Welcome to Birdquest

SNOW LEOPARD SPECIAL: LADAKH

Wednesday 1st March - Friday 17th March 2017

MIKE WATSON

Snow Leopard, Hemis NP (Mike Watson)

Snow Leopard, Hemis NP (Mike Watson)

Our fifith visit to the mountains of Ladakh in search of Snow Leopards was another success and resulted in two sightings, involving maybe two different cats, however, the second of these was certainly our most prolonged close range encounter so far involving a leopard at its Blue Sheep kill over the course of three days! Many thousands of images later we felt we could hardly better it so we did not spend quite as much time scanning as usual and looked for other animals instead. This resulted in a longer bird and mammal list than last time when we spend many more hours at vantage points. Other mammalian highlights included: two sightings of Grey (or Tibetan) Wolf; Siberian Ibex; Urial, Ladakh’s endemic ‘red sheep’; any amount of Blue Sheep (or Bharal), the Snow Leopard’s favourite prey, as well as other hardy alpine inhabitants such as Woolly Hare, Mountain Weasel and (Tibetan) Red Fox. The Tibetan Plateau Extension added Argali (the world’s largest sheep) and Kiang (Tibetan Wild Ass).

Billed as a joint Birdquest/Wild Images tour, our birders were happy with a good selection of old favourite Himalayan specialities including: Himalayan Snowcock, Lammergeier, Himalayan Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, Ibisbill, Solitary Snipe (three plus another while acclimatizing pre-tour), Hill and Snow Pigeons, Eurasian Eagle Owl, Red-billed and Alpine Choughs, White-browed Tit-Warbler (six), Wallcreeper, Güldenstädt’s Redstart, Brown Dipper, Robin and Brown Accentors, Brandt’s Mountain Finch, Streaked and Great Rosefinches, Twite and Red-fronted Serin on the main tour. We also added several new species to the Birdquest list for this tour, notably Black-throated Accentor (three plus another seven pre-tour) and White-winged Grosbeak but also more common and widespread species such as Little Grebe, Red-crested Pochard, Great Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, Himalayan Buzzard, Eurasian Jackdaw, Water Pipit, Tibetan Blackbird and Blue Whistling and Song Thrushes. The Tibetan Plateau Extension added Tibetan Partridge, White-throated Dipper and Blanford’s and Tibetan Snowfinches as well as the amazing Ground Tit (or Groundpecker). As if all this was not enough Ladakh’s jaw-dropping high altitude mountain desert scenery took our breath away (as well as the lack of oxygen up there!) and once again the truly delightful Ladakhis themselves made our stay another once-in-a-lifetime pleasant experience for our group. They are still front-runners for the title ‘nicest people in the world’!