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Birding (and wildlifing) with a spotting-scope

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There are many amateur birders who use binoculars to pursue birding. Some of you might have also seen serious birders watching birds with spotting scopes. The amount of light reflected by a subject to the eye, through the lenses of a scope, is far greater than the regular birding binoculars of, say,  8x40 dimension. This translates to far better visibility of a bird when seen through a scope, under comparable lighting. I personally feel seeing a bird with a spotting scope is the next level of experience in birding. I would never see a bird through binoculars, if I can see the same through my scope.  With improved technology and production on a bigger scale, a) the prices of optics like spotting scopes have gone south. b) modern day spotting scopes are far lighter (mine weighs less than 2 kilos). c) many recent scopes allow one to fix a pocket digital camera (or even DSLRs) to the scope's eye-piece. This converts the scope into a fixed focal length, long-range

Experiencing Kanha's first monsoon showers

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The first monsoons are always special, more so if they happen in a wilderness.  I experienced this year's first while travelling to Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve, in mid-June. It so happened that we were the last to enter the park and all of the tourists we encountered were scurrying back to their resorts and leaving the park in a hurry to beat the rains. But we were there to enjoy the rains and it was a soul-stirring feeling. The dark monsoon clouds changed the shades of the skies and the earth from light to dark grey. The parched earth laughed with joy as it welcomed the rain drops. The animals looked undisturbed by the frequent lightening around. And only we were there to witness this and no one else around us for miles... Below are some images (with captions) of this visit of mine, particularly of the first rains...

A date with rural Kathmandu

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I visited Kathmandu, capital of Nepal, for the first time ever in early June, to attend a WWF workshop. We stayed at Godavari resort in rural Kathmandu. There were interesting things learnt at the workshop and experiences shared by fellow WWF folks from India, Nepal and Bhutan. The bonus was the sights and scenery of Himalayas from the resort, post the early monsoon rains while we were there. I particularly composed the following on the evening the workshop ended. " Workshop done. Sitting in the patio overlooking a small fertile valley. Looking at the farmer women and men making using of the monsoon rains. Gently sloping Himalayan foothills on the three sides. An old Nepali man in conversation with his wife to the backdrop of slow, soothing old Nepali and Hindi songs. Alternative ly working on the notebook and sipping chai. Birds singing all around and cool air caressing face. The sun slowly travelling to another part of the world. Wish she was here too...Enjoying an ev

Dhanaulti - A quaint, enchanting hill station in the Himalayan foothills

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The bamboo cottages at Dhanaulti, amidst dense pine forests of Mussoorie forest division, Uttarakhand state, Himalayas  ------------------------ ------------------------ ------------------------ May, 2010: Delhi has been terribly hot of late, as it usually does in summer. This mid-May there were a couple of days where the temperature crossed 48 degrees centigrade. I could find no better reasons to drive my wife and her siblings who were visiting us from Bangalore, up the Himalayas. I had many options. Among the thoughts was to take a week off from work and drive up to Khardung La pass from Kulu-Manali and then into Ladakh. But work load and the fear of snow blocking the passes into Ladakh made me change my mind and hence the thought of driving up some where more near. I had a long pending invitation from my friend Santhosh Gubbi, an IFS officer at Forest Research Institute, Dehra Dun to visit him. I also had a long time desire to Mussoorie, which lies above Dehra Dun. W

Amaranth Yatra: The spectacular views on the drive to Baltal and Zojilla Pass

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The Amarnath Yatra (pilgrimage) is an important event for Hindus. The annual event, usually held in July, draws in thousands of people every year from all over India.  There are two approaches to yatra venue - the Amarnath cave. One is from the town of Pahalgam in the south, while the other is from north from Srinagar via Baltal. The yatra approach from Baltal  is a few km off the Srinagar - Leh National Highway No: 1D. The route passes through s ome spectacular landscapes of Kashmir Valley . After the picturesque Sonamarg hill resort, we drove straight on the National Highway. Splitting from the yatra route at Baltal, we ascended the Zojilla pass and drove to Drass town and ahead to Kargil town . The sprawling yatra premises is visible very well as one climbs the mountains towards the Zojilla Pass. Click here to see the above map on googlemaps.com Meadows in a valley beyond Sonamarg hill resort. The peaks get taller as one moves away from Sonamarg.