When Kaustuv first stumbled upon Chopta last March, he had no idea it would leave him enthralled. It was March, still cold, and perfect to get away from work and the city fumes. An avid birder, he so was enrapturedby the Himalayan Monal when he saw it in a zoo in Darjeeling that he wanted to see this beautiful creature in its natural habitat.
What followed was a memorable trip to Chopta at a beautiful birding homestay in Kagraghat on the banks of the Mandakini river which was ravaged in the devastating flash floods of Uttarakhand in 2013 but painstakingly restored to its former glory.
The sun crested mountain tops, the pristine white snow, the sound of nothing – ah, it was the perfect setting for a perfect birding spree. Chopta, its environs Chandrashila and Tungnath are a birding hotspot, a thriving humming biosphere with what seems like a gazillion variety of birds just waiting to be seen and ah yes photographed.
With his camera and telescopic lens, Kaustuv set out to ‘capture’ the elusive Monal. Accompanied with a local expert who knew every call, every specie and its habitat, Kaustuv was in for an unearthly experience.
Some of the birds he saw included the Scarlet Minivet, the White Crusted Minithrushes, the Ultramarine Flycatcher and the tiny Fire breasted flowerpecker among others.
Higher up they went until finally their hardwork paid off – the Himalayan Monal was in full sight. “I forgot to breathe,” says Kaustuv. “It was not just the rarefied mountain air, the altitude (by now we were above 10,000 ft) or the superb vistas that made me giddy.”
There was so much more to this avarian trip. Read more on Kaustav’s adventure here.