Thursday, 20 October 2016

Snow Leopard Expedition Day 11

Got up at 6.10am and began the tedious process of packing up our camping gear. It took longer than expected due to shortness of breath at this altitude. So after breakfast we walked down the Rumbak Valley to Zingchan unaware that we had to walk a further 3kms than expected to meet our waiting vehicle – making a 7kms hike in all. The good news was that we didn’t have the smallest car in the world waiting for us (like on our journey in here) but a minibus – fantastic. The walk down did produce our first Brown Dipper and Sulphur-bellied Warbler, and I was lucky to see a Wallcreeper flying across the ridge above us.

Leaving here we drove back towards to Leh, making a few stops to scan for Urial (Red Sheep) and after a rather too prolonged search managed very distant scope views thanks to our local trek guide. In hindsight we probably spent way too much time searching for it. Anyway, we drove through Leh and on towards Tanglang La Pass through ever impressive scenery. We stopped in a town to show our passports to the local constabulary before driving on and then made another stop in a scenic valley for a picnic lunch. Some big cliffs were home to immature Lammergeier and Golden Eagle and we had the unique experience of seeing both birds in the same field of view. I managed some reasonable photos and experimented with some phone-scoping as well.

Golden Eagle

From here the road wound ever upwards and the view from the pass (17,582 ft) was outstanding, calling for yet more scenery shots. 

The view from Tanglang La

Dropping down the other side we searched for Tibetan Snowfinch without any success. As we approached Tso Kar we took a side road across the desert and found the road to be lined with Desert Wheatears. And all of a sudden we were seeing lots of birds, unlike the previous week back in Rumbak Valley. And good birds too! The track took us several kilometres into the middle of nowhere and as we drove along we spotted some movement which turned out to be a Ground Tit. I was particularly pleased with this bird as it was another India tick. But things got better as I spotted my lifer Blanford’s Snowfinch (having dipped previously in Tibet somehow) and boy was I pleased to finally get it. There was also Horned Lark, Rosy Pipit, and several Olive-backed Pipits

Our first view of our new camp

Not a bad view from camp

Our camp was nearby and in a splendid location overlooking a small wetland with vast, open plains across to Tso Kar itself and picturesque softly rounded hills all around. David and I walked to the camp from here , seeing 3 Tibetan Snowfinches just a stones throw from our tents. From camp we scoped Upland Buzzard, some Pika’s and 100’s of distant Kiang (Tibetan Wild Ass).

But boy it’s colder here and once the wind picked up the temperature dropped dramatically. But it’s a very exciting place to be and what was also interesting was the Snow Leopard pug marks I found as we drove in….

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