Wednesday, 1 May 2013

2nd April - Gonap

The wind from the evening before died away overnight, and once again when we awoke we were greeted with yet another wonderful sun rise.  We were actually woken by the calls of the Large-billed Crow, which would hang around the plate washing area by the guest house.  Sometimes the call can sound like that of a mallard duck.  As I came out of the room to look at the sky, the crow was waiting on the tree by the house.

The oranges and pinks gave way to the sun and as it rose in the sky fires were lit on the terraces of the village houses.  This is done to keep the mosquitos away, and all around us you could see smoke spiralling up into the morning sky. 

We sat and watched the scene and the activity around the houses, and in the fields as we drank our morning tea. 

Below us the cow was being hosed down, and then rubbed with hay to clean it up.  I could help but think of an equivalent activity that takes place with a prized possession, the washing of a car.
Children ran about, and at one stage we were treated to the spectacle of a calf and puppy chasing each other around the terrace.  Everything was so innocent and stress free.  As we waited to for breakfast, I became the centre of attention.  The villagers were fascinated by the fact I had no hair. The Indians take great pride in their hair, and they found it strange that I didn’t have any, this usually is something the holy men do.  I had to reassure them I had a hat, but it didn't stop them staring.

After breakfast we were off for a walk around the village, this time heading back into the forest, and around the valley.  As we left the village, we came across a new butterfly, a Chocolate Pansy.  It was brown, with graded lines on the wings.

The walk took us around the valley, and we crossed a couple of small streams before coming to one that actually had water in it.  Here we decided to spend some time watching.  As always as we waited and watched and the birds appeared.  A Grey Headed Canary Flycatcher was the first, it was some way off, but we were able to watch it fly catching in a sun lit opening, and a pair of Scarlet Minivets was on the other side of the valley.  Once again they avoided all my attempts to photograph these beautiful birds. The birds were all around us now, and I picked up a Black-lored Tit feeding in a Rhododendron flower.

A woodpecker called, and when we finally found it, it was a special one, a Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, it looked lovely with it is orange red belly.

.After a while we left the valley, and took a smaller trail through denser forest.  Raju pointed out the scat of a leopard alongside the trail, we are getting closer.  It was a tighter path, so we were not that quiet as we walked along, and we disturbed a small group of White-throated Laughingthrushes, they are quite big birds, but very shy, and we were lucky to get some very good views.

We negotiated our way down the side of a hill, and got back onto the main path.  Raju found yet another sign of leopard, a scrape on the ground where it had marked scent.  He told us to get down and smell it, which we did, mainly I suppose because he said it was leopard!  It wasn’t unpleasant, it smelt very musky, Hari likened it to basmati rice, but we weren’t sure about that!  We carried on along the main path, and above us heard raptor calls, we found a clearing and stared into the sky, as we did so a pair of Crested Serpent soared above us calling.  They are quite a common eagle around here, and as they soar you can pick out the dark bands on the wings, and on the tail.

We kept stopping to check the calls from the trees, and on one such stop Helen found a Grey-headed Woodpecker.

As we watched the woodpecker, smaller birds were moving about, and I picked up a Black-headed Warbler as it flew into the tree above me.  A little further on we were entertained bu a flock of Slaty-headed Parakeets.  They were obviously a family party, and a pair had taken up residence in a hole in a tree.  The easiest way to identify the Parakeets is by their tail feather colour, the Slaty-headed having a yellow tail, and the Plum-headed a blue tail.

The path came to a headland that provided once again some wonderful views across to the mountains.

We stopped at the valley once again to see if there was any more activity, but the only different thing we found was a Common Windmill Butterfly.  At first I thought it was a bat it was so big.  The wings are black, and the body red, and like the Purple Emperors here in the UK it patrolled the high canopy, sticking close to the leaves of the trees.  We moved on and started to re-trace our steps back to the guest house, taking in a few more views along the way.
Back at the guest house we made the most of the sunshine sitting on the terrace catching up with our notes, and reading.  After lunch we were joined by two more guests, and through the afternoon they sat with us and we exchanged our experiences.  As we sat there I was fascinated by the colours of the Himalayan Poppies growing on the edge of the terrace, they were being visited by bees, and I managed to catch one just as it came out of the petals.

On the flowers below us, and amongst the plants being grown, there was a collection of Brimstones, Cabbage Whites and Clouded Yellows
The birds kept coming to us in the afternoon.  A Red-rumped Swallow flew around the valley, and another Crested Serpent Eagle drifted across the valley, giving some lovely views.

The best though was a Red-headed Vulture that came gliding along the ridge of the valley.  It was distinguishable from the Griffons by immediate smaller size, the all dark wings and the white neck collar.

Mid-afternoon we set off for a walk up and over the ridge at the back of the guest house, mostly uphill we walked through pine forest.  There was little in the way of birds but plenty of Painted Lady, Tortoiseshell, and Cabbage White butterflies.  We came across a group of cows and goats that were grazing, and we had some lovely views away to the north west of our next village Satri, and the magnesium mines.

The trail took us back down into the village the way we had entered the day before, where we sat and watched the sunset over the valley. 

The villagers would also sit on the terraces and talk, and look out across the valley, conversations are held with distant neighbours.

After dusk we were treated to an open fire, which we took advantage of before dinner, and then again after.  As we sat watching the flames Grey Nightjars called form the forests behind us, and a Barking Deer, barked somewhere down in the valley.  The fire kept our attention, until it died away, and we retired to bed at 21.00

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