Winter is starting, and the bird migration has already begun. The shorebirds and other passage migrants have started arriving on their way to the low lands of Nepal and India. Manahara is one of those places which has been a stopover for some of these birds. Sightings of new species have been recorded in recent times.
In the first week of November, I visited Manahara with Umang dai and Prakash dai. The expectations about the place like the last time I had visited was shattered as this year’s monsoon flood had washed away a significant chunk of land. The grassland where I had photographed the Blue Throat was gone.
As we walked the newly created banks on the river, the sense of impending disaster for next year could also be seen. The river seems to be changing course and the unpredictable monsoon rain has accelerated the change.
Black Kites could be seen on the other side of the river basking in the sun while a couple of them are soaring above. Along with the Black Kite, I could also see a Long-legged Buzzard flying. A Little Ringed Plover slowly walks alongside the river foraging and navigating around the garbage that has been washed ashore.
The remaining small patch of grasses was hosting a flock of Yellow-breasted Buntings. Silently watching the birds basking in the sun, a Booted Warbler suddenly appears. My first sighting of the bird. A little later a mongoose strolls around the field foraging. Looking around the fields I notice a Bluethroat perched on a mound of sand overlooking a patch of vegetable field.
Manahara is a gem in Kathmandu valley and hoping the vegetation growth in the now barren banks of the river brings back the animals and the birds.
The last week of the month and I got to travel outside the valley on an assignment. For a long time, Jumla had been on the list of places that I wanted to visit. This historical mid-western region in Nepal is known for its valleys, apples, indigenous rice, the kingdom before the unification, and many more.
We took a 25min flight to the airport in Jumla near Khalanga Bazaar that was at an elevation of 2514m. This short scenic flight showcased the beautiful valleys in the Karnali province with vast high altitude meadows and deep valleys. As winter had started the landscape was dry and yellow except for the pines. As we were landing the beautiful valley could be seen on the banks of the Tila river.
A day early before the Wilderness First Aid course started we decided on exploring the place. Chimara Malika temple at an elevation of 3710m was decided for the hike. The initial hike took us through the pine forests dotted with small grasslands in between. The morning sun was slowly shining its rays down in the valley but was still out of reach on our side of the hill. As the forest started the sounds of the birds could be heard.
Passing through the apple orchard I could hear the Blue-capped Redstart singing on a tree. The low light didn’t help while documenting the bird but I did manage to take some usable images. Moving along the tree line towards the east the warm sun rays finally found their way through the dense growth. As the air warmed up we could hear a lot of bird songs inside the jungle. Above the tree line, I could see Spotted Nutcrackers busy flying from one pine tree to the other feeding on the seeds of the pine cones. These birds were easy to spot as they would perch on the top of the pine trees.
Warbles could be heard as well as the Green-backed Tits. A Lammergeier glided above me as I was resting in the meadow. The massive bird was gracefully catching the thermals as it rose above and vanished on the other side of the hill. My chances of documenting the bird went down the drain as I was completely focused on observing its behavior. A beautiful sight indeed. Walking further up I could hear the distinctive calls of the Chukar partridge.
Reaching the top was worth the effort as it was more than 1100m of elevation gain within a 9km distance with the last couple of kilometers becoming steeper. The view was beautiful and the mountains in the north-eastern part were visible. Vast expanses of meadows could be seen in the distance and I could only imagine the immense beauty of the place amplifying after the first drop of rain in the spring and the greenery it would bring. The decision to do the 19.11km hike was a good one.
The sunrise and the sunsets had their own characters depending on the atmospheric conditions. The first rays of the sun piercing through the thin layer of fog or the orange hues that cast down in the valley during the sunset. Every bit was as magical as the other.
Morning walks on the banks of the Tila River just below our hotel revealed their own characters. The frost-covered freshly tilled fields or the frozen ones that had water in them, birds would still be foraging around. Eurasian Sparrows, Mynas were common. Down at the bank of the river I could observe Brown Dippers diving down in the water for food. Likewise Plumbeous Water Redstart, White-capped Redstart would forage around the rocky parts of the banks.
In one of my morning walks, I noticed a hawk hovering over a field for a good 10 seconds and moving to another location nearby. Repeating the process for a while. This was new for me as I hadn’t noticed this behavior before. An early morning walk before the sunrise with no proper light meant that I had some blurry images but a good reminder of the event.
Jumla was a treat. Work-related trip but an insightful one. I really want to be back in this place soon just to document the nature it has.
A good month of observing nature at its best. There were a couple of hikes to Hattiban in between as well. Below are some of the species that I was able to see or, document for the month of November.
Booted Warbler, Yellow-breasted Bunting, Great Cormorant, Blue whistling thrush, Himalayan bulbul, Himalayan Vulture, Little Ringed Plover, Long-tailed Shrike, Black Drongo, Spotted Nutcracker, Large-billed Crow, Himalayan Bulbul, Blue Whistling Thrush, Bluethroat, Oriental Magpie Robin, Blue-capped Redstart, Hodgson’s Redstart, Plumbeous Water Redstart, White-capped Redstart, Common Stonechat, Brown Dipper, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture), Long-legged Buzzard, etc.
Himalayan birch, Mullein, Pines, etc.Other:
Ground Skink, Crickets, Spiders, Mongoose.
Final month of the year 2021 and hoping to end it in a good note with a good summary of the year. Wishing you all a very productive and happy month ahead.
Ajay Narsingh Rana