Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

August 20, 2017

Kashmir Travels

Filed under: General — Tags: , — admin @ 3:04 pm

Srinagar Tourist.

Yesterday I went up to the mountain near my hotel with my host. It was a lot easier driving up in a car than walking.

Mid-day shikara
A Shikara on Dal Lake

In the middle of the day, the lake was like glass. And hot. I do not envy this guy having to paddle around in the hot mid-day sun.

paddling
Paddling

This guy was all dressed up. Must have had a big date.

Srinagar city
View from up top

A view of Srinagar from on top of the mountain.

Kashmiri dress
Traditional dress.

At the pixie palace on the next mountain, this girl was all dressed up in traditional Kashmiri garb for a photo shoot. You hire the clothes, then pay the photographer for the photos.

Jamia Masjid
Jamia Masjid

I went inside the Jamia Masjid with my host. I was a bit tentative but once I got inside it felt all nice and peaceful. It was built more than 500 years ago.

Jhelum River
Jhelum River

The Jhelum River runs all the way to Pakistan and used to be the main artery for trade and commerce in the old days.

houseboats
Houseboats

This is where the British used to park their houseboats.

August 18, 2017

Kashmir Birding 2

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 6:45 am

Dal Lake

This morning I was up and 5am for my 5:30 shikara ride. But it was too early. The sun had not come up yet and it was too dark for decent photos. It was nice and quiet and atmospheric anyway, so I just enjoyed the ride.

Citrine Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola)

I had been seeing Citrine Wagtails for a few days but did not have my camera with me. So luckily this morning I finally got a photo of this blighter. They breed in high-altitude wet grasslands in Baluchistan and the Himalayas.

Hooded Crow
Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)

The Hooded Crow is superficially similar to the House Crow, but the back and front is a much lighter grey and extends much further down the back. Black hood is very similar to House Crow.

Untitled
Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)

This is a Big Close Up showing the weird blinking motion of a lot of birds. “The nictitating membrane is a transparent or translucent third eyelid present in some animals that can be drawn across the eye from the medial canthus for protection and to moisten it while maintaining vision. Some reptiles, birds, and sharks have full nictitating membranes.” (wiki)

Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

Little egret
Little Egret

Whiskered Tern
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida )

Srinagar bird list

Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola)
Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)
Common Moorhen
Eurasian Coot
Little Grebe
Little Egret
Indian Pond Heron
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida )
Common Kingfisher
White-throated Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher
White-eared Bulbul
Himalayan Bulbul
Black Kite

August 17, 2017

Srinagar Walk

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 5:05 pm

Kashmir Birding

I arrived in Srinagar, Kashmir this morning. I managed to have 2 hotel touts attached to me. They just tagged along while I found my hotel. One of them tried to scam a commission from the hotel that I found all by myself. ha ha. too funny.

Little Grebe
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

Late in the afternoon I went for a walk along the lake front and got accosted by hundreds of Shikara boat drivers. I organised a boat ride for 5.30 in the morning. There are thousands of boats and houseboats and no tourists. They are getting a bit desperate.

Whiskered Tern
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida )

I found some guy making mutton kebabs and had a couple. I was craving some meat. Tomorrow I might have some fish.

shrike
Bay-backed Shrike (Lanius vittatus) ??

Not sure about this. There are some large anomalies. Waiting for proper ID.

Indian Pond Heron
Indian Pond Heron

Common Myna
Common Myna

Srinagar bird list

Bay-backed Shrike (Lanius vittatus) ??
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida )
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
White-throated Kingfisher
House Crow
Black Kite
Common Myna
Indian Pond Heron

Keylong to Leh

Filed under: General — Tags: , , — admin @ 9:13 am

Manali to Leh Highway

We started off from Keylong at 5 in the morning. I found my seat, stowed my luggage and we were on our way. There were some nice spots along the first part of the way, especially around Tingpa. I would stay there instead of Keylong in the future. It is much nicer next to the river.

Workers' camps at new Baratpur
Workers’ camps at new Baratpur

Our first stop was Dacha, where the police checked out passports. We had some breakfast and we were on our way again. After the first pass at Baralacha La, we stopped again at the camp just down from the pass.

Lake at new Baratpur
Lake at new Baratpur

At these camps, tents are set up over summer to feed the travellers. They are called Dhabas and serve food and you can camp there over-night.

Dhabas after Baralacha Pass
Dhabas after Baralacha Pass

Before the last pass there is a big flat area called something like the Meroo Plains. There is no water and a few goat herds were grazing, along with a couple of donkeys scattered here and there.

meroo plains
Meroo Plains

A river valley
A river valley

The road winds up and down the valleys then up the mountains via switch-backs.

Very steep track
Very steep track

I could not believe this goat track on the side of this very steep mountain. Not for me!

Striated layers
Striated layers

The layers of rock were twisted and turned everywhere. There has been immense movement in these mountains.

Traffic Jam
Traffic Jam

We had a traffic jam at one point. We had to wait for about an hour while it got sorted out. Everyone just pushes in and no-one waits there turn. The shared taxis are very aggressive and pushy.

Chaos at a stop
Chaos at a stop

There were lots of traffic along the highway. Cars, shared taxis, mini-vans, motor-bikes, trucks and buses. After the last pass, we winded along through this river valley to Upshi where the last police check point was and we finally got our passports back. Another hour or so and we arrived in Leh in darkness and dazed and confused had to find a hotel to have a well-deserved rest.

August 15, 2017

Himalaya Birding Keylong part 2

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 3:07 am

Keylong Birding Part 2

In the afternoon at Keylong I just went for a walk along the road through the ravine. Luckily I spotted a Grey Wagtail hovering near its nest with some bugs. It tried to lead me away from the nest for a while but eventually went into a hole in a bank to feed the young one.

Grey Wagtail
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)

I am pretty sure this is a male. Later on I saw it at the local dump scavenging around for worms or bugs.

Grey Wagtail
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)

Western Crowned Warbler

Western Crowned Warbler (Phylloscopus occipitalis)

It took me ages to identify this one. Western Crowned Warbler. Thanks to the Indian Bird ID group on facebook. They are awesome.

Western Crowned Warbler
Western Crowned Warbler (Phylloscopus occipitalis)

Earlier on I spotted an adult and a juvenile Long-tailed Shrike sitting on a wire near the posh hotel where the tourists from Manali stop overnight on their way to Leh in Ladakh.

Long-tailed Shrike
Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach)

Blue Whistling Thrush
Blue Whistling Thrush (Myphonus caerulus)

August 12, 2017

Himalaya Birding Keylong

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 2:48 pm

Keylong Birding.

Keylong is the first stop on the Leh Manali Highway. It’s altitude is 3000 meters. High in the Himalayas. I went up the hill this morning not expecting to see much but was pleasantly surprised.

Red Crossbill
Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)

This is the male. It has a V-shaped Tail, crimson head, white belly and crossed bills. At first I was not sure if it was a Common Rosefinch or a Blanford’s Rosefinch. Until I saw the crossbil of course.

 Red Crossbill
Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)

I am not sure if this is a female or juvenile Red Crossbill. I am guessing juvenile.

Variegated Laughingthrush
Variegated Laughingthrush (Garrulax variegatus) race similis

I had no idea what I had until I put it on the computer. Pleasant surprise. I am pretty sure this is the Western Himalayan race – similis.

Variegated Laughingthrush
Variegated Laughingthrush (Garrulax variegatus)

Red-billed Chough
Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax phyrrhocorax)

Oriental Turtle Dove
Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis)

Streaked mountain
Himalayan mountain

This is only a tiny one.

Keylong Bird List

Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax phyrrhocorax)
Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)
Variegated Laughingthrush (Garrulax variegatus similis)
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
Western Crowned Warbler (Phylloscopus occipitalis)
Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) maybe race meena.
Long-tailed Shrike
Blue Whistling Thrush juvenile
Streaked Laughing Thrush
House Crow

August 9, 2017

Himalayan Hideaway

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Tirthan Valley – Himachal Pradesh

Here are some tourist shots of the Tirthan Valley. This is in the eco-zone of the Great Himalaya National Park. The core zone is 4 kilometers up the valley. You will need to do a hard core trek to get to the core zone and then camp in tents. And it is about 4000 meters high up there.

up the valley
Looking up the valley

The people who live here walk up and down these hills as if it was nothing. I was huffing and puffing and could hardly do a kilometer. The hills are very steep. They are used to it because they have been doing it all their lives.

Up the valley
The River

The river is in full torrent with all the snow and glacier melt from up high.

Raging torrent
Raging torrent

my guest house
My Guest House

This is where I stayed for two nights. Most of the birds I photographed were from the verandah.

clouds rolling in
Clouds rolling in

Both days I was there it was cloudy and raining. The light was pretty atrocious for photography. I would suggest may-june or September – October for this place.

August 8, 2017

Himalaya Birding Part 1

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 2:54 pm

Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh

What a mammoth trek to get to the Tirthan Valley. Let us start at the beginning, shall we? I started off from Mandi about 7am in the rain. I was told there was a direct bus to Banjar, but there was none. So I hopped on a bus to Aut. Up and over winding hills, past raging torrents, passing trucks and cars with horn blaring. Through the tunnel to Aut. From Aut I caught the bus to Banjar up a mountain valley. Another accident along the way. Front end of a Maruti Suzuki wiped out.

Yellow-billed Blue Magpie
Yellow-billed Blue Magpie (Urocissa flavirostris cucullata)

At Banjar, I hopped on another bus to Gushaini. End of the line. After a cup of chai and an omlet I start walking up the valley. It is hard going and I am not used to climbing hills. I do not like it. Luckily the guest house guy came down with his motor-bike and gave me a lift the rest of the way.

Little Pied Flycatcher
Little Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula westermanni)

During the afternoon, I recuperated by taking photos of the birds from my verandah. About 3 or 4 pm I wandered up the hill, past mountain huts and tiny fields carved out of the mountain sides. I really do not know how people do it. It is so hard the life here. The guy told me when he was a boy he used to walk 9 kilometers to school every day. And that is up and down the hills. Whew!

Verditer Flycatcher
Verditer Flycatcher (Eumyias thalassinus)

I was not sure if this was a Verditer Flycatcher or a Pale Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis unicolor). Thank you very much Mr Kumar for the identification. 🙂

Slaty-headed Parakeet
Slaty-headed Parakeet (Psitticula himalayana)

This is the only Parakeet other than the Rose-ringed Parakeet that I have seen in India. doh!

Great Barbet
Great Barbet (Megalaima virens)

The next morning I went down to the river and found a little meadow. Later on it started raining so I went back to the guest house and took some photos from the verandah.

Pied Bushchat
Pied Bushchat (Saxicola caprata)

I got stung by some poison ivy type plant and I came up in a bit of a rash. The boy got some cannabis and rubbed it on the rash and after a while it went away. It has just stopped raining. I was hoping for some fine weather but it looks like I am not going to get it.

not sure yet
Grey-hooded Warbler (Phylloscopus xanthoschistos)

I was not sure if this was a Grey-cheeked Warbler or Grey-hooded Warbler, The local experts seem to think it is Grey-hooded Warbler.

Himalaya Birding Part 2

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 2:46 pm

Tirthan Valley Birding Part 2.

While in the Himalayas, I stay at the Tirthan Himalayan Adventures. Email: tirthanadventureck@gmail.com and phone: +91 9459 101 001. The guest house is really terrific. You get looked after really well and the environment is amazing. I think May-June and September-October would be the best times to visit.

 Himalayan Bulbul
Himalayan Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucogenys)

The Himalayan Bulbul looks very similar to the White-eared Bulbul. The main striking difference is the forward-sweeping crest. The head is also brown and the white cheek spotting is smaller. The White-eared Bulbul has a black head and the same yellow vent.

Blue Whistling Thrush  - adult
Blue Whistling Thrush (Myphonus caerulus) adult

The adult Blue Whistling Thrush has head and body spangled with glistening silvery blue.

 Little Forktail  - juvenile
Little Forktail (Enicurus scouleri) juvenile

I did not go on any treks up to the the Great Himalaya National Park. To do it, I think you have to be very experienced and fit. I only went a couple of kilometers up the track and that was enough for me. You have to climb more than 2000 meters to the camp. I have seen photos of the area and it is totally alpine up there above the treeline. You can even climb to 5000 meters where there are glaciers, beyond which is the Spiti Valley.

Large-billed Crow
Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos)

Black Bulbul
Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus)

Little Pied Flycatcher
Little Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula westermanni)

not sure.
Dark-sided Flycatcher

Tirthan Valley bird list

Slaty-headed Parakeet (Psitticula himalayana)
Yellow-billed Blue Magpie (Urocissa flavirostris cucullata)
Great Barbet (Megalaima virens)
Little Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula westermanni)
Verditer Flycatcher (Eumyias thalassinus)
Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus)
Himalayan Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucogenys)
Blue Whistling Thrush (Myphonus caerulus)
Pied Bushchat (Saxicola caprata)
Little Forktail (Enicurus scouleri) juvenile
Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos)
Shikra (Accipiter badius)
Grey-hooded Warbler
Dark-sided Flycatcher

August 5, 2017

Himachal Tourist

Filed under: General — Tags: , — admin @ 3:46 pm

From Shimla to Mandi.

This morning I checked out of my guest house in Shimla and walked down the hill to the Old Bus Stand. A good man I met showed me the way, then gave me a lift in his taxi-ride to the new Bus Stand.

shimla hills
Shimla hills

We were travelling along nicely in the express bus when bam! this car runs into the bus. He was a complete idiot overtaking without looking and plowing straight into the rear wheel arch. After a bit of an argument the bus driver and car driver got into a punch up. Then things started getting ugly when a mob turned against the bus driver. I was really scared. Mob violence can flare up so easily.

car crash
The car crashed.

Luckily things calmed down. We waited for the police to turn up. They came eventually and took photos and marked the spots and took down statements. They blamed the car driver of course. It was totally his fault.

raging river
Raging River

The bus got to Mandi eventually, probably a couple of hours late. The river was roaring from all the rain and the snows melting up the hill.

sunken gardens
Sunken Gardens.

After I found a hotel and had a wash, I went for a walk around town. The town square has a sunken garden in the middle, with shops around the perimeter.

market lane
Market lane

The police blocked off the central section and people just promenaded and hung out without all that ugly traffic and beeping horns.

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