Hemis National Park, Ladakh, October 2014. We survived the freezing conditions. We survived the crippling altitude. We survived the treacherous climbs up scree slopes that would challenge even the most fearless Blue Sheep. But we’ve been brought to our knees by Pika identification….. Can you help? Or do you know someone who can?
So far as I can tell …
1) Ladakh, at the very top of India, appears to be home to several species of Pika: the Large-eared, the Royle’s, the Nubra, the Ladakh are all occasionally features in Hemis reports. The first two are regularly reported on Hemis trip reports. Nubra occasionally and Ladakh very rarely. Some of the IDs in reports might be wrong.
2) Royle’s and Large-eared Pikas look quite similar. Nubra and Ladakh less so.
3) I have not found any particularly helpful resources to distinguish between the species. The only book I have seen that covered them all “The Birds and Mammals of Ladakh” had descriptions of each species that did not align all that well with the photos in the book.
The animals in question
When we were in Hemis National Park we saw Pikas very easily at a spot about 10 minutes above the lower campsite (a small boulder field next to the river). There were 1 or 2 species here and they appear to be one or both of Large-eared and Royle’s. The main difference I notice between these animals is ear size. Pictures to follow below.
We saw another Pika very close to Rumbuk Village, among bushes near a dry stone wall a little higher up the valley. I am (almost) certain that this was a different species (very different colouration and different habitat). My best guess is Nubra Pika. Pictures below.
We would be very grateful for advice on the ID of the 2 or 3 species that I have grouped below. We have other pictures so if there is a diagnostic feature not shown just ask. The pictures of the larger and smaller eared animals were taken by Jason Woolgar (click on the pictures for a bigger image).
Over to you