Thursday, 20 December 2012

Wallcreeper at Chobar Quarry, Kathmandu

Sunday 4th November 2012

So, here's the first of my catch-ups and it's a special one as on this half-day trip to a site on the southern edge of Kathmandu, I finally got to see Wallcreeper, a lifer I've tried for and failed to see on many occasions over the years.

With final departure from Nepal rapidly approaching, I arranged to meet up with local birder Arend van Riessen on his monthly survey of the Bagmati River from Chobar Gorge to Taudaha Lake and back again. You can read about my first outing with Arend in an earlier post 'A day out in Kathmandu' dated 9th April 2012 (

Which Bus? Ratnapark, Kathmandu
As anyone who's ever visited Kathmandu will know, getting about on the local buses can be a bit of a challenge as the buses (actually minibuses on the whole) aren't 'labelled', there don't appear to be regular stops/starts/pickups, they're often overcrowded and very few people speak English. However, they are a cheap way to explore the valley with relative ease and certainly take you places you'd never normally see. So after a short walk to Ratnapark, I managed to find the correct bus within a couple of minutes (excellent), get on knowing pretty well where I needed to get off (good) and headed off across the city with my neck bent at an awkward angle trying to look out of the window (painful). Needless to say, I missed my stop by almost 2km and had to walk back to where I'd hoped to be and then continued an extra 15-20 minutes to meet up with Arend at a small teashop at Chobar Gorge. However, I was still bang on time and ready for some Autumn birding.

'Spider Bush' - Chobar Quarry, Kathmandu
Long-tailed Shrike - Chobar Quarry, Kathmandu
We had a quick breakfast, consisting of masala tea, fried chickpeas and a hard-boiled egg, at the teashop whilst waiting for another friend, Stephen Biggs, to arrive. Within a few minutes he was with us and by 7:30am we were ready to get going. However, as Arend wasn't feeling so good, he suggested we perhaps visit the nearby quarry, a site he'd not been to for some time and one where he thought I just might have the chance of seeing Wallcreeper. Of course I was all for that, so off we went, up the side of the gorge passing several spider-infested bushes, back across the road and down into the old disused quarry. On this short walk we saw Black Drongo, a lovely Long-tailed Shrike, Tree and House Sparrows, Black Kite and always a stunner - White-capped Water Redstart. Not a particularly big site, the quarry had been abandoned some years ago but a few locals could be seen still working it, breaking rocks down into small thumb-sized chips. Later in the day, we talked to one old lady who said she could fill 3 large baskets with chippings a day - making, on average, 40 rupees (about 50 US cents) per basket.

Male Red Avadavat - Chobar Quarry, Kathmandu 
Unsure which route we should follow, we began our morning at the south-eastern edge and just scanned the rough grass around the top. We were immediately rewarded with an obliging pair of Red Avadavat apparently nest building. They both performed very nicely and after a short while were joined by a couple more birds too. After enjoying our fill, we picked an obvious trail that followed the inner wall of the quarry to the west and set off. Within 2 minutes, we were rewarded with our quarry (pun definitely intended) - a single Wallcreeper! It was flushed from the rock face right in front of us and flew leisurely across our path and back to a small pinnacle of rock, right back where we'd been watching the avadavats. None of us could really believe that we had actually found our target so quickly and easily - me least of all. Trembling with excitement, we all enjoyed some good views before I edged much closer and obtained some fantastic views, perhaps within 30 metres or so. However, the bird was in deep shade so my pictures didn't come out as well as expected. However, this one isn't too bad.

Wallcreeper - Chobar Quarry, Kathmandu
So that's how I saw my first Wallcreeper. It was all rather easy in the end - just took almost 30 years! Moving on, we began to have a bit of a raptor fest with (over an hour or so) numerous Black Kites, 4 Booted Eagles, 1 Steppe Eagle, 1 Common Buzzard and 1 Long-legged Buzzard. I later questioned the Long-legged as I wasn't convinced that Upland had been excluded as a possibility but after much back and forth between Arend, Birdforum and I we eventually came back to Long-legged Buzzard. However, the whole discussion did highlight the point that these buzzards can be quite tricky, even with good views. Arend actually had Long-legged up with Black Kite a few days earlier which helped him clinch that ID, and I had another Long-legged the following day on a trip to Shivapuri. I would certainly be interested in sightings of Upland Buzzard in Kathmandu Valley.

Booted Eagle (light phase) - Chobar Quarry, Kathmandu
Booted Eagle (dark phase) - Chobar Quarry, Kathmandu

    Long-legged Buzzard - Chobar Quarry, Kathmandu    
 Long-legged Buzzard - Chobar Quarry, Kathmandu  
Zitting Cisticola - Chobar Quarry, Kathmandu
Continuing west along the southern edge of the valley we encountered Siberian Stonechat and Pied Bushchat as well as a prinia which was most likely non-breeding Grey-breasted. On close-cropped grass a little further on we added both Paddyfield and Olive-backed Pipits as well as a singing Grey-backed Shrike, watching us intently from some nearby bushes. Coming back along the northern grassy slopes allowed Arend some 'butterfly time' with him showing us what he described as 'probably Nepal's tiniest butterfly', Least Grass Jewel, probably just 5-6mm in size. Still on the northern slope, we then saw Wallcreeper again, this time with great flight views of not one but two of these magnificent birds directly overhead. Superb. Rounding off our trip to the quarry, we had great views of Zitting Cisticola crawling through the undergrowth before perching out in the open. I must admit I felt an initial flush of excitement when seeing the bird crawling through the undergrowth, believing I was onto a Locustella warbler of some sort.

Grey-headed Plover - Bagmati River, Kathmandu
We returned to Chobar Gorge and decided to have a quick walk along the river to add a little variety to the day's birding. Without going more than about 500m, we added a number of birds to the tally including Cinereous Tit, Oriental Magpie Robin, Large-billed Crow, Grey and White Wagtails (including a single leucopsis among the many alboides), numerous Cattle Egrets and the odd Indian Pond Heron and Little Egret. Waders were a little thin on the ground but as we hadn't really gone too far the Green and Common Sandpipers encountered weren't too bad. However, the true highlight for me were the 36 Grey-headed Plovers nervously proceeding downstream ahead of us as we walked along the bank. Returning back to Chobar, we added probably the last goodie of the day, 2 Hodgson's Redstarts. Relatively common in the winter, these cracking birds are always a delight to see.

All in all, it was yet another good day out in the Kathmandu Valley. Of course, Wallcreeper was my 'Bird of the Day' but the supporting cast wasn't too bad either.

Thanks again to Arend and Steve for their company and local knowledge!

Till next time,


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