Exploring, observing, learning, are the words that can describe February for me. As I was in Kathmandu for the whole month it was time to explore the nature sanctuaries around the valley. First on the list was Godawari.
In Godawari birding began with an early morning walk in the jungle-covered with fog that moved away slowly as the sun rose to illuminate the canopy above. The growing silence as I walked deeper would slowly give out to Black Bulbuls making loud cheeping noise while nearby in the Bhusure (Leucosceptrum canum) Tree, Fire-tailed Sunbirds, and a flock of Black-throated Tit were busy feeding. I would stop at times when the leaves would rustle nearby anticipating a Barking deer to peer out through the undergrowth but would turn out to be a flock of White-throated Laughingthrush hopping around on the ground searching for food. Heading deeper in the jungle a Whiskered Yuhina raised its head from the fruit it was eating to check what the rustling in the path was and while I prepared my camera to take a picture I could hear in the distance a Great Barbet doing its repetitive piou-piou-piou-piou call. Up in the sky soaring above the tree line was a Black kite circling the jungle for sometime before leaving for another ridge.
After a couple of hours into the hike, I sit on top of a rock overlooking the valley below and towards the vastness of the jungle. I take a deep breath seeing the green leaves glistening in the sun all the while I notice from the corner of my eyes a Wallcreeper climbing the vertical face of a rock. The calmness of this place is magical but would be disturbed once in a while with vehicles gunning uphill towards the Phulchowki top with the occasional horn to symbolize their presence.
Godawari is a popular destinations for a lot of people in the valley and is located on the south-east side of Kathmandu. An 8 km bus ride from Lagankhel, this place is famous for the Botanical Garden and Phulchowki hill behind it, the highest in Kathmandu valley. It had been a while since I was in the Godawari region, especially Phulchowki and this month I ended up being there three times. Three different times and three different weather patterns meant that the visibility of birds was vast.
The final trip of the month to Godavari / Phulchowki became an epic one as this time it was for a birding session with Carol Inskipp the writer of the book “Birds of Nepal”. It was a pleasure to talk with her and share the experiences about birds, macro photography, wildlife and, conservation. With her leading the birding session it was good to see the weather had opened up after a couple of days of rain and the birds definitely were out in force. It was good to spot some Mountain Bulbul slowly make their way down towards a Bhusure (Leucosceptrum canum) tree from the forest canopy above and they were joined later by a Blue-winged Minla. I leaned behind a tree to observe the beautiful feeding frenzy a Black-lored Tit would hop from one branch to another to check for insects. As the walk continued throughout the morning other beautiful birds were also spotted along with a flock of Great Barbet feeding on a tree.
Along with the multiple trips to Godawari, I also went to Bhimdhunga as this place has always been my favorite spot for a short mountain biking session but this time I left the mountain bike home and carried my camera along. To my surprise, this place did give me an opportunity to witness and photograph a couple of new species that I hadn’t been able to take pictures of. Walking through the singletracks there were sightings of two Yellow-throated Martens and a Kalij Pheasant. These two sightings had already made my day but as the morning passed by I could see and photograph more birds like a Velvet-fronted Nuthatch working around the side of a tree finding insects, a couple of Slaty-headed Parakeets perching on top of a tree, a Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher flying on top of a branch nearby and curiously watching me, a couple of Bronzed Drongo flying from tree to tree and swooping down to grab some insects. With a beautiful morning spent witnessing nature at its best, it was time to leave but suddenly an Irrawaddy squirrel jumped onto a Nepali Hog Plum (Lapsi) tree nearby and started to select the best plum there was before balancing itself with the help of its tail and consume the fruit deliciously.
All in all a good month in terms of sightings and photography. Below is the list of flora and fauna I was able to document and some that I missed.
Hudgson's Redstart, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Himalayan Bluetail (Orange-flanked bush-robin), Mountain Bulbul, Blue-winged Minla, Treecreeper, Black Bulbul, Himalayan Bulbul, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Oriental White-eye, Green-tailed Sunbird, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Golden-throated Barbet, Great Barbet, Speckled Piculet, Black-lored Tit, Green-backed Tit, Black-throated Tit, Red-vented Bulbul, Whiskered Yuhina, White-crested Laughingthrush, Striated Laughingthrush, White-throated Laughingthrush, Magpie Robin, White-capped Water Redstart, Bronzed Drongo, Kalij Pheasant, Scarlet minivet, Wallcreeper.
Leucosceptrum canum, Schima wallichii.
Spring has arrived, March will be a good month to explore more flora and fauna. Hoping to share more stories in the “What I Saw” segments. Thank you for your love and support. Wishing you a very good month ahead.
Ajay Narsingh Rana