Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
Greater One-horned Rhino
This report outlines a three week trip undertaken with the aim of taking a trek and then visiting a lowland area; whilst we were not targeting any particular species, we wanted to maximise opportunities to see birds and other wildlife on the trip.
We chose the Langtang trek– a reasonable distance from Kathmandu, much less visited than the other main treks in Nepal, and providing some good birding opportunities. Langtang Valley is c70km North of Kathmandu, touching the Tibetan border. We followed the trek from Syabru Besi to Kyangjin Gompa and back to Dhunche, staying at tea houses which provide basic accommodation and a simple menu. Chitwan National Park was selected as a good lowland site for birding and some relaxation after the trek, again within reasonable distance of Kathmandu. Chitwan is some 80km to the Southwest of Kathmandu. Driving times are much more than would be expected for the distances due to road routes and condition. We spent a bit of time in Kathmandu at the start, middle and end of the holiday and took the opportunity to visit nearby Pulchowki. See outline map of sites visited, in photos.
For Langtang and Pulchowki, we used the services of Hathan Chaudhary of Nature Safari Tours (www.birdingnepal.com) based in Kathmandu. He proved to be a really excellent bird guide with exceptional knowledge and birding skills, including calls, meaning we saw many birds that we would otherwise have missed. He was also excellent company and organised everything for these parts of our trip – porters, trekking permits, accommodation, food, transport etc. Arrangements prior to arrival were made with Badri Pudasaini of Nature Safari Tours, who also met us on our first day in Kathmandu to make final arrangements. Everything was very well organised and we would thoroughly recommend Hathan, Badri and their company to anyone contemplating a wildlife trip to Nepal.
Flights were between London and Kathmandu via Doha with Qatar Airways, which proved very good.
We would recommend all of the hotels we used in Kathmandu and Chitwan – for more details see my reviews on Trip Advisor (“plymouthpete19”).
We used Helm’s “Birds of Nepal” by Grimmett, Inskipp & Inskipp and found it to be reliable and portable.
We had a brilliant trip, witnessing breathtaking scenery in the Himalayas, enjoying great Nepalese hospitality, some tasty cheap food, and seeing c270 species of bird plus a good selection of mammals.
24th March – Arrived Kathmandu
Checked into Shanker Hotel after dark.
25th March – Kathmandu
A pre-breakfast stroll produced a few common birds in the hotel grounds e.g. Asian Magpie Robin, Oriental White-eye, House Swift, Plain Martin and Black Kite. Met Badri to finalise arrangements for following day, and spent rest of day visiting Thamel’s many trekking and other shops, and sampling its food. A party of Flying Foxes were roosting in trees not far from our hotel.
Night spent in Shanker Hotel.
26th March – Drive to Langtang Valley
Met by Hathan and our head porter Chhing and set off for Syabru Besi (c5 hour’s drive) in 4x4 jeep on gradually deteriorating roads. Interest was added by a festival which was literally in full flow – consisting of throwing water bombs and powder paint at every passing car! Picked up two of our porters on the way as they walked towards Syaru Besi and they joined our luggage on the roof rack.
Birds seen en-route included Common Hoopoe, White-throated Kingfishers, Booted & Steppe Eagles, Pied Bushchat and Fire-breasted Flowerpecker.
We arrived at Hotel Trekker’s Inn in Syabru Besi and watched a Blue Whistling Thrush (subsequently commonly seen) and some Long-tailed Shrikes from the balcony, before the festival ended and it was safe to venture out along the river! Here we saw the first of many beautiful White-capped and Plumbeous Water Redstarts of the trip, had prolonged views of a Wallcreeper on the rock face and glimpsed a Crested Kingfisher. Other sightings included: Grey Treepie, Black-throated Tit, Himalayan Bulbuls, Striated Prinias, and Grey-hooded Warblers.
Met our other porters for the trip – Dill, Som and Suba.
27th March – Syabru Besi to Lama Hotel
Set off for our trek, walking all day – a steady climb from 1,480m to 2,390m, mainly through deciduous woodland and some bamboo undergrowth, with frequent stops for birds, tea and food! Having left a lot of kit in Kathmandu to lighten the porters’ load, we were amazed when they strapped two bags together before slinging them on their backs and romping off up the mountain!
We checked bee-hives on the cliff face beyond Landslide (one lot obvious from the path and the other beyond this, requiring a steep descent from the path towards the river) for Yellow-rumped Honeyguide but had no luck (at this time nor on the way back on 31st). However, a Goral appeared on the cliff at the first of these sites.
At Bridge during the afternoon, Hathan heard Nepal Wren Babbler and we all managed to get good but brief views of the bird on a moss-covered rock c10m up the path from the lodge. We saw our only Ashy Wood Pigeons (2) of the trip, and also found - Mountain Hawk Eagle, Speckled Piculet (2), Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers (10), Little Forktail, Black-faced Warbler (6), Striated Laughingthrush (3), a colourful Chestnut-tailed Minla (Siva), Stripe-throated, Whiskered and Rufous-vented Yuhinas, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker (3) and Black-throated Sunbird. We were lucky to stumble across two Yellow-throated Martens making their way up the rocky river-side.
Other sightings which were to prove quite frequent on the trek included: Besra, colourful Long-tailed Minivets and Yellow-belled Fantails, Ashy Drongo (2), Brown Dipper (4), Large-billed Crows, Verditer Flycatcher (3), Small and Rufous-bellied Niltavas, Grey Bushchat, White-tailed Nuthatch (2), Green-backed, Black-lored and Black-throated Tits, Black Bulbul (2), Oriental White-eye, Pallas’s (lemon-rumped) Warbler, Blyth’s Leaf Warblers (by far the commonest phylloscopus), Whistler’s and Grey Hooded Warblers, Streaked (8) and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes, White-browed Fulvetta, Rufous Sibias, Green-tailed Sunbird, White Wagtail, Olive-backed Pipit, Rufous-breasted Accentor (1) and Common (Grey) Langur (30+).
Stayed at Jungle Lodge, Lama Hotel, sampling the trickle of a cold shower before soup and rice dishes for dinner and an early night.
28th March – Lama Hotel to Langtang
Up before breakfast to check the mossy boulders beside the path on the downward side of Lama Hotel. Here, immediately below the steps, we enjoyed fantastic, prolonged views of a singing Nepal Wren Babbler and heard another. A great start to the day!
After porridge, bread and tea, we set off uphill encountering a number of good bird flocks, before we climbed above the trees for our first views of the spectacular craggy snow-clad mountain tops. The feeling of altitude had began to kick-in by the day end, having climbed to 3,500m.
Everything has to be carried up the mountain and we watched the incredible sight of huge wooden boards and metal bars being carried up the track by resilient locals.
Highlights included two Hoary-throated Barwings, expertly found by Hathan, which performed really well, 12+ male and 1 female Himalayan Monals (Nepal’s national bird) pushed down the mountain by poor weather, our only Scaly Laughingthrushes (12) of the trip and another Nepal Wren Babbler. Also the first of: many Rufous-gorgeted Flycatchers (4), Rufous-vented Tits, Rufous-fronted Tits, Beautiful Rosefinches, and Plain Mountain Finches; the first of a few Blue-fronted Redstarts, Yellow-browed Tits, Ashy-throated Warblers, Chestnut-crowned Warblers, White-browed Rosefinches (6) and Whiskered Yuhinas (2) ; a Red-flanked Bluetail (Orange-flanked Bush Robin); a Rusty-flanked Treecreeper; a Grey-crested Tit; Red-billed Chough (2);and over 50 Nepal House Martins. Variegated and Black-faced Laughingthushes were to appear on subsequent days but not in the numbers today – 20+ and 12 respectively.
New mammals were our only Assam Macaques (2) of the trip.
Stayed at Tibetian Guest House, Langtang – Pete & Jake got en-suite with cold shower and Steve & Paul got shared hot shower!
29th March – Langtang to Kyanjin Gumba
We woke up to spectacular views from our tea house, complimented by a flock of Snow Doves, 300+ of which we had counted by the day end.
Four Oriental Turtle Doves graced the fields as we left Langtang and as we climbed we encountered three Lammergeiers, our first of a number of Himalayan Griffons, 150+ Red-billed Choughs, 50+ Yellow-billed Choughs, and three more Himalayan Monals. Three Himalayan Thars were our only sighting of the trip. (Winter) Wren and Common Kestrel provided some familiarity.
After a tough morning’s walk in cold winds, with headaches beginning to develop due to altitude, we made it to Kyanjin Gumba at 3,850m. This high spot is surrounded by the most fantastic sharp-edged mountain lines. After lunch, in bitterly cold conditions, we walked down onto the rocky river bed below the settlement to search for Ibisbills. They can be remarkably camouflaged amongst the boulders, but eventually we found a dozen of these sought-after and attractively “painted” birds. We needed to cross a river to get further onto the rocks – no problem for Chhing, who simply “built” a bridge out of boulders for us! Also 15+ Rosy Pipits here.
Himalayan Tahrs(3)completed the day's sightings.
Stayed at Hotel Yala Peak, Kyanjin Gumba – no water for washing!
30th March Kyanjin Gumba to Rimche
Today we had intended to climb further, above 4,000m, and return to Kyanjin Gumba for a second night. But with the effects of altitude taking its toll on most of us, we changed our plans and descended (with the option of a different high climb on a later date).
Taking in every moment of the spectacular mountain scenery, picked out by the brilliant blue sky, we embarked on the long downhill walk, still fighting off headaches. Fewer birds today but we found two Lammergeiers, one performing at close range, our only Himalayan Swiftlets (6) of the trip, more Snow Pigeons, an Upland Buzzard and (lower down) the first of a few Green Shrike Babblers, Pink-browed Rosefinches and Coal Tits (the latter appearing somewhat different with a prominent crest).
A solitary Muntjac was our first of the holiday and just before we reached our tea house at Rimche, Steve spotted another Nepal Wren Babbler.
Feeling much better having descended to 2,440m, we checked into Evening View Moonlight Guest House at Rimche where we enjoyed great views from the bedrooms and, even better, the luxury of a hot gas-fired shower!
31st March - Rimche to Thulo Syabru
After an early morning stroll near the tea house, which produced a Nepal Wren Babbler (like all others seen this was a fulvous morph) in a similar spot to the night before, we returned for a breakfast of rice pudding, bread and honey. We then set off downwards with frequent stops for birds, having returned to the tree-clad areas. The area just after Rimche proved particularly productive, the highlight being two very close Red-headed Bullfinches. Also: Darjeeling (1) and Brown-fronted (2) Woodpeckers, Oriental Turtle Dove, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie (3), Dark-sided Flycatcher, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Little Forktail (3), a Wallcreeper (on boulders by the river), Fire-breasted Flowerpecker (6), an Orange-bellied Squirrel and Himalayan Sherw (the latter at the same spot as on 27th).
We descended to Landslide at 1,660m for lunch before embarking on a wet afternoon’s climb to Thulo Syabru (sometimes referred to simply as “Syabru”) at 2,200m. Highlights on this stretch were: Brown Bullfinch (flock of 17+), handsome Maroon Orioles (2), colourful Mrs Gould’s Sunbirds (2) and a Grey-winged Blackbird.
Stayed at Hotel Snowfall in Thulo Syabru, enjoying hot en-suite showers (while it lasted), nice views from the balcony and a varied menu, before bed.
1st April - Thulo Syabru to Shing Gumba
After breakfast in the sun outside, accompanied by a couple of Tree Sparrows, we took a very steep climb all morning through pine forest with ever-improving views. All round we could see jagged Himalayan peaks, with snowy tops glistening in bright sunshine; Hathan pointed out one section which is in Tibet. Birds included two handsome Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers, a (spotted) Nutcracker, an Ultramarine Flycatcher (sub species with supercilium), Darjeeling Woodpecker, Black Eagle, Eurasian (1) and Rusty-flanked (2) Treecreepers, Buff-barred Warbler (2), and a flock of 15+ noisy White-throated, and two Spotted Laughingthrushes.
At the top, lunch of soup and delicious mushroom rice was complimented by sightings of Mountain Hawk Eagle, (Red) Crossbill and Olive-backed Pipits in song flight. Although we had climbed to over 3,000m, no problems with altitude this time, presumably having become somewhat acclimatised.
The afternoon was quieter for birds but consisted of an enjoyable, leisurely walk through pine forest containing some brilliant red flowering rhododendrons (Nepal’s national plant), before arriving at Shing Gumba (3,300m). Six White-collared Blackbirds, four Red-flanked Bluetails and another Nutcracker were the best birds.
We arrived at the Yak & Nak in Shing Gumba where we enjoyed excellent hot showers en-suite and good food including tasty home-made bread.
2nd April - Shing Gumba to Gosain Kumda
Having become more acclimatised to the altitude, Steve, Pete and Jake opted for a big climb today, whilst Paul (suffering with a bad back) decided to spend the day birdwatching near the tea house.
The climb consisted of an all day walk to Gosain Kumda (4,400m) and back, enjoying superb views of the Tibetan range and Langtang peaks in beautifully clear conditions. Although we felt the effects of altitude again, we coped much better this time. All three of us completed the whole climb, having lunch at Gosain Kumba against the backdrop of its frozen lake before descending. Birds were few and far between at this altitude but on the slopes just below the peak, Hathan spotted a flock of Snow Partridges (9) which proved extremely confiding and photogenic and we also saw Upland Buzzard (2), Steppe Eagle (2), Rosy Pipit (2), and Altai Accentor (25). Two Plain-backed Thrushes, a male Fire-tailed Sunbird plus a few “repeats” were found in the trees lower down.
Returned exhausted to the Yak & Nak for a good night’s sleep.
3rd April – Shing Gumba to Dhunche & Kathmandu
An easy downwards stroll (by comparison with other days) through forest with our last glimpses of the mountains, before arriving at Dhunche (1,900m) for lunch – a super dal bhat.
Thirty Altai Accentors showed around the tea house as we left. Highlights during the walk to Dhunche through the trees were: a stunning but elusive Chestnut-headed Tesia; our only Brown-throated Treecreeper, White-browed Shrike Babblers (2 ) and Spot-winged Rosefinch (male); Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush (2), Nutcracker (2); and more White-throated Laughing Thrushes (10), Red-headed Bullfinches (3), Pied Bushchat (1) and Nepal House Martins. New for the trip were four Rhesus Macaques and we found several more Orange-bellied Squirrels.
Having said our thank yous and farewells to our superb porters, we were driven back to Kathmandu, negotiating the crazy late afternoon traffic before checking into the Shanker hotel again for some well-earned luxury and a cold beer!
4th April – Kathmandu
A down-day relaxing and shopping. Night spent at Shanker hotel.
5th April – Kathmandu to Chitwan
Picked up by car (arranged by the hotel we were going to) for the six hour drive to Chitwan, arriving late afternoon at the Sapana Village Lodge, Sauraha (our base for the next five nights).
Immediately started seeing birds in the lodge grounds which produced four Spotted Owlets and a Taiga Flycatcher (both present here throughout our stay) and a Slender-billed Oriole. We then enjoyed a great fish supper, whilst still birding from the restaurant balcony, seeing Stork-billed Kingfisher and Green (Little) Heron. Also in the vicinity were two Green and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, and the first of plenty of White-throated and Pied Kingfishers, Spotted Doves, Indian Pond Herons, Rufous Treepies, Oriental Magpie Robins, Asian Pied Starlings, Red-vented Bulbuls, Greenish Warblers, White-browed Wagtails and the huge Lesser Adjutants; plus the first of a few striking Citrine Wagtails.
We made arrangements for all our excursions in Chitwan through the Sapana (other options are available in the nearby village of Sauraha). Their senior wildlife guide Makunda, who led these trips for us, is a great guy and couldn't do enough to help us; he was very enthusiastic as well as being a pretty good birder and with wide knowledge of other wildlife. We recommend him.
6th April – Chitwan
We arranged an all day jeep trip taking us west through Chitwan National Park as far as Tiger Tops. Going for the full day allows you to reach the less disturbed western sections of the park which are good for wildlife.
Plenty of birds were on view in the park especially early on. Highlight was the endangered Bengali Floricin, a male expertly picked out by Makunda. The site which proved successful again two days later, is an area of grassland either side of the track just west of an army checkpoint c8km east of Tiger Tops. Look in the far left corner of the grassland (as you head west) best viewed from where the track rises slightly before it leaves the area.
Eight wonderful greater One-horned Rhinos including several youngsters were the mammal highlights and six Gaurs (Bison) and some Rhesus Macaques and Common Langurs were also sighted, together with Wild Boars, Spotted Deer, three Muntjacs and a Marsh Muggar.
Amongst our other sightings, Woodpeckers were well represented by two Fulvous-breasted Woodpeckers, a Lesser Yellownape, two Grey-headed Woodpeckers, and four striking Himalayan Goldenbacks. Also - Lineated Barbet, a flock of Lesser Whistling Ducks, four Lesser Coucals, parties of Rose-ringed and Red-breasted Parakeets, an Emerald Dove, a Purple Swamphen, six Bronze-winged Jacanas, an Oriental Honey Buzzard, single Grey-headed Fish and Crested Serpent Eagles, two Shikras, a Collared Falconet, an Oriental Darter, a Long-tailed Shrike, two Red-billed Magpies, single Indian and Eurasian Golden Orioles, two each of Large and Black-headed Cuckoo Shrikes, a Rosy and four Scarlet Minivets, a White-bellied Drongo, a Common Iora, two Hill Mynas, four Chestnut-bellied Nuthatches, some Black Bulbuls, single Grey-breasted and Yellow-bellied Prinias, two Common Tailorbirds, a Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, three Chestnut-capped Babblers, a Scaly-breasted Munia, three Common Rosefinches, and eight spectacular Asian Paradise Flycatchers.
We also saw the first of a number of Indian Rollers, Red Junglefowl, Indian Peafowl, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpeckers, Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters, Common Hawk Cuckoos, Plum-headed Parakeets, Red-collared Doves, White-breasted Waterhens, Red-wattled Lapwings, Red-naped Ibis, Red-whiskered Bulbuls, Black-hooded Orioles, White-rumped Shamas, Pied Bushchats, Chestnut-tailed Starlings, Jungle Mynas and Jungle Babblers.
7th April – Chitwan
After crossing the river by canoe at Sauraha, we took a morning’s walk with Makunda and another guide, through the park, taking in forest, open bush and grassland. There were plenty of signs of Tiger – footprints and scratch marks – but the beast itself remained elusive.
Highlights were a spectacular Brown Fish Owl perched in the tree tops and prolonged views of a White-tailed Rubythroat bathing in a small pool. Other new sightings included a dozen Ruddy Shelducks, a Bar-headed Goose and two Little Cormorants on the river, an Asian Koel, 10 Crested Treeswifts, parties of Orange-breasted Green Pigeons, a huge Asian Openbill, a Black Redstart, four each of Dusky and Blyth’s Reed Warblers, eight Striated Babblers, four Sand Larks (by the river) and a Bay-backed Shrike. Waders on the riverside included two each of Green Sandpiper and Temminck’s Stint. Single Black and Booted Eagles appeared overhead and we found a Dark-sided Flycatcher.
Two Hog Deer and a huge Sambar with impressive antlers were also seen.
The afternoon was spent relaxing around the hotel where the Pipits by the river, proved to be Paddyfield and a few Rosy.
8th April – Chitwan
With Paul resting his back, Pete, Steve and Jake headed out for another all-day jeep trip, this time going well west of Tiger Tops. The adventurous driver took us down some interesting side tracks where we found plenty of wildlife including at least 50 Gaurs! However these were upstaged by a superb Sloth Bear carrying two cubs on her back, spotted by Makunda. A single Gharial lounged around in the river.
New bird sightings included: Kalij Pheasant (3), Rufous Woodpecker, Blue-throated Barbet, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Green-billed Malkoha (4), Greater Coucal (2), Alexandrine Parakeet, Jungle Owlet (2), White-eyed Buzzard, Indian Spotted Eagle, Black Stork (2), Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (2), Common Woodshrike, Pale-chinned Flycatcher (2) and Common Quail. We also came across a flock of 20+ Greater Necklaced Laughingthrushes, found half a dozen more Greater One-horned Rhinos including one taking a dip in the lake, and counted 150+ Spotted Deer. Paul found Grey-crowned Prinia upstream from the hotel.
We celebrated Jake’s 17th birthday with a huge cake provided by the hotel!
9th April – Chitwan
At first light two Baya Weavers appeared in the hotel garden and a male Black Francolin wandered by while we ate breakfast. Then Steve, Jake and Pete took an early morning elephant ride in the Community Forest. This was of little interest bird-wise but a Greater One-horned Rhino showed right below us!
After sitting out the heat of the day, at the hotel, from where we watched a Black-winged Kite and Woolly-necked Stork, Steve and Pete birdwatched along the river over the bridge from the hotel. Here we added two Zitting Cisticolas doing the familiar song flight, a Rufous-winged Lark and two Oriental Skylarks to the list.
In the evening we walked to Sauraha and from the canoe crossing spot, followed the river bank to a promising area of forest and grassland. Here, having missed it in the Park, we were delighted to see a fine Great Hornbill fly over. Other new species were Yellow-footed Green Pigeon (4) and a Chiffchaff. A good gathering of 40+ noisy Alexandrine Parakeets completed the evening’s walk.
10th April – Chitwan to Kathmandu
Early morning, we visited the same area as yesterday evening seeing our only Stone-curlews(Eurasian Thick-knee)of the trip (2). Other sightings included three more Rufous-winged Larks, another Common Hawk Cuckoo, and Yellow-footed Green Parrots had increased to 40+. Then we set off on the hot bumpy trip back to Kathmandu, arriving early evening at the Kantipur Temple House for our last two nights in Nepal.
11th April – Pulchowki
We were picked up by Hathan and headed for Pulchowki (also sometimes spelt “Phulchowki”) a forest covered peak less than an hour’s drive from Kathmandu (20km southeast). In recent years the area has become unsafe to visit without taking precautions, with a number of tourists getting robbed. One such attack had occurred just a month before our visit. Therefore, on the way Hathan had arranged for us to pick up two armed police officers who accompanied us for the whole day! Birding consisted of driving part way up the peak then walking stretches with the driver following in the jeep behind.
Perhaps half way up, we started birding from a sharp bend by a disused building and a “milestone”. This is a traditional spot for the site’s speciality – Cutia. Several hundred metres up the track from here, Hathan heard and then we saw this fantastic species showing extremely well on moss-covered branches, eventually clocking up four birds. A Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon and a flock of six or more attractive Black-throated Parrotbills also showed nearby.
Further up, near a small pool beside the track (the only real water here) we came across a large mixed flock of phyllosocpus warblers containing plenty of Blyth’s Leaf, three Ashy-throated, at least six Hume’s Leaf, two Greenish, and a Western-crowned. Also in the vicinity were six Oriental Turtle Doves and six Grey-winged Blackbirds.
Other sightings during the day included: Darjeeling Woodpecker, Himalayan Griffon (2), Long-tailed Minivet, Eurasian Jay (2), White-throated Fantail, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Dark-sided, Taiga and Ultramarine (2) Flycatchers (the latter without a supercilium), Yellow-browed and Black-throated Tits, Chestnut-headed Tesia (3) showing well at times, Whistler’s (2), Grey-hooded (2), Black-faced and Chestnut-crowned Warblers, Striated Laughingthrush, Black-chinned Babbler, Hoary-throated Barwing (3+), Chestnut-tailed Minla (Siva) (6), a Rufous-winged and some White-browed Fulvettas, Whiskered (2) and Stripe-throated (3) Yunhinas, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker (2) and Green-tailed Sunbird.
On the decent we picked out a well-camouflaged White’s (Scaly) Thrush and lower down, completed the day and our overall birding in Nepal with Golden-throated Barbet (2) and Himalayan Cuckoo (2).
12th April – Kathmandu
A day spent around Thamel before flying home....
Langtang, by Steve Cox
Cutia, Pulchowki, by Jake Aley
Greater One-horned Rhino, Chitwan, by Pete Aley
Snow Partridge, Gosaikunda, Langtang trek, by Pete Aley
Hoary-throated Barwing, Riverside, Langtang trek, by Pete Aley
Pete Aley - contact me for further info - firstname.lastname@example.org