KASHMIR is very rapidly becoming the playground of India in the sense that Switzerland has become the playground of Europe. I think, we are therefore entitled to consider that members of the Himalayan Club as a whole are likely to see more of Kashmir in the immediate future than of the rest of the Himalaya put together. Hence, while wishing the Avifauna to be represented in the inaugural number of our Journal, I feel that its aspects in Kashmir are perhaps the most suitable to dwell upon.
The subject of Kashmir Birds is a large one. I therefore, propose to divide the following notes into three sections. In the first I shall give a brief account of the connection between the avifauna of Kashmir and that of other parts of Asia ; in the second and third sections I shall endeavour to describe the more familiar birds of the Vale of Kashmir and of the Treaty Road to Leh. My hope is to interest the traveller who, while no professed ornithologist, is in sympathy with all aspects of Nature, and desires to link up what he sees with more general questions.
Section I.—The Zoo-Geographical Position of Kashmir.
It is perhaps a common place to remark that the first thing a traveller learns is the differences between countries. The new recruit in India, however unobservant, notices not only the new races, new customs, and new language of men, but the difference in trees and plants, birds and mammals, insects and other forms of life, compared with those of his English home, cannot fail to reach his notice. If he is ordinarily observant, he will further note that differences again exist between the species of the various parts of India he visits. Most people are content to leave it at that, but a proportion seek to enquire why there are these differences, and at once they are introduced to that absorbing question of Geographical Distribution.
Nature ignores political boundaries made by Man, though he in fixing them is influenced by Nature far more often than he realises. Nature works with the aid of climate, temperature and rainfall, vegetation and altitude, Dot only in the present but through the vast changes of the past, and these factors influence the distribution of ail living things on the earth's surface. Not only birds but all other Orders are affected, and a careful consideration of such distribution has enabled scientists to divide the surface of the earth into a number of zoo-geographical regions according to the presence or absence of different forms. To understand the position of Kashmir in this scheme it is necessary briefly to explain the zoo-geographical divisions of Asia.
The whole of Northern Asia belongs to the Palsearctic region, which extends also across the whole of Europe and includes a portion of north Africa. The southern boundary of the Palsearctic region in Asia runs roughly along the northern fringe of the Himalaya and through northern China so as to include the islands of Japan. The remainder of Asia lying south of the Palsearctic boundary is considered as a separate region embracing the rest of China, India, Burma, Ceylon, and the Malays. This region is entitled the Indian or Oriental region. It must be remembered that all the regions require to be subdivided still further to express the lesser differences in their Fauna and Flora, and also it must be appreciated that the boundaries both of regions and sub-regions are but seldom very clearly defined.
We must first of all fit the Himalaya into this scheme which divides Asia roughly across its middle by the boundary between the Palsearctic and Oriental regions. We will afterwards consider Kashmir with reference both to its place in the Himalaya and in connection with the Palsearctic and Oriental regions.
Now a very slight knowledge of Indian birds is sufficient to show that the birds of the Himalaya are quite different to those of the Plains. This is most easily seen in the north-west, where the plains run up close to the outer ranges without that netherland of broken foothills, duns and terais, which serve to mask the differences between them. Comparatively few Englishmen know the country to the north of the Himalaya, but those who do will also appreciate the similar difference that at once is found between Himalayan birds and the birds of Turkistan and Tibet. The Himalaya in short constitute a zone lying between the highlands of Central Asia and the Plains of India, and faunistically divorced from either of them ; for what I have stated from the point of view of the avifauna is true also of the other Natural Orders.
Remembering the position of the Himalaya as they straddle across the northern boundary of India, we then look at the mountain ranges which mask their two ends ; for though we may expect a mountain fauna to differ markedly from a neighbouring plains fauna, we must expect it to resemble the fauna of neighbouring mountain masses ; if not, the resemblances and differences will be the key to its place in any zoo-geographical system. The western end of the Himalaya breaks into a number of ranges running through Afghanistan and down the north-west frontier of India ; the eastern end gives place to the ranges which in northern Burma and Yunnan connect with China. It is unfortunate that political reasons have prevented any adequate exploration of either of these mountain groups lying at each end of the Himalaya. We know enough, however, about them to compare their avifauna roughly with that of the Himalaya, and it at once becomes evident, if this is done, that the Himalayan fauna soon ends to the west, but to the east extends with modifications into Yunnan, linking up fairly closely with the fauna of China.
To use the words of Colonel Meinertzhagen, in a recent most valuable paper on Some Biological Problems of the Himalaya4, 56 one cannot refrain from regarding the afforested area of the Himalayas as a huge tongue of China stretching across northern India and this explains the commonly accepted division of the Oriental region into three sub-regions, the Indian, the Malayan, and the Himalo-Chinese.
The Himalo-Chinese sub-division, according to this view, includes the afforested portion of the Himalaya ; starting in Kashmir with a mere strip of territory, it passes through Nepal and Bhutan, widens eastward in Northern Burma and stretches across China to the coast, and to the islands of Hainan and Formosa beyond. In this elongated triangle of territory we find a general agreement between the representation of genera and species, so that an ornithologist who had worked in southern China would, if transplanted to Kashmir, find himself with a general working knowledge of the birds he met with in his new sphere. In popular phrase, he would find the birds the same with a difference, many species having several sub-species running throughout the whole area from Kashmir to China.
So far as the Himalaya themselves are concerned, it is easy to understand the distribution of species and sub-species. In general terms we find that the birds, as regards species, are distributed in definite altitudinal zones. No very accurate definition of these zones has as yet been attempted for the Himalaya as a whole, but the division of the zones which I proposed in 1926 for that section of the outer Himalaya which lie in the Kangra district may be quoted as a general guide to the whole. My zones were as follows (Ibis, 1926, p. 525.) :—
|Punjab Plain Zone ..||below 1,500 ft.|
|Foothill Zone||1,500ft. to 4,000 ft.|
|Ban-oak Zone||4,000 ft. to 8,000 ft.|
|Kharshu-oak Zone||8,000 ft. to 11,000 ft. (tree-limit).|
|Alpine Zone||11,000ft. upwards.|
Allowing for local differences of temperature, rainfall and vegetation, it will be found that these zones of bird-life hold very true throughout the whole extent of the Himalaya ; but we must remember at the same time that the limits of these zones are not sharply defined ; one zone grades into another and the zones do not exhibit entirely different faunas. Indeed the American naturalist, Mr. Frank Chapman, who has studied very fully the zonal aspect of the avifauna of the Andes, emphasised this point by defining his zonal boundaries with altitudinal bands of 2,000 feet.
As regards sub-species, Himalayan birds exhibit a very definite division into eastern and. western races, the division between these races occurring somewhere in Nepal as a rule. With Bhutan the distribution of races becomes more complicated, but luckily that lies beyond the scope of this paper.
If my meaning has been clearly expressed the reader will understand, the zoo-geographical position of the Himalaya. It now remains to show how Kashmir fits in with that position. I will at once state my opinion that Kashmir cannot in any way be regarded as a zoo- geographical entity, whether we take Kashmir in its restricted sense or as including the whole of the territories of the Maharajah. The position is however clearer if we consider Kashmir in the latter wider sense, and I will, therefore, discuss it with the inclusion of the provinces of Jammu, Ladakh, Baltistan, Astor and Gilgit.
The Jammu plain is easily disposed of ; it is merely a small portion of the Indo-Gangetic plain which political boundaries and historical reasons have assigned to the sovereignty of the Maharajah, thereby divorcing it from its natural position in the Punjab. It is part of the transitional zone between the Indian sub-region of the Oriental region and the great Palsearctic desert which starts on the Atlantic coast of north Africa and reaches the heart of China.
From the Jammu plain rises the mass of the Pir Panjal which so far at least as its southern face is concerned is merely the prolongation westwards of the Himalo-Chinese sub-region which we have discussed above. It passes through Kashmir into the Murree Hills and Galis, a mere strip of territory narrowing to its ultimate end. Kishtwar and Bhadarwah are probably included in it and possibly the mountains of the Kazi Nag, but it is noteworthy that this area is the least known and least worked of the whole of the Western Himalaya. Its position in the Oriental region is however certain.
For the moment it is easier to skip the intervening territories and pass across to Eastern Ladakh. As with the Pir Panjal, so with Eastern Ladakh, there can be no mistake ; there we were in the Oriental region ; in Eastern Ladakh we are in the Paiaearctic, for it is nothing but a portion of Tibet divorced merely by political and historical chance, just as Jammu was cut off from the plains of the Punjab. However much scientists may differ as to the correct arrangement of zoo-geographical boundaries, all are agreed in treating the Tibetan area as part of the Paiaearctic region. The older writers were accustomed to speak of Ladakh as Little Tibet, and that accurately expresses its position.
An extraordinarily interesting portion of the world is Tibet ; it is, as Meinertzhagen elaborates, the only country where desert and arctic conditions coincide. It is part of the great Paiaearctic desert, another arm of which we have already met on the southern boundary of Jammu ; yet it is, as it were, an island remnant of the arctic conditions which the retreating glacial period has left at the Poles ; for alpine conditions are arctic conditions. The Tibetan fauna is peculiar in that it largely consists of those alpine or arctic forms, hardy and robust by nature, but extremely sensitive to competition with other forms in the struggle for existence, which in the face of such competition have retreated to high altitudes and deserts, Both conditions coincide in Tibet, and its fauna is therefore highly peculiar, though closely connected with that Paiaearctic region whence these fugitives have been driven. A patch of this peculiar Tibetan sub-region we are privileged to enjoy in Eastern Ladakh.
The rest of the territories of Kashmir cannot be spoken of in very positive terms ; for they form an intermediate area which bridges the gulf between the Oriental region represented in the Pir Panjal and the Paiaearctic region in Eastern Ladakh. But as this intermediate area is broken up by very definite natural boundaries, we find it falls very easily into certain appreciable sub-divisions.
The first of these and the most obvious is that elevated plain which we commonly speak of as the Vale of Kashmir. In this there is a considerable blending of the Oriental and Paiaearctic avifauna. We have on the one hand breeding there in considerable abundance a number of species, which breed nowhere else in the Oriental region, whether in the Indian or Himalo-Chinese sub-regions. This class includes several of the most characteristic birds of the Yale, such as the Bee-eater, the Roller, the Jackdaw, the Wryneck, and the Starling. Yet side by side with them, and equally common, are a number of purely Oriental forms, such as the Mynah, the House-crow, and the Yellow-vented Buibul, or Oriental races of birds, like the Rufous- backed Shrike, the Golden Oriole or the Great Tit, which belong to species that have both Palsearctic and Oriental races. It has been suggested that Kashmir may prove to be related more closely to the Mediterranean sub-region than to any other,—one of its far-flung " islands " may I call it,—but in the present state of our knowledge it is very difficult to decide whether the avifauna of the Yale is more closely connected with the Oriental or the Palsearctic region.
The mountains that encircle the Yale contain a very different avifauna particularly in the afforested area of those slopes which are directed towards the Vale. The southern aspects and ranges of the Pir Panjal are, as we have seen, very clearly part of the Himalo-Chinese sub-region ; yet the northern face of the Pir Panjal can only be classed with the rest of the ring of mountains which encircles the Vale. The avifauna of this encircling ring is so very definitely different to that of the enclosed plain, that a rise of only five hundred feet from the latter is sufficient to remove those most pronounced Palsearctic elements, which made us hesitate to assign a region to our Vale. While the avifauna of this ring of forests is superficially Himalayan, there are missing from it many species which are amongst the most characteristic of the true Himalayan forms-I need only mention the Verditer Flycatcher and the Black- headed Sibia as examples at the same time we find there birds like Hodgson's Tree-Creeper and the Kashmir Nuthatch, which can only be considered as truly Palsearctic forms. We may conclude therefore that while the Vale marks the junction between Palsearctic and Oriental forms, so does its encircling ring of forests from 5,500 feet to 12,000 feet mark the junction of Palsearctic with definitely Himalo-Chinese forms.
Yet another junction remains to be effected, that between the Tibetan and the Himalo-Chinese forms, and this will be found in the vast stretches of alpine pasture which run above the tree-level on the afforested ranges and extend over the intermediate ranges. In Meinertzhagen's graphic words, we may call it “a strip of upland grass country, alpine in flora, a wondrous rock-garden of exquisite design and quality, and blessed with abundant moisture.” In this zone we have a mixture of Himalayan and Tibetan birds with a few for pis peculiar to itself, and it leads us naturally and gradually to the high uplands, intersected by the lo v hot valleys of Astor and Gilgit, which form the transition zone between the Himalo-Chinese avifauna and the non-Tibetan PalaearctiQ fauna of Western Central Asia.
Section II.-Some Familiar Birds of the Kashmir Vale.
What a wonderful thrill there is to be the Kashmir road ! Nine out of ten travellers to Kashmir start up that road in the hot weather, emancipated for a space from the burden of office and fleeing from the wearisome heat and languors of the plains. A jaded night in a hot and dusty train is followed by the usual wrangle with coolies and tents before one is at last settled into the car and started off on the first stage of the 200-mile journey to Srinagar. But a few miles and the plains are left behind and the road starts to climb steadily up to Murree before its long descent again down to the Jhelum river ; there on the Jhelum lies Kohala, the entrance of Kashmir, though its height is little different to that of Rawalpindi. The long miles pass, a never-ending vista of precipice and river, of hairbreadth curves and hanging forests, till at length the valley opens out and one passes round the last hill corner to find oneself at Baramula and the Happy Valley.
There are now only 34 miles remaining to Srinagar; so we may order the driver to go slowly and give us opportunity to see the bird life by the road, For at Baramula we find ourselves at once amongst the typical birds of the Kashmir Yale. There is no difficulty about deciding what species will first demand an introduction even if they had not come some miles towards Rampur and Uri to press their claims. As we round the corner and see Baramula, we see at the same moment quantities of jackdaws and kites, for Baramula is one of the dirtiest of the dirty towns of Kashmir and feeding is good for the scavenger.
About the town wheel the kites on a never-ending patrol, now low above the houses with steady onward flight, now mounting in wide spirals to attain a loftier view. Backwards and forwards they go and their going is unending ; for as one bird ceases its beat and settles on a roof or in the branches of a chenar tree with a self-satisfied shake of its loose plumage, another starts forth on the unending quest. And now and again the kites of Baramula are shaken and thrown out in a whirling squealing mass as dice are thrown from a dice box ; and the hand that shakes the main is the brown Kashmiri hand that pauses in its household task to throw some offal into the open. A tumult of wings and clutching talons, an agitated squealing, and one of the kites flies swiftly away with the coveted morsel in its talons, pursued by the indignant failures. Then peace falls again, save for the constant patrol. The sight is one that may be seen in any Indian bazaar but the point to remember is that this is not the familiar Pariah Kite (Milvus migrans govinda) of the plains, but the Larger or Black-eared Kite (Milvus lineatus), distinguished by its larger size and by the very conspicuous pale moon-shaped marking,, visible on the under-surface of the wings in flight.
The jackdaws are everywhere in and about the town ; in fact they occupy in Kashmir exactly the position of the house-crow in the plains with the difference that they exhibit a solid phlegmatic temperament more suitable to a Palsearctic species than the volatile impudence of the Oriental bird. Superficially, the Jackdaw (Corvus monedula scemmeringii) and the House-crow (Corvus splendens) are somewhat alike and the indifferent confuse the one with the other; but the smaller size, the lesser extent of grey in the plumage, confined to a grey collar ending in a white moon on the sides of the neck, and the white eye easily distinguish the Jackdaw, while its musical note is very different to the vulgar caw of the House-crow.
The jackdaws are everywhere—they perch on the houses and walk sedately about the ground in pairs and parties searching for food of every kind ; and most pleasing of all, they are visible up in the chenar trees, each pair sitting lovingly side by side on a bough near the entrance to the hole that contains the nest. Their numbers in Kashmir are very great and the morning and evening flight of the vast flocks which roost in and about Srinagar and feed far and wide in the fields of the valley is certainly one of the ornithological sights of the place.
At Baramula we shall also see the House-crow and its easy familiarity will bring it into notice, but it is confined in the Yale to the Jhelum Valley from Baramula to Srinagar ; it is not very numerous, being obviously a recent immigrant from the plains following the trade-routes.
Another crow which we shall certainly see is the Jungle-crow (Corvus coronoides intermedins), though its proper place is in the forests on the hill-sides. No one who has camped in any of the nullahs can fail to know this fine glossy jet-black crow ; a dozen or more join every camp, enlivening their noisy existence in the surrounding trees with exciting raids round the kitchen tent. I think one of the most interesting points about this sturdy vagabond is its immense range ; for divided into many local races, it extends not only to Ceylon but right away to Australia.
But we need not pay much attention to these three crows at Baramula. At Nedou's Hotel we shall have ample opportunity to study them at our leisure and note their different characters as they perch all three on the railings behind our quarters.
The thirty-four miles of road from Baramula to Srinagar are lined on both sides with tall Lombardy poplars, planted in neat close regularity like the posts of a railing. Two birds are particularly noticeable in these poplars as the motor speeds along. The first is the Rufous- backed Shrike (Lanius schach erythronotus), of which a pair are found about every hundred yards, each with its well-defined territory. They are typical shrikes in appearance with the bull-head and longish tail of the genus, and as they sit upright on the lower branches of the poplars the black eye-band and creamy white underparts are very conspicuous in contrast. The nests are built against the poplar trunks in the crotch of the sprouting branches and the hoarse rough note of the owners is heard as the motor passes their home. Rather an interesting songster is this shrike, for his own low pleasant warble is diversified by excellent mimicry of the calls of other common birds, some of which he must have learnt in his winter quarters in the plains. He is a bold and strong bird and his dietary includes other small birds or their young. In fact I suspect that much of his food along the lines of poplars consists of the callow young of the house-sparrows whose nests are in almost every tree.
The House-sparrow (Passer domesticus parhini) is the second species which I promised we should notice along the road. I do not think there is any country in the world where this prolific species is more common than in Kashmir. Everywhere it swarms in the Yale and across the passes it is found at every little village and hamlet. In habits it is much the same as our English bird, but this Kashmir race may easily be recognized by its cleaner-looking brighter plumage with white cheeks and a brighter chestnut on the back. An interesting feature of this race also is that it is largely migratory (for in most of the world the house-sparrow is strictly a resident), and in winter we find it down in the Punjab and Sind ; were it not migratory it could never exist at the great altitudes beyond the passes where we find it in summer, chirping on the roofs of the highest villages in the world. The nests are everywhere in Kashmir, in the roofs of houses, in walls, in holes, in the banks of the Jhelum and in trees ; all along the roadside the nests are in almost every poplar, the peculiar growth of the branches forming admirable niches for the large untidy lumps of straw and grass*.
A familiar-looking bird that is sure to catch our eye on the fields along the road is Hume's Starling (Sturnus vulgaris humii), a bird that is only distinguished from our English starling through its slightly smaller size and a difference in the colours of the oily-looking gloss that makes an old starling such a resplendent figure. Starlings to my mind are always associated in all countries with pollarded willows, and the willow tree is so marked a feature of Kashmir scenery that I feel no surprise in the abundance of starlings. Little parties feed busily on the damp ground, all working away with the desperate hurry so characteristic of the species : the hinder birds keep on flying over the front ranks in fear lest they miss the spoils, and the shiny black bodies turn ceaselessly on the strong squat legs as the birds prosecute their endless search digging in amongst the roots of the grass for grubs and beetles. Now and again parties fly over ahead, fast and straight, bent on their destination with the same concentration of purpose. Here and there on the willows the pairs that have fixed on their nesting holes sit aloof for the time from their fellows, but even in courtship the restless flicking of the wings and the metallic reeling song of the cocks still betray the nervous hustling temperament of the bird which of all species seems in tune with modern civilization ; small wonder is there that the Starling is invading America, for surely the placid leisurely ways of Kashmir are alien to its soul and its place is with the armies of progress.
By the road runs the telegraph wire, so here rather than in Srinagar itself we had better mention its peculiar associations, for some birds seem to regard the wires and posts as erected for their convenience. Look out of the railway carriage all the way from Delhi to Rawalpindi, and you will see the black King-Crows and the little Green Bee-eaters perched at intervals the whole length of the wires, while a White-eyed Buzzard drones away his day on every fiftieth post. So here from Baramula to Srinagar you will see the Ring Doves (Streptopelia decaocto) perching uneasily along the wires, bird after bird, with the difference that their heavy bodies and broad tails do not seem to balance as comfortably as the slender figures of the plains. But Kashmir has also a Bee-eater for the wires and as we pass along we see the European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) sitting in twos and threes along the wires, the slim body with the elongated pointed tail and the long sharp beak allowing a perfection of balance hard to beat. The Bee-eaters love the wires which form an admirable perch on which to sit and watch for passing insects, and they keep on flying off to catch a passing bee darting into the air at all angles with a speed and mastery of flight which cannot be surpassed. This species of Bee-eater is not found elsewhere in the Himalayas nor in the plains of India, but its range lies westward to southern Spain and it is one of the peculiarly Paiaearctic elements in the avifauna of Kashmir as is also the Boiler (Coracias garrula semenovi), the large blue bird which also sits on the wires and on the telegraph posts. The Roller is closely related to the familiar Blue-Jay of the Indian Plains but may be recognized by having the whole of the under-surface blue, while the wings and tail are a more uniform deep blue lacking the paler bands which are so charactersitic of the Indian bird and form that glory of surprise with which it breaks into flight. The Bee-eater is more abundant than the Roller for it is a social bird living in colonies which burrow nest-holes into banks and open hillsides. There is a colony of Bee-eaters on the Takht-i-Suliman and numbers frequent the lakes where they hawk dragon-flies off the reed-beds. The Rollers live only in pairs which seldom venture far from the encircling hills of the Valley and hence grow scarcer as we leave Baramula behind and the low outcrops of hills through which the road passes.
To me there is something particularly English about the bird- life of the European quarter of Srinagar. The call of the jackdaws on the roofs and about the trees is a very English sound as is also the song of the starlings singing from the chimney pots, their favourite vantage point in England. The multitude of swallows that fly over the Bund and the wagtails that live about its banks, the twitter of the goldfinches as they cluster on the fruits of the chenar trees, the call of the wryneck in the orchards, the kingfishers about all the waterways, the cheerful busy tits in the trees and the thrushes that hop on the lawns with side-bent heads listening for the worms,—all these are sights and sounds that recall his own countryside to the exile. Nor can he grudge the many stranger birds that creep into the picture to spoil the illusion, for one and all have some peculiar charm and I for one would not erase them from the picture.
Let us forget the dust and hurry of the road and look around us at the fresh species that we meet in Srinagar. We shall probably find one of them come to us in the verandah as we sit at tea before our walk. There is no more charming bird in Kashmir than the White- cheeked Bulbul (Molpastes leucogenys). He is such a sprightly fellow’ spruce and debonair as he turns from side to side uttering two or three little rippling notes that always strike me as amongst the most cheerful of bird-calls. His plumage is undistinguished save for the white cheeks and the yellow patch below the tail but he can be recognised at any distance by the crest, a long soft pointed crest which cocks forward with a graceful curve over the beak so as to form a " fool’ s cap " for the cheerful jest or that he is. These Bulbuls pair for life and a very pleasant affectionate union they form, always together, always calling to each other, and in Kashmir they are very particularly the friend of man. Bit in the verandah and they will come to tea with you (and probably nest on the rolled-up chick so as to be handier for the meal), hopping on the table and picking at the cakes. Picnic at Shalimar and they join you on the grass : live in a house-boat and they will come in to call. Yes, the journey to Kashmir would be worth while to meet this Bulbul alone.
One of the chief characteristics of Srinagar is the expanse of green turf everywhere, and two birds are always connected in my mind with this turf. They are the Hoopoe and TickelPs Thrush.
Everybody knows the Hoopoe (Upupa epops) : it is so common and so striking that the newest and most unobservant of new-comers must perforce ask its name. Cinnamon-brown and black and white blend in the plumage and harmonize strangely with the somewhat awkward shape as the bird is seen feeding on the grass. It has a long thin curved beak with which to probe the roots of the grass for grubs. Its legs are short and as it feeds it seems very intent on the business. Seen thus it is not particularly remarkable. But as you walk by and the Hoopoe flutters up to settle and go on feeding a little way off, its strange beauty is at once engraved in the memory. The broad rounded wings and the expanded tail are a banded vision of black and white and the flight suggests that of a large and erratic butterfly ; then the bird settles and for an instant the crest opens, a glorious fan-shaped crest covering the whole crown, flirted as a fan in the hand of a beauty of Seville. The crest closes again and once more the Hoopoe is busily feeding, its special beauty hidden.
The Hoopoe is a very widely-distributed bird and is common in all those countries where the beginnings of civilization are to be found. It is no wonder therefore that its strange beauty and wonderful crest have always caught the notice and imagination of man, while its easily imitated simple call—a rather solemn Hoo-hoo-hoo—has given it an onomatopoeic name in all the important languages. Realistic portraits of the Hoopoe have been found in mural paintings both of ancient Egypt and of Crete and from that time onwards mention of the bird runs through literature and legend to the present day. In western legend the Hoopoe is most familiar as the shape assumed by Tereus, King of Crete, for his punishment; while Mahomedan countries regard the bird as the favourite and confidante of Solomon whose magnificence dowered its crown. The most prominent attribute of the bird in folklore and literature is its use in magical and serious medical prescriptions. Its use is recommended by various authors from Egyptian days down to the eighteenth century, most frequently in connection with visions or the power of memory. In Kashmiri folklore a love-philtre is made from the ashes of a Hoopoe which has been buried alive for forty days.
Ticke1Ps Thrush (Turdus unicolor) replaces the Song-Thrush on a Srinagar lawn but it has the same quiet unobtrusive manner and the same habits. It hops about on the ground in the garden, three or four quick hops and then a halt to survey the possibilities of the spot ; if disturbed it hops quickly away through the bushes or flies up into a tree with the same direct flight, and like the English bird it is a beautiful songster, perching high in a tree and pouring out its heart to the pleasure of the worldlings below. Honesty, however, compels me to admit that its song is not quite so rich and varied as that of either the Song-Thrush or Blackbird, with both of which it has been compared.
Along the Bund we are certain to meet with two very familiar species, the Swallow and Hodgson's Pied Wagtail.
The Swallow (Hirundo rustica) is the same form as that of Europe; it is surprisingly abundant as a summer visitor to the Yale of Kashmir and also surprisingly tame. Although it is found anywhere in the Valley nesting in the village houses and feeding over the fields and marshes, where it enhances the beauty of the lotus-beds by settling on the seed-pods and stalks, I always connect it in memory more particularly with the Bund and there perhaps with the Post Office. Numbers settle on the electric light wires and on the verandah beams with complete indifference to the busy crowds calling at the offices below, and they allow one to stand and study the fresh beauty of their form and colour without bothering to fly away. Many nests are built inside the Post Office and the young always seem to be successfully reared in spite of the closing of the office for hours at a time. The Kashmiris are kind and tolerant of birds and rather than break down the nests in their buildings place little shelves below them to save the floor from the mess. In the autumn, the flocks of migrating swallows are a great feature of the telegraph wires all down the road to Rawalpindi.
Hodgson's Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alboides) greatly resembles and is closely allied to the English bird. It is found through Kashmir and Ladakh breeding under the stones of all the little islands on the rivers up to high elevations, but I mention it here as in Srinagar it is such a feature of house-boat life. Many a visitor has gained a deal of quiet pleasure from the presence of a pair of these birds whose nest has been built in a niche in the boat ; there is something very attractive about the clean black and white plumage and the swaying of the long tail as the birds run up and down the deck and roof. Long ago I read that the wagtail was one of the smallest birds that walks and runs as opposed to hopping and I am always trying to find a smaller, but without success.
Space is short or I should like to mention numbers of other birds which are common and likely to be noticed in Kashmir. The Great Tit (Parus major cashmirensis) is interesting as an example of geographical variation ; in voice and habits and nesting it closely resembles the English bird but in place of the bright greens and yellows of that form its colour is delicate french-grey and pearl-grey. The Goldfinch (Carduelis caniceps) similarly closely resembles the English form but lacks the black cowl on the head behind the crimson mask. While the Mynah- (Acridotheres tristis), the Golden Oriole (Oriolus Oriolus Kundoo) and the Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi) will attract notice the more that they are so well known in the plains of India.
But space is precious and we must visit the Dal Lake ; I will only warn the visitor to look out for two particular birds as he climbs the Takht-i-Suliman to admire the famous view over the Valley. The commonest bird on the Takht is Stewart's Bunting (Emberiza Stewarti), a small brown bird with white outer feathers in the tail which flash at intervals as it hops about on the hillside or flies from rock to rock ; the male has a greyish-white crown and a chestnut gorget on the breast and a loud wheezy song which he sings from the top of a rock. The other bird to notice there is the Blue Rock-Thrush (Monticola solitaria pandoo), a dull blue bird which perches on the rocks and is very difficult to study owing to its furtive shyness. The cock, however, has rather an attractive breeding-song uttered while the bird flies in a parabola above the hillside.
The Dal Lake is a most delightful spot for the student of bird-life to visit in a shikara ; many birds of very distinct personality are common there and they are all easy to observe as they are accustomed to the numerous boats which constantly pass along the water-ways.
The first bird that we shall see after passing through the Dal Darwaza is certainly the Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis pallasii)} the Central Asiatic form of the common European bird from which it differs only in minor details of size and tint. Nowhere have I ever seen the kingfisher so common as in Kashmir; it perches on the willows and reeds with its large dark eyes intently watching the water below until at last it dives headlong at some passing fish or aquatic larva. As the boat approaches it flies off along the channels low and swiftly over the water, uttering its sharp petulant note as if in disapproval of the interruption.
Another bird which we shall make the acquaintance of at the first reed-bed is the Great Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus brunnescens), a dull brown bird little bigger than a sparrow. It climbs about the reed-stems from top to bottom, now picking food from the surface of the water, now venturing for a moment into the sunlight at the top. It scarcely leaves the reed-beds save to visit the closest of the willows and we shall not find it too easy to see. But all must know it by ear whether they wish or no : for it is the author of the discordant creaky clamour which surrounds the Kashmir jheels as with a mantle—Kecky-keeky-kecky, prit-prit-pritik—repeated again and again with every possible variation of discordance. Numbers of pairs live in every reed-bed, building deep cup-nests suspended between the reed-stems ; so deep are the nests that the eggs do not roll out, however much the reeds are swayed by the wind.
The Water-hen (Gallinula chloropus) and the Little Grebe (Podi- ceps ruficollis capensis) we shall also meet at once before Gagribal is passed. The former is careless of observation, swimming in the open channel and merely entering the edge of the reeds as the boat approaches, while its sooty black chicks also swim and feed in the open. But the Little Grebe is more shy and dives without allowing us to make its close acquaintance.
The most interesting bird that we shall meet is the Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus), a miniature heron with long pointed beak and long-toed legs. The plumage is streaked with warm russet shades to match the reed-stems and the bird in unconscious knowledge of its protective colouration stands motionless at the edge of the water as we pass. There are nests in all the reed-beds, rough cups of trodden reeds, which hold five or six dull white eggs. Standing motionless by the reeds the Little Bittern avoids the observation of most of the passing boats, but all are familiar with, the sight of this species on the wing flying quickly along with the head bunched back on the shoulders and the legs held stiffly out behind.
Before we reach the more open waters of the lake we are certain to meet with Hodgson's Yellow-headed Wagtail (Motacilla citreola calcaratus) on the floating gardens, where it nests amongst the herbage and feeds about the edges of the gardens and on the lotus plants. The males are easily recognized by their brilliant yellow head and breast contrasting sharply with the jet black back. In character they are rather dull and stupid birds to my mind and their chief interest lies in their adaptability to altitude. Vast numbers breed in the hot steamy plain of Kashmir, while equal numbers are found in the bracing river-beds and marshes up to 13,000 feet across the snowy ranges.
The main extent of the lake will introduce us to two characteristic birds. The first is the Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus) that lives amongst the lotus, and whose form is familiar to everyone through Chinese paintings. It is a remarkable bird from several points of view. The chief point lies in the wonderful adaptation of the feet to its habitat, the immensely long toes enabling the bird to walk freely over the weeds and plants that fill the waters of the lakes. The bend of the wing is armed with a horny spur and the first and fourth wing-quills end in curious elongated filaments of which the meaning is unknown. There is something very bizarre about this bird with its huge feet and white pheasant-like tail and it seems a fitting foil to the wonderful beauty of the lotus blooms in their tangled home of foliage. Above the lotus and the jacana fly the Whiskered Terns (Chlidonias Leucopareia indica) in great numbers, wheeling backwards and forwards with an unceasing beat that grows tiresome in its monotony, their harsh creaking notes sounding across the placid waters to some distance. Both Tern and Jacana nest on the water- weeds ; the Terns build a bulky nest of weeds visible some distance away with their spotted eggs or delicately-coloured downy chicks. The Jacana's nest is so slight that it scarcely serves to hold the four peg-top-shaped olive-brown eggs, and they seem almost to rest on the water, which indeed must keep them continually moist. And so I leave the Happy Valley, my mind's eye filled with that ceaseless patrol of the Terns which is one of its most characteristic memories.
Section III.-Some Familiar Birds on the Treaty Road to Leh.
It is not always a pleasant business crossing the Zoji La from Kashmir into Baltistan and Ladakh. A very early rise may be necessary in the cold darkness before the dawn : the ascent is steep and troublesome for the top of the pass is over 11,000 feet and in all probability an icy tearing wind blows straight in our faces ; and there is a strange reluctance to leave the pleasant forests and verdure of the Sind valley in spite of eager anticipations of the very different land ahead.
The summit of the pass is usually very empty of bird-life and my chief memory of it is the familiar call of the Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), which echoed round the barren snow-clad hills. Somehow the cuckoo always seems so associated with trees and pleasant sunny spaces that it seems out of place perching on rocks in the desolation of high altitudes. Yet it is found quite normally on the higher slopes from 10,000 to 14,000 feet and breeds there, laying in the nests of pipits and rubythroats.
However, one has not far to go from the summit of the pass before birds gradually appear and grow commoner. Before Machhoi one is certain to meet two species which may be considered very typical of the Treaty Road. The first will be Stoliczka's Mountain-Finch (Montifringilla nemoricola altaica), a dull brown bird the size of a sparrow. Except when breeding, these birds collect in great flocks which feed in patches of cultivation about the hillsides and fly uneasily backwards and forwards with a swinging characteristic flight. Their courtship is rather pretty when the males posture before the females with the wings stretched up above the head. The nest is exceedingly difficult to find as it is placed under stones on steep hillsides, and the eggs are pure white of a type very unusual in the family of finches. The second species is even more characteristic of the Treaty Road : in fact it of all birds will ever spring to my mind as typical of the barren valleys and stony plateaux over which the road runs. The Black Redstart (Phcenicurus ochrurus phoenicuroides) may be seen everywhere along the road to Leh. It perches on the rough stone walls between the little fields and on the Mani walls and chortens ; it sits on the boulders and rocks of the hillsides, flying down at intervals to pick an insect from the ground ; and all the time at intervals of a minute or two it gives the little nervous shiver to the tail, which distinguishes it from every other bird in Ladakh and Baltistan. The adult male is rather a handsome fellow, blackish with chestnut underparts below the breast, but in their first year the cocks breed in a plumage indistinguishable from the females, dull brown with an orange rufous tail. The nests are solid cups of grass and wool placed deep in amongst the stories of a wall, and the eggs are of a very delicate shade of pale blue, and very rarely white.
It is not, however, until we reach the little cultivated plain about the hamlet of Matayan that bird-life becomes abundant, and there we find several birds which will be familiar enough by the time Leh is reached. I suppose the pride of place belongs to the Tibetan Raven (Corvus corax tibetanus), which though never abundant is always certain to be seen about the villages along the road. Its size alone distinguishes it from the Carrion-Crow (Corvus corone orientalis), which is the other black crow found in pairs along the road. The Carrion- Crow, however, requires trees in which to nest, but the Raven builds its bulky nest in holes and on ledges of the rough clay cliffs which are such a feature of Ladakh, and as a rule only visits the villages to feed : and a fine sight these birds are as they stalk sedately about. At Dras a pair frequented our camp and picked up the scraps that we threw to them from the tents. The male was much the bolder, and he would come to within five or six yards of the tent-door, approaching with clumsy loping hops a few at a time, with a halt to eye us warily ; then the coveted morsel was gained, he flew off as if the devil were after him.
Curiously enough in Ladakh, the two Choughs are not nearly such scavengers as I found them in Lahul. In Lahul the Alpine Chough in particular was remarkable for its boldness. There, as the naturalist Stoliczka recorded fifty years ago, it feeds freely round the tents and villages, a very pleasant beautiful bird to watch. But in Ladakh both species are rather shy and keep to the mountain-sides and fields, where they are common enough. The Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) and the Yellow-billed or Alpine Chough (P. graculus) are very beautiful birds, their coloured bills and legs supplying the needful foil to set off the wonderful glossy black of the plumage. While their graceful shape and flight and pleasant calls all contribute to make them, to my mind, among the most attractive birds of a barren region, where all life is welcome to break the monotony. Various sportsmen have remarked to me after their shooting trips that it is curious how the two species are distributed in different valleys, one species in one valley, the other in another, but in my experience this is not correct. I have found no difference in their distribution, except perhaps that the Alpine Chough tends to frequent a higher zone, and both species may even be found consorting together in a joint flock.
At Matayan we shall meet two species of lark with which in due course we shall become familiar. The Kashmir Skylark (Alauda gulgula guttata) indeed, should be already well known, for it is common in the Vale of Kashmir and at Sonamarg, but the Short-toed Lark (Calandrella tibetana) will be met for the first time here. The habits of these two species are rather different. The Skylark is essentially a bird of cultivation nesting in the barley-fields about the villages ; around Leh it is particularly common, and its song as it mounts in spirals in the air will recall the song of Shelley's bird. The smaller Short-toed Lark, however, prefers barren stony wastes, where its tiny nest is placed beneath the shelter of a thistle or amongst the stones where it is exceedingly difficult to find.
Near Matayan we meet for the first time with the Ladakh Thorn (Hippophce rhamnoides) whose sparse leaves and hard spiky branches form those little patches of cover in the river-beds which loom so large in an almost treeless land. How my knees and legs have suffered as I have tramped through these patches of thorn, intent on discovering whatever they might hold ! and very interesting are the two species which we shall find at Matayan in their cover. The most noticeable bird is the Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita sindianus), a sub-species of the familiar English bird. It is a tiny brown bird with paler underpays and as it creeps about the thorns, it sings its cheerful little song, chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff, announcing its identity for one and all to learn. When I first passed by Matayan the valley was still wreathed in melting snow, but the chiffchaffs were singing in the thorns, waiting for the coming of the summer warmth and the bursting of the leaves to provide cover for their nests. These are little domed affairs of grass, well-lined with feathers ; the eggs are four in number, white and delicate with rusty brown-red spots.
It is very interesting in Ladakh to notice how the birds arrive on their breeding grounds and wait there before they are ready to nest, and often indeed until the place is fit for nesting. I have seen Common Sand-pipers flying and piping about a snow and ice-bound stream at the spot where they would later nest on an island still completely hidden. And everywhere in June the Rose-finches sit dully about on the patches of briar a month before they are ready to nest in them. Another interesting point is the way in which the temperature and altitude of the valleys affect the breeding of individuals of the same species, quickening or retarding them. While the Chiffchaffs of Matayan between 10,000 and 11,000 feet are singing hopefully amongst the snow, their relatives at 9,000 about Kargil are getting on with the practical work of nest building. There must be a difference of a month or six weeks in the breeding seasons of birds in different localities in Ladakh.
In the thorn bushes at Matayan we shall meet also the Bluethroat (Cyanosylvia svecica abbotti). It is a difficult bird to observe as it runs on the ground amongst the thorns or dives headlong into the growing barley, noticeable as it goes only for the patch of chestnut in the base of the tail. But the males come up at intervals to perch on the top of the thorns or even on a willow-bough to sing their pretty little song, and then if we are cautious and use our glasses we shall see the splendid shining blue of the throat and mark the spot of red or glistening white that in the centre sets it off. The Bluethroat is more or less related to our English robin and nightingale, and the eggs rather recall those of the latter bird in type though they are greener in colour. The nest is a cup placed on the ground in situations which resemble those of the nightingale.
Pandras is another landmark on the road : for below the tiny village on the plateau there is a little clump of trees enclosed in a rough stone wall, the forerunner of the walled camping-grounds of Ladakh, whose welcome shades invite the weary traveller. And this little clump of trees holds year by year a magpie's nest, forerunner of the nests which are built in all the camping-grounds and round every village. It seems curious somehow to meet the magpie in Ladakh perching on the rocks, and it is far tamer than in Europe, nesting near the houses and perching often on the roofs. In the field it would be taken for the European bird, but it is actually a different race (Pica pica bactriana) distinguished on examination by the larger size and by the greater amount of white in the wings and on the rump.
Further down the road the Common Rose-finch (Garpodacus erythrinus roseatus) first becomes common at Dras where we begin to find the patches of briar which form the favourite cover for its nest. The male rose-finch is a very lovely bird in summer with his brilliant crimson plumage far removed from the dull streaked modesty of the hen. I suppose some people would claim that the colour of the males was protective and designed to escape notice amongst the blossoms of the briars, but I think myself that it is due merely to some natural law, the various shades of red and pink being very common amongst all the smaller birds found at very high elevations. That the law exists is clear enough, but I cannot guess its reason. Dull in character and poorly dowered in brains, the Rose-finch is yet a distinct asset amongst the incidents of travel in the barren uplands : for besides providing vivid splashes of colour, the males enliven the silence with their persistent song—We'll bewitch you, Eat you, meet you, Pleased to meet you—in a loud canary-like whistle along the hillsides, with its welcome or its warning to every passer-by. The eggs too are very striking, a wonderful blue in colour, splashed with spots of ink and brown.
One of the fascinations of the trade-road is the way in which it is always leading on to something new. Kargil stands in my memory as the home of that delicate-looking black and white bird, the Siberian Wheat ear (Oenanthe pleschanka pleschanha) which sings from the telegraph wires on the otherwise almost lifeless plateau above the town. At Mulbekh we expect the Blue Hill-Pigeon (Golumha rupestris turhestanica), distinguished from the common Blue Eock-Dove (C. livia neglecta) of the Himalaya by its paler underparts and the white patch in its tail. And on the ascent of the Namika La between 11,000 and 12,000 feet, we first find a very noticeable bird which we shall meet again and again. Adam's Mountain-finch (Montifringilla nivicola adamsi) is the Himalayan representative of the snow-finch which is so familiar to those who visit the Swiss hotels for winter sports as the little brown and white bird to which they throw out scraps. It belongs to the same genus as Stoliczka's Mountain-finch which we saw on the descent from the Zoji La, but it is altogether a more interesting bird, tamer, and with more individuality* In life it strikes one much more as a lark than a finch ; it feeds perpetually on the ground and the long wings and full tail, both variegated with white, give it a very lark-like flight. The nest with its white eggs, hidden deep in the ground under a stone or wall, is impossible to find by searching, but it is often revealed by the tameness of the birds who fly in and out with little regard for passers-by, especially when the young are being fed.
No memories of Ladakh would be complete without mention of the Gold-fronted Serin (Serinus pusillus), one of the most numerous and most charming species to be met there. It is, however, one of the last birds that the traveller will probably learn to know as its tiny size and dingy colouring make it somewhat elusive. The name is due to the patch of golden scarlet on the forehead, brilliant and distinctive when the bird is handled or carefully scanned through glasses, but barely noticeable in the field. According to season it is found in large flocks or in twos and threes, feeding on the ground amongst the stones by the wayside, just a nondescript little sooty bird with a pleasant twittering note, of which at first one takes no particular notice. But learn the delicate shades of the plumage and distinguish the little gold front, and you will make an acquaintance that you are always glad to see—it is so delicate and dainty, such a contrast to the stern ruggedness of Nature's other works around.
By now we have made acquaintance with all the most characteristic birds of the road : it is not a long list, for bird-life is scarce in species in these desert uplands. But in addition there are several species that we are bound to meet. In the wider and more cultivated river-beds, Hodgson's Yellow-headed Wagtail (Motacilla citreola calcarata) is common and conspicuous as the cocks, with their lovely contrast of black and yellow, sit lumpily on a bush or stone in the neighbourhood of the nest. In the barley-fields one hears the curious clicking song of the Large-billed Warbler (Tribura major), a little- known bird related to the Grasshopper Warbler of the English fens and heaths. If the sound is followed up, it introduces a dull little brown bird sitting on a bush or tree, a nondescript to look at. At a near approach it dives into the undergrowth and will be flushed again with difficulty. The hen is very rarely ever seen. If the nest is found, a cup of grass on the ground in the midst of tangled foliage, one may see the foliage shiver as if at the passage of a rat, when the hen bird runs off her eggs, but she is almost impossible to secure ; and there is hardly a specimen in the museums of the world.
Here and there on the hillsides one hears the song of Hume's White- throat (Sylvia althea), and finds its nest and eggs in the briar bushes ; while along the road one meets with the Meadow-Bunting (Emberiza cia stracheyi) shambling along the ground with an occasional uneasy flick of its white-edged tail. It is a very typical bunting and easily identified by the black lines on the head. The eggs have the curious pen-lines and scrolls and dashes, so familiar in England on the eggs of the Yellowhammer.
Black-looking Swifts (Apus apus peJcinensis) tear and scream about the face of beetling cliffs in which they breed in colonies ; and along these same cliff-faces, and indeed about any rocky bank above the rivers the brown Crag-martins (Riparia rupestris) beat endlessly on patrol, mounting in the eddies that ascend the broken crannies of the rock, and circling round dive down to mount afresh.
The villages swarm with Sparrows (Passer domesticus parhini), of the same species that is such a familiar pest in the Vale of Kashmir. And at every camping-ground a pair of Hoopoes (Upupa epops epops) feed busily on the level spaces ; if watched they may be seen to fly off with grubs to the nest, hidden deep in the hollows of an aged poplar.
Up in Ladakh, birds of prey are strangely scarce. An occasional pair of Hobbies (Falco subbuteo) breed in the villages and camping grounds, using the old nest of a carrion-crow or magpie. Occasionally a Griffon Vulture (Gyps himalayensis) or the grander Lammergayer (Gypaetus barbatus) beats along the hillsides or wheels far overhead hoping to find a dying goat or pony ; and on the higher ranges one is privileged at times to see the soaring of the magnificent Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetus daphance) or its tearing stoop at a hapless marmot which has strayed too far from its burrow. But the only species which is really common is the Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) which breeds in the cliffs along the valleys. Here, as elsewhere, it feeds on insects and lizards and small mammals, but I think in Kashmir and Ladakh it kills far more small birds than is usual in Europe and in the plains of India. Food is scarce and hunting difficult in this mountain desert, so the Kestrel learns to carry off lark and mountain-finch, dashing at them with the fire of the bolder falcons.
I remember how once on the march I saw a kestrel fly swiftly over some fallow fields and take a mountain-finch off the ground, flying on with it held in its claws. As it passed, some sixty or seventy other mountain-finches rose from the ground and mobbed the kestrel. Away went the kestrel clinging to its booty with the cloud of small birds in pursuit. I watched them into the distance across the valley growing dimmer and dimmer, until suddenly they passed from the shadow of the mountain into the early morning sunlight which poured between two peaks. And in the beams of light the cloud of mountain- finches was lit up and became a kaleidoscope of dancing motes, rising and falling in perpetual motion. They crossed into shadow and all had vanished save the memory.