Day 270: The Himalaya

A productive day pushes Noah past 4,500 species.

September 27, 2015: Sattal, India — The best way to travel long distance in India is by rail. Trains go everywhere in this country, and they’re incredibly cheap, while the roads are often incredibly slow and rough. To reach the Himalaya foothills today, Ramit and I took a sleeper train from Delhi last night and arrived at Kath Godam first thing this morning. I’ve now slept overnight on a ship, on a plane, in a bus, in a car, and in many other places this year (not to mention a couple nights with no sleep at all), but the train was a new one!

The tracks stopped at the northern edge of the Great Indian Plains, and this morning Ramit and I climbed where no train could follow. The edge of the western Himalaya rises abruptly into lush, green foothill forests in this part of India. All of a sudden new sightings were easy — a nice feeling after working so hard for the past four days.

We connected with a local birder named Hari Lama, who spent the day showing us around some local patches at about 5,500 feet elevation, and cleaned up a big chunk of common Himalayan birds. Before lunch, I saw my 4,500th year bird, a Black-throated Sunbird, in a mixed flock of treecreepers, tits, thrushes, warblers, and flycatchers.

We were also met today by Swati Sidhu and Hari Krishnan, a couple of researchers living in Uttarakhand who joined us for a day in the hills. It was a great day all around: The air in these mountains is fresh and crisp, the birds are new, the forest is lush and green, and the crowded streets of Delhi seem to occupy another, faraway universe.

New birds today: 49

Year list: 4523

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