Monday, 11 June 2012

Nagarjun NP, Kathmandu (Part 2)

Thursday 7th June 2012

Trail to Jamacho Gumba, Nagarjun NP
After a very pleasant Saturday morning spent at Nagarjun with BCN last weekend, I felt inspired to visit the park once again and waking early on Thursday morning, I just went for it. The entrance to the park is only 40 minutes walk from where I am currently staying in Kathmandu so I was at the gate for a little after 6am. However, it took 15 minutes or so for the soldiers stationed at the gate to find a park official who could sell me a ticket and let me in. At 250 Rupees (about £2), it's not too pricey in the grand scheme of things but it is 25 times the price a local pays! As a volunteer on a local salary this does seem a little unfair at times.

Scorpion - Nagarjun NP
Just inside the gate, on the right, is a trail that heads steeply upwards for a few hundred metres before reaching a military post where it joins a more gradual trail that winds its way to the peak. From the park gate to Jamacho Gumba summit is approximately 5 kilometres - it took me less than two and a half hours at a very comfortable pace. The birding was actually a bit slow on the way up though I did see both male and female Kalij Pheasant on numerous occasions, though it was this freshly dead scorpion that was the first sighting of the day.

Blue-capped Rock Thrush - male
Red-billed Blue Magpie, White-crested Laughingthrush and Grey Treepie were all seen well but the highlight on this section of the trail was a pair of mating Blue-throated Flycatchers. I arrived at the summit just after 9am and spent half an hour or so birding the shrubby slopes. First up were two birds I never mannaged to identify; obviously freshly fledged, I would guess at some type of flycatcher/niltava but unfortunately they didn't stay around for long. Next up was this cracking male Blue-capped Rock Thrush. I must say I was unaware that these birds have such a yellow gape.

However, the highlight for me was the first of 2 Nepali ticks for the day - Bonelli's Eagle. Even better, there were at least 3 birds, with a possible 4th. Two of the birds were an adult pair in full (but silent) display. The third bird was an clearly an immature and I'm pretty certain the fourth bird was an immature Bonelli's too, though I didn't get very good views of this latter bird. I did manage to get a couple of interesting record shots though, one of them highlighted against a smoggy Kathmandu.

Bonelli's Eagle - adult
Jamacho Gumba

Bonelli's Eagle - immature

Bonelli's Eagle - adult
One of my side-hobbies is to track all the trails I follow using GPS and then compile them into maps for later use. Since there was an access road to the Gumba, I decided to follow this back down to the gate - I'd already been along some of it the previous week with BCN but I had no idea how long it would be. In total, I walked more than 30 kilomteres over the day but I must say the road down provided good birding and I'd do it again - though with an extra bottle of water next time. Still fairly near the top, I had some goodies with White-tailed Nuthatch perhaps unexpected. This was followed by a pair of Orange-bellied Leafbirds, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, several Verditer Flycatchers, House Swift, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush and a very close pair of Velvet-fronted Nuthatches working the lichen covered trees. A Great Barbet allowed me to take its picture - and for once the shot wasn't too bad.

Great Barbet
As I continued down the trail, other goodies were encountered. In particular, I had more raptors - quite unexpected really for the time of year. Of course Black Kite were everywhere but I also disturbed a perched Crested Serpent Eagle, again an adult with a massively impressive immature Crested Goshawk a little later. The goshawk came in very low around a corner of the trail and landed less than 10 metres from me. I would guess it was a female due to its size. Unfortunately, the process of aiming the camera at the bird scared it off but the memory will certainly remain. Much later on, a male shikra did almost the same though it flew directly towards me instead, getting larger and larger through the bins - just like a BBC wildlife documentary!

Other birds picked up along the trail were Large Cuckoo-shrike, Eurasian Cuckoo, Black-throated Tit (a personal favourite), Speckled Piculet, Maroon Oriole and to round off the day, Lesser Yellownape.

Other wildlife sightings of the day included fresh Leopard faeces packed full of fur, Barking Deer and numerous butterflies. Unfortunately, I don't have my butterfly book with me but one of them I've since discovered is a Grand Duchess. I think the yellow-striped one is a lascar of some sort but that's as good as gets.

Grand Duchess

Till next time - Mark.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Nagarjun NP, Kathmandu (Part 1)

Saturday 2nd June 2012

Last weekend, I finally managed to get out to Nagarjun - forested hills that rise to about 2000m just to the NW of Kathmandu. The site actually forms part of the Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park complex and is remarkably easy to reach. I went as part of a trip organised by Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) and led by Rajendra Gurung. Being aware that the trip was partly aimed at attracting new members I wasn't expecting to see anything too extraordinary but was pleasantly surprised at the results, whilst at the same time very impressed that 29 people would get up early on their only day off to go birding. As you can see from this picture (borrowed from Rajendra - sorry for not asking), the participants were of all ages.

Birding at Nagarjun (by Rajendra Gurung)
After the obligatory milk tea (or two), we eventually entered the park at about 7:30 and set off along the periphery road inside this walled conseravtion area. At times the larger group stayed together and at others we split into 2-3 smaller groups, so the following is an account of my day rather than others'.

Despite the rather long wait at the park gate, the birding was actually quite good right there and, although I saw some of the same species later inside the park, over half of the day's total were seen whilst having tea! Although I failed to get any photos at the gate, the tally included Red-vented, Himalayan and several noisy (and unexpected) Black Bulbuls, Oriental Turtle and Spotted Doves, lovely views of a calling Eurasian Cuckoo, Black-lored Tit, Red-rumped Swallow, the ubiquitous Black Kites, Blue-throated and Great Barbets, Verditer Flycatcher, Blue Whistling Thrush, and numerous Long-tailed Minivets. So as you can see, quite a haul! However, the highlight for me was a lone Dark-sided Flycatcher, briefly entertaining the crowds directly above the tea stall.

Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher
Just inside the park, this Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher finally allowed itself to be photographed. These birds are literally everywhere but I really struggle to catch them stationary.


Not much further along the road/trail, I ended up in front of the group while they watched macaques and a Barking Deer and had good views of a Besra behaving somewhat strangely. It was obviously on the hunt and was very interested in a hole in one of the trees. At times it would stick its head in (not particularly strange I guess) but then it had a real go at getting its right leg in as if trying to pull prey from the hole. It failed but did try on at least 2 more occasions. I managed to get this poor record shot of it perched later.

Apparently, a Besra was also seen eating what was believed to be a Mountain Bulbul, and was quite possibly the same bird. Not much further on we came across a Nepali tick for me, Rufous Woodpecker. Three birds were seen and they all performed well. One bird was busily excavating a hole in an ant's nest 8 metres up in the trees but catching this one on film was tricky.

Rufous Woodpecker (at nest?)
This bird however, allowed a series of cracking shots - this one perhaps the best...

Rufous Woodpecker
As we continued along the trail, the birding seemed to become rather quiet - but a few goodies still revealed themselves including calling (and then reasonable views) of Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, an obliging Spotted Owlet, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, several Chestnut-bellied Nuthatches, Grey-hooded Warbler and Ashy Drongo.

After a couple of hours slow walking, we all reached a 'pheasant farm', all specimens of the non-native Golden Pheasant. For some reason I didn't take any pictures of the caged birds but did find a pair of cracking Orange-bellied Leafbirds instead. This male, carrying food, would perhaps indicate breeding.

Male Orange-bellied Leafbird
We decided to turn back from here as some members were getting hungry. At first I was a little reluctant and considered continuing but before long the birds were once again providing the highlights - a series of 3 'heard only' included Drongo Cuckoo, Blue-throated Flycatcher and Indian Cuckoo. However, many of the earlier birds were still showing well with the addition of, what at first caused confucion due to lighting conditions, an immature male Shikra. The following photo has been heavily 'worked' in Photoshop but only in terms of lighting and contrast - colours remain as they were at the time. Hard to see, but this bird still has the immature's gular stripe, white flecks on the back, and a terminal bar to at least one of the tail feathers.

Immature male Shikra
Very shortly after this we were rewarded with a couple of Lesser Yellownapes - my second Nepali tick of the day. Despite others getting some decent shots, I struggled. Here are my best two.

Lesser Yellownape
Lesser Yellownape

As we slowly wound our way back to the park gate, a calling Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush was added to the list along with a daring Stick Insect trying to disguise itself as a pine needle right in the middle of the trail. However, the final bird of the day was a lovely Orange-headed Thrush just metres from the park gate.

Orange-headed Thrush
In total, I saw 42 species of birds. Maybe not as many as could have been but all in all a very enjoyable trip with fellow and new birders. Thanks to Rajendra for leading and everyone else for participating.

You may wonder why this is 'Part 1'. Well, I was so intrigued by the place that I went again yesterday, with quite a different set of birds seen. More to follow...