Birding…that too in the monsoons is not ideal…everyone knows that. There are minute chances of spotting any migratory species & the weather itself goes against all hopes during the monsoons. Neither is it the favorable time for mating activity. But you are left with no options when your office organises a trip to a part of the Singalila National Park & you simply go on to pounce on the opportunity. Jorpokhri is not a very well-known place. Very few have heard of it. Even I myself did not have any idea about the place before I visited the place this Monsoons. It was a family trip to the place with office colleagues aimed at celebrating the successful year ending of 2015 – 2016.
Singalila National Park is a national park of India located on the Singalila Ridge at an altitude of approximately more than 7000 feet above sea level, in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. It is very well known for the trekking route to Sandakphu that runs through it. Jorpokhri is situated on the lower fringes of this park.
DURATION OF TOUR:
AUGUST 2016 – 7th to 9th.
7400 ft above sea level.
Since we had visited in the monsoons, the temperature did not dip very low & was in a comfortable range varryinf within a maximum of 25 degree Celsius to a minimum of 14 degrees.
The area experiences Subtropical Coniferous Forest biome.
It was not a photography tour from any angle since we were accompanied with family & had to visit a lot more places for sight seeing & shopping. But I still managed to squeeze out the time in the early morning sessions from 5 am to 8 am when everyone else would be asleep except my wife who is also very much interested in wildlife. I was tensed about the fact that it would rain in the hills 7 thus spoil every opportunity of birding. Well it was to my surprise that it rained may be only for a few hours during our stay for 3 days in the tour. We reached Jorpokhri at around 1pm on 7th August. Immediately from the suroundings I could figure out that it would be an interesting place for birding. I just had to wait for the late afternoon session.
Laughingthrushes are very much audible from distance and are very much unique in their repeatative calls. I could spot the one & it was Chestnut-crowned laughingthrush foraging on the ground, inside the bushes & ocassionally jumping on to the branches on which I had to capitalize for a shot. there were a lot of berry trees around & fruit bearing trees are magnets to birds.
Morning sessions are always better than evening ones since bird activity is at its peak during early morning. This place had more to offer than I imagined. Starting from the beautiful landscapes to the vibrant birdlife it simply made my day. The next morning saw a bit of rain helping to some beautiful landscapes & forms of natural life.
Basking in the sun is a common behaviour for birds specially when they get rain drenched. This helps us to some unusual photographs of otherwise different looking bird. This time it was the ANGRY BIRD – White-browed Fulvetta, sci name: Fulvetta vinipectus sitting pretty on a perch with fully puffed up feathers.
This was followed by some brisk movements on the branch. Difficult to get a shot but I took it none the less. Ashy-throated Warbler it was – another lifer for me. Its a resident in the area. Sci name: Phylloscopus maculipennis.
Yuhinas were flocking around in numbers & I was able to spot 2 varieties of the same species. The Stripe-throated Yuhina & the Whiskered Yuhina. The Yuhinas remind me of nature’s fashion quotient which is much more advanced than that of ours today with the whiskered & stipe-throated designs that the birds are upto.
Well it is important to know about how to reach this place & where to stay. Here follows the details for the same.
HOW TO REACH ?
By Road : From Siliguri city the route is as follows – Siliguri > Sukna > Rangtong > Kurseong> Tung > Sonada> Ghoom> Sukhiyapokhri> Jorpokhri – approximately 90 km. The road has lot of curves & in some places are quite steep. hence it is recommended to carry some chocolates & toffees along to chew on the way.
Train stoppage: New jalpaiguri station is the best stoppage to be starting the journey from. Although Ghoom is the nearest station, it only supports toy train route. From NJP, one can hire car to travel through the above route.
Airport: Nearest airport is Bagdogra airport which is only few minutes from Siliguri. Hence one needs to travel through the road route after reaching the airport.
WHERE TO STAY ?
There is one proper lodge at Jorpokhri which is administered by the GTA ( Gorkhaland Territorial Administration). It is understood as on May 2016 that this Tourist Lodge in Jorpokhri has been leased out and is now run privately. There is no electricity supply to this lodge as on August 2016, but there is reserve generator in place to supply the same for 3 hrs in morning & 3 hrs at night. However the lodge is operational but can not be booked through GTA offices.
The property is exceptionally beautiful with artificial ponds within the compound & ample free space to roam about while enjoying the natural beauty around.
You can book on the spot depending on availability or through private agencies or directly going to the offices of GTA as per details mentioned below.
GTA Tourism Centers at Kolkata
- GTA Tourism, Gorkha Bhavan, Salt Lake (GTA Lodge Booking & Info), No. DD28, Sector 1, Salt Lake City, Kolkata – 700064 , Gorkha Bhavan is located opposite the City Center Mall. Mobile: (+91) 99031 74047, Landline: 033 – 23377534. As on August 2016.
GTA Tourism Centers at Darjeeling area
- Tourist Information Center, Deputy Director of Tourism, GTA , Silver Fir Building, Bhanu Sarani, Darjeeling – 734101 , Phone: (0354) 2254879 / 2255351; Fax: (0354) 2254214. As on August 2016.
Coming back to my Birding expedition, on the last day I had to make perfect use of the weather. We also moved a bit towards Darjeeling town. Blue whistling thrush – another common name but less explored. I got this one in perfect sunshine.
Then came the special summer visitor in the region, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, sci name: Carduelis spinoides. They can be spotted over open cultivation & are brightly coloured.
Green-backed tits, sci name: Parus monticolus are my all time favourite because of their beautiful colour pattern & cute looks. I got a chance to frame this one again. This time it was sitting pretty on a rock for me & with the distant background, the picture landed up in a perfect bouquet.
Oriental turtle dove was another species to pose beautifully for me followed by Red-billed Leiothrix, sci name: Leiothrix lutea which was a lifer for me. The colours remind me of my childhood when I used to get crazy over buying a packet of new oil pastels. Well natures’ colour pallet is on all time display using these beautiful birds as their medium.
Then came the turn for the busy hoary-bellied squirrel, sci name: Callosciurus pygerythrus. Besides the head-on shot, I got to picture it in one of its daily habitat behaviours ( climbing a tree).
The final lap of my tour helped me into the sighting of Grey wagtail, Red crossbill, sci name: Loxia curvirostra & Bar-throated siva, sci name: Minla strigula. The joy multiples when you are able to freeze a bird in motion. I could get the crossbill sitting on a wire only – not the ideal position for a photographer to shoot one but since I had no other decent shot, had to share the only one.
The birding trails from the trip are as follows. There was one stretch of road just below the tourist lodge which was perfect for birding. It spanned for around 400m.
Tour Participants :
Hope you have liked going through the blog. Overall it was a satisfying session of birding over the 3 days. specially when you have to sneak out some time from the busy family tours. You feel accomplished at the end of the day knowing that you got a chance to spend time wit these beauties again.
Feel free to share your thoughts.
My previous blog on birding in Henry Island –