Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

August 8, 2017

Himalaya Birding Part 2

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 2:46 pm

Tirthan Valley Birding Part 2.

While in the Himalayas, I stay at the Tirthan Himalayan Adventures. Email: and phone: +91 9459 101 001. The guest house is really terrific. You get looked after really well and the environment is amazing. I think May-June and September-October would be the best times to visit.

 Himalayan Bulbul
Himalayan Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucogenys)

The Himalayan Bulbul looks very similar to the White-eared Bulbul. The main striking difference is the forward-sweeping crest. The head is also brown and the white cheek spotting is smaller. The White-eared Bulbul has a black head and the same yellow vent.

Blue Whistling Thrush  - adult
Blue Whistling Thrush (Myphonus caerulus) adult

The adult Blue Whistling Thrush has head and body spangled with glistening silvery blue.

 Little Forktail  - juvenile
Little Forktail (Enicurus scouleri) juvenile

I did not go on any treks up to the the Great Himalaya National Park. To do it, I think you have to be very experienced and fit. I only went a couple of kilometers up the track and that was enough for me. You have to climb more than 2000 meters to the camp. I have seen photos of the area and it is totally alpine up there above the treeline. You can even climb to 5000 meters where there are glaciers, beyond which is the Spiti Valley.

Large-billed Crow
Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos)

Black Bulbul
Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus)

Little Pied Flycatcher
Little Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula westermanni)

not sure.
Dark-sided Flycatcher

Tirthan Valley bird list

Slaty-headed Parakeet (Psitticula himalayana)
Yellow-billed Blue Magpie (Urocissa flavirostris cucullata)
Great Barbet (Megalaima virens)
Little Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula westermanni)
Verditer Flycatcher (Eumyias thalassinus)
Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus)
Himalayan Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucogenys)
Blue Whistling Thrush (Myphonus caerulus)
Pied Bushchat (Saxicola caprata)
Little Forktail (Enicurus scouleri) juvenile
Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos)
Shikra (Accipiter badius)
Grey-hooded Warbler
Dark-sided Flycatcher

August 5, 2017

Himachal Tourist

Filed under: General — Tags: , — admin @ 3:46 pm

From Shimla to Mandi.

This morning I checked out of my guest house in Shimla and walked down the hill to the Old Bus Stand. A good man I met showed me the way, then gave me a lift in his taxi-ride to the new Bus Stand.

shimla hills
Shimla hills

We were travelling along nicely in the express bus when bam! this car runs into the bus. He was a complete idiot overtaking without looking and plowing straight into the rear wheel arch. After a bit of an argument the bus driver and car driver got into a punch up. Then things started getting ugly when a mob turned against the bus driver. I was really scared. Mob violence can flare up so easily.

car crash
The car crashed.

Luckily things calmed down. We waited for the police to turn up. They came eventually and took photos and marked the spots and took down statements. They blamed the car driver of course. It was totally his fault.

raging river
Raging River

The bus got to Mandi eventually, probably a couple of hours late. The river was roaring from all the rain and the snows melting up the hill.

sunken gardens
Sunken Gardens.

After I found a hotel and had a wash, I went for a walk around town. The town square has a sunken garden in the middle, with shops around the perimeter.

market lane
Market lane

The police blocked off the central section and people just promenaded and hung out without all that ugly traffic and beeping horns.

Himachal Pradesh – India

Filed under: Birds — admin @ 4:41 am

Shimla Birding – Himachal Pradesh.

It was raining early in the morning so I stayed in bed, had breakfast and watched television until it stopped.

Tibetan Blackbird
Blue Whistling Thrush (Myophonus caeruleus) juvenile

Lucky I took the camera out for a run today. I did not expect any birds but some eventually turned up and it became a good day with four new birds. Mistake with ID. thanks for the correction
Streaked Laughingthrush
Streaked Laughingthrush (Garrulax lineatus)

I knew this was a laughingthrush but which kind I did not know until I got the book out.

Red-billed Leiothrix
Red-billed Leiothrix (Leiothrix lutea)

I thought this was some kind of mesia and it took me a while to work out what it was.

Grey Bushchat
Grey Bushchat (Saxicola ferreus)

I took some photos with the point and shoot camera yesterday and I was glad to get a record shot at least of a Grey Bushchat. But still not a good shot.

White-eared Bulbul
White-eared Bulbul

shimla hills
The hills are alive

Shimla bird list

Tibetan Blackbird (Turdus maximus)
Streaked Laughingthrush (Garrulax lineatus)
Red-billed Leiothrix (Leiothrix lutea)
Grey Bushchat (Saxicola ferreus)
White-eared Bulbul
House Crow
Black Kite
Common Myna

August 3, 2017

Shimla Tourist

Filed under: General — Tags: , — admin @ 4:23 pm

Himachal Pradesh

I took the bus brom Chandigarh this morning. We climbed uphill all day, around twisty corners. Finally made it to the New Bus Stand at Shimla, where I was totally confused as to where I was or how to get to my guest house. Finally this nice guy put me on the bus to the old bus stand right in town.

shimla panorama
Panorama shot of Shimla

Then I had to find my hotel, which was another nightmare in itself. Finally after asking dozens of people and ringing up the hotel three times, I found my guest house. In the afternoon I went for a walk up the mall, where there is no traffic. Pure bliss for India.

hill market
Uphill markets.

These markets were set up this track up the hill. It was so steep.

The Mall, Shimla
The Mall

Everyone walks along the mall. It is very civilized. Nice change.

shimal panorama 2
Another panorama.

Looking down the hill from the top of Shimla.

Grey Bushchat
Grey Bushchat (Saxicola ferreus)

I took this photo on my crappy point and shot and asked the local experts what it was. It is a tick. Too funny. It was just hanging out on the wire right next to me.

August 2, 2017

Chandigarh Birding

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 5:17 am

A walk in the forest.

I found a bit of forest down the road from my hotel. This morning I got up early and walked down the road and across the bridge. There was nothing much around, just a heap of peacocks. Luckily I managed to see and photograph an Indian Grey Hornbill or the day would have been a dead loss.

Indian Grey Hornbill
Indian Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros birostris)

On the way back it started drizzling, so I put the camera away and put up the umbrella. The rain kept getting harder, so I sheltered under a tree waiting for it to stop but it did not. Usually it stops after a little while.

Indian Grey Hornbill
Indian Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros birostris)

Chandigarh bird list

Indian Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros birostris)
Rufous Treepie
Common Myna
Bank Myna

July 30, 2017

The Rat Temple

Filed under: General — Tags: , — admin @ 8:02 am

Deshnok, Rajasthan.

I caught the bus early this morning to Deshnok where the Rat Temple is. The temple is unique in that it is a sanctuary for rats. Locals believe that the Kabas carry the souls of the future charans who inhabit the region.

Rats drink milk
Drinking milk.

The rats get fed milk. They eat better than I do!

Num Num
Eating grains

And lots of grains and ratty food. I could have bought some rat food for ten rupees but I did not want to feed them. One crawled over my foot and I screamed.

On rations
Drinking water

This rat must have been on rations.

Rat sanctum sanctorum
The sanctum sanctorum.

This is where the god lives. If I was a god I would want a better home.

sugar cane drink
Sugar Cane Man

Squeezing sugar cane for a drink. The machine is powered by an old diesel motor that just chugs along.

Man and Oxen
Man and Oxen

A bloke and his oxen. I was going to send him the photo by email but he did not know what email was.

July 29, 2017

Bikaner Cattle Dump

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 9:23 am

Jorbeer Conservation Reserve

My guest house owner, vino, took me to the Bikaner cattle dump this morning to see the vultures. It was a fair way out of town, beyond an abandoned housing estate – the other side of the railway tracks, literally. Some men were there boiling down hooves and stuff for making glue I guess. They were also stripping the hides for leather.

Rosy Starling
Rosy Starling (Pastor roseus)

We saw these birds late in the morning as we were finishing. We had seen a few flocks flying around and I did not know what they were. They were Rosy Starling.

Rosy Starling
Rosy Starling (Pastor roseus)

Here is what they look like in flight.

Red-naped Ibis
Red-naped Ibis (Pseudibis papillosa)

I thought these were Glossy Ibis at first until I saw the red head on them. What is a nape? I have no idea! And they are fake ibis, not real ones, pseudo-ibis. 🙂

Black Kites
Black Kite (Milvus migrans)

There were tons of these around.

Egyptian Vulture
Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)

Not very many vultures around. And only one variety. [insert sad face]

Egyptian Vulture
Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)

And one in flight.

Common Babbler
Common Babbler (Turdoides caudata)

And of course a Common Babbler with what looks like a very angry ant. He later dropped it.

Changeable Lizard
Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor)

I have not seen a Changeable Lizard up a tree before. A lot of people call these chameleons. I am not sure if that is the right term.

Bikaner Bird List

Rosy Starling (Pastor roseus)
Red-naped Ibis (Pseudibis papillosa)
White-browed Wagtail
Black Kite
Cattle Egret
Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)
Common Babbler (Turdoides caudata)
Bank Myna
Indian Silverbill
Green Bee-eater
Brahminy Starling (Sturnia pagodarum)
White-cheeked Bulbul
Red-wattled Lapwing
Indian Robin
Lesser Whistling-duck
Little Grebe
Rufous Treepie
Eurasian Collared Dove
Grey Francolin
Chestnut-shouldered Petronia female

July 28, 2017

No Cranes At Khichan

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 2:37 pm

Khichan Birding, Rajasthan.

25th July 2017. I arrived about mid-day to Khichan and tried to find a cheap hotel but there was only an expensive resort, so I settled for the luxury of air-conditioning and a swimming pool. It was within budget. In the afternoon I went looking for any birds. I was there at the wrong time of year, I knew that.

Rufous-tailed Lark
Rufous-tailed Lark (Ammomanes phoenicura)

I think this might be a Rufous-tailed Lark but there is every possibility that I am wrong. Edit: No, I am right this time. Confirmed by the gurus on the Indian ID group.

immature what ?
Immature Purple Sunbird

I have no idea what this very immature bird is. Maybe an Ashy Prinia? It has me bamboozled. Edit: Immature Purple Sunbird. doh!

Common Babbler
Common Babbler (Turdoides caudata)

These are relatively common but more so in the north in my humble opinion.

Indian Silverbill
Indian Silverbill

This is the only photo I got of this Indian Silverbill. It is not the bes of photos but it does show the bird very well.

Purple Sunbird male
Purple Sunbird (Nectarinia asiatica) male

The Purple Sunbird is so common in the north that it is ridiculous. Everywhere I go, even in the harshest of environments, there they are.

Brown Rock Chat ??
Brown Rock Chat (Cercomela fusca)

Another guess here. Maybe a Brown Rock Chat. Edit: Experts confirm it is one. Two correct ID’s. legend. 🙂

Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark
Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark (Eremopterix griseus)

I am fairly confident about this one. Finally.

Poekilocerus pictus

This creepy grasshopper was just sitting there. Doing nothing.
“Poekilocerus pictus is a large brightly colored grasshopper from India. Nymphs of the species are notorious for squirting a jet of liquid up to several inches away when grasped. It is also known as Aak grasshopper” (wiki)

Khichan Bird List

Rufous-tailed Lark (Ammomanes phoenicura)
immature ???
Brown Rock Chat (Cercomela fusca)
Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark (Eremopterix griseus)
Common Babbler (Turdoides caudata)
Indian Silverbill
Purple Sunbird
Red-wattled Lapwing
House Sparrow
White-cheeked Bulbul
Red-vented Bulbul
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Grey Francolin

July 22, 2017

More Rajasthan Tourism

Filed under: General — Tags: , — admin @ 12:21 pm

A Walk to Jodhpur Fort

Up again early this morning to escape the intense heat. I walked up the hill through the narrow medieval lanes, trying not to hit dead ends.

View of Jodhpur
A view of Jodhpur

I finally hit the road to the top of the hill. The view from there was quite impressive. I do not go much for scenery and stuff like that, but it was pretty awesome.

Jodhpur Fort
The fort from the road

The view of the fort was quite formidable as well. I found the Desert Rock Park and discovered that there are birds in there, so I am going back late this afternoon.

fort passageway
Fort passageway

I paid my entrace fee to the fort and went in. There were lots of historical displays and the fort is kept in pretty good order, so that is good.

Fort walls
Towering walls.

I would hate to have to scale those walls with boiling oil pouring down on me!

Rajasthan Tourist

Filed under: General — Tags: , — admin @ 11:09 am

Jaiselmer Fort

This morning I was up at 6am trying to beat the heat. I wandered down the road looking for a cup of chai, then circled the fort at Jaisalmer, just soaking up the atmosphere. I finally found the gate in and wandered around inside the fort.

fort ramparts
The ramparts.

Everything is built in stone.

View from a fort
View from the fort

This is the town from the fort. It is foggy in the distance. Below is the camp of the road workers.

Narrow lanes
Narrow lanes

The lanes inside are very narrow and wind around all over the place.


A gloomy look out through one of the gated passageways.

Below the fort
Outside the fort

The road workers camp from the road circling the fort.

Breaking rocks in the hot sun
Breaking Rocks in the hot sun.

This guy is breaking rocks and making them squarish so they can be used in buildings. Everything here is built in stone.

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