Backyard Birding in Sangla
Updated: Apr 20
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Nepal has implemented a nation-wide lockdown. With no way to visit any of my favorite birding spots, I had to make do with the area around my house. It wasn’t that bad though – I’m lucky to be living in a rural area, and I was able to finish the morning’s birding with almost 60 species.
Late March and early April is an interesting time for birds in Nepal. Spring visitors have begun arriving, and most of the wintering species are still present. This makes for a larger bird list and an interesting assortment of species you don’t get any other time of year.
I started birding at 7:00 AM.
Right as I walked outside my front door, I was bombarded with birdsong: an Asian Koel, Eurasian Cuckoos, Oriental Magpie Robins, Blue-throated Barbets, Long-tailed Shrikes, and Spotted and Oriental Turtle Doves were all singing loudly.
Soon I heard a hoopoe singing its oop-oop-oop song from a distant tree. But the song didn’t sound quite right for a Eurasian Hoopoe, so I raised my camera and looked through the viewfinder. It wasn’t a hoopoe – it was a Red-collared Dove! Red-collared Doves are becoming increasing uncommon around the valley and are now rare to the northern end.
Besides a single record during winter, I had never seen any before at this location. It was an exciting find, although I didn’t get any quality photos. If the dove stays here for the summer, though, I’ll get more chances.
I continued out further into some fields. Several Barn Swallows and Gray-throated Martins dipped low to the ground in their pursuits of insects. An Indian Golden Oriole sang from a nearby tree, having just arrived from its northern migration the day before. A few Jungle Mynas and Common Mynas foraged in some stubble. One Common Myna posed for me, showing his orange facial skin.
I worked uphill towards several bamboo groves in hopes of getting photos of one of the Verditer Flycatchers that could often be found there. On my way up, I accidentally flushed a female Asian Koel, who landed on a branch in front of me before flying away into a deeper clump of bamboo. I walked a little bit further before finding a niche to settle down in. As soon as I was still, I noticed more birds around me: Crimson Sunbirds, Hume’s Warblers, a Taiga Flycatcher, and Olive-backed Pipits. One of the pipits flew out onto an open branch and allowed me to capture one of my favorite type of shots:
Ashy Drongos called noisily from a nearby perch, a Black-winged Cuckooshrike sang from nearby, and a larger dove-sized bird flew over me with undulating wingbeats. What was it? I didn’t have long to wait – a pair of Great Barbets started singing their loud duet. It’s one of my favorite bird songs. Here is a video of Great Barbets from hbw.com:
Then I saw movement over me in the corner of my eye. It was a male Verditer Flycatcher, and he let me snap his photo before flying away. His mate showed up a few minutes later carrying nesting material in her bill. I was able to get a photo of her as well, though it was a bit noisy because of the low-light conditions in the shaded bamboo grove.
My last surprise of the morning followed shortly after: a male Blue-throated Flycatcher landed for a brief moment in front of me, and I was able to get his photograph. He only entertained me two seconds before flying to a more secluded perch to sing his song. This was my first sighting of a Blue-throated Flycatcher this year.