The Ladakh Tour – Snow Leopard, Photography & Birds
Report By : Deepak Kumar
Naturalist and Guide at Asian Adventures
Birding in Leh
Temperature -10 degrees
Date 27th Feb 2017
After A day of rest and getting acclimatization with the aid of my Dimox tablets, which made it easier to cope with to the high altitude. The Following day after a good night rest we began our tour after breakfast. We scanned the nearby areas of Leh, spotted many (water birds) Wall creeper, Ibis Bill, brown dipper, Mallard, Winter wren, Solitary snipe, Comman Pochard, Ruddy shelduck.
In the near by dry grounds, rocky hills the following were sighted Robin Accentor, Brown Accentor, Red fronted Serrain, long leg buzzard and upland buzzard.
The next day was scheduled to visit the Hemis National Park to sight the Snow leopard (Panthera uncia). With its secretive nature and rocky habitat, a perfect camouflage makes sightings of the snow leopard rather difficult. Like most Big Cats the snow leopard is most active during early hours of the day and the evenings so we planned to start early the following morning.
Hemis National Park
Date 28th February 2017
Temperature -11 degrees
After breakfast, we head out to the Rumbak Valley, scanning for the snow leopard. On route, we spotted birds of the region such as the Chukkar, Himalayan snow cock, Golden Eagle, Lammergier. After an entire day driving past snow clad mountains, scanning for the Snow leopard, we spotted a Mountain Hare, the Pikka a small mountain rodent. It was not until later in the afternoon when we finally sighted the Snow leopard. Excited to see the beast we followed it for a while until it was time to head back to camp.
Rumpak Valley Leh
Date 1st March 2017
Thrilled and excited to have spotted the Snow leopard the previous day, we started early at 6:30 am from our mountain camp. After almost an hour of scanning we spotted the Snow Leopard 7:30am, we followed it around for hours and realized it was on a hunt. The Snow Leopard mainly preys on the bharal (Himalayan blue sheep) We were ecstatic to have the opportunity to watch the big cat as it set its eyes a herd of Blue Sheep. Our distance from the cat was about 700 mts, we waited and watched as it attempted to make a kill on the herd. Luck favored the herd as they fled in great speed. Our Group followed the Snow leopard till late in the afternoon, finally around 4:30pm when it became evident that we could follow no further, we turned back and headed for our mountain camp.
Date 2nd March 2017
We got news early morning, of the snow leopard being sighted near the Rumpak Village. The Rumbak village consist of 9 family homes mostly locals (Tibetan Refugees). The villagers run cosy home stays for tourists visiting the area. The villages filled with Tibetan prayer flags, the kitchens are where the families gather around. These Ladakhi homestays serve Tibetan dumplings and noodle soup thukpa, barley porridge tsampa and delicious homemade jams. We continued scanning the mountains for the Snow leopard. Spotted a golden eagle soaring above us. After hours of scanning the craggy mountains we spotted the snow leopard at a close distance of approximately 300mts. The close sighting was a great opportunity for fellow photographers as they took stunning shots. Birds sighted in the region were the Great Rosefinch and the Streaked Rosefinch, Hill Pigeon and White Browed Tit Warbler.
Date 3rd March 2017
After breakfast, we left for the Rumbak Valley for wildlife and bird photography. We arrived at a frozen waterfall, the landscapes were just out of this world. The species of birds we spotted were the Brandts mountain finch, Plain mountain finch, Chukkar, Snow partridge, Solitary snipe, Tibetan snow finch, Himalayan snow cock. It was not till late afternoon when we finally sighted the solitary beast, we followed it for a while before we returned to camp.
Date 4th March 2017
Post Breakfast we returned to Leh, on route we spotted the Black Magpie, Solitary Snipe, White Winged redstart, Wal creeper, black throated thrush, golden eagle, brown dipper, Himalayan Griffon. Arriving in Leh we checked in to the Hotel and had lunch. Later in the afternoon we visited the Thiksey Monastery. Considered the most beautiful Monastery it hosts many devotees and visitors. The last night we spent at the hotel in Leh.