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Birding Kashmir

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Old Tuesday 24th June 2014, 12:18   #1
lewis20126
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Birding Kashmir

I wonder if anyone reading these posts has been here recently, particularly on a summer visit. I'd be interested in any information you have, either on this thread or as a PM. The key targets are Kashmir and White-cheeked Nuthatch, Tytler's Leaf-warbler, Orange Bullfinch whilst also on the radar White-cheeked and White-throated Tits and Long-billed Bush-warbler (!!)

thanks, alan
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Old Wednesday 25th June 2014, 11:20   #2
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Has anyone been there at all?!

cheers, a
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Old Friday 27th June 2014, 15:32   #3
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last call!

cheers, a
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Old Sunday 29th June 2014, 16:46   #4
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Not many folk heading to Kashmir these days - security is very problematic. Some of these species may be seeable in himalchal pradesh or uttrakhand.
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Old Sunday 29th June 2014, 17:47   #5
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Has anyone been there at all?!

cheers, a
Yes, 24 years ago, and in late December...so probably not much help!
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Old Monday 30th June 2014, 05:04   #6
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I was in Kashmir last month, although not specifically birding. Security is strict but not a major issue any more and there are lots of tourists, predominantly domestic, but it is not easy at all to get away from the main tourist areas. I did visit Shankaracharya Hill, Sonamarg and the Aru Valley.

Shankaracharya Hill provides easy early morning birding in Srinagar - a variety of warblers included Tytler's.

Sonamarg was very crowded and heavily restricted by Army/Police. I was hardly allowed to go out of Srinagar on the road to Ladakh before being stopped. Thajiwas Glacier area was good early morning before the crowds - saw White-cheeked Nuthatch here in the limited time I ended up with. Orange Bullfinch has been seen here before. Bird the trees immediately to the east of the direct route to the glacier, and probably beyond.

The Aru Valley is a beautiful area and Orange Bullfinch was seen whilst I was there, although personally I didn't see many birds of interest.

You should also visit Dachigam National Park. I didn't because inexplicably it is closed on Saturdays and Sundays, and I couldn't get a permit for any other time. You do need a permit in advance which you can get from the Dachigam office just inside the entrance of the Police Golf Course (down from the Lalit Grand Palace hotel) between 10:30 and 15:00/15:30 Monday to Friday. When there ask for Nazir Malik as your guide at Dachigam.

We didn't get to Gulmarg which can be good for birding - put off by the descriptions of crowds and touts there being much worse than Sonamarg!

I haven't heard of sightings of any of the other species you mention, but there aren't many birders visiting so you never know: good luck!
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Old Monday 30th June 2014, 07:57   #7
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Mike,

Thanks that is really useful gen - we don't have much time but I think we have enough time to spoend a couple of days in the Au Valley for the Bullfinch.

cheers, alan
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Old Monday 30th June 2014, 17:37   #8
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James Eaton went and saw Orange Bullfinch recently - drop him a line if you haven't already, Alan.

You could have a read of this too if you haven't - sort of on-subject if you check the species list:
http://www.surfbirds.com/mb/trips/india-mears-1211.pdf
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Old Monday 30th June 2014, 22:33   #9
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James Eaton went and saw Orange Bullfinch recently - drop him a line if you haven't already, Alan.

You could have a read of this too if you haven't - sort of on-subject if you check the species list:
http://www.surfbirds.com/mb/trips/india-mears-1211.pdf
Cheers, I will drop James a line - although he saw the OB in winter and I don't think they'll be in the same spot.

No time for Himachal Pradesh on this trip - Western trag will have to wait, but thanks for the link.

cheers, alan
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Old Friday 8th August 2014, 10:24   #10
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A brief update on our trip. It was a 5 day trip tagged onto a Lesser Florican trip in Rajastan which we saw well. We flew up on Indigo from Delhi return - seemed a good airline, puntual on both flights.

On arrival we were picked up as agreed by taxi and taken to the Milky Way Guest House in Aru Village, arriving just before dusk. No real time for birding but Large-billed Leaf Warbler was heard singing (heard daily here but always distant).

On the second day we walked up the Aru Valley to Lidderwat to seach for Orange Bullfinch. Dave took a horse up. A huge amount of clearance and very heavy grazing pressure so little understorey / scrub. To cut a long story short we failed to find the Bullfinch but did see brief Kashmir Nutcrackers, DW had a juv White-throated Tit north of Lidderwat at c3300m whilst I found several Tytler's Leaf-warblers east of Lidderwat. Other birds included male White-bellied Redstart in a patch of scrub being attacked by goats and female Pink-browed Rosefinch. White-cheeked Nuthatch, Western Crowned Warbler, Rufous-naped Tit and Coal/Spot-winged Black Tit were all common in the tall conifers.

The second day we returned to the lower sections of the Lidderwat track but saw nothing new other than a pair of Rusty-tailed Flycatchers with 2 juvs. In the afternoon we dropped down to Pahalgam with a taxi and made our way back checking patches of decidous trees (again no understorey). This was unrewarding and we saw little of note although had outside hope for Orange Bullfinch and Kashmir Flycatcher (which I've seen in Sri Lanka many years before)

Day 3 we bailed out early by taxi and did the long drive to Gulmarg, passing a huge army presence on all roads in the valleys. We took the chair lift up to the top and I spent the afternoon walking down to the hotel, through mountain slopes, birch wood patches and then open conifer woodland. Highlights included Pink-browed Rosefinches, Black-and-yellow Grosbeaks, Chestnut Thrush, Variegated Laugher, Tickell's Leaf-warblers, Mountain Chiffchaff (1) and a juvenile Fire-capped Tit, both of the last species with a mobile flock of Phylloscs and Tits.

Day 4 we did an early morning walk along the road down towards Srinigar, the highlight a responsive pair of Kashmir Nutcracker and several Black-and-yellow Grosbeaks. We both took the chair lift up to the first phase only then horses to the birch woods. A few birds of interest here included Greenish Warbler, Hume's Leaf-warbler, more Pink-browed Rosefinches and walking lower down through the conifers more Black-and-yellow Grosbeaks and a tame Kashmir Nutcracker feeding on fallen cones.

We had to leave for the airport at midday on Day 5 so this was another morning foray into the lower conifers. Highlights for me were Indian Blue Robin, a tame pair of Ultramarine Flycatchers, family parties of Tytler's Warblers and best of all a fine male Spectacled Finch which came in while I was pishing up the Tytler's. My first Spectacled Finch for over 20 years since I saw them at Ghorepani in Nepal with RR.

It was obviously disappointing not to connect with the Orange Bullfinch but it does seem genuinely scarce - perhaps winter is better. Other possibilities were White-throated Tit - although this occurs into Himachal Pradesh, where perhaps I'll see it one day, Blyth's Rosefinch - a bird of dry montane scrub, so perhaps the edge of Ladakh might be better and Kashmir Nuhatch. The last named is an enigma and as yet there seem to be no stakeouts - The lower slopes of Gulmarg might be the best bet - there are lots of long-leaved Pines here, perhaps better than the tall dense firs higher up?

cheers, alan

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Old Friday 8th August 2014, 11:39   #11
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Nice trip, I was hoping you'd do a bit of feedback ...just up my street
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Old Friday 8th August 2014, 12:04   #12
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Nice trip, I was hoping you'd do a bit of feedback ...just up my street
Jos

You would love it there - great scenery, some great birds - and some tough ones, and.. best of all...a huge military presence!

If (when) I go again I will head to Dachigam NP and try to get to high elevations. I supsect that will take some organisation and perhaps just a little "financial encouragement" directed to the relevant authorities.

At no stage did I feel threatened in Kashmir but there was a huge demonstration in Srinigar on the Saturday although we were up the mountain. We would not have made our flight because of road closures if travelling on this day. Contrary to FCO advice, I think Gulmarg and the Aru Valley are (much) safer than Srinigar, though we spent no time in the latter.

cheers, alan
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Old Friday 8th August 2014, 13:35   #13
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Hi Allan,

I've been playing with the idea of going to India during the monsoon for a few years now, especially as Lesser Florican is easiest and most spectacularly seen then. I can see on the surfbirds galllery, that you encountered a couple of other birds, that are on my wanted-list, like Bristled Grassbird and Rain Quail, so hopefully you can do a short recap of your trip pre-Kashmir as well?

It seems airfares go down during the monsoon as well, so a trip combining grassland breeders, with Kashmir and Ladakh could make for a few fun summer weeks sometime.

As for Orange Bullfinch, I met a South African birder in India 10+ years ago, who went to Srinagar in February and saw them 'easily', but that doesn't help much when preparing a summer trip.

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Old Friday 8th August 2014, 14:09   #14
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Hi Allan,

I've been playing with the idea of going to India during the monsoon for a few years now, especially as Lesser Florican is easiest and most spectacularly seen then. I can see on the surfbirds galllery, that you encountered a couple of other birds, that are on my wanted-list, like Bristled Grassbird and Rain Quail, so hopefully you can do a short recap of your trip pre-Kashmir as well?

It seems airfares go down during the monsoon as well, so a trip combining grassland breeders, with Kashmir and Ladakh could make for a few fun summer weeks sometime.

As for Orange Bullfinch, I met a South African birder in India 10+ years ago, who went to Srinagar in February and saw them 'easily', but that doesn't help much when preparing a summer trip.

Jens
Jens - I think June (or even late May) would be best for Kashmir but perhaps Ladakh is good through July? I think the way to do things might be to start in Himachal Pradesh for the Western Trag, then move up to Kashmir, onto Ladakh and then down for the monsoon breeders in the plains - if you've got 2 months!

cheers, alan
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Old Friday 8th August 2014, 14:20   #15
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Hi Alan

I'm sort of in-between when it comes to 2 months birding trips. I did a fair bit of back-pakcing up until 15 years ago, and can probably pay someone to roll my wheelchair around when I retire (an optimistic 20+ years from now), but in the meantime 3 weeks would probably be the best I can do.

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Old Sunday 10th August 2014, 18:58   #16
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Hi Alan,

Interesting with the lack of understorey (which is of no surprise given the cattle presence) as when I was there in January the snow was 1-3 metres in height so completely hid what undergrowth there was.

I had Orange Bullfinches in Dachigam and Pahalgam, finding them quite quickly on both concerted efforts for seed-eaters, though on my remaining two days I failed to see any more - though I was concentrating on the trees as my one remaining enigmatic species was Kashmir Nuthatch. Literature is not so clear on its exact habitat requirements which made it so difficult to work out what and where to look. In the end, on my final morning, I found a pair in thick coniferous forest - same habo as White-cheeked Nuthatch (which was incredibly common - 12 in view at one point).

I was surprised at how scarce the nutcracker was, but this could purely be because of the briefness of my visit. I'm back again this winter so it'll be interesting how that compares now I have a better understanding of the area.

I would be really keen on birding areas immediately north-west of Srinagar to see if White-cheeked Tit is around (no confirmed records from India I believe).

I would assume for the bush warbler, it's just a case of finding somewhere with low-levels of grazing given how common it was reported in the early 20th century both to the west, on the Pakistani side of the border, and just c20-30km east of Pahalgam.

Certainly an area worthy of further investigation - I had a great time.

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Old Friday 14th June 2019, 16:54   #17
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Resurrecting this thread from the grave, I made a short visit to the Padder Valley in the Kishtwar area of Jammu and Kashmir last month, and had very nice views of Orange Bullfinch.

It's a spectacular area, and unlike the Vale of Kashmir, is completely safe and free from any restrictions. This makes it a good option for anybody wanting to look for the Kashmir specials without worrying about security issues.

It is necessary to do a bit of hiking and camp, though.
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Old Friday 14th June 2019, 18:52   #18
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Resurrecting this thread from the grave, I made a short visit to the Padder Valley in the Kishtwar area of Jammu and Kashmir last month, and had very nice views of Orange Bullfinch.

It's a spectacular area, and unlike the Vale of Kashmir, is completely safe and free from any restrictions. This makes it a good option for anybody wanting to look for the Kashmir specials without worrying about security issues.

It is necessary to do a bit of hiking and camp, though.
Great news that you got the Bullfinch - presume they are breeding in May - the recent records from Ebird certainly go through June-July.

In relation to the other stuff, how easy was Kashmir Nuthatch there? Presumably no rare Bush-tits or Bush-warblers?

cheers, alan
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Old Friday 14th June 2019, 19:28   #19
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Great news that you got the Bullfinch - presume they are breeding in May - the recent records from Ebird certainly go through June-July.

In relation to the other stuff, how easy was Kashmir Nuthatch there? Presumably no rare Bush-tits or Bush-warblers?

cheers, alan
I had a pair of Orange Bullfinches; the male was singing, so they were presumably on territory. There's been a lot of snow this winter in the Himalayas, and spring generally seemed a bit late there, so it's possible they hadn't started breeding.

I didn't see Kashmir Nuthatch or any rare bush-tits. Both the nuthatch and White-throated Bush-tit have been recorded from the area, though (White-throated Bush-tit was very easy at Shilt in the GHNP).

I don't think I was in the right habitat for Long-billed Bush-warbler, and probably would have been too early in any event.

I think mid June would have been a much better time to visit, but this was tagged onto the end of a trip, so optimum timing wasn't possible.
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Old Friday 14th June 2019, 22:08   #20
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I had a pair of Orange Bullfinches; the male was singing, so they were presumably on territory. There's been a lot of snow this winter in the Himalayas, and spring generally seemed a bit late there, so it's possible they hadn't started breeding.

I didn't see Kashmir Nuthatch or any rare bush-tits. Both the nuthatch and White-throated Bush-tit have been recorded from the area, though (White-throated Bush-tit was very easy at Shilt in the GHNP).

I don't think I was in the right habitat for Long-billed Bush-warbler, and probably would have been too early in any event.

I think mid June would have been a much better time to visit, but this was tagged onto the end of a trip, so optimum timing wasn't possible.
OK, thanks - if I go, I'll probably be trying the same approach, ie tagging on to a trip to GHNP, so good to know the WT Bush-tit is straightforward there. Another (better) site needed for the Kashmir Nuthatch in the south perhaps.

Thanks, alan
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