and surrounding areas
Road to Dhanulti
245 kms from New Delhi lies the Dehradun Valley (77°40’ to 78°15’E and 30°00’ to 30°35’N) and adjacent Himalayan hills. The Dun valley (490m) lies between the west Himalayan mountain ranges of Chakrata, Mussoorie and Dhanaulti in the north and the Shiwalik range in the south. In the west it is bordered by the river Yamuna and in the east by the river Ganga. The valley is well watered by many perennial streams. The area and its surrounding hills has a record of 587 bird species and is a great place to acquaint yourself with the birds of western Himalaya.
The Doon Valley consists primarily of subtropical deciduous forests, with a śāl (Shorea robusta) being the predominant species sometimes covering more than 90% of large stretches of the landscape. Mallotus philippensis, Syzygium cumini, and Ehretia laevis are also plentiful, and Clerodendron viscosum and Lantana camara usually represents the understory associate species. A large part of the landscape is characterized by stretches of denuded hills shorn of any leafy vegetation. The flat stretches in the central valley is occupied by agricultural land, riverine scrub and agro-forestry.
Other vegetation in the area include Litsea glutinosa, Ougeinia oojeinensis, Adina cordifolia, Anogeissus latifolia, Bauhinia variegata, Caseaseria tomentosa, Cassia fistula, Miliusa velutina, Cordia dichotoma, Flacourtia indica, Terminalia alata, Terminalia bellirica, Ficus benghalensis, Bombax cieba and Tectona grandis. Invasives include Cassia tora, Cassia occidentalis, Urena lobata, Ipomoea carnea, Sida acuta, and Solanum torvum.
The area is rich in birdlife despite the near overwhelming monoculture of śāl. Key birds include Kalij Pheasant, Speckled Piculet, Lesser Yellownape, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Himalayan Flameback, Crested Kingfisher, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Drongo Cuckoo, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Himalayan Griffon, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Besra, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Eurasian Jay, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Spotted Forktail, Mistle Thrush, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Spot-winged Tit, Wallcreeper, Asian House Martin, European Goldfinch, Spot-winged Starling, Aberrant Bush Warbler, Variegated Laughingthrush, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Nepal Wren Babbler, Black-chinned Babbler, White-browed Shrike Babbler, Upland Pipit, various sunbirds, Altai Accentor, Black-and-yellow Grosbeak, Brown Bullfinch and Pink-browed Rosefinch.
Crimson Sunbird at Walterre Resort
Nearby places to visit
Mussoorie: The Mussoorie - Jharipani - Landour area is good for slightly higher altitude (1,880m) birds, especially in winter. Mussoorie is about 35 km uphill from Dehradun. Here śāl forests are replaced by Chir pine (Pinus roxburghii), Himalayan oak (Quercus leucotrichophora) and deodar (Cedrus deodara) bringing with them a completey different set of birds adapted to the conditions. While at Mussoorie do visit Company Bagh, also known as Municipal Garden. It is a great place to observe birds.
Dhanaulti: Dhanaulti is a hill station 24 km from the Mussoorie set at an altitude of 2,286m amidst alpine forests of deodar, rhododendron and oak. Aside from offering great views of the Bandarpunch massif of the Garwal Himalaya, it offers great high-altitude birds throughout the year. The road from Jharipani to Dhanaulti is must visit if you are birding in the area.
Hathi Paon Area: The area around Cloud(s) End Resort is a great birding hotspot.
Asan Barrage: The 4.4 sq, km wetland and reservoir encompassing the Aasan Wetland Conservation Reserve is an important are for wintering waterfowl. Asan Barrage is 42 kms downhill from Dehradun via the Chakarata Rd.
How to reach
Dehradun is a 5-6 hour journey from New Delhi by road. Many trains connect Dehra Dun with New Delhi, the most convenient being the Satabdi Express which takes 6 hours to reach.
Air: Jolly Grant (Dehradun) Airport located about 24 km southeast of Dehradun
Rail: Dehradun station
Road: Dehradun is 245 kms from New Delhi via Saharanpur-Delhi Road (NH-58 & 72)
Where to stay
Dehradun is the state capital of Uttaranchal state and has many hotels in all categories. It is also close to the hill resort of Mussorie. The best place to stay for birders is where I stay, the gorgeous Walterre resort which is 8 kms uphill from the centre of Dehradun city. Check it out!
Best Time: October to January; March to April.
Temperature(s): Low 0°C; High 45°C