Friday, June 21, 2013

Bird-Watching In The Kathmandu Valley

kathmandu valley in nepal

Despite of its population and cultivated lands, the Kathmandu Valley and surrounding hills are rich in bird life. The valley is located at 1330 meter height and surrounded by hills of Pulchowki, Sheopuri and Nagarjung ranging from 2,105-2,760m, the wide variety of habitat and altitude in the valley make even casual birdwatching particularly rewarding. The Flemmings in their book ‘The Birds of Nepal’ list over 400 bird’s species here and have recorded up to 180 in a single day!

October, March and April are the most interesting months with great concentration of migratory species arriving or departing. However, a day’s birdwatching at any time of year is worthwhile. If you are going out the valley on a trek for a couple of weeks or more, a few day’s birdwatching in the valley both before and after you trek will probably reveal a variety of species. The best time early morning although the valley is often covered in mist until 9am in December and January.

Unfortunately, the cover forest has been demolishing because of the increasing demand of fuel, fodder and timber. However, Nepal government has protected some of the places a protected area where no one can actually do any business activity.

long-tail minivets in Nepal
Long-tail Minivet

One of the best places to start observing the valley’s extensive bird life is on the Southern rim. At the Royal Botanical gardens in Godavari, 25 minutes drive south of Kathmandu, some of the original subtropical forest has been presented. The gardens are open from 9am to 5pm but are best avoided on Saturday and public holidays.

Originally developed by some experts from Kew, the gardens have a mix of endemic and introduced species, which support a varied bird population. The hill encircling the valley is Pulchowki, meaning flower-covered hill, which rises to 2,762m above Godavari. A small shrine at its summit is dedicated to Pulchowki Mai, the mother of the forest. The summit is not the beginning of a good birdwatching walk but also commands spectacular views of the valley and the Himalayas to the north. For the bird watchers, it is a great place to drive straight to the summit, slowly walk down the road and then follow the woodcutters’ trails down the lower slopes to Godavari. Popular birds are black-capped, sibias, red-headed laughing thrushes, black-throated parrot bills and other songbirds.

collared own in nepal jungle
Collared own

In February and March the lower slopes of Sheopuri are one of the easiest places to see the spiney babbler, Nepal’s only truly endemic bird species. A small forested hill rising to 1,385m at Gokarna 3km east of Baudhanath is now a safari park. As with Godavari, it is best avoids on Saturdays and holidays. Part of the forest still has plenty of old trees with the occasional brown fish owls or brown wood owls roosting near the top.

Indian pitta in Nepal
Indian Pitta in Nepal's Jungles

Apart from the few protected areas of forest there are still some other areas of relatively undisturbed stretches along the Bagmati and Manora rivers, which attract migrant waders and duck. The stretch of the Bagmati near Basant Gaon, 5 kilometers south of Kathmandu, and the Chobar Gorge are particularly good in March-April and August-November. The protected woods near Pashupatinath and Swayambhu are also good for fly-catchers, minevets and other woodland birds.

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