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JOMOSOM TREK, NEPAL BIRDING TRIP REPORT
by Prasad Anand
January - February 1998
N.B. Birds common in Western Himalaya (Manali) may not be listed. Recommended trip reports are Buckton /Morris (available From O.B.C. sales at £12) and Raf Drijvers, both are excellent. Phil Heath's is also good but does not have a full species list. Obviously Birdwatcher's Guide to Nepal by Carol Inskipp is also excellent but as it lists most of the birds at a given site it would be highly unrealistic to hope to see even most of them, in one trip. However by combining different treks you do eventually get to see a LOT of them.
I laughed at someone who had a porter carrying "A guide to the Birds of Nepal" by the Inskipps. But I now realize how good it would be, if you do come across something really out of place and can then, really take good notes, rather than find out too late, (for example the possible Slender-billed Babbler I saw at Pokhara.) I at least, always carry a photocopy of the list in the back of the Birdwatcher's Guide, so at least I have an idea of general status.
I combined this trek with a holiday with my non-birding girlfriend, which worked out fine, since I go slow and most boyfriends are hell bent on getting there as fast as possible. Most women we met on the trek were jealous. I followed the itinerary in Inskipp pretty much, which allows a lot of time for birding (but you could even spend more, especially as now, there is not such a limit to visas as previously). We came the long way down crossing over from Ghorepani to Gandruk and then to Taadapani (not the same as the Tatopani) and Pothana. We wished we had enough on our permit for the Annapurna base camp trek from Gandruk.
Porters are a good idea if you are on a quick trip but I advise you to choose a quiet one, who realizes you don't need to be entertained. Also porters want to take you to their lodge, where I presume they get tipped but that way you may miss the best lodges. The locals on this trek are really great so you should also have a lot of fun.
Rent or buy a lightweight ski pole. They may look sissy but they can literally pull you up the Ulleri steps. Learn how to hold it before the steps (the straps should support your wrist and it is great with bins. as it will just hang on your wrist whilst you birdwatch).
There is a very interesting section in Lonely Planet on the "rest step" page 86. It's a trekker's version of the fable of the tortoise and the hare. Basically if you walk slowly on the steep sections you conserve your energy and your body water by not panting and sweating. Also very useful on the Langtang trek at altitude.
Take iodine or water purification pills, we don't need to add to the plastic bottle problem.
De-hydration happens at altitude so drink lots of water and take some laxatives just in case.
There is a brilliant trekking shop in Kathmandu run by an Aussie/Brummy and his Tibetan wife. When you come to the Thamel area from the main road, where the road narrows at the tourist area, turn left in the first small tourist street "Jyatha" by the fancy supermarket. It's about 150m down here on the right and it was called Shonas. Tel/Fax # 265120. It's on the road to Hotel Fuji. They make their own gear, and it is very cheap. I bought a full down jacket for 15 pounds here. Don't buy any fleece before you come, it is 8 pounds for a polartec 200 jacket, and its the same material as the west. They have fleece gloves, balaclavas, bandanas etc for virtually nothing and thermal underwear. They also have imported stuff like bottles and water purification tablets for western prices. This shop is good for advice. You can't buy breathable waterproofs here but you might be able to find something second-hand. If you see a Gitzo monotrek (monopod) for sale, it's mine, ripped off out of my rucksack at the airport, beware!
I recommend getting two maps (there are many available here) as they usually have small mistakes and with two you can see the discrepancies. Nepal maps look good but usually have small errors.
Ulleri; one on the right was good.
Ghorepani (Deorali); on the path towards Poon Hill is a very good lodge run by the local schoolteacher I think it was called Snow-view or Snowlands.
Chitre; Very "fun" lodge on the right going down, ran by another Ghorepani schoolteacher. I think it was called New Annapurna.
Tatopani; I didn't like the posh French lodge, it's not family ran.
Ghasa; Eagle's Nest is very good and they can supply you with a local guide. They know about birds and birders. Ask here for the nice lodge at Kalopani they told us about it and it was good. It was one of the first on right as you head north.
Kalopani; see previous.
Marpha; we treated ourselves to a shower here and an en-suite room. It was great! The lodge was quite far down on the right as you head north. The rooms were brand new, at the back.
Jomosom is a dump, we stayed at the Jimi Hendrix lodge as it was closest to the area behind the airstrip, but it wasn't so great, plus we had to put up with missionaries. (Illegal in Nepal but I'm afraid still encountered).
Kagbeni; the Red House is an absolute must, I will never forget the wonderful people there. Ask to see their house temple and you will be amazed. Even if you don't stay here, go and have a look at their dining room. It is a few hundred years old. You also must take a look around the old part of the village (this is the part that survived a flood). There is a reason why non-birders go up here! Also Tukche and Marpha are fantastic. There are monasteries at Marpha and Kagbeni (which you can visit). This is Tibetan Mustang!
Muktinath; the North Pole Lodge was good.
We stayed at the New Annapurna Guest House down a little path opposite the road to the Fishtail Lodge Ferry. The Hotel was very clean.
As this was my first birding in Nepal I found this place very good. Most birding was from behind the Fishtail lodge. No one minds if you climb over the fence at the back. If you are a big group it might be better not to. The fence at the extreme left was easiest.
Best birds (in order of appearance);
Kalij, Nepal race of Long-tailed Shrike, Tree Sparrow, Maroon Oriole, White-bellied Yuhina, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Grey Treepie, Barred Owlet, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Large Grey Cuckooshrike, Rusty-tailed Flycatcher, Hair-crested Drongo, Crested Serpent Eagle, Golden-spectacled Warbler, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Large Yellow-naped Woodpecker, Grey-bellied Tesia, Green Magpie, Scaly Thrush, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Blue-throated Barbet, White-crested Laughing Thrush, Dusky Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Grey-hooded Warbler, Brown Shrike, a babbler poorly seen but I reckon was a Slender-billed Babbler (not seen here at all), Crimson Sunbird, Green-billed Malkoha, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Ashy Bulbul, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Smoky Warbler, Cinerous Vulture, Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Red-headed Vulture, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Small Niltava, Nepal House Martin, White-browed Scimitar Babbler, White-throated Laughing Thrush, Pygmy Blue Flycatcher, Black-necked Grebe (rare), Yellow-breasted Bunting (far end of lake), Hodgson's Redstart, Long-tailed Broadbill, Dusky Warbler, Black-throated Sunbird, Lesser-necklaced Laughing Thrush.
I couldn't find Collared Falconet at the site past the end of Phewa Tal. I wonder if they are still present.
To Ulleri.(20th Jan.)
Slaty-backed Forktail (at Tirekedhungha, also look for Crested Kingfisher here, I dipped), Coal Tit, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Crimson Sunbird, Blue Rock Thrush, Chestnut-tailed Minla, White-throated Laughing Thrush, Black-chinned Babbler, Chestnut-crowned Laughing Thrush, Buff-barred Leaf Warbler, Striated Prinia, Slaty Blue Flycatcher, Grey Bushchat, House Swift, White-browed Shrike Babbler, Rufous-necked Scimitar Babbler. (Last two just below Ulleri).
To Ghorepani. (21st Jan.)
White-browed Bush Robin, Black-faced Laughing Thrush, Hoary Barwing, Spotted Laughing Thrush, Grey-crested Tit, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Long-tailed Mountain Thrush.
Ghorepani. (22nd-23rd Jan.)
Green-tailed Sunbird, Green Shrike Babbler, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, Hoary Barwing, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Coal Tit, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Pink-browed Rosefinch, Spot-winged Rosefinch, Dark-breasted Rosefinch, Crimson-browed Finch, White-throated Redstart (on ridge), and Yellow-browed Tit.
Ghorepani to Chitre via the ridge. (24th Jan.)
Great Parrotbill, Black-faced Warbler, White-throated Redstart, Abberant Bush Warbler.
Chitre. (25th Jan.)
White-tailed Nuthatch, Yellow-browed Tit, Plain Mountain Thrush, Pigmy Wren Babbler, Red-headed Bullfinch, Mountain Scops Owl (heard).
Chitre to Tatopani. (26th Jan.)
Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Abberant and Yellowish-bellied Bush Warblers, Blyth's Warbler, Slaty Blue Flycatcher, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Red-billed Leiothrix, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Collared Owlet, owl species heard possible Mountain Scops at Tatopani.
Tatopani to Ghasa.(27th Jan.)
Wallcreeper (also further north), Slaty-blue Flycatcher, Brown Accentor, Cinerous Vulture.
Ghasa. (28th-29th Jan.)
See section on lodges.
Great Parrotbill (three parties), Collared Grosbeak, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Hill Partridge, Kalij, Koklass (heard), Cheer Pheasant, Monal, Grey-cheeked Warbler (a rarity here), Pink-browed, Beautiful and Spot-winged Rosefinch, Alpine Accentor, Altai Accentor, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Pigmy Wren Babbler, Yellow-naped and Stripe-throated Yuhina, Rufous-necked Laughing Thrush, Plain Mountain Thrush, Red-headed Bullfinch, Slaty Blue Flycatcher, Golden Eagle calling and displaying. Owl species heard possible Mountain Scops.
Ghasa to Kalopani. (30th Jan.)
Several of the previous plus Grandala (Lete), Robin Accentor (Lete), Brown Accentor, small unid. falcon, Saker.
Chukar, Fire-crested Tit and similar passerine species to Ghasa but possible Tibetan Siskin (poor view). Two Ibisbill were seen on the west side of the river north of Kalopani, about a km past the footbridge, so a small detour is necessary as the path is on the east side here. I saw them on the way down on 8th February.
Kalopani to Marpha. (31st Jan.)
White-browed Rosefinch, White-winged Redstart, (Red-throated) Thrush , Raven, Snow Pigeon, Kestrel.
White-browed Tit Warbler (also on route to Kagbeni), Brown Accentor.
Marpha to Jomosom. (1st Feb.)
Possible female Pine Bunting, Red-fronted Rosefinch, White-winged Redstart.
Jomosom to Kagbeni.(2nd Feb.)
Fire-fronted Serin (on hills to the right, you may need to search a bit), Rufous-backed Redstart, Red-fronted Rosefinch.
Great Rosefinch, two Starlings (rare), Rufous-naped Tit, possible Rufous-tailed Shrike (Pallak) rare. Chukar (also at Pallak).
Kagbeni to Muktinath. (3rd Feb.)
Streaked Rosefinch and Chukar.
Muktinath. (4th Feb.)
Solitary Snipe (see map in Buckton/Morris), Blue-headed Redstart, Plain Mountain Finch, Altai Accentor, Hill Pigeon, Rufous-tailed Wheatear. To see Snowcocks you need to set off before dawn to the shack about an hours walk up towards the pass. You should then be able to hear them on the northern slopes. I didn't get there early enough and after walking the hill side ,still failed to see them. If you have time, don't give up, this is probably the best place to see Himalayan Snowcock (Tibetan is easy at Langtang)
Mountain Hawk Eagle getting hassled by Langurs, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, and similar forest species to Ghorepani.
Taadapani to Gandruk.(18th Feb.)
Grey-winged Blackbird, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Speckled Piculet, Lesser Yellownape, Green Shrike Babbler, Yellow-browed Tit.
It's worth having a look around this beautiful village or group of villages. We treated ourselves to a luxurious lodge ran mostly for rich groups, but if they don't have a group they will let you stay for a very reasonable price. It is even equipped with flip-flops for the shower and a down jacket for the nighttime! I think it was called Himalayan View, it was beautifully kept and had a symbol of crossed Gurkha knives. The food was very good.
Gandruk to Pothana.(19th feb.)
Chestnut Thrush, Brown Bullfinch, Black-throated Sunbird.
Pothana. (20th Feb)
Golden-throated Barbet (not so common as Buckton/Morris saw), Lesser Yellownape, Ashy Wood Pigeon, Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker, possible Ferruginous Flycatcher, Kalij, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Red-billed Leiothrix, Rufous-vented Yuhina and Mountain Hawk Eagle.
Pothana to Kathmandu (21st Feb.)
No sign of Striated Bulbul (common according to Buckton/Morris) so I presume it is seasonal.