Saturday, October 26, 2013

Birds at IIP Dehradun Campus : White-browed Fantail and Warblers

 We traveled to Uttarakhand last week. The motto was to go for The Great Himalaya Bird count assisted by but we had booked the guest house at IIP Dehradun so we could stay there and enjoy birding ahead of the bird count. It turned out to be a good rest after a hectic week and a flu attack I was suffering. We actually were pondering over the possibility of cancelling the trip as I was not too confident of feeling well, but since we had 4 days at Dehradun to rest we decided to go ahead with our plan. It was a great decision as I got to rest properly with 2-3 hours of bird watch each morning and evening in the beautiful campus of IIP.

The straight road from one end of the campus to the other is the most beautiful road to walk and people have spotted leopards and other animals on this road. The tall trees look beautiful in the morning and you can see the tea gardens flanking both sides of this road.

It is a heaven for birds and birders both.

In fact the first morning was a sign of the times to come, I woke up with a sweet bird song, at about 4.30 AM unbelievably, and wondered which new bird I would see and whether I would be able to recognise this bird song with any of the bird I would see. The bird, in fact came to show me off her beautiful song and dance performance later in the day and I felt so blessed. It was a White-browed Fantail and the dance is synchronised with her song. It was wonderful to watch this bird several times.

The first time this bird was spotted by Arvind when he was walking alone around the other end of the guest house where some construction work was going on. I was not well so returned to our room for a short nap after a 2 hour morning walk. He came back and shown me these pictures. Seeing the bird I felt so jealous because I wanted to see this bird myself, I had seen a wonderfully shot video of Flycatchers some time ago and instantly recognised this beauty.

White-browed Fantail is a delightful bird to watch. But I had still not heard this bird so I could not associate the morning bird song yet with WBF flycatcher.

The background is not good for making the picture look good but the bird is really beautiful. Especially the way it fans the tail and turns quickly at 180 degree to fan the tail again.

Seeing these pictures I had no idea of the dance performance it does.

And then we decided to have another walk after lunch. We walked from the guest house on the beautiful road that spans from one end of the campus to the other, 4 Kms in total. Just as we crossed the turn to Director's bungalow, I could hear the song again on a tree. Looked up and here it was. Dancing and singing away in glee.

We enjoyed the song and dance performance twice more but clear pictures could not be taken. Partly it was too far and too fast moving and party because it's difficult to click pictures in thick foliage when one is standing right below the tree.

I will keep posting Birds of IIP Dehradun in a series this time. Sharing another bird in this post. We saw so many warblers and the identification of warblers is so difficult for amateur birder like me. The best I could identify this one is a Lemon-rumped Warbler.

See this series of pictures so different angles of the bird is visible. Let me know if you think it is Dusky warbler that I was contemplating regarding this one.

Lemon -warbler or Dusky warbler. Please confirm if you recognise them.

And stay tuned for more and more birds coming up. We spotted around 100 birds in this trip, some were common to make the count but some birds were spotted for the first time by us. Overall a really good good trip birding wise.

Friday, October 25, 2013

how to pack a toiletry bag for trekking or general traveling

I have been traveling a lot, it has been a week's travel almost every month this year. Most of the times we end up walking around the places a lot even if it is not a full fledged trek. Seeing the marketplaces, walking on the streets and interacting with small time shopkeepers and passersby is a great way to know local culture and lifestyle, as we have experienced. So we get a small backpack, water bottles, couple of fruits for the day and get walking all around the place when we are there.

Yes I tan a lot when I travel. My skin is prone to get burnt too but I haven't found any good solution to it as all sunscreens I have tried till now have been either too suffocating to apply or have had some really irritating perfume. So a cap is all I have for my defense mostly and a large framed pair of sunglasses. Walking around the places leaves me quite exhausted by the end of the day and a warm bath helps a lot. So I take care to carry everything that gives me the comfort of a nice warm bath after a days worth of roaming around. Not that I am too conscious of products but a few basics are good to pack. Mine is quite a frugal toiletry bag.

One thing to take care is not to put the toiletry bag in checked in baggage when flying as a leaked out sunscreen or shampoo will be a lot of mess to handle. Try and keep it in hand baggage or segregate the products before you sort out the stuff. My toiletry bag often carries a few random things like a knife, few safety pins and may be all my medicines too, which I take out and keep in drawers when staying in hotels or guest houses.

  1. Shampoo: I prefer a tube pack but a small pack of whatever brand you are currently using will be great.
  2. Bath gel : travel pack definitely. Sometimes I carry soap bar instead.
  3. Face wash : tube pack or a bottle. It can be quite versatile if you are pressed for space or have a limited baggage restriction. *Read how I managed on our last trek.
  4. A sunscreen or sunblock ( I carry a lactocalamine lotion as I find it quite useful for me)
  5. A foot cream if you have the habit of applying, I pack a jar Boroline as it is quite a multipurpose cream. I use it as a hand cream too after the night bath. It is a good antiseptic cream for small nicks and cuts or bruises.
  6. A bottle of hand sanitiser that I carry in my hand bag all the time. One is packed into the toiletry bag as well.
  7. Detergent powder sachets : I find them useful to wash any accidental stains or if I need to wash any essentials during my stay.
  8. Mosquito repellent cream: I am intolerant to any heavy feeling cream on my skin and even the perfume, but when there are mosquitos we have to be careful. I often apple the MR cream on the headboard of bed or any solid surface rather than my skin and it works for a while :-)Applying it on my nails also works. Yes I am creative :-)
  9. A pain relief spray: This is required when we get minor sprains. It has not happened often but it's good to pack especially when you are expecting a difficult trek.
  10. Savlon or antiseptic solution : this is more of a first aid kit essential but has to be packed.
  11. Ear buds : I need them a lot and these are useful for many random purposes I see. 
  12. Lip balm : it goes into my handbag but I pack it in my toiletry bag as well.
  13. Sanitary pads: I pack them in a foil bag and keep them in the toiletry bag (which is transparent) just so the pads are not visible if I have to take out the toiletry bag in public for some reason. Especially during treks. (it is not seen in the picture as the bottles and tubes are placed above the pack).
  14. Tissue papers: I keep tissue paper in almost all bags I carry, just for the usefulness. This also goes in polythene bags or foil bags.
  15. Disposable panties or panty liners : I found these really useful when I was on the Kullu to Leh mountain biking expedition. You are often not left with a choice to have a nice bath and change but the panty liner can be changed to feel fresh.
  16. A toilet seat sanitiser : I found a product called Peesafe which is very useful during travels and treks as we use public toilets a lot. Just spray the product on a toilet seat, wait for a few minutes and do your business. I prefer spraying the door knobs and taps as well to prevent any potential contamination. A very useful product I must say. I got it from SafetyKart, you can also order it online if you wish.
  17. Deodoriser spray or roll on: I personally don't use these as all chemical perfumes are a strict no for me. A good bath is good enough for me and this is not on my list. I mentioned as many of you might like it, but please take care to ask people if you want a generous spray and you are surrounded by a few people in a tent while trekking. Someone like me might be allergic to it.
  18. Vicks or pain balm if you have a tendency to get colds or headaches. I keep my tablets in my toiletry bag too.
  19. I always keep a knife (often wrapped in a handkerchief to avoid any cuts)and a few safety pins in my toiletry bag too. Used to have a needle and thread too but I required it so now I am careless about it.
  20. A white cotton or polyester rope : I find it really useful in many ways so this is a constant in my toiletry bag, which you see is a multipurpose bag in my case :-)
  21. A comb and a small mirror if you need. I mostly don;t pack the mirror and have sometimes lost my comb and have felt jut okay without them. But These are essentials it your travel is not of trekking type.

*We did a nice trek last week as well which was fairly tough and I had to chose the absolute essential toiletries from this list. The best decision I took was to carry a bottle of face wash that doubled up as a bath gel and a hand wash as well.

Do let me know if you pack some more. Knowing more is always better.

Yes I was on a 10 day long break and came back just 2 days ago. Will be sharing a lot about this birding oriented trip which turned out to be a surprise trek as well. Stay tuned.