Mountains, Nature

Birds and running – musings on thandi sadak, Ranikhet…

Birds are one in the faunal realm that share the joie de vivre of running, meandering (out of breath) just for the sake of it (and some foraging, maybe), a seeming purposelessness that is whimsical and resolute at the same time… while other animals chase you, or recede into the thicket at the sound of feet hitting the ground, birds move tangentially, flitting across the road or calling out from some obscure treetop, nonchalant at times but fidgety for the most part…

Such is the train of thought chugging across thandi sadak as one jogs along its curves… for me it is quintessential Ranikhet, a landscape oblivious to the tides of time… as ownership of colonial past keeps changing hands, these woods are moot, unflinching spectators… most British hill stations have a thandi sadak, defined by dense mixed forests and punctuated by bungalows, but the one in Ranikhet stands out for its lack of traffic, vehicular or human, and (consequently) rich biodiversity…

A lair of the leopard, one has to wait for dawn to break before lacing up for morning runs, ‘tis almost seven in the winters before one can step out… once the initial shivers from the flimsy clothing have subsided, one starts amalgamating… the soft crunch of a weathering road softer than pounding a pavement but more discernible than a dirt trail, vapours from the mouth rising up with the morning mist…

And then there are birds that define these runs for me, their ambient music wafting with the breeze that makes one forget the laboured breathing, for this road climbs up rather deceptively, the canopy never revealing the true extent of the incline till one merges with the main road at Jhula Devi, from where the army trucks drown out everything, and the climb to Chaubatia becomes rather drab…

‘Tis a forest where one hears birds more than one sees them, especially while running, each with its own nuance and my own rue as they flit past… I resolve to return and stalk them later, knowing all too well that this momentary morning gregariousness might not stay the entire day…

The pheasants are a loud continuous rustle… ambling along the road pecking, both the runner and the bird are caught unawares as one comes around the bend and the latter duly scrambles back into the thicket… the passerines punctuate their rustling with perching and flight, ransacking the roadside for meals… the Piciformes fill the air with echoes of their tapping in the distance, tripping slightly as one cranes the neck up to locate them…

This is a road where I drive slower than I run, creeping in first gear before some wiseguys in their SUVs lay all my stealth to waste with their honking… and I feel this dread that one day the road will be repaired for their amusement… the best of roads, the worst of roadsides, one muses on Dickens in fading light when the blood red head of a pheasant peeps out of the bend… and all those vagaries of development take a backseat for a while…

 

 

Birds of Himalaya
Kalij pheasant

 

Birds of Himalaya
Grey-winged blackbird

 

Birds of Himalaya
Grey-winged blackbird (female)

 

Birds of Himalaya

 

Birds of Himalaya
Lesser yellownape

 

Rufous sibia
Rufous sibia

 

Musings on birds, Ranikhet, Uttarakhand

Author: Parth Joshi

Allured by the outdoors, the author is made up in parts of that quintessential lost soul wreathing under the pangs of biophilia in a desk job, a wannabe elegist mostly ending up in dungeons of poetasters and an optimist waiting for the senility of the modern world to fade away while sampling shoots and leaves. In saner times, he has a keen interest in areas pertaining to tourism, history, agriculture and climate change, especially with respect to historical interpretations, emerging technologies and future livelihoods. An avid trekker, runner, cyclist, birder and photographer, he is more often than not found gloating over anything hinterland, on foot or over computer monitors, and fantasizing solutions that can foster inclusive growth and sustainable livelihoods for communities at the grassroots.

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