Birding Along the Manohara River

A smoky dawn over the Manohara

Late March always brings its own share of spring migrants in the Kathmandu valley, so Uvin, Arend, Rajendra, and I decided to meet at the Manohara river and see what we could find. Migration has seemed a bit slower than usual, and it might be tied up with the smokey air here: for almost a week now, fires have been burning in the dry coniferous forests of west Nepal, and the smoke is covering much of the country like a blanket. Add Kathmandu’s unusually foul late-winter air pollution into the mix, some smog drifting up from India, and the hills around the valley to contain it all, and you’ve got a nice little pocket of polluted air that has been ranking as hazardous for several days now. It seems to have impacted the movements of migrating birds and the arrival of spring visitors.

I reached the river faster than expected, because the bus I was on was racing with another bus of the same route (we won). Here’s a forty-five second clip of some of the action:

Soon Uvin, Arend, and Rajendra had arrived. As we were discussing our plans for the day, Rajendra pointed out a falcon flying by swiftly, low over the fields. We all looked at it just in time – in a few more seconds it was lost in the distance – but we had seen enough to decide it was a Red-necked Falcon, most likely the bird that had been hanging out in this area several months ago. It was an interesting sighting, and it made us wonder what the falcon’s plans were for the year. It had not been sighted in several months, and we had assumed it was back in the lowlands.

We started towards the main birding area, ticking Siberian Stonechat, Pied Bushchat, Little Ringed-Plover, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, White Wagtail, and Rosy Pipit. The Rosy Pipits seemed to be everywhere, foraging in the fields, although they were shy and were not easily approached. Their namesake, the rosy tinge on their un