Wednesday 9th June 1982:
Delhi to Simla,
A very hot night. Apparently it was 110°F (43°C) in Delhi yesterday. We slowly got up and ready to leave, leaving our unwanted luggage in store. We walked to a milk bar which was fortunately open when we arrived just before 08:00 (all the other places seemed closed). We got an auto-rickshaw to the bus station with a scuffle between Dave and driver when we arrived there as we’d only pay him the metre charge (we later learned that the driver was probably right as there might have been a surcharge as there were three of us, although he didn’t say so). The bus left on time at 09:30 and was very comfortable with a fan operating when it stopped, curtains and the conductor selling drinks. It was very hot as we drove N across the plains, reaching low hills at 15:00. It was then an interesting climb up to Simla (c7000 ft) with a narrow gauge railway in sight for most of the time. We arrived to find all but a few expensive hotels were full. Hotel Ashoka allowed us to sleep in a corridor where they provided beds provided with a room being promised for the next day. Simla had an almost toy town atmosphere and was full of Indian tourists escaping the heat of the plains. It’s little narrow streets were very reminiscent of St. Ives in Cornwall, although in the mountains rather than by the sea. There were lots of conifers around the town but nowhere apparent where one could go birding.
Birds seen, mainly from bus included: Night Heron 1, Indian Pond Heron 20, Black Kite 10, Asian White-backed Vulture 10, Red-wattled Lapwing 10, Collared Dove 20, Red Turtle Dove 1, Greater Coucal 1, Little Green Bee-eater 4, Hoopoe 2, Red-vented Bulbul 10, White-cheeked Bulbul 20, Indian Robin 4, Blue Whistling Thrush 1, Purple Sunbird 2, Bank Myna 30.
Thursday 10th June 1982: Simla, Himachel Pradesh,
After a good night’s sleep in he corridor we moved into a room after breakfast. We spent the morning wandering around in town visiting the Forestry Office to get information on the Simla Water Catchment Area at Dhalli, the Tourist Office for bus gen and the Post Office. I bought an air letter and wrote it over lunch, then posted it on our return to Forestry Office to collect a permit for Dhalli. We had to see the Commissioner to do so and I was a bit worried that our appearance might not go down too well but he seemed a nice bloke and getting the permit was no problem. No lights in hotel at night was a bit annoying.
Birds seen included: White-backed Vulture 10, Himalayan Griffon Vulture 1, Red-rumped Swallow 2, Blue Whistling Thrush 3, Grey-hooded Warbler 3, Streaked Laughingthrush 1, Spot-winged Black Tit 5, Himalayan Treecreeper 2.
Friday 11th June 1982: Dhalli (Simla Water Catchment Area)
We got a bus at 07:00 to Dhalli and walked up the road in the rain to the Water Catchment Area. Good looking forest, mainly conifers, with a dead level track contouring around it for several miles. The first part of the day was very wet and cold but it became drier and warmer later and the sun even came out for a while. An unobtrusive local kept behind us all the way, presumably an employee keeping an eye on us, or making sure we didn’t get lost. We returned to Simla by bus early evening.
Birds recorded included: White-backed Vulture 4, Mountain Hawk Eagle 1, Common Hill Partridge h, Rufous Turtle Dove 15, Great Barbet h, Scaly-bellied Green Woodpecker 2, Brown-fronted Woodpecker 1, Blue Whistling Thrush 5, Long-billed Thrush 3, Grey-winged Blackbird 3, Grey-hooded Warbler 10, *Western Crowned Leaf Warbler 2, Beautiful Niltava 2, Verditer Flycatcher 1, Ultramarine Flycatcher 6, White-throated Laughingthrush 30, Streaked Laughingthrush 4, Red-headed Laughingthrush 1, Green Shrike Babbler 1, Red-headed Tit 20, White-tailed Nuthatch 1, Himalayan Treecreeper 2, Jay 3, Rock Bunting 2.
Saturday 12th June 1982: Simla to Blossom, Himachel Pradesh
A lazy start to the day. We booked out of the hotel and strolled down into town to book a bus to Manali for 14th. We then caught the 11:15 bus to Chail. It took about an hour to clear Dhalli and we arrived at Chail at 14:10 to find no suitable Cheer Pheasant habitat. We enquired at Forestry Office in Chaill and were told to go to Blossom, 4 miles away. We decided it was best to sleep out at Blossom to be sure of being there early, so we took our bags and walked, arriving soon after 17:00, having seen 9 Lanceolated Jays on the way. Just before dusk, at about 19:30, a Cheer Pheasant started calling but we failed to locate it. Soon it, or another, called from below us and Dave spotted it. My views were not very good, but enough to be getting on with but Nick failed to see it at all, having wandered off to look for the first one. An Eagle Owl calling from below us at dusk refused to show, with the hillside too steep in places to contemplate going after it in the dark. After Gosiankund we were becoming dab hands at sleeping out and had no problems doing so close to the road. It was clear, not cold and there was no traffic to disturb us.
Birds recorded included: White-backed Vulture 5, Himalayan Griffon Vulture 10, Black Francolin h, *Cheer Pheasant 1 male, Rufous Turtle Dove 6, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon 1, Slaty-headed Parakeet 2, Eagle Owl h, Great Barbet h, Brown-fronted Woodpecker 1, Upland Pipit h, Blue Whistling Thrush 2, Verditer Flycatcher 4, Ultramarine Flycatcher 2, Streaked Laughingthrush 2, Bronzed Drongo 2, *Lanceolated Jay 9, Red-billed Blue Magpie 1.
Sunday 13th June 1982: Blossom to Simla, Himachel Pradesh
I was woken at 04:15 by a few spots of rain. As dark clouds were looming we packed away our sleeping bags and put on waterproofs in preparation for a down pour which fortunately did not materialise. A Cheer Pheasant started calling at 04:45 and we quickly saw a pair in poor light with better views of another pair being obtained later. We walked back to Chail seeing more Lanceolated Jays and a Himalayan Pied Woodpecker on the way. We arrived at Chail at 11:15 but had to wait three hours for a bus, partly in a very good, but flashy restaurant (The Hot Shop). We got back to Simla at 17:30 and returned to Hotel Ashoka. My stomach was playing up for second day, but not badly.
Birds seen included: White-backed Vulture 1, Himalayan Griffon Vulture 1, Crested Serpent Eagle 1, Black Francolin 3, Cheer Pheasant 2 males and 2 females, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon 1, Slaty-headed Parakeet 3, *Himalayan Pied Woodpecker 1, Upland Pipit 5, White-cheeked Bulbul 10, Blue-headed Rock Thrush 2, Blue Whistling Thrush 2, Orange-headed Ground Thrush 1 male, Grey-hooded Warbler 4, Striated Prinia 1, Verditer Flycatcher 1, Ultramarine Flycatcher 1, Black-chinned Babbler 2, Streaked Laughingthrush 1, Bronzed Drongo 3, Lanceolated Jay 4, Red-billed Blue Magpie 1.