Category Archives: Wildlife

With Alpine Accentors in the Polish Tatra mountains

SOM_0629 headerI was nearing Kondracka Kopa, a small peak in the Tatra mountains. This was my fourth day of treking in the Polish Tatra mountains. The last few days had been wet and cloudy, but the weather forecast had promised that it would get better from today. The birding had been quite slow till now, probably due to the weather conditions. But now it had stopped drizzling and the sky was brightening up. 

Continue reading »

The Western Tragopan – A Painting : Acrylic on Canvas 15″ x 19″

SOM_6937-headerAlmost a decade ago, in 2006, I, along with a Danish friend,  made a series of exploratory treks into the remote Himalayan jungles of the Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh. We were conducting a preliminary survey for the presence of the elusive and rare Western Tragopan. The locals call the Western Tragopan the Jujurana or the king of birds (Juju = bird and rana = king), in my opinion a much more appropriate name for such a regal bird.

In all we must have spent about a month in the mountains. It was tough but it was also one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. You can read a more detailed write-up about those treks here http://somendras.com/?p=283 .

Continue reading »

The Common Kingfisher – A Painting (Acrylic on Canvas) 15″ x 18″


Common kingfisher 2809 header
We were birding around Kaza, in the Spiti valley, on a clear and sunny afternoon late in September. Despite the sun, there was a chill in the air. It was late in the “season”, and the bird activity had slowed down substantially. Most migrants had already left for their winter abode. There were patches of ice on the stream, the night temperatures were already dipping below the freezing point.

Continue reading »

The Pink-browed Rosefinch – A Painting : Acrylic on Canvas 19″ x 23″


SOM_5812-heading
Chitkul, the last village in the Baspa valley, is a birdwatchers’ paradise. It is one of the few places in the western Himalayas that are higher than 3000m and are still accessible by road. To top it all, it is located in the Raksham-Chitkul wildlife sanctuary.

I have spent a lot of time birding in the areas around Chitkul. The Pink-browed Rosefinch (Carpodacus rodochrous) is a common but very beautiful bird of this region. I have spent hours observing this bird in and around Chitkul. This painting is inspired by a sighting of a male on a dry bush. In this painting I have tried to capture the experience of seeing such a beautiful bird while alone in the wilderness of the Himalayas. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Continue reading »

The Spot-winged Tit – A Painting : Acrylic on paper 8″x11″

Spot winget tit 2817 headingIt was early in the season. We were climbing a steep trail near Chitkul in the Baspa valley on a clear day. A cool crisp breeze was flowing. The landscape was waking up from its winter slumber, and getting ready for the summer. Snow was still lying in the spots protected from the sun but in the sunny patches flowers were blooming.

Continue reading »

The White-bellied Redstart – A Painting (Acrylic on Canvas) 15″ x 18″

White Bellied Redstart SOM_4539 headingI saw this male White-bellied Redstart (Hodgsonius phaenicuroides) near Chitkul in the Baspa valley, Himachal Pradesh. It was skulking in the undergrowth, rummaging about in the dampness for insects. It would give fleeting glimpses and then disappear back into the shrubbery. I decided to sit very still and wait patiently.

Continue reading »

The White Throated Tits – A Painting (Acrylic on Canvas) 15″ x 18″

White Throated tits SOM_4536 headingIt was a crispy cold December day. I was on an assignment, to photograph the Forest Rest Houses of Uttarakhand. After photographing the Janaki Chatti Forest Rest House I had decided to trek up to Yamunotri. Although the pilgrimage season was over and the shrine would be closed, I was curious to visit the source of the mighty Yamuna.
After a long and steady walk I was at the highest point of the trail. The track passes through a very old oak forest, crosses a ridge and then descends to the Yamunotri shrine. The forest was silent and the birding had been quite slow.

Continue reading »

The Red-headed Bullfinches – A Painting (Acrylic on Canvas) 15″ x 18″

Bull finchesSOM_4533 headerIt was the beginning of the monsoon season. We were birding along the Taluka – Naitwar road, a few kilometers from the Naitwar village, in the Govind National Park (Uttarakhand). Birding was slow, possibly due to the intermittent showers we had been having throughout the day. We were walking along a stretch of the road that travels through a nice broadleaved forest. The shade of the great trees made the forest floor quite dark.

Continue reading »

The Solitary Chukar – a painting (Acrylic on Canvas) 15″x18″

Chakor SOM_4540 headerOur car was nearing Khab, a small village at the point where the Spiti river meets the mighty Sutlej river, while on our way back from a long visit to the Spiti valley. We were driving through some of most treacherous roads in India in my Alto (a small 800cc car). I was on the driving seat, concentrating on the road, which wound along a narrow gorge far above the Spiti river.

Suddenly a Chukar (Alectoris chukar) ran down the hillside, crossed the road and paused at the edge. The car was slow and I managed to stop it without startling the bird. Although we were quite close, the Chukar stood very still and looked back at us enquiringly. I bought my camera up very carefully and managed to take a photograph before it jumped off the edge of the road and glided down to some rocks far below us.

Continue reading »

White Throated Tits (Aegithalos niveogularis) of Yamunotri


We reached Janakichatti on a clear and crisply cold December evening at 4pm, about and hour and a half before sunset. Janakichatti is the road head for the trek to Yamunotri, the source of the Yamuna river, and one of the four major centers of Hindu pilgrimage in Uttarakhand (The other three being Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath).

Continue reading »

Har-ki-dun, a trek in the Govind National Park, Uttarakhand

This trek was the result of another off beat assignment. I was asked by a relative, who is also a publisher, whether I would be interested in working on a coffee table book covering the Forest Rest Houses of Uttarakhand. I jumped at the opportunity and volunteered to shoot the remote and less accessible Forest Rest Houses (FRHs). The first trip was to the Northwestern regions of Garhwal and the trek to Har-ki-dun was a part it.

Continue reading »

The Demoiselle Cranes of Kheechan


We reached Kheechan by first light and made our way to the terrace of a building next to the “Chugga Ghar” (literally feeding house) in the semi darkness. It was a typical cold and silent pre-dawn of a desert village. After ensuring that we had a good vantage point, Ram Narain, our guide went downstairs to organize tea for everyone. Soon we were enjoying a steaming cup of sweet masala chai (Indian milk tea) and biscuits while we waited.

Continue reading »

Birding in the Raksham Chhitkul Wildlife Sanctuary, Baspa Valley, Kinnaur

A tributary of the Sutlej, the Baspa river originates at a point near the tri-junction of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Tibet. It flows due west for about 60 kilometers before joining the Sutlej at Kharcham. This is the Baspa valley.

A part of the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, the Baspa valley lies in the lap of the great Himalayas. Sangla is its largest town, and therefore the Baspa valley is sometimes also referred to as the Sangla valley.

Continue reading »

Shooting tigers in the Bandhavgarh National Park

The Bandhavgarh National Park boasts of the highest tiger density in the world. It is also tourist friendly, easily accessible, has good visibility and has well made jungle tracks. In short, it is the best place in the world to see tigers in the wild.

During the last couple of years I have had the good fortune of visiting this park many times. I was photographing the Samode Safari Lodge, Bandhavgarh, and my work involved repeated visits.

I must have made at least 25 jeep safaris into the park during this period. Given the number of safaris and the “highest tiger density in the world” one would be forgiven to think that I would have seen a huge number of tigers during this time. Not true. Seeing tigers is not as easy as seeing their more exhibitionist cousins, the lions. In fact the Indian jungle is very different from the staple diet of the “African Savannah experience” tabled by the TV channels every day.

Continue reading »

Looking for Argali (Marco Polo Sheep, Ovis Ammon) in Tso Kar

Kiangs in a huddle

While in Leh, in September 2011, during a chance meeting with an officer from the Forest Department, I asked him whether it was possible to see wild Argali (Marco Polo sheep, Ovis Ammon) in Ladakh. It won’t be easy, he said, but it is possible. He told me that there was a small population of Marco Polo sheep in the Tso Kar Wildlife Sanctuary. Numbering about 150, this flock lived in the northern regions of the sanctuary. But, he added, the Argali were very shy and difficult to locate.  He said it might be a good idea to look around for the Marco Polo sheep in the Tso Kar wildlife sanctuary on the way back to Manali.

Continue reading »

Looking for the Ladakh Urial (Ovis orientalis vignei)

A young male Ladakh Urial

I started  from Leh at about 8 AM. I was alone, as nobody was ready to join me on this wild goose chase. My plan was to head to Gurudwara Pattharsahib and look for Ladakh Urail (Ovis orientalis vignei). During a chance conversation, a forest officer in Leh had informed me that there were a couple of flocks of Urial (a kind of wild sheep) which lived in  the hills near the Gurudwara. The drive from Leh to Pattharsahib takes about an hour. I was there at 9 AM after an uneventful drive.

Continue reading »

Portraits of Himalayan Birds


Great Rosefinch
The Himalayas are one the few truly wild spaces left in the world where one can spend weeks without coming in contact with civilization. I try and escape into the Himalayas for a few months every year. Trekking, mountaineering, birding, observing wild animals or just driving through. Some of the most cherished moments of my life have been in the Himalayas, many in the company of wild creatures, especially birds. These images are mementos of such moments. Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed photographing them …..

Continue reading »

Ibex (Capra Ibex) in the Pin valley – Spiti

Ibex (Capra Ibex)I made a short trip to the Spiti valley, in April 2011, before the summer tourist rush started. The plan was to survey the valley for Ibex (Capra Ibex) and Bharal (Pseudois nayaur). If lucky we might get to see some before they started moving to higher altitudes. If not we would at least have the snow covered Spiti valley to ourselves and enjoy the stunning scenery.

We based ourselves in Kaza (at the only hotel that was open) and we spent the days driving around, enjoying and photographing the stunning landscape while on the lookout for wild animals.

Continue reading »

Western Tragopan (Tragopan melanocephalus) at the Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary

It began with a chance meeting in Sarahan with the Divisional Forest Officer, Mr. B.L. Negi. When I told him that I was a keen birder he casually asked whether I would be interested in doing some research on the Western Tragopan (Tragopan melanocephalus) ? Off course I would be interested in doing research on the Western Tragopan, I almost shouted. (A PDF  of this survey can be downloaded from a link at the end of this post.)

For anyone interested in Himalayan birds the Western Tragopan is like the Holy grail. With less than a thousand breeding pairs left, it is the rarest of five types of Tragopan. It has been voted as one of the top 10 “must see” birds in the world.

Continue reading »