All creatures great and small around Firdaus, Naukuchiataal - Our rendezvous with the flora and fauna of the lawn

Himalayan Black-Lored Tit

The best way to wake up any morning is to wake up to the chorus of birds and people who have this opportunity are really privileged, even if most of the times they take it for granted. This luxury is not hard to come by in the mountains - a fact that was underlined during our recent 4-day visit to Firdaus, a cozy little cottage near Naukuchiataal. 


This is an old video and there have been a few updates since this was shot. The cottage now has 4 bedrooms and a cool machaan, built like a mezzanine on the first floor. The kitchen is now a few feet from the main house. The cottage has aged nicely and looks more at home in its surroundings now as bougainvillea vines have overtaken one side and the trees that were small earlier are now tall and imposing. The area too is more happening with several new cottages in the vicinity. In case you want to find out more, you can read this old blog about our previous visit to Firdaus. If you want to visit this homestay, you can book through this link: https://abnb.me/I9FH9iOn5ib.

This time when we were there, it was during the monsoon season and the gardens were teeming with life. Not only did we wake up to bird songs, we also had other creatures for company. We saw several beautiful moths - one had a skull like pattern on its wings. We saw an interesting stick insect, several grasshoppers, a praying mantis, a chameleon, and a rather persistent toad that would not be dissuaded from its attempts to enter the house. It was an absolute delight and reminded me of this pastoral poem written by Cecil Francis Alexander:   

All things bright and beautiful, 
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful, 
the Lord God made them all.

 

Himalayan Black-Lored Tit
Himalayan Black-Lored Tit

One of the new birds we spotted during this visit was the Himalayan Black-lored Tit. These tiny birds came in large numbers and created quite a racket on the peach tree in the lawn. It was easy to identify that this was a tit but some research was required to reach to the final identification as the Himalayan black-lored tit. This bird stands out among the tiny yellow birds that frequent the area (Indian White-eye and yellow grey-hooded warblers) because of its black crest and black stripes all along the length of its body. And it is a boisterous bird considering its size. 

Himalayan Black-Lored Tit
Himalayan Black-Lored Tit
The black-lored tit feeds on insects and spiders and occasionally also on fruit. It uses woodpecker or barbet holes for nesting, but is also known to carve its own hole. It is a gregarious bird and is often found to join mixed-species foraging flocks in non-breeding season. 

Streaked Laughingthrush
Streaked Laughingthrush

Streaked laughingthrush is another common visitor at Firdaus. A talkative bird that makes solo or couple appearances throughout the day, the streaked laughingthrush is orange-brown in color with a yellowish patch beneath the eye and streaks all along the body. Songs are variable and the bird is usually found foraging near the ground. It likes living close to human population. 

White-throated Fantail
White-throated Fantail

White-throated fantail was almost always around, hopping from branch to branch, spreading it fan-like tail, while searching for insects to feast upon. In fact the fantail here was one of the loudest birds, which is different from our observation of this bird near our home in Himachal Pradesh. 

Grey Bushchat (Juvenile)
Grey Bushchat (Juvenile)

This was another new discovery - a grey bushchat. This bird here is a juvenile, but we also saw an adult male around. As you can see, the Juvenile bird has a shorter tail and a yellowish patch around the eye. You can also make out the beginnings of a white supercilium. The belly is white so it is probably a male. 

The male has silvery grey upperparts with white supercilium, throat, belly and wing patches. Female is dull brown with a rufus tail. Grey Bushchats eat insects, spiders, and small molluscs. They usually perch on a high mount and from there take on a prey on the ground, but are also known to catch prey in flight. 

Black Drongo
Black Drongo

The Black drongo, of course, is a common sighting in plains. Perched on powerlines, these solitary birds are keen observers of the surroundings and catch insects in flight. This is a black drongo. I had some trouble arriving at an identification since it is easy to mix up black drongo and ashy drongo. However, in another photograph that VJ had managed to click (the photo is blurred and cannot be posted here), we were able to see the a small white spot beneath the eye (known as rictal spot). That identifies it as a black drongo without a doubt. 

Indian Chameleon
Indian Chameleon

Apart from these birds, we also saw the Great Barbet, Indian White Eye, Rufous Treepie, etc. So if you plan to visit Firdaus or Naukuchiataal, don't forget to carry a good pair of binoculars, because opportunities for birding might present themselves to you right there at the doorstep. 

Comments

Smita Dhall said…
Too good!! The pictures are beautiful. Thanks for sharing this.
Nandan Jha said…
Now I read this and wonder that we had quite a busy time with everyone around . :-)
Vibha said…
World is truly magical!

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