Friday, December 8, 2017

Raptor watching at Thoolakharka, Nepal (4-14 November 2017) Part 1

Think Nepal and visions of the awesome Himalayas come to mind.  

We arrived in the late evening. At dawn the next day, an ad hoc group gathered in the camping grounds of the Angel Guesthouse at the Australian Base Camp (ABC) in Thoolakharka. Pulled together by the desire to catch the first glimpses of the sunrise bathing the snowcapped Annapurna peaks (a massif of the Himalayas) in gold — it was indeed awesome!
In clear view from the ABC is Machapuchare or commonly known as the Fishtail Mountain. Here you can see both points of the “tail” unlike from Pokhara where it just looks like a rather sharp single peak. And you can be forgiven for wondering: Why call it fishtail?

Now, juxtapose the white snowcapped mountains against the clear, deep blue sky and the sight of majestic raptors gliding in. Wow!

Even as I walked up the viewing point, I catch sight of my first vultures - the Himalayan Vultures. Gliding effortlessly, these rather awkward, even comical birds (thanks to Disney’s animated Jungle Book) when on the ground, look just as magnificent as any other raptor up in the air.

They were followed by the distinctly marked and beautiful Bearded Vulture.

As if to greet us on our first day, the raptors showed up in full force.
To name a few, there were (see the attached bird list for all the birds sighted during our time there):
  1. Steppe Eagles (there were about 600 of this species that flew by us on the first day)
  2. Himalayan Vultures
  3. Bearded Vultures (Lammergeier
  4. Bonelli’s Eagles
  5. Booted Eagles
  6. Egyptian Vultures
  7. Black Eagles
  8. Amur falcon
  9. Red-headed Vultures
  10. White-rumped Vultures
The following days, the raptors that appeared were not as numerous but we still got some new species flying by, like the Common Kestrel and the Eurasian Sparrowhawk.
Black-eared Kite
White-rumped Vulture
Himalayan Vulture
Steppe Eagle
Common Kestrel
In the early mornings, some of us would bird for forest birds in the nearby trails and it was very rewarding. We had a family of Kalij Pheasants (2 males, 3 females); numerous Laughingthrushes, the Yellow-billed Blue Magpies just to name a few.

Just behind Angel Guesthouse’s dining room, in their vegetable garden, we had the Blue-fronted Redstart, the Green-backed Tit and the White-tailed Nuthatch.

On our last full day, three of us decided to take a one-and-half hour hike down to a nearby village called Dhampus to get some lower elevation species. It was a very pleasant hike and we managed to get some birds that we had not seen up in Thoolakharka. We had the lovely Himalayan Bulbul with a crest that reminded me of the Tibetan monks’ ceremonial hat; the Common Green Magpie, the Black Headed Jay; a pair of Common Stonechats; the Grey Treepie, the Red-billed Leiothrix; Red-billed Blue Magpie; Red-vented Bulbuls; and we had another family of Kalij Pheasants plus of course the ever present Black Kites.

Very quickly, our time in Thoolakharka had come to an end. As we trekked down to Kande to board our bus, we continued to bird a little. And we were all rewarded with clear views of the Maroon Oriole among others.

On our journey back to Kathmandu, the birding had still not stopped. At our tea stop at an R&R place by a river, we had 3 River Lapwings; a Plumbous Redstart; a White-capped Redstarts and a Common Sandpiper.

Raptor watching from Thoolakharka offers close views and a wide variety of species. Furthermore, with the cool and cold (Single digits at night and early mornings) climate plus some 900 bird species and lovely trekking routes (if you are into this activity) Nepal has a lot to offer. 
Text by Ng Bee Cheng
Photo Credit: Lee Poh Peng (Black-eared Kite, Besra, Common Kestrel and Mountain view)
Other Photos Credit: Nelson Khor

Listing of Birds sighted at Thoolakharka and more pictures of birds and mammals of Nepal can be viewed at Raptor watching at Thoolakharka, Nepal (4-14 November 2017) Part 2.

No comments:

Post a Comment