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SNOW LEOPARD SPECIAL: LADAKH

Tuesday 1st March - Monday 14th March 2016

MIKE WATSON

Snow Leopard, Ulley Valley, Ladakh - a rare multiple sighting (Mike Watson)

Snow Leopard, Ulley Valley, Ladakh - a rare multiple sighting (Mike Watson)

Our fourth visit to the mountains of Ladakh in search of Snow Leopards was another success and resulted in six sightings, involving at least five different cats and including a female with two fully-grown cubs as well as an ibex hunt! Whilst we enjoyed some nice scope views the leopards were too far away for anything other than DSLR record shots this time, however, everyone felt very privileged to simply set eyes on this beautiful cat in its spectacular natural habitat not just once but six times! Other mammalian highlights were: three sightings of Grey (or Tibetan) Wolf involving as many as 16 individuals (although there may have been some duplication); unusually close views of Siberian Ibex; numerous Urial, Ladakh’s endemic ‘red sheep’; any amount of Blue Sheep (or Bharal), the Snow Leopard’s favourite prey, as well as Woolly Hare, another hardy alpine inhabitant. Billed as a joint Birdquest/Wild Images tour, our birders were happy with a good selection of Himalayan specialities including: Himalayan Snowcock; Lammergeier; Himalayan Griffon Vulture; Golden Eagle; Ibisbill; Solitary Snipe (at least three); Hill and Snow Pigeons; Red-billed and Alpine Choughs; Güldenstädt’s Redstart; Tibetan Snowfinch; Robin and Brown Accentors; Brandt’s and Plain Mountain Finches; Streaked Rosefinch and Red-fronted Serin. A vagrant Ferruginous Duck almost fell victim to a young Northern Goshawk in the Indus Valley and a cashmeriensis form White-throated Dipper of the rare dark morph sordidus was probably our most significant avian sighting. As if this was not enough Ladakh’s jaw-dropping high altitude mountain desert scenery took our breath away (as well as the severe lack of oxygen up there!) and the truly delightful Ladakhis themselves made our stay a once-in-a-lifetime pleasant experience. They are definitely front-runners for the title ‘nicest people in the world’!

The unique Ibisbill on the banks of the sacred Indus near Leh (Mike Watson)

The unique Ibisbill on the banks of the sacred Indus near Leh (Mike Watson)