Sunday, 18 August 2013

Great Himalayan National Park, 20.07.2013 - 28.07.2013

Immediately after Ladakh, its time to move into one of the greatest northern National Parks in India - The Great Himalayan National Park! Situated in the Tirthan Valley, it is an amazing place which shelters over 200 species of birds (211 as per the latest updated checklist) and mammals like Martens, Blue Sheep, Musk Deer and Ghoral. This could probably be the next UNESCO World Heritage site, with its immense forest cover and large variety in bird species including the rare Western Tragopan and India's most beautiful bird, the Himalayan Monal.

Access : Nearest big town is Banjar, which is a district by itself. One of the entrances to the GHNP lies along the Tirthan river near Gushaini, about 20 km from Banjar.

Stay : Homestay at Nagini / Gushaini, both very close to the park entrance.

Tour Assistance : Sunshine Himalayan Adventures, run by Mr. Ankit Sood and his brother Mr. Panki Sood can organize a great bird-watching trip under the guidance of some bird guides like Sanju. They also organize trekking trips into the National Park, but mass tourism is not encouraged. This is a potential World Heritage Site in the future and most of us would like to leave its pristine beauty untouched as much as possible!

Areas visited in and around GHNP for birds:

1. Tirthan Valley
2. Rolla, inside GHNP (3 day trek)
3. Waterfall and wooded hills behind Nagini
4. Jalori Pass
5. Nadar and surrounding areas (specially for the Cheer Pheasant)

Birds Spotted:

1. Chukar Partridge - 4 at Nadar
2. Black Francolin - 2 at Pekhari and 1 at Nadar
3. Hill Partridge - 1 at Gushaini
4. Himalayan Monal - 1 male and 1 female in flight at Jalori Pass
5. Kalij Pheasant - 2 at a particular spot near Banjar
6. Cheer Pheasant - 2 adults in Nadar, calls of at least 8 birds. One feather collected
7. Koklass Pheasant - Calls of 2 individuals at Jalori Pass. 1 feather collected at Nadar
8. Brown-Fronted Woodpecker - 1 on the hills behind Nagini
9. Himalayan Woodpecker - very common. At least 2 in Jalori Pass, 3 behind Nagini and 2 at Pekhari
Himalayan Woodpecker

10. Scaly-Bellied Woodpecker - very common. 3 near Nadar, 2 behind Nagini, 2 at Pekhari, 1 near Gushaini, 3 near the main entrance gate of the GHNP
Scaly-Bellied Woodpecker (typical sight on bark, feeding)

Scaly-Bellied Woodpecker (typical posture while resting)

Scaly-Bellied Woodpecker (feeding off the ground, many times overlooked until it flies off just when you approach!)

11. Grey-Headed Woodpecker - 1 at Rolla
12. Fulvous-Breasted Woodpecker - 1 near the entrance gate of GHNP where we camped

Fulvous-Breasted Woodpecker (female)

13. Great Barbet - Common throughout the area, specially on conifers. Calls also heard daily

Great Barbet

14. Common Hoopoe - 2 in Tirthan valley near the river
15. Crested Kingfisher - 1 daily spotted opposite Nagini near the river
16. Eurasian Cuckoo - 2 heard near Gushaini
17. Rose-Ringed Parakeet - 4 near Banjar
18. Slaty-Headed Parakeet - Very common in summer across the Tirthan valley, especially near orchards and very approachable

Slaty-Headed Parakeet

19. Plum-Headed Parakeet - Just 2 females and a male near Nagini

Plum-Headed Parakeet (female)

20. Himalayan Swiftlet - At least 5 near Tirthan river valley
21. White-Throated Needletail - At least one at Rolla. Many possibly overlooked
22. Rock Pigeon - Common near towns
23. Speckled Wood Pigeon - 2 groups of 4 individuals each before Rolla
24. Oriental Turtle Dove - 2 in Pekhari
25. Eurasian Collared Dove - 2 at Gushaini
26. Wedge-Tailed Green Pigeon - 1 near Sairupa, one pair in Tirthan Valley foothills, close to Gushaini

Wedge-Tailed Green Pigeon (pair)

Wedge-Tailed Green Pigeon (female)

27. Lammergeier - Seen regularly flying over the valleys
28. Himalayan Griffon - Much more common than Lammergeier, especially near Nadar

Himalayan Griffon Vulture (a common sight in river valleys)

29. Besra - 1 hovering above the forests behind Nagini
30. Eurasian Sparrowhawk - 2 on the way to Nadar. They prefer rocky slopes at high altitudes.
31. Common Kestrel - 1 between Banjar and Nagini, 1 on top of Jalori Pass

Common Kestrel

32. Yellow-Billed Blue Magpie - Common in orchards near Nagini and Gushaini. One tail feather collected

Yellow-Billed Blue Magpie (magnificent blue tail not seen here)

33. Red-Billed Blue Magpie - Just one spotted between Malhar and Pekhari
34. Grey Treepie - 2 behind Nagini and calls of at least two more near the Mobile Point on the way to Rolla

Grey Treepie

35. Spotted Nutcracker - 1 very good view at Jalori Pass, making a loud Kraaaaak repeatedly
36. Large-Billed Crow - 2 seen near Pekhari
37. Long-Tailed Minivet - 4 near Pekhari
38. Red-Billed Chough - Just one spotted in flight, only identified by body shape near Jalori Pass
39. White-Throated Fantail - 2 near Jalori Pass
40. Black Drongo - 4 at Shoja
41. Ashy Drongo - 1 at Rolla
42. Asian Paradise Flycatcher - 1 adult and 1 fledgling at Pekhari
43. Brown Dipper - Common sight throughout Tirthan River

Brown Dipper (juvenile. Adult is brown throughout)

44. Blue Whistling Thrush - Common throughout
45. Scaly Thrush - 1 pair at Shoja

Scaly Thrush (female. Male has a golden tint0

46. Mistle Thrush - 1 near Gushaini
47. Chestnut Thrush - 1 near Nagini
48. White-Collared Blackbird - 1 fledgling at Rolla, 1 adult pair at Jalori

White-Collared Blackbird (male. Female is brown)

49. Grey-Winged Blackbird - 3 adults at Rolla
50. Dark-Sided Flycatcher - Many across the GHNP, many near villages as well

Dark-Sided Flycatcher

51. Rusty-Tailed Flycatcher - 4 near Nadar

Rusty-Tailed Flycatcher

52. Asian Brown Flycatcher - 1 near the Mobile Point at GHNP
53. Rufous-Gorgetted Flycatcher - 1 at Jalori
54. Little Pied Flycatcher - 1 flying across at Rolla
55. Ultramarine Flycatcher - 2 near the GHNP gate, 1 behind Nagini

Ultramarine Flycatcher

56. Slaty Blue Flycatcher - 1 at Pekhari, bad views through dense foliage
57. Verditer Flycatcher - At least 3 near Gushaini, 1 at Pekhari and 1 near Rolla

Verditer Flycatcher

58. Rufous-Bellied Niltava - 2 at Pekhari

Rufous-Bellied Niltava

59. Grey-Headed Canary Flycatcher - Many near the GHNP main gate

Grey-Headed Canary Flycatcher

60. Blue-Fronted Redstart - 2 at Jalori
61. Black Redstart - Many at lower altitudes along the Tirthan River

Black Redstart (female)

62. White-Capped Water Redstart - 1 at Rolla
63. Plumbeous Water Redstart - Many across the Tirthan River

Plumbeous Water Redstart

64. Little Forktail - 2 at Rolla
65. Common Stonechat - 1 near Nagini
66. Grey Bushchat - 4 near Nagini, 2 at Nadar

Grey Bushchat

67. Common Myna - Many at Gushaini
68. Wallcreeper - 1 at Nadar
69. Eurasian Treecreeper - 1 at main gate of GHNP
70. Bar-Tailed Treecreeper - 1 near the main gate of GHNP

Bar-Tailed Treecreeper

71. Grey-Crested Tit - 1 behind Nagini
72. Great Tit - Many near Nagini

Great Tit

73. Green-Backed Tit - At least 5 near Gushaini

Green-Backed Tit

74. Black-Throated Tit - At least 6 at Nadar

Black-Throated Tit

75. White-Throated Tit - 2 at Jalori
76. Himalayan Bulbul - Common throughout

Himalayan Bulbul

77. Black Bulbul - Commoner than Himalayan, but closer to jungles

Black Bulbul

78. Striated Prinia - 2 on the way to Nadar

Striated Prinia

79. Oriental White-Eye - 2 near Pekhari

Oriental White-Eye

80. Chestnut-Headed Tesia - 1 inside a bush near Rolla
81. Common Chiffchaff - 2 at Nadar
82. Ashy-Throated Warbler - 1 at Rolla
83. Grey-Hooded Warbler - Most common Warbler, almost everywhere

Grey-Hooded Warbler

84. Greenish Warbler - 2 on the way to Rolla
85. Striated Laughingthrush - 1 near Gushaini
86. Streaked Laughingthrush - 2 near Nagini, 3 near Shoja

Streaked Laughingthrush

87. Black-Chinned Babbler - 4 near Rolla
88. Green Shrike Babbler - 1 near GHNP main gate
89. Rufous Sibia? - 1 large rufous bird flying into the trees at Pekhari, but unlikely habitat
90. Whiskered Yuhina - 2 at Rolla

Whiskered Yuhina

91. Purple Sunbird - 1 on the way to Rolla
92. Crimson Sunbird - 2 at a clearing near the GHNP main gate
93. House Sparrow - Common in all villages
94. Russet Sparrow - Many spotted around Nagini

Russet Sparrow

95. White Wagtail - 2 along Tirthan River
96. Grey Wagtail - Very common along the Tirthan
97. Tree Pipit - 3 at Jalori
98. Altai Accentor - Several encountered to and from Nadar
99. Rufous-Breasted Accentor - 1 at Malhar
100. Scaly-Breasted Munia - 2 near Nagini

Scaly-Breasted Munia (or Spotted Munia)

101. Yellow-Breasted Greenfinch - Common near villages in summer

Yellow-Breasted Greenfinch

102. Plain Mountain Finch - 2 at Rolla, 1 near Gushaini
103. Common Rosefinch - 1 at Rolla
104. Collared Grosbeak - 2 at Shoja

Collared Grosbeak

105. Rock Bunting - 1 at Shoja

Rock Bunting

Apart from a variety of birds, 5 Ghoral were spotted near the GHNP main gate. A baby Yellow-Throated Marten was found near its burrow on the way to Gushaini from the top.

A better season to visit GHNP would be around September - October. This is when the monsoon is over and winter is just setting in. During winter, hundreds of Monals descend the mountains to lower altitudes and even the Western Tragopan can be spotted at ease. Snow birds like the Snowcocks, Snow Partridge and snow Pigeon can also be spotted in this season. May-June is another good season for birding, where Speckled Wood-Pigeons can be seen in great numbers.

GHNP, overall, is one of the best National Parks in India, with only a small portion of it being accessible to tourists. This ensures preservation of wildlife and avian fauna in the rest of the Park, which is one of the best aspects of the Eco-Tourism projects here. Locals say there are still many unexplored regions in the park, which may lead to new discoveries of species in the region.

A definite recommend for the UNESCO World Heritage Site status, due its great diversity in fauna and the richness in flora over a large altitudinal stretch! This is one of the few spots in India where the 5 pheasants safely reside. A must for any birdwatcher, it can add at least 20 new species to any birder's list!

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