When I first set foot in Leh and saw the Leafless Sentinel like Poplars, I wondered if any birds would survive the sub zero temperatures in Ladakh.
However I first spotted a solitary Eurasian Magpie ( English) , Pica pica bactriana ( Scientific name) perched on a Leafless Poplar ( pic in the blog thus titled) within the Hotel compound itself.
Thereafter this rather large Magpie was sighted with regularity all across Leh and the surrounding regions I visited.
The interesting sequence that follows was photographed after the acclimatization period was complied with and I set foot outside the Hotel complex.
The Large Black and White Eurasian Magpie was perched on a roof and attentively watched a small herd of 3 cows pass by on the alley below.( see featured image and the one below) .
As the Ladhaki Magpie changed position, the plumage transformed into a Glorious and Iridescent myriad of Blue and Green . Have a look in the picture below and compare it to the the featured image above.
The Crow Like Bactrian Magpie lands onto the Ice and Snow at Ground level close to a foraging Himalayan Cow.
See how it cleverly balances itself and prevents itself from skidding on the Frozen Surface.
The highly intelligent Eurasian Magpie ( IQ levels match that of a chimpanzee) had spotted Food and chisels away the Ice to reach the targeted morsels.
The Magpie is Lucky to find Food in the Icy Cold Winters of Ladakh.
It belongs to the Crow Family Corvidae and I thought the Magpie was a Treepie as it looked so similar to the native Rufous Treepie ( Dendrocitta vagabunda) we see inmany parts of the Indian Subcontinent.
The larger picture, One of the three cows that the magpie had watched attentively.
My hands were frozen while taking the pictures above despite the Sky Blue Skies and Bright Sunshine.
A lot of effort does go into keeping everyone who reads these blogs ENCHANTED.
The White Solitary Posts are Poplars , a high altitude tree you will see covering the the entire Landscape of Leh, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, India.
There is a huge and exciting controversy brewing on the scientific name and I have honed onto the scientific name Populus parmirica.
As I have only seen and photographed them during the Winters when not a single leaf adorned them, let alone bear a flower or fruit, it is hard to key on the species with precision for an amateur like me.
I understand these Ghostly white posts have separate male and female trees and are an intricate part of Ladhakhi life.
Willows and Poplars dominate the winter landscape of Ladhakh.
The Ladhaki Frass or Ladakh Poplars or Populus pamirica can be seen only at altitudes above 2000 m.
Leh is at 3800 m and thus home to vast Poplar plantations.
I hope you will help me identify the species in case I have blundered . Am certain the Genus Populus is however correct.
From an Altitude of 215 metres at New Delhi ( 24 degrees C) to a dizzy 3800 metres at Leh, Ladakh ( -10 degrees C) within an hour meant the first day was reserved for the entire group to acclimatize to the drastic change.
The breathtaking views and rarefied air at an high altitude left me gasping for air.
All the photographs were taken from the Mahey Retreat Hotel , Leh ,Ladakh on the first day of an Enchanting trip.( please check out my blog titled LEH TEASER at http://www.travelwithmukul.wordpress.com)
The landscape at Leh is amazingly stunning and unique.
Behold the Snow Clad and Mighty Himalayas viewed through a screen of leafless trees.
It was so Enchanting to see the Himalayas close at hand. I felt I could reach out and touch the mysterious Himalayas, home to the mysterious Snow Leopards.
The intensity of the Sun is multiplied manifold as the Rarified Air does not filter sunlight. The result is that Snow dissolves leaving barren Mountains like the one in the picture below.
The picture was taken from the window of the Hotel, the rooftop of which can be seen in the foreground.
Leh during the winters is Spellbinding and leaves you Breathless literally and figuratively .
Witnessing Birds in their Natural Habitats has an Enchanting charm which cannot be compared to a visit to a Zoo or even a Sanctuary.
Each moment is a Splendorous Surprise which cannot be predicted.
The Birds are totally free and in Harmony with Nature. You can view them without hundreds of DSLRs clicking or gawking tourists.
The fast disappearing Wetlands near Greater Noida ( 40-50 kms from New Delhi) are currently home to thousands of Migratory and Native Birds.
The photographs below capture the Sunset over one such wetland which is Home to numerous Painted Storks, Spoonbills, Stilts, Sarus Cranes ( we counted close to 50 cranes usually seen in twos or fours ) and many others.
The region has been earmarked for conversion into Highrise Residential and Commercial Buildings.
Thus unknown to the array of Water Birds the Sun will Set to an entirely different Landscape in the near Future and they will need to seek another Home.
Watching The Sarus Cranes (Scientific name Grus antigone) near Parsaul Village, Greater Noida, India is a lovely Birding adventure my friend Hema and I have often taken . ( more will follow on the birds in subsequent blogs)
However while photographing Birds on the leafless tree we were witness to an Amazing Play enacted by a Kitten, An Indian Palm Squirrel and a Kingfisher.
The Kitten and Squirrel are on the extreme Centre- Left in the picture below and the Kingfisher is the Blue-Brown Spot in the centre.
This Little Goliath is actually chasing away the Kitten seen in the Fork of the Tree in the Featured Image.
The Kitten had thought the Indian Squirrel (Scientific name Funambulus palmarum) would be easy game, but was in for a Little Surprise.
The Striking Blue colour of the White Throated Kingfisher ( Scientific name Halcyon smyrnensis ) was what first caught my attention before I saw the Main Drama was actually being enacted on the Main Trunk of the Tree.
The Kitten beats a hasty retreat and Jumps onto the adjacent Village Wall as the Little Goliath stoutly defends his Territory.
Kittens are curious by nature and this one is no exception as it looks at the Indian Palm Squirrel in Wonder.
My fellow blogger and now dear friend Nia is from Turkey and adores Cats. I posted this specially for her as the Cats near my house still elude my camera.
The Enchanting Real Life Drama brings a smile to my face as I recall the entire sequence even as I write this blog sharing my entertaining experience.