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In search of the Grey Ghost


kittykat23uk

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TonyQ

What an amazing animal - and an exciting sighting!

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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!

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 th

18 Feb 2016   I could say we were awoken with sweet, black bed tea at 0730, however considering I had barely slept, that wouldn't be too accurate! We pulled ourselves together and convened in the me

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bushbaby

Thanks for this great report...as something I HAVE to do sooner than later, this did keep me all interested :-)...I hate cold, I hate heavy winter gear, I hate trudging with my heavy gear, I hate high altitudes but I love the ghost ! So lets see !

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kittykat23uk

Thanks for this great report...as something I HAVE to do sooner than later, this did keep me all interested :-)...I hate cold, I hate heavy winter gear, I hate trudging with my heavy gear, I hate high altitudes but I love the ghost ! So lets see !

I would definitely recommend you get a porter then if you do this trip. Mine was worth his weight in gold and I had relatively little to carry in comparison to some of the other guys with their swarovski scopes and heavy tripods and camera gear.

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kittykat23uk

21 Feb 2016

 

By now I hadn't been sleeping at all well, I could not get used to being enclosed in the double sleeping bags- it was just really uncomfortable! I developed a really terrible stiff neck which stayed with me throughout the rest of the trip. :(

 

We scanned from the watchpoint for some time. One of the guys spotted what was believed to be a Saker falcon, at long range perched on a ridge. It dropped off to fly away and immediately was out of view.. This time we headed to Urutse mid morning. Around 20 Black-winged snow finches were seen en route to Urutse and a few more were seen over the week.

 

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Urutse Hike - Copyright Mike Edgecombe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Urutse Hike - Copyright Mike Edgecombe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Urutse Hike - Copyright Mike Edgecombe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Urutse Hike - Copyright Mike Edgecombe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Urutse Hike - Copyright Mike Edgecombe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Urutse Hike - Copyright Mike Edgecombe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2210698 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Urutse Hike - Copyright Mike Edgecombe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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670C9080 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Urutse Hike - Copyright Mike Edgecombe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Urutse Hike - Copyright Mike Edgecombe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Urutse Hike - Copyright Mike Edgecombe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Urutse Hike - Copyright Mike Edgecombe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Urutse Hike - Copyright Mike Edgecombe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Urutse Hike - Copyright Mike Edgecombe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Urutse Hike - Copyright Mike Edgecombe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

 

We watched Bharal feeding on the hillside before the camp staff arrived with lunch.

 

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P2210719 Bharal by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2210725 Bharal by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

We were just about to have our soup starters when one of the guides spotted an Eurasian Lynx! It was at a very great distance and took quite a while for me to work out exactly where I was meant to be looking in the telescope view, but I finally made out the form of a cat with tufty ears. The lynx was loafing at great distance on a snowy hillside with some rocky and bushy cover. At one point it got up, had a stretch, a scratch and relieved itself and had a little walk but soon sat back down apparently enjoying the sunshine.

 

 

 

10+ Tibetan Partridge also showed well in the valley below the house at Urutse.

 

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Urutse Hike - Copyright Mike Edgecombe by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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Galana

So that's Grey Ghosts, Wolves, Lynx and Tibetan partridges. Sounds like a great trip all round.

Loved the frozen rivers.

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pomkiwi

@@kittykat23uk An amazing sighting and a real journey /adventure to make it. Thank-you for taking the time to write this report.

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kittykat23uk

Thanks both for reading along! :D

 

After lunch we hiked back to the viewpoint at camp. No more cats were seen but I enjoyed watching an adult Lammergeier pursuing a smaller golden eagle and harassing it into dropping it's dinner, which appeared to be one of the legs of a bharal.Overnight I visited the long drop and spotted a small mouse with a pointy nose, hairless ears, greyish fur and an average length tail.

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pomkiwi

@@kittykat23uk ' spotted a small mouse with a pointy nose, hairless ears, greyish fur and an average length tail' - wot - no pictures :D??

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kittykat23uk

@@kittykat23uk ' spotted a small mouse with a pointy nose, hairless ears, greyish fur and an average length tail' - wot - no pictures :D??

Haha! No, one does not linger in the smallest room on a frosty night!

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kittykat23uk

22 Feb 2016

 

Today I decided to take it easy and so when the others went off on a hike to Stok-la I stayed behind and scanned with some others from the watchpoint at Rumbak. I didn't see anything other than Bharal and birds that we'd seen before and thankfully only missed a pika, which I think the guys decided was Royle's. I was glad to have had a day off and I actually spent some time taking pictures.

 

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20160222_092758 Rumbak- Hemis National Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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20160222_092759 Rumbak- Hemis National Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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20160222_092801 Rumbak- Hemis National Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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20160222_092808 Yak at Rumbak by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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20160222_092811 Yak at Rumbak by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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20160222_092826 Donkey train at Rumbak by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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20160222_092830 Donkey train at Rumbak by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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20160222_094729 Rumbak- Hemis National Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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20160222_094811 Rumbak- Hemis National Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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20160222_094815 Rumbak- Hemis National Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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20160222_110214 Yak, Rumbak- Hemis National Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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20160222_110224 Rumbak- Hemis National Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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20160222_110246 yak, Rumbak- Hemis National Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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20160222_111050 Yak, Rumbak- Hemis National Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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20160222_164748 Rumbak- Hemis National Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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Galana

Never mind lingering on a frosty night. Who, with the possible exception of King Julian, would think to take a camera in there with them?

 

Another set of nice set of photos showing how you suffered for us. Thanks for sharing these.

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Anomalure

@@kittykat23uk

 

Awesome trip report. The Snow Leopards are amazing, but seeing the Lynx (!!) and Tibetan Wolves too... Exceptional!

 

Did you see the Ladakh Urial near Ulley?

Edited by Anomalure
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deano

@@kittykat23uk - amazing adventure. The stealth, agility and camouflage of snow leopards must rank near the top of the list of "the best" in the animal world in my opinion. Beautiful animals and you got to see them in the wild with some other amazing beasts.

 

This trip report has a lot of the things I value in a "safari" destination - sort of self supported in the middle of nowhere, camping, almost strenuous to the point of being exercise, epic scenery, the possibility of one great sighting and the company of like minded individuals (love the shot of the full team at the end looking like an expedition to one of the Poles); and then you had to spoil it with the one thing that will definitely put me off anywhere - extreme cold! Minus 13 C at that...I don't know how you did it but thank you and thank you again for this trip report.

 

kind regards

 

deano.

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Atravelynn

"thankfully only missed a pika"

Good decision to stay behind.

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kittykat23uk

@@kittykat23uk - amazing adventure. The stealth, agility and camouflage of snow leopards must rank near the top of the list of "the best" in the animal world in my opinion. Beautiful animals and you got to see them in the wild with some other amazing beasts.

 

This trip report has a lot of the things I value in a "safari" destination - sort of self supported in the middle of nowhere, camping, almost strenuous to the point of being exercise, epic scenery, the possibility of one great sighting and the company of like minded individuals (love the shot of the full team at the end looking like an expedition to one of the Poles); and then you had to spoil it with the one thing that will definitely put me off anywhere - extreme cold! Minus 13 C at that...I don't know how you did it but thank you and thank you again for this trip report.

 

kind regards

 

deano.

 

 

I don't know how I did it either to be honest! :)

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kittykat23uk

"thankfully only missed a pika"

Good decision to stay behind.

 

Yeah I really needed a break.

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kittykat23uk

23 Feb 2016

 

We had the usual morning ritual of bed tea and breakfast followed by scanning from the watchpoint. No further snow leopards were seen, but we did sight another distant lynx. It was perhaps the same animal as 21st but was still not close enough to get any images as it seemed to be close to Urutse junction. It still spent most of its time loafing but also walked across a small snowfield, dropped scat and seemed to start stalking presumed Woolly Hares. The coat colour could be seen to be warm brown, the ears were very obviously pointed and long, and the shortish bob-tail was clear. It appeared to possess long, strong back legs.

 

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P1010626 Himalayan Snowcock by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

Around mid morning we hiked down the Rumbak valley back towards Husing. We came across a small flock of blue sheep (Bharal) which were really close and managed to get some lovely images.

 

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P2230806 Bharal by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2230816 Bharal by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2230826 Bharal by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2230871 Bharal by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2230886 Bharal (Blue Sheep) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

As a lover of anything bunny related, I was keen to see some pikas, especially as I hadn't seen any to date on this trip. I was therefore looking frward to getting to "pika point". Thankfully the pikas cooperated and we were able to observe at least three large-eared pikas scrambling around in the scree field.

 

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P2230891 Large-eared Pika by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2230912 Large-eared Pika by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2230918 Large-eared Pika by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2230926 Large-eared Pika by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

After lunch, we had the more arduous task of hiking back up to camp. We later scanned from the watchpoint again but did not see any cats. Hope for another sighting of the grey ghost was melting away with the rapidly receding snow. Conversation had by now turned to the possibility of cutting a day in favour of some extra time birding in Leh as everyone was by now getting a little tired of the constant cold..But we continued to tough it out at Rumbak for our last night.

 

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670C9317 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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670C9318 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

As it was our last night with the whole camp team, the guys baked us a cake to celebrate seeing the big three (Leopard, Lynx and wolf)

 

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cake by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

How they made it I have no idea as they didn't have an oven!

 

Overnight many of us were awoken by the eerie howling of the wolves who must have been making their way along the ridge above camp. two individuals were calling close to the camp, the classic single long howl. Several single calls were also heard and at one point, 2 animals howled together.

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Atravelynn

So you got your pika and your cake to eat it too. The cake sums it up!

 

What a successful trip! "this was not a trip I was looking forward to." If you could have read this trip report before you went, I think your pre-trip sentiments would have been very different.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Galana

Some great photos there. Blue sheep especially. Cute Pika without heading out up to Yurutse. I call that a wise move.

Shame the Lynx yet again eluded the camera. Decision to do this trip fully justified. Something to look back on with pleasure from your rocker on the porch. You have the photos and the memories.

And a day to come? Please.

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kittykat23uk

Knowing what I would see may not have changed my sentiment for this trip. I really did know that it would be hard on me and it really was. That's without running up and down mountains like you may have seen the bbc documentary planet earth team do. It was hard enough doing the supposedly gentle uphill trek each day and we did stick to the valley bottoms with those walks.

 

But if I had known we would be successful it would have saved a lot of worry but none of the hardship!

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Galana

But if I had known we would be successful it would have saved a lot of worry but none of the hardship!

 

But surely all wildlife trips are like that. One never knows and while we do all have high hopes, success is never guaranteed. Like I said above, you have a store of memories and a sense of achievement that few will ever have. Sincere well done!

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Big_Dog

The big three. Just fantastic.
Love the pika jumping photo too. :D
Interestingly on the wolves, they may not be typical grey wolves, but if new research is to believed a distinct species known as the 'Woolly wolf'. A new species in secret!

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TonyQ

Lovely images of the Bharal (amazingly agile creatures) and the Pika (well done for seeing this). The cake must have been a real treat.

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