Spiti Sojourn – Spiti Valley – Part 4 – The Moon Lake – Chandra Taal

Spiti Sojourn – Spiti Valley – Part 4 – The Moon Lake – Chandra Taal

On 28 June, 2019, a beautiful day dawned with a promised chill and some overhanging clouds over Kaza.

House Sparrow nestling

At around 1 in the afternoon, we packed up and began on an amazing journey towards Chandra Taal!! The day was jampacked with a lot excitement and surprises.

The day was a Rosefinch Day. I saw 4 different species of Rosefinches that day, photographed 2 and made an excellent frame of 1!!

The first one for the day was a pair of Red-fronted Rosefinches (male and female) near Losar. By the time I got ready, both of them flew away far up the mountain. As I was about to sit in the car, a Chukar flew past me disappearing the grasslands on the opposite side.

Chukar

Just a few moments later, a male Streaked Rosefinch decided to sit on a rock on the edge of the road just in front of us. It was the perfect opportunity for me to get my best frame of this bird. As the bird came and sat on the rock, I lifted my camera and pressed the shutter button a lot of times but nothing happened. I checked the camera to find that I had not switched it on. As soon the camera was switched on, the Rosefinch Flew away.

So Sad and Disappointing!!

The next one was a Common Rosefinch which I saw just outside Losar. Though I could not manage a great shot of it, I still got a record shot.

Common Rosefinch

After having a nice, little lunch break at Losar, we started the next and the most thrilling phase of our journey towards the Moon Lake.

House Sparrow female
Losar village

The sights of the mountains, snow and the grass flats which we got to see between Losar and Kunzum Pass were just mesmerizing!!

Beautiful river with snow clad mountains
Almost Kunzum!!

As we were about to reach Kunzum Pass, a female Red-fronted Rosefinch came and sat on a rock by the side of the road. And this was when I made my ‘Perfect Frame’ of the Rosefinch, as I mentioned above. Though she was in a hurry, still she was kind enough to lend me a few shots.

Finally a good Rosefinch image (but female, I wanted male)

As Kunzum got nearer, the number of Horned Larks began to increase substantially. I saw about 4-5 pairs of Horned Larks around Kunzum Pass

Female
Finally a Male !! It’s so hard to get his eye sharp!!
But he doesn’t know me 😁😁

After spending some amazing time at Kunzum Pass, we moved on to the final and rather unexciting phase of our 6 hour journey.

Stupas at Kunzum Devi Temple
Loved the Road!!

We reached Chandra Taal at around 6:30. And by the time we started on our short 500m walk which is required to reach the lake, it was pretty dark and we were without proper torches.

So, it was here that I for the first time tried my hands on ‘Night Photography’. And thankfully, the results weren’t bad at all!!

Almost there
Hurray!! Chandra Taal at a clear night
What is this type of photograph called?
First attempt at Light Painting

At 3 am, I, for the first time ever saw – The Milky Way!!
And it was here when my GoPro came into use. The photographs I got were quite satisfactory.

Milky Way over the CB-13 mountain peak.
From GoPro Hero 6 Black
Milky Way!!
From Canon 7D
Over the CB-13 peak

Next day, at 8, we again went to the Lake to get some pretty amazing shots.

CB-13 peak in the morning
First glance at Chandra Taal
My best ever Reflection Shot!!!
Some Taekwondo practice
And some Gymnastics as well!!

After spending a few hours there and clicking some amazing photographs, as we were about to leave, I saw a Himalayan Marmot sitting close to the lake and spent a good time photographing him.

Himalayan Marmot
Cuteness overloaded
And a very very close up
Disclaimer for viewers : It’s not the sky, it is the clear water of Chandra Taal in the background with the reflection of the mountain

And it was at Chandra Taal that I finally got my desired shot of an Alpine Chough.

Alpine Chough

We began on our return journey at around 10:30 am. There were no bird sightings until Kunzum Pass except a Citrine Wagtail and a Horned Lark.

Citrine Wagtail

Booff!! Horned Lark again!! I was fed up of this bird by then.

Bye-bye Chandra Taal

When we reached Kunzum, I saw a Redstart like bird sitting in the snow. I had the shorter lens on but this time I clicked whatever I got. After clicking a record shot with the wrong lens, I quickly changed the lens and when I looked up, Boom, it was gone.

Afterwards, I identified it as a Robin Accentor.

Robin Accentor in the Snow

Just a bit later, I saw my lifer – Brown Dipper!! And that too in the snow!!

Though it only gave me one shot, it was not bad.

This made my day – Brown Dipper

Then I went along a waterstream where the Dipper went in search of Lesser Sand Plover but in vain. In search of the Plover, I lost on Dipper.

Hmm…It is very very rightly said –

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush

And now I understood its meaning. A man learns from his mistakes.

As we were about to reach Losar, I saw something on a rock along the slope of the mountain.

Güldenstädt’s Redstart, finally I saw it!! Though it was much less prettier female, but still, I saw it, I can register it in my checklist!!

Güldenstädt’s Redstart female

Next stoppage was somewhere close to Kaza, where we stopped to shoot some Panoramas.

An hour to Kaza

While everyone was having a nice break and enjoying the view, I went on exploring the area and I must say, I was very lucky!

I saw a group of Mountain Finches feeding in the plantations nearby. The group included some Brandt’s Mountain Finch and some Plain Mountain Finch.

Brandt’s Mountain Finch
Plain Mountain Finch

While I was lying on the ground to get a low key image of Brandt’s Mountain Finch, a male Black Redstart landed just about 10 cm away from me. I could not miss this opportunity and took my best shot of the bird.

Say Hello!
Black Redstart
The best one

And this was the last bird photography stoppage for quite a long time. Though I saw a pair of European Goldfinches and a Asian Short-toed Lark on the way, we did not stop because we had a long-long way to travel.

Goodbye Kaza
Dhankar Monastery (didn’t mention but went there as well)
For those who did not understand – it says Helipad 😂🤣

The next stoppage was a few hours later in Lingti Village where we saw about 2-3 pairs of Great Rosefinches and 2 pairs of Red-fronted Serin. And here I finally managed a decent shot of Male Rosefinch!!

Great Rosefinch
Finally a good shot of Male Rosefinch
My Best Serin image
Why can’t I ever get a flight shot??
Somewhere on the road near Nako
What a beautiful sight!!
Striated Swallow near Reckong Peo

The day went all well and I was excited for tomorrow as it was birthday – 1 July, 2019.

The next day, the first bird sighting was around Shimla of a Himalayan Vulture who was running on the road in front of us and it was that I had my closest ever encounter with a Vulture.

My birthday gift – Never been so close to a Vulture

The Last Species for the Trip was a Bonelli’s Eagle which I could not photograph.

~Arjun Basandrai

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/birdingwitharjun/

Spiti Sojourn – Spiti Valley – Part 1 – Entering Kinnaur

Spiti Sojourn – Spiti Valley – Part 2 – Entering Spiti

Spiti Sojourn – Spiti Valley – Part 3 – Local Sightseeing

Spiti Sojourn – Spiti Valley – Part 4 – The Moon Lake – Chandra Taal

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