Hemis National Park ~ a winter sojourn...
"Hemis National Park" also known as Hemis High Altitude National Park is situated in eastern Ladakh of Jammu and Kashmir.
This huge national park engulfs the himalayan peaks and rivers and comes in rain shadow area. This is mainly famous for the habitat of Snow Leopards (panthera uncia).
As the winter arrives, the prey base of snow leopard, that is blue sheep aka bharal (Pseudois nayaur) comes down in the valleys of Hemis for grazing that in turn brings snow leopard down too.
Unarguably, Winter is the best time to see the 'grey ghost of himalayas' too !
Below are some photographs of different wildlife, birds and landscapes I could manage in my short stint there !
If you are planning your travel to Ladakh, get in touch with Abdul Rasheed (9906996677) or Juma (9622976069).
Equipment: Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 24-105mm,Canon 300mm, Canon 500mm, Canon 1.4 TC, Tripod
The snow capped mountains and frozen stream that you have to criss cross daily so as to get to the place to scan for the snow leopards. This narrow valley takes you from hosing valley to the rumbak village. A dayful of snow changed the landscape of barren rocky mountains here.
The other side of the valley where the sun shines. The snow gets melted pretty fast with a good sunshine and the barren landscape can be seen again. The vegetation in between the frozen stream also hosts small birds, pika and lynx if you are lucky.
The Ladakh urial (Ovis vignei vignei) herd. This was a lucky encounter while on our way to Sangam (Where Indus river meets Zanskar). I had spotted these and thought of it as a blue sheep. The closer look at the photos revealed it to be highly endangered Urial.
The bharal or Himalayan blue sheep herd (Pseudois nayaur). These are commonly seen in hemis all around. And, as the snow covers the mountains, they come down grazing for vegetation and bushes towards the valley.
The bharal or Himalayan blue sheep male(Pseudois nayaur) closeup. The herd was in the valley and was at touching distance on our last day of the exit from the hemis. When, they were so close, I made some closeup to showcase the big horns of a male. The males horn grows so big, that is one of the reasons for death.
The bharal calf taking a look around. They are meant for these mountains and the rugged and slopy landscape. They can outrun and outsmart anyone running with atmost control and precision in such landscape.
The bharals manoeuvre the landscape easily jumping to cross small valleys, and running across vertically and changing direction while doing so.
The bharal in almost vertical slope grazing and walking happily.
The bharal against a blue sky resting on the cliff on a good sunny day.
The bharal herd seen almost as ants in the huge landscape and near vertical slope. They are masters of this landscape.
In the evenings, you would find Bharal crossing over the ridge from distance.
The Royle's Pika (Ochotona roylei) - When you are bored looking at mountains continuously scanning it for snow leopard somewhere, these cute little fellas offer the respite. The himalayan snocock calling from afar gives you company and you feel to be rejuvenated again to scan !!
The golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) juvenile. The one adult and one juvenile were constantly observed almost on all days. Hardly in the range to take photographs except for this one opportunity when it soared closeby us.
The horned lark (Eremophila alpestris) - These beautiful small larks were always seen scrapping the ice and mud for their food. Very shy though, gave me a good opportunity one evening to shoot them close. Love the warrior-look of this fella in this pose.
The chukar partridge (Alectoris chukar) in a snowfall. The visibility was super low due to heavy snowfall and we returned back to the homestay. These birds offered some respite in a washed out day by posing for me.
This chukar came down of my homestay and I could photograph its curious pose from the comfort and warmth of my room.
Chukar calling out and walking over the snow on the edge.
Chukar on the run - tried panning of their short run that they keep taking.
Chukar stretching it out. This is common thing they do after grazing at the same place for longer time and before taking off.
The leh landscape as seen from the top of Thiksay Monastery
The landscape surrounded by the himalayan peaks as seen from the top of Shey Monastery/Palace.
Spituk Monastery as seen from the roadside far away.
On the way to Sangam where Indus and Zanskar river meets, this landscape takes your breath away. It looks as if one gonna drive straight into the himalayan peaks from here.
Sangam - Indus river coming from left meets with the frozen Zanskar river here. The frozen zanskar in the winter is famous for the "chadar trek" where one can walk over the river in the winter time.
Yours Truly in the landscape - staying at the same place, your hands and feet go super numb. Photo by - Juma.
Do not forget to write about how you liked them below. Thanks for the time spent here.