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Merilyn Browne's 2006 Pakistan Trip Report

By Merilyn Browne

K2 Trek, August – September 2006

This trip was a commercial trek organized by World Expeditions and operated by Nazir Sabir Expeditions (Guides Rehmat Ali (Nazir Sabir Expeditions) and Jarleth Weingott (World Expeditions). The clients came from Australia (seven) England (two) and USA (one). The author, one of the Australians, was the only keen birdwatcher among the group.

Identifications were made with the aid of Pocket Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent, by Grimmett, Inskipp and Inskipp, 1999. In the case of difficult-to-identify birds such as warblers, considerable use was made of the locality maps in determining which species was likely to have been seen.

Prior to the K-2 Trek, one day (15 August) was spent birding around Islamabad. Here the Birdwatcher's Club of Pakistan (BCP) guide accompanied me, and we visited different places. Those worth mentioning are Margalla Hills National Park and Rawal Lake. During the day's birding, a total of 48 bird species were seen or heard. However of these 48, I personally did not get to see 5 species. These were Common Babbler, Brown Rock Chat, Grey Francolin, Crested Bunting and the Brahminy Starling. The day's list included a beautiful and lucky Blue-throated Barbet, which I was told occurs only in Islamabad throughout Pakistan. Other birds seen that were special in a sense, included Scaly-bellied Green Woodpecker, Little Cormorant and the Large-billed Crow.

The party spent several days (17-19/08/06) in Skardu (2290m) prior to the beginning of the trek. Birds seen around the city were: Rock Dove, Common Swift, Eurasian Hoopoe, Black-billed Magpie, Rufous-tailed Shrike, Bay-backed Shrike, Long-tailed Shrike, White Wagtail, House Sparrow, Western Crowned Warbler, Streaked Laughingthrush, Great Tit, Black Redstart. Two birds with less certain identification were a Himalayan Accentor and Variable Wheatear. The Accentor was seen clearly but differed from the Field Guide as it lacked the black markings under the chin, having a buff malar stripe instead. It had very definite russet spotting on the breast and there is nothing else with this. It may have been a young bird. Parakeets with black underwing markings were also seen but not positively identified (possibly Rose-ringed).

From Skardu the party went by vehicle to Thongal (2900m) the first night’s camp (19-20/08/06). From here we trekked to Concordia over the next eight days. After three nights in Concordia, with snowfalls on the second and third nights, the party returned along the Baltoro Glacier over the same route to Thongal (5/09/06) and Skardu (5/09/06).

Species seen around Thongal were: Green Sandpiper (1) Black-billed Magpie, Red-billed Chough, White Wagtail, House Sparrow, Plain Mountainfinch, Common Rosefinch, Eurasian Crag-Martin, Mountain Chiffchaff, Hume’s Warbler (uncertain ID) Great Tit, BlackRedstart. The White Wagtails seen in Skardu were black and white, while those all the way up to Concordia from Thongal were generally grey-backed. These were the most common species seen, appearing at all campsites, though they would not have been the most numerous.

Korophon (3100m) was our second camp (20-21/08/06). There was quite an area of wetland and marsh here, on which various waders were seen: Green Sandpiper (1) Common Sandpiper (2) Temminck’s Stint (1) Black-winged Stilt (1). Other species in the area were Common Swift, Black-billed Magpie, Red-billed Chough, Hume’s Lark, White and Citrine Wagtails, Fire-fronted Serin and Black Redstart. A briefly seen bunting was tentatively identified as a Rock Bunting.

Skam Tsok (3200m, 21-22/08/06) is a very open area with little vegetation and consequently few birds. Common Swifts, Eurasian Hoopoe, a group of Red-billed Choughs, several pairs of White Wagtails and Black Redstarts were the only species seen.

Paiyu (3400m) is traditionally used for a rest day, so we had two nights here on our way up to Concordia and also stayed one night on our way back (22-24/08/06, 1/9/06). There are several large belts of trees, areas of shrubs and some wetland areas alongside the river and at the snout of the glacier, so quite a number of birds are resident here. Raptors seen were a Kite, probably Black-eared, and a Eurasian Kestrel. A Green Sandpiper and a Temminck’s Stint foraged on the wet areas along with White and Citrine Wagtails. There were several Eurasian Hoopoes, two juvenile Eurasian Golden Orioles, a number of Red-billed Choughs and about 100 Yellow-billed Choughs, a Common Raven flying through, a Bay-backed Shrike, Hume’s Lark, Common Rosefinches, Fire-fronted Serins, Eurasian Crag-Martins, a single Barn Swallow, Mountain Chiffchaffs, a Sulphur-bellied Warbler, probable Greenish Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Black Redstarts and a single juvenile White-winged Redstart. A small group of juvenile Rosy Starlings (10-15) seemed to be resident around the camp.

As we arrived at Khobutse (3800m, 24-25/08/06) we saw a Eurasian Kestrel make a kill, possibly of a Pika, and eat it. Other species here were Red- and Yellow-billed Choughs, Common Raven, White Wagtail, Fire-fronted Serin, Mountain Chiffchaff, Sulphur-bellied Warbler and Black Redstart.

Urdukas (4000m, 25-26/08/06) is spread over some grassy slopes with huge boulders dotted about. A single Snow Pigeon flew through, Eurasian Hoopoes were foraging around the area along with Yellow-billed Choughs, White Wagtails, Fire-fronted Serins, Black Redstarts and a couple of juvenile Rosy Starlings. A single Wallcreeper was seen briefly and a small group of Eurasian Crag-Martins were hawking about the hillside.

The camp at Goro II (4300m, 26-27/08/06) is on the Baltoro Glacier, unlike the previous camps which are all on hillsides adjacent to the Baltoro Glacier. Only three species were seen here: Yellow-billed Choughs, Horned Larks and White Wagtails.

The camp at Concordia (4600m, 27-30/08/06) is also on the glacier. Here I saw both Red- and Yellow-billed Choughs, a Common Raven, a small group of Horned Larks, White Wagtails and a small group of Black-headed or Brandt’s Mountain finches. Most of these were juvenile birds but there was also at least one adult bird.

On the return trip we stopped at Goro II, Khobutse, Paiyu, Jhola and Thongal before returning to Skardu by road. Jhola (3200m, 2/09/06) had Red- and Yellow-billed Choughs, White Wagtails, Common Rosefinches and Black Redstarts.

From Skardu we took the Karakoram Highway to Islamabad, stopping at Chilas overnight (6-7/09/06). Hill Pigeons were seen while travelling. House Sparrows and Himalayan Bulbuls were seen at Chilas.

To view complete Bird List from this trip please click here:


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