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Kathmandu in Lockdown

Our team is stuck in a lockdown in Kathmandu. The restrictions came suddenly in late March, when we were due to arrive in Manang to deliver vaccines and veterinary services to communities. The lifting of the lockdown has been delayed for the third time. While we are all eager to return to continue our work in the mountains, lifting the lockdown restrictions prematurely could be devastating for many rural and vulnerable communities that have little or no access to healthcare, and no health insurance. To welcome the weekend, we wanted to share some wonderful wildlife from the Kathmandu valley that our intrepid explorer and community activist, Mukhiya Gotame, has been following and admiring around his city home, where his is with his wife and two sons.

Mukhiya helped establish the Himalayan Mutt Project in 2014. He is a resident of Manang and has a home and dog in the village. The dog is being cared for by his brother-in-law while Mukhiya is in Kathmandu with his family. Above two images are of an Indian pond heron.

Kathmandu and its surrounding valley sits within an elevation of 1,400 - 2,100 m elevation, in the Tropical Deciduous Monsoon Forest Zone. The dominant tree species of this area are Sal (Shorea Robusta), sometimes associated with Semal (Bombax malabricum), Asna (Terminalia termentosa), and Dalbergia Tall coarse two-meter high elephant grass originally covered much of the Doon valleys but has now been largely replaced by agricultural settlements like in the photo above.

White-throated kingfishers are cmmon both near and away from water; frequently seen perched on fence posts and telephone lines near wetlands, lakes, agricultural fields, and clearings. Their call is a jarring, raptor-like descending trills and cackles, often in flight.

Chrysanthemums are domesticated flowers that originated from China. Despite its rural appearances, the Nepa valley, which lies at the crossroads of ancient civilizations of the Indian subcontinent and the broader Asian continent, has been inhabited for thousands of years. The earliest settlements are believed to have been established around 800 BCE, with the earliest known inscriptions dated at 185 CE. As much, much of its wild landscape has changed over this time, and these flowers now mark the semi-domesticated hillsides. White chrysanthemum are a symbol of loyalty and devoted love. The flowers are believed to represent happiness, love, longevity and joy and are used in festivals and religious rituals.

Black drongos are an adaptable songbird of open areas such as farmland, forest edge, meadows, wetlands, and fields and a common sight as a familiar dark silhouette perched on wires, fences, or snags. Black plumage flashes blue and green iridescence in favorable light. Black drongos are a pugnacious species, frequently chasing away larger birds with repeated dives and harsh chattering calls.

White-breasted waterhens are chickenlike marsh birds found in meadows, ditches, riversides, marshes, as well as parks and farmlands in close proximity to humans; often seen foraging in the open. Though they are often quiet when foraging, they have a remarkably variable song that comprises of hooting, grunting, or rasping notes or phrases, repeated monotonously, often from an exposed perch.

Oriental magpie robins are songbirds common to the cultivated areas, woodlands, and gardens within and around Kathmandu. They have a good repertoire of melodious calls and are known to imitate other bird calls. The most commonly heard call is a whistle given at dawn. Most often seen seen singing from a high exposed perch.

White-created laughing thrushes are easily identified by their stunning white peaked crest, with a narrow dark mask and russet-brown body. They travel through primary forest, second growth, and gardens in gregarious flocks, giving loud, querulous, and jabbering calls as they forage. They are also sadly a common cage bird.

Cattle egrets are small, compact white birds with stout yellow bill. Often seen on dry land following cattle or tractors in fields waiting to feed on insects and amphibians that are flushed out.

Spotted owlets not uncommon to Kathmandu valley. They are a small owl with distinctive white eyebrows and neck-band. Often active at dawn and dusk when it utters a loud “chirurr-chirurr-chirurr” laugh in addition to a variety of high-pitched squeals and whistles. Inhabits all kinds of open habitats but avoids dense forest and wetter regions.

These birds of Kathmandu Valley are quite different from the kinds of wildlife Mukhiya is used to chasing in his Himalayan home of Manang. While the air quality has improved in Kathmandu because of reduced vehicular activity, because transportation and logistics into the Himalaya have been disrupted, there has been an increase in the harvest of forest resources for fuel for cooking and heating, and in poaching activities to a lack of enforcement activities. Our community volunteers in Manang have been sending us videos and photographs of dogs and we are grateful to have their participation to help us in continuing to monitor the situation. We hope you have enjoyed these photographs from our team!

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