I sit back in my room lit only by the computer screen in front of me pondering through the folders containing photos taken in February. Time seems to have moved fast but my pace has slowed down a lot. Only a handful of folders containing photos to be edited for the “What I saw” segment.
Memories start flooding in as I stare at the cursor that is blinking on the word processer as I try to write this month’s blog. Finally, I realize that the collection of the trips I did in February wasn’t as bad as I had initially thought.
Multiple morning hikes and rides to Bungamati, a trip to Godawari, and finally a multiday trip outside the valley after a year was what February was about. Things seem to be coming back to normal but the virus situation still scares me. On the bright side, things are looking good on the vaccination front.
My favorite place to go when it comes to birding. The vast forest canopy houses many species of birds. An early morning walk through the forest trail showcases their feeding rituals brought into attention by the songs they sing. A flock of Black Bulbul is busy feeding on the Leucosceptrum canum tree. The place is abuzz with life as I hear the Great Barbet sing far in the distance. As the afternoon starts the walk finally ends but before heading home I spot a Blue-bearded Bee-eater. Perched on top of a tree, it was trying to snatch bees that are flying around it. The swift head movements of the bird was trying to match that of the bee as the open beak failed to shut fast enough to catch its prey. Yet the adamant bird stays put and there are some triumphant times as it catches its meal, the bees.
I am back to this beautiful place yet again as I am mesmerized by the terrace fields going down to the Bagmati river. Yellow hues from the mustard fields lit by the morning sun rays passing through the fog pull me to this place every time. Three visits in February and yet I spot new species of birds that I might have missed in my previous trip. The vast swath of farming land with patches of small jungles in between brings in various birds and insects. Small biodiversity to be treasured forever.
I always want to breathe the fresh air standing amongst these fields. Breathe in breathe out, breathe in breathe out, breathe in breathe out. This place won’t be like this next year.
Times they are changing, “development is coming” the national priority project, the fast track is going through the fields. Those fields produced sustenance to the people around and many more.
Back in time, we would hurdle into the barren higher grounds and leave the lush green valley below for farming. In modern times our priority has changed. In modern times a super-rich person appreciates the packaging from his product found in the walking trail and considers it as a success to his business and not a litter. We have changed, changed for the good or, changed for the worse, this depends on your version of the story. But while that happens it’s the biodiversity that keeps getting impacted. An impact no science or voodoo magic can bring back.
I had never covered the banks of Bagmati as the polluted river seemed so barren. Now it has become my priority as I could spot a Grey-headed Lapwing and a Plover this month. The only downside to this is that the polluted river gave a strong smell and staying for a long period waiting for the shorebirds gave me a bad headache. My brain is learning to mask the smell out but oh well time will tell.
As the sunlight pierced through the morning fog the mustard fields showcased various birds busy foraging through the fields. Raptors of various kinds could be seen perching on treetops or soaring above. Steppe eagles would spread their massive wings as they flew away from their tree branches while a Common Kestral perched on another tree was looking at my movements on the terrace of an uncultivated farm.
The Rajkulo (an ancient canal) that brings water to the fields of Bungamati and Khokna were irrigating some of the newly prepared fields. As the water trickled in I could see Pipits and Buntings foraging on the freshly dug patch. Long-tailed Shrikes could be seen swooping down to catch insects. This place was alive with various species of animals each busy with its morning routines.
Seems like the mountain bike racing season has started in Nepal. I was off to Ligligkot for a cross-country marathon race.
Ligligkot is a historical place where the former monarchy was established. The mountain bike race allowed me to visit this place and also explore its natural diversity. We stayed in a small village 2km down from the Ligligkot hilltop. The place had small jungles around it and was abuzz early morning with songs of different birds and the sudden laughter by the White-crested Laughingthrush.
A short walk was good enough for me to see the birds busy in their morning feeding rituals. Minivets were flying in flocks and singing in their beautiful soft tones. I could see Great Barbets busy feeding on the flowers of the Coral Tree. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch could be seen working around a tree trying to feed on insects. This bird amazes me as it gracefully moves around every area of the tree clinging upside down as it feeds on the hard-to-reach areas. I sit down to take a picture of the beautiful sunrise, and while I’m busy at it there are a bunch of 4-5 Rhesus macaques that slowly moves from the jungle to a terrace farm nearby foraging for food.
While exploring the 52.9 km race track I reached the banks of Chepeghat. Another historical place and for me another area I needed to come back to explore. I needed to see what type of shorebirds this place had. With a very tight schedule and a lot of work to do to make the race safe, I was just able to document some of the moments. The plan of coming back to this place hatched as I was walking through the homestays amongst the orange orchards. Such a beautifully diverse place graced by the view of the mountains. Nepal is a treasure trove waiting to be protected from ill-planned developments.
An interesting month and an interesting collection of documented species. Following are the ones that I was able to see or document.
Grey-headed Lapwing, Alexandrine Parakeet, Blue-throated Barbet, Great Barbet, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Black Drongo, Black Kite, Long-tailed Shrike, Black-lored Tit, Red-vented Bulbul, Common Tailorbird, Common Myna, Oriental Magpie Robin, White-capped Redstart, Common Stonechat, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Jungle Owlet, Steppe Eagle, White-breasted Waterhen, Common Kestral, Steppe Eagle, Black Kite, Pipit, Kalij, etc.
The Coral Tree, Silk Cotton Tree, Daturo, Leucosceptrum canum, Utis, etc.
While I was in Ligligkot I found that I had missed out on the calmness and tranquility that comes after being away from the city. All these years of exploring various parts of Nepal and even Kathmandu one thing common is the human expansion and the increase in urbanization. This is part of the process but this also brings in unnecessary pollutions. One pollution we don’t talk about enough is Light pollution. Ligligkot reminded me of this as I looked down into the valley only to see scattered lights in a pitch-black night.
The color starts to flood on objects as the darkness is being lit by a light source. It’s a powerful moment when considering we at Nepal faced more than 18 hours a day of a power outage. As the demand for power increases especially in the cities the pressure, in turn, goes to the energy generation source. In Nepal, the primary source of power generation is hydro with approximately 1 GW of installed capacity1.
The growing urbanization in major cities in Nepal brings out massive energy demand. As per the report, each Nepali household utilizes 245 kilowatt-hours per year 2 (2019) which is an increase in demand from the 117 kilowatt-hours per year two years back. The first hydro project was commissioned on 22nd May 1911 with an installed capacity of 500 kW in Pharping, Nepal.
Although the government is encouraging the general public in regards to consuming more electricity, this strategy drastically impacts the water bodies as the increase in dams creates ecological impacts downstream.
Aquatic life, the human livelihood that surrounds it, are the ones that get impacted the most. Other areas of renewable energy generation should be prioritized more and worked out. Grid-connected solar power should be a norm in urban areas where energy consumption is at its maximum.
Coming back to light pollution, the excessive use of various light sources affects both humans and wildlife3. As urbanization has started touching the wilderness areas of Kathmandu and in other parts of the country, excessive and inappropriate use of outdoor lights will in return affect the wildlife. Artificial lights can disrupt the activity of nocturnal animals, the predator and the prey cycle will be affected as well.
In many cities and rural areas, moths and other species of insects get attracted to light sources which can be fatal due to the heat generated by the light source. The decline in prey species like these will hamper the food chain. Along with this, there are a lot of insects that help in pollination, and the attraction to the artificial light source can be fatal as well.
Light pollution can also affect humans resulting in sleep deprivation, fatigue, headaches, stress, anxiety, and other health problems 4 5.
We should understand that we have to co-exist with the wildlife and nature that surrounds us. Creating a lesser impact on nature and wildlife with whatever we do should be a priority. As the year passes by the news of the recovery of nature and wildlife is dominated by the destruction of it.
As March comes I hope the virus situation gets under control soon. Wishing you all a very productive March and please follow your government’s rule on social distancing, and mask.
Ajay Narsingh Rana