BARDIA NP. IN SEARCH OF THE BENGAL TIGER.

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Bardia National Park is the largest wilderness area in the Terai lowlands.It’s not as touristy as Chitwan and offers great wildlife watching experiences.Together with the Banke National Park it protects one of Asia’s largest stretches of tiger habitat.The park is covered with a mixture of grassland, savannah and riverine forest.

Bardia has a moderate tiger population, with an estimation of 25 adults and a total of about 60 individuals.Other mammals that inhabit the park are Asian Elephant, Indian Rhino, Spotted Deer, Hog Deer, Barking Deer, Sambar Deer, Nilgai, Black Buck, Wild Boar, Leopard, Wild Dog, Golden Jackal, Stripped Hyena and Gangetic Dolphin.

There are more than 350 species of birds including cormorants, egrets, storks, geese, junglefowls, kingfishers, hornbills plus endangered species such as the Bengal Florican, Silver-eared Mesia and the Sarus Crane making the park a true delight for bird watchers.

To get there I got a bus from Pithauli to Kawasoti and then another one to Nepaljung.The trip was a quite hard experience,sitting between the gear level and the seat beside the driver.Once in Nepaljung another bus dropped me in Bardia.There are quite many budget guesthouses and not many tourists.

I paid for a 4 wheels and a guide for next day.Some people go walking along the trails,but due to the high density of tigers i decided to go by car.A guy told me that next to a belor tree there were fresh tiger and rhino tracks.This tree was located at the end of a trail, beside the river that bifurcates in Tunkini.In Tunkini there is a watching tower ( R.Manchan ) where you can watch wildlife going to drink to the river.

Next morning I woke up early before sunrise and went to the park with the guide.We saw some fresh tiger tracks on a path.

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We stopped in some spots that are good for tiger watching, beside the Kamali river.I walked a bit to explore the surroundings and we waited a long time for the tiger to come to drink.I was a bit nervous thinking that a tiger could appear at any time.Tigers are quite secretive and difficult to observe and i wasn’t lucky enough to spot one in the morning.You can see a picture of the habitat of the tiger below.

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However i spotted other interesting wildlife.A river otter captured my attention swimming in the river.I saw as well a pair of Asian Elephants,one Indian Rhino grazing on the grass a bit far from the car,Spotted deers,Grey Langurs,Rhesus Macaques and a pair of Mugger Crocodiles.

Birds were quite active during early morning.Red Juglefowl were seen crossing the dirt track.Other birds seen were Indian Peafowl, Great-Slaty Woodpecker, Indian Grey Hornbill, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Pied Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Rose-ringed Parakeet, flying on flocks, River Lapwing, see the first picture below, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Black Ibis, Grey Treepie, White-tailed Robin, see the second picture below, Jungle Myna and Jungle Babbler among others.

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Next morning i spend it doing bird watching around the gardens of the guesthouse and nearbies,where i could see a pair of Purple Sunbirds nesting.

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Other interesting birds near the guesthouse were the Great Tit, Oriental White-eye, Asian-Pied Starling, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Indian Grey Hornbill, Crimson Sunbird, Green Bee-eater, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater and Blue-tailed Bee-eater among others.

Afterwards i head to Tansen,to see the vultures, and finally to Pokhara,a small town with a beautiful lake and stunning views of the Himalayas when it’s not cloudy.I was planning to do a trekking to the Anapurnas to watch some montane birds when the earthquake stroke in Nepal.I had to sleep beside the lake, where there were no posts or other things that can fall down.It was a quite tense situation.The roads to Kathmandu were blocked,so i had to fly.Once i arrived in Kathmandu airport,i saw many people in the entrance and the situation was very chaotic.My embassy provided me accommodation and next day i went back to the airport to book  a flight.I could manage to book a ticket for the same day.Once I arrived in Delhi i felt happy,safe and calm but at the same time i felt pity and sorrow for all the people i knew along my trip and that maybe they possibly died.Hope all my best to the Nepalese people.They are one of the nicest and kindest people that i have ever known.

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Next trip Masai Mara,in Kenya, with new adventures, bird checklists and many pics of birds and other interesting wildlife !! See you soon my friends !!

INDIAN RHINO, A STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL

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Indian Rhino ( Rhinoceros Unicornis ) is a one-horned rhino found in Northern India and Nepal. It’s the second-largest living rhinoceros, behind only the white rhinoceros.They length up to 380 cm and weight up to 2200 kg. They have noticeable physical differences from their African relatives.Their segmented hide looks like a formidable coat of natural body armor.Its skin is brownish-grey with raised bumps on the neck shoulders and neck.Its flexible skin between the thicker hide “plates” allows them to shift as the rhinoceros moves.Its single horn distinguishes it from its African counterparts, who all have two horns.

Rhinoceros have poor eye sight but sharp hearing and an excellent sense of smell.Indeed they use their smell to find other rhinos.They can move very quickly and charge when feel threatened, reaching speeds of up to 50 km/h.They usually follow well-established paths.They usually live in tall grass habitat.

They feed on grass,fruits and leaves.They remain active in the first and last hours of the day, spending the rest of its time submerged in nearby rivers or mud holes.

Their gestation period last 15 to 16 months period.The mother and the offspring stay together while the male live a solitary life except when mating.The copulation can last up to an hour.That’s why some people thought that their horn have some aphrodisiacal properties.

Their horn is hunt for Chinese medicine and and to make ornamental dagger handles.Rhino horns are made of keratin ( like our nails ) and it’s already been proven by science that this substance doesn’t produce an increase of sexual activity.

I took those pictures in Pithouli Vulture Food-Station in the afternoon.These animals are extremely dangerous, producing a considerable amount of human deaths every year.Indeed,the latest news i heard when i was there was that a Rhino had killed an old woman when entered into a town. However I wanted to take a close shot of the animal and i approached quietly, with the wind facing me.At first  the animal didn’t seem to notice me, but as i became closer,it started to become nervous.There were some trees between me and the animal, to give me some protection in case of charge.I was sweating buckets when i took my camera silently and started to shoot.

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Next post about Bardia NP !! See you my friends !!

VULTURES IN NEPAL

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Vultures are some of the most sought birds to see in Nepal.There are 9 species in Nepal,including 5 endangered species.However most of their population has already declined due mainly to food poisoning.The drug diclofenac had been used to treat livestock and it had been widely available in all Indian subcontinent since late 1990.This drug has severely affected the populations of vultures that get poisoned when eating a carcass of a cow that has been treated with this drug.As a result,the populations of White-backed Vulture, Slender-billed Vulture and Indian Vulture already declined by over 97% in 2000 and were listed as critically endangered.Red-headed Vulture and Egyptian Vulture also declined by 91% and 80 % and were listed as critically endangered and endangered in 2007.Later on, Himalayan vulture and Bearded Vulture populations suffered also a dramatic decline by 84% and 80% respectively.

In the last decade,vulture feeding stations or restaurants ( called jatayu ) were set up in Nepal.These restaurants are run by local communities, that work together with an NGO, and they assure to provide non-poisoned food to the vultures.This places are also excellent to observe the behaviour and ecology of these magnificent creatures,while photographers can enjoy taking pictures of them.

Pithauli is one of this restaurants that i visited and it’s located in a buffer area next to Chitwan National Park.To get there i had to get a local bus from Bharatpur to Kawasoti.Once there another bus led me to the little town of Pithauli.There is no accommodation in the town but i arranged it in a house next to the vulture restaurant.There is a small hut with some basic information of the area where i had to pay for the entrance fee.Once inside, after a short walk i found a wooden hide with a capacity for a maximum of 12 people.From there i could observe the carcass that they drop every period of time.They can provide a new carcass if you request but you have to pay about 100 euros.White-rumped Vultures are usually seen here.Other vulture species that come to feed in Pithauli are Slender-billed Vulture,Indian Vulture,Cinereous Vulture, Red-headed Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Himalayan Vulture and Griffon Vulture.

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Around this area i could spot a couple of Egyptian Vultures nesting on a tree.

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In a late afternoon even an Indian Rhino appeared and delivered me the best views that i had of this amazing mammal.

There are other jatayu restaurants, one near Lumbini and another one near Pokhara but i couldn’t visit them.

Another place where to observe vultures is around the little town of Tansen.Tansen is located on the main road between Butwal and Pokhara.This beautiful little town lays on the crest of the Mahabharat Range.The streets are narrow and steepy.Most of the houses are traditional Newari style and people are calm and friendly.

To get there i got a bus from Nepaljang to Butwal.From Butwal, another bus brought me to Bartung,where i get another one to Tansen.Once i dropped my stuff in my room,i could see from the balcony a considerable number of vultures soaring the sky.Led by my curiosity i went uphill.I turned left and i followed the street that pass through other little and nice towns.The views from there were superb.I could see the Annapurnas,Machapuchhre and Dhaulagiri clearly.

Following my raptor friends, I ended up at the top of the hill, where i had stunning views of two individuals of Griffon Vulture remaining motionless on the grass.I could approach enough to take some shots.It was around 12 o’clock and it was quite hot.The heat currents that were ascending fooled the autofocus, and the pictures i took were not very sharp but decent enough.See the picture on top of the post.

See you soon in Bardia  NP my friends !!!!

GHARIAL, AN ENDANGERED CROCODILE

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Gharials  (Ghaviali Gangeticus) are large-sized reptiles that are found in Northern India and Nepal.It’s one of the longest ( including the sea-water crocodile ) crocodilians, measuring up to 6 m long and weighting up to 680 kg.This reptile is a threatened species,with an estimated population of only 1200 individuals in Northern India and 100 in Nepal.They  don’t have natural predators due to its size, except human beings, which hunt them for their valuable skin.They also face threats due to pollution of the water,destruction or intense human pressure on their habitat.Their eggs are stolen for consumption while many young individuals die every year by getting trapped in fishermen’s nets.

Fish is the main diet of Gharials, along with insects and other small animals.The snout of the gharial is very unmistakable, being the thinnest and most elongated among all crocodilians.Males sport a large bulb on the tip of their snout,called the ghara.The gharials are usually found in calm areas of deep and fast-flowing rivers and sandy banks.They remain most of the time into the water, being the most aquatic of all the crocodilians, never moving far from water.They can share their habitat with mugger and seawater crocodiles.

In Nepal there are small populations in Chitwan and Bardia National Park.I took the picture on the top of the post in Chitwan National Park.You can appreciate the elongated snout, very well adapted for its fish diet.