as "saat bhai" or "Seven Sisters", these gregarious birds tend to hang around in groups of 7-8 individuals. If you spread out bird feed, chances are that babblers will be the first to arrive on the scene.   

Very often, babblers are seen at close proximity of Mynahs. Noisy and boisterous, both the species are fearless when it comes to being around humans, their courage being second to may be sparrows only. Not too pleasant to the ears, their call can be easily identified.

In contrast, the Spotted Dove was shy and timid. Not only did it linger on the periphery when humans were around, it tended to keep a distance from the other birds, such as Mynahs, babblers, and Sparrows. Spotted Doves, like almost all other doves, hang around in pairs. Their call is a haunting hoot that they let out at regular intervals when separated from each other by some distance. Click here to listen to its call:

One of the birds I went chasing after was the Yellow-Billed Blue Magpie. I went to the neighboring field in order to get a good shot. However, the elusive birds kept going deeper and deeper into the jungle and higher and higher up. Some intuition told me to stay back, so I returned to our backyard and waited. Sure enough, that retreat brought the birds right where I wanted them, on our boundary walls and into our backyard, where we had put some pieces of chapatti. I then clicked at leisure. 

The Yellow-Billed Blue Magpie belongs to the crow family and are curious fearless birds. Mostly their call is harsh, but it is supposed to have a range of notes, some of which are quite melodious. We, however, did not have the good fortune of listening to these melodious notes. Though screeches were commonplace. 

One of the most interesting visitors this time was the Verditer Flycatcher. I guess the bird I saw was a female because it was light blue. Males are supposed to be brighter blue. Of all the birds that we saw this time, the Verditer Flycatcher turned out to be the most generous in terms of posing for pictures.
Apparently, the bird rarely makes an appearance around our home. This was the first time VJ had seen it here. And it was a rare sight for the locals too. Some people hadn't ever seen it around. I consider myself very lucky that a trust relationship developed between this particular flycatcher and myself. It gave me ample opportunities to click itself sitting in low branches of the tree right behind our home. 

Himalayan Bulbuls too made an appearance. This was a group of three birds who were continuously feeding each other. At first, I thought that one of them is a baby, but then soon realized that the one who was being fed the most was actually the largest of all. And at times this one too was feeding the other two. It was quite confusing frankly. 

Himalayan Bulbuls are relatively small in size and have white cheeks and grey-black bodies and a pale yellow patch beneath the tails. They have a dark-colored crest on their heads and males and females have are similar in color. Their song is pleasant to the ears. 

Other birds that we saw were the Oriental White-Eye, Green-Backed Tits, Coal Tits, some Sunbirds, and various types of parakeets. One particular parakeet that I couldn't capture had a red head. It made an appearance only for a few seconds. 

The visitor of honor this time was the Great Barbet. This was one bird that I had to chase to click. And even then, I couldn't get a shot that I can be proud of. None of the locals had seen this bird ever in the locality and I consider myself truly lucky that it chose to make an appearance when I was there. Click here to listen to its song:

It was raining most of the time while we were there. It is easier to sight birds on sunny days especially during winter. So next time we visit our home in winter, we will most probably return with many more photos of many new varieties of birds that bless us with a sighting some times.

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