"Majboori ka naam Mahatma Gandhi""
Surrounded by dense forests and being away from the hustle bustle of the city, the Thano forest range offers a great sense of calm and peace. It’s about 15 km from Dehradun city, and is enroute the Jolly Grant Airport, a common airport for Dehradun, Haridwar and Rishikesh. This is the place that triggered my passion for bird photography and even though there’s a shorter route to the airport, I stick to this particular route, in anticipation of some bird or animal sighting. I come here specifically for bird watching too, this place never lets you down.
There is a dhaba JMJCR near the Thano forest guest house and the owner Mr Sanjay Dobhal sometimes doubles up as a bird guide. I highly recommend this place for their amazing food, plus Sanjayji knows the place at the back of his hands and is of great help to nature enthusiasts. One fine morning my friend Sahil Choksi, who works at Wildlife Trust of India, roped in Mr. Dobhal for a bird watching trail. After a few great hours of excellent bird sightings and the amazing feel of nature, Mr. Dobhal left us to explore more on our own.
We bumped into another bird enthusiast, Mr. Sudhanshu Aren, who told us that he had spotted the Chestnut-headed Tesia bird around this location. The Chestnut-headed Tesia is an 8-9 cm small, insectivorous migratory songbird, adorably round and tailless with the combination of a bright white eye ring, deep cinnamon-brown head, and yellow throat is unique and unmistakable. It breeds in hill forests, where it prefers densely vegetated wet or damp areas, often in the vicinity of streams and gullies. Forages actively on the ground in deep cover, seldom venturing out into the open. To get an eye level shot of this beauty was an expedition that could not be missed.
We scanned the area and soon found an almost secret enclosure with a few leaking water pipes that must be getting used by the villagers for their daily errands of bathing and washing clothes. I climbed over the broken wall nearby to check where the pipes where coming from when suddenly from the tiny opening of the thicket, a colourful streak flashed past me. Mystified by the speck, I stood fixated for a few seconds observing, when it happened again, a chestnut-headed tesia was pecking on the ground looking for food going in circles that lasted approximately 30-40 secounds. My friend and I quickly positioned ourselves so as to get a good shot of the teeny tiny bird without it noticing us. It was a difficult task since the bird was tiny and the opening was even tinier and she would give us just about a few seconds to focus and shoot, creating a sort of pattern of peck-peck-peck gone.
We were already having a tough time focusing when a man showed up in the enclosure with a bucket, gave us a look as if we were invading his privacy, wrapped a towel around himself and unabashedly started to undress. We looked at him perplexed and he gave us the glare as if he was saying, “You do your job I’ll do mine!” It was a hilarious situation filled with uneasy awkwardness. Meanwhile, we were trying to capture a migratory bird that is very challenging to spot at eye level and weren’t sure how long it would stay at that spot. Once it moved away we would never get such clear shots and yet there was this man planning on taking a bath and washing his clothes right besides us! We were in an ethical dilemma where we didn’t want to give up our post and yet wanted to give the man his privacy.
The bird went peck-peck-peck, our cameras went click-click-click and the man hammered his clothes splish-splash-splosh. The whole episode reminded me of the comedy scene from the blockbuster Hindi movie ‘Ek Duuje Ke Liye’ where Kamal Hasan & Rati Agnihotri hammer the clothes on a washing stone to communicate with each other, ending up damaging the clothes! Well, each of us went ahead with our own chores, not disturbing or getting in the way of the other and the results we got were totally worth the effort!!!