Monday 31 December 1979

The 1970s: Thailand, Israel, Canaries, Scillies and Nepal in 1979

Another dive into the distant past, more unreliable memories, particularly as to who I went where with, backed up (or not) by notes pretty much restricted to species lists. Worst of all I can’t now remember who some of the day or weekend trips were with. Andrew Moon, Pete Naylor and increasingly Rupert Hastings were the mainstays of more distant trips and Richard Kelly, Martyn Kenefick and Brian Short the more local ones. I was still some years away from learning to drive so was very much reliant on the above and others for lifts which were greatly appreciated. The option was British Rail with my Student Railcard or hitching. Neither were ideal.

I started the year on Doi Inthanon, half way through a Thai trip with Andrew Moon, Pete Walton and Steve Whitehouse (see Back in Sussex better birds seen were 2 Smew in the Cuckmere on 14th, 60 White-fronted Geese, 100 Bewick’s Swans and a Hen Harrier on Amberley Wildbrooks and a Black Redstart, 2 Tree Sparrows and 10 Bramblings in Shoreham on 20th, a Barn Owl at Pagham on 27th and 3 Goosanders at Arlington on 28th.
Andrew Moon on the Blue Pitta trail at Khao Yai, it took four days for us all to see one (and contrary to this photo most of the time we were looking on the ground)
A trip to Cliffe, Allhallows and Sheppey in North Kent on 3 February produced a Great Northern Diver, 500+ Red-throated Divers, 2 Red-necked Grebes, 4 Pink-footed and 300 White-fronted Geese, Scaup, Smew, a Marsh and 6 Hen Harriers (at least one of the latter at each site), Merlin, Little and Tawny Owls, 2 Twite and 20 Lapland Buntings. The next day I saw 8 Eider and 28 Purple Sandpipers at Newhaven. On 10th on a return visit to Kent I saw a Black-necked Grebe and 7 Scaup at Merston, a Bean, 10 Pink-footed and 200 White-fronted Geese, 2 Hen Harriers, a Quail (flushed from the sea wall) and 4 Shore Larks at Sheppey and 7 Bean and 7 Pink-footed Geese, Glossy Ibis and 7 Hen Harriers at Stodmarsh. We also saw 3 Hen Harriers at Sandwich taking the day’s total to 12. On 17th I saw a Great Grey Shrike on Hooe Level, Pevensey and 25 Hawfinches at Bedgebury. Highlights of a long day trip to Dungeness on 25th were 20 Barnacle and 200 White-fronted Geese at Pett, 9 Snow Buntings at Camber, a Red-necked Grebe, 6 Barnacle, 20 Bean, 10 Pink-footed and 500 White-fronted Geese, 97 Bewick’s and 2 Whooper Swans and 19 Goosander in the Dungeness area and 59 Barncale, 22 Bean, 5 Pink-footed and 760 White-fronted Geese, 27 Bewick’s Swans and a Woodcock on Pevensey Levels.

On 3 March on trip to West London I saw Black-throated Diver, 3 Red-necked Grebes, a male Red-crested and 1000 Common Pochard at Staines, 5 Goosander and 4 Smew at Wraysbury, 2 Short-eared Owls at Poyle, a Smew and 2 20 Bean, 10 Pink-footed and 500 White-fronted Geese, 97 Bewick’s and 2 Whooper Swans and at Cheshunt Lock, a male Lady Amherst’s Pheasant at Little Brickhill and another Red-necked Grebe at Blenhiem Palace. The following day we went to see a presumed escape White-headed Duck at Bough Beach (it was never accepted) where there were also 11 Goosanders with a Red-necked Grebe at Weir Wood Reservoir on the way home. On 9th what looked like an adult blue morph Snow Goose flew West over our house in central Hove with a Tawny Owl seen in the park opposite early the following morning. Later that day a trip to the Arun produced single White-fronted Goose, Water Rail and Little Owl. A Common Crane at Scotter near Scunthorpe on 18th was a lifer and my first new bird in Britain since December. We returned via Walberswick seeing a Marsh and 2 Hen Harriers and our second Short-eared Owl of the day. A mid-morning seawatch off Hove on 20th produced a Great Northern Diver, 63 Brent Geese, 7 Eider and 65 Common Scoter. I’d yet to learn that it was usually worth starting a lot earlier. On 24th Rupert Hastings, Andrew Moon, Pete Naylor and Tim Norris and I flew to Israel for two weeks (see

me at the Dead Sea, Close to the Edge? Yes
part of a flock of 77 Caspian Plovers in the Negev
We returned from Israel on 7 April and North of Wivelsfield I saw a Little Owl from the train. A visit to the Cuckmere on 11th produced 9 Eider and 75 Common Scoter flying East and a Short-eared Owl. During strong SSE winds the following day I saw single Cory’s and Manx Shearwaters flying West and 2 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver, 29 Eider and single Great and Arctic Skuas flying East off Hove. The Cory’s was a real surprise and it was reassuring that a little before me Colin Winyard saw what he thought was one flying West off Brighton. On a trip to Wales over Easter I saw 10 lekking Black Grouse, a Red Grouse and a male Hen Harrier at Glyndwfrdwy, Dipper at Llangollen Bridge, female Hen Harrier, Peregrine, 4 Ring Ouzels and 2 Chough at Horseshoe Pass, Goshawk and Pied Flycatcher at Aber and 6 Little Gulls at Seaforth on 13th. We headed back through mid-Wales on 14th seeing single Red Kites at three locations before crossing back into England and seeing a Smew at Chew Valley Lake, Cetti’s Warbler at Radipole and 5 Manx Shearwaters, 16 Purple Sandpipers and a blue-headed Yellow Wagtail at Portland. We stayed overnight at Portland and the following morning saw 2 Great Northern Divers, a Velvet Scoter, 2 Puffins and a male Redstart there, 2 Bearded Tits at Radipole and a Little Gull at Lodmor. We called in at the New Forest on the way home seeing 2 Dartford Warblers at Hampton Ridge and 2 Wood Lark at Beaulieu Road. On 16th it took me 45 minutes to obtain a brief view of a reeling Grasshopper Warbler at Lullington Heath. A Red-necked Grebe, 2 Little Ringed Plovers and 2 Mediterranean Gulls were the best sightings on a trip to Rye and Dungeness on 21st while on 29th I saw a Short-eared Owl at Pagham and 3 Garganey and 2 Greenshank at Rackham.

May started with a Willow Tit behind the University campus at Falmer on a lunch-time walk. On 4th I saw 5 Spoonbills in the Cuckmere and that evening a Tawny Owl in the park opposite our house. I saw the 5 Spoonbills in the Cuckmere again the next morning with 2 Spotted Redshanks, a Greenshank and a Grasshopper Warbler there and 2 Redstarts at Beachy. A trip East on 6th produced a Whinchat at Pett, Cuckoo and Turtle Dove at Rye and Black Tern, Ring Ousel and male Pied Flycatcher at Dungeness. East again on 7th with a Tawny Owl near Eastbourne, 8 Bearded Tits and heard Savi's Warbler at Stodmarsh and Blue-headed Wagtail, Black Redstart, 2 Whincats and a Wood Warbler at Dungeness. I saw Cuckoo and Wood Warbler at Falmer on another lunchtime walk on 8th and 5 Turtle Doves, 2 Nightingales and a Grasshopper Warbler at Lullington Heath on 9th. Thick early morning mist on 13th cleared at Farlington to reveal 6 Black Terns, Short-eared Owl and 4 Blue-headed and 5 Yellow Wagtails with a further 24 Black Terns on Chichester Gravel Pits on the way home. Lunchtime walks and visits to Lullington, Beachy and Pagham were quiet with 3 Black Terns at Beachy on 19th and a Little Stint on Sidlesham Ferry on 20th the highlights. A Bank Holiday trip to East Anglia brought home how disappointing Sussex often was, at least in terms what was in the public domain. We started at Fairburn on 26th where we had good views of a twitchable Alpine Swift, not the most direct route to Cley but a worthwhile detour. At Cley we saw 2 Bitterns, a full ruffed Ruff, Short-eared Owl and a near adult Rose-coloured Starling. We saw one Bittern, a Bearded Tit and the Rose-coloured Starling the following morning before driving down to Minsmere. There I saw 4 Spoonbills (a 5th bird was hiding), 3 Marsh and a male Montagu’s Harrier and 10 Avocets. A pair of Red-backed Shrikes showed well at Walberswick, 4 Stone-curlew with 2 chicks at Weeting and 2 Woodcock, a Long-eared Owl and 3 Nightjars near Brandon. The following morning in the Brecks we saw Cuckoo and 4 Golden Orioles at Lakenheath, 2 Marsh Tits at Brandon Sawmills and 4 Turtle Doves, male Red-backed Shrike and a Crossbill at Santon Downham.

A trip to the New Forest on 2 June produced Hobby, 2 Wood Lark, 2 Redstarts and a Wood Warbler. Highlights of a day in West Sussex on 10th were 40 Little Terns at Pagham, 3 Little Gulls on Chichester Gravel Pits, Tree Pipit and Marsh Tit at Coates Common and 2 Marsh Tits at Rackham. On 16th I saw a Roseate Tern at Dungeness and 3 Knot at Rye with Grey Partridge and 3 Turtle Doves during a Downland walk to Lewes on 23rd. On 26th I flew to Tenerife, fitting what I needed for two weeks sleeping out in the Canaries into a shoulder bag (see
me camping out on Tenerife
I returned from the Canaries on 9 July and continued with my MSc dissertation. Locally on 14th I heard a Quail and saw 8 Turtle Doves at Cissbury and Ruddy Shelduck, Little Ringed Plover and Wood Sandpiper at Sidlesham Ferry. I caught a train to Lincoln on 16th seeing 30 Turtle Doves on the way. From there I walked about an hour to Burton Pits to see a Great Reed Warbler. While there an Osprey flew over. On 22nd I saw 4 Green Sandpipers at Chichester Gravel Pits and 3 Eider, an Avocet with 2 immatures and a Little Ringed Plover at Pagham. On a day trip to Norfolk on 28th I saw a Barn Owl near Newmarket, a female Lesser Grey Shrike on Ringstead Heath near Hunstanton, Wood Sandpiper and Bearded Tit at Cley and 2 Wheatears at Weeting.

Pagham was quiet on 4 August with 8 Eider and 2 Little Ringed Plovers best. On 8th I went to Messingham in Lincolnshire to look for a Great White Egret but it had flown off that morning before I arrived, 4 Little Ringed Plovers being little compensation. I had excellent views of a Roseate Tern at Rye Harbour on 11th also seeing 2 Garganey and a Wood Warbler there and a Black Tern at Pett. On 13th I went to Hickling by train and foot chasing what was assumed to be the same Great White Egret (only the 20th British record). I can’t remember where I caught a train to but it was a long walk although I might have hitched a bit. I arrived just after the egret had flown off and set off walking along the footpath around the Broad in the direction it had flown. After an hour I returned to the original spot to find the bird had flown behind me as I was walking away (too distant to hear a shout). Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long for it to reappear. Also at Hickling I saw 5 Turtle Doves and a Bearded Tit and heard a Savi’s and 2 Grasshopper Warblers. Dave Holman kindly gave me a lift back to Norwich and I stayed with him a couple of hours before it was time for my train home. The following weekend I was back in Norfolk starting at Cley on 18th where I saw Bittern, Garganey, Little Stint, 2 Curlew Sandpipers, a Marsh and 7 Wood Sandpipers and 2 Bearded Tits. A walk out to Blakeney Point was fairly quiet although we did see7 Arctic Skuas and 3 Pied Flycatchers. Holkham and Cley were very quiet the following day with a Golden Oriole heard at Lakenheath on the way home. On 25th I saw 2 Marsh Harriers, 20 Ruff and a Short-eared Owl at Cliff, 4 Little Gulls, 100 Black and a White-winged Black Tern at Dungeness and 2 Curlew Sandpipers at Pett. A Little Stint and 20 Curlew Sandpipers were seen on Sidlesham Ferry on 30th.

September was spent putting the finishing touches to my Masters dissertation and birding. Decent numbers of migrants at Beachy on 1st included 2 Tree Pipits, 3 Redstarts, 20 Whinchats, Grasshopper Warbler (in the hand), 4 Garden and 15 Willow Warblers and 40 Spotted Flycatchers. The next day highlights at Pagham were a Red-necked Grebe, Little Stint, 17 Curlew Sandpipers, 2 Black Terns and 11 Spotted Flycatchers. A return to Pagham on 7th produced 10 Eider, 11 Curlew Sandpipers, 4 Greenshank and 2 Spotted and a Pied Flycatcher. On 13th I went to Cornwall with Tony Pym to see a Solitary Sandpiper at Drift. It was brilliant but back-up species somewhat lacking with Merlin at Nanquidno, 3 Greenshank at Drift and 10 Manx Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua at St. Ives the best we managed. A Little Stint on Chichester Gravel Pits on 17th was to be the last time Sussex featured in my notebook for four months. Seawatching from St. Ives in a strong NW wind on 21st produced Great Northern Diver, 50 Manx Shearwaters, a superb adult Pomarine and 6 Arctic Skuas and a Little Gull but it was disappointed not to see anything better. I remained in West Cornwall for three days, primarily looking for a reported Lesser Kestrel at Blackrock. I saw a Curlew Sandpiper at Stithians on 21st, a distant Sooty and 15 Manx Shearwaters from St. Ives on 22nd, spent all day at Blackrock in pretty much zero visibility on 23rd seeing just a Buzzard and finally saw the supposed Lesser Kestrel on 24th. It was a very bright bird but to me had small black tips to the mantle feathers which seemed wrong. I headed for Penzance and caught a helicopter to St. Marys, arriving at 17:00, put up my tent, saw a Pied Flycatcher, was violently sick several times and spent the night in hospital. I’d run out of water while camping at Blackrock and rather foolishly sipped what looked like clear water from a trough, I guess it hadn’t been. I was discharged from hospital the next day seeing 3 Turtle Doves and a juvenile Woodchat Shrike on St. Marys but too late to visit St. Agnes for an American Golden Plover, a new bird. Fortunately it stayed and I saw it on the Gugh Bar the next morning. St. Agnes was quiet with single Pied and Spotted Flycatchers best. Back on St. Marys I saw a Richard’s Pipit near the campsite on the Garrison. On 27th I saw both the Richard’s Pipit and Woodchat Shrike as well as a Melodious Warbler (at Salakee) and 5 Spotted and 2 Pied Flycatchers. Also staying on the campsite at this time were Frank Lambert and Richard Grimmett who I knew from Sussex and Nick Preston from Crosby whom I immediately connected with, not realising how much travelling I was to do with him. On 28th the four of us were walking down the Rocky Hills track to Holy Vale when Richard saw a dull looking Nightingale dive into the hedge in front of us. It only gave glimpses as we followed it down the hedge and into another. It definitely seemed worth following up and realising the hedge backed onto the ‘maize field’ we approached it from the other side. Sitting in the hedge for several hours gave us reasonable views of the bird and a conviction that it was a Thrush Nightingale. Well satisfied we emerged, just as Mike Rogers was walking down the footpath bordering the ‘maize field’. Our telling off for trespassing soon turned into him doing likewise and he and a few others did see the bird. A literature check that evening confirmed our suspicions and the bird was accepted as Scilly’s first Thrush Nightingale (and my 350th species in Britain). Otherwise best that day were a Pied Flycatcher and a Hooded Crow and a hybrid. The 29th was also quiet with 3 Firecrests and the Woodchat Shrike while on 30th I saw 18 Firecrests, 5 Redstarts, single Sedge, Reed, Garden and Wood Warblers and a Pied and 6 Spotted Flycatchers.

I stayed on Scilly for much of October, initially camping and then moving into flats with friends. It wasn’t a classic autumn but I saw some good birds and enjoyed finding some remote spots on St Marys, rarely travelling off-island unless there was a good reason to.
On 1st on St. Marys I saw single Pied, Spotted and Red-breasted Flycatchers, the latter on the Garrison where the Richard’s Pipit was still present. A trip to Tresco produced the female Black Duck (and a hybrid) on the Abbey Pool, Spotted Sandpiper on the Great Pool, Hobby, 2 Pied Flycatchers and a Continental Coal Tit. A Purple Heron was on Lower Moors on 2nd, Marsh Warbler at Newford Duck Pond on 3rd/4th, Aquatic Warbler on Lower Moors, Red-backed Shrike at Porth Hellick and a/the Woodchat Shrike at Salakee on 4th. Birds improved on 5th with Barred Warbler and Ortolan Bunting on Peninnis, a Spotted Crake in Holy Vale, Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit and 2 Lapland Buntings on the Golf Course and an Icterine Warbler nearby. More birds were around on 6th with 500+ Meadow Pipits seen, the Short-toed Lark, 2 Tawny and a Red-throated Pipit and 6 Lapland Buntings on the Golf Course, the Icterine Warbler nearby, juvenile Rose-coloured Starling at Lower Moors, Wood Warbler at Watermill and a Wryneck at Content. I returned to St. Agnes on 7th for a Bobolink near the pool, also seeing a Yellow-browed Warbler in the Parsonage, the American Golden Plover and back on St. Marys Short-toed Lark and Spotted Crake. On 8th I saw 3 Tawny Pipits on the Golf Course and one on the Airfield, 2 Short-toed Larks, the Marsh Warbler and a Melodious Warbler at Porth Hellick. I saw 2 Richard’s Pipits on the Airfield on 9th then went to Tresco seeing 3 Bobwhites, a Red Kite, the Spotted Sandpiper and 2 Pied Flycatchers. Nothing new was on St Marys on 10th and I saw the 2 Short-toed Larks, 2 Tawny Pipits, Marsh and Wood Warblers before going over to St Agnes to see a Rustic Bunting by the Post Office. On St Agnes on 11th I saw the long staying American Golden Plover again, Tawny Pipit and Red-breasted Flycatcher with another in Holy Vale when back on St Marys. The Holy Vale Red-breasted Flycatcher was present the next day with a Spotted and 3 Pieds and the juvenile Rose-coloured Starling. The 13th was a better day with an elusive immature male Rose-breasted Grosbeak which I caught up with by the Rubbish Dump, Melodious Warbler at Salakee, male Subalpine Warbler at Porth Hellick and Rustic Bunting at Trewince and a Tawny Pipit on Bryher. Superb views of a Jack Snipe, outside the Lower Moors hide was the highlight of 14th when I also saw a Short-toed Lark, Yellow-browed Warbler and poor views of a Rustic Bunting at Trewince. That evening there was news of a possible Blyth’s Reed Warbler on St Agnes. I was on one of the early boats going over the next morning and saw it fairly well. In some ways it recalled the Marsh Warbler at Newford Duck Pond although like many was unsure about it (and was hoping it was a Blyth’s Reed). I spent most of the day on St Agnes seeing a Yellow-browed Warbler and Red-breasted Flycatcher. Back on St Marys that evening we head that the warbler had been trapped and identified in the hand as a Marsh Warbler. On 16th I was with Andrew Moon and Rupert Hastings when the former found a Little Bunting at Salakee, a nice double with a nearby Rustic Bunting (possibly the Trewince bird having relocated). Also new in were a Barred Warbler at Telegraph, and Siberian Stonechat on Lower Moors (found by John Cooper) while I saw again the Spotted Crake, Short-toed Lark and Rose-coloured Starling. The 17th was much quieter with my best sightings the Rose-coloured Starling and Rustic Bunting. Brian Short had better luck finding a Ring-necked Duck on Tresco which with some bad grace on my part we went over for on 18th, also seeing an Ortolan Bunting and the resident Black Duck. Back on St Marys the Rose-breasted Grosbeak had been relocated at Holy Vale and I had better views of it there. The 19th was quiet with the Rustic Bunting and Rose-coloured Starling at Salakee and 3 Lapland Buntings on the Airport. Slogging around St. Marys on 20th seeing little was interrupted with news of a Radde’s Warbler on St Agnes. It was one of my most wanted birds and I was first off the boat. It was in a garden before the Post Office and gave good views from time to time. Otherwise Redwings were the most noticeable birds about. On 21st a Swainson’s Thrush was found in hedge on the edge of the Golf Course where it periodically gave good views. On what felt very much like a late autumn day I also saw a Woodcock, 2 Richard’s Pipits on the Airfield, 100+ Redwings and 50+ Chaffinches. The weather on 22nd was abysmal with heavy rain and strong winds all day. I was soon drenched, as were John and David Cooper, the only birders I encountered all day, at the Swainson’s Thrush which was the only bird to make it into my notebook. After seeing several on the Garrison it was soon apparent that there had been a fall of Black Redstarts on 23rd. I decided to walk around the coast of St Marys and counted 72, found a Red-breasted Flycatcher on the rocks at Porth Hellick Down and saw a Richard’s Pipit and 2 Ring Ouzels at the Golf Course, 11 Wheatears, 2 Lapland and a Snow Bunting and at dusk with Andrew Moon and Rupert Hastings a Tawny Owl near Carn Friars Lane. We went to St Agnes on 24th on news of a Dusky Warbler at the Parsonage, it was a very rough crossing and we didn’t see it, 2 Sooty Shearwaters and 250 Gannets off Horse Point being the best we could manage in the strong winds. Back on St Marys in the relative shelter of Holy Vale I saw the Rose-breasted Grosbeak again and a Pied Flycatcher. On 25th I saw the Rose-breasted Grosbeak again, Richard’s Pipit on Lower Moors, 5 Firecrests and a Red-backed Shrike but only 6 Black Redstarts. It was beginning to feel all over on Scilly and news that an Isabelline Wheatear was sticking around at Aberdeen focused the mind. Andrew was ready to drive and he, Rupert and I decided to leave Scilly, a day early in heir cases although I could have stayed longer.

Andrew, Rupert and I left Scilly on 26 October seeing a Great Skua from the Scillonian and a Red-necked Grebe in Penzance Harbour. It was a long drive up to Aberdeen, enlivened by a Barn Owl from the A9 south of Perth although I’d been asleep in the back for much of it. We arrived at Girdle Ness soon after dawn on 27th and before long were with a small crowd watching the Isabelline Wheatear. We continued north to Cruden Bay where an adult white-morph Snow Goose was very obvious amongst 1000 Pink-footed and 50 Greylag Geese. A Scaup, 400 Eider and 12 Long-tailed Duck were at the mouth of the Ythan then it was back south. On 28th we diverted to Rimac where we had excellent views of a Pallas’s Warbler, Andrew dropped me off in London and I was back home that night, not realising that all the time we’d been driving away from a Pied Wheatear in Northumberland. Too wrecked to head straight back I visited Brighton Station the following morning and made plans to go up on an overnight train. News of a Desert Warbler on the Wirral nearly changed my mind but I felt committed to the wheatear and arrived at Alnmouth Station soon after dawn the following morning, the 30th. It was a 4 mile walk to the site but a couple of cars coming away gave me the thumbs down as I was approaching. The bird had clearly gone and the small crowd was breaking up. Nobody was going on to the Wirral although Doug Page kindly gave me a lift south to the M62 and I hitched across from there, catching a train for the last part. I arrived after dark, found a chip shop and slept in a seafront shelter. The first person I met the following morning was Nick Preston, he’d been rather more successful than me by seeing both wheatears on the same trip. We watched the Desert Warbler for several hours, a superb bird to finish my UK year with.

On 4 November I left home to catch an Ariana Afghan flight to Delhi via Kabul, the first stage of a two month trip to Nepal. It didn’t start too well with my flight being delayed by 24hrs but that is another story (see
me leaving home 4 November
crossing Thorong La (17,800 ft) in adverse weather felt like stepping into the unknown
[blogged June 2020]

Wednesday 26 December 1979

NEPAL 1979/80: Jomson & Hanga Than

7 December 1979.  I was up at dawn and across the road to the airport where the airline office opened at 07:00.  I asked what chance there was of getting on a flight to Jomson that day.  I reckoned that I could wait for a day or possibly two for a flight but any longer and I’d be better off walking to Ghoropani, the main area that I wanted to revisit, which I could do in three days but wouldn’t then get to Jomson.  I was told to wait a few minutes but almost immediately the official returned and said they had a space on the next flight at 07:30.  Excellent, difficult decision averted, although it gave me no time for any shopping and trekking with one pair of socks wouldn’t be ideal.  The flight left on time and at 08:00 was descending into Jomson and a much snowier surround than when I’d left less than three weeks ago.  It was also a lot colder, feeling more so having come up from the heat of the terai.  I dumped my bag in the Nilgiri Lodge, that I’d previously frequented, failed to find a shop selling socks, although did buy some yak cheese and star bars.  At 08:30 set off to Kagbeni.  This time I kept to the west of the river at the start, a much flatter route, crossing back on a flimsy wooden plank bridge.  I birded the fields at Kagbeni before returning to Jomson and the fields there.  Young children with catapults were evident at Jomson chasing the birds which were noticeably shyer than at Kagbeni.  I was driven in at 16:30 by a strengthening wind making birding, and hopefully catapulting, very difficult.  Birds seen included 7 Wallcreepers, 10 Snow Pigeons, 40 Brown and 35 Robin Accentors, 2 Guldenstadt’s and 3 White-throated Redstarts, 10 Stoliczka’s Tit-Warblers and a female bunting that might have been a Yellowhammer (Nick Preston and Dave Mills seeing the first Yellowhammer for Nepal the following winter).  Wallcreeper memories included the first seen briefly on a gompa in Jomson before flying off, the second and third gave excellent views on the river plain on the way to Kagbeni with the fourth flying over while I was watching the third, which then flew across the river.  I flushed the fifth from a low cliff above the river and it flew and perched on a rock 10m away while the 6th (and best of the day) gave crippling views on the side of walls and the crumbly cliff around Kagbeni fields and was heard singing quietly.  I even took a photo in flight – oh to have brought a decent lens.  The final Wallcreeper was seen on my return to Jomson, flushed from one side of the river to the other.
looking down on Jomson and the fields
8 December 1979.  A lazy day walking from Jomson to Kalopani, leaving at 08:00 and stopping at 16:00.  Despite that I saw 2 Lammergeyers, 10 Snow Pigeons, 40 Brown Accentors, Blue-headed, Hodgson’s, 2 White-throated and 2 Guldenstadt’s Redstarts and 3 Black-faced Laughingthrushes.  Best of all were 5 Wallcreepers, the first gave excellent views by the path, the second flushed from a low cliff, flew over my head twice and across the river while the third flew from across the river onto the cliff above me where I watched it for 10 minutes before it disappeared from view.  The fourth Wallcreeper was on the path ahead of me where I watched it for a while before it flew off.  It had a few remnant traces of black summer plumage on its otherwise white throat – something all the others I’d seen well had lacked.  I picked up the final Wallcreeper from its shadow as it flew across the river and out of sight.  I’ve enjoyed my return to Jomson but as yet hadn’t seen anything different as a result.  Even the first part of December seems too early.
looking south on the way to Marpha
9 December 1979.  I was out at 07:15 and spent much of the morning birding around Kalopani and Lete before walking more purposefully as the trail followed the Kali Gandaki River as it descended to Tatopani.  Wallcreeper was again the day’s highlight, just one today although it was on a stione wall by a stream and disappeared into a crack.  I got a bit closer and it emerged just 3 feet from me and flew onto a low cliff where I got amazing views and could even see its nostrils!  A species I’ll never tire of.  Three Russet Sparrows and later a Grey-backed Shrike were a welcome new birds and I also saw a female Red-flanked Bluetail, 5 Grey-headed Warblers, 12 White-browed Fulvettas, 8 Red-headed Laughingthrushes, 8 Beautiful Rosefinches and 25 Rock Buntings.  From Tatopani the only way for me was up so I had a good meal and early night in preparation for the hard day ahead, although not before finding a shop that sold me a spare pair of socks.  They were made in Hungary and lasted me for several years.
Nilgiri from Lete
looking back at the bridge over the Lete  Khola
10 December 1979.  I left Tatopani as it was getting light at 06:25 and soon crossed the Kali Gandaki on the suspension bridge.  From there it was a 10 mile and 5000 foot climb up to Ghoropani.  I took it slowly, stopping to watch birds (and rest) when the opportunity arose and arrived at Ghoropani at 14:00 very pleased to be able to put my bag down in Poon Hill Lodge and drink a couple of ‘Hot Lemons’.  I then birded around the clearing until the light started to go at 17:15.  Despite concentrating on walking for much of the day I’d seen 56 species and another two new birds, Darjeeling Pied Woodpecker and Aberrant Bush Warbler.  I also saw 2 Lammergeyers right over my head, a male Scaly-bellied Woodpecker, 20 Himalayan Accentors, a superb male Red-flanked Bluetail, 16 Blue-fronted Redstarts, 2 White-collared Blackbirds and 25+ Black-throated Thrushes.  Another Wallcreeper was briefly seen on rocks on a grassy slope before it flew off.  It was sadly to be the last of 30 I saw on the trip.
11 December 1979.  In November I’d not spent as long at Ghoropani as I’d wanted to as I’d felt that I was too early in the winter for some of the birds to be in and hoped that I could squeeze in a return visit.  Now I was back and anxious to put my theory to the test as although I’d enjoyed the walk down from Jomson, I’d yet to see the birds to justify my return.  I was in the field at Ghoropani and along the Ghandrung Ridge to the point where it starts to drop away from 06:45-17:00.  It was definitely more wintery with more birds around.  A flock of thrushes feeding in trees near the clearing comprised about 40 Black-throated, 5 White-collared Blackbirds and a male Chestnut (the latter new for me).  Other new birds were a male Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, a female White-browed Rosefinch and best of all 6 Allied Grosbeaks.  I also saw White-throated, Blue-headed and 2 Blue-fronted Redstarts, 6 Spotted and 6 Black-faced Laughingthrushes, a Gold-billed Blue Magpie, 2 Nutcrackers, 9 Red-headed Bullfinches and 14 Beautiful and 6 Dark-breasted Rosefinches.  A good day.
12 December 1979.  Another day around Ghoropani and along the Ghandrung Ridge.  I was out as it was getting light at 06:45.  I found a pair of Rufous-breasted Bush Robins at the edge of the clearing and then flushed two Koklas Pheasants from along the Ghandrung Ridge.  At the end of the ridge, where it starts to drop away, I decided to go on a short distance and after only a few minutes noticed a movement on the slope below me.  I carefully raised my binoculars in a state of panic as the bird appeared bright crimson and after what seemed an age was looking at a male Satyr Traqopan little more than 30m away.  It gave superb views as it slowly walked away down the slope.  Seeing this brilliant bird fully justified my returning to Ghoropani and I went back along the ridge in worsening weather with a definite spring in my step.  but a combination of low cloud, hail and snow curtailed my birding at 15:00 by which time I’d not seen a single bird for over an hour. Other birds seen included Rufous-bellied and Darjeeling Pied Woodpeckers, Alpine Accentor. 2 Red-flanked Bluetails, 2 White-collared Blackbirds, White-crested and 3 Black-faced Laughingthrushes, a male Fire-tailed Sunbird and a Red-headed Bullfinch.
Ghandrung Ridge in the snow
13 December 1979.  I was up and out to go to the toilet at 05:30.  It was very cold and clear and I saw 3 shooting stars and heard a Brown Wood Owl but again regretted not having a torch.  I stayed out until 07:20 before returning for breakfast.  Despite two excellent days at Ghoropani I decided to continue and left Poon Hill Lodge at 07:50.  The forest below Ghoropani was excellent and seeing Long-tailed and 4 Plain-backed Mountain Thrushes delayed me somewhat.  Once out of the forest I picked up speed and kept walking down through Ulleri to Hille.  The ‘Stairway to Hell’ wasn’t much easier going down with mule-trains no more aware of the width of their loads than when I’d ascended a month earlier.  It was then a more gradual decline to Birethanti, across the river and a steep climb to Chandrakot.  It had been my target destination for the day but I arrived in good time and decided to press on, finally reaching Naudanda at 17:00 with the light starting to go.  A satisfying day, I’d recorded 67 species and I was now in easy reach of the main road at Pokhara.  Birds seen along my route included 17 Himalayan Griffons at a carcass, a Speckled Piculet, a pair of Grey-headed Woodpeckers (new for me), 3 Red-flanked Bluetails, 16 Plumbeous Redstarts, 5 Black-faced Warblers (very smart and also new), male Small Nuiltava, a Hoary Barwing and a female Maroon Oriole.
Fishtail view from near Naudanda
14 December 1979.  I left Naudanda at 06:55 and walked fairly steadily to Pokhara arriving at 11:15.  I’d missed the buses to Kathmandu that day so I booked one for the following morning, found a hotel and had a meal.  Highlight of the day was a large mixed bird flock below Naudanda which included 50 Pallas’s and an Ashy -throated Leaf Warbler, 5 Golden-spectacled and 10 Grey-hooded Warblers, male Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher, White-throated Fantail, 7 Blue-winged Minlas, 2 Great and 8 Yellow-cheeked Tits, 2 Velvet-fronted Nuthatches and a Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo which seemed to be leader of the pack.  I also saw 11 Egyptian Vultures, 2 Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babblers, 2 Black-eared Shrike-Babblers (a very smart new bird), 2 Chestnut-crowned Warblers (also very smart), 30 Rosy Pipits (also new).
view of terraced hillsides near Naudanda 
distant view of Pokara Lake from Naudanda
pony train on the approach to Pokhara
15 December 1979.  I caught the bus to Kathmandu at 06:15 and arrived at 13:45.  I felt I’d been away from Kathmandu for longer than just over two weeks and spent the afternoon over-eating in Stylist Pie Shop (Lemon meringue, Apple crumble, Lemon meringue, Apple crumble).  No wonder I then felt pretty rough!.  Birds seen from the bus included 6 Egyptian Vultures, 3 River Chats and 2 Crested Buntings.  I had just over three weeks before I flew home from Delhi
16 December 1979.  A day in Kathmandu preparing for the final stages of my trip.  I booked a bus to Kosi for the following morning, booked a flight to Delhi for the evening of 2 January, bought some supplies for East Nepal and changed some money at the one bank I had found that accepted my Lloyds Bank travellers cheques.  I tried not to overdo the pies again but was only partly successful!
17 December 1979.  I was up at 04:15 to catch the 05:00 express to Kaknvitta having been assured it would drop me off at Kosi Barrage.  It was a slow journey over the foothills and down to the Terai ( the same route I’d followed going to Hetauda) but from there the bus rattled along a very flat reasonable road, interspersed by diversions around washed out bridges.  Some of the Chinese built bridges still stood but the Nepali constructed approached had gone.  Even so we made good progress.  A selection of larger birds were seen from the bus including a Black-necked Stork (new for me) and 6 each of Black Ibis and Asian Open-billed, Woolly-necked and Lesser Adjutant Storks.  I arrived at Kosi at 16:30 and birded in the vicinity of the Pink Tower until it got dark at 17:15.  It didn’t look as if it would rain so I decided to sleep on the roof of the tower and ate some of my supplies.  The village of Kosi was a little way away but I couldn’t be bothered to go there to look for food or accommodation.  At Kosi I saw another Black-necked, 4 Asian Open-billed, 8 Woolly-necked and 7 Lesser Adjutant Storks, 102 Spoonbills, a Bronze-winged Jacana, 3 Pied Kingfishers and 2 Dusky Warblers.
18 December 1979.  All day at Kosi Barrage, I was in the field from 06:15-17:15, mostly in sight of the Pink Tower where I’d left my bag although often too far away to do anything should anyone have chosen to run off with it.  It was a bit of a risk but it was too hot to carry it all the time.  I saw nearly 100 species and used up over 7 pages of my notebook listing them all and adding in some field notes for the more interesting ones.  Best were 34 Great Stone Plovers seen on the river bank which I eventually had superb views of by getting onto the sand bar most were on and slowly creeping up on them.  Another instance when I regretted not having a telephoto lens.  A mass of duck included 75 Ruddy Shelduck, 200 Gadwall, 2500 Pintail, 4 Red-crested Pochard and 4 Ferruginous Duck.  Wintering passerines were well represented with 10+ Bluethroats, 2 Paddyfield and 4 Blyth’s Reed Warblers (both new), 30 Dusky, 2 Smokey, 6 Tickell’s Wablers and 50+ Yellow-breasted Buntings.  I also saw 3 Painted Storks (also new), 285 Spoonbills, a male Pied Harrier, 8 Great Black-headed Gulls and 2 Avadavats.  I’d got some bananas from the village and returned to the Pink Tower for another night.  It was incredibly clear and I lay on as much as in my sleeping bag gazing at the sky which was phenomenal.  I noted 3 shooting stars, 3 pulsating stars that moved 1 degree every 1-5 seconds and ‘millions’ of other stars before falling asleep.
Kosi Barrage
the pink tower, I happily slept on the roof
Sandbar at Kosi, the two paler spota middle distance, 1/3rd in from the river on the right bank are Great Stone Plovers
19 December 1979.  I was up and birding as it got light at 06:15 again birding around the Pink Tower and Barrage seeing similar birds to yesterday but including two new birds, White-tailed Eagle and Chestnut-eared Bunting.  Other highlights were 23 Great Stone Plovers (not such good views as I didn’t go back onto their sandbar), 7 Citrine Wagtails, 5 Bluethroats, a Paddyfield and 2 Blyth’s Reed Warblers and 100 Yellow-breasted Buntings.  At 14:00, conscious that my time in Nepal was winding down, I decided to leave Kosi.  After an hour waiting by the road I flagged down a bus going to Kaknvita where I arrived at 18:45.  It was hot, noisy and very busy and with no prospect of moving on at that time of night I found cheap lodgings and some food.
20 December 1979.  Not a great day, I caught a bus to Birtamore at 06:00.  From there I took another bus up to Ilam where I arrived at 14:00.  It was too late to set off to Hanga Than so I found somewhere in town to say.  Not knowing what food would be available at Hanga Than I stocked up with biscuits but couldn’t find anywhere selling Nabico Glucose, my favourite.  I found what looked like a reasonable substitute and bought a shrink-wrapped pack of 12 packets and a few other odds and ends.  My presence attracted the attention of a local policeman who insisted on taking details of my passport.  Understandably he didn’t speak any English and was clearly not used to such documents and recorded me as Brown Brown not realising it related to my hair (actually almost black) and eye colour.  The buses were not conducive to birding and I noted just 11 species of which 3 Lesser Adjutants were the most notable.
21 December 1979.  A late start from Ilam as I met Mark Chapman and Ray O’Rielly in town as I was setting out and spent the best part of two hours chatting and exchanging information.  They had had a good time at Hanga Than which filled me with hope.  They had generally seem similar things to me elsewhere and although they’d been in Nepal for two weeks less I didn’t feel that I was letting the side down too much.  It was a shame that I’d not seen them the previous evening when they, Rod Martins and Craig Robson had got in from Hanga Than.  It would have been good to have had a much longer chat – the first birders I’d seen in 6 weeks.  They were on a much more adventurous trip than I was, heading ultimately for Japan which made me rather envious.  I reluctantly said goodbye and set off for Hanga Than at about 08:30.  It was mainly through agricultural areas and involved dropping down to and crossing a river before climbing up the other side.  I saw a few birds on the walk, most notable were 12 Rufous Turtle Doves, a Red-flanked Bluetail, a superb Orange-barred Leaf Warbler and a Red-tailed Minla behaving like a nuthatch.  I tried some of my biscuits and wished I had done so before buying 12 packets as they tasted awful, probably stored next to parafin, and soft too.  I got to Hanga Than, just below the remaining forest, at 16:45 just as the cloud came in.  Mark told me that they had been put up in the village but in the cloud I couldn’t follow the directions they’d given me so I made for the biggest house I could find.  I stood outside catching my breath when a woman emerged, saw me and disappeared back inside.  Not a good start but she soon reappeared with a little stool and gestured for me to sit on it.  I smiled at her and she smiled at me.  I then tried miming eating & sleeping and pointing inside.  Clearly she got the message as she beckoned for me to follow, cleared a bed in a spare room and indicated I put my bag there and then made a place for me next to two other women by a smoky fire.  Soon a cup of tea was produced and I was sorted.  The evening meal was rice and vegetables, no surprise there, but the rice tasted as if it had been cooked rather than grown with fertiliser and I found it almost inedible.  I managed what I could, mimed some terrible sickness and retired to my room. 

leaving Ilam

north of Ilam looking east

view from Hanga Than back towards Ilam
22 December 1979.  I left my lodgings at Hanga Than at 06:30 giving the man of the house, who had appeared and seemed to take charge, some money for my food and accommodation and indicating that I was going into the forest and would be back later to stay another night.  I had a superb day in the forest above the village despite the cloud coming down at 13:30 and my then walking around in almost zero visibility for another three hours before finally quitting.  Fortunately I was able to find my way back to my lodgings but there were times when I wondered if I might not as the cloud was so thick.  I saw 6 Maroon-backed Accentors, a female White-bowed Bush Robin, a very confiding Tailed Wren-Babbler, two Streak-breasted and a Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, 10 Scaly Laughingthrushes and two superb male Fire-tailed Myzornis.  All were new, the latter I described as easily the best new bird this trip, a feeling reinforced I’m sure by their behaviour with one being seen hopping a short way up a mossy bank like a Wallcreeper and hovering like a Pallas’s Leaf Warbler.  What a combination!  The Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler and Tailed Wren-Babbler were seen while going into the forest for a call of nature, the latter nearly always being too close to focus.  Other good birds seen included Barred Owlet, Eye-browed Thrush, 4 Red-flanked Bluetails, 12 Ashy-throated, 2 Orange-barred and a Pallas’s Leaf Warbler, 6 Red-headed, 10 Striated and 14 Black-faced Laughingthrushes, male Gould’s Sunbird and a Gold-billed Blue Magpie perched on a cow!  Dinner was even more embarrassing with my hosts making a real effort and me not being able to eat much of it.  It was hard to say which I was enjoying the least, it or my awful biscuits.
returning to Hanga Than, my house was the right-hand one on the distant hillside.  Note walking bush, centre-right, one of the local women returning from/with the forest
23 December 1979.  Another day at Hanga Than.  I left my lodgings at 06:30 paying for another night and promising to return.  I birded up in the forest above the village, climbing slowly for most of the morning.  I started back anticipating an early return of the cloud but thankfully it held off until 15:30 and after another hour or so of trying to identify silhouettes in the cloud I was back inside at 16:45.  Only two new birds today, 4 Rufous-caped Babblers and a superb flock of 10 Brown Bullfinches which were much nicer than their name suggested.  Also 3 Kalij Pheasants (2 males), 3 Alpine Swifts, 7 Maroon-backed Accentors, 4 White-browed Bush Robins, 2 Chestnut-crowned Warblers, Chestnut-headed Tesias, a Spotted and 13 Scaly Laughingthrushes, and best of all another 3 Fire-tailed Myzornis.  Catering was exciting as previously and the man of the house had gone into Ilam, presumably to spend the money I’d been giving them for my food and lodging.  This made me feel a bit guilty that I’d not given it directly to his wife, after all she was doing all the looking after me.
24 December 1979.  I decided to have the first few hours in the forest above the village before heading back to Ilam and Kathmandu.  It was the most productive time of the day and between 06:30 and 09:30 I saw a 4 Kalij Pheasants (3 males), 2 Maroon-backed Accentors, a Grey-winged and 2 White-collared Blackbirds, 2 Fire-tailed Myzornis (brilliant as ever).  I grabbed my bag and paid the lady of the house who seemed delighted.  I walked fairly steadily, dropping down to the valley bottom and climbing up the other side to contour back to Ilam.  A Red-billed Leothrix was new for me and the pick of a reasonable selection of birds seen which included 75 Olive-backed Pipits, 2 Rufous-breasted Accentors, Lesser Whitethroat, 25 Orange-barred and 5 Pallas’s Leaf Warblers, 4 Red-tailed Minlas, 4 Grey-backed Shrikes and 10 Little Buntings.  I arrived in Ilam at 16:10 to find that there was a national bus strike and the only way to get out to the main road was on foot, not that there was any guarantee that things would be better there but at least I’d be a bit closer to home and would hopefully have more options.  Unfortunately it was 78 kms (50 miles) which at an average of 3 mph would take me 17 hours.  I'd been looking forward to some more agreeable food but decided to have a quick cup of tea and then set off immediately and see how far I got.  I left Ilam at 16:20 and started walking briskly while it was still light.  It got dark all too soon, yet another occasion I rued not having brought a torch, but there was enough moonlight to show me the road although not all the potholes.  I could read some of the intermittent km markers to keep track of my progress and kept walking until 02:10 by which time my feet were feeling a bit sore.  Happy Christmas!
view looking back to Hanga Than on my return to Ilam.  Hanga Than and the good forest above it is on the far right hillside

25 December 1979.  By 02:10 I had been walking solidly for almost 10 hours and covered 48 kms.  I felt that a few hours sleep would be advantageous, especially as I was at the top of a downward stretch and hoped there may be some short-cuts between the road’s zig-zags that would be evident in daylight.  I slept beside the road and woke at 06:00 with my feet still sore and a very stiff left calf.  I reassembled my stuff and left at 06:10 as it was starting to get light.  I found a few short-cuts, saw a Nepal Fulvetta (a new bird), had excellent views of a Wallcreeper by the road (which I judged to be a better bird than Fire-tailed Myzornis but it was pretty close) and stopped at a house where I was offered a cup of tea.  Lovely, or so I’d expected but it was completely spoiled for me by having pepper added to it.  Strange tastes they have in East Nepal!  Still recovering from my disappointment over the tea I found a Radde’s Warbler (the first record for Nepal) by the road and also saw 6 Hill Mynas and a Lesser Adjutant Stork.  I arrived at Charali at 12:10.  Buses seemed to be back to normal and I caught one to Kaknvitta.  With the state of my feet and my generally feeling run down I decided not to revisit to Kosi Barrage but instead go straight back to Kathmandu.  I got a ticket for a bus at 15:00 and left ten minutes later although after 40 minutes it turned around and returned – another strike.  My second attempt at leaving was when I awoke in the dark to the sound of horns.  Disbelieving my watch which said it was 22:00, it felt close to dawn, I got up to some confusion.  After an hour I was told that the bus definitely was not going until the morning so I went back to bed.  Certainly a memorable Christmas, but not one I was in a hurry to repeat!
26 December 1979.  I was up at 04:30 and the bus finally left at 05:40.  It was a long and after a while rather uncomfortable journey to Kathmandu where I arrived at 19:30.  Birds seen from the bus included 6 Lesser Adjutant Storks, Egyptian Vulture, 8 Little Green Bee-eaters, 2 Citrine Wagtails and 5 Brown Shrikes.  I was pleased to be back in Kathmandu.

Thursday 6 December 1979

NEPAL 1979/80: Muktinath to Pokhara

22 November 1979.  Having slept poorly I decided, at some point in the middle of the night, to press on.  Unfortunately I then overslept and before I knew it, it was getting light.  I quickly packed and left Muktinath in a hurry at 07:00, already an hour behind schedule.  It was a much duller day with the weather having taken a turn for the worst with ominous clouds ahead.  I was also carrying my bag and making slower progress although my spirits were raised by groups of 5 and then 4 Himalayan Snowcock gliding across the valley calling (a quickening chuck, chuck, chuck, chuck, …).  The last group landed showing their pale grey heads and tails contrasting with dark grey bodies and almost black underparts.  Further up 14 Tibetan Snowcock flew across the valley.  When they landed these were much less contrasting and noticeably paler – almost whitish - on the underparts than the Himalayan.  The weather continued deteriorating and at noon it started snowing lightly.  This time yesterday I’d started on my way back down.  I finally arrived at Thorong La at 13:00, the climb having taken an hour longer due to carrying a bag and a few more (birding) stops on the way.  By now the snow had settled and was covering the ground just enough to make the trail difficult to follow.  It was now decision time.  I had 4 hours before it got dark to cover the 10 miles to Manang, the next village.  It was all downhill so that was possible despite having been an hour late leaving Muktinath, something I was now cursing.  To get to Manang I needed to be able to follow the trail which I could only just make out under the settling snow.  Coming up the valley to the pass it had been easy to follow over bare ground with small cairns marking the way.  Under even a light covering of snow the trail disappeared in places and the cairns might not be so obvious, but as the trail dropped, as it did fairly quickly, I would expect the snow to be less and the trail easier to follow again, more so as the map showed it dropping into and following a valley.  I had to make a quick decision as time was against me.  Just before the pass I’d noticed that I was following a set of footprints in the snow.  This was reassuring, assuming that whoever made them knew where they were going!  I decided to press on and without further ado continued over the pass.  The snow continued, visibility worsened, the trail descended rather slowly and the footprints became less distinct.  I increased my pace but only succeeded in slipping a couple of times and slowed down for fear of falling badly.  I felt I’d passed the point of no return and kept going for a rather anxious 20 minutes before the trail started to drop more noticeably, the snow started to thin out and the trail became more evident.  Soon visibility improved, I could see my way towards the bottom of the valley and I relaxed although I Was still concerned about making Mustang before it got dark.  At about 16:30, with the weather closing in and the snow starting again, I came to a camp by an old shepherd’s hut which my map placed at just below 14,000 feet.  Some guides and porters with a large trekking group had made a camp there and a couple of the guides invited me to join them and found me a space in the corner.  The roof might have been a bit leaky at this point but I had no complaints and was very happy.  We had little common language and I probably sat there grinning at them for ages.  I was about 4 miles short of Manang and had walked 10 miles, climbed 5000 feet and dropped 4000.  I’d seen 23 snowcocks, 25 Himalayan Accentors, a Guldenstadt’s Redstart, a Stoliczka’s Tit-Warbler perched on bushes in the snow and 3 male Great and a female Spotted Rosefinch.  A very satisfying day.
starting up Thorong La day two, the frozen stream was not an encouraging start
cloudy, half-way up
above the clouds
made it, but what a difference 24 hours can make
over the pass, trail not that obvious
hard to put the words of Yes's South side of the sky out of my mind - 'a river a mountain to be crossed, the sunshine in mountains sometimes lost  ... "
dropping lower the trail became more obvious

23 November 1979.  I slept really well, although it was quite cold and a bit damp.  I said goodbye to my Sherpa hosts and left the hut at 06:40 heading down the valley.  I kept walking through Manang seeing nowhere I fancied stopping to eat and continued on my way finally reaching Pisang at 16:45.  It was a relatively easy 16 mile walk, mainly downhill following the Marsyandi Khola, first on the northern/eastern side and then after Braga the trail crossed to the southern side before crossing back at Pisang.  It passed through some decent looking woodland patches although being in a valley it felt somewhat restrictive, with perhaps the south bank more so than the north?  It was my first day without a new bird although I saw 13 Guldenstadt’s and 7 White-throated Redstarts, 20 Brown and 50 Robin Accentors, 3 Red-throated Thrushes, 3 Stolickza’s Tit-Warblers, 25 Nutcrackers and 560 Chough.  I also flushed a Solitary Snipe from beside the trail, saw what I thought was a Falcated Duck on the river (like a Wigeon in flight and a Gadwall on the water) and heard two snowcocks that I couldn’t locate.  Pisang was just below 10,000 feet and was noticeably warmer than the hut above Manang.
early morning from the hut, looking back up towards the Thorong La
view SE from the hut heading down to Manang, the fine weather didn't look like lasting ...
view NW from south of the hut
view north from further south of the hut
Gunsang from the north
view west from above Gunsang
below the snowline, dropping down to Manang
above Manang
looking n from above Manang
leaving Manang - typical Tibetan houses 
view south to Annapurna IV, south of Manang
looking north back towards Manang
Braga, built into the hillside
south of Braga, view north
south of Braga, looking further south
north of Ongre
south of Ongre with weird photographic degredation
distant Nutcracker top left, honest
north of Pisang, in under a day I'd dropped from above the tree line to conifer forests
approaching Pisang
24 November 1979.  With no birding sites to aim for I was just walking and stopping when I felt like it or encountered birds.  Being in the bottom of a valley any interesting habitat away from the trail involved a steep climb which I was usually reluctant to do.  This invariably meant that I was making reasonable progress and today I left Pisang at 06:30, crossed back over the river and walked 17 miles to Bagarchap, arriving at 16:45.  I was still following the river through some nice but small patches of forest.  I crossed it again south of Pisang and back to the south side at Chame where the valley narrowed.  The trail was good and the bridges study, although often they had a few broken or missing planks.  By Bagarchap I had dropped to little over 7000 feet and it certainly felt it.  There were few other trekkers on this route, the season was coming to an end as the weather got worse (fewer clear skies for mountain views), and villages were more widely spaced than on the Jomson side.  The deep valley I was in cut between the Annapurnas to the west and Manaslu to the east, although views of any mountains were infrequent.  Today’s highlight was a superb Chestnut-headed Tesia (a much wanted new bird for me) and I also saw 5 Red-throated and 25 Black-throated Thrushes, 3 Red-flanked Bluetails, 5 each of Hodgson’s and White-throated Redstarts, single Little and Spotted Forktails and 3 Red-headed Bullfinches.
the bridge at Pisang
view west from Pisang

forest trail south of Pisang

bridge south of Chame
waterfall near Thangja
25 November 1979.  I left Bagarchap at 06:30 and followed the river, crossing it three times, as it descending to Bahundanda where I arrived at 17:30.  I had walked 16 miles and was now below 4000 feet.  It was much warmer and I was wishing I’d fewer clothes as I was carrying more than I was wearing.  I stayed in a new lodge run by a young couple, having been accosted by their young daughter as I entered town.  I’m not sure they were really set up to provide accommodation but after a decent meal I persuaded them to let me sleep on their floor.  A fairly forgettable day, birds seen included a Spotted Forktail, a Wallcreeper flying along the far side of the river (my worst view to date) and towards the end of the day 2 Great Barbets which were new for me.
looking S towards Jagat
approaching Bhaudanda
26 November 1979.  Another long day following the river and another 16 miles covered.  By now I was keen to get to the road-head at Dumre and back to Kathmandu.  I said goodbye to my hosts and left Bahundanda at 06:55 walking fairly steadily to Phalesangu where I arrived at 16:45.  I crossed the river once, at Lamjung, and was now on the west bank at an altitude of 2000 feet, the lowest I’d yet stayed in Nepal.  Best birds were a male Golden Bush Robin that appeared when I tried some random pisching by a patch of scrub, a Pale-chinned Niltava and five Himalayan Rubythroats.  Four of the latter were males, one singing, another calling and very active, one with white moustacials making it the Tibetan race and the other three without.  I also had amazing views of a Wallcreeper, my 11th of the trip which I watched wipe its bill on the rock face, 10 Grey-headed Parakeets and 2 Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babblers.
south of Bhaudanda
looking north from Nayagaan
north of Phalaesangu
27 November 1979.  I was now in range of Dumre and determined to get there.  I left Phalesangu at 07:00 and followed the west bank of the river all the way.  The trail was often beside fields and not very inspiring.  A male Slaty-blue Flycatcher was the highlight and I also saw a Goosander, 12 Indian Rollers, 2 Blue-throated Barbets and 2 Large Cuckoo-Shrikes.  I arrived in Dumre at 16:00 having walked 20 miles, although across easy terrain – A long day’s walk and I was glad to get off my feet at the end of it.

south of Phalaesangu
28 November 1979.  I caught the first bus back to Kathmandu at 06:30 and arrived at 14:00.  For much of the journey the river was on my side and I saw 4 Woolly-necked Storks, a Crested Kingfisher, 2 Brown Dippers, 21 Plumbeous Redstarts, 6 River Chats, 6 Blue Whistling Thrushes and 2 Wallcreepers (neither well).  Back in Kathmandu I found a better lodge and headed for Stylist Pie shop where I overdid the Lemon Meringue Pie and Apple Crumble before returning to my room with indigestion!  Kathmandu seems a lot more inviting after a long trek than it did fresh off the plane from the UK.

29-30 November 1979.  A couple of days in Kathmandu spent reading, relaxing, (over) eating and preparing for the lowlands.  Only a few common birds were seen.

1 December 1979.  I caught the 07:00 bus to Hetauda flushing a Wallcreeper from the roadside as we approached the rim of the Kathmandu Valley, my 14th for the trip and, according to Fleming’s Birds of Nepal, a first for the Kathmandu Valley?  The journey to Hetauda involved crossing a range of small mountains south of Kathmandu from where Mt. Everest could be seen in the distance from a viewpoint.  It was otherwise very tedious with few birds seen and us not arriving until 15:45.  I checked into a hotel, dumped my bag, and walked west out of town to the river.  I was now in the lowlands and it felt like it.  A little way out of town I could get to the large shingle banks of the river and after what seemed like a long time I found two Ibisbills feeding surprisingly unobtrusively.  My first new bird for five days, they were superb, bobbing once or twice like the nearby Common Sandpipers.  I also saw 2 Long-billed Plovers and a selection of other waders including Little Ringed Plover, River Lapwing, Temminck’s Stint, Spotted Redshank and Greenshank.  A Spotted Owlet on the way back into town was an excellent finish to the day.
distant view of Himalayas from bus to Hetauda
2 December 1979.  I got a bus west along the Terai towards Butwal.  Soon after Hetauda we skirted the top end of Chitwan and then just after Bharatpur we crossed a large river on a ferry that seemed little more than a raft.  This stop gave me chance to see a few birds including Black Ibis, Lesser Fishing Eagle and Black-bellied Tern, all of which were new.  We then tracked along north of Chitwan and near its north-western extremity, at about 14:00, I got off in a small village by the Arung Khola where I found lodging.  I would use this as a base to visit Tamaspur which backed on to the river which formed Chitwan’s northern boundary.  The only problem was that I was unable to locate anyone in the village who knew where Tamaspur was!  Fortunately Frank Lambert had drawn me a map which seemed to fit the area reasonably well and I set off down what I hoped was the right track, entering open (managed?) woodland almost immediately.  I walked fairly quickly down the track for an hour and a half hoping to hoping to reach better habitat at its end.  It was longer or, with a few distractions (Alexandrine Parakeet, Lesser Golden-backed and Yellow-naped Woodpeckers and Common Wood Shrike), I was slower than anticipated and had to turn back before getting to Tamaspur.  I got back to Arung Khola village quicker than I’d anticipated, at 16:45, with a good half hour of light left. 
tortoise at Tamaspur
3 December 1979.  I took supplies and enough water to last me the day and left Arung Khola at 06:40 walking down the track through the open forest and arriving at Tamaspur a couple of hours later.  It was a superb area of forest, scrub and the gravel river bank.  I saw almost 90 species of which 6 were new.  The highlights were 8 Peafowl, an adult Great Black-headed Gull, 5 Emerald Doves, 10 Pompadour Green Pigeons, Jungle Owlet, White’s Thrush, 2 male Siberian and a male Himalayan Rubythroat, 40 Olive-backed Pipits, .3 Tickell’s and 2 Dusky Warblers (one with no tail), Pale-chinned Niltava and Chestnut-bellied and Velvet-fronted Nuthatches.  I had a better idea of how long it would take to walk back and returned at 17:15.

4 December 1979.  Another day trip to Tamaspur.  I left Arung Khola village at 06:15 and returned at 17:15.  The walk through the open forest was a bit tedious but otherwise it was a really excellent day during which I saw 113 species of which 10 were new.  Highlights were a Wallcreeper flying across the Arung Khola river and hopping about on small boulders at the water’s edge, a Slaty-bellied Tesia and a flock of 12 Rufous-necked Laughingthrushes.  I also saw 2 Black Ibis, 2 Lesser Adjutant and 26 Black Storks, 17 Little Pratincoles, 2 River Terns, 4 Bluethroats, a Smoky Warbler and 16 Red-breasted Flycatchers.  The only disappointment was no hoped for Orange-headed Ground Thrush.

5 December 1979.  A third day trip to Tamaspur.  I left Arung Khola village at 06:20 and returned at 17:30 just as it got dark.  Today’s highlight was a Rhino I saw in scrub by the river.  I got excellent views as it did not seem too concerned by me, or perhaps was not aware that I was there, but I was careful to always have a tree between us.  Best birds included a 9 Black Ibis, 8 Peafowl, Red Junglefowl, 10 Blossom-headed Parakeets, White’s Thrush, a Tickell’s, 3 Smoky and a Sulphur-bellied Warbler, 2 Pale-chinned Niltavas, male Snowy-browed Flycatcher, 14 Rufous-necked Laughingthrushes and a male Avadavat.  I’d seen and enjoyed the antics of Alexandrine Parakeets each day and today one was creeping vertically down a tree trunk like a nuthatch.  Further value was provided by a rather pathetic caged individual kept by the owner of my lodge when it was let out to show me when it was clear I was interested in birds.  It sat on the edge of the table eyeing me up as I wrote up my notes and nipped me although did not draw blood.  I cautiously pointed my pencil at it and crunch, it took a lump of wood out of it and almost snapped it in two.  It looked as if its primaries had been cut off and its tail was very stumpy poor thing.  Today I was halfway through my visit to Nepal and had to decide what to do.  I wanted to spend a few days in the Kathmandu Valley and also go to east Nepal (Kosi Barage and Hanga Than) but looked to have a week or ten days free.  Options were to spend longer at these and here at Tamaspur, where I stood a chance of Orange-headed Ground Thrush, or head back to Pokhara in the hope of getting a flight to Jomson and spend a week or so walking out or failing that walk up to Ghoropani for a couple of days.  Being a month later more of the birds I’d hoped for but missed the first time might have come in, after all it had been snowing the day I crossed the Thong La.  Tamaspur was nice, despite the walk in and out every day, but I decided to press on in the morning.
Rhino,  very obscured slightly left of centre at Tamaspur
6 December 1979.  I was on the road in Arung Khola soon after first light and at 07:00 flagged down a bus to Butwal.  From there I caught another bus to Pokhara.  Neither were express buses and so the journeys were slow with plenty of stops.  Birds seen included 2 Black, 2 Egyptian and 30 White-backed Vultures, 2 Steppe Eagles and my 16th Wallcreeper of the trip.  I got off the bus opposite Pokhara Airport, a short way south of town, at 18:30, the last hour of the journey having been in darkness.  I found a hotel and while sorting my stuff out discovered another disadvantage of being on a stopping bus.  The express buses secured luggage on their roof under tied down tarpaulins making them tamper proof.  On these stopping buses no such tarpaulins were used and some kids had got on the roof at some stage and rifled the contents of my rucksack’s side pockets.  Not something I’d considered when putting my bag on the roof and doubly annoying when neither of the buses were that full so I could have kept it with me inside.  I’d not lost much but some annoying things – my two spare pairs of socks, one of which I’d washed out and was drying, some food, soap, shampoo and a few medicines.