With the information we had picked up from Jungle Lore we had learned that this site, about an hour’s drive from Nature Drops, was the place to see the rarer pheasant species as well as Lammergeier. A group of five of us set out with the intention of seeing the pheasants at first light, the others going to join us later when the Lammergeiers had hopefully woken up.
The point itself was an area of upland grassland on the boarder of an area of woodland. From there you could overlook a huge area, all the way down to Corbett on a good day, and by filtering through the forest margins you could pick out the pheasants. Once again the change in habitat to more open grassland brought an array of new species.
Lammergeier - For the people fortunate enough to see this bird, it was a birding experience not just for the trip, but for a lifetime. The five of us that had committed to the early start were rewarded when a superb near-adult bird flew from the cliff below us, and out into the valley. We were understandably buzzing after that, but about five minutes later the bird reappeared flying towards us at eye level. It then flew overhead at a phenomenally close range, giving views that were simply unbelievable. It then flew round the point itself, and was not seen again that day. The only downside was that the group arriving later failed to see the bird.
Altai Accentor - All the while we were dipping on the pheasants we were able to watch huge flocks of hundreds of Accentors flying around us, feeding on the cliff ledges both above and below us. Among the throngs of birds we were also able to pick out a leucistic individual.
-Himalayan Griffon Vulture
Cheer Point: Lammergeier, Himalayan Griffon Vulture, Altai Accentor, Common Kestrel, Blue Whistling Thrush, Black-throated Tit, Crag Martin, Blue-capped Redstart, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Steppe Eagle, Large-billed Crow, Peregrine, Rock Bunting, Streaked Laughingthrush, Striated Prinia, Black Bulbul, Long-tailed Thrush, Himalayan Goral, Indian Muntjac, Rhesus Macaque, Himalayan Agama, Sorrel Sapphire,
By mid-morning when the other group arrived at Cheer Point the first group decided to move off to keep the cars moving, meaning we were not likely to be held up by the fact we only had one vehicle. We decided to call back in a Jungle Lore for a bit more gen on a male Golden Bush Robin somewhere in the valley near to Nature Drops. Whilst we were there we spent a bit more time birding the garden.
The site described to us was a Shaolin Temple about eight kilometres from Pangot, and four kilometres from Nature Drops, heading down the valley. As soon as we arrived we knew we were in for an awesome afternoon of birding, as new birds kept appearing. There was a small river flowing through the valley. Upstream it was mainly surrounded by scrub with agricultural fields above it, where downstream the river descended into woodland. The trees around the temple were all in blossom, creating a beautiful scene. We chose to walk upstream through the scrub, as the location of the bush robin had been described to us about half a kilometre upriver.
Golden Bush Robin - For me, not only the bird of the trip, but the bird of a lifetime! After an hour or so birding the site we finally began moving upriver. From the scrub we got frustratingly brief views of a bird that could have been nothing else, but it was gone as soon as it had appeared. We continued hunting upstream, when TDJ and I heard a growl like ticking from the bushes ahead of us. Our first thought was Rubythroat, but SJD had reached the bushes ahead of us, and his exclamations clearly indicated that was not the case. We raised our bins and beheld the bird in all its glory. Adult male Golden Bush Robin! I can’t describe the feeling of seeing such a bird! A bird I had wanted to see so badly on the trip, but one that I hardly believed we would see, let alone an adult male. It showed extremely well, sitting well out into the open. Unfortunately this pattern of behaviour did not last, and only four people were able to connect with the bird before it took to cover.
Himalayan Rubythroat - The compensation for all those that missed the bush robin was a stunning male Himalayan Rubythroat. On any other day it would have been the standout bird, as it showed extremely well feeding out in the open alongside a small mustard field.
Crimson Sunbird - I did want to see Crimson Sunbird on the trip, but only if it was a male. Fortunately that is exactly what this bird was, and it showed nicely in a blossomed tree near the temple. The only downside is that it did not pose for photos. It was a bit gaudy for many trip members, but that’s fine with me.
Water Redstarts - A small ford at the temple gave us our first encounter with a stunning species pair that we would later become very accustomed to seeing; Plumbeous and White-capped Water Redstart. Both were superb looking birds, and both showed very well.
-Plumbeous Water Redstart
-Golden Bush Robin
Pangot: Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush, Himalayan Bulbul, Spot-winged Grosbeak, Streaked Laughingthrush, House Sparrow, Golden Bush Robin, Grey Bush Robin, Oriental White-eye, Black-headed Jay, White-capped Water Redstart, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Crimson Sunbird, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, Blue-capped Redstart, Green-backed Tit, Scarlet Rosefinch, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Barn Swallow, Common Myna, Black Bulbul, Oriental Turtle Dove, Siberian Stonechat, Long-tailed Shrike, Himalayan Rubythroat, Black-throated Accentor, Grey-breasted Prinia, Black-chinned Babbler, Russet Sparrow, Small Niltava, Aberrant Bush Warbler,