Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Typical Bird Watching Day at Kailash Hostel

So what does a typical bird watching day look like here? Well...Sarah and Karen leap out of bed after slowly waking to the sound of the monks chanting and gonging here at Tharlam Gompa where we are staying. It is really a sweet way to awaken here in the city of noises. Peaceful. We usually make some instant coffee here in our room and then go out through the Boudha Stupa kora to the main street to catch a taxi. (The photo in the taxi shows a sleepy Karen with Dr. Marcella Kelly who is a great friend from Virginia Tech, studying tigers here in Nepal). After bargaining for the price of the ride we are on our way to the Kailash Hostel where the students live, about 15-20 minutes drive from out guest house.

We are always greeted at the gate by the happy students and then we wait on the steps outside
the dining room listening to the
chanting of morning prayers. Tea and breakfast are always
brought to us by gracious kids...always tasty and warm. One day we had chick pea soup with Ti-Momo that was for Karen, the perfect breakfast! Savory and simple. Sometimes Tibetan bread with peanut butter and tea is served. Once we had hard boiled eggs and Menuka's had no yolk! Hmmmmm.

The group of 17 students and Karen and Sarah and sometimes guests, usually gathers in a circle (more like an oval) after feasting and gathering supplies (bird books and binoculars) and we all discuss the plan and route for the day. We choose a leader and talk about what that person needs to be conscious of during the walk and how the group can support him/her. We introduce something new each walk so that the kids can broaden their knowledge and we remind ourselves of what we learned last time. Of course we check for water, snacks, sun protection (do you see any in the photos???) and after a brief safety check, we set out on the treasure hunt for birds!

Besides leadership skills, we have been learning how to find birds,
identify birds, have been thinking about bird habitat and migration, practicing our binocular skills and having a great time together! The students are getting good at locating a bird that they hear in the leaves and using binoculars with precision to find it! Look at that skill in the photo of the group watching three Blue-throated Barbets!

Sarah has been sharing her professional expertise in identifying birds that are new to her because though she knows every bird she sees in Yosemite where she works, here in Nepal, all the birds are new! Well, most of them anyway. So the students have been going through the process together with her, as a whole group! It is so impressive to hear them noticing more and more about the bird they are looking at before going to the book, then coming to consensus slowly and more correctly. And having so much fun in the process!

Birds stop us in our tracks every time we see them and get to practice our new skills, but these walks are rich in adventure and other sights too! Right in the hostel's neighborhood we see all kinds of other animals.
Baby goats and chicks always slow our pace
but so do insects and
spiders and guava trees too!

Finally, we return to the Hostel just
in time (or an hour late) for lunch of dal baht and tea of course.
But first we take a look at our group bird list
for the day and share our favorite moments from the walk.

Here is a photo of one of the favorite birds of the week.
Who can guess what the species is?

This is Hodgson's Redstart - male!

Stay tuned...there will be a bird ID challenge on each post! Good night for now.


  1. Thank you for the blog, I am going through the entries...just finished the first one and decided to write a few words of appreciation!

    I would never have the confidence to teach anything unless I knew all the birds first, so this is a great thing for me to learn...that the basics will be the same no matter if the birds are different!

  2. wow, what a great trip, Karen! You're a lucky girl and deserve to fly like a thousand birds!

  3. Hmmm... blue headed redstart? half river chat, half niltava? Dang, YOU have all the Nepal books over there! Wait til you get home, OK?

  4. I'm going to stick with my first thought... some sort of Niltava.