Tuesday, 18 August 2015

India (Rajasthan and Kashmir) Trip - 1st August - Day 8

After much um'ing and ar'ing we decided to head back to Yousmarg today and bird the area of woodland to the west of the restaurant. The toss-up was between here and Gulmarg, the latter is a higher elevation site where Black-and-yellow Grosbeak sounds relatively easy and other species such as Pink-browed Rosefinch, Rufous-breasted Accentor and White-tailed Rubythroat can be seen. However, given that this site was around a two hour drive and we had to get an internal flight back in Shrinigar for 16:15 we decided against it and went back to Yousmarg. We were in the woodland by around 07:00 and fairly quickly picked up the distinctive two tone note of Spectacled Finch but saw we walked towards the call we picked up a finch like bird which flew high overhead and disappeared from site - that was our bird. After playing the tape for a while longer there was no response and so we wandered onwards. A short way further into the woodland we heard the Spectacled Finch again and there, perched on top of one of the tallest trees, was the male - brilliant and then as we played the tape two birds flew towards us and perched in a pine high above us. We could at last make out the red spectacles of the male and the yellow ones of the female and the big white greater covert and tertial spots present in both sexes - result! Four White-cheeked Nuthatch showed well in the same clearing, much better views than previously. We then dropped down towards a river and birded along the river and through scattered trees before climbing back up the hill and into the pines. A pair of Plumbeous Water-redstart showed very well along the river dipping and flashing their white tails in the case of the females and red tails in the case of the males, the latter remarkably Black Redstart like.

As we climbed through the forest it started to rain just as we bumped into a big bird flock, we donned our rain-jackets and opened the umbrellas and scanned the flock, Spot-winged Tit, Rufous-vented Tit, White-cheeked Nuthatch, Western Crowned Leaf Warbler, Lemon-rumped Leaf Warbler, Tytler's Leaf Warbler, Bar-tailed Treecreeper, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Himalayan Woodpecker, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, Kashmir Nutcracker and Long-tailed Minivet were all present.

It was 10:00 and the rain was getting heavier so we decided to make a bit of a dash for cover i.e back to the car and the restaurant so Ian, using his GPS, guided us in more or less a straight line back, via valley and ridge, through mud and scrub, it seemed to be a lot further than I had remembered as the rain got progressively heavier. By the time we got back to the restaurant we were soaked so we took cover and changed into drier clothes before deciding it would be an idea to make a move down the mountain. As we began the drive the severity of the rain became obvious with flooded roads and woodland and the relatively gentle mountain river now a torrent of mud and rocks washing away houses and eroding the river banks. The roads were awash with water, mud and rocks, having been stranded for two days in Colombia because of washed out roads I was feeling particularly nervous about the drive but as we descended conditions slowly improved.

We got to the airport in good time, battled the intense security and pushing and shoving throngs of people and got to the relative tranquility of the departure lounge. Our flight left at around 17:00 and we landed in Delhi at around 18:30. Martin's flight back to Singapore was a little before ours so we said our goodbyes while Andy, Ian and I went back to the Hotel Shanti Palace where a final Indian was enjoyed while listening to a live Indian band. Andy and Ian left the hotel at around 22:30 for their midnight flight back to the UK while I chilled out in the hotel for a little longer before leaving at around 23:30 for my flight back to the UK at 01:50. I was upgraded to business class and had a bed for the journey - mega bonus!! I landed back in the UK at 06:30 and was home by 08:30. What a great trip, some fantastic birds and great to be travelling with my old friends again.

Dawn in the pine forest at Yousmarg

The pines in Yousmarg are particularly tall and many of the birds stay high due to the 
generally sparse understory

Oriental Turtle-dove - Yousmarg

Oriental Turtle-dove - Yousmarg

Spectacled Finch, the female is to the left and the male to the right, very high in pine tree. The type specimen of this species comes from Shrinigar. Once classified with the Carduelis (Greenfinches, Siskins, Goldfinch etc) the species is now placed in the monotypic genus Callacanthis - Yousmarg

White-cheeked Nuthatch - Okay, its a shitty photo but these birds always seem to be at the tops of dark pine trees and today was a particularly gloomy one - Yousmarg

Andy had had enough of the fungi twitching

Twayblade species - Yousmarg

Fungi and cranesbill - Yousmarg

Fungi and slug - Yousmarg

Plumbeous Water-redstart (female) - Yousmarg

Plumbeous Water-redstart (male) - Yousmarg

Yellow-billed Blue-magpie of race cucullata - Yousarg

The rain starts, we were still smiling at this point - Yousmarg

Road back at the restaurant - Yousmarg

Driving down the mountain at Yousmarg

Repacking some rather soggy bags before the flight back to Delhi

Links to the other Days of the Trip:
Day 1 - Background and Travel day
Day 2 - Surajpur Wetland and Nahargah Biological Park
Day 3 - Sonkhaliya
Day 4 - Ajmer Thorn Forest and drive back to Delhi
Day 5 - Fly Delhi to Shrinigar (Kashmir) then Yousmarg
Day 6 - Yousmarg
Day 7 - Dachigam National Park, Shankarachariya Temple and Dal Lake

If you have any comments or queries on this post then please do not hesitate to contact me at simon@ecosa.co.uk