The weather pattern seems to have changed for the worse as the beginning of October brought in more rain. Traveling to the mountains was on the itinerary as I had to lead a mountain bike trip in the Annapurna circuit. One of those trips I was looking forward to, as the previous ones in 2020 and 2021 were canceled due to the COVID pandemic.
The trip started with the first half of the circuit through Manang canceled. There were fresh landslides on the route and heavy snowfall in the Thorang la pass down to Manang. Below Chame, a section of the road was gone. It wasn’t worth taking the risk as there was a forecast of continued rain for at least the next couple of days. We returned from Besisahar and headed to Pokhara to do the second half of the circuit, Mustang. While the landslide on the way to Mustang was being cleared out, we rode the trails in Pokhara.
Pame side of Pokhara has seen some rapid changes in recent years with urbanization. On the bike ride to the rice fields on the edge of Fewa lake, I could spot Intermediate Egrets flying back to their nesting area as the sun slowly set in the west bringing some golden hues into the sky. There were lots of bird activities as I got to see White-throated Kingfisher perched on the electrical lines and pipits foraging around the field.
The trails around Sarangkot were also a good place for me to plan my next birding spots. Secluded on top of a hill and without any movement of people, there was a cacophony of sounds from Warblers, White-eyes, and various other birds. Vultures were soaring above and Black Kites could be seen flying down in the valley. I could also spot some Leeches but as the weather was changing to autumn, it was manageable.
Heading up to Mustang was an adventure on its own as the freshly cleaned landslide showed how crazy the area near Rupse waterfall had become. The weather was finally changing for the better. The skies slowly cleared up and we could get some glimpses of the mountains around the valley.
While in Kagbeni I was able to see one Redstart species that I had missed noticing on my trips before. With no proper equipment to document, I am hoping to get a proper shot of the bird the next time I visit.
Since we missed doing the pass, a short hike to the first quarter of Throang La from the Mustang side was in order. Walked up till around 4800m elevation and rested overlooking the valley below. On the way down I noticed a white puffy fungus that released brown spores when I stepped on the grass nearby. There were numerous wildflowers on the way including the ones from the genus Gentiana, Potentilla, Cyananthus.
Riding down from Mustang while on the trial I generally love visiting Kokhethanti. The trail is away from highway traffic and has got a lot of flora and occasional fauna to see. Climbing up towards Titi Lake I could see a lot of wildflowers. This was my first visit to the lake in the last 4 years. Things have changed. Previously there was just a natural single track on the northwestern side that headed towards the eastern part of the lake, used by the cattle and locals. Now it has been converted into a big trail covered with local stone tiles and railings.
After having mixed feelings about the change I concentrated on the habitat in the lake. There were at least a couple of species of ducks that were feeding on the western side of the lake. A little hard to identify from a long distance but a beautiful sight to see. This is a habitat for Mallord ducks and also Common moorhens.
After documenting some flora in the region and spotting a Ground Skink we headed toward Kalopani. The rocky cliff terrain after Ghasa also interests me as I get to see Rock Lizards basking in the sun. I spotted one lizard with a successful catch. A mouthful of a Stripped Blue Crow Butterfly, this lizard was trying to find a secluded spot to enjoy the catch, away from its competitors.
SAGARMATHA NATIONAL PARK
After a few days in Kathmandu and I was back in the mountains. This time a filming trip to the Everest region. The goal was to document the clients climbing Island Peak (6189m). Visiting the Khumbu region and experiencing the natural diversity of Everest National Park has been surreal for me every time I have been there. This time was no different.
Rhododendron forests alongside tall pine trees lead the way from Lukla following Dhudh Koshi towards Phakding. I could hear Black-lored Tits singing, see Warblers jump from one branch to the other, Laughingthrush perched on the wooden fence only to jump inside a bush as people passed by. Far in the distance I could hear the calls of Spotted Nutcrackers but couldn’t spot them even though I trained my eyes toward the sound.
The pine forest on the way to Namche was quiet except for the occasional sound of the crow on the branches. As I entered the gates of Namche I could spot a herd of Himalayan Tahr far off grazing near the edge of the village. Waking up early and heading to my favorite spot to photograph birds was a bit different this time as the sky was cloudy. Managed to just document a Robin Accentor on a Juniper tree though.
Khumjung was a treat to be in and was able to document a flock of Snow Pigeons foraging on the frost-covered fields. Leaving Khumjung and continuing the trek towards Everest Base Camp I was able to spot and document wildflowers from the genus Gentiana, and other sp. of flowers. Himalayan Tahr, Musk Deer, Himalayan Monal, White-winged Grosbeak, Rufous-vented Tit, and many other species of birds could also be spotted.
Himalayan birch and Rodhodendron trees had moss growing on them and the forest was mixed with other trees like the East Himalayan fir. During the long walk to Lobuche I got to see the magnificent Bearded Vulture gliding close to the ground. This up-close moment was surreal to see.
Reaching Lobuche I was expecting very few species of birds but as I walked around there were some that I hadn’t documented. Great Rosefinch, Güldenstädt’s Redstart, Alpine Chough, and Hill Pigeon were some of the species of birds I got to document, and was excited to find out what I would be able to see in the next few days on the walk to EBC and to Island Peak.
Below are some of the species of flora and fauna I was able to spot/document for October.
Snow Pigeon, Himalayan Monal, White-throated Kingfisher, White-winged Grosbeak, Rufous-vented Tit, Red-billed Chough, Alpine Chough, Bearded Vulture, Hill Pigeon, Eurasian Wren, etc.
Himalayan Tahr, Himalayan Musk Deer.
Ground skink, Rock Lizard.
Stripped Blue Crow Butterfly, Cabbage Butterfly.
Himalayan birch (Betula utilis) – भोजपत्र Bhojapatra, East Himalayan fir (Abies spectabilis) – गोब्रे सल्ला Gobre Sallaa, Arisaema sp., Rodhodendron tree, etc.
The Everest adventure continues. There was an encounter with a bird at the summit of Island Peak (6189m). To know more visit the blog to check the November edition of “What I Saw”.
Ajay N Rana