Birding at Chakki Mod

Chakki Mod is a small village not far from Chandigarh situated on the Chandigarh-Solan Highway. It was on my bucket list for quite a while and so I planned a 1 day trip there on 15 November, 2020.

It had been raining for the whole week and there was still heavy cloud cover on that day, so naturally I didn’t expect to see a lot of birds.

I reached Chakki Mod Waterfall at around 10:30 and was welcomed by a Plumbeous Water Redstart pair. I had seen this species a couple of times before in Spiti (read here) but I didn’t have even a decent shot of it. So, it was still high on my wishlist.

The male was very friendly and co-operative and allowed me to come very close, the female however was a little shy and didn’t come as close. But, these two birds did a great job in giving me frames I was happy with.

Plumbeous Water Redstart
🙈
Plumbeous Water Redstart female

Moving on, I saw another bird that I had seen before (read here) but was still high on my wishlist – White-Capped Water Redstart. And just like the Plumbeous Redstart this bird also allowed close approach and gave some good poses.

White-capped Water Redstart

While photographing the Redstarts, I had noticed a lot of movement in the bushes on the opposite side of the river. It took me some time to spot that bird again and I was overjoyed when I finally found it! It was a lovely Rufous-Bellied Niltava female! A male with its striking orange and blue colouration would have been better but the sighting itself was a treat.

Rufous-Bellied Niltava female

After spending some more time near the waterfall, I went back to the main Chakki Mod-Bhojnagar road and started walking down it. By this time, the sun also started to show up and the light became much better for photographing birds.

Streaked Laughingthrush adult with corn
Streaked Laughingthrush juvenile
Grey Bushchat male
Grey Bushchat female
Himalayan Bulbul
Indian Robin male

For half a mile I found nothing except the commoners. After some time, I noticed a narrow path going up the mountain to my left. Since I hadn’t seen anything great for half a mile, I decided to go up and explore a little.

As I was walking up, I heard calls of birds coming from the bushes. They eluded me everytime I tried to get close. I was getting really impatient by then because the path was very narrow and slippery due to the rains and it was difficult to stay in one place for even a minute. Anyways, I decided to have a one last go for these unidentified birds. Just a meter up, I saw a dead tree – perfect for hiding and it had a flat area around it where I could stand without slipping.

I was just checking my camera’s settings and suddenly a Red-Billed Leiothrix came and sat not more than 6 feet from me. It went back into the bushes in a couple of seconds and I didn’t even get the chance to fully zoom my lens and get the tightest possible frame.

The Lipstick Bird – Red-billed Leiothrix!

This again was a bird I had seen before but didn’t have any photographs of. So, it was another bird ticked off from my wishlist!

I had spent a good half an hour alone up the mountain and it was time for us to leave the area.

On the way back, 2 Rusty-Cheeked Scimitar Babblers flew across the road and disappeared in the bushes on my left. I waited for them and within 5 minutes I got my first good look at these beauties. In another 5 minutes, one of them came right up and perched on a dead tree stump beside the road and gave me beautiful poses.

Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler

After spending good time with these Babblers, we left for Butterfly Park, Chandigarh.

Butterfly Park, Chandigarh

We reached the park at about 3:15 and were greeted by a Bluethroat male.

Bluethroat non-breeding male

The first butterfly I saw there is probably the prettiest butterfly and for these reasons it held the highest position in my wishlist – Indian Jezbel.

Indian Jezbel!
Lemon Pansy
Common Banded Awl

As I was about to leave the Jezbel, I saw a tiny insect rapidly moving through and about the Indian Snakeweed plant that the Jezbel was feeding on. I looked through the camera and instantly shouted in joy because it was a very rare and special moth – Hummingbird Hawk-Moth. Since I am no expert in moths, I didn’t knew the exact species of the Hummingbird Hawk-Moth I just saw, but after coming home and doing some research, I found out that it was a Burnt-spot Hummingbird Hawk-Moth! This sighting probably tops all the amazing things I saw that day.

Burnt-spot Hummingbird Hawk-Moth!

I saw another amazing butterfly, probably second on my wishlist, shortly after the moth – the Oriental Commander butterfly! But in the excitement of all the wonderful butterflies flying around me, I didn’t click even a record shot of it thinking that I would see it again soon and focused on finding the moth again.

I also saw 5-6 Yellow-bellied Fantails and a White-Throated Fantail in the premises but I couldn’t get any good photographs of them.

White Crab Spider vs Indian Jezbel

The next thing I saw, completely blew my mind away. At first, it just looked like a very friendly Indian Jezbel. I clicked lots and lots of photographs of it at extremely close range.

Suddenly, while I was clicking the photographs, it fell from the flower! I looked at the fallen butterfly and then I looked at the flower and I knew exactly why this butterfly didn’t mind us getting too close to it. I saw a White Crab Spider tucked inside the flower which was eating the Jezbel alive!

Indian Jezbel been eaten alive by White Crab Spider

So, what actually happened was that this unfortunate butterfly landed on the flower where this spider was waiting for insects to come. The spider got more than what he expected but, he didn’t want to waste the opportunity and so he started eating the butterfly alive.

The poor butterfly was able to free itself but it had already suffered some serious injuries and it succumbed to them and died on the spot.

Moving on, I saw a Common Palmfly male feeding on rotten fruits. The next and last butterfly I saw that day was also a butterfly high on my wishlist – Himalayan Glassy Tiger.

Common Palmfly male
Himalayan Glassy Tiger

And this concluded my little excursion with a happy note.


Checklist

Here is a complete list of birds and butterflies I saw on this trip :-

Birds

  • Plumbeous Water Redstart
  • White-Capped Water Redstart
  • Grey Wagtail
  • Rufous-bellied Niltava
  • Grey Bushchat
  • Grey-Hooded Warbler
  • Himalayan Bulbul
  • Oriental White-Eye
  • Red-Billed Leiothrix
  • Rusty-Cheeked Scimitar Babbler
  • Streaked Laughingthrush
  • Indian Robin
  • Bluethroat
  • White-Throated Fantail
  • Yellow-Bellied Fantail

Butterflies

  • Sorrel Sapphire
  • Asian Cabbage White
  • Large Cabbage White
  • Mottled Emigrant
  • Common Baron
  • Chocolate Pansy
  • Lemon Pansy
  • Common Banded Awl
  • Plain Tiger
  • Indian Jezbel
  • Oriental Commander
  • Common Palmfly
  • Himalayan Glassy Tiger
  • Common Line Blue
  • Pale Grass Blue

and the star of the day was – Burnt-Spot Humming Hawk-Moth!


Thanks you for reading!

~Arjun Basandrai

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