Spiti Valley ~ Wildlife and Landscapes in winter

Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh, otherwise famous summer destination for landscapes and trekker's paradise, is completely a different place in winters.
Due to snow on the mountains, the wildlife i.e. mostly Blue Sheeps and Ibex come down the valley in search of grass and can be seen around the villages of Kibber.
This in turn also brings down their predator, the grey ghost of Himalayas, The Snow Leopard down in these valleys.
The Trip was to go there and hike in these mountains in search of this elusive snow leopard and document the wildlife that is seen in this journey.
Unfortunately, when the efforts were going in good direction, the continuous snow for last 2 days spoiled the chances of meeting this big cat from himalayas and we returned with the snowy memories from the trip with the promise of coming back again... soon !

Thanks to Ajith D for a wonderful company, pre-planning for the trip and gathering all the information that he could around the place and snow leopards. I just tagged along at the last moment :-)
Lara Tsering for being a wonderful, knowledgeable guide, Thillay for being the perfect hosts for a week. And all other Kibber residents who came along, helped, chit-chatted making it a much warm stay there in such cold winter weather.

Equipment: Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 7D, Canon 24-105mm,Canon 300mm, Canon 500mm, Canon 1.4 TC, Tripod

Himalayan Ibex (Capra sibirica hemalayanus)

Himalayan Ibex (Capra sibirica hemalayanus) Male - You can't miss the sight of these huge ibexes hanging on to the cliffs and in snows going about their feeding. The long curved horns and dense beard are the good features of its male.

Himalayan Ibex (Capra sibirica hemalayanus)

Himalayan Ibex (Capra sibirica hemalayanus) kid rushing down the mountain slope bringing along the lose rocks and soil. Their

Himalayan Ibex (Capra sibirica hemalayanus)

This side post of this Himalayan Ibex male is nicely highlighting the beautiful beard, standing on the ridge of the valley.

Himalayan Ibex (Capra sibirica hemalayanus)

This beautiful little Himalayan Ibex kid was walking around the snow, slopes, hills eating out the whatever the grass it could find.

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes)

This beautiful Red Fox walking along the snow is common sighting around the village. Rather, I spotted the one in the night while reaching the village by roadside being the first mammal sighting of the trip. The only problem is to get them in a photographic range and get a good photograph.

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes)

The red fox also is very lightweight athlete that can jump from ridge to ridge just like any other goat species.

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes)

This red fox stopped while running away, found out that we were no threat, gave a look and just sat around in the heavy snowing in front of us. I too sat there watching it sleep there for half an hour before we moved ahead leaving it behind in its peaceful slumber in the snow.

Bharal (Blue Sheep) (Pseudois nayaur)

Bharal (Blue Sheep) (Pseudois nayaur) stays together to minimise the predation by Snow Leopard and Golden Eagle. And why not, it is a favourite prey of Snow Leopards. We spent two close days watching this group and they hardly had changed their place, grazing at the same place in a large group.

Bharal (Blue Sheep) (Pseudois nayaur)

Bharal aka Blue Sheep male watching at us from the other side of the hill. The horns grow up on outside and curve at the top.

Bharal (Blue Sheep) (Pseudois nayaur)

Bharal aka Blue Sheep males coming down the hill almost vertically trying to figure out the place for the night stay.

The Tibetan Sandgrouse (Syrrhaptes tibetanus)

The Tibetan Sandgrouse (Syrrhaptes tibetanus) was a surprise find in the winter. They look like were on the travel and spend only few time here before taking off and going much beyond the mountains.

Great Rosefinch (Carpodacus rubicilla severtzovi)

Great Rosefinch (Carpodacus rubicilla severtzovi) male came flying by and sat around the snow picking up small rocky grasses feeding around.

Tibetan Snowfinch (Montifringilla adamsi adamsi)

The huge flocks of Tibetan Snowfinch were all around the village but we had no time to spend watching them. But, when it was snowing and it restricted our movements, I had a good time watching them do the murmuration around and could finally get this adult male in heavy misty/snowy condition.


Kibber Village, Spiti Vallley, Himachal Pradesh

This is the Kibber Village, our base, beautifully placed in the laps of himalayas. The bordered black lines in the snow you see here are of those fields where the villagers do farming growing mostly green peas, after the snow melts away in summer.

Spiti Valley, walking in snow

This was everyday affair to walk in the snow. The toughest part was to walk when it is snowing. Snow in air, snow beneath you... snow everywhere !!

Spiti Valley Landscapes of sand structures

These were the typical landscapes while reaching Kaza/Kibber on the way. The sand structures were huge, looked odd in otherwise snowy mountains. The surprising factors were the huge stones at the top of some of these structures, mostly by retained there by lose sand coming down, from below these rocks. Anyone has any idea/info about such structures?

Spiti Valley, river landscape

Spiti River frozen in most parts and only a small streams running. This becomes a force in the summer when the snow and glaciers melt and it carries most of that water. It was all snowy/misty on the day we came out hence all the cold feeling in the image.

Kibber Village in snow

Kibber Village in snow. Few folks were filling the water from the only tap. The donkeys used to ferry the water up the slopes of the village.

Kibber Village in Snow

This is the Kibber Village situated on the slopes and mostly snow laden in this time of the winter. Villagers keep coming out with ploughs once in a while clearing the excessive snow from the rooftops, roads, around houses.

Kibber Village prayer room

Kibber Villagers are mostly buddhists. Each house has a big separate prayer room where they pray each day by lighting diyas and beating the drum.

Kibber Village house interior

A typical Household will have a window for light, a bukhari (room heater) burning, lot of wool/blankets. Bukhari is also used for cooking/heating food/water.

Kaza Monastery

Kaza Monastery and village as seen in heavy snow from our hotel room in Kaza.

Different Strokes

Tibetan Snowfinch (Montifringilla adamsi adamsi)

Tibetan Snowfinch (Montifringilla adamsi adamsi)

Spiti Valley landscape

If only the sun could come out as per our wishes to light up the mountain tops.

Spiti Valley river landscape

Spiti river abstract.

Spiti Valley landscape

Differential layered landscape of spiti.

spiti valley landscape

The abstract landscape.

Himalayan Ibex (Capra sibirica hemalayanus)

Himalayan Ibex couple sitting together in the snow. The female has the horn too but it is not as curved and does not grow like the one male has. And offcourse, the male has beard too ;-)

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes)

The red fox comes out mostly when the light fades away to rule the snow.

The Tibetan Sandgrouse (Syrrhaptes tibetanus)

Free birds of the mountains - the Tibetan Sandgrouse flocks flying over the mountains.

Himalayan Ibex (Capra sibirica hemalayanus)

Himalayan Ibex (Capra sibirica hemalayanus) on the ridges in heavy snow.

Do not forget to write about how you liked them below. Thanks for the time spent here.