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December started with a trip back from Jumla and a trip to Banke National Park. The year ended up with a visit to some remote areas of the Lalitpur district.
BANKE NATIONAL PARK
One of the youngest national parks in Nepal, Banke hosts some rare species of animals like the Four-horned Antelope, Striped Hyena, Tiger, etc. Our plan of doing the jeep tour didn’t materialize as the safari jeep was out for repairs. We choose to do a short walk as there was a flight to catch in the evening to Kathmandu. Exploring the Chure side of the jungle had to wait.
Our guides choose a trail that would take us a couple of hours to explore and we started our walk around 10:30 am. It was a very silent walk through the Sal forest with us only managing to see a couple of Spotted deer. Apart from the mammals, I did manage to spot some Jungle Babblers and a Serpent Eagle. We rested in one of the Machan (a platform to watch animals) which we had to climb carefully as it had been damaged a bit by a wild elephant.
During the walk, some parts of the jungle were very silent except for the occasional rustling of the leaves from the breeze. I focused my attention on documenting the insects and flowers of the forest. Common Lascar Butterfly along with other species of butterflies, Golden Orb-web Spider, Dragonflies, Damselflies, were in abundance. I was also able to spot a Spiny Orb-web Spider.
This was my first trip to Banke National Park and I am hoping to return back and document this region in detail.
Flight back to Kathmandu and next morning I was off to Kakani to teach a group of students, basics of first aid and outdoor education. Kakani, a hill station in the Nuwakot district and on the outskirts of the Kathmandu valley has been a favorite place of mine for a while. The panoramic view of the Himalayan range with the valley below is mesmerizing.
The weather was cloudy with some light rain in the night. This meant that the next morning we would have a clear view of the mountain range. The wish was granted. The valley below blanketed with the cloud was highlighted by the first rays of the sun hitting the snowy peak.
The sound of the Warblers singing resonated in the background. A couple of Sunbirds were flying towards one of the Prunus subgenus Prunus trees later joined by the Green-backed Tit. Hiding behind a bush I also watched the trail behind me where a Streaked laughingthrush came out of the undergrowth to forage around the trail.
Kakani falls under the buffer zone of the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park and has a diverse flora and fauna system.
SHIVAPURI NAGARJUN NATIONAL PARK
It had been a while since I had been in Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park. I normally end up going mountain biking in the trails of this national park, but this time I was out on a hike with my friends. The destination was Shivapuri peak (2,732 m).
The 21.23 km hike took us through the Oak forest which later transitioned to Rhododendron and Pine along with other species of trees. White-crested Laughingthrush could be seen on the treetops while down below a couple of Nuthatch were foraging around tree branches. Rhesus monkeys could be seen around the hiking trails playing or foraging.
Walking up the stairs towards the peak the water springs became visible. Located on the northern edge of the Kathmandu valley, Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park plays a very important role in conservation and is also an important freshwater source for the valley. A beautiful day of hiking and I even got to see a deer around a corner of the hill.
NALLU, LALITPUR DISTRICT
As the month was slowly coming to an end, I got to visit a friend’s property that is surrounded by a beautiful jungle in Nallu area of Lalitpur district. We went down to Manikhel first and stopped by a trout farm. For me, the wilderness nearby was the attraction. I followed the call of the Fire-breasted Flowerpecker and made myself comfortable near a stream and watched the bird sing. Downstream I could hear the songs of the warblers and the Tits.
Slowly walking through the bushes I looked to the other side of the stream where the bird movements were at their most. As I was walking a Forktail and a Blue Whistling Thrush flew away as they were foraging near the stream. On the other side, I could see a couple of Mountain Bulbul chasing each other. Green-backed Tits were busy on another tree while some Black-throated Tits were also searching for food. Warblers are the hardest to photograph as they are moving all the time. Missed out again on documenting them properly.
The sound of the stream and the songs of the birds made me want to stay there but visiting Nallu was a priority. We headed back. On the way, the road through the forest again mesmerized me with my thoughts going wild thinking about the flora and fauna diversity this place was holding.
It was my second time back on my friend’s property. I didn’t want to miss out on the documentation part so went straight to taking photographs of the flora and fauna there. I could see Oriental White-eye, Green-backed Tit, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Rufous Treepie flying around the jungle below.
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker could also be seen here singing but I got distracted by the distinctive tik-tik-tik call from a bird. Looking around I spotted the Blue-fronted Redstart’s perched on a twig. The distinctive call has been a habit now as I get to spot this bird in most of the places I go. While walking near the tree line I found Zingiber chrysanthum growing. Zingiber chrysanthum comes from the Ginger family (Zingiberaceae). I was able to photograph the crimson-red seed capsule that comes after the stem dies down.
Himalayan Bulbul and the Red-vented Bulbul were in abundance. I was surprised to see a flock of Streaked laughingthrush coming out of the bush and flying towards the trees while we walked on the trail. I could spot a couple of Blackbirds earlier but could finally photograph them when a White-collared Blackbird flew down onto the grass patch and started looking for food.
While I was documenting the bird I noticed a silhouette of another bird which I hadn’t been able to document before. There in the patch of grassland was a Plain-backed Thrush also busy foraging. It was aware of my presence but wasn’t keen on flying away. The Grey-winged Blackbird was the final bird I was able to document before we left.
I will be missing the view of the Himalayas and the backyard filled with natural diversity. Did I tell you this place was right next to the Phulchowki protected space? No wonder the diversity. Might sound like a cliché but I will be back.
A lot of random places I was able to travel in December. Below are the species of flora and fauna I was able to see or document.
Jungle Babbler, Serpent Eagle, Blue Whistling Thrush, Red-vented Bulbul, Himalayan Bulbul, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Plain-backed Thrush, White-collared Blackbird, Gray-winged Blackbird, Mountain Bulbul, Black Bulbul, Black-throated Tit, Green-backed Tit, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Oriental White-eye, Streaked laughingthrush, Crimson Sunbird (female), Forktail sp., Rufous Treepie, Minivet, Blue-fronted Redstart, Rufous Treepie, etc.
Common Lascar Butterfly, Golden Orb-web Spider, Spiny Orb-web Spider, Dragonflies, Damselflies, etc.
Zingiber chrysanthum, Wild Asparagus, Sal trees, Utis trees, Knotweeds, etc.
Looking forward to a year filled with various sightings, documentation, storytelling, and adventure. Thank you so much for supporting the blog for all these years. Wishing you all a year of adventure and success. Happy New Year 2022. Stay safe and stay healthy.
Ajay Narsingh Rana