Months have passed by, the seasons have changed but one narrative has remained the same, COVID-19. Even as the year slowly comes to an end the virus infection rate doesn’t seem to slow down.
The last couple of months had me focus on work and since it is over, October has been a month of working on personal projects that were on hold. The infection rate in Kathmandu is rising and this has put me in a dilemma, to travel outside of Kathmandu or not. For now, I guess my travel outside Kathmandu will be work-related. With this in mind, it was down to explore some parts of the valley solo or with a couple of friends only.
My solo rides got more frequent and this time I packed my telephoto and macro camera set up so that I could do some nature documentation along with enjoying the trails. The heavy bag pack and the dreadful uphill climbs did bring some misery to the body but I would be winning on two fronts: getting back my fitness and awesome photos of nature at its best. My favorite place was near the buffer zone of Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park where I would sit for hours and observe nature.
The silence that I consider is the occasional blend of songs by the birds added sometimes with the additional sounds of the cicada. This silence would be broken sometimes by the artificial sounds created while working or traveling by us humans down below. Nature has its way of complementing the songs of the birds by shrouding the forest canopy with a layer of fog and creating a mysterious vibe. The warm sun pierces through the fog and hits the canopy while a flock of Minivets dot the white sky above with red and yellow color as they fly towards another tree.
I lay in wait for a bird to land on a treetop nearby when I hear the call of a barking deer inside the forest some 700 to 800m away. My eyes start scanning towards the area expecting a leopard to appear near a clearing where a rock formation overlooks the valley below. My mind does run wild dreaming about the perfect composition and shot which does make me laugh once in a while when I’m out in the wilderness.
The circuit that leads up to this location also allows me to see a lot of birds like the Slaty-headed Parakeet, Ashy Drongo, and many other species. I still remember my first rides around these corners back in 1999-2000. The changes are quite distinctive but I still hope that the buffer-zone stays in its present form as the increase in the human habitat brings in the conflict between wildlife and humans. When this happens, most of the time, if not always it’s nature that looses.
The other area that I frequented the most was Hattiban for the hikes with some friends. Lately, the air has cleared up and the views have been pretty majestic. This gets amplified even more when being on top of a hill. Hattiban didn’t disappoint. The Himalayan range from Manaslu down to Everest was visible with the ever-growing city of Kathmandu in the foreground. Seeing Everest brought back memories of the adventures I had in the last couple of years. The moments while working for the Everest 135 race in the Khumbu region was one of them. 2020 has been all about reminiscing the various moments from previous years.
A good walk, nature, wildlife, the view, from all the hikes were immensely gratifying. The only downside to the hike was the amount of trash we used to encounter on the walks. This has not just been an isolated incident as I have seen every area I have visited with the same issue. Spreading the knowledge of Leave No Trace has been of utter importance. Seeing wildlife interacting with the trash in various media has been a common thing and similar interaction with the waste in our lands can’t be ignored.
On the positive side, there have been various groups working tirelessly to clean the trails including the Himalayan Outdoor Festival team who were on the trails in Hattiban this month. As the lockdowns have made people craving for nature, groups visiting wilderness areas are increasing by the day and along with this thrash keeps on piling up. The only hope is spreading awareness and knowing that being in nature also does have its own unspoken rules that we need to follow.
The wildlife sightings in Hattiban, Champadevi and, Gurje Bhanjyang was also gratifying along with the sights of the Himalayan range. Walking amongst a wall of giant ferns, stopping and standing in silence after hearing the rustling of dry leaves on the ground. Observing a Kalij Pheasant being alerted to my presence and quietly moving towards the thicket, the pi… oo pi … oo call of a Great Barbet far in the distance. The search to locate the Woodpecker after hearing the faint sound of the constant tap in the tree trunk, and many more. These were the moments that I could experience in October 2020.
There were a lot of sightings of various species but the irony is that some of them have been when the camera was in the bag pack but beautiful moments to remember. I have tried to summarize the sightings I had for the “What I saw – October 2020” segment with some of which I was able to document as well.
Birds: Green-billed Malkoha, Small Niltava, Grey Treepie, Minivet, Parakeet, Grey Treepie, Spotted Dove, Grey-backed Shrike, Warblers, Brown-fronted Woodpecker, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Cattle Egret, Ashy Drongo, Himalayan Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, Common Hoopoe, Great Barbet, Brown-fonted Woodpecker, Common Myna, Himalayan Bulbul, Oriental Magpie Robin, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Babblers, Kalij Pheasant, etc.
Insects: Orb-weaving Spiders, various moths, Fireflies, Jumping spiders, etc.
As the year is slowly coming to an end I am hoping that people continue their effort on controlling the spread by using proper safety measures. Hopefully, with this effort, we can have a brilliant 2021 and beyond. Please follow your government’s safety protocol. For the Nepali audience, I have been following Covid Sanchar Samuha. Their illustrations are well thought out and informative.
Don’t forget to wear a mask and do wash your hands or use sanitizer.
Thank you for following Prakritinepal Blog and inspiring me to have this passion/work of mine going on. October 2020 marks the completion of the 5th year of the Prakritinepal blog. Hoping to complete at least a decade of blogging about Nepal’s amazing flora and fauna.
Wishing you all a safe and healthy month ahead.
Ajay Narsingh Rana