A walk to the “Bantang” Nalla
I don’t know if it was because i was fully acclimatized or the fatigue of the previous day’s work on the hillock or the Arak effect,i had enjoyed a deep sleep that night and had awakened feeling refreshed and fit.
Around 10.30 a.m. I and Kullu left for an acclimatization walk over the hills behind Kibber.Soon we ascended a hill and left Kibber down below behind a ridge.We were to go to a place called “Bartna” nalla.On the way ,we passed a cattle & livestock grazing ground where a certain area had been fenced up by researchers to study and prove the adverse effect of livestock grazing on natural vegetation growth.Sure enough,there was striking difference in the fenced area and that outside it.The fenced area,being protected had higher level of grass growing in it-denser and taller too.Also ,a few dark green bushes that were nowhere to be seen outside the fence were visible inside.
We moved forward,always accompanied by Redstarts and Rosefinches.A Lammergier flew overhead.
It turned out to be a long walk.Kullu finally stopped at a point where s cliff separated from our hill by a deep ravine was visible.It was a vertical mass of sharp yellow,sedimentary rock.The ravine was home to Bandang Nalla.We sat down on a rocky precipice.Binoculars and camera in hands,feet dangling over the cliff below us.Kullu told me that it is this Nalla where his team has had the most number of sightings of the snow leopard in the past.During one his winters there,he had seen a leopard,a goose and a fox on this same walk.
Peak Kanamo was to our right.One route to its summit lay along the Bandang Nala.Kullu had climbed this peak solo,in record 5 hours of time,during his earlier trips to Spiti.Blue sheep were absent that day from the sight..Choughs were swooning down the valley.Kullu then made me climb down the cliff a bit and took me to see a cave where a camera trap was set up for the snow leopard.The camera,when extracted a few months later,would in high probability have images of the snow leopard frequenting that cave.We inspected the cave from outside since the camera would otherwise capture our pictures and that wouldnt be such a nice thing!But there it was!Just at the beginning of the cave,was lying a pugmark of the rarest and the most elusive cat in the world.The mark of the pad of the snow leopard foot and of the the fingers showing up in the soil!The first time ever i had seen such a thing!!Forget the snow leopard,i hadn’t even once sighted a tiger pugmark in my life till then.This was as exciting as being one of the national geographic team for me!I had my moment of the day(i almost always do) that would make the uphill trek worthwhile.:)(For Kullu,this was a thing of the routine!).
As if the pug mark wasn’t a good enough achievement,Kullu then went on to find a golden eagle nest that he had spotted on the cliff across the valley in his previous surveys here.He was able to locate it and i saw the nest using his binoculars.It felt great.Watching the nest of a great bird of prey.You dont get to see the nests of these birds so often in your daily life,do you?!It was built on a glassy rocky surface,beside a crack ,high up on the cliff wall.It was a squarish mass formed of brown figs.There was a black thing atop it but we couldn’t be sure at the time if it was a golden eagle chick.On our return from Lingti valley trek,we did learn from another guy in Kibber that the black thing that we had spotted was a chick indeed!!Kullu added to my non existent knowledge about the bird by telling me how these birds keep the same nest for over years together,sometimes even a decade.Each year,they add twigs to consolidate it and to get rid of the damaged part.They are one of those rare species where paternal involvement is present during parenting.Amazing stuff!
We resumed the return journey and within few minutes,saw an adult golden eagle soar high above us.We traced its flight and sure enough,it turned and swooped toward the direction of the very nest we had been looking at!If only we had stayed on for some more time staring at the nest !!
With that,we walked the rest of the way down to home.Above my head,clouds rumbled,allowing for a few raindrops to fall on earth.Was this a foreshadow of what was to come in the days to come?I hoped not and there ended my day 7 .