Travel and Nature by Santosh BS
Second in the series of guest posts celebrating 10 years of payaniga is by Santosh BS who blogs at Huchchara Santhe. Santosh is an avid bird watcher and wildlife photographer. He works full-time in a leading IT company and utilize his weekends, holidays and paid leaves cleverly to travel around. In this post he talks about his love for nature, birds and some of the endangered species found in India.
Travel bug bit me during my college days when travel was just for traveling; loiter around a place, enjoy the travel and return. Soon, it turned into a hobby and the wish list of places to visit kept on increasing. During few such travels, my interest towards nature and wildlife grew and more travels were focused on that aspect, traveling to nature oriented places to enjoy the vistas, learn about the bird-life and wildlife and spread the word through blog posts also stressing about the ecological importance of the place and leave-no-trace policy.
Over time, the diversity of birds that I saw in places intensified my interest in them that I started to venture out on travels to nature oriented places looking out for specific birds of those regions. Right from Kerala to Ladakh; Gujarat to Lava, the diversity and variety that I have seen is just mind blowing and I’ve a lot more places to visit and a whole lot of birds yet to see and importantly a whole lot of traveling yet to be done.
Keeping in line with the same theme, let me list few wonderful places in India that host varied species of birds with some of them being critically endangered i.e. just few of them left in the wild!
Ladakh region: Well, most of the travelers to Ladakh are to explore the hilly terrains and the high passes and the tricky terrains. We had all this in mind plus the wonderful bird-life that we would encounter across the Ladakh region right from Leh to Panamik to Tso Kar. Upland Buzzard, Saker Falcon, Little Owl, Golden Eagle, Lammergeier, Black-necked Crane are some of the highlights from the must visit region.
Gujarat: The land of food, temples and much more, Gujarat has a wonderful diversity of bird-life with variations from the Jamnagar coastal areas to the dry arid Kutch landscapes. Incidentally, Velavadar National Park is declared the largest roosting site for Harriers. Greater Flamingo, Merlin, Grey Hypocolius, Lesser Florican, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl are some of the key highlights.
Rajasthan: The majority of the tourist influx to this ‘desert state’ are either for the forts, cuisine or the majestic palaces spread across the state but most people are unaware that the ‘desert’ is exactly home to some of the very fine birds, some critically endangered that may go extinct in the near future. I would specifically call out the majestic bird, the ‘Great Indian Bustard’, very unfortunate that only about 150 of them survive in the wild and the best place to sight them is the Desert National Park in Rajasthan. Green Munia, Great Indian Bustard, Laggar Falcon, Cinereous Vulture, Spotted Creeper, Black-necked Stork, Griffon Vulture, Desert Lark are some of the other popular species from here.
Western Ghats: Well, this is not one state but a whole region extending right from Goa to Kerala covering parts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu as well and the diversity of birds you would see is mind-boggling to say the least. Malabar Pied Hornbill, Malabar Trogon, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Little Spiderhunter, Srilankan Frogmouth, Malabar Barbet, White-bellied Woodpecker, Nigiri Blue Robin, Black & Orange Flycatcher, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Blyth’s Starling and the list doesn’t just end. Dandeli, Ooty, Thattekad, Munnar are some of the very ‘hot’ spots.
North-East India: A cluster of very hot spots for birding and home to some of India’s most colorful, diverse and species rarities, I do not have firsthand experience as I’m yet to visit this region that is high on my travel wish list. Kaziranga, Eaglenest, Sikkim, Manas, Mishmi hills, Pakke, Sundarbans, Namdapha, Nameri are some of the must visit places for birding.
I would end this stating birds are everywhere, we just need to see them and you will then start seeing them in plenty. Everybody travels for a reason and it would be good if we can make it beneficial like promoting ecotourism, help generate local income by staying in homestays and hiring local guides and transport, avoid littering and help conserve places that is in distress (A photograph can do a job that an essay cannot).