Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks!!!

Despite 3 days of hard searching, we somehow failed to connect with Tigers at Corbett. What an absolute disaster. As Royal Bengal Tiger is the principal target species of the trip, it throws the rest of the itinery into question, as we simply have to see them. Current thinking is to spend a few days at Ranthambore NP, as it sounds like they have been fairly regular there. And if we do that at the end of the trip, then we cant inadvertently ruin the rest of the trip for ourselves by sacrificing too much time looking for them.
Aside from this obvious upset, our time in Corbett was very productive, with excellent views of some top quality mammals like Jungle Cat, Asian Elephant (wild). Golden Jackal, Wild Boar and 4 species of Deer, also some decent birds, with Hodgsons' Bushchat being the star (in terms of rarity), well backed up with Small Buttonquail, Brown Fish Owl, Pallas's and Lesser Fish Eagles, Himalayan Rubythroat and many more. Marsh Mugger and Gharial Crocodiles, along with some of the biggest freshwater fish i've ever seen provided even more interest. One of the highlights of the trip came from a dawn Elephant safari through the jungle and out into the grasslands, especially exciting as we could hear tigers roaring not that far away, alas not quite close enough.
Back in Ramnagar, a quick walk along the river this afternoon provided Long-billed Pipit, Bluethroat and Steppe Eagle, in some welcome hot temperatures to help us defrost from the freezing dawn and dusk safaris in Corbett.
One of the more amusing moments of our stay in the park came when JP realised that he had a problem controlling his language. During a stint in the Dhikala watchtower, a TGB (Thieving Gypsy Bastard) of a Rhesus Macacque mokey got a bit too close to an unattended packet of crisps, an eye-bulging scream of FUCK OFF!!!! soon sent it packing, but unfortunately also had the same effect on the very 'proper' American family who we were sharing the tower with. And you thought I was bad sometimes!!
Anyway, we're booked onto a train South from here (Ramnagar) tonight, getting off at the stinkhole that is Delhi early tomorrow morning, and then from there, well, it depends what trains are available, either out West to the Thar Desert, or down South to Gujarat and Goa, not certain yet.

Be sure to check back soon to find out just where the two Joes are off to next in the next exciting instalment of Joes Birding Blog!!
Dont know what the hell was about, just felt like pretending I was a TV presenter, the heat must be getting to me.

Friday, January 25, 2008


I'm writing this from an internet caff in Nainital, Northern India. I would rather be out birding but unfortunately a rather heavy blizzard has just started and we had to take cover.

Since the last update we've spent a few days at Royal Chitwan National Park, in southern Nepal, which were absolutely excellent.

After getting a posh tourist bus down to Narayanghat (stopping at the bus company's hotel en-route for all you can eat buffet lunch included with ticket, my god they regretted that, properly cleaned them out of noodles we did) we somehow managed to find a poxy little local bus down to the village of Meghauli. For this short journey we decided to sit on the roof of the bus, seemed like a fun idea at the time, 2 hours later we were scratched to hell from low hanging branches and bruised all over from a sightly bumpy ride. Somewhat shakily we made our way to Chital Lodge, a rather quiet place right on the edge of the National Park, where stayed for thre next 3 days/2 nights.
On our first full day we hired Jib, the owner for a visit deep into the jungle. Before we had even left the 'buffer zone' outside the park boundary, we scored with stunning close-up views of a massive Indian Rhino, we just hadnt reaisewd how big these things are, at about 30metres distance it was just huge, a real tank of a mammal. Stillbuzzing from this close encounter we headed into the park proper, wading through 2 rivers and catching a punted boat across another. We soon racked up plenty of decent birds including Great Hornbill, Black-backed Forktail, Speckled Piculet and Stork-billed Kingfisher to name but a few. Also some very fresh tiger pug prints in the sandy soil raised the heartbeat slightly. After a quick stop off at the exclusive Tiger Tops resort to "ooh and awww" at the baby elephants we headed back. Halfway back to meghauli we suddenly became aware of a load smashing sound nearby, Jib squealed "battling Rhinos, run!!!" and legged it down a side trail, needless to say, we decided that discretion was the bette part of valour and legged it after him, unfortunately, one of the rhino's, presumably the loser decided to come after us, we sprinted on back to the main path with several tons of hard, angry grey stuff close behind. On reaching the main path we took a turn towards the nearby checkpoint and its armed guards. Luckily, when the rhino emerged on the track soon after it only took a short stare at us, decided we werent weorth it and lumbered off into the jungle, phew!!! An incredibly scary moment but one hell of a rush at the same time!

The next day we just wandered around the buffer zone on our own for the morning , a wlak along the banks of a river we crossed the day before yielded a few pintail snipe, cinammon bittern, brown crake and a load of Hog Deer. Crossing over to the Rapti River we waded over to a large grassy island in the middle of the river. A quick scan of the opposite bank and i was onto a mid-sized greyish bird with a black crescent across the breast, it was sleeping, so i couldnt be sure, but if it was, boy was our luck in. Jib had told us he had seen one on the river a few weeks ago, but didnt expect it still be there. If only the bloody thing would wake up.
Soon enough a group of Golden Jackals appeared nearby, causing it to raise its head from under its wing, fucking IBISBILL, what a bird, and not expected at all at this site. it sat there for a few minutes showing of its downcurved reddish bill, like some murdering curlew, then went back to sleep, what a way to end the stay at Chitwan.

That afternoon we headed back to Narayanghat, and caught a bus for what would turn out to be the most hellish 12 hours of our lives, all the way over to Mahendranagar, on the Indian Border. my god, i have never been on such a shit bus, it was freezing cold from all the draughts, but this paled into insignificance against the bumpy ride, it had no suspension whatsoever and so jolted around all over the show, not helped by the appaling state of the roads. We were flipped around like rag dolls and bashed on the celing floor and seats in front, a night of utter hell. Still we made it on time (almost) and soon were on our way to the hill station here at Nainital.
I spent this morning birding around the town and nearby Snow View and Cheena Peak, picking up a few quality lifers including Rufous-backed Redstart, Spot-wiged Tit, Himalayan and Brown-fronted Woodpeckers, along with a load of other good mountain stuff.
If all goes plan we're catching a bus down to Ramnagar tomorrow, and from there heading into Corbett NP for tigers and avian goodies.

Oh, and i'm 3rd in the Surfbirds World Year Listing Rankings for 2008, cant see that lasting. Good luck to the current leaders Alan Davies and Ruth Miller in their attempt to break the world record, they're doing exceptionally well so far!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Back to life, back to reality

Wow, wot a mission that was.
We finally arrived back in Pokhara this morning after a mammoth few weeks up in the mountains, and what a trek it was. Since my last update, this is a basic review of what happened:

We got up at stupid o'clock to climb upto the famous Poon Hill, at 3200m to watch the sunrise over the Annapurna Massif, incredible views and only spoilt by the noisy rabble of chinese tourists, you would have thought that having gone to the trouble of illegally invading tibet and brutally occupying it for 60 years, they would have enough moutains of their own, anyway, this is a birding blog, and not a political views forum, so i'll stop before i say something that might be construed as racialist.

errm, yes, after the poon hill dawn we trekked down to Tatopani, an absolute bastard of a day that was, dropping about 1500m over the course of 6 bloody hothours, luckily Tatopani has an awersome natural Hot Spring, which for 25p provided an excellent warm muscle soother , as the air outside dropped to near freezing.
The next day we went back uphill to Ghasa where we stayed for 2 nights, partly for a rest day, and partly because the area holds some quality birds. On the "day off" I got up at 5 am and started climbing up to the Black Forest, about 1000m above ghasa, armed only with a puny LED headlamp. Somehow i managed to get to the top without tripping and fallin gback down to the bottom, and importantly scored with good views of a pair of Koklass Pheasant, several Hill Partridge, a load of Kalij Pheasant and an Upland Pipit, then back down near the village, i flushed a group of 3 Cheer Pheasant, result. After a long, totally knackering day i returned to the guest house to find JP totally relaxed having found time for a shave, shower and even a haircut, i hate birding sometimes.
anyway, after that we continued uphill over the next few days via Tuckche, a right dump, Marpha, the apple growing centre of the region, and the best bottle of cider i've ever had (high praise indeed from a Westcountry boy). Plenty of good birds here: Guldenstadts Redstart, Red-fronted Serin, Stoliczsa's Tit-warbler and Brown Accentor to name but a few. After that it was on to Kagbeni, and the border of the mystical Mustnag NP, we managed a very short and brief border crossing but didnt have the balls for a full scale excursion over, it might have been the threat of a Nepli prison that stopped us.
After Kagbeni it was up to the Pilgrimage village of Muktinath at 3800m, and some quite incredible landscapes (plenty of piccies to come). Some serious quality birds here: Solitary Snipe, Red-fronted and Great Rosefinch, Robin and Rufous-breasted Accentor etc.

The next day was yet again "the hardest day of the trip", and this time it will be diffilcult to beat. We left the Hotel at Dawn and spent the next 6 hours climbing up to the Throung La Pass, at 5416metres above sea level ,yes thats right 5416 metres, fucking high!
At about 4500m we both started suffering from Acute Mountain Sickness, a bit like a really bad hangover, banging headache, being very close to throwing up, and promosing never to do it again, still, we caried on, and were rewarded (well, i was) by a group of 5 Himalayan Snowcock on the path, incredibly followed soon after by about 15 Tibetan Snowcocks flushed around a corner, clealrly showing a huge white patch on the secondaries as buzzed down the valley.
After a few more gruelling hours we made it to the pass, what a feeling, aside fro msevere ligh-headedness, we were totally euphoric, as neither of us had seriously considered that we could make it, one of the greatest achievements that either of us has ever done.
After recovering quickly at the top and taking the obligatory ahppy-snaps we descended the 1600m back to muktinath, in jsut 3hours.
The next day we trekked down to Jomsom ,ready for a flight back to Pokhara the next day. If only things were that simple, the next morning, fierce winds cancalled all flights, and then unbelievably, also for the next 2 days. By the 3rd day we had lost patience so decided to take matters into our own hads, rather than risk losing more time to the weather, so yesterday morning we caught a jeep back down the incomplete road as far as Ghasa, the trekked like demons to tatopani in just 3 hours (a 5 hour walk apparently) form there we stumbled across a bus that had just dropped off a load of workers for the night shift on the road and persuaded them to take us back to Beni with them, where we stayed the night, before finally catching a crammed local bus back to Pokhara this morning. A most exciting way to come back down, and much more like real travel than the flight would be, and 25squid cheaper too.

Anyway, thats the last 2 weeks, what happens now then, well, tomorrow morning we're catching a bus to Royal Chitwan for a few days in the jungle ,they got fun and games there apparently (kid-listers, ask your parents).

Thats a very brief account, and I know i've not really detailed much of the bird sightings but it's all i can be arsed to do for the moment, i'll put it all in a proper trip report sometime.

Hopefully the next update will be full of tales of tigers, rhinos and elephants, and possibly even Ibisbill, if i can get over to Hetauda, and now its tiem to hit the bars of Pokhara and celebrate making it back to civilisation!!!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Crazy White Men

Wow, they have internet in the Himalayas, fair play.
Cant stay and write too much cos it costs a bomb, which is fair enough considering that some poor git had to carry the computer up here in the first place.
Basically, were knackered. The last few days have been spent trekking up to here at Ghorepani at 2970m, via Ghandruk and Taadapani, with the highest point being Derali at 3210m, by far the highest that either of us have ever been. Before coming here I thought that hiring porters was the preserve of the very rich and total jessies, but it seems that we are just about the only westerners carrying our own bags, no laughing matter when they're 25kg each. Andy Mcnab once wrote that you can only realistically carry a third of your own bodyweight for any length of time, now i'm no mathmetician but I only weigh 55kg, so i'm pushing that a bit, still, what does he know, silly twat got himself captured by a bunch of ragheads, anyway, I digress.
Birding has been pretty good so far, with such high altitude goodies as Pink-browed and Dark-breasted Rosefinches, Collared Grosbeaks, Red-headed Bullfinch, Red-flanked Bluetails, White-browed and Golden Bush-Robins and masses more, and we're not even in the best bit yey.
Tomorrow were heading north up the Kali Gandaki river to the hot springs at Tatopani, and from there slowly north again to Jomsom and muktinath, before flying back from Jomsom to Pokahara, and then down to the Jungles of Chitwan NP.
Well, must go, i need to save my cash for choclate, thats well dear too

Saturday, January 05, 2008

I'm Alive

OK, first post of the trip to let the folks back home know i'm, ok.
We arrived in Delhi early on Thursday morning and caught a 14 hour sleeper train out to Gorakphur that evening. Frome there we caught a bus up to Sunauli on the Nepali border and then on to the town of Pokhara, where we arrived late last night. The journey was pretty uneventful, tedious and birdless, with Bank Mynah, Asian Openbill and Masked Wagtail being the only lifers.
Pokhara hoitself is looking very promising, the garden of our hotel held a nice 1st winter Brown Shrike and a few Brahminy Starlings this morning, with flyover Red-rumped Swallows against a backdrop of the Himalayas being an excellent site to wake up too.
A quick walk this afternoon around the woods on the western shore of Phewa Tal produced Grey-bellied Tesia (excellent view of this ping-pong ball on legs), Himalayan Griffon and Black Vultures, Plumbeous Water Redstarts, Velvet fronted Nuthatch, Maroon Oriole, Asian Barred Owlet and Kalij Pheasant among others.
Tomorrow morning we set off on the Jomsom/ Thak Khola trek, hopefully getting as far as the Thorung La Pass. This should be one of the highlights of the entire trip with stunning views across the highest mountain rangs in the world and hopefully somequality wildlife. I doubt there's any internet cafes on the trek so this blog will return to its dormant state for a few days.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

World Year Listing

Seeing as how am hopefully getting a fair bit of travelling in this year, depending on how much work I can get in the summer of course, i've decided that I might as well have a crack at the sport of kings- World Year Listing.
The year didnt get off to a great start as the clock struck 12 while I was busy arranging cheesboards on my last day of work at the Orchid Restaraunt on Portland, where i've been working since finishing at the obs.
Still, I managed to haul myself out of bed at a fairly respectable hour this morning and racked up a few species around the island that might otherwise prove difficult to see this year, depending on my location for other winter months. The bill area itself was typically quiet but Portland Harbour scored with Long-tailed Duck, Black-throated and Great-Northern Divers and Red-necked Grebe, along with other wintering dross. The train journey north to my Mums house in Somerset added a few more species and I finished the day bang on 50 species, nothing spectacular about that but it was worth it for the couple of hours effort put in.

Highlight of the day however was a Redpoll sp South over Frome Railway Station, it's call just about audible over the recorded woman warning me that if I left my bag on the platform then Security Services would blow it up. Paranoid or what!!! I know it's got a big new ASDA's but Frome can hardly be high on Al Qaeda's strike list for the new year, there's so little stuff that even the local chavs cant be arsed trashing stuff anymore.

11 hours til I leave home, so excited!!!!