To reach any destination in the Himalaya -- from anywhere that you may venture to do so -- you must first impatiently transect the purgatory of dust and grit posed by successive urban habitations. Those are the trials of the pilgrimage that you must endure to be deserving of a holiday in the hills. Climbing up towards Himachal from the plains of the Punjab or journeying to the snowy heights of Uttarakhand via Kathgodam or Haridwar, you know instantly that the hills are near when you catch the first glimpse of that ubiquitous Himalayan inhabitant -- the Blue Whistling Thrush (Myophonus caeruleus).
Relatively dowdy, screechy and less musical than its cousin, the Malabar Whistling Thrush of the Western Ghats, the Blue Whistling Thrush is nonetheless a character. Walking a trail, you may feel eyes burning into your back. Turn around and you may see a shadowy crow-like bird rearranging itself nonchalantly on a tree or skulking away into the shelter of the shrubbery. Around mountain streams, you are sure to find two or more males settling territorial differences acrimoniously.
It's perhaps one of the most wide-ranging of our hill birds -- my friends and I have seen Blue Whistling Thrushes from 5000 feet to 11,000 feet up in the Himalayas. Apart from inhabiting our northern hills, these thrushes, the largest of their family, are known to occur widely from Central Asia eastwards to China and south to the Sundas (courtesy: Wikipedia).
This guy was photographed a few hundred metres from the entrance of the Valley of Flowers National Park in Uttarakhand, India. I had just photographed a rainbow glistening in the spray of a waterfall when I turned to my right and saw that I wasn't enjoying the spectacle alone. So I snapped up my fellow-aesthete, too.