By Team Renok
The Garhwal Himalayas were considered by the British to be the most spectacular part of the Himalayas. This was in part because Nepal was closed to foreigners but it is hard to deny the beauty of this part of the Western Himalayas. Nanda Devi in Uttarakhand owing to its geography was considered the highest mountain in the world until the computation of Dhaulagiri in 1808.
Forest leopards are found in the lower temperate forests throughout Uttarakhand. Serow and goral are found in the upper elevations of the temperate forests, where musk deer may also be spotted. To provide safer breeding grounds for these endangered species, a number of sanctuaries have been established, including one near Kedarnath.
Brown bear are found in the caves and ledges above the high alpine slopes, while black bear are sighted at lower elevations in the summer, close to the village cornfields. in the summers bears can be spotted on the trek to Dayara Bugyal and Dodital Trek
Bharal(Himalayan Blue sheep) and ibex are restricted to the high alpine pastures. Mountaineers and trekkers in the Nanda Devi Sanctuary in the 1970s were taken aback by the tame Bharal, while there were frequent sightings of snow leopards. Nowadays the ibex and bharal are confined to remote regions such as the Govind National Park, the alpine meadows beneath the Khatling Glacier and the upper reaches of the Milam Valley and the Markha Valley.
Birds of prey include golden eagles, lammergeiers(Bearded vulture) and Steppe eagles. Sparrow hawks are also seen swooping on small birds at lower altitudes. Koklass and kalij pheasants are regularly seen in the forested regions bordering the alpine pastures, as are cheer pheasants and the impressive satyr tragopan.
In the mixed forest, expect to see the distinctive white-capped water redstart, blue whistling thrush, leaf warblers, yellow-breasted greenfinches, Himalayan and scaly-bellied woodpeckers, white-tailed nuthatch and spotted forktails. Eurasian and blackheaded jays are found at lower altitudes, as are kingfishers, black-throated tits, flycatchers,Himalayan woodpeckers, Indian and Drongo cuckoos, barn swallows and winter wrens. Extensive chir forests extend from 1500m to 2300m across the many hill regions. Above the chir pine are temperate forests of horse chestnut, yew and sycamore, which give way to blue pine, bamboo and rhododendron. Birch groves are found in the upper regions to the west of the state.
To appreciate the striking relationship between vegetation and elevation, consider the trek days from Bedni Bugyal down to the village of Loharjang on the Roopkund Trek
This region also offers an exceptional range of wildflowers. The Valley of Flowers is famous for its meadow of endemic alpine flowers.