Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bardia National Park, Nepal – birds, bugs, plants, and TIGERS!

The Upper Mustang trip I just returned from was a huge success, but I still have a bunch of photos to share from Mich’s and my short weekend trip to Bardia National Park in southwestern Nepal.

We stayed at the very friendly and well-run Racy Shade Resort in the far western edge of the national park, the most accessible area and known for its tigers. In fact, Bardia National Park may be the best place in the world to spot a tiger while on foot.
Racy Shade Resort

We had a two guides from the resort and were on foot for our one whole day here, and we put on 11.2 miles, measured by my GPS. We were on roads, overgrown trails, and even waded across a river.

We couldn’t ignore the birds, but the main target was tiger. Early on, while walking on the main entrance road, a group in front of us had heard alarm calls from a troop of Rhesus Macaques, and they sat waiting, hoping for a tiger to cross the road. It was a false alarm.

Cutting to the chase, we saw two tigers, finally, at 3:54 p.m. We had situated ourselves at a couple likely spots along a small, slow-flowing stream and waited along with other tiger watchers, arriving at the first location at 9:45. We waited and watched, changed locations, waited again, and then heard that a tiger briefly had been seen crossing the stream just 60 meters from where we were waiting sometime shortly before noon. So we persisted, waited more, had our picnic lunch, napped, and finally gave up. We took off to totally different location on another stream at 1:50 p.m., and at about 3:35 one of our guides got a call that two tigers came out exactly were we had been waiting earlier. We were 1.3 km (over 3/4 of a mile) away, but got there breathless in 15 minutes to see two tigers up to their bellies in the stream, perhaps 100 meters away.
tiger, Bardia National Park

They rarely moved over the next 20 minutes or so, both facing away, but we were patient.
tiger, Bardia National Park

We were the first to arrive, joining the four who first spotted them. But soon a large crowd had gathered – largely foreigners, but one group of Nepali tourists, including some children, had also arrived. Everyone was thrilled.

When the big group of Nepalis left, we were a bit distracted and looked up to see that one tiger had quickly vanished. The other remained virtually motionless for another 30 minutes, but finally it showed some life, turning its head, lapping up water, and then it slowly got up and walked out of sight.
tiger, Bardia National Park

I took several bits of video over the course of our 50 minutes and was lucky to get the last hurrah.

Here are a couple happy tiger watchers.

We birded of course, tallying over 100 species in the national park, at our resort, and in the community forest across from it. Green Bee-eater was a common bird in all areas.
Green Bee-eater

We saw a few Stork-billed Kingfishers, but they were quite shy and didn’t allow close approach.
Stork-billed Kingfisher

Greater Racket-tailed Drongos were conspicuous and very noisy inhabitants of the canopy.
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

We flushed a few wintering Tree Pipits in a grassy area, and they promptly flew up to land in trees.
Tree Pipit

White-browed Wagtails were along the rivers in the park as well as an irrigation ditch by the resort.
White-browed Wagtail

This Black Redstart, wintering here only (and breeding in the Himalayan highlands and north to Mongolia), is a very different looking subspecies (Phoenicurus ochruros rufiventris) from the resident birds I know from western Europe.
Black Redstart

A very common passerine in all woodland types here is the Common Iora, a pair of which was building this very tidy nest in a tree across the drive from the Racy Shade.
Common Iora nest

A fruiting fig tree near the resort hosted many birds, including a couple pairs of the common Coppersmith Barbet.
Coppersmith Barbet

The community forest was great for woodpeckers. First we had a few of these Black-rumped Flamebacks.
Black-rumped Flameback

But the one prize bird I had hoped to see eventually showed well when we found a family group excavating a nest cavity: The world’s largest woodpecker, Great Slaty Woodpecker.
Great Slaty Woodpecker

The cavity was about 3/4 the way up this tree on the right edge of the trail.

Besides Tiger, we noted a few other mammals. Indian Muntjac is probably the tiger’s main prey.
Indian Muntjac

I mentioned Rhesus Macaque, but the more attractive monkey here is the Terai Gray Langur.
Terai Gray Langur

This Indian Rhinoceros appeared at the same location as the tigers, and as soon as it emerged from the forest, an Indian Jungle Crow (clearly different from the highland Large-billed Crows, though some lump them) landed on it.
Indian Rhinoceros

I was able to put names to all of the butterflies I photographed while waiting for tigers to show. The Asian tropical regions have a very high diversity of Lycaenids – blue and hairstreaks. The one on the left is Megisba malaya, the Malayan, and on the right is Lestranicus transpecta, White-banded Hedge Blue.
Megisba malaya, the Malayan (left), Lestranicus transpecta, White-banded Hedge Blue (right)

Prosotas nora ardates, Common Lineblue
Prosotas nora ardates, Common Lineblue

Jamides bochus, Indian Dark Cerulean
Jamides bochus, Indian Dark Cerulean

Ypthima inica, Lesser Threering, a typical looking satyr
Ypthima inica, Lesser Threering

This stunning brushfoot is Cyrestis thyodamas, the Common Map.
Cyrestis thyodamas, the Common Map Butterfly

This dragonfly is Trithemis aurora, the Crimson Marsh Glider.
Trithemis aurora, the Crimson Marsh Glider

Very common along the forest trails well away from water was this Neurothemis fulvia, Fulvous Forest Skimmer.
Neurothemis fulvia, Fulvous Forest Skimmer

The name suggested on Mushroomobserver.org for this fungus is Trametes betulina, but I’m not convinced that is correct.
Trametes betulina

Adding a wonderful fragrance along all of the trails in the park was this Clerodendrum infortunatum, Hill Glory Bower.
Clerodendrum infortunatum, Hill Glory Bower

I recognized this Calotropis gigantea, Giant Milkweed, from having seen it in Jamaica, Hawaii, and Indonesia.
Calotropis gigantea, Giant Milkweed

This epiphytic orchid was common in the community forest, and it appears to be Vanda tessellata.
Vanda tessellata

A typical scene while were birding in the lands near our lodge.

We had a late afternoon flight from Nepalgunj to Kathmandu, so we had much of our last day to stop along the drive and look for birds. We drove though lots of agricultural land and around noon arrived at the little-known Blackbuck Conservation Area, a tiny reserve. And indeed here were many rather tame Antilope cervicapra, the Blackbuck, a species that would have disappeared from Nepal without this reserve.
Antilope cervicapra, the Blackbuck

Our prize find here were seven Indian Coursers, an extremely scarce and amazingly attractive bird of open country.
Indian Courser

Blue-tailed Bee-eaters were also at Bardia, but they were particularly common here.
Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Crested Lark is a very rare bird in Nepal, and this was Mich’s first in the county; I had seen it only in western Europe before.
Crested Lark

Yellow-wattled Lapwing is yet another very hard bird to find in Nepal, but there were several in the reserve.
Yellow-wattled Lapwing

Long-tailed Shrike is common in lots of habitats in much of the country; this is the subspecies Lanius schach erythronotus, lacking the black crown of birds from eastern Nepal.
Long-tailed Shrike

I scooped Mich on this Indian Hare which darted off and disappeared before he could see it.
Indian Hare

Lizard diversity doesn’t seem so high here, and Calotes versicolor, the Oriental Garden Lizard seems to occur everywhere.
Calotes versicolor, the Oriental Garden Lizard

We made a short stop at a bridge on our way to Nepalgunj and I added two lifers: Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark…
Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark

…and Bank Myna, both of which are common in much of India but only barely make it into this part of Nepal.
Bank Myna


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