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15 June, 2012

Introducing Raptors of Nepal !!!

Black-shouldered Kite

Let me introduce briefly about the raptors of Nepal.

Nepal is rich in biodiversity that supports 59 species of diurnal raptors and 20 species of owls. They play vital role in sustaining livelihoods in Nepalese village life having societies dependent on agriculture by helping to control agricultural vermin so they act as 'farmers friends'. They are vital indicator species sitting at the top of food chain and play a large role in indicating the health of ecosystems and services they provide.

World population of 14 % of all diurnal raptors are globally endangered or vulnerable. The severe decline in raptor population is due to a number of factors including pesticide poisoning, shooting, nest site destruction, habitat alteration and direct persecution by humans. These are the most common reasons for the globally endangered status of raptors. In Nepal, threats to raptors are severe. Pesticides are heavily used in agriculture dominated landscape which creates significant threats to raptors at the top of food chain where toxicity of pesticides and other poisons are concentrated.  Recent study indicates currently 41% of raptors in Nepal are threatened. The impact of the veterinary drug Diclofenac on vulture populations is well documented. Since a banned of veterinary Diclofenac production and use in 2006 and replacement with Meloxicam the decline rate in vulture numbers has slightly lowered. However, illegal use of human diclofenac for veterinary purpose is still a big problem. Deliberately and accidental use of poison is also associated with mortality of many raptor species. Due to the cumulative impact, number of individual bird frequenting Nepal is declining rapidly with the status of 15 species of diurnal raptors critical, three endangered and six vulnerable, and similarly three species of owls critical, one endangered and four species vulnerable in national threatened category. At least seven species of owls are vulnerable to illegal hunting/trade.

02 June, 2012

The East to West Migration of Steppe Eagles Aquila nipalensis and other Raptors in Nepal

Steppe Eagle (Sub Adult)
We propose to do the first full season study of migrating Steppe Eagles and other raptors, including several critically endangered vulture species, in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in central Nepal. This Project has been awarded by Nagao Natural Environmental Foundation, Japan. Also we received Equipment support from Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, USA and Idea Wild. Dr Robert DeCandido- a senior raptor biologist is helping and supervises this project.
Monitoring of regional populations from a “watch site” is an effective means to assess population trends for a number of species. We will identify, count, and whenever possible, age and sex migrants on an hourly basis beginning in September through December for five (2012-2016). Since the early 1980s, only a handful of partial season counts have been completed at this location, and estimates have ranged from 10,000 to 40,000 Steppe Eagles migrating here each autumn, as well as 15 to 30 different raptor species also using this route. Much remains to be discovered about trans-Himalayan migration that this study will address.

Official Lookout Selection

In 2011 we did preliminary study from Paudur Hill and felt we missed some birds that passes near to the Himalayan range. Therefore we have tried to find out the best spot for the Raptor Migration count. Therefore one day visit was conducted around Dhampus Hill. Finally we decided to established one of the Official Lookout at Karanse Hill, which is about 2 km north from Dhampus Hill. Karanse Hill is the best spot from where we can see the Paudur Hill as a mirror image towards south so that it is possible to have a radio communication from these two spots. We can also have a long view of migration from the count point. North view is also good.  We will also set up another Lookout at Paudur Hill. Round view from the spot is shown in the picture.