HIMALAYAN BIRDING – CHOPTA

The Himalayas are one of the best places for bird watchers, because of the rarity and variety of birds that are spotted amongst the highest peaks and valleys of the world. Chopta is probably the brightest example of Himalayan birding, acting as a wonderful base for bird watchers who feel a peck of delight at the sight of these flapping beauties.

Situated in Uttarakhand at a height of 2680m, Chopta, is a small evergreen forest area that lies in the Garhwal Himalayas and is a part of the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary. Chopta is known for its pristine landscapes and stunning views of some of the mighty Himalayan peaks, such as Nanda Devi, Trishul and Chaukhamba. Besides, Chopta is also famous for trekking, with many trekking trails starting or en routes, such as the Chopta-Tungnath-Chandrashila and Deoriatal-Chopta trail.

It is, however, birding that makes Chopta a bird lover’s paradise. Due to it's untouched and unpolluted environ, coupled with the beautiful forests of rhododendrons, deodars and pine, Chopta as well as the surrounding areas are home to a number of Himalayan bird species.

The Himalayas are the crowning glory of India, and home to many endemic as well as migratory birds. Most of the Himalayan birds are rarely found elsewhere in the country and are well adapted to the Himalayan altitude and climate. Chopta hence is a perfect destination for birding and to explore the bird species that are very specific to the Himalayas.

 

THE BIRDS

There are a varied number of exotic and amazing bird species found in Chopta.  It is estimated that about 240 different bird species are found around this region which has also been declared as an Important Bird Area.

One can spot in Chopta the bird species that has often been voted as the most beautiful bird, the Himalayan Monal. This beautifully colored petite bird is a delight to sore eyes. Other birds that can be seen in Chopta, include the Snow Patridge, Himalayan Griffon, Himalayan Swiftlet, Mountain Hawk-eagle, Grey-headed woodpeckers, Himalayan Bluetail, Blue Whistling Thrush, Rufous Breasted Accentor and the Himalayan Buzzard amongst many others.

The Kalij Pheasants, Kocklass pheasants, Russets sparrows, spotted doves and grey Bushcat are commonly found here. However, it is the Blue-whistling Thrush that is seen around almost all water sources in the area.

Day and night are contrasting in Chopta where the mornings are music to the ears of song birds, babblers and calls from the pheasants and barbets. The nights, on the contrary, are exceptionally silent and the only sound that can be heard at times is lone the call of the sambhar or barking deer.

Other birds that are seen in and around Chopta include, the Grey-crested tits, Chestnut-bellied rock thrush, Himalayan vulture, White-collared bluebird, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Himalayan woodpecker, Mistle thrush, White-throated laughing thrushes, Black-headed Jay, Black-faced warbler, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Golden eagle, Fire-capped tit, Bush-robin, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide and many more.

 

BIRDING TRAILS

Not just Chopta, but bird watchers, usually follow different routes, covering areas around Chopta as well, such as Kund, Makku, Kakra Ghat, Chakki bend, Deoriatal, Tungnath and Chadrashila.  The trails and different treks also showcase some of the best scenic views of the Himalayan terrain and mountains, as well, encounters with different Himalayan bird species that keeps the list of spotted birds getting only longer and more varied.

Some other surrounding areas that are also good birdwatching sites include Anusuya Devi Temple, Mandal and surrounding villages, such as, Ukimath and Gopeshwar.

However, Chopta with its lush green meadows, forests and splendid views is the most refreshing and rejuvenating spot for not only bird-watchers but also trekkers and nature lovers. It is unsurprisingly also called ‘Mini Switzerland’ for its amazing and mesmerizing landscape and views. If one is lucky, besides the much coveted Himalayan Monal the endangered Himalayan Tahr can also be spotted in the Chopta valley.

 

HOW TO REACH AND ACCESSIBILITY

Chopta is located in the district of Rudraprayag in Uttarakhand and can be accessed relatively easily through different modes of transport. The closest airport is that of Dehradun (226km away), whereas the closest railway stations include, Rishikesh (170km) and Haridwar (180km)

By road, Chopta is well connected and is located on the Rudraprayag-Ukhimat-Gopeshwar highway. It is also well connected to other surrounding towns and villages, such as Rishikesh, Devprayag, Duggalbitta, Mandal and so on.

Visit Chopta for stunning locales, exotic bird species, gorgeous trekking tales and soothing green carpets of meadows and evergreen forests in clusters. But, mainly it is the Himalayan birds that fly away with the larger share of wonderment and fascination.

 


 

alankar chandra
ALANKAR CHANDRAAlankar is a passionate traveller and one of the leading natural history photographers in India. His passion has taken him to remote wilderness destinations of India, East Africa, Sri Lanka and Iceland. His imagery and travel memoirs have earned him a following in social media and publication houses. He is also a management graduate from IIM Ahmedabad and has previously held senior leadership positions in corporates. He is the co-founder of Wild Voyager.

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