Tuesday 29 June 1982

30 years ago: 23-29 June 1982, Ladakh first week

Wednesday 23rd June 1982:  Leh, Ladakh, India
We didn't get up until 09:00.  It was  nice to have an easy day wandering around town (tourist office, post office, rather poor restaurant).  Nick and I walked north out of Leh to and wandered into the desert and around the back of the Royal Palace.  Superb scenery but few birds.  We may have been unlucky with our choice of restaurant in Leh but with excellent food served at Tei-Sei didn’t feel inclined to try another.

Birds seen:  Kestrel 1, Hobby 1, Chukar 1, Rock Dove 20, Swift 4, Hoopoe 4, Black Redstart 4, Mountain Chiffchaff 1, Great Tit 1, Magpie 5, Chough 2, Carrion Crow 1, House Sparrow 50, Tibetan Snow Finch 4, Red-fronted Serin 3, *Mongolian Desert Finch 15.

main street, Leh
Leh Palace
looking over the Indus Valley from behind Leh Palace

Thursday 24th June 1982:  Tikse/Choglamsar, Ladakh, India
We had breakfast at 07:00 and went to catch the 08:00 bus to Tikse to find it had left at 07:45!  Quite a difference from the other Indian buses we’d encountered.  Instead we got on an 08:15 bus to Shey which actually went half way between Shey and Tikse where we got off.  We wandered over the desert and around the back of Tikse Monastery.  Very impressive from the outside.  Nick and I left Dave to go in, preferring to keep wandering around in the desert before walking down to the River Indus and following it back to Shey.  We walked along the road towards Leh as far as the Stok turn off at Choglamsar, seeing Ibisbill on the river there.  From there we got a bus back to Leh, arriving at Ti-Sei at 18:30.

Birds recorded:  Black Kite 1, Lammergeyer 1, Hobby 2, Chukar h, Ibisbill 2, Gull-billed Tern 1, Common Tern 3, Rock Dove 20, Blue Hill Pigeon 1, Swift 10, Hoopoe 10, Swallow 4, Red-rumped Swallow 1, House Martin 10, *Hume's Short-toed Lark 15, Small Sky Lark 6, Citrine Wagtail 10, Black-backed Wagtail 6, Black Redstart 20, Desert Wheatear 7, Blue Rock Thrush 2, Hume's Lesser Whitethroat 2, Mountain Chiffchaff 20, Great Tit 1, Magpie 15, Chough 6, Carrion Crow 4, Raven 3, House Sparrow 100, Tibetan Snow Finch 2, Mongolian Desert Finch 12.


Chortens near Shey
first views of Tikse
Tikse Monastery

spectacular from almost every direction
even in close-up
view across the Indus Valley
Desert Wheatear at Tikse

it appeared to have a nest in this pile of rocks

Mongolian Desert Finch at Tikse
Woolly Hare at Tikse, well camouflaged against the rocks
young Citrine Wagtail on the Indus near Shey
male  Citrine Wagtail at Tikse

Friday 25th June 1982:  Leh, Ladakh, India
Breakfast at 07:00 and out to catch the 08:00 bus to Stok but despite arriving 5 minutes early it had gone.  While dithering over what to do all the other remaining buses also departed!  Ladakhi bus efficiency would take some getting used to!  We walked into the hills along the start of the Beacon Highway to the north of Leh but did not see much (Himalayan Snowcocks and Red-fronted Serins being the highlight).  We returned to Ti-Sei early afternoon and sat around lethargically for the rest of day (I was not feeling too healthy - head cold and stomach).  Dave and I were put to shame by Nick who went back out, although he did not see anything different.

Birds seen:  Himalayan Snowcock 5 (3 and 2), Chukar 8, Rock Dove 10, Blue Hill Pigeon 1, Hoopoe 4, Black Redstart 8, Mountain Chiffchaff h, Great Tit 1, Magpie 5, Chough 2, Carrion Crow 1, House Sparrow 75, Tibetan Snow Finch 12, Red-fronted Serin 4, Mongolian Desert Finch 20.

view over Leh and the Indus from above Leh Palace
Chortens behind Leh
Gompa from Leh

Saturday 26th June 1982:  Tikse/Shey, Ladakh, India
An earlier start enabled us to catch the 07:45 bus to Tikse where, after wading across an icy creek, we found the 'resident' group of ringers from Southampton University down by the River Indus.  Simon Delany and Clare Sulston had been staying at Tikse since the previous August (with a short break at the start of the year) while Charles Williams had been there since early March.  Three others had also been involved.   Simon, Clare and Charles quickly dispelled any illusions we might have had of seeing Tibetan Sandgrouse as it had only been seen once, by another member of their group, and that in mid winter.  Discussons with them helped confirm our identification of Hume's Short-toed Lark.  We walked back along the river to Stok where got bus back to Leh.  Another excellent meal at Ti-Sei Lodge.

Birds seen:  Booted Eagle 1, Hobby 1, Ibisbill 2, Green Sandpiper 1, Common Tern 3, Rock Dove 40, Blue Hill Pigeon 10, Swift 40, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater 1, Hoopoe 5, Crag Martin 1, Swallow 4, Red-rumped Swallow 6, House Martin 5, Hume's Short-toed Lark 10, Citrine Wagtail 10, Black-backed Wagtail 15, Bluethroat 5, Black Redstart 8, Stonechat 1, Desert Wheatear 1 female, Hume's Lesser Whitethroat 6, Mountain Chiffchaff 25, Long-tailed Shrike 1, Magpie 20, Chough 3, Carrion Crow 4, Raven 2, House Sparrow 50, Scarlet Rosefinch 10.

fields near Tikse
Tikse from Southampton University expedition ringing site

Mountain Chiffchaff
female Scarlet Rosefinch
Red-rumped Swallows
very well camouflaged desert lizard

Sunday 27th June 1982:  Stok Gorge, Ladakh, India
Breakfast at 06:45 and got bus to Stok (it actually left 5 minutes late).  Walked through fields above the village and into the gorge where Nick and I walked for 2-3 hours before returning.  There we saw a pair of Wallcreepers at their nest site - brilliant.  We walked back to Choglamsar and hitched a ride with an army truck halfway back to Leh before walking the rest.  Poor day weather wise with rain mid morning and again mid afternoon and cold E wind late afternoon.  Typically I’d forgotten my waterproof.

Birds seen:  Himalayan Griffon Vulture 1, Golden Eagle 2, Kestrel 1, Chukar 4, Green Sandpiper 1, Common Tern 2, Rock Dove 50, Blue Hill Pigeon 40, Swift 10, Hoopoe 4, Crag Martin 10,  Small Sky Lark 4, Citrine Wagtail 1, Grey Wagtail 1, Black-backed Wagtail 10, Dipper 3, Black Redstart 30, River Chat 3, Blue Rock Thrush 2, Sulphur-bellied Warbler 2, Mountain Chiffchaff 3, Wallcreeper 3, Magpie 15, Alpine Chough 10, Chough 8, Carrion Crow 2, Raven 1 probable, House Sparrow 50, Tibetan Snow Finch 15, Red-fronted Serin 15, Linnet 1, Hodgson's Mountain Finch 2, Rock Bunting 2.

Red-fronted Serin at Stok

Monday 28th June 1982:  Leh/Gompa, Ladakh, India
Up for late breakfast at 07:00 as not going anywhere by bus.  Nick and I walked through the fields above Leh to Sangkar where we sat in sun for an hour watching bushes at edge of fields (and were rewarded with a female Red-mantled Rosefinch).  We returned after only 4 hours birding.  Relaxed afternoon; wrote a few cards and booked a bus to Kargil for 2nd July.  Cut my hair rather drastically as was beginning to look too much like some of the hippies hanging out in Leh.  Dave, still on his monastery kick, visited Spituk.

Birds seen:  Kestrel 1, Chukar h, Rock Dove 60, Blue Hill Pigeon 10, Rufous Turtle Dove 2,  Swift 4, Hoopoe 6, Crag Martin 8, Small Sky Lark 4, Citrine Wagtail 2, Black Redstart 10, Mountain Chiffchaff 4, Great Tit 1, Rufous Backed-Shrike 1, Magpie 10, Chough 1, Carrion Crow 2, House Sparrow 50, Tibetan Snow Finch 8, Red-fronted Serin 2, Mongolian Desert Finch 4, *Red-mantled Rosefinch 1 female, Scarlet Rosefinch 3.

kids fishing in the Indus
Tibetan Snowfinch
Magpie looking more exotic than they do here
female Black Redstart
neater me above Leh
Tuesday 29th June 1982:  Shey/Tikse, Ladakh, India
Nick and I returned to Tikse to revisit ringing group, just catching the bus to Shey after an almost too leisurely breakfast.  We had a good mornings birding with usual wade across creek then spent 4 hours very pleasantly chatting to Simon, Clare and Charles and getting gen on various places.  We walked back to Shey, arriving at 17:30, and caught the 18:00 bus back to Leh.

Birds seen:  Night Heron 1, Pintail 1 female, Black Kite 1, Hobby 5, Ibisbill 3, Little Ringed Plover 1, Green Sandpiper 1, Common Tern 3, Rock Dove 10, Blue Hill Pigeon 2, Swift 6, Hoopoe 1, Swallow 6, Red-rumped Swallow 11, Hume's Short-toed Lark 10, Small Sky Lark 1, Citrine Wagtail 10, Black-backed Wagtail 10, Bluethroat 9, Black Redstart 5, Stonechat 2, Hume's Lesser Whitethroat 6, Mountain Chiffchaff 20, Great Tit 1, Magpie 10, Chough 2, Carrion Crow 2, Raven 1, House Sparrow 50, Scarlet Rosefinch 4.

a new(ish) angle on Tikse Monastery
River Indus with Tikse in the background

Red-rumped Swallow trapped at Tikse
male alboides White Wagtail
male Black Redstart, orange underparts just visible
male Citrine Wagtail
Hume's Short-toed Lark
Pale Weasel at Tikse

Tuesday 22 June 1982

30 years ago: 18-22 June 1982, Manali to Leh

This journey was made before the Manali-Leh road was opened in 1989.  The 'new' road would have been a much more interesting journey and probably only taken half the time.  We would have missed the Zoji La but would have crossed it leaving Ladakh and once would have been quite enough.  Ditto our nights in Kargil!

Friday 18th June 1982:  Manali to Jammu
We were up at 04:00 and got 04:40 bus to Pathangot.  It took 14.5 hours with a one hour stop at Mandi where the bus disappeared for half an hour.  A boring journey.  Being in seat no 2 had good view but was cramped for leg room due to the front wheel arch.  Pathangot was very uninspiring but we only had to wait just over an hour to get the 20:30 bus to Jammu (it had come from Delhi).  It cost 6.50 rupees each and we actually got seats on it.  We arrived in Jammu at 22:45 and found a hotel nearby (35 rupees for a room for 3).

Birds seen included:  Black Kite 10, Asian White-backed Vulture 50, Red-wattled Lapwing 1, River Tern 6, Red Turtle Dove 5, Little Swift 5, White-breasted Kingfisher 1, Hoopoe 4, Wire-tailed Swallow 5, Red-rumped Swallow 10, White-cheeked Bulbul 15, Pied Stonechat 20, Blue Whistling Thrush 5, Asian Paradise Flycatcher 1 white male, Streaked Laughingthrush 2, Long-tailed Shrike 2, Black Drongo 10, Jungle Myna 30.

Saturday 19th June 1982:  Jammu to Srinagar
We were up at 05:30 and along to the Bus Station by 06:00.  Total disorder with no seats bookable until 07:00 when any surplus seats could be filled.  Dave queued inefficiently until 07:30 when he was almost the last person to acquire tickets (28 rupees each), on an extra bus.  We rushed to the bus as it was supposed to be just leaving but it didn’t depart until 08:15 and then only to the bus depot on the edge of town where a tyre was repaired.  We finally left at 09:30 so could easily have had a lie in.  It was a good journey and we had decent seats with plenty of leg room.  The bus only stopped a few times to pick people up and no one ended up standing in the aisles.  The journey was fine until the outskirts of Srinagar when the bus stopped frequently to let people off.  We got off at the Tourist Office which was still open at 22:00.  We were told it was too late to book on a bus to Leh the next morning so we got a cheap (D-class) houseboat nearby (5-6 minutes walk) for 10 rupees each.  Houseboat Light was an excellent place on quite a wide back river by the golf course.  It even had a decent shower.

Birds seen from bus included:  Lammergeyer 1, Asian White-backed Vulture 5, Red-wattled Lapwing 1, Ring-necked Parakeet 10, Alpine Swift 5, Little Green Bee-eater 2, Hoopoe 1, White-cheeked Bulbul 30, Pied Stonechat 10, Indian Robin 1, Blue Rock Thrush 1, Long-tailed Shrike 1, Brahminy Starling 2, Bank Myna 10, Russet Sparrow 4, Rock Bunting 15.

road to Srinagar

Sunday 20th June 1982:  Srinagar
We were up at 06:30 and along to the Bus Station full of expectation but were told we couldn’t get on a bus to Leh today.  We were told to return at 09:00 to book tickets for tomorrow.  We returned and after much queuing and being given the runaround eventually got tickets (58 rupees each) after I lost my temper for the first time in ages.  The rest of day was spent lazing around, mainly in a horizontal position on the houseboat.

Birds seen, mainly from houseboat, included:  Night Heron 15, Black Kite 40, Common Kingfisher 4, Pied Kingfisher 2, Hoopoe 2, Tickell’s Thrush 1, Jackdaw 8.

Houseboat Light

views from the houseboat

 Monday 21st June 1982:  Srinagar to Kargil
We got to Srinagar Bus Station at 08:25 after late breakfast.  Our bus was due to leave at 09:00 and departed at 09:30 only to go as far as their depot where the bus was filled with petrol and had its tyres pumped up!  It returned to the bus station and finally departed at 10:15.  Going through the Vale of Kashmir was very alpine then it was a steep climb with hairpin bends up to Zoji La and over into Ladakh.  It was a very treacherous road with a poor surface, only recently opened after the winter snows.  Ladakh was very reminiscent of Atlas Mountains in Morocco with mud plastered on the sides of houses.  It was a very barren and rugged scenery with only any green where it had been irrigated, usually beside rivers.  The road is a major engineering achievement, with hairpin bends down almost sheer mountains.  Not for the faint hearted (like me)!  It was slow progress, especially after dark due to the bus ahead breaking down.  We arrived in Kargil, our overnight stop, at 22:05.  A convoy system was in operation over the Zoji La with up traffic only allowed in afternoon.  This was probably the reason for us leaving Srinagar late; but knowing that would be the case why schedule a 09:00 departure?  We passed large number (100's) of army trucks on way down.

Birds seen in Kashmir included:  Pheasant-tailed Jacana 6, Whiskered Tern 10, Snow Pigeon 1, White-breasted Kingfisher 1, European Bee-eater 4, European Roller 1, Hoopoe 1, Brown Dipper 1, Plumbeous Redstart 8, River Chat 2, Spotted Forktail 1, Blue Whistling Thrush 4, Tickell’s Thrush 5, Long-tailed Shrike 2, Jackdaw 10.

Birds seen in Ladakh, mainly from bus:  Kestrel 1, River Tern 1, European Nightjar 1 male, Citrine Wagtail 2, Brown Dipper 1, River Chat 1, Blue Rock Thrush 1, Magpie 3, House Sparrow 5.

road to Zoji La
Zoji La

descending from Zoji La


Tuesday 22nd June 1982:  Kargil to Leh, Ladakh
Our bus was allegedly departing at 05:30 so we were up and ready then but,surprise surprise, it was late and didn’t leave until 06:45.  It was a long day but an interesting one with spectacular scenery, interesting villages and a couple of monasteries.  There were long delays due to the army again, at one stage a crashed army truck blocked the road for an hour or so.  We arrived in Leh (11,500 ft) at 20:00, just after dark.  We were encouraged in a very low key way by a very elegant lady in full Ladakhi dress to stay at her Ti-Sei Lodge.  It was a very pleasant change from the usual hasslers, of which there were a few at Leh.  The Ti-Sei proved to be excellent and probably the best lodges of the whole trip.

Birds seen (from bus and around villages where made food stops):  Tufted Duck 1, Kestrel 2, Rock Dove 25, Blue Hill Pigeon 30, Rufous Turtle Dove 3, Hoopoe 2, Crag Martin 3, Citrine Wagtail 2, Black-backed Wagtail 4, Black Redstart 8, Desert Wheatear 2, *Eastern Pied Wheatear 7 males, Blue Rock Thrush 3, Blue Whistling Thrush 2, *Mountain Chiffchaff 1, Great Tit 1, Magpie 25, Alpine Chough 15, Chough 5, House Sparrow 50, *Tibetan Snow Finch 7, Red-fronted Serin 5, Mongolian Desert Finch 1 probable, Scarlet Rosefinch 30, Great Rosefinch 3 probables, Rock Bunting 1.