Sunday, October 30, 2011


Today morning 7am we (Dr. Saurabh and me) started from Vashi for Chirner and decided with good advice from my friend Ritesh to do some birding on the way at Kombudbhuje.

But with such a nice birding experience at this place we ended up doing birding here till 9:30, when the sun was pretty high in the sky and shining with full force.

This place has a wonderful mix habitat with marshy land and mangroves and a small hillock with grassland and small trees & bushes.

Taking left from from the road towards we stopped at the waterbody to get a glimpse at a lot of activity over mangroves.
It was a flock of 30-40 Baya weavers and equal number of rosy startlings all in non-breeding plumage and some molting.
Baya weaver Female

Baya Weaver Male

Within these flocks were also laughing dove pairs, scaly breasted munia flocks and a spotted dove basking in morning sun and taking bath.
 There was also a pair of purple heron.

In the marshy wetland just besides were little ringed plovers and the wonderful Pacific golden plovers (4 of them), first sigthings of the migratories this season for me.

Clamorous reed warblers were calling and as usual not very visible but one came very near and gave good views.

Clamarous Reed Warbler

Ahead there is grassland and small hillock we got some good surprises.
A Eurasian Wryneck on the grass gave us a quick view.
Eurasian Wryneck

And 3 jungle bush quails chasing each other on the slopes. We were watching them playing for around 15min.
Jungle Bush Quail

Jungle Bush Quail

There was a purple sunbird displaying with its yellow-orange tufts.

Purple Sunbird

On the otherside of the hillock is a vast marshy land where we could see grey herons, egrets, Wood sandpiper, common sandpiper, a common snipe and common redshanks.

Other sightings were
red avadavats
plain prinia
ashy prinia
Indian robin
black headed munias
long tailed shrike
Green beeeaters
Common stonechat
Red wattled lapwing
Pied starlings (15-20)
3 Glossy ibis (highup in flight)

Mud Skipper

Picturewing or is it only a dragonfly?

Indian robin with a plastic :-(

All in all a wonderful Sunday birding!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Trip to Cold Desert - Ladakh Part3

This part describes the 3 days Day7-Day9 of the journey into Nubra valley covering the Khardungla, Deskit, Turtuk village very near the LOC, Hunder.

Day 7 -22nd Aug - Leh - Deskit

This was going to be a day when we were going over the highest motarable road in the work via khardungla pass.
It was going to be a short journey (compared to other days:-)) so we started at 10am after taking sumptous breakfast.

Leh town while climbing Khardungla

Climbing Khardungla is very fast by 10:55 we were already at South Pullu, an army camp south of khardungla, at a height of 15300feet. Permits are checked at this place.
Then we reached Khardungla top at 11:40 which is 18000feet.
So just in 1hr 40min we had climbed from 11000ft to 18000ft.

We had decided to stop at Khardungla while coming back from Deskit as Ritesh and his wife had just arrived in Leh the earlier day and were not completely acclimatised.

Even after travelling from Srinagar to Leh and staying at Kargil & Leh I was not feeling very good at 18000feet.
I had just got down at the Ktop to take a few pics and felt very drained.

From Khardunla top

Fresh snow on the peaks near the top

While climbing down the Khardungla we stopped just before North pullu.
There was beautiful green medow with a small waterbody having a buddha statue.
Just sat there absorbing fresh air and beauty of nature of 10min.

Near north pullu

On the way some marmots were seen and finch like birds but we did not stop.
But little ahead of North pullu got our first Tibetan Snowfinch.
There were also a lot of Red billed choughs. While observing them suddenly saw a huge sized raptor and it was the Golden Eagle. It was a fantastic sight!! Its a bird with a wingspan of 5-7feet.

Red Billed Chough

Golden Eagle

Reached Khalsar at 1:15pm from where the road splits. One goes to Panamik and other to Deskit and ahead to Turtuk.
From here we enter the Shyok valley. The road is very flat and the valley is huge and very sandy.
Flat sandy road made in the valley near Khalsar
Shyok valley while approaching Diskit

Reached Deskit by 14:30 and checked into our Hotel Oltang.
Very nice place with a direct view of Deskit Gompa.
Old gompa taken from the hotel

The rooms were big and clean with 24hr hot water a very difficult thing to find in remote place, even in guest houses in Leh.
Just behind our room was a small stream and village path going into the village behind. Some houses were also visible. In the front was a garden with flowers and trees of apple and apricot.
Got a black redstart and a white wagtail at this stream and some more birds the next morning.

Apricot tree full of fruits in the hotel

White Wagtail

Post lunch we had some rest and then started for the Deskit gompa by 17:00.
First we went to the old gompa.The road goes till the gompa.
The sight from gompa was wonderful. The complete shyok valley was visible and in the front the new fompa with a big statue of buddha.

New Gompa statue as seen from Old Gompa

From there we went to the new gompa just as the sun was setting.
We just got the buddha in good light. It was very peaceful up there and we just wanted sit there.
We sat for some time till sunset and then returned back to the hotel.

Statue of Buddha at new Gompa

Front view of the statue

Old Gompa as seen from the New Gompa

Day 8 - 23rd Aug - Diskit - Turtuk

Turtuk is a village 100km from Diskit very near LOC. This was opened to tourists just last year.
One can see shyok all the time along the road.
We started at 8:15, just half an hour after start we started seeing the sand dunes of Hunder.

Shyok on the way to Turtuk

Formations possible by Glaciers
Shyok river

Reached Turtuk by 11:30. On the way saw blue rock thrush and red billed choughs.

Gushing waters of shyok

It was little difficult find the exact village because initially we crossed many shops and thought it was a village but looked very much like small roadside town. But fourtunately it was not the village.
The village was much ahead and the entrance to it was very a beautiful bridge over a gushing stream which was finally flowing into Shyok river.

Gushing stream near Turtuk Vilalge

The bridge connecting the village to the road

The bridge from the road to the vilalge

The village roads were narrow with fields on one side and houses on the other. There was also a primary school in this distant village which was very nice to see.

There was small hotel cum guest house in the village itself where we checked for food.
The owner told us that he can cook a vegetable and roti quickly.
Along the village road there was a constant stream of water flowing. We were told this was fresh water flowing from the mountain and very safe to drink. It was nice, cold and sweet.

The guest had 2 rooms and also 2 tents outside. He also had a tented accomodation near the road below the village where we had seen lot of shops.

It was a wonderful experience and started our journey back to Diskit after nice lunch at around 14:00.
On the way back near around a town called skuru we got wonderful views of a flock of Chukar crossing the road.

The plan was to stop at Hunder for the sand dunes and reached there by 16:45.
Clicked some pics of the Double humped camels.
These are not original of this place but had been brought here by the traders very very long time back as this was on the old silk route from central asia (mongolia).
They have now grown here and the locals here breed them for rides on the sand dunes for tourists.
It is said that they are left in the wild in the evening and brought back in the morning.
Hunder sand dunes

Sea-buckthorn. Popularly known as Leh berry and its juice is very famous

Double humped Camel

Sand dunes

Tourist on double humped camel with the Deskit old and new Gompa in the background

Reached back to our hotel by 6:15pm.

Day 9 - 24th Aug - Diskit - Leh

The main attraction of the day was the halt at Khardungla.
In the morning around an hour was spent birding.
Just when we were planning to leave for birding from our hotel room we saw a cuckoo like bird flying.
It turned out to be a eurasian / oriental cuckoo (still to confirm id).
So we went behind the hotel and got some good shots. Other birds seen here were the black redstart, white wagtail and the rosefinch pair.
Eurasian Cuckoo

Common Rosefinch

Started our journey to Leh by 9:15.
Shyok valley

At North Pullu there is a stream next to the army camp.
We got white winged redstart (2males and 3 females) and little ahead, marmot, red billed choughs and Hill Pigeon.

Reached khardulngla at 12:15. The height really starts affecting.
It was not very cold as we had expected and the weather was also very clear.

We had lemon tea here which was very soothing.

Spent around 30min on Khardungla and then started to Leh by around 12:45.
Reached by late afternoon around 5pm in Leh.