We had early morning breakfast at the cottage in Upardang Gadi and then we followed the small trail that led us to the forest.
We heard the call of numerous birds at the either side of hill just before the edge of the forest. Our binoculars and telescope were positioned to focus on the birds to have a glimpse of those tiny but beautiful birds. Warblers, prinias and bulbuls were fidgeting under the bush singing melodious song.
Som G.C. was looking a bird perching on the tree down hill just below the trail. He suddenly jumped on his feet with both fisted-hands raised on air, shouting loud, "Spiny Babbler!" I stared him for a while with utter disbelief as I had never thought that the only endemic bird of Nepal could be spotted so close to my land (I have bought a piece of land there).
I rushed to telescope to see the bird that was entirely new for me. As white patches on the face was distinctly visible in early sunlight, I was delighted to see the bird so clearly with telescope and thought there would be no better way to see the bird for the first time. All the team members had opportunity to see the bird before it flew to the other side of the hill. However, we did not have chance to take the photo of the bird. In fact, the bird sighting was so early and suddenly that Michael was not ready with his camera and lens.
On previous day, we (Som G.C., Michael Dooher, Prakash Basnet and me) had come to Upardang Gadi, the first district headquarters of Chitwan, renowned for the historic fort built early 1800 by Shatrubhanjan Shah, the grandson of Prithbinarayan Shah. The place is surrounded by series of massive hills with forest and meadow, a home for many birds and creatures.
It was pleasant surprise to see Spiny Babbler (Kande Bhyakur in Nepali), the dream bird for many bird lovers worldwide, in Upardang Gadi area. We also observed other exciting birds in the mixed forest that stretches from Chunpole Bhangyang to all the way up to the summit of the hill. We all enjoyed the sighting of beautiful Cutia with the contrasting black barring on the flanks.
At first we had to toil hard to find and see this bird. But, once we played its bird call from mobile, Cutias were dancing up and down from one tree to other and they followed us up to the hill. We saw many exciting hill birds (list below).
Recording call of Spiny Babbler
Since Spiny Babbler is the new record for Chiwan, the news was quickly spread especially in Sauraha like wildfire. Since then two groups of nature guides who have been working especially in the field of bird watching/guiding, visited the place to see Spiny Babbler which was new to many of them. Both groups saw the bird in the same spot and in the forest as well. I accompanied one of the groups and we were able to see the nest with eggs that possibly of Spiny Babbler. But it is yet to be confirmed. I did not have good camera when I saw the bird but other time when I had the good one, I could not spot the bird because of inclement weather. We have recorded the call of Spiny Babbler, though. Spiny Babbler is locally known as Dale Bhyakura. I have been keeping eye on the bird and particularly on the nest as I go to hills every now and then because of the Gadi Hill Cottage that I built there to accommodate the visitors.
We recorded some 61 species of birds (some are only heard) during 3 days of bird watching in Upardang Gadi area in late April:
Black Francolin, Hill Partridge (heard), Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Greater Yellownape, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Great Barbet, Blue-throated Barbet, White-throated Kingfisher, Common Hawk Cuckoo (heard), Indian Cuckoo, Drongo Cuckoo, Green-billed Malkoha, Mountain Scops Owl, Collared Owlet, Ashy Wood Pigeon, Oriental Turtle Dove, Spotted Dove, Crested Serpent Eagle, Eurasian Hobby, Long-tailed Broadbill (heard), Golden-fronted Leafbird, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Long-tailed Shrike, Common Green Magpie, Rufous Treepie, Grey Treepie, Maroon Oriole, Long-tailed Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, Ashy Drongo, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Orange-headed Thrush, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Pied Bushchat, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Black-lored Tit, Himalayan Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, Ashy Bulbul, Mountain Bulbul, Black Bulbul, Striated Prinia, Grey-breasted Prinia, Oriental White-eye, Common Tailorbird, Greenish Warbler, Grey-hooded Warbler, White-crested Laughingthrush, Streated Laughingthrush, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Black-chinned Babbler, Grey-throated Babbler, Spiny Babbler, Cutia, Nepal Fulvetta, Black-chinned Yuhina, Rufous-winged Bushlark, Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Grey Wagtail, Olive-backed Pipit.
Spiny Babbler was recorded in Upardang Gadi at the altitude of 1206 m. and at the geographical position of N 270 45.805' E 840 35.295'(Bird photos were taken with help of telescope.)