Friday, 3 April 2015

Cheers for the Pheasant...

An early morning drive produced a male Kalij Pheasant and a Himalayan Bluetail along the road before we headed up higher to search for Cheer Pheasant this morning. I’m never too confident for this species, but you should never give in to pessimism as we found a pair feeding on a grassy slope no more than 40m away and spent an enjoyable half an hour just watching them and taking photographs.

Cheer Pheasants

It was a little distracting having an Upland Pipit displaying and then landing right in front of us during this time! 

Upland Pipit

A flock of Altai Accentors kept flying overhead but never landed long enough to get a decent look, although a pair of Chukars was an exceptional sighting and very rare here. Some small trees above the road were attracting lots of birds and as well as the usual Black-throated Bushtits, we saw Green-backed and Spot-winged Coal Tit as well. 

Spot-winged Coal Tit - almost too close to photograph

We then drove further along the road and found the forest very busy with lots of birds such as Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Buff-barred Warbler, superb Black-faced Warbler, a brief Green Shrike-Babbler, a pair of Himalayan Shrike-BabblersYellow-browed Tit, Bar-tailed Treecreeper, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush, Rufous Sibia, Maroon Oriole, a nest-hole excavating White-tailed Nuthatch, Eurasian Jay, Mistle Thrush, and even a Collared Owlet flew in right over our heads and posed rather nicely.

Collared Owlet

Himalayan Shrike-Babbler

Driving back towards the lodge, we decided to walk a different section of forest and whilst admiring views of the snow-capped Himalayas in the distance I noticed a rare Scaly-bellied Woodpecker feeding on the slope below us. Having missed this species on my last visit, it was rather satisfying to not only see one but see it so well. 

Scaly-bellied Woodpecker

Amazingly, as we walked around the next bend a Mountain Scops-Owl was heard and it called repeatedly from very close up the slope above us. With a bit of persuasion we managed to locate the bird and obtain a few quick photos before it flew away. This is one of the toughest owls in Asia to actually see and to get it in daytime was rather surreal! 

Mountain Scops-Owl - Holy Cow!!

A pair of Striated Laughingthrushes was also very nice at the same spot as well. And that was our lot as we returned to the lodge, just in time to view 3 male and a female Spot-winged Grosbeak feeding in a fruiting tree next to the dining room.

Spot-winged Grosbeak (female)

Spot-winged Grosbeak (male)

After a rest over lunchtime, during which Yellow-bellied Fantail, Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher, and best of all a Black Francolin were seen, we drove down the valley. 

Nice views of White-throated Laughingthrush at lunchtime today

We walked along an area of scrub where a nice male Common Rosefinch was perched up in a bare tree, and shortly after a superb Yellow-breasted (Himalayan) Greenfinch also posed nicely at the top of a tree. I was surprised to see a Sulphur-bellied Warbler feeding on the hillside and we also had another bird later in the afternoon as well – this species is just beginning its return migration to areas further north.

Himalayan Greenfinch

A Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler was spotted by David T after it had been bathing in a stream, and other birds in the area included Grey-backed Shrike found by Michael, Jungle Myna, Siberian Rubythroat, Aberrant Bush-Warbler, Grey-sided Bush-Warbler and a few other previously seen species. As we followed the stream down towards the coach an extremely obliging Scaly-breasted Wren-Babbler put in the first of multiple appearances whilst waiting for a Spotted Forktail to show – which it did albeit only very briefly. The drive back to the lodge was punctuated by a……. puncture that meant we arrived back at 8pm and went to dinner straight away, but the beers were very much appreciated this evening!

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