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In search of the Grey Ghost


kittykat23uk
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kittykat23uk

Yes at least we did see it. :D

 

19 Feb 2016

 

We scanned from the watchpoint early AM, other than a few birds, nothing was seen of note. We then hiked up the valley towards Urutse, gingerly crossing more frozen rivers. We turned left at the junction between the two valleys and continued on at pace. K.C. was on a mission! He had spotted a kill. The hike was arduous, as we scrambled along loose scree slopes overlooking the frozen river valley.

 

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P1010309 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P1010314 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

 

 

After what seemed like an age, with breath heavy in my chest we reached a scree slope where scopes were being set up. It was an awkward spot to view comfortably from, but we made it work as a Tibetan wolf was hiding in the bushes beside a dead Bharal. The guides believed it was a Snow Leopard that had made the kill and that the wolves had most likely muscled in. There was one wolf at the kill, which briefly popped it's head up now and then.

 

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P1010350 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P1010358 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

 

Eventually it became bolder and emerged to feed on the carcass. We spent at least an hour watching the wolf feeding. Another wolf was resting up on a rock higher up the valley. When the first one finished eating, we hoped that it would leave and that the Snow leopard might return to reclaim the carcass.

 

Unfortunately the patient partner wolf had other ideas. He raced down the side of the mountain and with great strength, picked up the carcass in it's mouth and dragged it away back up the mountain. It seemed to vanish behind a ridge and I couldn't see it after that, but my video camera actually picked up both wolves further to the left as they headed up the mountain.

 

 

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P2190664 Tibetan Wolf with Blue sheep kill. by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

A golden eagle descended to feed on the remnants. Lunch arrived soon after and we then began our return to camp. Coming down seemed much less strenuous than getting up there, but near disaster befell me as I slipped on some hidden ice and fell badly on my backside against a dagger-like rock! I had to stop and try to compose myself such was the pain of the injury. I suffered the rest of the trip- lying down was particularly uncomfortable, as was sitting on the camp chairs and at the watchpoints. But it wasn't until I got back to Leh and examined myself in a mirror that I realised how badly bruised I was. If I'd landed anywhere else I surely would have broken something!

 

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P1010377 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P1010384 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P1010385 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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670C8826 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

 

We scanned from camp for the remainder of the day but did not see any other mammals. As darkness approached we were pleased to see that clouds were gathering and it was starting to snow. We were hopeful that this could be a good omen for the next day...

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Fantastic sighting of the wolves :)

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ellenhighwater

Very cool, I'm greatly enjoying this. Thanks for your detailed report. Note to self: If you ever go in search of snow leopard pack a pair of micro-crampons.

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Terrific sighting. If your main quarry proves difficult these would be great as consolation prize.

The photo of the Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture) is darn good too.

Looking forward to more.

Hope your fall was not too bad.

Edited by Galana
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Great wolf sighting! Hope you had a speedy recovery from the fall once you got home. Great trip report so far, looking foward to more.

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michael-ibk

Wow, what a cool wolf sighting! Very sorry to hear about your injuries - this trip really was hard work for you.

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SafariChick

Very cool about the wolf sighting and I also sympathize about your injury. That is totally something that would happen to me! Not sure I would ever do this kind of trip so it's great to see it through your eyes (and lens!)

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@@kittykat23uk, have to repeat what others have said, the Wolf sighting is very special. You have had some luck with Wolf around the globe, jealous.

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kittykat23uk

Indeed I have! Seen wolf on 3 continents and five countries to date, including two different subspecies in India. But I can't ever get enough of these magnificent animals! :)

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What an excellent wolf sighting!

I really admire you for doing this trip - it looks very cold, and I know the altitude makes walking up steep slopes very demanding.

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Way to go with the wolf! Kind of a side bonus.

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kittykat23uk

Very cool, I'm greatly enjoying this. Thanks for your detailed report. Note to self: If you ever go in search of snow leopard pack a pair of micro-crampons.

 

Yes I had been told crampons were not required, I beg to differ! <_<

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kittykat23uk

Terrific sighting. If your main quarry proves difficult these would be great as consolation prize.

The photo of the Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture) is darn good too.

Looking forward to more.

Hope your fall was not too bad.

 

Thank you, I can't claim props for that, the Lammergeier is one of Mike's photos.

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kittykat23uk

What an excellent wolf sighting!

I really admire you for doing this trip - it looks very cold, and I know the altitude makes walking up steep slopes very demanding.

 

Yes, we recorded -13c in our tents! We had ice on our sleeping bags. So it was pretty cold... :ph34r::blink:

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kittykat23uk

20 Feb 2016

 

The snow became more persistent overnight and we woke to a few inches on our tents and white-out conditions which continued into mid morning. We waited it out patiently in the mess tent with copious tea and coffee. Once the snow finally lifted we set out for a hike up to Rumbak village. These are all Mike's photos, after my fall the previous day I wasn't really feeling up to taking pictures..

 

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P1010386 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P1010387 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P1010389 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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670C8846 Rumbak Village Copyright Mike Edgecombe. by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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670C8848 Rumbak Village- Copyright Mike Edgecombe. by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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P1010392 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

A few birds were seen around the stands of trees and buildings, including the red-breasted robin accentor, Great tit, 3+ Brandt's mountain finch, 3+ rosefinches around the village, these were heavily streaked, dark female-type birds only, no males. They were also seen a few days later at the same place. After a lot of discussion during and after the trip, consulting various birding experts, the group finally settled on Streaked rosefinch as the ID for these birds. The other candidates, as I understand were Brandt's and Great. Flocks of horned larks stuck to the mountainsides and a few Hill pigeons cound be found perched on the Tibetan architecture. Himalayan snowcock were seen in small numbers unlike Chukar which were pretty common. We returned to camp to scan after lunch.

 

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P1010480 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P1010481 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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670C8871 Robin Accentor- Copyright Mike Edgecombe. by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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670C8898 Streaked rosefinch - Copyright Mike Edgecombe. by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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670C8992 Chukar- Copyright Mike Edgecombe. by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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670C9008 Hill Pigeon- Copyright Mike Edgecombe. by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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670C9032 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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670C9033 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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670C9036 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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Fantastic stuff! I am very late, but what sightings. Snow leopard and wolves stealing a kill, just amazing.
Look forward to more...and hope the injury wasn't too severe and was the first and last!

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kittykat23uk

We were scanning from the watch point above camp for the remainder of the afternoon and all of a sudden our guide begins to get very animated! He's spotted a Snow Leopard!!

 

It was getting on in the afternoon and he managed to pick it out on a massive craggy escarpment at about 750m from the Rumbak watch point. Everyone was scrambling to get onto it, but thankfully the guides were really efficient.

 

Here's the view of the escarpment:

 

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P1010391 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

The leopard was making it's way down the face of the rocky escarpment in the middle of the frame, a good zoom on the scope was definitely needed to make it out. It moved down the slope, in and out of gullies, across ridges and around massive shoulders of rock. Very agile and powerful, a simply beautiful animal, the tail being very long and broadening at the darker tip. A few times, we'd lose it in the rocks and then re-find it by spotting the huge tail waving from behind a rock or crag… As it went, it regularly scent marked, dropped scat and rubbed it's face up against rocks by jumping up slightly just as a domestic cat does. Half way down, it lounged on a flat rock for 10 mins surveying the surroundings, when its massive paws and aloof facial expression were obvious.

 

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P1010447 Snow Leopard- Copyright Mike Edgecombe. by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

It was enough time to be able to get my camcorder set up. Even at the furthest range of the zoom, it still looked tiny in the frame..

 

 

Mike used his GH4 paired to his swarovski scope and managed to get some closer footage (At Mike's request, this video is unlisted - please don't circulate further) I managed to pull off a few video grabs of this magnificent cat:

 

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Snow leopard 1 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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snow leopard 2 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Snow leopard 4 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

:D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D

 

The Snow leopard eventually descended the escarpment and vanished behind the ridge in front after about 30 minute. Looking in the opposite direction, the guides spotted three very distant woolly hares, frolicking in the snow, but they were way too far for any photos, not even a record shot!

 

Dusk began to take a grip on the valley and we eventually got so cold that we needed to retire to the mess tent. But no sooner had we served up some celebratory hot chocolate complete with a wee drop of rum, than we were called out to see the Grey Ghost had reappeared! We watched it cross a neighbouring snowfield from the camp site (the mountain to the left in the picture posted above). It was closer, visible to the naked eye but the light had gone and it soon disappeared over the ridge.

 

With that little encore over, we retired again to the mess tent to celebrate our good fortune! :D

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michael-ibk

Awesome!!!!! I bet you forgot about your bruises while watching!

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fantastic animals, must have been a thrill to seem them in the wild.

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Great sighting. Well worth the effort.

Nice birds. That Rosefinch was indeed a tough call. Lovely snow scenes.

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offshorebirder

What a fantastic sighting and a wonderful trip @@kittykat23uk! Good for you Jo.

 

Seems well worth the arduous trip to reach it.

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Fantastic sighting! I think that must have suddenly made the -13 in your tents bearable :)

 

And on a slightly more mundane note Rumbak village looks beautiful and as for those snowy mountain vistas..wow!

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Towlersonsafari

Woo hoo!

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Wow! Awesome trip and great report with practical tips and blow-by-blow account!

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