ON THE ORIGIN OF FECES: A BIRDER IN NEPAL
The contents of this trip report is an abridged version of my 78 day trip journal. The places visited on this trip to Nepal are easily accessible, and this report is geared toward birders who have little money and prefer a more independent sort of trip, but still want to see a lot species.
If the reader does not wish to read all the blither blather and jibber jabber of the entire document, I have set out a Quick Reference Guide at the beginning of this report with a list of 75 species of note. These species accounts can be found within the report by the date which follows its name. I have not listed all 427 species seen on this trip at the end of this report, but many are mentioned throughout this report. The other 355 species not listed were pretty much seen where they should be.
Part one (23 January to 2 February: The Terai) and Part Two (3 February to 2 March: Pokhara and the Annapurnna's) was a race to record 400 species, at the end of which I injured my toe on a trek and was self-assigned to recovery and light duties for the remainder of the trip; Part Three (3 March – 10 April: Spring Ahead, Fall Back).
Field Guide: I used Helm Field Guide “Birds of Nepal” by Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp and Tim Inskipp. Very portable and useful, and just the right weight for a trek. Wikipedia was useful for up to the minute splits. I have tried my best to keep up with species splits, if there is some confusion about species names it may be because I have done some splitting and lumping of my own.
Transport: The areas of Nepal visited in this report; Chitwan, 20,000 Lakes, Lumbini, Shivapura and Pokhara & The Annapurnas, are on the main tourist trail and for the most part are logistically easy to get to. Yet despite the virtual end of road strikes and closures, public transportation remains frustrating to the point of baldness (pulling out of ones hair by ones hands). I did not go up Pulchowki due to safety and security reasons.
Accommodation and food: is quite cheap and plentiful at the places visited, and a daily budget of $US 15-20 is enough. The Euro and US dollar are readily accepted, as is the British pound, yet the latter of these currencies was is such a state of decline on my visit to Nepal that anyone in possession of the notes of this small island will likely find it doesn't get them as many Dal Bhat meals as it once did.
Bird Guides and Mountain Guides are also plentiful, but a good interview may be needed to find a qualified person. It is possible to go hiking in the Annapurnas without a guide, and I went on my own. I can recommend mountian and bird guide Bhakti Devkota, who is based in Pokhara. You must hire 2 guides ($$$) to enter Chitwan Park due to the Rhino infestation, and so I have never been birding inside the Park, instead birding the boundary and the Buffer zones.
A Big Thank you to Bhakti, Khrishna, Martin Naylor, Steve Holmes and Carol & Tim Inskipp for emails, patience and birding friendship.
Quick Reference Guide: 75 Species of Note (In Taxonomic Order)
Rufous-throated Partridge (12, 13 Feb) Slaty-backed Flycatcher (8 Feb)
Monal (14 Feb) Pale Blue Flycatcher (Pokhara)
Falcated Duck (9 Feb) Little Pied Flycatcher (4 Feb)
Red Crested Pochard (9 Feb) Pale Chinned Flycatcher (28 Jan)
Ferriginous Duck (5 Feb) Siberian Rubythroat (8 Feb, 20 Mar)
Bay Woodpecker (13 Feb) Bluethroat (25 Jan)
Indian Grey Hornbill (31 Jan) White browed Shortwing (3 Mar)
Great Hornbill (29 Jan) Black-backed Forktail (8 Feb, 7 Apr)
Blue bearded Bee Eater (24 Jan) White-tailed Blue Robin (31 Mar)
Himalayan Pied Kingfisher (2, 26 Mar) White-tailed Stonechat (Chitwan)
Blue- eared Kingfisher (29 Jan) Desert Wheatear (26 Feb)
Barn Owl (7 Feb, 4 Mar) Hill Myna (20 Mar)
Eurasian Eagle Owl (4-7 Apr) Spot-winged Tit hybrids (26 Feb)
Sarus Crane (2 Feb) White-browed Tit Warbler (23-25 Feb)
Water Rail (29 Jan) Striated Bulbul (19 Feb)
Eurasian Woodcock (1, 23 Mar) Ashy Bulbul (15 Mar)
Marsh Sandpiper (27 Jan) Lesser Whitethroat (6 Feb)
Ibisbill (22,23,26 Feb) “Pale-headed” Lemon-rumped Warbler(16Feb)
Pheasant-tailed Jacana (2 Feb) Lesser-necklaced Laughingthrush (4 Feb)
Grey-headed Fish Eagle (26 Jan) Blue-winged Laughingthrush (12 Feb)
Egyptian Vulture (24 Jan, 2 Feb, 7 Apr Nesting) Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler (16,18 Feb)
White-rumped Vulture (Lumbini & Pokhara) Golden Babbler (Annapurna Sanctuary)
Slender-billed Vulture (2 Feb) Spiny Babbler (8 Feb, 26 Mar)
Cinerous/Black Vulture (2 Feb & Pokhara) Cutia (12 Feb)
Red-headed Vulture (18 Feb, 5 Mar) Black-headed Shrike Babbler (13 Feb)
Lesser Spotted Eagle (2 Feb) Golden-breasted Fulvetta (14,16 Feb)
Greater Spotted Eagle (2 Feb) Great Parrotbill (20 Feb)
Booted Eagle (7 Feb) Fulvous Parrotbill (20 Feb)
Changeable Hawk Eagle (26 Jan) Black-throated Parrotbill (14,16 Feb)
Collared Falconet (28 Jan) Red Avadavat (Lumbini & Chitwan)
Great Crested Grebe (9 Feb) Chaffinch (19, 23 Feb)
Black-necked Grebe (9 Feb, 5 Mar) Crimson browed Finch (19 Feb)
Darter (Chitwan) Scarlet Finch (13 Feb, 17 Feb)
Cinnamon Bittern (2 Feb) Gold-naped Finch (12 Feb)
Lesser Adjutant (Chitwan) Common Rosefinch (23 Mar)
Long-tailed Broadbill (10 Feb) Spectacled Finch (2008 sightings, end of report)
F.A.R.C. Crow (16 Feb)
Orange-headed Thrush (1, 8 Feb & 6 Apr)
Dark-sided Thrush (3 Mar)
Long-billed Thrush (2 Mar)
Part One - Across the River and Into the Trees - The Terai: Chitwan - 20,000 Lakes – Lumbini
23 Jan Arrival Kathmandu. Buy dusk mask and earplugs.
24 Jan Bus (400Rupees) KTM to Chitwan(Sauhara). Room at Parkview Lodge(300rupees).
On the bus journey, an Egyptian Vulture was one of 24 species seen without bins (cheeky!). Walking around Park HQ: Lesser Adjutants(5), Whitetailed Stonechat (2pr), Indian Reed Warbler, Oriental Pied Hornbills (2) and a Blue Bearded Bee Eater. A large section of my favorite birding area was being guarded by a Rhino and a Mugger Crocodile.
87 species today
25 Jan Chitwan, Walk west “Phishing” my way through the bushes along the river to Elephant breeding centre. Misty until 9am this morning and most mornings this time of year. Indian Reed Warbler(2), Chiff Chaff (1+3), Dusky Warbler, Bluethroat(2) and a few unidentified. A few Dark-throated Thrush and a single Little Cormorant in immature plumage. Another Rhino.
94 species today
26 Jan Chitwan/20,000 Lakes (entry 60 rupees) by bicycle for the day. Lesser Adjutant(15), Darter(15), Woolly-neck Stork(4), Black Stork(4AD/2JUV), Openbill Stork, and a Grey-headed Fish Eagle. White-rumped Needletail(10) contained a few Ashy Woodswallow. I startled a Changeable Hawk Eagle from the ground in an open area of the forest, which then perched in a nearby tree for electrifying views. The owner of my Lodge directed my attention to the calls of Savanna Nightjars. A Rhino has been wandering through the village and into the open air Sweet Memories restaurant during the night. And I thought I was their best customer! Animals seen today: Barking Deer(2), Spotted Deer(30+), Mugger Crocodile (8), Wild Boar(10).
90 species today
27 Jan Chitwan bicycled east about 10 km's through a variety of mixed habitat; river edge, open grassland, secondary growth, forest edge. Grey-breasted(8), Yellow-bellied(2) and Ashy(3) Prinias. Sand Lark(5), Northern Pintails(1male, 4females), Golden-headed Cisticola, Pied Harrier male. A group of Marsh Sandpiper(6) were in the same square meter of river bank as seen one year ago, must be cheap real estate. A Blythe's Reed Warbler was a bit too tame for the Jungle Cat (Felis chaus) which lurked nearby. Another Rhino.
83 species today
28 Jan Chitwan A walk east beyond Park HQ, where a mixed group of Striped-tit Babbler and Chestnut-capped Babbler chatted about Tony Blair's missing invitation to the British Royal Wedding. A Pale-chinned Flycatcher popped up with no new gossip on the subject. In the upper canopy Small Minivets(6) and a Collared Falconet moaned on the cost of the wedding to the British taxpayer. At dusk, Spotted Owlet(4) speculated on what sort of hats would be worn by the guests.
29 Jan Chitwan/ 20,000 Lakes, a second trip on bicycle with some new areas explored. At the entrance ponds, I went to have a closer look at a Peregrine perched high on a dead tree, when below me a rail/crake scrambled away. I took up a good hiding spot and a Water Rail came out to feed for 5 minutes. I informed some local guides. A Great Hornbill distracted the conversation I was having with an Irish birder on the subject of Blue-eared Kingfishers, one of which I saw 10 minutes later perched above the canal. Lesser Whistling ducks(35).
89 species today
30 Jan Chitwan The cacophony of human throat clearing in the morning this week has been spectacular, no alarm clock needed! A walk west around the Elephant breeding Center where a birdwave contained a male Golden-fronted Leafbird and 2 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo's @ low altitude. A very long look at a Buzzard in flight and then perched was a Long-legged. A lazy day overall, to Lumbini in the morning.
99 species today - 171 trip total
31Jan Bus/share taxi (400/200 rupees) to Lumbini. A 3-hour walk around the circular ponds which surround the Birthplace of the Buddha was excellent birding. Eurasian Griffon Vultures(8) and Little Cormorants(30), group of Red Avadavat(7) and Indian Grey Hornbills(3). The expanse of grassy/scrubby area I wandered into seemed to be a picturesque area, but was indeed a wasteland of human poop. The Eurasian Wryneck and Asian Koel didn't seem to mind.
54 species this afternoon
1 Feb Lumbini An Orange-headed Thrush, a winter surprise, to start a long hike throughout the Lumbini Grounds and Crane Sanctuary. A Black-shouldered Kite looked down on a group of Red Avadavat(18); one of 3 groups today. While peering up at a White-eyed Buzzard, a strange call in the grass below drew my attention to glorious views of a Black Francolin male (plus 2 heards). A common Snipe was taking a bath below a Brahminy Starling who was taking a walk along the brick walls surrounding the World Peace Pagoda, the best place to spot Purple Sunbird(10). Yellow-crowned Woodpecker(male + 2female), Chestnut-shouldered Petronia (10), Tickells Leaf Warbler. An Adult Indian Spotted Eagle was a highlight in the Sarus Crane Sanctuary which had no Sarus Cranes. I will try again tomorrow morning. Animals: Bengal Fox(10), Asiatic Golden Jackal(2), Blue Bull (12), Lumbini Rabbit(1), Jungle Cat(2), Black-faced White Monkey, Red-faced Macaques and a 2-meter long Python. Seems a lot of predators for any ground nesting birds.
108 species yesterday & today
2 Feb Lumbini Bicycle in the fog to Crane Area. Indian Spotted Eagles (3) throughout the day and an adult Greater Spotted Eagle; a few Aquila went unidentified. Whilst sorting out complicated Lark display flights, a falcon went whizzzzzzzing by me and snatched a Rock Dove. I observed what turned out to be a juvenile Peregrine Falcon (p.peregrinator) take apart it's kill on the ground when a Shikra buzzzzzzed in. The Peregrine initially turned back the Shikra, and took up it's lunch and was followed by the Shikra. The Shikra must have overtaken the kill at some point, as it was soon descended upon by an Indian Spotted Eagle which took control of the kill, the Shikra flying off and the Peregrine buzzing the Eagle's head. A pair of Sarus Cranes flew overhead. The crow's were going bonkers, and so was I. I followed the cranes north 1 km, and observed them at a distance for some time.
A bit further up the road a fresh buffalo carcass was buzzing with crows but no vultures. An hour later the vultures began to circle and then land one at a time to quickly dissolve the carcass. Eurasian Griffon(+150), White-rumped(+25), Cinerous/Black(10), Egyptian(2) and a single Slender-billed. A Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Cinnamon Bittern and Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker near the Buddha Birthplace moat. A long day out, time for a holiday – Pokhara!
90 species today - 201 trip total
Part Two - On A Wing and A Prayer Flag - Pokhara & The Annapurna's
3 Feb Lumbini- Pokhara Bus took 10-hours to travel 171 Km.
4 Feb Pokhara A bit of wandering along the Lake shore for pipits, wagtails, ducks but no gulls. Then a walk into the East hill for the sorting out of Warbler swarms. This is a regular spot for Lesser-Necklaced Laughingthrush(2), White-browed Scimitar Babbler(3) and White-crested Laughingthrush. A Blue-winged Minla, Maroon Oriole, Little Pied Flycatcher and a female Pale Blue Flycatcher.
72 species today
5 Feb Pokhara with Bicycle to the North(NW) end of the Lake, past Pame village and into some wooded areas. The once lovely island forest I regularly record Pale Blue Flycatcher has found the same fate of many of the forests around Pokhara in the past few years. It goes like this. 1) A section of forest is cleared for a hastily built road in the dry season. 2) The road washes away beyond repair during the next monsoon. 3) Now that the forest is made more accessible to people (but not vehicles) much of the remaining forest is cut down and hauled away.
At the marshy areas around the Lakes NW edge, well upriver, I find myself lost in a maze of marsh and rice paddy's. Gadwall(7), Ferriginous Duck(45), Green Teal(25), Mallard(25), Grey Heron(2), Common Pochard(5) and a single Bar-headed Goose which kept company (and often lead) a group of Ruddy Shelduck. Heaps of Purple Swamphen(200+) and Lesser Whistling Duck(30). Common Snipe(6) plus 3 snipe unidentified. Two Redshanks, seen idle as a Common and a Spotted, also in flight, made an odd couple. Some giddy bloke with a back-hoe machine has completely changed this area of Lake edge, and the number of fish farms and fisher people has made it impossible to see the waterfowl from the lake shore. I will need to hire a boat. Despite these changes, still many birds.
92 species today
6 Feb Pokhara A walk from Damside bridge (Lesser Whitethroat) up to the Peace Pagoda to see last years nemesis birds; Spiny Babbler(2) and Red-billed Leothrix(8). Then to Fishtail Lodge to sit in their pump house and wander through the dump. Small Niltava male, Snowy-browed flycatcher male, White-browed Shortwing male and Pygmy Wren Babbler.
85 species today
7 Feb Pokhara With Krishna and Megan to hike around eastern areas; cultivation & forest. Crested Bunting male, Blue Rock Thrush female and Booted Eagle(pale). While sitting at lunch in Pokhara, we were approached by a man who wanted to sell us a Barn Owl with an injured leg for 5000 rupees. It was apparently shot down by some children with slingshots, although he may have injured it himself in an attempt to sell it to some sympathetic birdwatcher. I directed him along down the NE end of the lake where a Raptor Rehabilitation Center has been established, and the man was eventually persuaded to give up the Barn Owl for some food.
75 species today
8 Feb Pokhara with Krishna and Mien at Damside, I was pointed out to a Black-crowned Night Heron roosting sight. A few Little (House) Swifts were amongst the “flutter about birds”. Along a stream littered with human waste, two forktails flushed away. After much scrutiny and photos, one was a Slaty-backed and one a Black-backed. We hiked up through forest to the Peace Pagoda indirectly following side trails, where at the top, a garbage area with a leaky water pipe contained Spiny Babbler and Siberian Rubythroat female. We hiked directly down to the Lake, and followed rough side trails along the lake edge back to Fishtail Lodge. A lot of birds wintering in the bushes along the shoreline. After 3 Snowy-browed Flycatcher males, a Slaty-backed Flycatcher male gave “crippling” views. At Fishtail, we avoided the dump and pump house, and focused on some nearby bushes. Unbelievably an Orange-headed Thrush popped out. I collapsed into a Dal Baht.
85 species today
9 Feb Pokhara Boat (500rupees/day) on the Lake, the morning light shines brilliantly on the waterfowl. I was rewarded early with smashing views of a male Falcated Duck, hidden amongst 4 pair of Gadwall, it's mane shining, I sat back and observed this threatened species for 20 minutes. Also cleverly hidden along the shoreline were a group of Red-crested Pochard (male +3 female) and a few Shovellers. Great Crested Grebe(3) were scattered about, and two Black-necked Grebe popped up in front of me. On the far lake shore, a group of 50+ vultures, including White-rumped(3), Cinerous(1) were sunning themselves. On the return journey, I stopped in along the southern shoreline to scramble up some shaded ravines where at least one Chestnut-headed Tesia stole the show. Spot-billed Duck not seen. About 750-1000 total waterfowl, about 250+ Coot.
77 species seen
10 Feb Pokhara Short morning hike along East hill towards Castle Resort. Spiny Babbler in dry secondary growth. In the forest, a 5 species birdwave gave delicious views of 5 Long-tailed Broadbill. Kalij Pheasant on two occasions. A damp/shady ravine had some Tesia's, and at last, a male Pale Blue Flycatcher. To the Hills tomorrow.
64 species today - 286 trip total
11 Feb Bus(90rupees) to Nayapul (@1070Meters) and hike up to Kyumi(1300M) a.k.a. Beehive Village. Snow Pigeons @ 1200M and some warblers. An hour spent gazing wishfully at the beehives on the cliff face, then an hour stroll beyond Kyumi for a mixed group of Grey-faced Babbler and Nepal Fulvetta.
61 species today
12 Feb Kyumi(1300M) Just 20 yards outside/north of village, a group of Striated Laughingthrush contained hiccup inducing views of 2 Blue-winged Laughingthrushes. Seen in this same area late January of 2010. Lots of activity along this route to New Bridge (1340M); three species of Sunbird seen and Rufous-throated Partridge heard. A warm walk up to Jhinudanda(1780M) and most of the afternoon spent in the forest down to the Hotsprings (1500M). Slaty-back and Little Forktails. Quiet on the walk up until I stumbled across two Rufous-throated Partridge; tame yet timid, about 20 minutes with them. A group of Black-faced Warblers was followed by a mixed group of mostly Whiskered Yuhinas which in turn contained a male Gold-naped finch. Brilliant! I then saw what appeared to be Cutia in a distant mossy covered tree; located 3 male and 1 female. Heards today included Asian Barred Owlet (dawn), Collared Owlet (noon), Common Hill Partridge (afternoon) and Mountain Scops Owl (evening).
58 species today
13 Feb Jhinudanda (1780M) I awoke to the Daffy Duck call of a Bay Woodpecker, and went for 3 hours down into the forest towards the Hotsprings. A bright red beacon on top of a dead tree was a male Scarlet Finch, a juvenile male was seen later in a group of 5 Golden Throated Barbets. The pair of Rufous-throated Partridge were under the same bush. A flash of a large pigeon sent me scrambling into a group of 10 White-browed Shrike Babbler which contained a single female Black-headed Shrike Babbler @1700M. This group circled me for 20-30 minutes and I was able to get at least 3 mouth-watering views of the Black-headed Shrike Babbler female. Brown Treecreeper. Bay Woodpecker heard a few more times in the morning but not seen. Jhinu(1780) upto Chomorong(2170) was quiet, a Spotted Forktail watched me consume most of the Coca Cola supplies at a mini-mart. To Upper Sinuwa(2360) is better birding in the morning.
59 species today
14 Feb Upper Sinuwa(2360) Darjeeling Woodpecker male, then Black-throated Parrotbills(30) for Valentines Day near Kuldigar(2540). A female White-browed Bush Robin with a pair of Orange-flanked Bush Robin's. A male Monal buzzzzzed over my head and crashed into the bamboo, and 10 minutes later did the same! At lunch a pair of Spotted Forktails consoled me on my near Monal mugging. Bamboo(2310) Birdwave Blizzard contained 6+ Golden-breasted Fulvetta and a single Golden Babbler before a trekking group stormed through. Rufous-breasted Bush Robin male, then Black-throated Parrotbills(40) again before Dovan(2600). A winter wren in waste water. Quiet up to Himalaya(2900), some time gazing across to the eastside of the valley for Satyr Tragopan (not seen).
44 species today
15 Feb Himalaya(2900) Return hike to Deurali(3200); Lammergier(2), Raven, Alpine and Altai Accentors, graceful flocks of Grandala's. Snow Blizzard then Rain to Dovan(2600).
21 species today
16 Feb Dovan(2600) Snowing still, Base Camp likely snowed in. Miserable hiking conditions.
Broke trail with Baby steps in Boots wet. Golden-breasted Fulvetta(10) only species seen until Bamboo(2310), then another group of 15. Poor views of a Partridge was likely Common Hill. A group of Black-throated Parrotbills collided with a mixed birdwave of Golden Babbler(5), Green Shrike Babbler (3) and Hoary-throated Barwing. Black-face Warbler on several occasions, and 3 species of Bush Robins; White-browed(male+female), Orange-flanked(5), Rufous-breasted female.
Upper Sinuwa(2360) the fog rolled in. Heard's: Crested Serpent Eagle, Collared Owlet, Common Hill Partridge, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Cell phones. Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler(2) with Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers(5). Spot-winged Rosefinch(3). At the Bridge before Chomorong(2170), a warbler swarm contained a Lemon-rumped Warbler with a pale head. I thought perhaps pollen, but on closer inspection it's normally darkish crown sides were naturally colored pale like its rump, and a thin crown stripe was barely visible. Albinoism? **Pale-capped Lemon-rumped Warbler. On the subject of splitting species, I have split the larger Large-billed Crow into the Flying-Above-Regular-Crow. About 10 FARC's seen today.
54 species today
17 Feb Chomorong(2170) Steep descent to spend the day in the Jhinu(1780)/Hotspring(1500) forest. Cinnamon Sparrows cheered me on, the Chomorong People thought me a proper nutter. Golden Bush Robin on the way down, and Wedge-tailed Green Pigeons(4) in a fruiting tree. Notables in the forest were Golden Babblers, Golden-throated Barbets(20), Scarlet Finch (2females) and 10 species of Warbler.
53 species today
18 Feb Chomorong(2170) A high altitude induced dream/nightmare of being sat in the front row of a Kenny Rogers concert handcuffed to Sarah Palin. Pair of Blue-capped Redstarts started the day. A strange call coming from a Pipit in cultivation turned out to be an Upland. Many Raptors/Vultures today to Kimrong(1830); highlights were Golden Eagle juv, Lammergier AD+juv, Cinerous Vulture(2), and Red-headed Vulture. Chuile(2250) Mountain Discovery Lodge is situated where the lower cultivation meets forest. A hive of activity here, mostly common species but Ashy Wood Pigeon, Golden Babbler and Plainback Thrush.
61 species today
19 Feb Chuile(2250) A short walk uphill to a few wooded meadows. Several hundred birds roosting/sunning here; White-collared Blackbird(50), Ashy Wood Pigeon(30), Black Bulbul(30), White-throated Laugingthrush(50). I was bit overwhelmed and could of used the Brothers' Naylor for assistance, but was happy to come away with Striated Bulbul(4), Crimson-browed Finch male, and a pair of Chaffinch (a lifer...I have never birded Europe/UK.) Speckled Wood Pigeon (20) and a Northern Goshawk before tea at Tatopani(2630) for Himalayan-like views of ...the Himalaya. Quiet to Banthanti(2260), likely due to the man sling-shotting his way through the bird life, the third such instance in as many days, seems to be a growing hobby amongst children and adults. A walk up an icy-stepped canyon to snow-covered Deurali(3000) Hotel Laligurans, and then a stroll about a few hidden valley's for Toe-freezing views of a group of Spotted (2) and Variegated (3) Laughingthrush.
53 species today
20 Feb Deurali(3000) Up early to Gurung Hill Watchtower for sunrise view of the Himalaya's in crystal clear silence. Spotted Nutcracker(2) and male Collared Grosbeak sunning in the treetops. Many heard's, but no pheasants. Great Parrotbill heard in the hidden bamboo covered valley below, so I went down to investigate. (Satyr Tragopan February 2009, Fulvous Parrotbill January 2010). Some patience needed, but great view of one bird, fleeting views of a second, heard a third, probably a fourth.
A walk through the bamboo along Deurali ridge(3200)and Fulvous Parrotbill heard below but not seen. However, I did catch the tail end of a second group(5) at the end of the ridge just before the Poon hill Trekkers stormed through(75). At Ghorepani(2860) lunch and Justin Bieber, then 3-4 hour walk down to Shikha(1935) without seeing a single trekker. Much cultivation, some forest, Spotted Forktail, Cinnamon Sparrow(pair).
51 species today - 382 trip total
21 Feb Shikha(1935) A road has been built up to this village from Tatopani(1190), and from Tatopani there is now a road all the way up to Muktinath(3760), allowing for buses, jeeps and motorbikes. Poor negotiations with the local bus people had the Nepal House Martins(25) watch me walk the road to Ghasa(2010) in just 4 hours, the bus takes 2 hours. Wallcreeper on the rock wall of the canyon, and Purple Sunbird male at Dana(1440) seemed high altitude for February.
63 species today
22 Feb Ghasa(2010) This once lovely village is now a grubby bus stop. The higher grassy hillsides were set afire, so I was up early to listen for any pheasants which may have escaped to lower altitudes, but none heard in part due to the very strong winds today. I set up and then off the road towards Titi Lake(2630). Rock Buntings(2) and 4 species of the more common Redstarts on the way up. Waterfowl at the Lake; Mallard (2 male + 6 female), Common Teal (5male +1female), common Moorhen (4), Coot (2). Variegated Laughingthrush and Beautiful Rosefinch. Continued onto Larjung(2550) on clear skies, which won me over to mountain scenery. From the Larjung Guesthouse I could see a small marshy area which contained both Gray and White Wagtails, Green Sandpiper and Ibisbill(2), the latter species may be wintering here, as Martin Naylor reported this species in December 2010.
35 species today
23 Feb Larjung(2550) About 5 Ibisbill and a few Red-throated Thrush up to Tuckuche(2590) where I crossed the river to the Eastbank via Chairo(2650). Did very well and a nice trek through mixed conifer; Tickell's Leaf Warbler(2) early?, Rufous-naped Tit(4). Pasture/orchard area for White-browed Tit Warbler. A Bar-tailed Treecreeper in the wooded area surrounding a large Buddhist Monastery. Wind at my back to depressing Jomson(2720), where just north of the village at a flooded orchard, male White-winged Redstart, Streaked Rosefinch female and Brown Accentor. A walk through an immense floodplain to picturesque Kagbeni(2800) had me feeling quite humbled, a single Barn Swallow flying south was bizarre.
22 species today
24 Feb Kagbeni (2800) A few hours walk around this village had most of today's seen species; male Streaked Rosefinch, Robin accentors. Above 3000 meters much snow with a few bare/ cultivated patches where some Chukar Partridges were dawdling about, and a flock of 200+ Plain Mountain Finch outside my Guesthouse in grubby Jharkot(3500). Much mud on trail. “ A desolate land, a place without water to drown a man, nor tree to hang himself, nor soil to bury him.” Common Moorhen in small pond @ 3400 meters.
22 species today
25 Feb Jharkot(3500) Poor trail conditions and a storm threatening, so started early and returned down the valley to lovely Marpha(2670), the last hour in a proper snow blizzard that would have Europe at a standstill, and Canadians only mildly peeved for the delay in their golf game. Streaked Rosefinch (4male +2female), Wallcreeper(5), White-brow Tit Warbler (5) and Variegated Laughingthrush (10). Some effort put into the past few days at higher altitude looking for Solitary Snipe but no luck. Some of its river edge habitat is now being used to wash jeeps and trucks. Martin Naylor had this species inside the temple ground in Muktinath in December 2010.
26 Feb Marpha(2670) Spent most of today's walk on the East bank or in the river's edge. A group of Spotwing/Coal Tit(15) hybrids were seen in a mixed species birdwave; each hybrid looking different than the others. Near Kobang(2560), a Desert Wheatear male was a surprise, I settled out of the wind and watched it for some time. Ibisbill's (4) scattered about and Grandala's (100) to Ghasa(2010).
45 species today
27 Feb Ghasa(2010) Crossed to the east side of the river and many common species seen in scrub/bamboo to Kabra(1615). Some Fork-tail Swifts with Nepal House Martins. A half day walk to Tatopani(1190). Eating in afternoon.
46 species today - 405 trip total
28 Feb Tatopani(1190) What seems mental to normal trekkers, but perfectly necessary to a birder, is a walk back up towards Ghorepani. I stopped for the day in Chitre(2390) where a 3-way trail junction intersects behind the New Daulagiri Lodge. A few hours return in the afternoon along the “Bypass Trail” to Deurali; I played hide-n-seek with a group of 4 Plain back Thrush and 10 Black-faced Warblers. Looks good forest.
62 species today
1 March Chitre(2390) A few rhododendron's blooming, so spring is here. Hiked the direct route up to Deurali Ridge(3090), a great forest but tough climb. Plain-back Thrush (2+1+1+1), Spotted Forktail (2+1), and a Eurasian Woodcock was flushed and then tracked, all in the mossy covered rhododendron forest up to 2700 meters. Then a steep climb through bamboo and conifers to Deurali Ridge where a male White-browed Bush Robin and Long-tailed Thrush seen. Ghorepani(2860) all the way down to Tikhedhungga(1480) did my toe in.
64 species today
2 March Tikedhungga(1480) Pygmy Wren Babbler heard and Long-billed Thrush seen from the breakfast table. A dog with a freshly killed Macaque Monkey baby in its jaws was a scene from ACAP's seedy underbelly. Bluewing Minla's(3), Snow Pigeons(30), and a Common Hawk Cuckoo heard then seen at 1300 meters. Red-billed Leothrix(10) sneaked by and Himalayan Pied Kingfisher (1+1) along river. Another road is being built along here, and much of the birdlife has fled this once lovely forest which has been reduced to a few sticks sticking out of the scree rock slopes. At the exit check post, I asked the Annapurna Construction Area Project for a refund on my entry fees. The bus driver floored it to Pokhara.
60 species today
Part Three - Spring Ahead, Fall Back
3 Mar Pokhara Greeted by birding friend Steve Holmes from England. Afternoon in Fishtail Dump/Pump house; White-browed Shortwing male, Pygmy wren Babbler, and a Dark-sided Thrush.
4 Mar Pokhara By public bus (15rupees) to the other end of Phewa Lake. A group of 25 Brown-headed Gulls in various plumages. A few Northern Pintails that were not seen on my boat trip 9 Feb. Bar-headed Goose with Ruddy Shelduck. We called into the Raptor Rehabilitation / Parahawking Center to see if the injured Barn Owl of 7 February was around. It was, and is expected to stay on until after the monsoon, on a diet of chicken and rats. “Better diet than us,” said Steve.
5,6,7,8 Mar Pokhara. Taking time off with Turf Toe. In the mornings I set myself upon the roof of my hotel ; Red-headed Vulture yesterday. Today Steve took me out in boat to see that many of the wintering waterfowl have gone. Ten Black-necked Grebes; scattered about, and a single Black-headed Gull in near breeding plumage was approached within 10 meters. The group of 25 Brown-headed Gulls was not found, and I wonder if this Black-headed was an original cast member of that group of 25, or if it arrived on its own.
9,10,11,12 Mar Pokhara More sitting about. Brahminy Starling. Felt an earthquake last night (Nepal newspapers say about 4.7), which may have been related to the Japan Quake/Tsunami.
13,14,15 Mar Pokhara Put on my boots for the first time in 12 days, and spent morning sitting and puttering about the East Hill. Spring arrivals; Chestnut-headed BeeEaters and Ultramarine Flycatcher male. Ashy Bulbul.
16,17,18,19,20 Mar Chitwan. Stayed 5 nights in Sauhara, where I was limited to dawdling about the forests and other nearby habitats. Added to the trip list were; Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Emerald Dove , Large Woodshrike and Hill Myna. The latter species being my 500th lifetime Nepal Species (about). Siberian Rubythroat male.
131 species in 5 days
21 Mar Night in Kathmandu.
22,23 Mar Shivapura Park(1450) is located just north of Kathmandu, and is the start/finish of the Helambu trek. On the first morning we hiked steeply up to the entrance gate (250rupees per visit/not daily fee) and checked into one of the overpriced yet OK Guesthouses(1700 meter) (Karkan Hotel) which are grouped together just 20 minutes beyond/north of the entrance gate. Many trails/ dirt roads here, and a Eurasian Woodcock was flushed, a few White-belly Yuhina's, Spotted Forktails and Nepal Fulvettas. Some heards at dusk from the Karkan Hotel balcony; Collared Owlet, Asian Barred Owl, Mountain Scops Owl, and Grey Nightjar.
An early start on the second day for a 3-4 hour hike up to nearly the summit/pass(2600). The first 45 minutes is through cultivation, the last 3 hours is a sort of tunnel-like walk through scrub rhododendron forest. Mountain Hawk Eagle and a Large Hawk Cuckoo heard. A female Common Rosefinch was seen in the cultivation at about 2000 meters altitude, it is the first time I have recorded this species in Nepal although it is listed as common. Perhaps I have misidentified or overlooked it in the past.
24-31 Mar Back in Pokhara. A day hike up and down to Peace Pagoda. A pair of Himalayan Crested Kingfishers at the lakes' Dam was a thrill for Steve and a surprise for me. A woodpecker in flight was left as a question mark Rufous. Ashy Bulbul, Pale Blue Flycatcher male, Blue-capped Rock Thrush male. Spiny Babbler was seen at the top in the same garbage pile as 8 February near the newly built Peace Dragon Hotel. Some searching for Blue-naped Pitta(not seen) in the ravines lower down turned up a female White-tailed Blue Robin.
02 Apr Pokhara North end of Lake. Little Cormorants(4), Northern Pintail (2male+female), Gadwall (3pr), Common Teal female, Eurasian Wigeon(2pr), Common Snipe(3), Little ringed Plover(4), Bar-headed Goose, many Purple Swamphen. Eurasian(Common) Cuckoo heard.
04 Apr Pokhara A Eurasian Eagle Owl with an injured wing was wandering about and being fed by the staff at the Pumpernickle Bakery located in Pokhara town. The staff said it has been there for some weeks, the Owl spending most of its time hidden in the bushes. I emailed the Raptor Rehabilitation Center where I directed the Barn Owl to in February, but they said there is no room for it, as they have just lost 3 of their aviaries in a land dispute.
06 Apr Pokhara Up & down the side trails to the Peace Pagoda. Blue-throated Flycatcher pair, and later another male. Orange-headed Thrush on trails(1+ pair). Pale Blue Flycatcher female with what appeared to be nest materials. Group of 5 Scaly Thrush was unusual, as I have only ever seen this species individually.
07 Apr Pokhara For my last birding day in Nepal, I went into the forest of the East Hill and sat down by a shaded and mostly dried out stream bed, located below the Castle Resort. By sitting motionless for nearly an hour, I was able to get great views of some of my favorite species; Emerald Dove, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Speckled Piculet and Black-backed Forktail. A pair of Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes preening each other and a group of colorful Red-billed Leothrix. Black-lored Tit popped out of a tree hole, and a Great Barbet was seen bringing food material to a larger hole.
A pair of Egyptian Vultures appear to be nesting on a cliff close by. At one point one of the Vultures, sitting on a nest like structure made up mostly of garbage and animal fur, raised itself up from its nesting position and adjusted something(an egg?) in the nest below with its bill.
427 trip total