Summer on the Deosai Plateau and Wildlife We Encountered While Camping

This is a summary of our visit of the Deosai Plateau during the summer; the wildlife and scenery we experienced while camping and exploring the area.

The summer of 2022 was unusually dry on the Plateau. The Deosai summer, which is normally full of water with the carpet of alpine flowers in full bloom, this time was super dry and the plants were all the like their autumn colors. There was a lack of snowfall in the winter, earlier in the year, so it caused the high plains to be dry early on. In another blog, I will write about the impact of this big change on the Himalayan Brown Bears.

Past articles about the Deosai

The Deosai Plateau on a sunny day is remarkable, with crystal clear rivers, wetlands and mountains inviting you to stay.

The Long-tailed Marmot(or Golden Marmot). These are the same species as the marmots we see near the Khunjerab Pass, but will have a more muted coloration. (The Khunjerab Pass marmots really live up to their names as the “Golden” marmot!)

A male Citrine Wagtail. So striking in the breeding season! Breeding in the thickets along the river, we saw them carrying beaks full of insects to their chicks in the mornings and evenings.

The male Horned Lark who was busy feeding their chicks as well. I was there in mid-July, which seemed to be the season for fledging. It was nerve-wracking to see the baby birds that could not fly so well, as they were so close to the roadway.

Robin Accentor

The Robin Accentor. I didn’t really see it near the campsite, but we saw it while observing the livestock grazing in the Shatung area. In Pakistan, this bird can only usually be seen in a limited area from the Deosai Plateau to the northern area.

We walked every day in search of the Himalayan Brown Bear. Due to the exceptionally dry weather this summer, the brown bears were not in the areas where they are usually seen. There were days when we couldn’t find them, even though we looked all day, into the evening.

After days of walking, there was a big bear cub. It may have had a mother bear nearby, or maybe it was recently independent.

There was another huge Himalayan Brown Bear engrossed in eating grass. Thanks to the wind direction, I was able to get even closer to observe it.

When I returned to the campsite, we had large trout waiting for us (note: it was caught by the staff with a proper permit from the national park). The Deosai Plateau contains both native and exotic trout released for fishing by the British during the colonial period. I don’t know which one this is, but it seems the native trout is a very rare species called an “Indus Snow Trout.”

Seeing trout makes me a little thirsty for Beer. We had a toast with Pakistani beer, Murree Beer (Caution: the altitude is 4,000m, so don’t try it). This can is the Murree Brewery’s Millennium Beer, which I personally think is the most delicious beer. It is the British Colonial legacy that I appreciate the most.

The starry sky of the Deosai Plateau. I really recommend taking photos of the dark skies of the Deosai Plateau.

Himalayan Brown Bear

A brown bear came to our campsite…it was attracted to the garbage, looking for food and is seems it comes often. It was clearly visible in the camera traps.Due to the abnormally dry weather this year, it was difficult to see the brown bears and so few flowers were blooming on the plateau. I just pray that the abnormal weather will not upset the ecology of this special place.

 

Images & text: Mariko SAWADA

Observation: JUL 2022, Deosai National Park, Gilgit-Baltistan

Visit our web site “Wildlife of Pakistan

YouTube : Himalayan Brown Bear in Autumn

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Himalayan Brown Bear > - Deosai National Park > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Searching for Himalayan Brown Bears in the Deosai Plateau in the Summertime

In the summer of 2022, finding Himalayan brown bears to observe was quite a struggle. The National Park Staff and I, searched, and wondered why they weren’t in the places we usually see them.

The first reason that came to my mind was the “increasing number of tourists.” but it’s not something that has happened just in this one year. Second, the nomadic people came to the Deosai Plateau brought their livestock into the brown bear area. Definitely, their presence has a certain impact. However, we could not even find the bears in the core zones…so I suppose the main reason for the lack of bears might be the ‘dryness’ due to the exceptionally low amount of snowfall this winter. The grasses, which are the favorite food of the bears, has not grown in the usual areas, so the National Park staff are guessing that the bears have moved to different areas in search of better food sources.

Unfortunately, there is very little research that has been done on the Himalayan brown bears. To be honest, even the published population estimates are not very accurate.

The easiest place to see bears is the “Watching Point” which is just behind the Barapani National Park Station. If you have any luck, you will get to see a mother and cubs feeding on the hill nearby. However due to the distance, make sure to bring good binoculars or have a scope with you.

This time, during our visit, we could walk to 4 different areas in search of the bears. While walking, we could see Nanga Parbat (8,126m), the 9th tallest peak in the world, from various places around the Deosai Plateau.

 

This is a temporary hollow used by the brown bears to sleep. There are two indentions, one big one and one small one. Looks like it was used by a mother and her cub.

We also found lots of feces, large piles (mother bear) and smaller ones (cub). However, according to the national park staff, the newest one was already 3-4 days old and we didn’t find any fresh droppings. So most likely, the mother and cub has moved on to a new place already.

We scanned the core zone. Finally, we happened upon a Himalayan brown bear.

It was a very young bear!

It must have smelled us, so it stood up and started looking around for us.

It has become aware of our presence. As soon as it confirmed our presence, it put as much distance as it could from us.

It ran across the meadow until it disappeared. It is quite a young bear, so perhaps the mother was still nearby, or maybe it had just become newly independent. I pray that this little one can grow up safely.

A different, bear, this one a large one and totally engaged in eating the grass.

It was so absorbed in eating, that it hardly looked up at all. While eating, we moved closer and we gradually closed the distance. The wind direction was right, taking our smell away from the bear, and it was our chance.

We got lots of photographs.

The bear never realized we were there, and just kept eating. Surrounded by the alpine plants, I was able to enjoy the sights of a bear preying on insects in the grass, observing the natural behavior.

I have tried observing the brown bears several times before, but this time compared to in the past, we had a hard time finding them and had to walk long distances. The impact of the extreme weather on the Deosai Plateau and the effect it has on the brown bear was quite terrifying.

The Deosai Plateau, which is usually covered in lush greenery and alpine flowers, but this summer was so dry. The scene of so many tourist cars driving through the Plateau and the clouds of dust behind the vehicles made me fearful that one day, Deosai could turn into a desert.

 

Image & Text : Mariko SAWADA

Observation : JUL 2022, Deosai National park, Gilgit-Baltistan

Visit our web site “Wildlife of Pakistan

YouTube : Himalayan Brown Bear in Autumn

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Himalayan Brown Bear > - Deosai National Park
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hunza Homestay! Enjoying the local cuisine at the local’s home

This is the introduction of the local food we enjoyed while I visited Hunza at a private homestay.

When you visit Hunza, one of the menu items you will definitely be served is a soup called ‘Dowdo.’ It contains thick handmade noodles, similar to udon, and is a little curry-like. It doesn’t have a strong flavor and is popular among foreigners. More recently, in the Nagar district, there is a meaty pie called ‘Chap Shoro’ which is becoming very popular with the domestic Pakistani tourists.

The food in the Hunza region is healthy; and it is not flavored too spicy so foreigners find it easy to eat.

Making Baruway Gilang (buckwheat Chapati)
Making Baruway Gilang (buckwheat Chapati)

Our homestay host in Hunza, was Amin Ghazi Karim, who prepared the local dishes at their house. They have a modern kitchen, but during the meal, the stove comes in handy while you eat. In the cold Hunza, it is pretty essential to have the stove close by.

Rakaposhi (7,788m/ 25,551ft) can be seen from Amin’s kitchen window.

They made us a Butter Chapati (in the local Burushaki language called ‘Martasxe tse Giyaling.’) The flour chapati is topped with butter. Walnut oil and apricot oils are also used, instead of butter.

The ‘Martasxe tse Giyaling’ is ready. It has a light flavor but is heavy in the stomach.

This is the Cheese Chapati (in Burushaki language called ‘Burus Sapik.’ It is my favorite, locally produced cheese, mint, tomatoes, leeks, onions, and fruit oil wrapped in a wheat chapati. This is really healthy, and recommended for the vegetarians who come to Pakistan and have a hard time with the food.

After the meal, we finish dinner with freshly harvested Hunza apples and tea.

 

Photos & text: Mariko SAWADA
Visit: Oct 2021, Baltit, Karimabad, Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan
Special Thanks to all host family members of Amin Ghazi Karim

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Hunza Valley
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Autumn in the Upper Hunza, a typical evening in the Morkhon and Ghalapan Villages

After a long days of summer spent grazing, in mid-October, the cattle are returned to the village. After that, one a daily schedule the goats and sheep from the village are gathered to go to the pastures for grazing. We arrived in the Upper Hunza’s Ghalapan Village to await the arrival of the goats and sheep in the evening.

 

The Upper Hunza during this season is the most beautiful season, with the poplar trees changing colors. The time to catch their bright yellow leaves in the sunlight is limited because the poplar trees grow in the valleys, surrounded by high peaks all around them.

 

After grazing on the mountain slopes, the goats and sheep have started their decent to the village. Here they come!

 

↓↓ This is a video of the livestock heading back to the villages of Mokrhon and Ghalapan, after a day of grazing. The poplar trees were amazing as well, so that drone footage is included as well!

 

Morkhon & Ghalapan in Autumn|秋の上部フンザの村にて

 

The villagers were waiting for the goats and sheep to come back to the village.

 

They quickly separate out their own livestock from the group. Some of the villagers carry dried apricots as a treat to get the sheep to follow them back to their homes.

 

They have to know which one is their own livestock!

 

This sheep wandered off from the heard and had to be carried back.

 

Each owner brings back their own livestock to their respective shed for the evening. It all happened within a 15 minute window. But this little moment is just the daily life part of a wonderful village life in northern Pakistan.

 

Image : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : Oct 2021, Ghalapan village, Upper Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > = Video Clip Gilgit-Baltistan > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Gojar > - Morkhun > ◇Domestic animal of Pakistan
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Himalayan Brown Bear Before Hibernating: The Deosai Plateau in October

I photographed this Himalayan brown bear in mid-October on the Deosai Plateau. Once October rolls around, the snowy season comes to the grasslands. With the first snowfall, the wild animals are signaled that winter has arrived and their preparations hasten. For example, the long-tailed marmots will surprisingly, all start hibernating at the same time! Just until yesterday, they were out, basking in the sun, but I didn’t see any of them today at all!

This is the wintery scene of the Deosai, near the Barapani camp. According to the National Park staff, the Himalayan brown bears will prey on the long-tailed marmots especially in month of September because they are plump with their winter fat by this time. All the animals are preparing for the long hibernation. Once the marmots stop emerging and enter their hibernation period, the bears will also move from the highlands of about 4,200m (about 13,780ft) to a slightly lower altitude valleys for their own hibernation.

We could see the Himalayan brown bears near the road around Barapani camp!

↓↓↓ A video of the Himalayan brown bears!

Himalayan Brown Bear in Autumn|デオサイ高原のヒマラヤヒグマ

The bears get so large and plump just before hibernating. Just looking at them, fills me with happiness.

This bear has found a comfy spot to sit in the grassland.

The surrounding mountains are already covered in snow. According to our Park staff, it will probably be the last time we will see the brown bears on the Plateau, until next summer.

After the second snow, the Park staff also packed up their base camps and headed back to Skardu. The sheep and goat herders have already descended into the Valley, and winter on the Deosai plateau is setting in.

The long-tailed marmots will hibernate, but the red fox stays active in order to survive the long winter. Even long after the people have gone, I have still seen foxes along the road during our visits.

The number of domestic Pakistani tourists that come to Deosai National Park is increasing and the management of garbage disposal at the campsites is becoming problematic. In 2018 there was a very shocking report that 80% of the content in the bear droppings was plastic. After that, it was reported that the staff of the Park started to make efforts to do cleanups once a week. In addition, it is common to see brown bears in the campsite’s trash areas, so taking more proactive countermeasures is needed.

This awareness sign about the problem has a photo of the bear taken in the summer time. Even in the summer, it is looking so fluffy!

 

Image  & Text : Mariko SAWADA

Observation : Oct 2021, Deosai National Park, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : = Video Clip Gilgit-Baltistan > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Himalayan Brown Bear > - Deosai National Park
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Horned Lark (Deosai Plateau)

In July, when the Deosai Plateau is carpeted with wildflowers its known as the “Flower garden in the sky” and if the weather is nice, you can see the Himalayan Nanga Parbat from here.

This is my report about the Horned lark that I encountered on the Deosai Plateau.

The Horned lark is a wild bird that typically breeds in the northern part of Eurasia and North America in the summer and winters to the south. However in the northern part of Pakistan, it can be observed all year around. It can be seen in high-altitude open areas near Chitral, the Deosai Plateau and the Khunjerab Pass between 3,300 to 5,000 meters altitude.

The Deosai Plateau (Also known as Deosai National Park) is a high-altitude plateau with an average of 4,200 meters, near the boarder of India and the northwest of Pakistan. There are countless small streams that spread out across the plateau to form a wildflower haven sometimes called the “Flower garden in the sky.”

This open area is where the Horned larks breed in nests sheltered by the rocks and small indentations in the ground.

Wildflowers are in full bloom in early July.

This is the male Horned lark. As the name indicates, there are two horn-like crests on the top of its head. In some areas, there are Horned larks that have a more yellow coloring on their face throat, but in Pakistan they are white to a creamy color.

The male seen from the front.

The male Horned lark from behind. The created feathers that form the horns are incredibly cute.

This is a juvenile Horned lark. It was about the same size as the adult birds.

The Horned lark pecking at the grass seeds.

Is this a little bread crumb left by some tourists? They are feeding them to their chicks. The area around the campsite is the easiest place to observe them because of the food leftovers, and the Pakistani tourists are also enjoying bird watching as well.

These chicks have to grow up quickly and prepare for the winter. In the coldest part of winter, they will come down to the foot of the Plateau’s fields and valleys.

The Deosai Plateau was described as a “Flower garden in the sky,” but unfortunately, that situation is changing. In the summer, a large number of tourists visit and without much thought will leave their garbage behind and will go off-road driving into the grasslands.

I wish more people would realize that there are wild animals and birds that rely on these important breeding grounds, during the short summers of the Deosai Plateau.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Observation: July 2016, Deosai National Park, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Deosai National Park > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Citrine Wagtail (Deosai Plateau)

This is the Citrine wagtail observed in the summer of the Deosai Plateau. The breeding plumage of the male makes his bright yellow head, beautifully contrast with the black wings. Even amongst a carpet of blooming wildflowers, the birds stand out on the plateau.

Pakistan’s Citrine wagtail spends the summer breeding season along rivers and lakes in the northern highlands and overwinters in the open plains along the southern Indus River.

This photo was taken near the Barapani on the Deosai Plateau (elevation around 4,000 m). I was observing the Citrine wagtail that was in the riverbank near the campsite.

This wagtail appeared on the riverbank with its head all wet.

Breeding males have the bright yellow heads, while females have a light yellow-gray color.

This is young Citrine wagtail.

This one has caught a worm.

A Citrine wagtail on the flowering Deosai Plateau.

The Barapani campsite at night. Clear crisp air at an altitude of 4,000 m.

There was some frost in the morning. Even in July, we need to be prepared with sufficient protection against the cold.

Full moon in the morning.

From the clear skies over Deosai Plateau, appeared the 9th highest peak in the world, Nanga Parbat, at 8,125 m. The massive and dynamic Himalayan mountain range is so overwhelming to take in.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Observation: July 2016, Deosai National Park, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Deosai National Park > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Long-Tailed Marmot in the Summer (Deosai National Park)

The Long-tailed Marmot observed on the Deosai National Plateau in the summertime. The Plateau, designated a National Park in 1993, has an average altitude of 4,100 m (about 14,450 ft high) near the boarder of India and northern Pakistan.

In the last few years, the number of Pakistani domestic tourists visiting the Park increased drastically, and despite being a National Park, the tourists having bad manners, became difficult to manage. There is a great concern about the impacts the tourism has on the natural environment.
At the campsite, there are parties and lots of tourists making noise, so for those who came to seek nature, its well known that the camping areas are a tough place to be. Besides that, there are the native wild animals who are trying to make the most of the short season of “Summer on the Deosai Plateau” as well.

When you camp at the Deosai Plateau, you will get to see this marmot around. These are the same marmots that can be found on the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia, called the Long-tailed Marmot or Golden Marmot.

The marmots often check for danger, as they stand up on their back legs near their burrows and carefully monitor the situation; when needed they sound an alarm call “Kii-Kii!” Of course, they will make calls for people who venture too close, but they are mainly on the lookout for the foxes and birds of prey above who often target the marmots.
Ranging from altitudes of 3,200m to up to 5,000m, the marmots live in very large colonies, digging burrows into the alpine plain grasses and among the rocks. Being monogamous, it is said that the marmots are highly social animals with a complex society.

They often stand next to the opening, always ready to duck into their protective cavity. This burrow is used for hibernation.

I stood watching the colony near the road for a very long time. Eventually, the marmot families relaxed a little and the babies began to come out.

A mother and her pup came out of the burrow. The pups will spend the first 6 weeks of their life in the burrow and then start to venture out.

They are so, so cute.

The pup plays with the momma.

One more pup came out. Long-tailed Marmots will give birth to about 4 pups at a time, but only about half of them can survive the first summer, and many are lost during the first hibernation. While observing them, I could see the little heads of many pups in this colony.

The snows begin in October on the Deosai Plateau. In previous visits to Deosai, I saw the marmots were still active in the first week of October. They will probably enter hibernation around November, and I hope these little guys make it through the winter!

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

Observation : Jul 2017, Deosai National Park, Gilgit -Baltistan

Special Thanks  : The late Mr.Zahoor Salmi,  Deosai National Park

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Deosai National Park > - Marmot > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

(Video) Red Fox Hunting (Khunjerab National Park)

In the spring, as the snows melt away from the mountainous slopes of the Khunjerab National Park, sitting at 4,000 meters above sea level, the wildlife also seems to spring back to life.

In this video, the red fox catches a mouse. The classic fox hunting technique of locating, jumping and diving into the snow, nose first. Then the prey seems to confuse the fox by “playing dead” …an interesting sighting of the wildlife in the thawing Karakoram.

 

A Red fox hunting / 狩りをするアカギツネ

 

Videography : Mariko SAWADA

Observation : April 2021, Khunjerab National Park, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : - Fox > = Video Clip Gilgit-Baltistan > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan > - Khunjerab National Park
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

(Video)The Apricot Blossoms of Khyber Village

In late April, the apricot flowers are in full bloom, much later than usual in the upper Hunza’s Khyber Village. The wave of modernization and development is making its way up the Hunza Valley. But I hope that the scenic beauty of this stunning village will continue forever.

 

Apricot Blossom in Khyber

 

Videography : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : April 2021, Khyber, Gilgit-Baltistan

Special Thanks : Hunza Hill-Gah – Khyber

Category : ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > = Video Clip Gilgit-Baltistan > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - the Karakoram Highway > - Gojar > - Khyber
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,