November flew by with a month of different assignments and exploring new places. Leading an outdoor lifestyle allows me to blend work and travel, consulting in various fields like education, travel, documentary, and sports with the unparalleled joy of being in nature.
POKHARA – BHORLE
The month began with leading a school group on an exciting adventure for Lama Walks, where students from abroad embarked on a short trip to immerse themselves in Nepal’s culture and thrilling adventures. Our journey kicked off with a scenic hike from Kande to the Australian camp after a lengthy bus ride from Kathmandu. The enchanting orange hues of the sunset in the west painted a magical backdrop as we walked through the Rhododendron forest, reaching the camp at an elevation of 2065 meters.
With the absence of moonlight, the lodge where we stayed provided the only illumination in the darkness, leaving the northern mountains to be imagined in the night.
Early risers were treated to a truly magical scene as the sun slowly revealed itself from the east, casting its golden light upon the majestic peaks of the Annapurna range and Fishtail Mountain. The atmosphere briefly glowed with an orange hue, creating a surreal moment.
As the sun ascended, the air was filled with the melodious songs of birds, including Rufous Treepies gracefully flying between trees, accompanied by the tunes of Warblers, Black-lored Tits, and Rufous Sibia. A visit to the lodge’s kitchen garden revealed a lively activity of birds, with Crows, Common Myna, foraging for food.
The highlight of the morning occurred when a Common Myna caused a commotion on the topmost branch of a nearby tree, drawing my attention to a Masked Palm Civet moving stealthily to a broader branch, cleverly concealed by a bunch of leaves. The Civit didn’t proceed any farther and was properly concealed by the leaves, so the wait to photograph it wasn’t fruitful. That marked the end of my observation.
After a satisfying morning breakfast, our journey continued to Lakeside, Pokhara, involving another hike down through the picturesque town of Dhampus. Along the way, the sight of Yellow-breasted Greenfinches perched on branches, soaking in the sun, and distant Black Kites and a Vulture soaring above added to the experience.
Anticipation grew as we approached the much-awaited destination, Bhorle. En route, the students enjoyed rafting on the Marshyangdi River. Observations for me en route included Rhesus Macaques and Rock Lizards along the Marshyangdi River banks, and on the Narayani River banks, Plumbeous Water Redstarts, and a Blue Whistling Thrush. As dusk settled in, we reached the charming Gurung village of Bhorle, nestled on a hillside near the Mugling-Naryanghat highway.
Stairs lit by our torches guided our ascent, revealing a well-managed and delightful village. Warmly welcomed by the villagers, we engaged in conversation and enjoyed a served dinner, eagerly looking forward to exploring the village and its surroundings in the morning.
The dawn unveiled a picturesque village surrounded by blooming trees and bushes, leading to a communal forest. As the morning sun bathed the village around 8 am, I witnessed Crimson Sunbirds gracefully moving from one flowering tree to another. The day was filled with various activities, and the evening was spent immersing myself in the traditional songs and dances performed by the villagers.
By the end of the journey, the captivating tales of Spotted deer roaming the forest and sightings of Tigers back in the day made Bhorle a village that I now want to revisit and further explore its rich natural diversity.
The ever-shifting urban scenery of Kathmandu hasn’t altered the fact that the remaining pockets of natural wonders continue to act as a magnet for wildlife. One such example is the banks of the Manahara River, a refuge for various bird species—local residents, passage migrants, or winter visitors. The small patches of grasslands and remaining farmlands serve as crucial breeding grounds or resting places for birds before they resume their migration.
During this year’s visit to the Manahara River banks, our focus was on spotting the Spotted Redshank, a wader that feeds on small invertebrates and is known for being a passage migrant. I joined Umang dai and Prakash dai on this trip to document the diverse bird species in the area. In addition to photographing the Spotted Redshank, we also documented other species such as Scaly-breasted Munia, Yellow-breasted Bunting, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Sandpiper, Little-ringed Plover, Common Stonechat, Eurasian wryneck, Pipits, Hoopoes, Zitting cisticola, Black Kite, Black drongo.
As we were capturing images of Scaly-breasted Munias, our attention was drawn to an individual Munia that exhibited a distinct coloration compared to others of its kind. The bird’s green hue appeared baffling, raising the possibility that it was either released from captivity or had managed to escape. Instances of breeders artificially coloring birds for sale are not uncommon, and this sighting seemed to be a clear example of such practices. Despite its unique appearance, the positive aspect of this observation was that the bird was able to interact and socialize with its fellow species, despite its different look.
Despite its relatively small size, the Manahara area holds significant importance as a bird habitat. Unfortunately, the region is undergoing rapid urbanization, and the only hopeful wish is that this expansion does not encroach upon the riverbanks, preserving the unique ecosystem.
My second exploration around Kathmandu involved a visit to Bungmati, accompanied by some friends who had traveled from India. It’s a place I consistently revisit due to its rich cultural heritage and captivating natural scenery. Our hike led us through the village and then descended towards the expansive fields along the banks of the Bagmati River. On this particular trip, my objective was to capture images of Steppe Eagles and Grey Lapwings.
As we descended the stairs towards the fields, the sounds of Common Mynas, Warblers, Black-lored Tits, and Parakeets filled the air. Upon reaching the fields, I spotted a Steppe Eagle soaring above, while a flock of Alexandrine Parakeets gracefully flew from one tree to another.
With the rice harvest complete, some fields were being prepared for the next crop. Pipits, Spotted Doves, and groups of Common Pigeons were seen foraging for scattered grains left from the harvest. Amidst the fields, a couple of Rose-ringed Parakeets could be seen on a tree, while another duo foraged in the field below. Continuing our walk, further up an Alexandrine Parakeet could be seen enjoying the berries of a Persian Lilac tree.
One of the advantages of morning nature walks is the opportunity to witness a flurry of bird activities, primarily centered around feeding. I observed a female Common Stonechat perched atop a bush with its catch—a moth.
With my goal for the day to photograph some Grey Lapwings I scanned the the fields. Luck was not on my side this time. Spotting Steppe Eagles proved challenging as well, with only a brief sighting of one flying in the distance.
Concluding our hike in Khokana, we were able to spot a White-throated Kingfisher, a House Crow nesting seemingly constructed from barbed wire and sticks, a male Pied Bushchat, several Black Kites in flight, and a nesting Black Kite.
Another round of birding was planned with Umang dai and Prakash dai, choosing to explore the northern region towards Shivapuri after careful consideration of potential sightings. Shivapuri always brings in its fair share of surprises.
As we made our way along the trail, more than ten Kalij Pheasants caught our attention, foraging at various spots along the trail edges. Upon reaching our destination, the air resonated with calls from the Golden Bush Robin, Warblers, and Great Barbets. During our stay, we were delighted to observe a Fire-tailed Sunbird gracefully maneuvering around the Wild Himalayan Cherry tree.
While exploring the area for insects, I spotted a Cicada expertly camouflaged on a tree trunk. Nearby, a swarm of flies was backlit by the early morning sun. Observing the ground, I came across a Ground skink basking in the sun—a small and elusive creature contributing to the ecosystem by helping control insect populations.
The decision to visit Shivapuri proved to be fruitful, as by the end of our morning trip, we had the opportunity to spot and document various bird species, including the Golden Bush Robin, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Black Bulbul, Grey Bushchat. Additionally, we caught glimpses of Black-throated Tit, Streaked Laughingthrush, Great Barbet, and Rufous Treepie.
Back in Dolakha after six months, arriving at the magnificent views of Gaurishankar in the north and Charikot Bazar in the south. It was time to work as the technical director for the Himalayan Enigma, a mass start mountain bike race starting from an elevation of 3700m and descending to 800m. The race’s highlight this year featured Kilian Bron from France, an accomplished mass start downhill racer with podium finishes in renowned events like Megavalanche Alpe D’Huez, Megavalanche Réunion, Mountain of hell, and more.
The race, spanning 25km from Kuri Village to Nagdaha, traversed a diverse terrain, transitioning from an upper temperate zone to a tropical zone. This promised an opportunity to witness various flora and fauna and also work for a one-of-a-kind race.
Having last explored the trail during the Freedom Project in May, this return trip served as a reflection on those moments and an exploration of the differences between summer and autumn. The vegetation around Rato Ghar had transformed into autumn hues, with Persimmon trees bearing fruits that attracted birds like the Great Barbet, Magpies, and Bulbuls.
Starting from Kuri, the trail followed the old pilgrimage route, passing through Rhododendron tree-filled areas around Kuri and gradually transitioning to Himalayan hemlock, Juniper, Himalayan Blue Pine, Chir Pine, Nepal Alder, Oak, and other trees as we descended from Gairi. The lower section of Dolakha was dominated by species like Chilaune, Katus, Mauwa, and various other trees. Vast fields of Buckwheat also dominated the landscape.
Nagdaha’s Tama Koshi River provided a picturesque spot for bird watching, with sightings including Red-wattled Lapwing, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Orange-billed Blue Magpie, White-capped Redstart, White-wagtail, and Minivet. Although I had previously spotted Little Cormorants, they eluded my sight on this occasion. Dusk also presented Nagdaha in a different color with the moon being the highlight.
I did miss spotting some Grey Langurs (Semnopithecus sp.) along the trail, as Kilian shared his GoPro footage capturing them crossing the path during his practice run. Another missed sighting involved barking deer while walking the trail. I realized I should have been more discreet, as I could only see the shrubs moving and leaves rustling as they ran deep into the jungle. This was the same location where I had observed a Barking Deer leisurely walking the trail back in May.
Additionally, I had a brief sighting of a snake, most likely a keelback, crossing the road as I headed for a meeting. There were Nymphs of what looked like Plant Hopper on the trail looking like small white dots on brown tree branches. These fleeting encounters only heightened my desire to return repeatedly to document more species.
Regarding Dolakha, the primary highway descending from Charikot to Tama Koshi, which was once known for Peacocks freely roaming the Pine forest, has changed. Local residents now mention that Peacock sightings have become infrequent compared to the past when the number was high and their calls and sightings were so common and were also a nuisance for farmers.
The race day concluded without incident, with Kilian Bron taking the win, Rajesh Magar securing second position, and Chris Keeling finishing third. This was one epic event that I’m extremely happy to be part of, and I eagerly anticipate what 2024 has in store.
With a busy month filled with various assignments, I had the opportunity to witness a diverse array of flora and fauna. Here is a summary of what I saw.
Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Black Kites, Warblers, Black-lored Tits, Rufous Sibia, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Blue Whistling Thrush, Spotted Redshank, Scaly-breasted Munia ♂ ♀, Yellow-breasted Bunting, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Sandpiper, Little-ringed Plover, Common Stonechat ♂ ♀, Eurasian wryneck, Pipits, Hoopoes, Zitting Cisticola, Black Kite, Black drongo, Rose-ringed Parakeet ♂, Pied Bushchat ♂, Common Myna, Black-lored Tits, Alaxandrine Parakeet ♂ ♀, White-throated Kingfisher, House Crow, Spotted Dove, Great Barbet, Fire-tailed Sunbird ♂ ♀, Golden Bush Robin, Black Bulbul, Grey Bushchat ♂, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Green-backed Tit, Black-throated Tit, Streaked Laughingthrush, Himalayan Bulbul, Rufous Treepie, Orange-billed Blue Magpie, White-capped Redstart, White-wagtail, Minivet, House Sparrow, etc.
Nymph of what appears to be Plant Hoppers, Huntsman Spider, Cicada, etc.
Ground Skink, Rock Lizard, Oriental Garden Lizard.
Masked Palm Civet, Rhesus Macaques.
Wild Himalayan Cherry पैयु (Prunus cerasoides), Mauwa (Engelhardia spicata), Stemless Date Palm थाकल (Phoenix acaulis), Persian Lilac tree बकेना, Sal (Shorea robusta), Himalayan hemlock (Tsuga dumosa), Persimmon tree हलुवाबेद, Sallo (Pinus roxburghii), Simal Tree (Bombax ceiba), Rhododendron Trees, Aiselu (Rubus ellipticus), Chutro (Berberis asiatica), Sal (Shorea Robusta), Chir Pine (Pinus roxburghii), Chilaune (Schima wallichii), Himalayan Blue Pine (Pinus wallichiana), Oak (Quercus semecarpifolia), Nepal Alder (Alnus nepalensis), Pipal (Ficus religiosa), Oak trees, etc.
Ajay Narsingh Rana
Subscribe to Prakritinepal.com for blog updates. Stay informed!