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2015-12-05 - 6:53 p.m.
I think I forgot to mention something I saw in Chitwan which captures the contradictions of 21st century Nepal, a land of people living in 15th century mud huts with thatched roofs raising tiny plots of yellow mustard and yet everybody's connected via smartphone. One day in Chitwan we happened to notice two young men riding along on an elephant, presumably on their way home to/from work. The guy in front was texting away.
Yeah. Texting AND driving an elephant. After I described this to hubby, he said, "Well, presumably the elephant is an intelligent person who can steer her way clear of obstacles without any backseat driving from the human riders." I guess. But that begs the question of why people are working this intelligent being without consent or a minimum wage. :-)
S. told me that an Orangutan is now a legal person in Argentina and can't be exploited in this fashion. I think we're not sure about elephants. And, at the end of the day, I get the idea that maybe-- in all of Argentina-- there was only one Orangutan impacted by suddenly receiving civil rights. It just isn't a country where Orangutans tend to hang out?
But I often wonder if those who couldn't speak suddenly could speak... what would they say? Because I have to admit I had the disturbing impression that the rhesus macaques at the monkey temple in Kathmandu had a pretty keen idea of what was going on. Whereas the same species of monkeys in the countryside just seem like monkeys...
Anyhoo, with those pseudo-deep thoughts, it's time for the next installment of the amazing Nepal expedition.
Nov. 21, 2015...Sukla Phanta
I like to think of myself as a modest and unassuming person who doesn't try to draw attention to herself. But. I hope it doesn't seem like obnoxious bragging or anything but there were a LOT of people taking care of me on this leg of the trip. S. of course. The owner of the Nepal travel agency who is trying to create more interest in the wildlife. Two bird guides-- a very experienced one and a younger one who is still learning but still VERY good, especially at recognizing tiny forest birds by ear. A driver. A chef! Yes, we brought our own chef. How will I ever go back to "group" tours after all this pampering?
Sukla Phanta is open sunrise to sunset. So the plan was to get there when it opened and poke around until it closed. We found the tracks of four tigers the very first day-- including a mother tiger with a cub. We also found some ecstatic locals who had just seen the tiger "oh, about forty minutes ago."
For me, the biggest event of the day was the first. We had only gone a little way into the park and it was still quite dark when we spotted a Crested Serpent Eagle perched right over the road. Every time I saw one of these birds, I prayed for it to erect its crest all the way up... but they never did. Until today! I saw it! I saw the whole crest of the Crested Serpent Eagle. I'm just sorry it was too dark for our team to get any photos. But it looked great in the binoculars. I guess if you want to see for yourself, you'll have to book your own trip...
Damn, we saw a lot of birds today. I think I'll just reprint the scribble in my notebook:
- Jungle Owlet giving great looks-- it was the first full day so I made a special note of it, but this would be a several times a day event
- my life Rufous Woodpecker -- beautiful but confusing to get at first because there were other woodpecker species using the same tree
- Storkbill Kingfisher
- Red Avadavat-- pretty sure this is my life sighting of the old pet store "Strawberry Finch" although I would have even better sightings, in better light, on subsequent days
- Small Minivet-- an attractive & common bird in the park
- White-tailed Rubythroat-- a pair
- Tickell's leaf warbler-- whew, the leaf warblers are one time you're REALLY glad you have a guide
- Chestnut-capped Babbler
- Chestnut-eared Bunting, a male-- I think this is the only one we saw, and I gather it's usually a rare bird for Nepal, but since Sukla Phanta is on the border with India, it is perhaps not so surprising
- Yellow-bellied Prinia
- Small Buttonquail-- as in, they are smaller than the Button Quail (Chinese Button Quail) I used to raise as a hobby!
- My first Golden-headed Cisticola just singing his little heart out
- A great spot for vultures, including the critically endangered Slender-billed Vulture
- A Bluethroat male
- Three Greater-spotted Eagles together overhead-- two of them performed a partial display, so I figured the third wheel was being told not to do any mate stealing
- Some other new birds-- Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Plain Prinia, Crested Bunting (although it seemed all of them were female/immatures on this first day, but I'd see a male the next day), White-tailed Stonechat (I struggled to see the difference between White-tailed & Common that day but by the end of the visit I could tell them apart at a glance, funny how that works!), Scarlet Minivet (a female was my first but I'd see males later), and a pair of absolutely gorgeous Purple Swamphens
- Deep thought: Baby wild boars are a lot cuter than they sound.
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