The morning’s light was not much to speak of, but the afternoon was much darker. A heavy downpour which cleared off the smoke would have been very welcome, but it didn’t rain. There was a lack of light, and a heavy dampness in the air reduced the visibility further. Walking was unhealthy in this smoke-filled air. I had planned to go back to the spot on the road where I’d seen a Koklass pheasant (Pucrasia macrolopha) the previous day, so we drove.

The road out of Munsiyari climbs for a while. At about the highest point nearby, a pair of these wrongly-named grouses had been foraging on the roadside the previous evening. The female ran across the road in front of the car and disappeared into the bushes at the edge of the drop. I’d got off the car to peek at the verge. The crested head of the male which had been skulking below the bushes, was all I had managed to see just before the two went noisily down the slope. The shutter of my camera took a split second more, and not even a blur could be seen in the photo. The Family had not seen them at all. So we went back again, in the slim hope of sighting them if they came to forage. The birds eat pine nuts, bamboo shoots, pollen, and, in this season, insects. The pickings would be meager on the narrow verge of the road. We reasoned that their range would be downslope. We saw no sign of them at all.

I’d noticed a meadow a little further down where differently coloured rhododendrons were in bloom. We went there to take photos of the variety of colours these flowers come in at the upper end of their range. As I took photos from the edge of drop, I noticed a bird feeding on them (featured photo). Backing up to the road, I found The Family in front of that tree, signaling to me frantically. The bird had had enough to eat, and was taking a friendly look at her. I managed to click a photo. We’d seen it the previous month in the eastern Himalayas at the same height; it was a Green-backed Tit (Parus monticolus). I’d never seen it feeding before. Every sighting of a bird on this trip was a surprise.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


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