Initiation into Birding @Bliss Resort, Biksthang, Sikkim

Bliss Resort is situated at Biksthang in Pelling district. It can be reached either through Pelling or directly through Bagdogra/Siliguri(120 kms). It is very much an off the road place, perhaps too much ‘off the road’ for much ‘on the road’ people.

It had become a routine for us in Sikkim to sleep by nine pm and wake-up before five am and on sixth day as well, there in Bliss Resort, we got up at around five am and peeped out of the window. It was cloudy, yet very serene. We moved out in the verandah and settled ourselves on comfortable chairs. Eyes rolled on to small lawn followed by tall trees, and then to an endless vista of green mountains. Mount Kanchenjunga was behind the veil of clouds.

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It was a perfect morning. We could hear different birds calling and were trying to spot them. Manish went for a stroll around the resort. He came back in a while and looked dejected. He told me that he heard a bird making sound “upper dekh” “upper dekh” and challenging him to locate it. It was close but Manish failed to locate it and the bird raised the boisterous challenge.

After some time a Bengali couple came down and joined us. We exchanged greetings. We were soon to realize how suddenly things get a kick-start when supported and explained by an experienced person. Since last two or three years, both of us were seriously considering bird watching. Till then, whenever we saw birds, we asked somebody about that bird and if he knew he would tell us and that was it. We had an awfully wrong notion in our minds that we need to go to some special place to initiate ourselves into bird watching.

We were chatting casually and the gentleman asked us, “Are you interested in bird watching?”
“Yes we are, but don’t know how and where to start”.
“Well! You just need a good binocular and a good hand book”.
“I have a binocular with 10X zoom”
“That is pretty good. Now let us locate a bird and recognize it by taking a look into this book”

They were carrying “Handbook of birds of Indian subcontinent” by Grimmit, Innisprick et.al. They also told us about another equally good book – “A field Guide to the Birds of India” by Krys Kazmierczack. Soon we came to know that they were prominent members of Kolkata birding group.

Standing in the porch, right at that moment, they helped us to locate and identify – Himalayan Bulbul, Great Indian Barbet, Mynas, spotted doves and Munias. They also showed us the bird that was playing hide and seek with him. It was Blue Throated Barbet, sitting on the top of a barren tree still calling in its distinctive voice. We were thrilled.

In that auspicious hour we learnt many things and did a good deal of birding in and around Bliss for the next three days. We spotted a few more birds-“Verditor flycatcher, Minivet, Common tree magpie, Greater yellow napped woodpecker, Plumbus water redstart, Drongos.
Bliss resort is in-fact a bliss for the bird watchers.

Himalayan Bulbul

Himalayan Bulbul

That morning we started late for a trek to a Gompa (Lhentse monastery, 18th century), situated high up on a distant hill, about two and a half km from Bliss. First we went to Mangalbarey Bazaar and then climbed up to cross the small village. Each and every house of that village, including the smallest and even under-construction ones, was decorated with varieties of plants and flowers.

bliss house

When we started to walk, it was partly cloudy and partly sunny but it soon started to become more and more cloudy. Rachit was not showing much enthusiasm. He was behaving differently from his usual self. I had a strong feeling that he was not well. Gompa was still far. We decided to return. By the time we reached at resort, Rachit had a temperature. We gave him paracetamol and put him up for a nap.

He woke-up in late afternoon and felt better. We spent that evening sitting in the verandah. Random clouds of noon, which were here and there, were now everywhere. Soon it became too crowded up in heavens and some of them started to descend on earth…lower and…lower…and…more and more. Rachit wondered “would they enter in houses on those hills!”

To which our birding guru replied-“there is a saying in Shillong (he grew up in Shillong) that even if you have a roof, clouds will enter through your window and rain.”
“Can it so happen here as well?” marveled the little boy.

Buddhists write prayers, well wishes, and sacred chants, on the flags. They believe that winds carry them everywhere in the world. And this was Sikkim – the land of Guru Padmsambhav. Rachit’s wish rode on horses of wind. Clouds heard it. They came running, embracing the nearby hills, then the tall trees … onto the lawn of the compound.

The little boy wanted to go out in the lawn to dance with them. But he had a fever and a strict Mamma too. So he spread out his hands to make friends with them. He was happy and perhaps the clouds were too. They left a gift for him – the rain and went away.The boy enjoyed the gift. He shared it with all and discreetly carried a little bit of it, hidden in his little hands, to the play room, where he played carom and Table Tennis.

Another gift arrived for the boy and for us too while we were indulging ourselves with after dinner coffee and gup-shup. It made everyone hush ……..and rush.

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It was a Moth. We never saw such a big and beautiful moth before. It was then Rachit’s turn to bombard us with questions which were all nicely explained by ‘the birding couple’.

“What is the difference between a moth and a butterfly?” –
Moth and butterfly do look alike and they belong to the same family, but there are a few differences and you can tell them apart.
Butterflies generally rest with their wings closed, while moths rest with their wings open.
Butterflies have long thin antenna, while moths have short feathery antenna.
Butterflies are seen more in daytime, while moths are nocturnal.

It was a good learning for us as well.

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