The difference between a birder and a twitcher is that the latter tires easily of the common species. A true birder seeks and finds enjoyment in observing uncommon things about the most common birds. He or she is not necessarily found updating trip lists on a mobile device or furiously tapping away on Whatsapp to compare notes with kindred souls.
Even birders rarely felicitate bulbuls with a second glance, worse if they are Red-whiskered or Red-vented Bulbuls. But when we head up to the hills, the sight of the Himalayan Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucogenys) is a joy to us. For it means we are in the hills, and there’s a bounty of birdlife waiting to be discovered. So it has been every time with the Himalayan Bulbul. My first remembered sighting of it was on the way up to Lohadganj, the beginning of our trail to Bedni Bugyal. I remember remarking about its Elvis Presley hairdo. Since, I have encountered the Himalayan Bulbul on several trips into the Himalaya. And each time, I have gazed upon it with fondness.
In appearance and coloration, the Himalayan Bulbul closely resembles the White-eared Bulbul, its cousin of arid western India. But the plumper appearance and the curled crest are distinctive. But its querulous song is similar to those of its kin. This is one species that is known to benefit from deforestation, and its numbers are growing.
I was fortunate to have a long and fulfilling encounter with these birds in Naddi, near Dharamsala, where I stayed while on a family vacation to McLeod Ganj. Early mornings saw Himalayan Bulbuls brave the cold and fluff up their feathers, huddling close to the eaves of the hotel room where from where I watched them. The one in the top picture came very close to me, almost within touching distance, when I had the presence of mind to snap it up for posterity. I can’t get enough of that pomaded hairdo.
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