By Yasser Arafat
Last summer I was charged by an Himalayan Black Bear. I had a narrow escape. When I talked to my friends they ask why am I risking life going into the jungle. But then to me the jungle is what it is because of the danger and
suspense at every moment; this is really the charm.
Making a machan, Sitting on it to photograph a leopard, Waiting hours before he makes an appearance from the dense bush - Can anything be more exciting than this?
This above paragraph is just to make reader feel how exciting is the jungle.
This year when I brought my still camera Nikkon F55 with 75-300 lens, I was after the serow and
was able to take 60 different shots of serow in its natural environment. IndianWildlifeClub.com has given me a platform to share my images of the wild with many other like minded people.
My first trip to photograph cheer pheasant and rufous throated partridge took me to the rocky upper portions of Uttaranchal. Ghoral and koklas pheasants were a bonus. Later I will move to lower parts which has got dense vegetation
mixed with lantana. Quite a good place for kalij. And also wild boar, barking deer and serow.
I told my driver cum assistant Guddu that we would stay 3 or 4 days in Jungle for photography. I had been living in Jungle from childhood so there is nothing new for me.
We kept with ourself some potato, Onion, spices, Salt,wheat flour,Rice, utensils, sleeping bags but no tent. We decided against taking the tent since we did not want to carry a heavy burden- we planned to go far far into the forest
So at about one in the noon we packed our stuff in a scooter and headed towards a place called ALCHUNA, where we parked our scooter in the house of an aquaintance. From there we started our trek after crossing a small village
THOOM. We were now in the upper part of the rocks where I felt certain that we will find cheer pheasant. But for us our first priority was to select a place to spend the night and soon we got one big rock safe from all direction and quite near to a small hill
stream. I asked Guddu to clear the place and keep our things there. He was soon looking for firewood to cook a el and I went out to search for the cheer.
It was about five in the evening and after going half a km uphill, I saw six ghorals grazing in the open from about 200 yds. I tried to stalk them but it is near impoosible not to be heard - ghoral have very sharp ears. They were
too alert and sensing my presence soon disappeared. Now I was more cautious on reaching on top of the mountain- I again saw 3-4 ghoral and one koklas pheasant surprised me when it flew downhill uttering the familiar sound kwank,- Kwank – kwank –
I remain there and wait to hear the call of cheer pheasants - the sound they make juist before roosting. After a long time, I heard a very faint sound I was not sure whether it was cheer or that of some other bird.
I came back to our resting place. Walking downhill was quite tough by the time I reached the big rock. Guddu had already lit up the fire and tea was waiting for me.
I told Guddu, early in the morning I will try to be at the place where I think I heard the sound of cheer.
We made potato pulaoo and slept for the night. Under that rock.
Once I wake up in the night and saw the fire had gone down. I put some fresh wood in to it and again slept
I woke up at 5 in the morning, made tea for me as well as for Guddu. It was dark and I wanted to reach the place before dawn. because it is habit of cheer they may not call in the evening but it is sure they will call in the morning. I reached the point where
I thought, in the evening I heard the faint sound. Since it was still dark, I took a torch with me.
The familiar sound of night jar was there and I selected a place from where I will be able to hear the call of cheer from a long distance. After few minutes I herd the familiar sound of whistling thrush. This is a bird which goes
to sleep late in the evening and first bird to call in the mornin. All on a sudden came a very clear call - that of the cheer pheasant. The call came from very far, from the mountain in front of me, twinhoo-------------- Twlnhooooo--------twinhoo---------twihe
twhie----------Twhie----My excitement knew no end. My experience told me that they were five six in number. After a few seconds a again.the call came, this time from the right of the mountain about half a km or so away. I could also make out that there were
koklas around as a koklas pheasant gave the call Ka---Ka---Kak---kak - a loud call which one can hear up to kilometer. Soon whole valley was resounding with kklas calls about eleven different types of call which meant there were more than 11 pairs of koklas.
I have observed about koklas that not every koklas give the call and most of the time one male is accompanied by upto three females.
Amidst all the racous created by koklas I felt as if I heard the call of cheer pheasant above me. And when I faced towords little right. Yes! They were there, 150 mts to my right a little above, the place is too Rockey it is diffcult
to move as it was still dark but again I heard their call, Twhenoo------Twhenoo------Twi------Twi-------Twi---------
I made up the mind to close the distance and slowly headed towards them. After giving the call for about two three minutes they stopped calling, mean while I kept listing the calls of Koklas one above me head totally stop giving calls and now the morning was
approaching fast. Other birds have also started welcoming the morning Ghoral started sneezing above me he too have smelled me as the wind was blowing from me towards him. Next to me was a small ravine with small bushes and many a pine trees in the direction
of cheer pheasant, I covered a distance of about 100 mts now the light was so, one could see the movement of a pheasant from 50-60 yds. Slowly I heard small stone rolling down towards me, I took two steps and taking rest against a big tree try to locate what
has disturbed the stone, again I heard a faint sound from the same direction, Now the light was even more and I was planing to move towards the direction of sound I noticed some moment . yes! They were cheer---------- as they sensed my presence before I could
have seen them , I was wearing, Green Jacket and Grey pant, and I was making very little noise but then also they spotted me and immediately started climbing uphill leaving me behind.
One, two, three----------Seven, yes! They were seven, soon I took some steps towards my right and entered the adjoining ravine and now I plan to reach above them and I was climbing up ravine, so as to avoid them hear me.
After going about 60-70 mts uphill I thought now I am above them so I took out my shoes even socks to avoid making any sound it was really difficult to move bare footed due to rocks.
My camera was in bag lens attached to it every thing was ready. And as I crossed the ridge and moved towards the ravine where I last saw the pheasant, looking for them, now camera on my hand , there Was a big pine tree log on
the ravine I wanted to sit their and wanted to hear any sound made by the pleasant. But before I take any decision , I saw in front of me standing the big male cheer pheasat staring me as if surprised by my sudden appearance. Pheasant must be about 20 ft from
me and as my camera was on Auto and there was a rock to a little right and in between me and that cheer pheasant and firstly for first two there minuets I couldn’t able to focus the pheasant most of the time my camera was focusing that rock. Which was also
as big as cheer. But at last I was able to Change the switch to manual and now the pheasant too had started moving slowly and keep uttering the sound kwink-------khink-----kwink. And I kept bracketing the pheasant on cameras frame, and one by one I was able
to click 11 times as fast as I could, and seeing my movement they also started approaching the undergrowth leaving my camera un able to focus on. And soon they disappear in to the cluster of bushes, two of them were big ‘one male and one female other five
were small, I was happy that I was successful the very first day in my mission.
I returned back to place where we spent our night and told Guddu that I have successfully taken the photograph of cheer.
Yasser Arafat, Watching wild life has been a hobby for Yasser. Having completed his MBA, Yasser has now devoted himself to do something for the conservation of endangered wild
animals and birds of Himalaya. His field experiences of the pheasants and wild animals of Himalaya are shared with members of IWC.com through photographs and observations.