Kheekhan meadow (Above) and the banded Tickell's thrush
in 2015 (right)
Also read this article at the conservationindia.org website.
Kheekhan meadow, Mandal valey.
Kheekhan is a beautiful meadow surrounded by pretty oak forest at 1700m in the Mandal valley. It’s a cattle camp where villagers from Siroli (about 2km) have their goats, buffaloes and cows tied up in sheds. Someone from each family walks up and milks the cattle every day. They then let the animals out to graze for the day in the meadow. We mist net at Kheekhan regularly. The meadow and the forest edge provide great opportunities to catch birds I am most interested in. Mornings in Kheekhan are spectacular. The snow covered Rudranath peak lords over an uninhabited valley thick with forest and expansive alpine meadows near the mountaintops. Huge flocks of speckled wood pigeons make bear trees seem foliated. As the sun rises, they disperse into the forest in search of acorns while mountain hawk eagles start their graceful soars looking for unsuspecting khaleej pheasant.
We opened nets that morning to a leopard sawing. It was a great session and we banded close to 30 birds. It is absolutely wonderful to get re-captures of birds that you have tagged in the past. Harish brought back a big bird bag from his round checking nets. When we catch a bird in the net, we put it in a cloth bag, called, uncreatively, a bird bag, to reduce stress while we walk it over to the place where it is measured. We have some big bags to hold big birds. Harish handed me the bag saying “banded” as he went to check other nets. It was a male Tickell’s thrush (Turdus unicolor). I had tagged this bird at this same place a year ago! Since then it had migrated to its wintering grounds in the foothills and flown back to the same spot! It had survived the cold weather, predators, disease, fights with other birds and much more and was back for another round of breeding. Where did it go? What route did it take? Did it fly in a big flock or alone? Did it take the same route back? We don’t even have a hunch to the answers of these questions. Bird migration is a fascinating behavior. It is amazing that individual birds are in one sense free to go wherever they want, but are faithful to places where they know they will do well.
We re-sighted the same individual in Kheekhan on one of my last walks there as I wound up fieldwork in 2015. It is great to know an individual bird for three years. I look forward to seeing him again next year.