The final edition of the “What I saw” segment for the year 2020. What a year it has been.
December was all about concentrating more on publishing the Prakritinepal Blog 2021 calendar. It had been a while since I wanted to publish one with the species I had documented but wasn’t able to concentrate due to other commitments. Finally some motivation later I sat down and designed the calendar. I wanted to show the natural diversity other than the big three mammals that grace the limelight. The inclusion of the insects was based on this decision. The final result is a minimal design calendar with a couple of DIY projects built around it.
The other reason to publish the calendar was to keep the blog alive as there are financial aspects connected to keeping and maintaining a blog. With the sale of the calendar, I’m expecting to offset some of the costs connected to it.
With December dedicated to the publication and sale of the calendar, venturing out to explore the wilderness was a bit hard. I did manage to go to Taudaha, Bungmati, and Ichangu to document some species. The decision to go to Taudaha was a hard one as I had stopped going to the lake after the major constructions that happened in regards to human entertainment instead of the biodiversity it was known for.
Reaching the lake before sunrise reminded me of the past rides I used to do to see the water birds during winter. Taudaha lake is known for its winter migratory birds. Great Cormorants, Mallards, Common Coot, can be seen and this time I could spot a Black-headed Gull as well. The sun rays piercing through the fog had a mesmerizing effect on the lone tree in the lake. There on the base of the tree lay some ducks while the Great Cormorants were grooming themselves on the treetop.
Taudaha trip happened at the start of the month and finally, I could manage another trip in the last week of the month. Bungmati, a place I love going was next and this time it was to search for a couple of mountain biking trails. This trip was more work-related but I did manage to spot some birds while biking on the single tracks. This does sound dangerous but I managed to come out of it without any crashes. Riding on singletracks and looking elsewhere shouldn’t be done at any cost. I did stop once in a while to spot the birds after hearing the calls. While riding I could see a Hoopoe flying, a White-throated Kingfisher perching on a bamboo fence post, cattle egrets walking on a field next to the trail.
After the ride, I stopped by a viewpoint on the western side of Bungmati overlooking the fields below. As I sat there admiring the terrace fields near a patch of the jungle I could hear the calls of Black Bulbuls, Parakeets, Coucals, Tailor-birds, Warblers. This cacophony of natural sounds was also graced by appearances from birds like Dorongos, Barbets, Warblers on a branch nearby.
The last ride/birding for the year was in Ichangu on the 31st of December. I slowly climbed the paved road uphill in the cold foggy morning as the first rays of the sun, rising in the east lit the atmosphere in a deep orange hue. Further up in the west I could see the moon setting. Red-billed Blue Magpie could be seen flying from one treetop to the other in the pine trees while the spotted doves flew down towards the fields below. The sounds of the birds got even louder as I neared the buffer zone of Nagarjun National Park. Himalayan bulbuls and Red-vented Bulbuls could be seen feeding on the Persimmon fruits. Great barbets could be also spotted in the nearby tree along with the Blue-throated Barbet and the Orange-bellied Leafbird. It was a good idea to close the year with one final ride and birding.
Below is the list of birds that I could spot during my limited movements in December.
Birds: Great Barbet, Tailorbird, Black-headed Gull, Mallard, Black Dorongo, Common Coot, Pied Bushchat, Gadwall, Great cormorant, White-throated Kingfisher, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Blue-fronted Redstart, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, Himalayan Bulbul, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Red-vented Bulbul, Hoopoe, Blue-throated Barbet, Ashy Dorongo, Gray Treepie, Minivet, Parakeet, etc.
With all the trips I used to do in the mountains and the lowlands of Nepal, every year would end with the “What I saw” segment recalling those moments. Everyone knows how a virus dictated how the world should function and my story also stayed the same. But, this pandemic did give me a chance to see things differently. Stuck in the house with all the assignments and projects for the year canceled I did have time to explore Kathmandu more closely. It gets scary thinking about nature when we talk about Kathmandu and the rate at which urban development is taking place. The concrete jungle that I live in had its surprises.
Amidst the pandemic, the lockdowns and the ensued uncertainness I had forgotten about the trip to Chitwan in January. In all honesty, I still had a hard time recalling that trip with just bits and pieces coming to my mind while writing this blog. The relief came when I went back to “What I saw – January 2020” and read about the adventure I had. The importance of writing down moments in life finally came into perspective.
A yearly pilgrimage, Chitwan National Park has been a place where I seek to see and document all varieties of flora and fauna. Although the park is known for those elusive tigers, rhinos, and wild elephants I crave to see the unseen. With a vast amount of flora and fauna, my excitement holds no bar when I spot something new that I haven’t documented.
The early winter morning trips to the park through the fog and the utter silence mesmerizes me. Scanning the limited horizon inside the fog covered Sal forest and trying to hear the footsteps on the dry leaves makes my heart skip a beat with excitement. The sound made by the water droplets collected on the leaves that fall on the dry vegetation littered on the forest floor adds another dimension to the mystery. Being in the forest to document the pure moments nature provides is a therapy I always seek.
The highlight of this year’s Chitwan National Park trip was the Cormorant hunting for fish in the East Rapti River. Seeing a flock of more than 100 Cormorants flying upstream and diving into the river to catch the fish was a sight to see. Gulls and Ospreys also joined the feeding frenzy. On the bank of the river, a Gull was trying to pick up a dead fish that was a little too big for it to swallow. Downstream some Little Cormorants were jostling over another fish.
The year seemed to start on a high note in January. After some trips to Phulchowki and Ichangu in February and March, things started to take a turn and the COVID-19 pandemic started to worsen. The pandemic was spreading and a lot of countries were starting to do lockdowns to contain it. From mid-March onwards, it was all about staying home and helping control the spread. Staying at home gave me a different perspective on how I was looking at wildlife. I was back documenting the small world.
Insects became the main subjects for me during the lockdown and post lockdown as well. Macro photography and macro videography became a daily routine. Making a short video about the small world finally came to fruition and I completed one short series. Challenging myself through macro photography was the only way I could stay focused. It had been more than a decade since I had stayed for this amount of time in Kathmandu.
Click here to watch the video
Post lockdown I started visiting various places around Kathmandu valley and started documenting the natural diversity around it. From Champadevi hike to biking around Nala it was good to explore the valley and beyond. Nala turned out to be the furthest I had ventured this year which is 35 km from the center of Kathmandu. Wildlife photography and solo bike rides were a good combination this year as I was able to go to some places and spend the morning doing some wildlife documentation. I enjoyed the monsoon colors and was able to document some amazing insects and birds.
The year also had some sad stories with regards to nature and wildlife in Nepal. From poaching in the Everest region to the airport construction project in Nijgadh forest, these stories dominated the news. Reflecting on these stories there are policies, laws, in place to safeguard the limited vulnerable natural resources we have but it is sad to see these being flaunted by people in the government and by the people with power and money. Hoping to see the government rethink about NIjgadh as the construction of the airport will be a big blow to the conservation of natural resources and wildlife.
As I mentioned in the opening “What a year it has been”. A long read about The Small World in the Nepali Times weekly, a video on The Small World – Spiders, 50th Edition of the monthly “What I Saw”, Prakritinepal Blog Calendar 2021 were some of the things I was able to do during this pandemic and the lockdowns. I would like to thank you for following the blog and motivating me to create more contents about the nature and wildlife of Nepal.
Hoping 2021 to be even more productive and with many more adventures to share. Wishing you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR 2021. Stay safe and stay healthy.
Ajay Narsingh Rana