For a country that boasts of 847-recorded species of birds, precious little has been done in the way of promoting Bird watching. Most government officials probably have not even heard of this past time. With the exception of agencies that actually conduct bird-watching tours, tours they organize.An agency does not necessarily handle all the different tours it advertises. Those are passed on the specialized agencies. So why not bird watching.
Ardent bird watchers travel the length and breathe of Nepal doing nothing but bird watching. From down to dusk, these fanatical tourists do nothing but peer through binoculars and telescopes. Even meals and interrupted if a special bird makes a sudden appearance outside. Half-eaten dishes have to wait as they excitedly rush out to gaze at the intruder. These tourists will go anywhere; do anything to catch a glimpse of rare species of birds.
There are bird watching societies all over the world including Nepal. It is up to the tour operators to tap them. Once more and more bird watchers arrive in Nepal they will go, back spread the word around. We never bother about the varied interests of westerners, which we fail to understand. Gazing at birds and spending money in the process may not make sense to us but for some people it is a passion. Bird watchers go around the world identifying birds and keeping records of species sighted.
At the end of the day, an assessment is made of the number of new sightings. The sight of a rare bird generates great excitement among these fanatics. Nepal needs to add new attractions to lure more tourists into the country. The worldwide web has made it relatively easy to reach all corners of the globe. We need to highlight all aspects of tourism including bird watching. Talk foreigners are not even aware of the fact that a large part of Nepal is flat Terai covered with thick jungles. That Nepal has safari camps where one can come across tigers and rhinos comes as a surprise to many tourists. Many associate this country only with mountains. Our tourism posters mostly feature mountains. Nepalese Tourism authorities are obsessed with mountains. We are yet to see a poster on Birds of Nepal like the one brought but by Bangla Biman on birds of Bangladesh. We can do a lot by just imitation other countries thus saying ourselves endless hours of brainstorming. Nepal can become a popular destination for birds' watchers but we need to take promotion seriously. Birding is possible anywhere in Nepal from the hot plains in the south to the mountainous regions in the north.
The Kathmandu Valley: Kathmandu has four major bird watching areas, and one can start on the banks of the Bagmati and Manohara rivers. Birds sighted along there rivers are the Egrets, herons, Kingfishers, Ibis bill, Wood Sandpipers and Plovers. The Chovar Gorge is particularly recommended as an area for birds as its isolation from human habitation has encouraged their presence.
Phulchowki: Phulchowki is another ideal site, with a Redheaded Trogan, a very rate bird sighted there in April 2002 (it was last seen n Nepal 44 years ago). Phulchowki is 2760 meters and 18kms southeast of Kathmandu and is reached via Godawari and the Botanical Gardens. Walking can start from behind the gardens, with a combination of trails and roads. The hillside is covered with forest featuring outstanding flora as well as diverse birds. About 90 species have been recorded in this area including the endemic spring babbler, as well as the Curia, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Rufous Bellied Pied Woodpeckers and the Black-throated Parrot bill, to name a few.
Shivapuri Watershed And Wildlife Reserve, & Nagarjun: Two other areas of the valley are the Shivapuri Watershed Reserve, 12kms north of the city, and Nagarjun in the north west. Shivapuri can be reached two ways either from Sundarijal or from Budhanilkantha. The reserve is managed by Nepalese Army and it costs Rs 250 for foreigners to enter. (Rs1000/- is charged for a movie or video camera). Some of the birds in the area are the Laughing Thrush, Crested Serpent Eagle, little Pied Fly Catchers, Rupy-throats, and Babblers. At Nagarjun at 2105 meters pheasants, magpies, sunbirds, and ruby throats are found.
Pokhara: in Pokhara, the two well known lakes Phewa Tal and Begnas Tal and the surrounding areas are highly recommended. Of particular interest are the areas with minimum disturbances, away from human inhabitation the forests around the south shore of Phewa lake. Look out in the fields and pools especially in the winter for Egrets, Herons, Pipits, and Buntings etc. other birds are occurring are Gulls, Terns, Ducks, and Falcons etc.
Begnas Tal is 15Km away from Pokhara and it easily reached by taxi or bicycle. Accommodations are available here too. Terraced hills and light forests surround the lake. One should spend time on the slopes and wet fields. Birds sighted here are Ducks, pheasant-tailed jacana; Hoppie Grey bellied Tesias, common pintail snipe, bulbuls etc. Pokhara lakeside is basically a tourist town, which caters to all the needs f visitors. From cheap lodges to very expensive star hotels are available in and around Pokhara. Lakeside is full of restaurants of all kinds. Pokhara can be reached by air or by road. Bird watching is best in October and April.
Koshi Barage And Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve: are in the eastern Terai to the Far East of Nepal. The Koshi is great for waterfowl and waders, with about 26 varieties of ducks alone. Here the method of viewing is by boat, gliding through the waters in the stillness of the early morning and evenings. Over 450 species have been sighted hare, including Black Ibis, Honey Kites, Ospreys, Black Headed Orioles, Peregrine Falcon, Partridges, and Storks.
Chitwan National Park: Chitwan is in the lowlands of Nepal, known as the Terai. The Royal Chitwan National park is the best-known site in Nepal for bird watching. Bird watching need to be done from the safely of a chair, the back of an elephant or in a jeep (by far the last choice). And if you wish to walk, accompanied by a guide or a naturalist, or preferably an ornithologist. The area consists of Sal Forest, Riverine forest, and grasslands, with three rivers forming the boundaries of the park. Some 500 species have been recorded in Chitwan and some of them are Blue Indian Roller, Stork-billed Kingfishers, Bengal Florican, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Bee-eaters, and Cormorants.
One of the best ways of viewing birds in Nepal is a leisurely trek through the foothills of theKingdom. There are three main trekking areas in Nepal: the Langtang region six hours by road North of Kathmandu, the Solu Khumbu region eight hours by road East of Kathmandu and the Annapurna region, six hours by road or a 30 minute flight West of Kathmandu. Of the three trekking regions, the Annapurna region offers the widest variety of species. The region is also easily accessible.
The Annapurna Conservation Area
To set the scene a little, the Annapurna region is a Conservation Area is the largest and most protected region in the World (ACA), covering around 2600sq km towards the North-central region of Nepal. The Kali Gandaki river runs North to South through this region, through the world's deepest gorge, some 6000m below the high Annapurna and Dhaulagiri massifs, seven of these peaks are over 7000m, the highest (Annapurna I) at 8091m.
A few facts and figures above, but as you can imagine, the ACA supports a remarkable but delicate biodiversity, with 441 recorded species of birds (so far), including the only endemic species of Nepal, the spiny babbler (Turdoides Nepalensis). The bird habitat ranges from the sub-tropical lowlands towards Pokhara in the south of ACA to dry sub-alpine conditions above the tree-line towards the North.
The Kali Gandaki valley is also a major migration pathway in the autumn, when 40 species, including demoiselle cranes (Anthropoides Virgo), can be seen around Jomsom and Tukche. Happily this coincides with one of the two trekking seasons (Spring and Autumn).
Migrating West about this time further South around Kaare and Dhampus are about 20 identified species of eagle and other birds of prey. The most commonly observed are:lammergeier gypaetus barbatus (Bearded Vulture), known as the giddha in Nepal, it frequently occurs at 4100m.and the golden eagle Aquila Cryaetos, known as baaj in Nepal.
There are six Himalayan pheasants to be found in ACA: Himalayan The Monal Lophophorus impejanus satyra Tragopan Tragopan satyra (Crimson Horned Pheasant) Blood Pheasant Ithaginis cruentus Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia macrolopha Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichiiKalij Pheasant Lophura leucomelana, are the most commonly occurring of Nepali pheasants.
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