Saturday, February 19, 2011

More bird driving, this time Ladakh!

I will be very honest with you, I never thought of bird when I was planning to drive to Leh from Delhi and come back via Srinagar. Really I had no thought of birds at all. And yet I look back and see that on my trip I stopped for birds a fair bit. Ok the pix are really amateur and blah but the surprise of them was the fun part.

Two birds I had never heard of were spotted and Photographed by my daughter all of 13. With my camera and without my permission, but thank God she did cuz I would never have the Horned lark and the Himalayan chough in my collection if she had 'obeyed dad and not touched my DSLR".

The landscape is stark and forbidding and the road is.... road what road... there is no road but the exhilarating thrill of the high mountains gives me a rush. This is all the more so when a francolin struts across the road (?) in front of my car or darts off down the hillside as I drive by. The birds made me watch the sides of the road and the hillside much more. I had dismissed the Himalayan chough as a crow initially and not really given it much attention, in truth the road at Rohtang was so bad and cut up, that I was giving staying in one piece, my full focussed attention. It was only in Pang that Anjali, my daughter got the pic of the chough.

Crossing the Moreh Plains after Pang was a battle in itself and I will not make that trip again in a Santro loaded with kids, for all the tea in China. It was a really hairy experience. I had Scorpio drivers who met me in Leh comment on the road and ask me how I got thru. At the tea stop almost at the end of that awful drive across the Moreh plains was where my daughter spotted the Horned Lark. Actually I had to put that pic on Indamike in a thread called "which bird is this" to know it was the horned Lark. I was busy darning my frayed nerves looking nonchalant and filling the car with gas when she took the pic and saw it only later that night in Leh.

The ubiquitous Himalayan Magpie is a beautiful if rather threadbare bird. It looks for all the world like it needs to get its suit repaired at the tailors. These are all over the place in Leh and the whole Ladakh region. Funnily enough I never saw them in 2009 when i was up there. This trip in July 2010 I saw a whole truckload. Somehow had not got the hang of the camera then, so pix are not really up to scratch.

Then wonderfully enough driving to Pangong lake I was able to photograph a Himalayan Marmot. These are usually shy creatures but driving by does not seem to bother them. The photo taken from a moving car was not too bad. Driving in Ladakh is a little different to most other wilderness drives. The stark landscape is an acquired taste. Personally I love it. The beautiful rock formations and the striated layers of rock in mountain sides, the sand blowing away from the edges of ridges exposing spires of granite forming fantastic castle turrets on the side of the rivers, these are the sights that thrill me. Driving along and seeing mile after mile of rocky slopes and huge slabs of upright rock hundreds of feet in the air gives one a feeling that cant be explained easily. The Mars-scape, as it was described to me is interspersed with patches of deepest green and, as the marmots have proved, life abounds here. Further along we saw a whole family of marmots and got a couple pix of them too.

I am not really into this type of drive by shooting but in some situations it seems the only way to get anything, so any port in a storm. At pangong there are gulls, black headed gulls. I just could not believe my eyes. How could there be gulls at 16500 ft on a lake a few thousand km inland??? It really boggles the mind. How did they get there? What do they eat? Nest? Breed? Its just unfathomable, at least for me.

Seeing them was fun though and I just enjoyed the view after i got over my initial shock. The panorama was to die for and that was worth it all.


  1. What a wonderful post Arun. By 13 I think my daughter will insist on having her separate DSLR, she is three and a half and already points at one place and clicks at another with the digital point and shoot :D How frequently do you update your blog?

  2. well, Mridula I have been active at it only for exactly a month. So i guess about every 5 days or so.
    I want to practice writing and become a travel writer/photographer of sorts. So this is practice.! ha!