Ladakh Area
Trip Report

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Trip Report symbol © Sumit SenLadakh Trip Report
by Otto Pfister

26 May - 26 June 2004



© Otto
Rupchu Plains



For my 10th visit into Ladakh I was accompanied by my wife. Main objectives of this trip included updating of Ladakh wildlife records especially mammal and breeding bird observation and photographing, and promotion of my forthcoming (launched by end of June) book on 'Birds and Mammals in Ladakh'. Because of book advertising activities we spent excessive time in Leh town. Our field work, however, concentrated on areas north of Leh, the Shey-Tikse marshes, the Rumbak area in Hemis N.P., Hemis Shukpachan, Wanla region and the Rupchu focusing mainly on Chumatang, Yoye-Tso, Sumdo, Tsomoriri with Thadsang Karu, Puga, Tso-Kar and Taglang-La. The planned breeding bird survey in Nubra valley had to be cancelled following two attempts to cross Kardung-La when first we were blocked for the full day (10.6.) at Pulu South because of snow-fall and again the following day failed because of avalanches.

For the days in Leh we stayed at 'Hotel Snow View' at Upper Changspa / Leh (tel. 0091/1982 - 252504 / 250153, e-mail: ), a nicely located, quiet hotel a bit above Leh bazaar, offering cozy rooms, tasty food and nice view into Stock Kangri. Its owner, David Sonam, is probably one of the most knowledgeable persons in town about birds and his diverting chats are full of good stories and useful hints. During our field work we were accompanied (as usual) by my old friend Tsering Tashi - who cared for our well being and kept his binoculars always at reach - and Dorje, who drove us safely into all these narrow valleys and plains. In Rumbak we stayed with local people offering a guest room, whereas in the remaining places we pitched up camp.

The weather first was often cloudy, cold and windy, but improved during the 2nd part and turned warm towards the end of our stay. The rivers therefore originally carried very little water (especially in the eastern and center parts of Ladakh), causing big concern to the farmers who needed to irrigate their sprouting barley fields; this drought was due to a very dry winter and present unusual low temperatures preventing the little existing snow in upper reaches from melting. The situation improved fortunately towards end of June in the valleys, whereas water level at Startsapuk-Tso remained extremely low with the main feeder streams dry and spill-over connection into Tso-Kar barren. The low water table offered apparently favorable breeding conditions to Great Crested Grebes in Startsapuk-Tso where a remarkable high number of about 100 nests was counted (in addition some 30 Black-necked Grebes were observed in the same lake about 3 weeks later (M.Ritschard, pers.comm.). Further, perhaps also due to the passed almost snow-less winter, encounter with lagomorphs (Hares and Pikas) was abnormally low. Ongoing construction of a 'highway' between Mahe bridge and Tsomoriri and hence large presence of road workers and their camps resulted in considerable littering of the sites and affirmed the probable cause of absence of some typical species like Tibetan Partridge, White-tailed Rubythroat or reduced density of Himalayan Marmot. Sprouting grass and barley in agriculture fields up in the Rumbak region attracted considerable concentration of Blue Sheep offering favorable observation.

Particular highlights during this trip certainly included observation of a breeding Black Kite 'lineatus' pair in Leh, a Blue-fronted Redstart at Zinchan, my 3rd encounter with a White-throated Dipper 'sordidus' morph at Sumdo, the fantastic Blue Sheep 'show' near Rumbak or the very close encounter with two Tibetan Argali in the slopes of the Tso-Kar basin. The lush poplar and willow grove around Zinchan definitely needs more scrutinizing by passing observers since this spot frequently hosts exciting bird rarities.


26.5. early morning arrival in Leh (3500m) by Jet Airways, resting all day; weather: sunny morning, overcast afternoon, windy and cold

27.-28.5. Leh, resting, organizing trips and permits, book promotion, birding in the surrounding; weather: partly sunny morning but cold, overcast afternoon with sand-storm

29.5. Shey marshes (3260m); weather: sunny and warm

30.5. walk from Leh up to Horzey (3840m) along the river; weather: sunny and warm

31.5. Leh; weather: sunny and warm

1.6. we were dropped at Zinchan (3250m) and walked to Rumbak village (4000m); weather: cloudy and windy, Rumbak cold and snowing

2.-6.6. Rumbak and surrounding including Stock-La base (4600m), Hussing nullah (4000-4500m) and Yurutse (4200m) towards Ganda-La (4500m); weather: generally overcast and windy, cold including snow showers but also some few sunshine hours

7.6. returned from Rumbak to Zinchan, drive to Leh via Trisul-Tso (3270m); weather: overcast and rain, later dryer and windy

8.-9.6. Leh, book promotion; weather: cloudy, cold

10.6. towards Kardung-La, blocked at South Pulu (4630m) for the entire day because of snow-fall

11.6. again towards South Pulu but were sent back because of avalanches, changed plans and continued to Hemis Shukpachan (3760m), weather: morning overcast and cold with light snowfall, afternoon while moving lower and westwards - weather improved to sunny and warmer

12.6. around Hemis Shukpachan, mainly around Juniper ( Juniperus macropoda) stands - one of the only places in Ladakh where remaining groves of (very old) juniper trees can be seen; weather: sunny and warm

13.6. moved on via Likir, Khaltse to Wanla (3200m) ; weather: sunny and warm

14.6. Wanla area; weather: sunny and warm

15.6. returned via Khaltse, Alchi bridge (with its pre-historic animal (and stupa) rock carvings), Phyong (3600m) and Trisul-Tso to Leh; weather: sunny, later partly overcast
16.6. Leh; weather: mostly sunny and warmer

17.6. Tikse-Shey marshes; weather: sunny and warm

18.6. to Chumatang (4000m) ; weather: slightly overcast, cool and windy

19.6. via Yoye-Tso (4730m) to Mahe bridge (4050m) and on to Upper Sumdo (4320m); weather: overcast and windy, later heavy rain

20.6. around Sumdo; weather: improving during morning later turning sunny and warm

21.6. to Tsomoriri (4600m) via Thadsang Karu (4710m) and back to Upper Sumdo; weather: cloudy-sunny and windy

22.6. to Tso-Kar (4600m) via Puga (4450m); weather: cloudy-sunny and very windy

23.-24.6. explored the Tso-Kar basin; weather: generally sunny and warm, but partly windy and cold

25.6. by mid-day drove via Taglang-La (5320m) and Miru (3700m) back to Leh; weather: sunny and warm, turning very windy in the Indus valley

26.6. Leh; weather: rather sunny and considerably warmer than a week earlier

27.6. departure to Delhi by Jet Airways - with freshly snow covered mountain tops bidding fare-well!



Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

2 birds (in breeding plumage) (7.,11.,15.June) in Trisul-Tso

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus

1 pair (incubating) in Yoye-Tso, common (plus >6 nests at northern shore) at Tsomoriri, common (about 100 nests) in Startsapuk-Tso - pairs mainly incubating, some constructing nests and some already with chicks

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

1 bird at Yoye-Tso

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus

common at Thadsang Karu lake and Tsomoriri (with chicks), common (>200 counted) in Startsapuk-Tso (with chicks)

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea

2 pairs in Yoye-Tso, common at Thadsang Karu lake, less so at Tsomoriri (few with chicks), occasional in Puga and Sumdo, more common at Tso-Kar than Startsapuk-Tso

Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope

2 pairs in Yoye-Tso, plus >20 birds in Startsapuk-Tso (some males moving into eclipse)

Gadwall Anas strepera

2 males / 1 female (7. + 15.6.) in Trisul-Tso, plus >2 pairs in Yoye-Tso

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

1 male in Startsapuk-Tso

Northern Pintail Anas acuta

7 pairs (11.6.) in Trisul-Tso, about 7 pairs in Yoye-Tso, plus >40 birds in Startsapuk-Tso

Garganey Anas querquedula

3 pairs (15.6.) in Trisul-Tso

Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata

1 pair (11.6.), 1 male (15.6.) in Trisul-Tso, plus 1 male at Shey fishponds

Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina

1 male in eclipse / 2 females (7.,11.,15.6.) in Trisul-Tso, occasional (males in eclipse) northern part of Tsomoriri, plus >2 pairs in Startsapuk-Tso

Common Pochard Aythya ferina

3 males / 2 females (7.6.), 1 male (11.6.), 3 males / 2 females (15.6.) in Trisul-Tso

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula

1 male (7.,11. + 15.6.) in Trisul-Tso

Common Merganser Mergus merganser

1 female in Indus at Chumatang, plus 1 female in northern Tsomoriri

Black Kite Milvus migrans lineatus

one pair breeds in an old magpie nest in a poplar tree (ca. 8m above ground) in the Leh circuit house complex (3600m) - a first breeding record for Ladakh

Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus

1 sub-adult over Rumbak, 1 adult below Stock-La / Hussing nullah , 1 bird in roost below southern reach 5 km before Mahe bridge, 1 adult at nest with unfledged chick (at eastern reach before ascending into steep slope towards Yoye-Tso), 1 pair in spectacular courting display flight at Puga-Sumdo (calling a very soft 'piaa'), 1 bird at Tsomoriri, 1 bird over Startsapuk-Tso, and 1 bird soaring over Dibring before and another one immediately north of Taglang-La in its roost / nest

Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis

1 immature below Stock-La / upper Hussing nullah, 6 birds soar around peaks of northern reach (3 km after Likche / 3680m), plus 3 single birds sit in respective whitewashed roosts / nests located in high cliffs in northern reach (5 km after Likche / 3710m)

Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus

1 bird near Tso-Kar

Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius

1 bird at Tsomoriri below Korzak

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos

1 bird gliding along cliffs near 'nest' in Rumbak gorge

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

1 pair in / around Leh of which one pair is breeding in an old magpie nest (ca 8m above ground) in poplar tree in the circuit house complex / Leh 3600m (5 trees next to the Black Kite nest, fighting often for the dominant perch on a neighboring dry/dead tree top, kestrel is more aggressive, the male carries a Himalayan Agama and presents it to the begging female sitting on the perch), 1 female accompanying her fledged chick in flight training above Upper Sumdo, 1 female at Puga, >2 birds in the Tso-Kar plains

Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo

1 bird hunting dragon flies over 'fishponds' in Shey marshes and devouring the catch straight in flight, while its partner called from a nearby poplar tree (29.5.) and again (17.6.) presumably the same pair hunting dragon flies over the same site, plus 1 pair breeding in old magpie nest in poplar tree (about 12m above ground) after Shey bridge, female is incubating while male, perched on a horizontal branch in neighboring tree is calling frequently in fast repeated / rising 'piu-piu-piu..'

Saker Falcon Falco cherrug milvipes

1 shy bird (in 'south Tibet' morph) for 3 days (established territory?) above southern edge of Startsapuk-Tso

Tibetan Snowcock Tetraogallus tibetanus

2 birds heard for 3 days in the early mornings in the upper slopes high above Upper Sumdo

Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis

occasional along the upper hillsides above Rumbak, >4 birds above Yurutse (+ 4500m), >20 birds below Stock-La / above Hussing nullah (4600m)

Chukar Alectoris chukar

2 birds at Horzey / Leh, common to abundant from Zinchan to Yurutse up to below Ganda-La but also into Hussing nullah and especially around Rumbak 'the Chukar capital', common around Hemis Shukpachan,

and also around Wanla

Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis

1 pair breeding on longish island at the northern pond off the main lake at Yoye-Tso (a new breeding spot since my research on the species in Ladakh from 1995-97; the nest contained two creamy, reddish-brown splotched eggs laying directly in the grass / no nesting material added, the partner feeding in the nearby marshes amongst sheep, goat and yak is frequently chased by a shepherd dog); 1 2nd-year sub-adult at northern feeder-stream delta at Tsomoriri; >2 (non-breeding) pairs plus one 'loner' in the Tso-Kar plains and shuttling to Puga

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus

6 birds in Shey marshes - mainly in the fish ponds

Common Coot Fulica atra

10 birds in Shey marshes mainly the fish ponds, 3 birds (7.6.) and 2 birds (11.6.) in Trisul-Tso, 1 bird in Yoye-Tso, occasional in northern part of Tsomoriri, >70 birds in Startsapuk-Tso, = compared to earlier year counts I would suggest the summering coot population in Ladakh as increasing

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

2 birds - probably a pair, on a side-canal in the Shey marshes

Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus

common at Thadsang Karu lake, around the Tso-Kar lakes, plus about >20 birds on the northern feeder-river delta of Tsomoriri. Males of these latter group were lacking any white on lower forehead or above lore - characteristic for the usual Ladakh breeding form 'atrifrons', but appeared black from forehead and lore to ear-coverts, i.e. identical to the Tien-Shan / Karakorum breeding 'pamirensis'. Confirmation of identification (photographed) would indicate a new subspecies for Ladakh on migration to reach its breeding grounds.

Common Redshank Tringa totanus

2 birds at Yoye-Tso, occasional in the Puga plains, rather common in the Tso-Kar plains especially around Startsapuk-Tso

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus

1bird at the spring at northern Tso-Kar

Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus

1over Indus at Chumatang, 1 bird over river at Upper Sumdo but occasional at Puga, abundant at Thadsang Karu lake and Tsomoriri, and common over the Tso-Kar lakes and breeding in Startsapuk-Tso

Common Tern Sterna hirundo tibetana

1 pair on Indus at Shey marshes (29.5. + 17.6.), 1 over Indus at Chumatang, 1 bird over Yoye-Tso, 2 records over northern Tsomoriri and >4 birds at Startsapuk-Tso

Tibetan Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes tibetanus

daily flypass of >1 pair (07.30h) and 1 male drinking at spring at Startsapuk-Tso

Rock Pigeon Columba livia neglecta

common throughout the lower regions in visited places of Ladakh to about 3900m

Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris turkestanica

common throughout visited parts of Ladakh up from 3800m but mainly above 4000m

Oriental Turtle-Dove Streptopelia orientalis meena

occasional to common in groves throughout the lower regions of visited Ladakh to about 3700m with single sightings up to Rumbak; 2 fledging chicks at Hemis Shukpachan

Eurasian Cuckoo Cuculus canorus

1 female in hepatic morph in Wanla area, plus 1 male (also calling) and 1 female (hepatic morph / also calling) in the Shey-Tikse marshes

Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo hemachalana

1 adult with 1 downy chick in nest in rock-niche in steep rock-wall at Upper Sumdo, 1 adult in northern rock wall above nomad winter settlement at Puga

Little Owl Athene noctua bactriana / ludlowi

1 pair breeding in rock-fall at southern end of Startsapuk-Tso, with the male hunting in the grass-land near the spring and carrying the vole-kill up into the rocks, the nest site was found in a changed location due to destruction of their traditional breeding place (see also OBC Bulletin 29: 22-28)

Common Swift Apus apus

1 bird over Shey marshes, >2 birds over Indus - Rumbak river junction, plus 1 bird over Startsapuk-Tso

Fork-tailed Swift Apus pacificus

2 birds over Indus - Rumbak river junction

Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops

quite common around Leh (pairs calling), common in Shey marshes (one pair courting, others carried food), plus 1 bird in the Wanla area

Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla

1 bird in the Wanla area, calling unceasingly in a repeated (ca. 15 notes) fast 'piu-piu-piu-piu...', perching up in a poplar tree woodpecker-like

Hume's Short-toed Lark Calandrella acutirostris

occasional at Yoye-Tso, common around Thadsang Karu lake and Tsomoriri, common in Puga, common (also incubating) in the Tso-Kar plains

Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula

occasional (incl. some singing males) in Hemis Shukpachan, occasional in the Shey-Tikse marshes

Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris longirostris

occasional in the upper Rumbak valley from Rumbak upwards, common tow. Kardung-La (South Pulu), common in the Rupchu region incl. Yoye-Tso, Thadsang Karu lake and Tsomoriri, Puga-Sumdo or Tso-Kar plains (also incubating)

Sand Martin Riparia riparia

1 bird in the Wanla area

Eurasian Crag-Martin Hirundo rupestris

occasional in Rumbak valley (around 3500m); 1 pair incubating in a small breeding colony (together with Northern House Martin) above Alchi bridge (3200m) (13.6.), yet the nest was found destroyed two days later (vandalism) and the clutch of 4 (white, brown splotched) eggs laying broken below with the birds gone; 2 birds over Indus 3 km after Likche / 3680m, common (breeding) in the Puga-Sumdo area

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica rustica

2 birds Shey marshes, 1 pair at Startsapuk-Tso

Northern House Martin Delichon urbica

1 over Choglamsar; >3 pairs nest-construction in a small breeding colony (with Eurasian Crag Martin) above Alchi bridge (3200m) (13.6.), two days later the colony was found destroyed (vandalism) and the birds gone; 2 birds over Indus 9 km before Mahe bridge; common along the north-facing rock-wall east of Sumdo (>7 pairs in nests / incubating),

White Wagtail Motacilla alba alboides

common above Leh along Leh-river and the Shey-Tikse marshes, 1 bird in Wanla area, quite common around Chumatang

White Wagtail Motacilla alba personata

1 bird near Indus along the road ca. 3 km west of Alchi bridge

Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola calcarata

common above Leh along Leh-river and in the Shey-Tikse marshes; >1 pair below Yurutse (4050m); 1 male, 1 female Hemis Shukpachan; quite common in Wanla area; occasional at Yoye-Tso; common in the Puga-Sumdo area; occasional amongst the Tso-Kar plains

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea

1 pair breeding at water canal in Leh near bazaar, common above Leh town along Leh river, >2 birds + 1 pair along Rumbak river

White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus cashmeriensis

3 birds and 2 fledging chicks above Leh; 2 birds along Rumbak river (3550m), 1 fledged juvenile along Rumbak river (3750m), 1 pair carrying nesting material at upper end of Rumbak gorge (3850m), 1 pair constructing a nest at the edge of a small brook below Yurutse (4050m); 2 birds along northern feeder river into northern Tsomoriri,

  •  a mixed pair (normal cashmeriensis and rare 'sordidus') were feeding into their nest pasted into the vertical slope of the book at Upper Sumdo. One bird (prob. male = singing next to the nest-site while the partner was brooding) in usual white throat, whereas the 2nd bird (brooded often and removed the chick's faecal sacs, which are typical female related attributes and females apparently do not sing during the breeding time) appears in chocolate-brown breast yet paler than remaining underparts and mantle area ( 'sordidus' morph). This latter bird further showed 2nd-last outer-tail feather and 2nd outer primary feather white, it collected food often away from the water course in the scree.
  • sympatric occurrence of breeding Brown Dipper and the White-throated Dipper in the same about 300m long river portion at Horzey (3840m) above Leh = the Brown Dipper with 3 fledging chicks and the White-throated with 2 fledging chicks mixing / flying freely in their 'common territory'

Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii tenuirostris

3 birds and 3 fledging chicks above Leh and at Horzey

  • the sympatric occurrence of both the Brown Dipper and the White-throated Dipper in a common breeding territory at Horzey is discussed above under 'White-throated Dipper.

Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes neglectus

1 bird at Horzey above Leh

Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris

2 birds tow. Kardung-La at South Pulu

Robin Accentor Prunella rubeculoides

occasional in the Rumbak region, common tow. Kardung-La at South Pulu, common at Yoye-Tso, Puga-Sumdo and occasional at Tso-Kar

Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens

occasional in the Rumbak region, >1 bird tow. Kardung-La at South Pulu, common in the Puga-Sumdo area, 1 pair above Startsapuk-Tso

Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius

1 male below (3600m) and 1 male near 'plantation' (3700m) in the Rumbak valley, 1 pair establishing territory above Rumbak (4100m) (male singing) and 1 singing male at Yurutse (4400m), and 2 males / 1 female in Wanla area

Blue Whistling-Thrush Myophonus caeruleus

1 bird along Leh-river above town, >2 birds (1 singing) around Zinchan, and 2 single birds further above after park-entrance into Hemis N.P., 1 bird in Wanla area

Tickell's Thrush Turdus unicolor

a group of 3 males at Upper Sumdo

Mountain Chiffchaff Phylloscopus sindianus

common to partly abundant (especially in the Shey-Tikse marshes) in the lower tree-set (favouring willow trees) areas to 3700m rapidly decreasing above and rarely to about 3900m

Tickell's Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus affinis

few birds amongst Caragana above Rumbak, few around Sumdo with a nest in Caragana bush - the incubating bird is not leaving the nest even after my close (1m) approach

Sulphur-bellied Warbler Phylloscopus griseolus

1 bird in Zinchan grove moving along poplar tree-trunk like tree-creeper, 1 bird at 'plantation' (3700m) in Rumbak gorge, occasional around Rumbak with one pair carrying nesting material (4100m), >4 birds above Yurutse (4500m) calling in a dry sharp 'duck', plus >3 records in Upper Sumdo

Hume's Whitethroat Sylvia althaea

common in dry scrub in Shey-Tikse marshes and Wanla area, occasional above Leh town and Hemis Shukpachan

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica abbotti

rather common above Leh in Buckthorn bushes along Leh-river (red-star morph more frequent than white-star); common though much more visible / audible on 17.6. than during 1st visit in late May (red-star morph more frequent)

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros phoenicuroides

common around Leh, with one pair breeding in stone wall at the roadside next to the hotel; common up Rumbak valley up to Yurutse, but also Hemis Shukpachan, Wanla area, Puga-Sumdo and occasionally in Tso-Kar plains; most pairs busy feeding into the nest, many males appear in various shades of darker brown to black coloured back, or not uncommonly breeding males appear in female plumage

White-winged Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogaster

3 pairs tow. Kardung-La at South Pulu defending territories, plus 1 male collecting/carrying food at Upper Sumdo

Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis

1 male keeping territory in Zinchan grove - a 3rd record for Ladakh only

Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka

2 breeding pairs carrying food in a barren plateau along the road 3 km west of Alchi-bridge

Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti

1 male tow. Kardung-La below South Pulu, 1 male at Yoye-Tso, occasional in Puga-Sumdo incl. 1 pair carrying food, quite common in Tso-Kar plains

Great Tit Parus major cashmirensis

common in and around Leh, occasional (some birds carry food) in Shey-Tikse marshes, >3 + 2 birds in Rumbak valley, some few records at Hemis Shukpachan, quite common in Wanla area with one pair feeding into nest located in a willow trunk slit

Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus

1 female in Wanla area, 1 pair at Shey-Tikse marshes

Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach erythronotus

1 bird in Wanla area (singing unceasingly from top of poplar tree, also imitating Red-wattled Lapwing or Golden Oriole)

Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus lahulensis

1 bird at Chumatang (called frequently)

Black-billed Magpie Pica pica

common around Leh, the Shey-Tikse marshes, Hemis Shukpachan to Wanla; occasional up Rumbak valley to Rumbak, or up Indus to Chumatang

Hume's Groundpecker Pseudopodoces humilis

1 pair collecting food at southern end of Startsapuk-Tso and carry it far up into southern slope, plus 1 bird collecting food at south-western end of lake and flying up into (south-)western barren slope

Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax

occasional over Leh, some individuals tow. Rumbak gorge and 1 pair nesting (incubating) in a hole in moraine wall below Rumbak, occasional towards Yurutse (to 4500m); common in Hemis Shukpachan; quite common in Wanla area including one pair with 2 fledged chicks; occasional around Chumatang and common at Tsomoriri

Yellow-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus

3 birds tow. Kardung-La at South Pulu; occasional at Hemis Shukpachan (mixing with Red-billed Chough around feeding places)

Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos intermedius

2 birds (prob. a pair) at the back dump of circuit house complex (wedged tail exceeding tip of primaries at rest, with rather slim and longish bill)

Common Raven Corvus corax tibetanus

1 bird soaring over Leh, 2 birds at northern end of Tsomoriri, >3 birds at Tso-Kar and 3 at Startsapuk-Tso

House Sparrow Passer domesticus parkini

very common in and around Leh (busy in nest construction), Shey-Tikse marshes, Hemis Shukpachan, common in Rumbak valley up to Rumbak; abundant around Chumatang, and common around Korzak at Tsomoriri

Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla adamsi

in general quite common above 4000m in center and eastern Ladakh including Rumbak to Yurutse , or the Rupchu region with 1 pair collecting food at Chumatang and many feeding into their nest or fledged chicks at Tso-Kar

White-rumped Snowfinch Pyrgilauda taczanowskii

1 bird above the slopes of Thadsang Karu lake

Plain-backed Snowfinch Pyrgilauda blanfordi

occasional to quite common amongst the sandy slopes of Startsapuk-Tso (feeding into nest or fledged chicks)

Plain Mountain-Finch Leucosticte nemoricola

3 birds after Rumbak gorge (3900m) but common around / above Yurutse (to 4500m), occasional in the Wanla area

Brandt's Mountain-Finch Leucosticte brandti

common tow. Kardung-La around South Pulu, common at Yoye-Tso, around Sumdo-Puga, Tsomoriri and Tso-Kar

Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus ferghanensis

occasional in Shey-Tikse marshes mainly along willow-scrub near moist areas (on in-migration), occasional around Zinchan but common around Wanla area, and 1 pair at Upper Sumdo

Red-mantled Rosefinch Carpodacus rhodochlamys

1 male and >5 females in barren sandy slope south of the Wanla area

Streaked Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilloides

common around Rumbak (4000m) but less so around Yurutse (to 4500m), >1 male , 3 females at Chumatang; occasional around Puga-Sumdo; the species favours Caragana bushes

Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilla

1 territorial male tow. Kardung-La at South Pulu, >4 pairs (4km before Likche / 3650m) towards Chumatang; the species favours dryer slopes than Streaked Rosefinch

Twite Carduelis flavirostris

encountered mainly above 4000m; occasional around Rumbak, common at Yoye-Tso, Puga-Sumdo, Tsomoriri (with fledged chicks), or Tso-Kar plains

Fire-fronted Serin Serinus pusillus

common at Shey-Tikse marshes - favours blooming willow trees and feeding at its seeds, occasional above Leh town, common in Rumbak valley feeding at blooming willow - turning occasional towards Yurutse (4500m), common at Hemis Shukpachan (a pair observed: female alone is constructing nest while male followed her on material collection and perched in vicinity singing), common in Wanla area but occasional in Chumatang

Rock Bunting Emberiza cia par

occasional in the Rumbak region, in Hemis Shukpachan and one record in the Wanla area




Nubra Pika Ochotona nubrica

common amongst caragana in Upper Sumdo

Royle's Pika Ochotona roylei

few animals in Rumbak gorge, occasional to fairly common (probably this species) amongst caragana above Rumbak, 1 animal at Hemis Shukpachan

Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus

1 animal above Rumbak, 1 at Upper Sumdo and 1 dead animal south of Startsapuk-Tso

Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana

occasional around South Pulu / tow. Kardung-La, >3 animals at Saspotse near Hemis Shukpachan, common at Yoye-Tso, Upper Sumdo, Tsomoriri and common at Tso-Kar

Stoliczka's Mountain Vole Alticola stoliczkanus

common at Tsomoriri and the Tso-Kar plains

Snow Leopard Uncia uncia

fresh tracks and two calls in Hussing nullah (5.6.)

Red Fox Vulpes vulpes montanus

one adult with 3 growing pups in grassland at Startsapuk-Tso

Mountain Weasel Mustela altaica

1 animal below Rumbak gorge

Tibetan Argali Ovis ammon hodgsoni

a group of >7 animals above Yurutse, a group of 6 males on the southern crete above Startsapuk-Tso,

2 females in slope at southern end of Startsapuk-Tso

Ladakh Urial Ovis vignei

2 females and 1 fresh lamb in the plains after Lama Guru / Sikh temple before Zanskar-Indus junction,

2 sub-adult males in Wanla area

Bharal (Blue Sheep) Pseudois nayaur

a group of >30 animals (mixed femals with yearlings and younger males) just after Rumbak gorge, common above Yurutse, occasional above Rumbak, 2 females before Likche, a group of 14 juv. + sub-adults in northfacing rock-wall between Upper Sumdo - Sumdo

Kiang Equus kiang

common (>120 animals) in the Tso-Kar plain




Himalayan Agama Laudakia himalayana

occasional around Leh, common towards Hemis Shukpachan and in the Wanla area

Theobald's Toad-headed Agama Phrynocephalus theobaldi

common in arid slopes towards Yoye-Tso (to 4800m), above Thadsang Karu and around Tso-Kar basin

Ladakhi Rock Skink Asymblepharus ladacensis

occasional amongst boulders or below low bushes in the Rumbak valley up to above Yurutse (4500m)
One unidentified small Lizard (about 7 cm long incl. tail / dark, blackish dark-grey over back with small pale spots) in rocks / scree at 4300 m in Hussing nullah

© Otto Pfister

  Also read: Trip report - Ladakh by Mathias Ritschard




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