Chasing the sunrise started becoming a habit these days. The golden hour, the fog down on the valley, the mountains in the north, the silence. The reward after climbing up a hill never felt better. What I saw November has its fair share of these moments.
The month started with a hike around Ichangu. Chasing the sunrise reined true that day as it was a race to reach the vantage point. The magical orange glow with the warm rays of the sun slowly started spreading. The concrete jungle down below was covered in an orange hue. The cold air felt warm as the rays touched the face. Different calls, songs from the birds filled the air. Slaty headed parakeets, Black-lored Tit, Green-backed Tit, Red-billed Blue Magpie were among some of the birds I could spot.
A week later I was at Ullens Outdoor Learning Center in Kashi Bhanjyang, Nala for a night of camping. This was a perfect place to learn about the outdoors and nature. Hiking around the property I noticed that there was an abundance of flora and fauna which I could document. Birds like the Great Barbet, Grey Treepies, Black-throated Tit, Oriental White-eye, Spotted Doves were seen frequently. Nestled on an elevation of 1650m this place was a good point to see the towering Himalayan ranges far in the distance. The hiking also gave me a glimpse of the insects that were around the location. I was able to see for the first time a Netwing Matis while coming down from the hike.
Waking up early and hiking to around 1750 m to see the sunrise was also on the agenda so after preparing the tent for the night I snuggled into my sleeping bag. Being a light sleeper I heard a faint sound of a radio playing in the distance. The playlist of Nepali songs did make me fall back to sleep but the curiosity of why the radio was playing all night was bugging me.
The wild boars around the area would raid the potato fields so various ingenious ideas were used to deter them from damaging the crops. Playing the radio was also one of the tricks that the villagers used to keep the wild boars at bay.
After spending some time watching the beautiful golden hour and the sunrise it was time to focus on the Thread-waisted Wasp. I had spotted these wasps sleeping some 4 to 5 meters from my tent on the previous day. The mandible of the wasp was holding the stem of the grass and had slept for the whole night. The morning sun rays were yet to fall on the grasses so it was a good time for me to document this behavior. I have been able to document similar behaviors before as well but of a Neon Bee and a paper wasp.
I decided to go for some birding nearby after breakfast. Sitting on a dry patch of grass, I had my camera set up on a tripod trying to follow the Black-throated Tit jumping from one branch to the other. With multiple failed attempts I scanned through the thicket to see where they were gone only to find an Irrawaddy Squirrel sleeping on a branch enjoying the warm morning sun. The Squirrel would lookout for predators once in a while and go back to sleep. This frequency went on for a while until it got spooked by a Black Kite that was circling above and ran away.
As the month passed by I was in Ichangu again but this time it was for birding. The route remained the same as the one that I usually bike on. This time everything was slow-paced hence a lot of bird sightings. The usual flock of Parakeets making a lot of noise flew above and rested on a tree near the Nagarjun National Park. Below a flock of Grey-treepie was busy feeding. The sounds of warblers, minivets were also in the air.
Further in the distance a flock of White-rumped Munia lands on a tree and starts grooming under the warm morning sun. Some of the Munia close their eyes and sit motionless as some are on the lookout. The walk takes me more closer to the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park buffer zone and there on a tree branch I spot a Jungle Owlet. I was happy to have this sighting as it was the first time I saw one in Ichangu. As Owls rotate their head 270 degrees in each direction this was also following the same rule. Alerted by my presence it would first look at me and then down towards the fields and trees seeking for prey. Having a challenging lighting condition I moved very slowly to not spook the owl. I was able to manage a couple of shots so that I could document it in my archives. While this was happening a Rusty-tailed Flycatcher kept on was making short deep churring sounds nearby and trying to hide inside a bush.
The final hike of the month was to Champadevi and this one also fell on the Chasing the sunrise category as well. We stopped midway to see the sunrise as the valley below was blanketed with fog. Walking up the Hattiban trail never gets old no matter how much I go. The challenging part of this place is taking pictures of small birds as they usually are on the top portion of the tall pine trees and the movements are too frequent. Spotting birds and animals ware harder than previous hikes. Red-billed Blue Magpie, Black Drongo were among the birds I could spot.
I was listening to sounds made by movements on the forest floor, leaves rustling, twigs breaking but no luck. On the bright side, I did briefly managed to spot a Yellow-throated Martin cross the trail. The view from the top also did help as I could see the mountains ranging from the Annapurna range, Manaslu to the view of Everest.
Although few species was documented through photographs, I was able to spot the species in the list below.
Birds: Jungle Owlet, White-rumped Munia, Great Barbet, Black-throated Tit, Oriental White-eye, Grey Treepie, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Rusty-tailed Flycatcher, Slaty headed parakeets, Black-lored Tit, Green-backed Tit, Red-billed Blue Magpie, etc.
Insects: Thread-waisted Wasp, Red Lacewing Butterfly, Punchinello, Netwing Mantis, Staff Sergeant Butterfly, Orb-weaving Spider, etc.
Mammal: Irrawaddy squirrel
The outdoor experiences this month positively overwhelm me, but the rubbish that is discarded in and around those locations was disturbing. The Leave No Trace principles should be followed properly, as we talk about conservation.
The COVID-19 pandemic is still creating problems so hoping, wishing, praying that every one of you is doing well and healthy. Please be safe and follow your government’s protocols. Wear a mask, sanitize the hand, and maintain social distance.
Thank you all for following and supporting the blog.
Ajay Narsingh Rana