Chakki Morh- The Birding Bliss

By Aaryan Bhalla

“Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.”

A Red-billed Blue Magpie, This was one of the best shots from the whole trip- At stream Bridge.

I had never been to Chakki Morh since I’m doing birding 2 years back. But a sudden call changed my expressions and excited me 😂😃 When the person on the line asked- “ Whether would you like to company me to go Chakki Morh and Bhojnagar birding tomorrow morning?…”

Answering- “Yes” in the full volume of Excitement! Chakki Mor as a mid-altitude habitat which is very interesting.

Left to Right: Me, Lalit Sir, and Vishal Bhaiya.

Chandigarh has the highest density of birdwatchers I have ever seen in a single city… in my life. I never thought that I would develop the hobby of bird watching during corona periods will give me some time to rejuvenate myself and give chance to explore new things and different hobbies even when many birds start flocking on trees and backyards nearby. And on the 28th of November 2021 with the grace of Mr. Lalit Mohan Bansal Sir and with Vishal Sharma Bhaiya. I first time visited Chakki Morh which is around 30 Km’s from Chandigarh.

“Taking an image, freezing a moment, reveals how rich reality truly is.”

We instantly planned 6 hours trip to this unseen gem. It is a tourist location for youngsters to hang out in natural landscapes and river beds also a hotspot for birders. It was for the first time I met them both. One of the best advantages of birding is that you get a chance to meet new people then along with happiness, and the spirits also increase.

“A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.”

We left early at 6, Please pardon me for squeezing in with this picture when we encountered a family of Indian grey langurs surviving the winter morning chills. They also have been a part of this trip and the temperature was so down that hands started shivering. but Besides several new guests came to like-

A little Black-Chinned babbler is a small bird, which continuously hides in the bushes.
Along with a lifer Bird: Whiskered Yuhina (seen for the first time) and along with the company of a little Indian white Eye 👀 Both birds are from the same white-eye family! Two in one!!…
A Yellow-Bellied fairy-fantail was also there fanning out its tail when hunting the insects when the sun rose.
We were really surprised to see a Lemon Rumped Warbler behaving like a Sunbird on the Lantana flowers. ID was confirmed later.
A red vented Bulbul with an altitudinal variation makes Sub-species due to a brown patch on the face.
I have a long beard though- Himalayan Bulbul. A species of foothills and quite common in Mountains.

Along with A huge flock of Black-throated tits, Numerous Rufous treepies along with Grey treepies, Hundreds of Bulbuls, White-throated fantails, beyond a grey Bushchat, a black redstart female and a beautiful male of Crimson Sunbird which peek-a-boo and flew away.

Fantails continually fan their tail as a part of their restless, showy behavior. Presumably, to frighten hidden prey into movement so that they can be detected. During cold spells in winter, they can be seen moving about on the ground in search of food.

At the stream- Chakki Morh Waterfall

A White-capped Redstart- Though that is not good, But still you can get good shots as we got.

As we reached the stream a grey wagtail welcomed us and a large flock of Red-billed blue magpies was also there quite common in upper altitudes. Also, we have 2 fixed winter migrants every year- White-capped Redstart and Plumbeous Water Redstart at this stream.

Both are the Redstarts are frequently seen at the stream under the bridge... Chakki Morh stream.

Two times in our way. Next time when we go to Chakki Morr stop at the first bridge at the stream… where we clicked redstarts, crested kingfisher, forktails where plenty number of birds come to keep their thirst cool …. Unfortunately, A cafe person beside is making another road from the road to his cafe. At the road level … that idiot has covered half portion of the stream … 😞 That’s how he is destroying our one of the great birding points at the starting route of Chakki.

I mean he has raised the level of the kacha portion to the road level. Very sad. Now we cannot go down to the stream level. Just made an elevated mud road to his hotel, destroying all vegetation on that side.
Sexual Dimorphism is noticed in several birds- Also in the Plumbeous Water Redstart (Female). The male is beautiful however, the female is dull.

Sometimes, with luck, you can also able to get Little Forktail and wallcreeper here. There at the waterfall, we met another birder- Mr. Navjot Singh, he has also contributed some of his pics to this article. He is also keen and a new person towards birding visited Tal Chappar recently.

A White Capped Bunting Male, A Female was also there besides!…

There is a primary school where we could spot A pair of White Capped Bunting, and a Yellow Breasted GreenFinch, (Both Lifers) and Indian Robins were singing besides. Birds chirp in all directions as birds are most active around dawn and dusk.

As a matter of fact, Chakki Modh throws pleasant surprises, every now and then as well as the neighboring regions of the Bhojnagar and Jangeshu have mixed, coniferous, and pine forests. Unfortunately…… being destroyed by so-called development & connectivity with a lot of construction.🌹 The way the Environment & Habitat is!
Must work towards Habitat Conservation of these little birdies👍

A cute Yellow Breasted Greenfinch perched on wire gave us a beautiful pose.

Pine trees are being cut in an appreciable amount… so much of soil erosion and habitat loss….. like as same of our’s Sukhna lake. Already we lost our Nagar Van.... it is a shame that the birdwatchers have not been able to come together and object to this shameful display called the aviary. Birds should only remain in their natural habitat
The captive display has no role in bird welfare. Chakki Morh has gone the same way … birds’ll find some other place .. this is the attitude we actually have!

Another Lifer for all three of us.

But as still That’s why these forests also offer refuge to a number of birds whether they are summer, passage, or winter Migrants. We were also in the hope of some common and resident birds but could not get one like — White-crested or Rufous-chinned Laughingthrushes, Slaty & Plum-headed parakeets. But, we discovered several unexplored birds which are some of the few we have tried to cover in this article.

Yummy! Indian White-eye busy feeding on the Himalayan wild pears- one of the fruits that are loved by birds in Mountains

The story of people who love nature…

Aunt putting feeds and water for the birds. One could see hundreds of house sparrows, white-crested laughing thrushes, bulbuls, plum-headed parakeets, and some warblers around dhaba.

While exploring the extraordinary beauties of chakki Morh, we headed further up the hills to stop at a roadside Dhaba managed by a local- Mr. Ishwar Singh Bhatia and his wife who manage the roadside Dhaba named ‘Ishwar Dhaba’ decided not to disturb these “beauties” of nature by letting them have the rice and pieces of the patty to their hearts’ content.

Sweet Voice!! Grey-breasted Prinia adult calling; non-breeding with plumage.
Buff Barred Warbler: Another lifer and a new addition to the checklist!

The couple was inspired by the birders who frequent the dhaba during their birding tours and also in the migration season of the birds offers a cup of tea and some yummy “paranthas” plus daily put feeds and water for the birds and have also set up perches. Birders set with their tripods waiting for birds and capturing them.

But, Ishwar Dhaba disappointed us this time and we unluckily got nothing except a little Cinearous Tit came up to say hello.

Sometimes you get nothing, but sometimes so much activity is there, that you are unable to think what to click and what not to? That's why Chakki morh is one of the best avian birding hotspots around the Chandigarh ISCR as Chandigarh comes between the Shivaliks and the cold Himalayas. Some of the species have already arrived and more are likely to in the coming months.

Enchanting! Small update as per today’s experience, one can spend some time near whistling thrush as a house lot of potential.

And we got a piece of bad news: RESIDENTIAL PLOTS FOR SALE IN HILLS!! which also means lots of traffic and disturbance. But still, Life moves on. Birding will stay aside. Let us be more proactive with govt, the forest department so that some little areas must be preserved, the appropriate amount of trees planted, etc.

Party Time! Let’s Rock On- Flock of Russet Sparrows at Ishwar Dhaba.

Otherwise, we gonna have to be destroyed another good habitat too. This will be a big blow to the birds of chakki. Lots more traffic n cars can be expected! Very unfortunate. The habitat in Chakki Mor is being destroyed. Construction will go up as plots are on sale. It might take a few years but buying land and maintaining it for conservation is the most viable long-term solution.

The Woodpeckers and Barbets

Grey-headed Woodpecker (Female)
Grey-headed Woodpecker (Red Crown)- Male

The area after the Ishwar Dhaba is very good for woodpeckers and Barbets where there are abundant pine trees. In my guess, There are almost 10 types of woodpeckers which chakki morh arrives all of them! This female grey-headed woodpecker was identified by me and was very near to us when it gave us a good couple of shots and flew away.

Great Barbet- Its loud hooting song is often the only indication of this species’s presence.

Both these 2 barbets are resident and This Great barbet is largest of the all barbets is colorful can be seen at upper altitudes. A Blue-throated Barbet was also there besides but couldn’t come out for a good photo.

A good habitat for Lesser Yellownape also.

This yellownape woodpecker was so busy eating feed off of larvae of wood-boring insects that have invaded the bark of an already distressed pine tree. Because, Woodpeckers are attracted to wood-boring beetles, termites, carpenter ants, caterpillars, and spiders. The light was so low that we waited for the best shot because it stood there only while we could hear its digging noise.

Along with a flock of Red-billed Blue Magpies on the mountain slopes, fighting with each other for food.

Heading up to Bhojnagar- Rare Sightings!!

As we could not get much at Chakki Morh we headed more up at Bhojnagar. there we had two rare sightings- 2 Himalayan Griffon vultures, and a Flock of Black-headed Jays.

We were really glad to see a huge flock of 6–7 Black-headed Jay here!

Generally, Jays can be sighted at Dagshai, but we were really surprised to see them here. I observed something very high and knew would is not a Black Kite definitely due to the different wingspan and fingers visible.

A very large Himalayan Griffon Vulture was also now added to my ever-lasting long bird's list. This was a Splendid shot. Many claps for this one. An endangered species and of the heaviest birds found in the Himalayas. I was always there in its hope and finally! It was here.

Yellow-eyed Babbler is a small passerine babbler, which was also there roaming in the fields of Tomato fields.
An Indian Robin (Male) wagged its tail with a beautiful red vent and perched.

With that also spotted a couple of Great barbets, So many Grey-breasted Prinias, Indian Robins, Also a Yellow-eyed Babbler rambling in the tomato fields. We met a person waiting for the greenfinches in bhojnagar, and were surprised to know we observed it near the school down. And he was waiting for them previous 3 hours. So, this shows it's your patience and on your luck, that the bird will be encountered with you.

A Streaked Laughing thrush

Even Russet sparrows were also seen for the first time ever by me although they are totally resident and can be spotted at upper altitudes. A bright supercilium on the head differs it from the House sparrow.

A Russet Sparrow Female. Another Resident Lifer- A lifer refers to a bird species when it is first seen and positively identified by an individual birder.
A pair of ‘European/Himalayan goldfinch’ as per ‘The bird of the Day’.
A chestnut-bellied Rock thrush clicked on bird Race in Bhojnagar.

Animals and birds have a stupendously advanced sense of smell compared to us, That means that when you throw food out, it’s basically a neon light to all sorts of animals. This includes seemingly innocuous scraps such as fruit peels or chips which we can see in the picture above…

While on our another trip to Chakki Morh- Bhojnagar road on the 16th of February on a gazetted holiday with Mr. Lalit Mohan Bansal sir, Subhash Sapru sir. The traffic till the afternoon was less so a fair amount of birds — all in all, an okay session only.

A disabled Blue whistling thrush somehow hurt its leg. Was looking dazed & Confused!

Missed some otherwise expected species. But, we were surprised to get the- Peregrine Falcon (The fastest flying bird on the planet), and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk at different timings at bhojnagar, along with the magnificent White Created Laughingthrushes at Ishwar’s Dhaba.

A close-up of Gray Treepies is seen at the Shiva temple.

Going back we observed a couple of long-tailed minivets, Himalayan Prinias, A flock of Rufous Sibias listening for its song, was pleasant-sounding, numerous Brown rock chats, Grey treepies near the temple, Leiothrix, House Sparrows and Himalayan bulbuls came out when we offered them some chanas to eat.

हाय! आज तो मेरा भी गाड़ी चलाने का मन कर रहा है। :)

A grey Bushchat (Male) was singing a variety of beautiful songs when we noticed the bird peeking in a car window and this perch was just indeed! The colors of both bird and car were the same… Isn’t it?

Blue whistling thrush which is always there is known for its loud human-like whistling song at dawn and dusk. You can get them on the boundaries of the road on your way to Chakki Morh Bhojnagar Road!…
It doesn’t matter what birds one spots in what volumes… The sheer beauty of a place like Chakki will always call onto the souls that have been touched by it. Shots like these instill a desire to be there right at this moment.

There are a lot of trees of Bombax ceiba on the route of this area. All birds love to feed on these trees that’s why also named the Magnetic tree. Not as yet. The flowering season begins in the last week of Feb. As spring has started flowers have started blooming!!

Himalayan Bulbul and A Russet sparrow investing their meal.
The exclusive ‘Kalij Pheasant’ of Chakki ka Mod.

While driving in the hills and through the forest areas, be alert and cautious. Give way to wildlife crossing the road. When we were on our way back home. We spotted lots of Khalij Pheasants pleasantly crossing the road. I am happy that my first visit to Chakki Morh was awesome. We all are lucky for this year’s ultra-cold winter. Getting all these birds down in Chandigarh and other surrounding areas.

A Red-billed leiothrix and a House sparrow (Male)

The बाबे of Chakki Morh: Finally! Came here…

The magnificent White Created Laughingthrush at Ishwar’s Dhaba.

We were in the hope of exclusive fire-tailed Sunbird but however, bhojnagar disappointed us! but, then the time for evening Birding started, when the stunning White-crested laughing thrushes to have their snacks in the evening at Ishwars tea stall, generally they are a tough nut to crack!!... We waited for them for almost 15 minutes and our efforts were made very honest and they bring the sweet fruit!! Small pieces of rice were being offered to them, and hopefully, they came to have them.

It seems to me that biodiversity in trees/plant in Chakki Modh is key in the bird population. That feedback should go to Forest Department in HP & MOEF Delhi to change the way trees are planted as it’s being destroyed at a fast pace, Atleast rich pockets should exist!…

We recorded almost 65+ species in a day, and 45 on other day which was very important to us as a determined effort…We took pains to successfully sight of various lifer species in different areas of the Chakki Modh-Bhojpur Road that day which were seen for the first time ever! The checklist was long with many lifers. We had both the trips fruitful and really enjoyed it a lot. Both the people are kind-hearted and wonderful. Birding has really given me a lot.

In Conclusion, I would like to end my article with beautiful poetry penned down by Vishal Bhaiya!… He is also a good poet besides a Birder.

“SAVE BIRDS SAVE WILDLIFE” — (In frame: Lipstick Bird)
Grey Hooded Warbler
Gray Bushchat (Male)

Wearing a cap with

A pair of jungle boots

Singing of birds

deep inside the woods

Holding a camera

hearing all the calls

rising towards the truth

away from the false

In each step

I was going deep

got more than

Grey Breasted Prinia- (Non-Breeding) Adult.
Chestnut-bellied Rock thrush (Female)
White Crested Laughingthrush

what I believe

Got a flock of birds

singing for me

No more sick

phone calls ringing for me

Curiosity in me to know

more about birds

What’s going inside me

I can not express in words

A Grey Treepie
A pair of Russet Sparrows
Rufous Treepie

Why?

I ask u why?

so much pollution

I can’t see the sky

Say the truth

Don’t choose the lie

remember one day

we all have to die

let's join our hands,

it's not too late!

it's about our Wildlife

Save Birds, Save Wildlife…

May you hear the bird song forever!! Happy Birding

Thank you so much for reading! I would say this has more to do with how amazingly beautiful a place Chakki genuinely is.

All pictures courtesy and Credits: Respected Mr. Lalit Mohan Bansal sir, Subhash Sapru sir, Vishal Sharma, and Mr. Navjot Singh.

Don’t forget to follow Me, share, comment and clap.
Stay tuned for more updates. Hope you all like it!
THANK YOU SO MUCH!! 😊🙏

Copyright 2022. All Rights Reserved. No photographs or any other content from the website should be downloaded/duplicated or copied without the permission of the website owner or author. All pictures were uploaded with the permission of the photographers whose credits are given.

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Nature and birds Lover, Traveller, & musician..☺️☺️

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Aaryan Bhalla

Aaryan Bhalla

Nature and birds Lover, Traveller, & musician..☺️☺️

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