Tag Archives: Nepal

Beekeeping at 7000 ft: Nepal field work part 4

On the last day of field work, while we were waiting for a bus to take us back down to Kathmandu, I spotted some small bee hives next to one of the houses belonging to the local Tamang peoples:

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With a few minutes to spare before the bus left, I quickly investigated and discovered that only one of the hives was actually in use:

But interestingly, the bees inside where the native Asiatic or eastern honeybee (Apis cerana) rather than the European or western honeybee (A. mellifera) that is more familiar in Europe.  The bees are a bit smaller and more distinctively striped than their western counterpart:

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There didn’t seem to be much around for the bees to forage on, just a few flowering mustard plants, so I suspect that they were travelling some distance to find nectar and pollen:

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At this altitude of 2092 masl, or about 7000 feet, the winters are long and cold and the summers dry and hot, so the bees must be tough if they are kept there all year round.  I wonder if A. mellifera would survive these conditions?

All too soon the bus driver sounded his horn and it was time to go; an interesting encounter with a bee species I’d not previously seen.

 

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A unique oak: Nepal field trip part 3

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One of the plants that really intrigued me during my time in Nepal was a species of evergreen oak that is native to the Himalayas and nearby mountainous areas of Asia.  It goes by the name of Quercus semecarpifolia and, as far as I am aware, has no common English name.  Two things surprised me about this species.

First of all, it is heterophyllous, meaning that its leaves come in more than one type.  Leaves close to the ground are spiky and look a lot like those of holly (Ilex spp.) which is what I thought they were when I first saw them:

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Leaves higher up on the plant have far fewer, if any, spikes:

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One of the things I discussed with the students was the job of scientists to identify patterns and to develop hypotheses about processes, i.e. what had caused those patterns.  In this case, after some discussion, we decided that the heterophylly was probably an adaptation to defend the leaves against small browsing mammals such as deer (thanks to Narayan for this image):

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The other thing that interested me about the oak was its overall growth form, which was tall (they grow to 30m) with rather short, stubby branches, very distinctive from a distance:

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The tree were especially striking in the evening mist:

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They look as though someone has been out with a chainsaw and trimmed them, but that’s not the case, they naturally grow that way.  The best hypothesis that we could come up with is that this is an adaptation that prevents the trees from accumulating large, heavy loads of snow which could result in branches breaking.

I’ve never seen this growth form, not heterophylly, in any other oak species, but Quercus is a large genus of about 600 species, so I wouldn’t be surprised if similar species exist.

Part 4 to follow.

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Tracks in the snow: Nepal field trip part 2

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As I mentioned in part 1 of this series of posts, there was unseasonable snow at higher elevations during my trip to Nepal.  This made walking a bit treacherous and at night the temperatures dropped to below freezing.  However it did mean that we could see where animals had been moving about the landscape, including the red panda (Ailurus fulgens) which made the tracks in the image above.

Tracks from a total of seven different types of mammals were recorded, such as black bear:

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And the pika, a member of the group that includes rabbits and hares:

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No yetis, but some very yeti-like, moss covered trees:

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There were some very tough flowers dealing with the snow, such as this Primula denticulata:

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And what I think might be a gentian (Gentiana sp.):

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Walking conditions were very challenging at times:

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But the students really enjoyed it:

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The dining rooms of the hostels in which we stayed were cosy:

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And of course the landscapes were fabulous:

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Part 3 to follow

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Crows and kites over Kathmandu: Nepal field trip part 1

 

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On Monday I returned from a 10 day trip to Nepal to support an undergraduate field course run by one of the University of Northampton’s partner colleges, NAMI.  It was my first time in that country, actually my first time in the Indian subcontinent, and it was quite a trip.  I want to share some thoughts and experiences over a few blog posts.  They will be light on text and heavy on imagery, because Nepal is such a spectacular country in so many ways, and the Kathmandu Valley has an abundance of ancient temples, palaces and other sites, many of which survived the 2015 earthquake that flattened more recent buildings:

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But first, what of those crows and kites?  They are actually Black kites (Milvus migrans), dozens of them, and hundreds of Indian house crows (Corvus splendens), all providing an important service in Kathmandu: clearing some of the rubbish from the streets.  They were especially spectacular in the evening, around 5.30 pm, when I would watch them circling and moving towards their nightly roost:

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It’s a really stunning urban wildlife spectacle that none of my pictures do justice to, so here’s a close up of one of the crows:

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Kathmandu has a serious problem with waste and pollution, as do many large cities in that region:

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But the NAMI campus itself is very nice, clean and well presented:

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And it has wildlife of its own, including and array of birds, butterflies and bees, and at least one species of lizard:

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But beyond that, the staff and students I worked with were just great, a real pleasure to meet, the staff committed and the students very engaged with their studies:

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This one was taken the day that we set off for the field trip, in a bus that was driving us from Kathmandu to Kutumsang at 2470 metres above sea level.  The two NAMI staff members who led the field trip, Narayan Prasad Koju and Sanu Raja Maharjan, are both highly experienced Nepalese ecologists:

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We spent one night at Kutumsang then trekked to Mangengoth at 3420 masl, then Thadepati (3690 masl).  It was unseasonably cold up there and quite a lot of snow was still on the ground.  At that point I started suffering from altitude sickness and was happy to descend back to Kutumsang.  During our trek the students established 20m x 20m quadrats at 200 m intervals and recorded woody plant diversity and abundance, and which plants were in flower.  In addition they recorded the tracks and scats of any mammals they encountered.  Here are some shots of the students in action and the general landscape:

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Part 2 to follow.

 

 

 

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