Click on the play button to listen to the sounds of nature while you read the blog
Cutting through the wind, I walked towards my destination. Big mountains on the horizon peeking from the hills in the foreground. Down below, the rocky cliffs and the high-altitude desert dominated the landscape. Putting Thini village, an oasis on my left, I slowly head toward Dhumba Lake.
After almost three years I finally was able to travel to Lower Mustang and this time it was for the 1st CoAS International High Altitude Tri-Adventure Competition. Four days ahead of schedule, I could spare some time to explore the region that I had missed since the start of the pandemic.
Following the river and heading towards the lake, I started scanning the area for insects and birds. I heard Shirkes calling, but they were far in between for me to take some proper shots. As we walked through the canyons I spot a Blue Rock Thrush perched on the edge of a cliff. I did manage to get some photos of it before the bus that came from Dhumba Lake distracted it.
Dhumba lake has been a disappointment since it was fenced and made into a park. A high-altitude lake is an important component of biodiversity and should be cared for accordingly. Now that things have changed; the ease at which people and motorbikes get access and are being allowed to be near its shores for a photo-op is scary. Lakes like these need access for tourists, but a certain distance should be maintained to help protect not just the water but also the animals and plants that depend on it.
It was getting late so the plan to head towards Kutsapterenga Monastery was scrapped and we headed down to a tea shop in the small village near the lake. Stopping at the village, I started documenting the local flowers and the worms that were attracted to the apple trees. The owner of the tea shop had been out in search of Yarshagumpa (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) and showed us his stash. He shared his stories of the travel to get to the Yarshagumpa and also offered me to join his camping trip to the high lands the very next day. An interesting trip, it would have been.
I did the race route recce the next day, and the view of Jomsom and Thini was at its full glory. Climbing my way through the race route among the giant cliffs, I slowly gained altitude. Once at the mid-point, the route started descending towards the stone maze near the Kaligandaki river. The cliff seemed to be a nesting ground for a couple of species of raptors. I did miss the opportunity to take some good telephoto shots of the birds. In the evening, Red-fronted Serin could be seen feeding on the seeds around the shrubs at the base of the cliff.
I also was able to see the final metamorphosis of a dragonfly as it was gripping hard onto its larval cases as the Jomsom wind was at its finest. It must have come out of the case several hours before as the dragonfly had its four wings extracted and fully pumped with fluids. Having spent most of their time as a larva or, nymph stage inside the water, they come out and grip on to any vegetation around it, or in this instance a rock to come out of the larval cases and fly away within several hours.
The usual wake-up time of 5am continued in Jomsom, so I made a point to go to the hotel’s roof to see the sunrise. The fresh cold air would wake up all the senses. Far ahead, Nilgiri mountain would be shrouded in the clouds brought down from the valley below. As the sun slowly lit the valley, tourists started moving toward their next destination. The air started smelling of diesel and kerosene. As the weather cleared up, the sirens at the airport blared and the airplanes started coming in.
For an early morning walk, I decided to take a new route to the lake. Walking slowly on the banks of a glacial river, I could see the shrikes chasing each other. Further, in the distance, I could hear Chukars partridge with loud repeated chuck notes. Well camouflaged with the terrain, it was very hard to spot them.
Following the small streams, rock gardens, and a suspension bridge, I stopped to document a Thread-waisted Wasp. Blue Butterflies (subfamily Polyommatinae) are abundant in the Silky Rose shrub. There were a couple of species of wild bees there as well that were also on their early morning rounds to gather nectar. One particular species of bee was rolling in the flower, as if from my human eyes it was enjoying the warm sun and rolling around in the bed of petals. As it rolled around, the pollen attached to its tiny hairs.
Following the ruins, I slowly made my way towards the lake but took a detour to a location where a hawk had just flown away. Stopping near an apple farm with a small pond nearby, I sat down and listened to the calls of the Alpine Coughs and the Shrikes. Blues and the Tortoiseshell butterflies were flying around while a White Wagtail bird flew towards the pond and started foraging around its banks. I was also able to notice a Spider crossing the trail carrying its egg sack on my way back to the hotel.
The event concluded successfully and right after the event, it started raining in Jomsom. A welcome sight in a way, but Mustang, also known as a rain shadow area, the amount of rain and the season were unusual. As we started our journey via land down to Pokhara the downpour continued till Lete and to our relief, it was dry around Kavre Bhir and Rupsekhola, a major landslides area where the road constructions were happening.
The next day I was just able to spend a couple of hours in Pokhara. Documenting the flora and fauna there has always been a priority, so I headed out. The slope where I used to sit and document the waterbirds on the banks of the Fewa lake was now gone, and an embankment was constructed. With no time to spare, I hired a mountain bike and headed towards Pame where I could finally see some Cattle Egret, Intermediate Egret, Pipits, Black Eagle, and some White-throated Kingfisher, that were in and around the farmlands that were being tilled for plantation.
Back in Kathmandu, I saw the wild native and invasive species of plants grow and the color of the landscape turned green around my house. This meant that I finally could focus on macro photography in the coming months and document insects and their behaviors. The usual songs and movements of the Common Tailorbird, Oriental White-eye, Oriental Magpie Robin, Blue-throated Barbet, Asian Koel, and Eurasian Cuckoo also continued around my house.
Below are some of the species I was able to hear, see, or document during May.
Red-fronted Serin, Grey-backed Shrike, White Wagtail, Blue Rock Thrush, Alpine Chough, White-throated Kingfisher, Intermediate Egrets, Pipits, Cattle Egrets, Shrike, Common Tailorbird, Oriental White-eye, Oriental Magpie Robin, Blue-throated Barbet, Asian Koel, and Eurasian Cuckoo etc.
Wild bees, Thread-waisted Wasp, Blue Butterflies, Wild bees, Mantis, Jumping spiders, Huntsman Spider, Blister Beetle, Moth, etc.
Astragalus species flowers, Silky Rose, Utis, etc.
Ajay Narsingh Rana