The Goechala (Sikkim) Trek Part II

The Goechala Sikkim Trek Part II

(Part I covered
Day 1 14km
Yuksom(5600ft) to Bhakim(8636ft)

Day 2 12km
Bhakim(8638ft) to Dzongri(12981ft)

Day 3
Dzongri(12981ft) to Dzongri top (13676ft)and back to Dzongri

Read Part I by clicking on the link

Part II

Day 4 10km
Dzongri(12981ft) to Thansing (12894ft)

Day 5 10km
Thansing(12894ft to Lamuney(13600ft)to Samiti Lake(14100ft) and back to Lamuney



The first view of Kanchenjunga, an entire snow-capped mountain range and first sightings of wild yaks were what Thangsing had to offer.  As the evening drew, the valley was covered in mist and we lost ourselves in a light drizzle that followed, after which we drifted off to a peaceful night in our tent.


Lhamuney is the final meadow before the mighty Kanchenjunga range.  Sitting there against the tiny stream it announced to us for the first time that we had been without electricity, cell phones, Internet and other jing bang for almost five days.  The fastest mode of communication seemed to be at yak speed.  It was quite a refreshing feeling and in fact we did not feel the need for any of these.

Lhamuney 2

Samiti Lake

Samiti Lake
How many times have you gone to a tourist destination and wished it was not THAT crowded? And how often have you thought of that idyllic place where there is no one around for miles and where absolute quiet leaves you to yourself? Samiti lake at 14,000 f is your redemption.

Calm, serene, beautiful, blue, green and various shades in between.  It is a picture from your dream, only much clearer and of course, all real.  Hailed as the Holy Lake by the locals, this used to be a camping site until sometime back. We were advised against taking a dip in the lake, and for a reason other than freezing ourselves.  The lake is just too pristine to be dirtied by bathing.

Take a walk around it, sit besides its waters and soak in the tranquility.


 To be contd.

The names of photographers are: Deepak Maloo, Piyish Rathore, N. Abhinav, Harmohit Singh Toor and Rahul De.
The text was a joint effort of the team.
Apart from the above photographers, the members of the team included Sandeep and Lapcha (Guides)

Burning Issues

Cattle of Bharatpur

Cattle of Bharatpur-Part III

    Priya Phadtare

The Bharatpur Study

Late in the seventies, the population of birds in the Bharatpur Park saw a slight decline. The BNHS was the first to notice so and this lead J.C. Daniel, now the honorary secretary of BNHS, to probe the matter by undertaking a ten year study (also funded by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service)  which was to be chiefly observational in nature.

BNHS had a fair idea about the culprit cattle. David Challinor, the Assistant Secretary for Science at the Smithsonian, visited Bharatpur in 1980 and was shocked to see that the park’s administration had been taken over by a villager who frequently allowed the cattle to enter park’s premises unchecked. The cattle destroyed some of the bunds leading to the widespread loss of water which was the primary supporting factor of the water birds.

This report prompted the government to declare the bird sanctuary as a national park with effect from 1981 which required the Keoladeo National Park to be free of livestock and people in compliance with the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. In 1982, the Government of Rajasthan enforced the rules which saw a wave of protests by the people of adjoining villages leading to the death of nine people. The BNHS study also began around the same time and this positioned it well enough to evaluate the status of the park’s ecology before and after the ban on grazing.

The BNHS dropped a bomb in 1991 by claiming that the bird biodiversity of the park had declined even more after the ban on grazing as found at the end of their ten year study. The actual culprits were found out to be a few weed species (both fast-growing native species, and intro¬duced species such as Paspalum and the water hyacinth) which were proliferating rapidly leading to the death of fish and ultimately the bird population.  Ironically it was found out that the weed population could be checked and the biodiversity of the birds could be maintained only if the cattle were reintroduced into the park.

BNHS, the strongest advocates of the ban on the grazing activities concluded that 'the only ecologically viable alternative [to the weed takeover] is to set the primary consumers (buffalo) back into the system'.  BNHS also stated that the policy of no interference followed elsewhere in the world (primarily in the US parks) and the progenitor idea behind the passing of the Wildlife Act (Protection) written in 1972 would not do the park much good.  These findings put the forest officials into a fix eventually as according to the studies the park could handle about 3000 cattle but the total population of cattle around the park was much larger and the much bigger problem was that the Wildlife Act had not undergone any amendments to allow the cattle in. The population of the cattle in the park has been increasing steadily over the years. The park officials have been constantly battling the cattle menace by sterilization and relocation methods but they say that it is a hopeless fight nevertheless. Until the law is changed, nothing much can be done really.

The BNHS Bharatpur study has never been published in a scientific journal. Copies of the final summary report have been bound and distributed widely throughout India, but informally. Even without publication, this study and its shocking determination that the banning of livestock hurt the health of the national park is one of the best-known research projects in India among ecologists and environmentalists. Many environmentalists accept the BNHS findings for Bharat¬pur, but still maintain that larger parks that are not so artificial would benefit from a ban on grazing.

A peopleless, cattleless park did not help Bharatpur's birds. That is what we might learn: the futility of imposing one vision of how to save nature across the globe, no matter how dire the environmental crisis seems to be.

The Keoladeo National Park is a little park with overflowing cattle population. Seeing cattle grazing around in a place dedicated to the protection and conservation of wildlife does not come across as a very pleasing sight.

The End

Part I  of this article can be read at

Part II  of this article can be read at

About the author:

Priya Phadtare has done biochemistry from Sri Venkateaswara College, Delhi.  She is an avid reader with a keen interest in wildlife.  She can be contacted at


1.    Adams, Alexander (1962), 'How it Began,' in Alexander Adams (ed), First World Conference on National Parks,

Seattle, Washington, June 30-July 7, 1962, pp. xxxii. Washington D.C.: National Park Service. 
2.    Ali, Salim (1985), The Fall of a Sparrow. Delhi: Oxford University Press.     
3.    Futehally, Zafar (1967), 'Misuse of Nature: Some Ecological Facts,' The Times of India’, 11 June (1992).
4.    The Wildlife of India. New Delhi: Harper Collins.   


How to Photograph Birds in India-Part III

How to Photograph Birds in India-Part III

-Vijay Kavale

Contd from previous month

D. Learn to outwit them to get into position

Once you have decided not to haunt nesting birds, but try to photograph birds as they go about living their vibrant natural life, your greatest challenge will be to get into the right position to focus and click. This means getting as close as possible to the bird while it is sitting on a natural perch with the sun shining on it and your camera at the same level as the bird! Does that sound tough? Yes it is!

The challenges are many. The major one, at least in India, is that a large number of species are extremely alert to human activity. They will disappear as soon as they spot any unnatural activity, such as a photographer approaching to train a camera on them!  
Once, I saw a group of 20 painted storks sitting in shallow water, in good light. They offered a great photo opportunity since I had mostly seen them before on trees at their nesting sites. I stopped my car and was considering my next move when a woman from the nearby village came with her buffalo and headed for the water. There goes my opportunity, I thought, as she and her buffalo went close toward the storks. But when the woman began washing the buffalo, the storks did not seem perturbed at all although she must have been only 20 feet or so away. Emboldened, I took my camera and tripod and 
walked towards the water. The storks, which until then had been calm, began to appear nervous at the intrusion. And before I could set up my tripod and focus, they were gone! They arose and circled high above the water and headed for another location. 

Over time and after innumerable such experiences, I began to understand bird behavior a bit, and that has helped me to get into the right position before the bird disappears. Here are a few pointers:

1.Try and shoot from your vehicle 

You will be surprised how tolerant birds are to vehicles. If you do not get down and are able to shoot from your vehicle without making much noise, chances are that the bird will offer you a good opportunity to shoot.
The author shooting from a vehicle

2.Try using a Hide            
In some cases birds use the same perch regularly. Here you can set up a hide and shoot from inside without scaring the bird. You will be surprised how many species you can shoot if you have the patience to sit for a day in a portable hide. Also, remember to wear clothes of muted color that will merge with the background when you are in the field. 

A portable hide

3.Food is the key

A great number of species of birds feed all day long! They have to drink water too. If you wait near a drying body of water, you will notice that as the water level ebbs the fish become more accessible to many species that feed on them. Kingfishers, Storks, Herons, Egrets – all haunt such water bodies, and you will be able to shoot them.

Similarly a tree or shrub that offers food, such as berries and flowers, attracts smaller birds, for example, Flowerpeckers and Sunbirds.
In grassy patches you will find Larks and Wagtails feeding on insects. Cattle Egrets and Drongos follow grazing cattle whose feet flush out insects, which the birds then pounce on.
Thus, understanding the food habits of different species of birds will help you get into position for a good portrait shot. Also, remember most birds have a favorite water hole where they land to drink water at least once a day. 

Spotted Dove
4.Spot the bird before it spots you
Yes, it is needless to say that you need to spot the bird to photograph it. However, in the case of Raptors and especially Owls, they will be sitting motionless on their favorite roost and you will most likely see them only when they move. They move because you are too close and you did not even know it. Thus, to spot a Raptor, watch carefully from a distance and act as if you have not noticed the bird, and keep approaching it without looking directly at it until you are ready to shoot. As soon as your lens points directly at the Raptor, chances are it will fly away. The lesson here is: ignore the watching bird and it will ignore you.  

Brown Fish Owl

5.Flushing out birds using calls

Sometimes you can play bird call recordings in the field to flush out birds. For example, if you play an Owl call, many birds will begin to mob the ‘Owl’ and thus approach close to the ‘call machine’, providing the photographer with an opportunity.
Though I have not used this much, I am told it can be very effective in some difficult cases. However, recording the calls of birds is in itself a rewarding avocation.
You can learn more at 


About the author:

Vijay Cavale has been a nature addict since birth. He lives in Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka State in South India. After almost two decades of a successful career in the Indian IT Industry, he decided to quit his corporate career at the age of 40 and follow his dream. For the last seven years Vijay Cavale has been traveling to several parts of India photographing its rich wildlife with a focus on birdlife. He has photographed close to 400 species of birds found in India, and gladly shares them on his homepage below. His work in this area is entirely non-commercial and is aimed at creating awareness and sharing the joy. He hopes his work will contribute in some way towards nature conservation. Although he does not offer any of his images for commercial use, he is glad to collaborate and discourse with like-minded people from around the world.
Homepage:   Email:
Vijay Cavale, Jan 2007.

Part I of this article can be read at 

Part II of this article can be read at 

Wildlife Photolog

CRY OF THE WILD at Aravali

CRY OF THE WILD at  Aravali

Text and photographs 
Jitender Dhir  (

Wild animals cry out for protection of their Habitat of Aravali Forests on Gurgaon-Faridabad Road including Mangar Bani. 
As  we all know, the Aravali forested area on the Gurgaon - Faridabad road is the only existing Aravali range in its natural form and is threatened by development giants like real estate builders.

This Forest range is under threat from builders and petition has been filed with some hearings already done. National Green Tribunal has also taken account of the situation.  The following pictures are a photolog of the area documented during Dec 2012 to February 2013

All are resident species and the Red Headed Vulture has "Critically Endangered" conservation status. 

Black Naped Hare
December 2012 - Aravali Forest range on Gurgaon-Faridabad Road (near Mangar Bani)

Blue Bull
February 2013, Aravali Forest range on Gurgaon-Faridabad Road (near Mangar Bani) 

Short toed snake eagle
February 2013, Aravali Forest range on Gurgaon-Faridabad Road (near Mangar Bani) 

Small Asian Mongoose

February 2013, Aravali Forest range on Gurgaon-Faridabad Road (near Mangar Bani) 

Red headed vulture
February 2013, Aravali Forest range on Gurgaon-Faridabad Road (near Mangar Bani) 

Read a blog on Mangarbani at

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