Thursday, 9 May 2013

4th April – Satri to Supi, via Bageshwar

It was another long night, but at last signs of light were seen through the window shutters.  The rain of the day before was supposed to deliver clear views of the mountains, and I was keen to get out to see what exactly we were going to find.  The sun was still not up, but the sky was a wonderful pink and orange, a way to the south east the valley was full of cloud, the sides of the valley clear.

To the north, the lower valley was cloudy, but the mountains were clear, and as the sun came up the first rays of light brushed the tops of the mountains, tinting then orange.

With the sun rise came plenty of bird activity and this pair of Bulbuls perched on the pine trees and silhouetted against the orange sky.

Gradually the mountains became further engulfed in sun light, and they looked wonderful, no matter how many times we looked at them they never failed to disappoint. 

The sun had still not shown itself as it was behind the hills to the east, but this was producing an amazing sky

As I scanned around the trees surrounding the guest house I noticed a flash of red in the pine tree, it belonged to a male Long-tailed Minivet, and once again the distance was not helpful, and it was still quite murky, but I did manage to get a credible shot.

As I watched the Minivet there was a continuous call coming from the trees, scanning the trees I noticed a lump on one of the branches in the pine tree.  Closer inspection found it to not be a lump, but in fact an owl, to be specific, a Collared Owlet. 

It sat on the branch in the morning sunshine calling.  I called Helen, and she just managed to see it before it flew off, and up into a tree behind the guest house.  It continued to call, and I was able to get a closer view.  As it called the whole head and throat would shake, it seemed to be unconcerned by me, but with it in the middle of the tree, and in general it still a little dark it was difficult to get the perfect photograph.

I left it calling, which it continued to do for some time, apparently they have an evening call and a day time call, I am not sure which it was doing though.  With the sun now up, birds were in the rough grass, and again there was a distinctive call coming from the grass close to the house, and the pine forest across the field.  It sounded like kar kar kee ke-kee.  Raju said it was a Black Francolin, so I moved closer to the bird ion the grass to see if I could flush it out, as this would be the only chance of seeing it.  As I stepped down on to the field, the bird exploded from my feet and I watched a rather large partridge, with a speckled black breast, and speckled and striped tail and rump fly low, in partridge style, away from me.  I didn’t get the chance to raise the camera before it was gone.
Another bird to challenge me was a lot smaller, the call sounded like a sylvia warbler, and when it popped up I was uncertain what it was.  My initial thought was Whitethroat, but they were quite rare and this had a red eye.  It wasn’t until I saw another in Corbett, and was told what it was that I realised the bird here was a Grey-breasted Prinia.  There are resemblances to a sylvia warbler; well I like to think so.

After breakfast we packed up our bags, and prepared for our last walk in the Binsar Sanctuary.  Before we left we had our pictures taken on the steps of the guest house with the guides and our host.

The path took us down the valley to the road, where we would meet the taxi that would take us to Supi in the Sarju Valley.  Walking down the trail a Great Barbet called in front of us.  Once we found it in the tree we waited and gradually it made its way to the top, and some lovely views.

As we came down the valley the sun was producing some striking images on the other side of the valley.  Both man and the local animals both domestic and wild have created paths to make the ascent and descent of the hill side easier.  In the morning sunlight this produced a lattice like effect on the side of the valley.

As we reached the taxi on the road a small flock of Jungle Babblers flew past us and into the trees.  We packed our bags into the taxi, and set off around the road, initially with Raju and Hari, but after a kilometre they got out to continue their respective journeys home, Hari to the baby naming party of his own baby.  We said our goodbyes, they had been wonderful company over the last few days, and we had learnt from them much about the villages and wildlife in the Binsar Sanctuary, it was sad to say goodbye.
The taxi continued on and we followed the winding road, getting views of the green terraced valleys, and the mountains that were still as clear as they had been at dawn.

We were due to stop at Bageshwar, the town is situated on the confluence of Gomti river with Sarju river, and is considered a holy place.  We stopped at a hotel that overlooked the river Sarju, and after negotiating a lunch pack, we sat on a balcony overlooking the river, drinking tea.  Along the bank of the river people could be seen washing clothes, or just walking along.  again they were everywhere.

Black Kites circled overhead, they had been absent from Binsar, but now we were back amongst people.  A Common Sandpiper flew along the edge of the river, and I watched a White Wagtail move between the rocks. 

A larger wagtail was also present, this was a White-browed Wagtail, slightly larger than the white, and with a very prominent white stripe above the eye.

A familiar whistle drew our attention back to the river, and we found a Common Kingfisher sitting on the rocks. 

 As we watched it fished in the sheltered pools created by the many rocks, and at one time perched on an old rag on top of one of the larger boulders.  This is the same species as our Kingfisher here in the UK.

On finishing our tea, we collected our packed lunch, which didn’t look much, and we bought a couple of bottles of water.  Although the filtered water seems to be alright we wanted to make sure we had bottled, just in case.  We set off through the outskirts of the town, and out on to a road that became progressively worse the longer the journey went on.  The road followed the Sarju River, and we alternated between either side.  After passing the town of Kaput, the road became much worse, large holes and loose rock, it was bone jarring and you had to hold on as the jeep was tossed around.

We stopped in a small village to eat our lunch, above us were Himalayan Griffon Vultures, and Common Mynahs searched for scraps below the tables.  Our journey now became a series of switch backs as climbed the side of a mountain. 

When the road levelled out we made our way around the edge of a valley, and came to a stop by a set of steps.  Coming down the steps were our new guides Yash Pal and Maresh, and waiting by the side of the road were the porters to carry our bags.

After the long car journey it was nice to get outside, but at first the climb was hard, the effect of the altitude kicking in once more.  We reached the top, and made our way around to the guest house, where we met a couple of other guests that had arrived the same day.
The terrace looked out over some lovely lush fields and a way up to the snow-capped mountains.

As we sat and drank the now customary tea, we could see forests of pink rhododendrons, stretching up to the snow fields. 

The guest house was nice, and we were able to have a hot shower which was welcome after the dusty ride.  Later that afternoon we went for a walk around the village and met some of the villagers.  One house was very colourful, and the owners were very proud and wanted us to take their pictures in front of it. 

One lady who appeared at the window only to pull back when I went to take a photograph, changed her mind when she saw the others having their photographs taken, and came down to join in.

We wandered slowly through the paths between the houses, and eventually returned to the guest house.  As the sun set, the view looking out across the fields changed, and the fields of wheat and rye became lusher.  With the cool of the evening approaching the women returned to the fields to weed and clear out any unwelcome plants. 

A Hoopoe was seen feeding at the edge of one field, the characteristic butterfly flight drawing me to it as it flew across from behind the house. 

 As the sun finally dropped, and raptor flew over, which at first I thought was a Shikra, but on closer looks I now consider this to be a Crested Goshawk.  The patterns on the wing being distinctive from other hawk species found in the area.

Despite the more “luxurious” facilities in the guest house, the same procedure happened after dinner, hot water bottles arrived, and of to bed we went at 20.30.  A new valley tomorrow.

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