Monday, March 13, 2017

Birding in Nagaland - Part 2

Birding in Nagaland - Part 1

Well fed, we start walking up the gully for the next phase of birding... Lots and lots of birdsong all around but the tragedy is the visibility :-( Whatever watery sunlight had appeared for a scant few minutes is gone replaced with more fog and a light drizzle now and again. The fog banks rise from the valley and drift up towards us blanketing everything on its way... And yet, we manage a few sightings keeping us hopeful of the weather clearing!

White-capped water Redstart

Blue fronted Robin (f)

Little Bunting

Crested Finchbill

Rusty-fronted Barwing

Fire tailed Sunbird in Non-breeding plumage

Naga Wren-babbler

Orange-bellied Leafbird
Notwithstanding the dull and listless weather, we did get many lifers and whetted our appetites for a dedicated birding trip here soon.

In addition to the many birds, we also saw the Yellow throated Marten. It came upon us suddenly and vanished just as quickly but not before we had framed it for posterity...!!!

Yellow throated Marten
As a bonus, we saw a few birds on our way back. The entire journey was made more fascinating with the roads lined intermittently with blossoming cherry trees and views of the beautiful village of Khonoma nestled in the mountains of the Japfu range.

A pretty moss-stained boulder on our way don

Streaked Bulbul

Cherry blossoms
Khonoma from a distance

The Brown 2-storied structure is the Dovipie Inn in Khonoma

Friday, March 10, 2017

Heritage Heirlooms - The Caves at Lamgaon


The Jain Temple at Kudne

The Caves at Lamgaon

There are two caves fairly close to each other near Lamgaon. The access to these used to be circuitous and long but in the recent past, it's a short walk from the village on a well marked though unpaved path. Just as one starts out towards the caves, and on what was the outskirts of the village then probably is a village deity guarding the perimeters of the village.  

Possibly village deities... right at the edge of the village.

The picturesque path leading to the caves...

These caves at Lamgaon have a Buddhist origin. The very name Lamgaon means the abode of the Lamas (Buddhist monks). The smaller of these has a nice courtyard with a Tulsi-vrindavan and a Nandi installed in it. The outer chamber has two columns on the outer facade and a smaller chamber inside, demarcated by two more columns  in between. The inner chamber is the sanctum with a Shiv-ling installed in at a later date. 

The smaller cave with the Shiv-ling in the inner chamber
The larger cave hollowed out of lateritic rock is quite big with a large assembly hall and a smaller inner chamber. This cave too has remnants of three columns and one column intact. The columns have a clear-cut stone beam-like structure connecting them on top but the floor is in very bad condition. 

The larger cave at Lamgaon

It is said that the smaller and the larger caves were connected by a tunnel the mouth of which is visible though I am not sure if anyone has tried access to it. 

A very large stone outside the entrance can be easily overlooked but on careful inspection seems to have the typical cornices and adornments associated with the Buddhist Chaitya Arches. It seems likely that at some time long back, this must have been the top portion of the cave entrance which has since fallen in due to the vagaries of nature...

The possible Chaitya Arch now fallen over

These lesser known sites are a joy to behold if one makes the effort to reach them. A must visit for all history and archaeology aficionados. If my narrative enthuses even a few to visit, it would all have been worthwhile....

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Birding in Nagaland - Part 1

Khonoma -  has a quaint ring to it and conjures up images of tall, dense evergreen forests ornamented with exotic birdsong... The reality didn't disappoint either. We stayed at the Dovipie Inn. A comfortable and very clean place with great food. 

As tied up earlier, Angulie Meyase, our guide for birding there met us at the hotel lobby at 5 am sharp. The excitement of birding for the first time in this exotic location had us all bundled up and rearing to go mindless of the freezing temperatures....

We set out on a foggy overcast morning with the sunrise still some time away. Maneuvering through the confined lanes of Khonoma with the headlights on is nothing short of scary! We zip past with centimeters to spare...

Once we are out of the village and driven some distance towards the Tragopan sanctuary, we slow down. And as if on cue, short of the next bend, Angulie tells the driver to stop. We watch with bated breath... There is this enormous Mithun standing on the road and five mountain bamboo partridges on the grassy edge! The light is terrible seeing that the sun is not yet out, but an attempt is made to record this lifer. Soon, they scamper away into the undergrowth and we move forward.


Mithun calf

Mountain Bamboo Partridge

Past dense overhanging forest the road emerges into the open on a higher elevation. Henceforth, we stop at regular intervals and tick off many lifers, some seen well and some fleeting glimpses...

Grey Sibia

Grey Sibia

Ashy throated Warbler

White capped water Redstart
We next halted at the parking lot where we had a sumptuous breakfast of puri bhaji packed by the hotel. Well fed, the birding started again....

Part 2 is in the next post.