An epic saga of travels slowly came to a halt in November as I started my final trip once again towards the Annapurna Circuit. Although being in this region numerous times before I still have a newer perspective of the place every time I am there. The beauty surpasses whatever words I am able to put forward or write explaining the region. From the low tropical landscapes to the alpine region crossing the pass at 5416m and again heading down to the tropical landscape overwhelms the senses.

Nilgiri

As the riding in the Annapurna Circuit concluded, I had the rest of the month dedicated to being in the city of Kathmandu preparing for the South Asian Games. One of the responsibilities was to complete the mountain bike trails with my team. The chosen area was the Gokarna Shaid Smarak Park on the northeastern side of Kathmandu. This small community forest was definitely a surprise for me when I was told to work on a new race track back in March. A small forest surrounded by a rapidly rising population and the housing issues that come with it was definitely a boon and a curse. This park is a place where locals can enjoy a calm morning before the daily routine of work amongst a bustling city nearby. As the busy, noisy, dusty city moves in its fast-paced daily routine the fauna inside the park moves at its own pace. While spending my days working in the trial I could see Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch searching the trunk of the pine trees for food, Blue-throated Barbet excavating a nest on a dead pine tree, Minivets singing while flying from tree to tree, a flock of parrots flying towards their nests, Pitpits hopping around searching food, a troop of Rhesus Macaques playing around, a mongoose running around. Parks like these are definitely a necessity for the community for recreation and for wildlife as a  refuge or a home to stay in. Although it sounds politically correct the previous sentence is a conflicted one as biodiversity is very important along with having a natural area for us humans to enjoy apart from the concrete jungle but both co-existing together is hard and in a way bad as having wildlife conditioned to humans creates more conflict but we humans need areas like these. One thing I could say after observing this beautiful place is that efforts should be made to keep the natural habitat in its natural state as much as possible with certain parts dedicated to recreation. The park has huge structures built up which incomplete in its current state has made it look even worse and unmanaged waste from people who come for picnics adds another burden to the already exhausted biodiversity.

Apologies to do this again but with the above things in mind I again present the following unspoken rules while in the wilderness:
1. Never pluck out a plant/ flower from its natural place for your own pleasure and social media moments. Let it be in the natural state. Remember someone else is also traveling to see the same beauty that nature is showcasing.
2. Don’t play music loudly. Keep it to yourself. Use a headphone or earphone.
3. Speak softly and don’t shout.
4. Enjoy the sounds of nature and let others enjoy it too. Try listing to the songs of the birds and then spot them on the branches (do this quietly). See how distressing it is.
5. Bringing your own food/snacks? Remember to take them wrappers and rubbish back home.
6. If you're a smoker, remember to extinguish the cigarettes properly and take that butt back home.
7. Do not in any way feed the wildlife.
8. Plan and schedule your travel properly.
9. Be responsible and think of yourself as a guest in someone else’s house and act accordingly.
10. Don’t chase animals and birds or throw pebbles or stones. No one likes objects being thrown at them or you.
11. Sit back relax and observe the nature around you. In modern times these are the most precious thing to have.
12. Try to learn about the Leave No Trace principles and work yourself towards it.   

While being in Kathmandu I also found an opportunity to head to Ichangu in the morning and explore the biodiversity there. I have always been in love with this place but as the rapid urbanization has crept into this area, things haven’t looked good in the aspect of having good biodiversity around the buffer zone of Nagarjun National Park. Ichangu for me is a place to always remember as this was where I started being serious in terms of macro photography back in 2009. The variety of insects, especially butterflies and moths was beyond my belief. The flower gardens were vast and this attracted a lot of bees and butterflies. Fast forward 2019, things have changed rapidly. The unplanned growth of the concrete jungle due to the rapid urbanization is creating a conflict in terms of the biodiversity. This place has not just been a place for me where I just go for taking pictures of insects but also birds. It's not just me but there has been a lot of people who come here on a regular basis to spot various migratory birds during winter along with the regular resident birds. In this morning walk, I was able to spot White-eye, White-capped redstart, Spotted Doves, Red-vented Bulbul, Black Drongo, Warblers, Pipits, Long-tailed Shrike, Yellow Wagtail, Black-lored Tits, Wallcreeper.

Apologies for having a few photos to share as the broken camera saga continues. The following are the monthly summary of What I was able to see in November 2019. 

Birds: Minivet, Yellow-billed Chough, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Red-billed Chough, Blue Whistling Thrush, Himalayan Vulture, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Blue-throated Barbet, Pipit,  White-eye, White-capped redstart, Spotted Doves, Red-vented Bulbul, Black Drongo, Warblers, Pipits, Long-tailed Shrike, Yellow Wagtail, Black-lored Tits, Black Kite, Wallcreeper, etc.

Mammals: Blue Sheep, Mongoose, Rhesus Macaques.

Insects: Malayan Butterfly, Purple Sapphire Butterfly, Funnel Weaver Spider, etc.

As the final month starts for the year 2019, I am excited to see what December holds as I am planning a trip to Chitwan similar to what I had done last year. Hopefully, everything works out well so that I can head for a safari and talk about it in my next “What I Saw” segment.

Wishing you all a very productive December.

Ajay Narsingh Rana