Tuesday, 14 May 2013

9th April – Dhurr to Kharmi

We awoke this morning to clouds over us and the mountains, but they were very high clouds, and didn’t seem to be a concern from the point of view of rain.  Slowly the clouds burnt away as the sun rose higher, and with it came quite a bit of activity from the local bird life.
Once again the “morning” Long-tailed Shrikes were calling from the trees around the bathroom.

I finally managed to get a good view of a Rufous Sebia, I had heard them and had very brief glimpses of these birds since the first day we started walking.  This one was sitting in a bush just outside the guest house bedroom.

I walked down to the dining room and sat and looked out across the fields.  I had seen this gentleman preparing his oxen yesterday, but he never started ploughing.  This morning he was all set, and ploughed the small strip, even negotiating the oxen around some very tight bends.

Yet another sign of the vast differences that exist in these villages up in the Himalayan valleys.  The soil was being prepared to plant the next crop of potatoes, and I think he was taking advantage of the cool of the morning to get the job done.
Somebody was very interested in the remains of last night’s chicken dinner.  A Large-billed Crow was watching the removal of rubbish, and dropped down when no one was about to take away a piece of chicken to a nearby tree. 


It managed to pull off some strips but seemed to have as much difficulty as we had the night before in eating the meat. 


It turned out that we were not the only ones who had difficulty, the guides admitted to finding the chicken tough.  The birds were now in full song, Himalayan Bulbuls sang from the trees around the terrace, and a Grey-streaked Laughing Thrush was around the terrace on the roof of the next house.  Every so often I would find a Grey-cheeked Warbler in the bushes.
After breakfast we sat on the terrace to drink our coffee, and to escape the attention of the flies.  Looking up the side of the hill, a flock of pigeons were flying around.  At first I dismissed them as feral, as you would do back home.  But then I realised that they were not probably feral, and also they were white.  Getting on to them I could see they were Snow Pigeons. They flew around, dropping on to the terraces to feed on the soil.  They were very distant but eventually came closer, dropping in on the recently ploughed field.

After drinking our coffee, we finished packing our bags, and then set off for the walk to the final village.  The porters went ahead of us as we made our way through the village and out onto the road.  After the excursions of the previous days this was pleasant walking.  We stopped at one stage to watch a pair of Grey Wagtail on the bank being stalked by a cat, that hid behind the fallen trees. 
The road wound around the side of the valley, but still provided some wonderful panorama views across to the mountains.

A feature of the general landscape was the shape of the trees.  Any low branches were fair game for the firewood ladies, and you could see them climbing the trees, and the whole trees shakings as they hacked off branches for firewood.  The outcome of this was small woods of trees that looked very thin and tall, and a little sad.

As we came around a bend in the road I noticed a yellow bird in the bushes by the side of the road.  I slowed everyone down to get better views, it was very flitty and didn’t stay still.  From the distance we were it was difficult to see what it was, and I must admit my first thought was not a sunbird.  It wasn’t until we got to the guest house that I was able to see the decurved bill, and the long tail.  It was only then that I could decide on the identification as a Mrs Gould’s Sunbird.  I am not sure who Mrs Gould was, but it was a beautiful bird.

This part of the road was very busy, there were several Ultramarine Flycatchers, a Kashmir Nuthatch, and a female Plumbeous Water Redstarts by a stream.  As we stood watching these, Yash Pal pointed out a Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush in a tree opposite us giving excellent views.

The road wound around a ridge, and we took a short cut over the ridge and down the other side.  Coming down we could see a little hut selling tea and drinks, as we walked up we could see the porters with our bags, so our assumption was that probably this was a waiting stop so as not to get to the next village too soon.  We could see Kharmi down below us, so it wasn’t far.

We were motioned to sit down, so we did, and watched down into the valley.  A Common Windmill flew past us and I managed to get a distant picture, but at least it was a record, and you can make out the red body of the butterfly, and the red tails.

To keep us interested and watching we were told that this was a reliable spot for Lammergeier, which did keep my attention for a while, until I realised they were not about.  Taxis would pass by and people would get on and off, one left with very little space the last person jumped on to the rear bumper and held on.
Finally we set off downhill, and made our way along the path to the guest house, that was positioned on the side of the valley looking down into the village of Kharmi.  As we arrived on the terrace the sun was high and hot.  We sat on the terrace looking across the valley, but it quickly became very hot.  Helen mustered up an umbrella shade, and I donned my hat.  We ate our lunch, and did some washing to take advantage of the sunshine to dry the clothes.  The afternoon was spent reading and I was able to watch some cricket, albeit from a distance and with the assistance of binoculars.  I was joined by the cook, who was using the guide’s binoculars, and we discussed the finer points of the game despite the fact that he didn’t speak any English, and I no Hindi, but we understood each other perfectly, the common language of cricket winning through.
The pitch was just sand, and they the bowler did not change ends.  The game was won by Kharmi, with the local hero Rashpal hitting the winning run with a characteristic Asian wristy shot as he raced to well over fifty.

As the sun began to drop in the sky, and it became cooler the birds became more active.  The first surprise was a grey bird that flew across from the far side of the valley, and up into a tall tree close to where we were watching the cricket.  It then announced itself with a clear “cuckoo”.  It was an Eurasian Cuckoo, and after a search we found it hiding behind the leaves.

Next was a Hoopoe that also flew up to the bushes, then gave some wonderful views close to us as it flew to a tree stump where it posed nicely.

A Grey Bushchat came close too, as if to say, “what about me?”.  They were quite a common bird, but it was nice to get a good opportunity to capture one close.

Common Mynahs were all around the house, and were looking to build a nest in the roof of the guest house, but they were not alone, and this Blue Whistling Thrush was intent on competing with them for the space, this resulted in some quite frantic battles.

The terrace looked down on to ground beneath us that surrounded a small stream.  This was a big attraction to the birds who came down to bathe and to drink.  A power line was another attraction and Himalayan and Black Bulbuls would perch and sing, and the Long-tailed Shrikes would come in during the afternoon, a first.
There were several Chestnut-crowned Laughing Thrushes around the bamboo clumps.

And in the stream, and the surrounding bushes were Oriental White Eyes,

and Grey-hooded Warblers.

As the sun fell behind the ridges it became darker, the Mynahs were seen on the wires with some friends that made a nice collection.

A Spotted Dove also posed nicely on a branch close by.

After that the darkness came quickly, and we retired into the dining room to warm up around the stove, and eventually to have dinner.  Tonight was going to be our last hot water bottle, and once we received them we made our way up the steep stairs to our room.  I didn’t point out the huge spider that sat on the wall opposite the door, and when we cleaned our teeth made sure I emptied the water in its direction!  We went to sleep wondering whether the Mynahs, or the Thrushes would wake us up first.

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