Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bird Watching on the Edge!

...Of the forest that is! Last week the students wanted to take us to a place that they had gone few months before and had had great bird sightings. We never made it last week because we saw too many birds along the way and ran short on time. Not a big problem, but we did want to see what we could find...on the edge of the Gokarna Forest Reserve. So this week we vowed to avert our eyes if we saw any birds before we reached our destination and were pretty successful. Fortunately for all of us, there were no new birds or even any Kingfishers to stall us!

We did have some business to attend to though; introductions of Sarah Stock, who is here to help out with teaching. Sarah is a wildlife biologist in Yosemite National Park who does research on the resident birds and mammals. She gave the students some real park notebooks and lots of insight into her passion for birds! Sarah will be here to co-teach for the rest of the month. We are so lucky!!

Menuka Basnyat from Bird Conservation Nepal was also along again and brought her friend Lucinda from the UK who is here working on BCN's website. She shared so much about her job and birding in the UK. These kids are getting so much attention! And they shared their passion too - wanting to get going right away!

Today's leader - we are practicing leadership as well as identifying birds - was Thupten and he got us moving at a perfect pace. We walked through rice fields again, this time not stopping much except when our attentive leader checked to see how his group was doing. Good job.
We got to cross the river again (this time no splashing or rocks...) and then we started looking for birds. Three White Wagtails flew in to greet us!

We walked up the hill to the edge of the Forest Reserve and the birds were indeed exciting! The day's bird list will follow, but let it be said that the birds here are unbelievable sometimes.
Check out the colors of the Great Barbet! Look up the Blue-throated Barbet! The Scarlett Minivet...! Please try to imagine trying to keep a group of excited teen birders quiet through all this unveiling of surprises. They even muffled the Asian Koel for a bit of time before we heard the wailing call.

It was great to have Sarah to teach her craft to these eager students. Sarah has a natural ease with people and she helped the kids to look up birds with some tips and guidance that come from her deep passion and her expertise. It seemed that the students were also very excited to show Sarah some new birds to add to her list.

On the way back we saw some raptors that were not Black Kites to practice identifying, and got to splash in the water a bit too. Back at the hostel, hot dal baht was waiting for all of us. A perfect end to a perfect birding day. We were all thankful for the birds we saw, for the people who care enough to want to learn about and protect them, for the camaraderie of this group and for food upon our return.

We will meet again on Tuesday as it is a holiday (no school)! See you then...

Today's Group List:

White Wagtail 3
Black Kite 11
Intermediate Egret 17
Common Stonechat 9
Great Barbet 2
Blue-throated Barbet 3
House Crow 6
Gray-headed Warbler 3
Asian Koel 3
Scarlet Minivet 2
Gray Treepie 9
Pied Bushchat 3
Black Drongo 3
Hume's Warbler 1
Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch 1
Common Tailorbird 1
Common Buzzard 3
Great Tit 7
Black-lored Tit 3
Rose-ringed Parakeet 1
Gray-bellied Cuckoo 3
Indian Pond Heron 1
Long-tailed Shrike 2
Wooly-necked Stork 2
White-throated kingfisher 1

These were seen on our walk today...though not ALL saw ALL of them.
We also saw a woodpecker and a small hawk that we couldn't i.d.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

First Saturday Bird Walk

The first 2011Saturday walk with the Kailash Hostel Bird-Watching Club was a great success! We have been looking forward to being out walking with these students for such a long time that it seemed like a dream when we were standing together.

We were 23 people greeting the day with binoculars around our necks and bird books in our hands. Besides Paul and Karen and 16 students, Menuka from Bird Conservation Nepal joined us with her friend Tuija from Finland and our friend Dr. Marcella Kelly from Virginia Tech, who is here working on the Nepal Tiger Genome Project! The students were excited about the birds and the interesting guests.

We hadn’t even walked for 5 minutes from the hostel when we had already seen 11 species of birds, including almost everyone’s favorite, the White-throated Kingfisher! We had to force ourselves to walk so that we could make it to the forest through the fields of rice being harvested.

As we walked, the students had so many questions for all of their guests. They got to ask Marcella about her own education and her job doing research in field biology, and Tuija about her forestry work here in Nepal. Walking with Karen and Paul was like connecting with old friends as memories were shared from past bird trips. The students loved asking questions about every subject from birds and our lives this past year, our daughters’ lives, world politics and environmental issues. It was very exciting for them to connect with our new friend Menuka. She is the education director from Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN). We too are excited for the students to have met her and to see that they really bonded with her on this outing. The best gift that Menuka brought was her promise to help them in the future with their birding pursuits. She also brought posters, brochures and the Nepali edition of the Birds of Nepal book as gifts for the students! They feel so honored by all this attention!

We were very impressed with the number of birds that the students could identify and of course with their passion for the study of birds. Pens were busy recording every species we saw as a group and there was much discussion about the birds that were difficult to identify. There were flowers, butterflies, berries and even frogs and tiny fish to enjoy.

One of the highlights for all on this warm day was kicking off our shoes and crossing the chilly Baghmati river! There might have been some rock skipping and throwing too! Lots of laughs and some hearty riparian birds such as wagtails too! We ended with a circle and shared our day’s highlights (what else would we do?), and melted at the sweetness of this experience. We are feeling so privileged and grateful to be part of this group. Looking forward to next Saturday!

Today's Group List:

House Sparrow 23
Rock Pigeon 11
House Crow 4
Barn Swallow 19
White-throated Kingfisher 1
Oriental Turtle Dove 1
Pied Bushchat 4
Common Stonechat 7
Oriental Magpie Robin 2
Intermediate Egret 22
Long-tailed Shrike 3
Indian Pond Heron 2
Yellow Wagtail 1
White Wagtail 4
Black Kite 9
Wooly-necked Stork 1
Common Myna 8
Red-whiskered Bulbul 3
Black Drongo 2
Ashy Drongo 1

It was impressive how the students had passion and energy through this whole long morning of bird watching in the hot sun! We can hardly believe how much they have remembered since last year and have learned since then!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Back in Kathmandu!'s for the birds!!!

We are back in Nepal, and much sooner than we dreamed! This time, for the first time, without our kids in tow... Karen will be here volunteering for one month, while Paul only gets a week... Far too short a time, but we hope to make a worthwhile impact.

The Bird-watching program that Karen started in Fall, 2010
was phenomenally successful! The students at HYF's (Himalayan Youth Foundation) Kailash Hostel were so inspired and passionate, that they continued birding in our absence, started their own website, met regularly, and even produced official bird-watching club name-tags! Their heartfelt blog posts, and emails to us back in California were so moving, we just had to return!

Thanks to the generous and enthusiastic support of HYF's directors, we were invited back to Kathmandu with several goals in mind:
  • Continue birding frequently with students to raise their skill level.
  • Produce and field test a "birding handbook" to help train them in birding, guiding, and group leadership skills.
  • Connect the Kailash students with local Nepali birders & organizations who will provide ongoing support.
  • Provide assistance with updating and customizing their website & other publications.
  • Help create a framework for the long-term sustainability of their bird-watching club