The month started early morning in Lobuche ready to head to Everest Base Camp and be back by the evening. A long day and quite a change in terrain. The Everest Base Camp and Island Peak trip continue from October’s What I saw segment.
Red-billed Chough, Alpine Chough, Accentors, and Rosefinch could be seen on the way to the Everest Base Camp. A lot of these birds are normally seen around human settlements and camps where food or, organic waste is kept or, discarded.
Early the next morning in Lobuche I went for some bird watching. I was surprised that at 4950m Lobuche offered a good variety of species of birds. It was my first time seeing a Ground Tit and Eurasian Wren so I had to document them. Great Rosefinch, Güldenstädt’s Redstart, Alpine Chough, Alpine Accentor, and Hill Pigeon were also among the species of birds I was able to see.
It was time to head towards Island Peak via Chukhung and walking towards this village was amazing. The terrain had different species of shrubs and among them was the Tibetan Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae tibetana). Another first for me as I would enjoy drinking Sea Buckthorn juice but hadn’t noticed the plant. It was late autumn so the plants had dried out but there were still berries in them. While observing the shrubs I also noticed a Mountain Weasel snaking its way through the gaps in the bushes.
Chukhung would be our home for the next couple of days as we rested and got our gear ready for the climb. Exploring the surrounding showed me that the vegetation around the place was mostly shrubs and small wildflowers including Edelweiss. Medows was filled with the Tibetan Sea Buckthorn shrubs, where the Alpine Chough would forage for berries. Alpine Accentor and Robin Accentor could be seen flying in to enjoy the berries till they lasted.
Sitting quietly in the meadow I noticed a Eurasian Wren basking in the early morning sun that peeked out of the Ama Dablam. A bird that was constantly on the move, it was hard to take a proper photograph but happy with the ID shot that I had. Güldenstädt’s Redstart was also flying from one shrub to the other and while following one, it led me to a rock deposit. As I waited silently for the bird to rest on a perch I noticed a fur ball coming out of the rock a just couple of meters from me.
I couldn’t resist a smile as a Large-eared Pika stared at me seemingly trying to figure out what I was. Not an ideal position to get the camera up and take photos as it would scare the animal, so I just enjoyed what I was seeing. After a couple of sniffs of the air around it, the Pika disappeared into the maze that was created by the rock deposit. Lucky for me it again appeared much further than what I had anticipated but was able to take an ID shot.
Heading to the Island Base camp was a surreal experience as the narrow valley showcased vast meadows with the river from the Imja Lake flowing on the side. The change in season has turned the vegetation yellow but I could imagine how the valley would look with wildflowers popping everywhere during spring and monsoon. Reaching the base camp the first thing I noticed was the Tibetan Snowcock around the camp. As usual, they were keen on foraging around the camp as there would be excess rice and other food that was given to them.
The climb started around 1 am the next morning and we climbed through rocky areas of the mountain for a couple of hours before reaching the snow and ice area. Crampons on we walked towards the summit, but before that, there was a near-vertical climb that we needed to do. Jumaring our way up on fixed ropes that were already set we reached the summit. After documenting the climb and the interview with the clients on the summit it was time to head down.
I got some time alone at the summit before heading down and tried to soak up the view of the peaks that were visible around me only to momentarily be disturbed by an Alpine Chough that hovered near me for a couple of seconds and flew away. This was quite a new experience but what I realized was that these birds now have the habit of foraging for food near humans. This was demonstrated when I abseiled and walked toward the start of the rock section where the crampons needed to be taken out.
Resting and snacking on the biscuits and bars I had, I saw a couple of Alpine Chough waiting to get their share of food. One of the climbers threw a small piece of snack and the bird seemingly been in similar conditions before caught it mid-air while not moving from the ground. Just like a dog catching food or, a toy when thrown at them.
With the peak done it was time to head down to Lukla through Tengboche. The trek down passed through alpine meadows that later transitioned to mixed forests filled with Himalayan Birch, Rhodendron, and Pine. On the way to Tengboche I saw a herd of Himalayan Tahr that was composed of mostly females and juveniles. These animals weren’t that skittish as they are conditioned to human presence as they get to witness thousands of people passing the trail in a season.
On this trip, I also got to see a flock of Blood Pheasant and a Black-faced Laughingthrush up close while heading down to Namche. The species diversity in this national park just blows my mind. The thought of this beautiful landscape becoming even better during monsoon with all the green meadows and wildflowers makes me come back again and again.
After the adventures in the Everest region, another trip I got to do this month was for the adventure race called the “5th COAS International Tri-Adventure Competition 2022”. The only adventure race in Nepal where the participant has to run, cycle, and raft on the banks of Trishuli river. Being a race near the river I got to witness some wildlife as well like some Great Cormorant basking on top of the rocks in the middle of the river, and a couple of Lapwings flying close to the river. There were different types of raptors as well that were perched in the trees near the beach. I could spot Egyptian Vultures, Black kites in the mix.
Below are some of the species of flora and fauna I was able to spot/document for November.
Alpine Accentor, Great Rosefinch, Ground Tit, Güldenstädt’s Redstart, Eurasian Wren, Snow Pigeon, Robin Accentor, Blood Pheasant, Himalayan Monal, Red-billed Chough, Alpine Chough, Tibetan Snowcock, Egyptian Vulture, Black Kite, Intermediate Egret, Great Cormorant, Black Drongo, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Spotted Nutcracker, Himalayan Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, Oriental White-eye, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Lapwing sp.
Tibetan Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae tibetana), Leontopodium sp., Himalayan birch (Betula utilis), East Himalayan fir (Abies spectabilis), Rhododendron trees, etc.
I feel lucky to be able to witness the natural diversity Nepal has and look forward to sharing more of it through the blog in the future as well. Thank you for following the blog and inspiring me to do more.
Ajay N Rana