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 > ◇ Birds of Pakistan > - Deosai National Park
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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 > - Marmot > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan > - Deosai National Park
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SNOW LEOPARD EXPEDITION VOL.04 (Khunjerab National Park)

This is a continuation of our morning sighting of the snow leopard mother and cubs, as we followed them for the day.

When we first saw the leopard family, they had been feeding on the ibex that the mom probably killed for breakfast until we disturbed them. Then we could find them again on the nearby mountain slope, not far from their prey. At first, they were laying on the slope, but then as the day got hotter, they moved around into different spots of grass and then, into the shade of the rocks. They did not spend the entire day sleeping, but instead I could sense that they were struggling to find a cool spot to rest.

The video below, of the leopards below was taken during the day, very far away from them.

Snow leopards during the daytime

Then, finally, came the long-awaited for sunset. At first, the family of three were staying in the same place, but by the time evening fell, they went their separate ways. The mother snow leopard began walking towards the leftover ibex that was killed that morning!

Snow leopard at dusk

It looked like the mother snow leopard was telling us “Hurry up and go!” as she was just out of reach from her precious kill. The cubs looked on at the scene, from the rocks above. As darkness fell, their time begins again.

It was an amazing opportunity to be able to spend the whole day watching snow leopards.

 

Videography & text :Mariko SAWADA

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

Special Thanks : Hussain Ali Khan & Abul Khan, Khunjerab National Park

 

Category : = Video Clip Gilgit-Baltistan > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > - the Karakoram Highway > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Snow Leopard > - Khunjerab National Park > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan
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SNOW LEOPARD EXPEDITION VOL.03 (Khunjerab National Park)

This is a report from the Spring Snow Leopard Expedition. The event happened when we only had two more days left in the trip. While driving through Khunjerab National Park, we saw snow leopards at a very close proximity. It was a mother with 2 cubs as they were feeding on an ibex carcass.

Of course, the snow leopard mother and cubs were surprised by our appearance, and scampered to the edges of the cliff. The encounter lasted for about 3 minutes, and we were all silent, with just the sounds of the clicks of our cameras making noise.

 

Snow leopards sighted from the Karakoram highway

After they disappeared over the ridge, we decided to continue to look for them for the rest of the day, adjusting our location to see if we could see them from a different angle.

 

Videography & text :Mariko SAWADA

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

Special Thanks : Hussain Ali Khan & Abul Khan, Khunjerab National Park

Category : = Video Clip Gilgit-Baltistan > - the Karakoram Highway > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Snow Leopard > - Khunjerab National Park > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan
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SNOW LEOPARD EXPEDITION VOL.02 (Khunjerab National Park)

We had an encounter with a sweet pair of snow leopards at an altitude of 4,500m near the Kunjerab Pass. I am certain for this time of year, it probably isn’t a mating pair but maybe a a two-year old child and its mother.

We were observing and shooting photos from a distance of about 1 km away, so thanks to the long-distance sighting, we were able to see them in their full natural behavior.

 

Snow leopards Khunjerab national park top area 1

 

Snow leopards Khunjerab national park top area 2

 

Photo & text :Mariko SAWADA

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

Special Thanks : Hussain Ali Khan & Abul Khan, Khunjerab National Park

Category : = Video Clip Gilgit-Baltistan > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > - the Karakoram Highway > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Snow Leopard > - Khunjerab National Park > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan
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SNOW LEOPARD EXPEDITION VOL.01 (Khunjerab National Park)

Snow Leopard at Khunjerab National Park at 4,300 meters above sea level.

The Karakoram Highway, which runs through Khunjerab National Park, exceeds 4,000 meters from Koksar and then makes a steep rise to about 4,700m around the Khunerab Pass. Just as we were climbing the extreme slope, we encountered this snow leopard as we turned the curve.

 

While we were driving, Mr. Hussain, who was looking for wildlife from the window suddenly directed the driver to “Back up a little” and he said “There is a snow leopard, very-very close, perhaps hunting its prey.” I couldn’t find it right away at all. Even though he said “Its close. Its right there” but to me I have no idea “how close” he was referring it might be…I was really resenting my bad eyesight.

 

Finally, I could see it, the snow leopard! It was maybe 50m or more…? It was facing away from us, so it was well camouflaged. As I learned later, there was an injured yak below this rocky outlook, and it was investigating the yak. This was the first photo, before it even noticed us.

 

Noticing our vehicle, Mr. Hussain suggested quickly “It will be gone soon. Better get your photos now.” It was such a fortunate encounter for us to see this rare snow leopard!

 

…and in less than 10 seconds, it disappeared from sight.

 

These prey animals of the snow leopards are so sensitive and alert. As soon as the snow leopard moved, the yaks, all at once, gazed in that direction.

 

The ibex had already sensed the presence of the snow leopard and looking in that direction where it had moved to. The herd were all gathered together and already on high alert.

 

This herd of ibex were looking towards the snow leopard for a while, but eventually moved closer to our position and sat down, facing us. It felt as if they were asking “Please, if something happens, help us out?”.

 

Photo & text :Mariko SAWADA

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

Special Thanks : Hussain Ali Khan & Abul Khan, Khunjerab National Park

Category : - the Karakoram Highway > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Snow Leopard > - Khunjerab National Park > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan
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Snow Leopards Etched On Rock (Indus riverside, Chilas)

There are many rock engravings which can be seen on the Indus River (Gilgit River/ Hunza River) basin in northern Pakistan, especially along the rocky shores from Shatial to Hunza, where the number are said to exceed 50,000 drawings.

The oldest ones date back to the BC, depicting hunting scenes and of the Alpine ibex, and with newer “Rock Paintings” that were carved by passing merchants, pilgrims and invaders who were all traveling on the Silk Road. On the banks of the Indus River around the Chilas area, is a sort of “Rock Carving Gallery.” When leading a general tour, I point out the carvings that were made by passing Buddhists but this time, I searched specifically for “snow leopards etched on the rocks.”

 

This is the scene of “Snow Leopard hunting the Alpine ibex” which can be seen from the Karakoram Highway, not far from the Chilas Shangri-La Hotel, a hotel often used by the foreign tourists.

 

Sometimes, the local people who dislike the images of Buddha paint over them with a lime-like substance. These are washed off and cleaned in a way as to not damage the rock carvings. 。

 

The ears and body have a very wolf-like shape, but the long and thick tail shows that it is a snow leopard.

 

The rock carvings along the Karakoram Highway have been considerably damaged by being painted over by locals. However, on the opposite riverbank across the bridge, there was considerably less damage and we could find some rock carvings in good condition.

 

A pagoda is depicted in the image. Early etchings were carved using a hard stone, but those of the Buddhist pilgrimages era are more delicate using more precise carving tools. The pilgrims aiming for “Gandhara,” who would have carved the image of the Buddha and the pagoda, may have been waiting out a high-water event along the Indus River, crossing here once the water levels dropped.

 

Not only Buddhists, but various people from different ethnicities and religions have crossed this area. This is perhaps a drawing of a person who has killed an Alpine ibex, possibly a person from Central Asia?  

 

And…over here, on some materials they describe this drawing being of a “mythical creature,” but it is the same as the horns of the Markhor!

 

A rock face with various pictures engraved on it.

 

It is a bit hard to make out, but it looks like a snow leopard is attacking its prey!

 

And on this one, it is even harder to see, but this depicts a snow leopard attacking an Alpine ibex on a cliff. It is a rare design where the artist drew the “cliff” on a rock canvas.

 

On the right is an ibex, and on the left, a snow leopard.

 

This time, I walked around for 2 hours, and could find 3 snow leopards etched in the rocks.

Unfortunately, the rock carvings in the Chilas area will be submerged by the Diamer-Bhasha Dam Project, which will be completed in the next few years. I have heard that some of the more famous rock carvings will be relocated, but most of them will be lost forever.

The drawings of wild animals etched by these ancient people are a lasting sign of their civilization and proof of that era. Isn’t there a way to conserve these somehow?

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA

Visit: April 2021, Chilas, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

※This article was uploaded in May 2021 to http://www.saiyu.co.jp/blog/wildlife/

Category : - the Karakoram Highway > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Petroglyph / Rock carving > - Snow Leopard
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(Video) Hibernation is Over! Long-tailed Marmots in the Spring (Khunjerab National Park)

In mid-April, you can see the long-tailed marmots sunning on the slopes of the highlands over 4,000m near the Khunjerab Pass. During my 9-day stay, it seemed that it was just after the hibernation period, and the number of marmots continued to increase day by day.
They are such cute marmots in their burrows.

 

Long tailed Marmots in spring

 

Videography : Mariko SAWADA

Observation : April 2021, Khunjerab National park, Gilgit-Baltitstan

Category : = Video Clip Gilgit-Baltistan > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Marmot > - Khunjerab National Park
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A Snow Leopard Encounter! Karakoram Highway

We arrived in Northern Pakistan in search of the snow leopards. While traveling on the Karakoram Highway, we observed the ibex and the vultures.

In Khunjerab National Park, there are many footprints on the roads and in the snowy fields of the river. On the Karakoram Highway, I also found traces of snow leopards after they slept in certain places and on  worn plastic pet bottles that were chewed up by the snow leopard kittens that had played with them as toys. Snow leopards seem to regularly come onto the Karakoram Highway, which makes for easier paths to travel at night and in the early morning hours when there are no cars around.

 

A suspension bridge covered with snow leopard footprints! Snow leopards can cross the rivers in narrow or frozen areas, but of course if there is a bridge, they will not hesitate to use it.

Around noon, as we were traveling along the Karakoram Highway, the guide suddenly shouted “Leopard!” And promptly stopped the car and got out. Staring out at the landscape saying “Bismillah, Bismillah (In the name of God),” and right there, was a snow leopard.

 

It was sitting on a rock just off the road, but as soon as it saw us, started walking away.
The guide is delighted with “Shaubashi, Shaubashi (Wakhi language meaning ‘Very good’ or ‘Well done’.) The pressure on the guide of trying to see a snow leopard, was released.

 

Even though we saw it, the snow leopard was so fast and it was difficult to catch a photo of it as it walked away. At 3,300 meters above sea level, we were so excited and became short of breath. As we took the photos, our hands were shaking, not sure if the photos would come out.

 

A Snow leopard, actually walking, in the snow. So often, Snow leopards are observed amongst rocky backdrops, so it was nice to finally be able to observe this snow leopard with the white snow, which it was named after.

 

It climbed higher and higher, getting smaller and smaller.

 

It continued moving further away. There were times when it overlapped and camouflaged with the tufts of grass, making it hard to find in the viewfinder.

 

He showed me his face for just a few brief moments. This is the last photo. It started walking into the rocky area and soon disappeared.

 

The group as we watched this snow leopard until the very end.

 

We returned to Sost at 2:30 pm for a late lunch. This day was a celebration for the guides (but no alcohol!). A buffet of different kinds of yak meat. All enjoyed a fusion of yak meat recipes, such as yak mantu (Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, which borders Sost, Central Asian cuisine) and yak nihari (a dish of the Indian subcontinent that is stewed with beef parts and the bone marrow).

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Observation: Dec 2020, Khunjerab National Park, KVO Area, Gojar, Gilgit-Baltistan
Special Thanks: Tomo AKIYAMA, Hussain ALI and Abul KHAN

Category : - the Karakoram Highway > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Snow Leopard > - Gojar > - Khunjerab National Park > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan
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