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kittykat23uk

In search of the Grey Ghost

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kittykat23uk

In search of the Grey Ghost- Ladakh and Tadoba, India.

 

Introduction

 

First of all, I should say this was not a trip I was looking forward to. In fact I was, to put it another way, bricking it! It didn't help that we'd heard that sightings had been down and a recently returned group had failed to see our main target species.

 

But it was a trip that I felt I had to do, a trek to look for the Grey Ghost.... the Snow Leopard... that most elusive of cats.

 

I don't like the cold, struggle with altitude, don't do hills and am not that much a fan of camping to be honest and this trek had all of those elements in spades! But I had to try and tick a snow leopard, so off I went...

 

My friend Jo Thomas who runs http://www.wildabouttravel.co.uk/ regularly runs tailor made treks to Ladakh and organised for me to join a group of seven birders on a private tour. As insurance against dipping the leopard, I and one other participant added a week in Tadoba for some much needed R,R and T (rest, recuperation and Tigers).

 

13th Feb 2016

 

I arrived in Heathrow and heard from Jo that one of the other participants had been refused boarding on his flight and his mate had decided to stay behind with him for moral support. Jo was busily trying to sort out his issue, which was basically that he's got his e-visa but had applied with an out of date passport and had only brought his replacement passport to the airport with him. Doh!

 

I and one other participant, Peter flew Air India from Heathrow to Delhi on flight AI 112, departing at around 2100 on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. I must say it had the clearest in-flight entertainment system I have ever experienced, the sound quality of the provided headphones and visibility of the viewing screens was excellent.

 

I found the air stewards to be particularly generous with the alcoholic beverages, which was nice and the food was okay, but nothing special! The selection of movies was up to date with some recent cinema releases available in both directions (different selection on the way back, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

 

14th February 2016

 

We arrived into Delhi on time, around 11.20. After collecting our bags we picked up a bottle of JD from duty free for one of Jo's local guys, Praveen and changed money before being met in arrivals by Praveen and our driver. We were taken to Hotel Lohmod to drop our bags and freshen up before we then headed out to Sultanpur Jeel, a local bird sanctuary about 2 hours drive from Delhi. As we were arriving there, the rest of the guys in our group were heading back to the hotel so we missed them.

 

We met our guide and first stopped at the on-site restaurant to have a light lunch of dhal and butter nan. Then we headed out into the park for an afternoon of birding. A good range of birds was seen:

 

Greylag goose

bar-headed goose

Teal

Shoveler

Spot-billed duck

Gadwall

Pintail

Ferruginous duck

Tufted duck

Grey francolin

Indian peafowl

Little grebe

Indian darter

Great cormorant

Indian cormorant

Little cormorant

Little egret

Intermediate egret

Indian pond heron

Grey heron

Purple heron

Black-necked stork

Painted Stork

Glossy Ibis

Eurasian Spoonbill

Lesser flamingo

Black Kite

Indian spotted eagle

Imperial eagle

Moorhen

Coot

Purple swamphen

Snipe

redshank

Wood sandpiper

Black-winged stilt

Red-wattled lapwing

White-tailed plover

Rock dove

Collared dove

Ring-necked parakeet

Spotted owlet

Hoopoe

White-throated kingfisher

Coppersmith barbet

Black-rumped flameback

House crow

Large-billed crow

Rufous treepie

Black drongo

Long-tailed shrike

Bluethroat

Black redstart

Oriental magpie robin

Indian robin

Spotted flycatcher

Red-breasted flycatcher

Bank mynah

Common mynah

Plain prinia

Chiffchaff

Hume's leaf warbler

Green-crowned warbler (referred to as Whistler's by the guide we had)

Whitethroat

Large grey babbler

 

Plus Nilgai and Palm squirrels.

 

 

25159530054_7f604d2cfb_b.jpg

P2140008 Hoopoe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25763932516_58abbf9dd8_b.jpg

P2140017 red-breasted flycatcher by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25489329590_c3afb0e786_b.jpg

P2140037 Spotted owlet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25163406883_efb19b7506_b.jpg

P2140051 coppersmith barbet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25763943526_19a0abfa63_b.jpg

P2140055 coppersmith barbet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25694944791_0a2113fa52_b.jpg

P2140073 nilgai by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25489342950_80246ec6c3_b.jpg

P2140075 nilgai by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25669044442_742dd7d754_b.jpg

P2140077 baby nilgai by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25159556374_af43d9448b_b.jpg

P2140080 Green-crowned warbler by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25669052512_4d992e9dca_b.jpg

P2140091 bluethroat by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We met the rest of the group back at the hotel, had dinner and got a reasonable early night as we had an early flight the following morning to Leh.

 

 

25694965711_592501db63_b.jpg

P2140112 long-tailed shrike by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25163445723_94a33f0592_b.jpg

P2140122 brown-headed barbet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25763984146_c1b5cb5439_b.jpg

P2140129 brown-headed barbet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25763988466_d06298412b_b.jpg

P2140137 brown-headed barbet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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Galana

Good start KK. So Sultanpur is OK in the afternoon too? I was booked to go but when the plane was late I was told it was not worth it. Missed some nice sightings by the look of it. Two would have been lifers!! Grrrr! :angry:

Great photos by the way.

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kittykat23uk

Yes it's a nice place to spend a few hours. :) BTW, looking forward to reading your trip report too! :P

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Kitsafari

Been waiting for this! and an intriguing start, ticking off the negatives, but you seem to have survived it all and emerged with great pics intact.

 

I love that brown-headed barbet! what a cute bird. and you saw nilgai too!

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elefromoz

@@kittykat23uk, talk about hit the ground running, airport to hotel and straight out to a Bird Sanctuary 2 hours out of Delhi, phew. I think you have more stamina than you give yourself credit for. Hoopoe and Spotted Owlet so cute, enjoying seeing Indias birds again.

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TonyQ

@@kittykat23uk

A great start - straight out bird watching - and some lovely pictures and you saw a lot of species.

I have been looking forward to this report!

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kitefarrago

Jo, your introduction to this trip describes pretty well how I feel about it! I want to do it for the same reasons you did, and maybe yuor trip report will push me over the edge and prompt me to actually make some concrete plans.

 

I'm very much looking forward to this.

 

 

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cheetah80

oh yeah this is finally starting :) That's an impressive bird list already!

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Atravelynn

You may not have looked forward to doing this trip, but I look forward to reading about it.

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kittykat23uk

Thanks everyone, glad you are all here to follow along. Indeed when one has seen tiger, leopard, lion, jaguar, cheetah, one has to eventually bite the bullet to find the more elusive cats..

 

 

Mon 15th Feb 2016 : Delhi - Leh (3,500m)

We were advised to take a transfer to the airport at the ungodly hour of 0230. Check in is usually 2 hours before, but as this flight can be overbooked we were being safe and so we reached the airport 3 hours before our flight which departed at 0555 hours and arrive in Leh at 0725 hours.

 

Jo told us this must be one of the most sensational flights in the world, so we all asked for a window seat. On a clear day the peaks of K2, Nanga Parbat and Gasherbrum can be seen in the distance and on the other side of the aircraft, so close that you feel you could reach out and touch it, is the Nun Kun massif. I'm not entirely sure which peaks were visible on the day we arrived as dawn was only just breaking as we flew over the most breathtaking scenery, but it was certainly impressive, as was the approach to the airport.

 

25220099761_560563a6e4_b.jpg20160215_070047 View of Himalayas from the flight into Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25286982416_55e534592f_b.jpg20160215_070053 View of Himalayas from the flight into Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25195050762_37ef8e8784_b.jpg20160215_070116 View of Himalayas from the flight into Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

24945649109_efd944be61_b.jpg20160215_070117 View of Himalayas from the flight into Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25220187361_eb9b365fea_b.jpg20160215_070118 View of Himalayas from the flight into Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

24689139883_e18dfa222f_b.jpg20160215_070200 View of Himalayas from the flight into Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

24685269354_0b1800e432_b.jpg20160215_070209 View of Himalayas from the flight into Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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kittykat23uk

Upon arrival we were met by Stanzin and Gurmet (one of our guides) and were transferred to Hotel Mahey Retreat. We had a nice lunch and Stanzin organised with us to check all our gear that afternoon, as Leh is the last town that we could feasibly buy more kit if needed.



One cannot simply walk into Hemis national Park where the leopards are without first resting and acclimatising to the rarified air, so we were under strict instructions to take it easy for the two nights we were in Leh. We were also advised to drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol.



25197766632_8f8126486f_b.jpg20160215_162222 view from our hotel by Jo Dale, on Flickr



25316017575_6e0513fb97_b.jpg20160216_092013 Mahey Retreat, our hotel in Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr



25943217331_346acbb78f_b.jpg670C8495 by Jo Dale, on Flickr


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kittykat23uk

Tue 16th: Leh

 

We had another full day of taking it easy to acclimatise to the rarefied air, but we were still up reasonably early to do a spot of birding along the Indus river. We didn't see any of our targets at the first stop, but a street dog was licking out a time of pineapple and the scenery was beautiful.

 

25768368386_e9e616bc6e_b.jpg

P2160148 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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20160216_101022 20160216_101026 Indus river, Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

24948468469_2dff23c234_b.jpg

20160216_101026 Indus river, Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

24689457433_f1bf7e3fd2_b.jpg

20160216_101032 looking for Ibisbill Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25316148185_0abfe9bf11_b.jpg

20160216_101038 looking for Ibisbill Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

At our second stop we found our main target- five ibisbills! This pleased the birders in the group and we also saw goosander.

 

25163952254_964fb1aedd_b.jpg

P2160194 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2160312 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25768374906_bdb2193c30_b.jpg

P2160319 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2160342 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

 

We then drove to another place and crossed a bridge that was covered in prayer flags to look for solitary snipe, which we sadly dipped, and white-winged redstart which we saw hundreds of.

 

25592058566_feb253d736_b.jpg

20160216_122416 Bridge at Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

25787965876_0b2c9e5c92_b.jpg

P2160464 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25499549192_1ebd30de95_b.jpg

20160216_122341 Bridge at Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25198096152_2dd44ef5f6_b.jpg

20160216_120430 looking for Ibisbill Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25197980852_77e220dd8d_b.jpg

20160216_120435 looking for Ibisbill Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

24689614373_0159ab0ed0_b.jpg

20160216_120445 looking for Ibisbill Leh by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25164154334_36bd6a6182_c.jpg

P2160484 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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AKR1

Beautiful pictures of the Himalyas on the Delhi/ Leh route. I understand the Delhi/ Guhati flight also has spectacular scenery of some of the highest Himalyan peaks. Thanks for posting this. Look forward to to the rest of your report.

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kittykat23uk

Thanks. We also visited Leh town, where there are many souvenir shops and camping gear places as well as a monastery. The Tibetan influence is very marked, it felt more like being in Ruoergai than it did India.

 

25699557551_2f513a4aae_b.jpg

P2160486 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25673659712_52c238198e_c.jpg

P2160487 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25768579616_2954e7f467_c.jpg

P2160489 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25768579616_2954e7f467_b.jpg

P2160489 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2160492 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

One of the tour participants, Mike Edgecombe allowed me to present some of his own photos here to supplement my own:

 

25736975560_e03c84674b_b.jpg

670C8625 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25943221171_ce18c493f1_b.jpg

670C8631 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25943223131_34a4aea3e4_b.jpg

670C8647 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25943224371_97c2e076cb_b.jpg

670C8648 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25917128282_274ba04c05_b.jpg

670C8652 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

25917129762_30d3fd6f62_b.jpg

670C8661 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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Game Warden

Om mani padme hum: @@kittykat23uk The scenery, culture and religious aspects of this trip have hooked me already.

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offshorebirder

Wow - great birding and photos @@kittykat23uk! Looks like you augmented your Ibisbill photo collection nicely.

 

Question for you: is the drinking bird in post #12 a Duarian Redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus)? Or is it perhaps Hodgson's?

 

A trip to Chitwan National Park in Nepal is fairly high on my to-visit list; you have me thinking about adding a leg in the Himalayas as well. I will be keenly following this T.R.

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kittykat23uk

Thanks @Offshore birder they are white winged redstart. Also known as Güldenstädt's

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egilio

Looking forward to the rest of this report! Ibisbill!!! I would love to those one day!

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xelas

It looks like Ladakh got the attention of more Safaritalkers this year. @kittykatuk23 the street photography is so rare on this forum, and yours photos are excellent.

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janzin

Also excited to read this report! Sigh, I fear this is one trip I won't ever do (simply hate the cold, hate camping, hate being uncomfortable and miserable on vacation LOL.) So I will have to live if vicariously. Although your photos are really making it tempting.....

 

Look forward to more!

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Galana

More great photographs to augment the text. So nice to see people and places as well as wildlife.

Looking forward to more.

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SafariChick

@@kittykat23uk I love the signs, always enjoy signs in other countries that are written in English: "Cute Arts and Crafts" and "New Fancy Cloth House" :)

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Kitsafari

Interesting that Lakadh is in India but has such strong influences from Tibet - the people seemed more akin to tibetans, nepalese and bhutanese than Indians. and then I read that it used to be the kingdom of Tibetan prince called Nyima Gon in the 10th century.

 

But my mind wandered to those incredible Himalayan sceneries that you so well captured - they are so breathtaking! just imagine sitting there with a book, with a cup of hot cha, is already my idea of bliss.....

Edited by Kitsafari

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TonyQ

I am really enjoying seeing the scenery, landscapes, people and places. It is a fascinating place to visit.

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kittykat23uk

Yes it is. It reminded me so much of our trip to China. To be honest, if you were wanting to visit the Tibetan plateau and ladakh, I would do ladakh first in hindsight. The assemblage of birds is very similar to Balang Shan and Ruoeregai. But in terms of scenery I found Balang Shan pass to be more impressive if that even seems possible. Although the valleys in Hemis are unspoilt by tar roads of course.

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