Koklass and Chir are the two pheasants of the Himalayan pine grasslands which are typical of the middle heights. I’d seen a family of Koklass pheasants (Pucrasia macrolopha) a year and a half ago, dashing across the road in front of our car, as we drove up to Munsiyari. Now I had an equally pleasant surprise as I saw one sunning itself in a meadow northeast of the little village of Dotiyal. I’m sure it was aware of us, and of our car, but it felt safe in its place at a small flat land on top of a three meter high cliff next to the road. Koklass are perhaps misnamed grouse. I saw another later eating the abundant flowers of a Strobilanthes that was in season. I guess that with the offspring fledged, these birds are now returning to their winter’s vegetarian diet.
I’d never seen Chir pheasants (Catreus wallichii) before. They are named after the chir pines (Pinus roxburghii) which dot and stabilize these grasslands. We could hear their calls all day, but once they hunker down in the grass, they are hard to spot. Eventually our luck turned at another patch of rocky grass not far from where we’d seen the Koklass the previous day. A group of three, two males and a female, came up to a steeply sloping patch above us and called for a while to establish their territory. I guess one of the males was a juvenile at the age when it is just about to leave its parents. These were Diwali presents like nothing I’ve had before.