Towards the plains, the Shivalks are fringed with broad-leaved Sal and silk cotton, which give way to sheesham, kail and the long leaved cheer pine on the slopes of the foothills. A temperate zone of the mixed forests follows on the lower reaches of the Dhauladhars and Pir Panjal ranges, which are covered with mossy oak, dropping branches of Spruce, and the smooth silvery bark of the West Himalayan fir. Near streams or on the colder northern slopes one finds the maple, but most significant is the tree of the gods and the pride of the Western Himalaya –the stately deodar. This magnificent conifer soars up to a height of 45 meters (150 feet).
Into the Himalayas among the tree of Gods, Himalayan Cedar
These varying life zones support an exciting range of fauna. One of the lasting pleasures of a walks in these woods are the alluring calls from unsighted birds. Easily traced are the whistling thrushes, magpies, tits and woodpeckers. Flycatchers pirouette in mid air to claim their catch, while nuthatches and tree creepers comb the fissures in the bark of conifers. The sudden flight of the Koklas and Khalij pheasants from the undergrowth never fails to startle, and if one has the patience of the Himalayan pied Kingfisher, one can be rewarded by the breathtaking sight of a bird in nine iridescent colors –the Monal. At higher altitudes, the bird life begins to thin along with the trees. Rarer the numbers, but clearly visible when present, are the snow cock, the Himalayan choughs, rose finches and accentors. Overhead, gliding in the thermals, one is likely to spot the griffon vulture, perhaps the lammergeyer with its beard and nine-foot wingspan, and if one is lucky, the golden eagle. The sight of a skein of wild geese on their migratory flight, flights the wind at 6,000 meters (20,000 feet), is an unforgettable experience.
Himalayan Pied Woodpecker
The snow leopard