Red-billed Chough ( Upper Hunza)

In the mountainous areas of northern Pakistan, there are “red billed crows” and “yellow billed crows.”

Strictly speaking, they are classified into the crow family Corvidae and the genus Pyrrhocorax, appropriately called red-billed chough and the yellow-billed chough (also known as Alpine Cough).

‘Chough’ is pronounced “chuf /tʃʌf ” and they breed in the highlands above 5,000m during the summer season. In the winter, they form large flocks and decend down into the valley.

Distributed through the Eurasian and African continents, the genus is divided into eight subspecies. The one found in northern Pakistan is Pyrrhocprax pyrrhocorax himalayanus, which also inhabits the Himalayan mountain region to western China. A prominent feature are the large, bluish-purple glossy wings. In Europe and in Africa, Choughs can be observed at an altitude of 2,000 to 3,000 m, but in the Himalayan Karakorum, there is only a chance to see them at higher elevations of 3,000m to 5,000m.

 

I could see red-billed choughs along the riverbanks near Morkhun village. In the winter, the upper Hunza is strikingly beautiful, as a vast landscape of jagged rocks etched by time are layered with snow like a masterful piece of art.

 

While I was watching these red-billed choughs, a herd of goats and sheep passed through to go to their grazing pastures. In the Upper Hunza there are 7 villages that during the summer will keep the yaks, sheep and goats in the Khunjerab national park area. But in the tough winter, only the adult yaks are left in the highlands, while the yearling yaks born in the summer, goats and sheep are brought down to the villages at around 3,000m. Then everyday these herds are taken to the pastures to graze.

 

The paths that the villagers use to move the herds are lined with red & yellow billed chough. Generally since the red-billed will form large flocks, there are usually a smaller number of yellow-billed chough in the groups.

 

These are flocks of red-billed chough that are gathering seeds or fruit from the trees along the side of the Karakoram Highway.

Hippophae rhamnoides are a deciduous shrub found widely in Eurasia. In north Pakistan, it is a very important tree for wild birds, whose fruits are eaten during this harsh winter.

 

The long, curved, red colored beaks. But that isn’t the only thing that red! Their legs are also a red color!

Keep a watchful eye out when you are in the Upper Hunza and Skardu areas in the winter months. At first you may think you are seeing crows…but actually you might be lucky to see black birds adorned with red and yellow beaks! It is no ordinary crow!

 

Photo & text : Mariko SAWADA
Observation : Dec 2020, On the KKH ( Morkhun – Sost),  Gilgit-Baltistan
Special Thanks : TOMO Akiyama

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Gojar > - Morkhun > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

White-browed Wagtail – Soon Valley

A White-browed Wagtail observed in Uchhali Lake in Soon Valley. Uchhali Lake is a salty blackish water lake and insects live on the shore; where birds feed upon.
At the lake pier, we saw a pair of White-browed Wagtail  feeding on the insects.
White-browed Wagtail is 21cm in length, the largest among Wagtail family.
White-browed Wagtail is endemic to Indian sub-continent. In Pakistan, it lives in northern Punjab year-round.

A White-browed Wagtail carrying material for  the nest.
You can listen to the beautiful songs during the breeding season from March to October.

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

Observation: end of March 2019, Uchhali Lake, Soon Valley, Punjab

Reference: Birds of Pakistan, Birds of the Indian Subcontinents (Helm Field Guides)

Category : ◆ Punjab > - Soon Valley > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blue-throated barbet (Margalla Hills)

Blue-throated barbet observed at Margalla Hills, Trail No. 5 in Islamabad.

 

Blue-throated barbet is a barbet which can be seen in the forests spread throughout from the Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia. It has a very distinct beautiful bright blue colored face and throat.

 

In Pakistan, Blue-throated barbet can only be seen in the forest around Murree hills.

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA
Observation : End of OCT, Margalla Hills National Park – Trail No5, Islamabad
Reference : Helm Field Guide “Birds of Pakistan”

Category : - Margalla Hills > ◆ Islamabad > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rufous-bellied niltava (Margalla Hills)

This is Rufous-bellied niltava that I encountered at Margalla Hills, Trail No.5.

 

Rufous-bellied niltava is found in temperate forests from South China to Southeast Asia and South Asia.

In Pakistan, it is found in Murree and Kaghan Valley, which are the southern foot of the Himalayas at an altitude of 1,800m to 2,600m . In winter it descends down to a lower place.

 

I went on Saturday at 7 am, before going to Office, but already many people were walking on the trail.

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA
Observation : End of OCT, Margalla Hills National Park – Trail.No.5, Islamabad
Reference : Helm Field Guides “Birds of Pakistan”

Category : - Margalla Hills > ◆ Islamabad > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Long-legged Buzzard (Balochistan)

This is a long legged buzzard that was seen on the coast of Kund Malir, in Balochistan. These birds are found throughout the African and Eurasian continents. They breed in Central Asia and then travel to the open areas in southern Pakistan during the winter months.

 

And there certainly are plenty of ‘open areas’ all over Balochistan. The buzzards often prey on rodents, lizards, small birds etc.

 

Balochistan is famous as a place where Arab millionaires go to illegally hunt wildlife. These rare birds are unfortunately being targeted for the sake of Eagle Hunting hobbyists. Recently, thankfully, these kinds of threats to the birds are being spotlighted on social media and other media outlets, so now people have more awareness about the problem.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Observation: Nov 2019, Kund Malir, Balochistan

 

Category : ◆ Balochistan > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Black-winged Stilt – Soon Valley

A Black-winged Stilt observed at Uchhali lake in the Soon Valley. It was feeding on the underwater invertebrates in the shallow water.
Black-winged Stilt is a widely spread water bird; mainly found in Europe, Africa, and South Asia, and is characterized by its long red foot.
When it flies, its feet resemble the tail feathers.
In Pakistan, it travels as a summer bird in northern Punjab. Moreover, it is observed all year round in the waters of southern Punjab, Sindh and on the coast of Balochistan.

 

Uchhali Lake with black saltwater reflecting the exquisite scenery around the lake.

 

The lake is surrounded by lush green mountains and tranquil villages.

 

If there is no wind, the lake surface reflects the view as a clear mirror.

 

A beautiful and crystal-clear sight of Black-winged Stilt reflected on the surface of the lake, just like a mirror.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA
Observation: end of March 2019, Uchhali Lake, Soon Valley, Punjab
Reference: Birds of Pakistan, Birds of the Indian Subcontinents (Helm Field Guides)

Category : ◆ Punjab > - Soon Valley > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pied Avocet –Soon Valley

A flock of Pied Avocets observed in Uchhali Lake, Soon Valley.
Pied Avocet breeds in Europe and Central Asia and travels to Africa and South Asia in the winter season.
In Pakistan, Pied Avocet’s wintering starts on the Indus river basin, lakes, wetlands, and the Arabian Sea coast. Breeding has also been observed in the lagoons of Balochistan coast.

We could not observe it nearby, but its characteristic feathers; black and white wing and the long beak that had warped, and the gray leg, it was undoubtedly a Pied Avocet.

A person in the background herding camels and Pied Avocet in the foreground… It was a very unique and gorgeous view of nature and people together.

Photo & Text: Mariko SAWADA
Observation: end of March 2019, Uchhali Lake, Soon Valley, Punjab
Reference: Birds of Pakistan, Birds of the Indian Subcontinents (Helm Field Guides)

Category : ◆ Punjab > - Soon Valley > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Greater Flamingo in sunset – Soon Valley

We visited Uchhali Lake located in Soon Valley, from Islamabad. The trip’s duration was 1 night and 2 days.
Blessed with the weather, we were able to observe the Greater Flamingos in the gorgeous evening golden light.

Northern Shoveler and Greater Flamingo.

Greater Flamingos flying on a sparkling golden lake’s surface.

Greater Flamingos on the lake’s shore.

Greater Flamingos taking off.

A flock of Greater flamingos flying above Uchhali Lake.

As soon as the sunset, the flamingos became a silhouette. We were so excited to photograph these birds until the dark. If you really want to capture the true beauty of flamingos, then the golden hour is the best time.
No doubt, it was a very lovely day at Uchhali Lake.

Photo & Text: Mariko SAWADA
Observation: end of March 2019, Uchhali Lake, Soon Valley, Punjab
Reference: Birds of Pakistan, Birds of the Indian Subcontinents (Helm Field Guides)

Category : ◆ Punjab > - Soon Valley > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Greater Flamingo – Soon valley

There are several lakes in Soon Valley located 150 km southeast of Islamabad, some of the famous lakes in this region serving as a habitat for birds are Kallar Kahar Lake, Khabeki Lake, and Uchhali Lake. Comparatively, Uchhali Lake is the best spot for migratory birds to spend winter season. It attracts migratory flamingos due to its salty blackish shallow water.

There were almost no ducks in late March when I visited, but there were more than 200 flamingos.
According to the locals, 20 to 40 birds have been observed so far, but such a large flock is the first time.
In 2016 no flamingos came to this lake, but since mid of 2018, more than 200 birds came and were still in Uchhali Lake.

Greater flamingos flying over the village.
It is said that a Greater Flamingo has an irregular migratory pattern and the local people were also wondering that it has been staying at Uchhali Lake for about 11 months already.

I’m worried that if their habitat is lost due development, there might be nowhere for these flamingos to go…

Greater flamingos are the largest flamingos in the flamingo family at 120cm to 140 cm.
“The largest flamingo” colors Pakistan’s sky. It was an unexpected scene!

Photo: MARIKO  Text: MARIKO & SAROSH
Observation: end of March 2019, Uchhali Lake, Soon Valley, Punjab
Reference: Birds of Pakistan, Birds of the Indian Subcontinents (Helm Field Guides)

Category : ◆ Punjab > - Soon Valley > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Grey Francolin -Balochistan

A Grey Francolin, which lives in the courtyard of a local guesthouse in Kund Malir. For a moment I was bewildered, when I heard a loud voice, she was just so close to me. It seems that this courtyard is the territory of this Grey Francolin couple, so no matter whether a person or a car is passing by, they do not care at all.

Grey Francolin lives in the dry flat area of the Indian subcontinent. It is a wild bird deprived of the place to live due to the land development.

In Haryana State of India, I went to observe Grey Francolin early in the morning. Particularly, at that time I thought Grey Francolin is a very shy bird who would not approach towards any human. Nonetheless, I was slightly surprised at how Grey Francolin is walking around the courtyard freely.

・・・Grey Francolin, rubbing her body on the ground. It was a very lovely moment to gaze at.

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

Observation : Feb 2019, Kund Malir, Balochistan

Reference : Birds of Pakistan, Birds of Indian Subcontinent(Helm Field Guide)

Category : ◆ Balochistan > - Wildlife of Balochistan > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,