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More Birding in Phulbari

View from the Phulbari Buffer Zone

The morning air was cool, the sky cloudy but not overcast. The hills were shrouded in mist, and the ground was still wet from the rain the night before. I hadn’t been planning to go out birding, but with the announcement that another lockdown would be starting that night, it seemed a good idea to go for a hike while I still had the chance. So I decided to go to the Phulbari Buffer Zone, a wooded hillside right under Shivapuri National Park.

In the past Phulbari has yielded some interesting birds like Pied Thrushes and Long-tailed Broadbills, but today it didn’t seem like there were very many birds out. There was a thick cloud that was slowly drifting up the hill, and I had to walk slowly to keep from getting inside it. If I got inside the mist, my chances of getting a nice bird photo would become almost null.

I walked on slowly. There was a Blue-throated Flycatcher, some Gray-throated Babblers, and a Blue Whistling-Thrush. Then I came to a clearing in the trees, and the road stopped in front of me. It had caved in and washed away into a landslide. Rocks and mud and upturned trees covered the hillside, and I could see further down the hill, because there was no foliage hiding my view. There was a bird wave moving through the fallen trees and bushes, and I saw Himalayan Black-lored Tits, Cinerous Tits, Indian White-eyes, Gray-hooded Warblers, and a Little Pied Flycatcher. I moved down the hill a bit to get a good photo of the flycatcher, because they were fairly uncommon, but it was skittish, and I had no luck. I kept walking.

There were Himalayan Bulbuls, a Mountain Bulbul, Striated Prinias, and more Great Barbets. It was interesting, I thought, that I could see both Striated Prinias and Mountain Bulbuls from the same spot, but then, maybe that’s what going to a buffer zone is all about – getting a variation of bird species by going where different habitats meet each other.

Up at the very top of the road, I finally caught up with the clouds. I could hear birds (Red-billed Blue-Magpies, Striated Laughingthrushes) but I couldn’t see much further than the trees right in front of me, so I waited for the mist to clear. Soon it did clear, and I was treated to nice views of the northern edge of the Kathmandu valley and the nearby terraced hillsides.

Clouds drifting off terraces

Then I started back down the hill toward home. After a few minutes of walking, I came across a cooperative Red-vented Bulbul, which allowed me to get two photos of it while it was nicely framed by a branch. I was slightly irked, because I saw Red-vented Bulbuls every day from my yard, and I would have much rather photographed a nice Striated Bulbul on that branch, or if nothing else, a Mountain or Himalayan Bulbul.

Red-vented Bulbul
Red-vented Bulbul

But further downhill there was Dark-sided Flycatcher, a bird I could not see from my home. It was the second Dark-sided Flycatcher that morning, and the tamer of the two birds, too. It sat quietly on a squash plant in someone’s garden, occasionally sallying out for insects, while an Orange-bellied Leafbird sang from the top of a nearby tree.

Dark-sided Flycatcher
Dark-sided Flycatcher, habitat shot

Then I recognized the house that I was next to. It was the same house where a Blue-capped Rock-Thrush had sung from. These people got Dark-sided Flycatchers in their garden, Blue-capped Rock-Thrushes singing from their balcony, and Orange-bellied Leafbirds in the trees nearby? That just didn’t seem fair.

By now it was almost 9:30 in the morning, and it was starting to get hot. The sun had come out, and now it shone down brightly on the landscape. Large, puffy clouds clung to the upper ridges of the hills. The air was very humid, and bird life seemed almost nonexistent. I walked for another half an hour until I reached home, happy that I had gotten a chance to go out birding before the lockdown.


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