'Twitching' to go!

Posted in Guides on Monday, August 4th, 2014

At the end of May, a number of our guides (Santosh Joshi, Raju Mehta, Kheem Singh and Deepak Joshi from Binsar, along with Lokesh Takuli, Pankaj Takuli, Khim Sing and Mahesh Takuli from Saryu) set off to Maheshkhan in Nainital for a 3 day advanced bird watching camp in the forest. They were among 37 keen amateur participants (many of them guides from various rural tourism villages) eager to learn all they could from Ornithologists and other professionals of the field who were running the 3 day hands on workshop set up by the ecotourism wing of the Forest Department of Uttarakhand, as part of a state bird watching programme.

All participants came home with a certificate, but most of all having had a great experience, and armed and ready with plenty of new practical and theoretical knowledge to put to the test in their own roles as guides!

The dense habitat of Maheshkhan forest is mainly of’ baanj’ oak interspersed with chir pine, and it proved itself on this occasion to be a valuable one for the pursuit of bird watching. No less than 68 species were spotted on the trip, including some rare and habitat restricted birds. According to the local Tribune covering the camp’s success, among those spotted were:

The Maroon Oriole

The Blue winged Minla

The Black Faced Warbler

The Mountain Bulbul

The Brown Wood Owl

The Rufous-Bellied Niltava

The White Throated Laughing Thrush

The Tickell’s Thrush

The Collared Owlet

Another lucky and most interesting spot for the group was of a mixed hunting flock of birds- a group of different insect eating bird species that flock together for better feeding opportunities in the dense forest. There was also a sighting of India’s largest butterfly, the ‘Birdwing Butterfly’.

Enthusiastic in their response, our guides came back full of praise for the trip.

Santash Joshi told us:

In these days I had learnt many new ways to identify birds as our trainers were experts in their fields...We went into the jungle and our trainer showed us a new technology- he had equipment from where he plays a recorded sound of birds which attracts real birds so that we can watch them...It was a learning experience for all of us and will help us in our future work.”

Deepak Joshi, who helped organise the camp and attended it was full of pride for the impact he hopes the camp to have:

The camp was organised to motivate and encourage eco-tourism and to spread awareness of the local environment...We had identified 68 different birds and the biggest butterfly I have ever seen! We have learnt many different skills which will help us to become knowledgeable bird watchers and bring a good name to Village Ways. I’m thankful to Village Ways for their effort to train and make us professional and knowledgeable guides.”

Kheem Singh spoke of the knowledge he has gained and the inspiration he took from the professionals who attended the camp:

It was a really beautiful place and we met different people from different places. In our group our trainer was Dr Gajola, she is a great bird watcher and I have learnt a lot with her. We identified many birds which we also see in Binsar. We were also taught about bird calls and how to identify which call is a breeding call or which is a warning call. It was a great opportunity for us.”

Binsar and Saryu are already known as great destinations for guests interested in bird watching and wildlife in general, and our guests often come back raving about all they’ve seen and learnt from our guides there, who all have a keen interest in and thirst for knowledge of their environment. 

Why not dust off those binoculars, fish out that bird book and head to the foothills of the Himalayas to this wonderful wildlife sanctuary and its neighbouring valleys!