Friday, 21 October 2016

Snow Leopard Expedition Day 12

What a terrible night’s sleep, with the temperature well below freezing and sleeping at 4100m proving hard for me. I had a headache, racing heartbeat and with the driver switching the minibus engine on at 1am to keep warm meant minimal rest tonight. So an early start was a huge relief and I was up and out of the tent before dawn, but there’s an art to getting dressed quickly in the freezing cold air I can tell you. So after breakfast we drove out towards the lake, passing the first of many Kiangs to be seen today. 

Kiangs are very common here

My main hope today was to firstly see and then get some reasonable photos of Tibetan Sandgrouse – this being a reliable site for them. I’ve seen it before on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau but never close enough for a good photo. And sure enough after a short drive we came across the first of many groups of sandgrouse seen this morning, with flocks on the road and flying past us. And all this within a stunning setting of open plains and snow capped mountains in the distance. Beautiful. We tried initially to get close to a group feeding in the stony desert floor but after a few aborted attempts I gave up and turned my attention to another group across the road. We drove closer and I sneaked out and crawled through the grass towards them. There were many more than I was initially aware of but all of a sudden another flock flew in and landed right in front of me and this is where I managed some nice flight shots. It was a great experience to sit so close to these awesome birds and they are definitely easier to see here than on a Tibet tour.

Tibetan Sandgrouse

Anyway, moving on we caught up with a few shorebirds such as Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Sanderling etc but they were all pretty distant. But I really enjoyed the Black-necked Cranes (9 in total), not because they were close but the setting was stunning. 

Black-necked Cranes

Then we stopped to look at a flock of Hume’s Short-toed Larks just when it looked like we were doing our best to ignore them! Odd pools on the drive held plenty of wildfowl including Ruddy Shelducks and Bar-headed Goose.

Stunning scenery all around us today

Once we reached the far side and the freshwater lake we discovered it was teeming with thousands of common ducks including some nice Ferruginous Ducks, plus we enjoyed seeing Little and Temminck’s Stints and the surrounding hills held some distant Argali.

Back at camp for lunch we discovered quite a few Blanford’s Snowfinches near the tents, and there was also a pale-phase Booted Eagle, Citrine Wagtail, Horned Larks etc.

Blanford's Snowfinch

Horned Lark

I enjoyed just sitting down with a nice cup of tea and looking at the fantastic scenery after lunch.

Our camp at Tso Kar

In the afternoon we once again drove to the far side of the lake to look for Wolves – but it was a disappointing half-hearted attempt and everyone of us felt let down by the attempt. In hindsight I should have been more aware of what was going on but the altitude was taking its toll once again on my head. 

Still in awe at our surroundings

But we did get close views of more Tibetan Snowfinches around an abandoned village this afternoon. 

Tibetan Snowfinch
So we returned to camp before 5pm – perfect Wolf watching time.… But we had better views of Argali that matey seemed more intent on finding than any canines. 

Here's our celebratory Snow Leopard cake

Oh well it was still a grand day.

1 comment:

  1. Well done with Snow Leopard, Nick - just caught up with your blog today. Good film, too, considering ... Pls say Hi to David - met him in Hawaii. Dianne x