27° 06′ 05″ N 88° 40′ 40″ E

The village is called Kolakham. A few houses nestle in the middle of one of the arms of a huge U of cliffs around the deep Neora valley, about 2000 meters above sea level. We woke just before dawn, had our tea, and were ready for a morning of bird-watching. The area has been free of COVID-19 for some time, and we had tested negative. In any case, between 6 and 8 in the morning we did not meet anyone on the black-topped road which makes a tight w through the slopes along the houses. It was nice to be able to walk through the hills without masks, breathing in the cold foresty air.

Right in the garden of the homestay we saw the colourful Mrs. Gould’s sunbird, too active for good photography so early in the morning. The light improved through our two hours-long walk. It was done at the halting pace of birdwatchers, going back and forth, trotting now and then to catch up with a tree-hopper, immense frustration with the camera, and absolute elation at the number of lifers. I also got to try out my new eyes. I have been happy living without spectacles in the city for the couple of months since my eye surgery. But artificial lenses are tuned to the life most people lead, and it is clear that birdwatchers are not a major category for people who design prosthetics. I will have to get spectacles to look at warbler-sized birds beyond 20 or 30 meters.

All the birds in the photos in this post are lifers, I’d never seen them before. Isn’t it amazing how many of them have long-tails? The Rufous Sibia was a surprise; I’ve been at this height very often, and it is a common bird at this elevation. I should have seen it before. That’s why you need to come back to nearly the same place again and again.