The Blackbird’s pianissimo and apple jams – Hartola, a rare treat

Pianissimo (pp) in sheet music means …play softly, very softly. To do so and yet enthrall the audience would be testament to the skill of the musician and the beauty of the piece being played. And then there is the most amazing apple jam I tasted in the world, here.

The former (pianissimo) is what was playing in my head listening to the soft breeze soughing through the trees when half dozing outside on the deck at the Rose Cottage, was what came back from time to time while listening to the birds in the early light of dawn. I truly understood the beauty of the word pianissimo, when I had the privilege of listening to the soft burry melody of a lone Grey winged Blackbird, singing away… hopping around, foraging on a pile of logs on a mountaintop.

The latter – the fantabulous apple jam, is out of this world and a local produce from a neighbouring village – Nathuakan. I was so impressed with this gem of a cottage and Arjun’s 2 member team led by Sundar, who run it, that I was already planning my next trip while there. I had taken my parents along with my family and we had one of the most wonderful stays in a long long time.

Here all the birds I was able to see while there

Note: I have not been able to see any blogs or posts on the rich birdlife of this wonderful little corner in Uttarakhand. It would be great if you post your own blog on similar documentation in the comments section below, so that this becomes a thread for discovering all the species that are sighted there over a period of time

Barn swallow INW
Barn Swallow

Black francolin INW 4

Black Francolin. It was mating season and this male was lustily calling away!

Black headed Jay INW

The dapper Mr Black Headed Jay,

Black lored yellow tit

Black Lored Yellow Tit

Black throated tits INW

Black Throated Tits

Green backed tit INW

and the Green Backed Tit

Black winged cuckooshrike INW

A lifer – the Black Winged Cuckooshrike. I was attracted 1st by its unique call:

Black winged cuckooshrike

The Black winged Cuckooshrike again from a different view. Despite the name, they are unrelated to shrikes or cuckoos.

blue capped rock thrush INW 1

The Blue capped Rock Thrush

Blue c rock thrush flight INW 1

…and in flight

Common hawk cuckoo INW

This Common hawk cuckoo or the Brainfever bird, was skulking in the foliage in an apple orchard

Fire b flycatcher INW

Lucky, lucky me…I was walking up a lonely mountain trail, and from the corner of my eye sensed a flash of colour. Turning around, saw this bird flying in and settling on this branch. Binocs to my eye confirmed the id – one of the smallest birds in India, the beautiful Fire breasted Flowerpecker!

Fire b flycatcher INW 1

Grey bushchat INW

Grey Bushchat

Grey hooded warbler INW

the Grey hooded Warbler

Grey w blackbird INW 1

The Grey winged Blackbird.  Am amazing songster and a very beautiful bird indeed…

Grey w blackbird INW a

Rounding a corner, topping off the hill, I was greeted by this Blackbird hopping about on the fallen logs, foraging. I stopped, it stopped. I stayed still and it resumed its business. Soon it started singing, a complex melody, full of soft burrs, soft, flute like…stood entranced. I have heard the White rumped Shama, the Blue Whistling Thrush, OMR singing…this bird joins their ranks as one of the most accomplished songsters along with them for sure   Sheer Pianissimo, the melodic beauty of its soft song held me enthralled…was almost a spiritual experience

L tailed shrike INW

Long tailed shrike, the Butcher bird..waiting to strike patiently over a valley floor

Laughing thrush INW

Bird and its habitat..the Streaked Laughing Thrush


Oriental White eye

Plum h parakeet INW

A Plum headed Parakeet, female

R b blue magpie INW

The raucous, aggressive, handsome Red billed blue Magpie

Rufous breasted accentor INW 1

The juvenile Grey Buschat…looks completely different from the adults. In fact confused it with the Rufous breasted Accentor

Rufous Sibia INW

Rufous Sibia

Sind sparrow INW

The humble Sind Sparrow

Spotted Laughingthrush INW

Another lifer – the Rusty-Cheeked Scimitar Babbler. This one is a beauty indeed, how I wish I could have got it in the clear…it’s got a loud clear call that can be heard from afar ( check out the ones in India). I saw it in a dense wooded patch, forgaing on the ground, and it immediately took off into this tree, and kept calling the whole while I was contorting around to get any kind of a proper shot!

Striated Prinia INW

Lifer again – the Striated Prinia

Tree Pipit INW

A Tree Pipit

Ultramarine flycatcher 1st year INW (2)

Utramarine Flycatcher – 1st year juvenile

Ultramarine flycatcher INW

The adult

Verditer INW

the Verditer Flycatcher

W throated L thrush INW

A long record shot of the White throated Laughingthrush

The idyllic Rose cottage, seen here after sundown while returning from a walkaround in the surrounding hills.

Rose cottage fb

From that balcony that you see, one can see the whole Nanda Devi range on a clear day. We missed it due to the forest fires and summer haze, so go to go back in winter for that and to continue documenting the species count in Hartola, the home of pp & apple jams!

3 Hrs from Kathgodam station. Call Arjun Bhagat @ 08447569388 or 09810163974 to book his wonderful 3 room Rose cottage.


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