Having deleted all the rubbish, and answered the most urgent, I am left with 86 emails from friends, family, colleagues and contacts all over the world. Each contains information, an invitation, an attachment, a question or a request. Together they illustrate the continent-spanning web which is my life. A life, this year, in search of cats and the knowledge of them.
Today I have heard from Konchok, my friend and colleague in Ladakh, with whom in February I was watching snow leopards in Hemis National Park. He writes with good wishes from the team in our camp in the Rumbak valley. I miss them already and, after two days at home, am itching for it to be February again so I can curse my frozen toes alongside these wonderful people.
|Konchok searching for snow leopards at Rumbak Sumdo|
|Konchok and a marsh tit|
Also today I have heard from Sanju at the Mahey Retreat, our hotel in Leh. He too is well and asks whether I will be visiting in 2016. I hope so Sanju, I hope so.
|The view from the Mahey Retreat across the Indus Valley|
to Hemis National Park
From hotter climes - very hot by mid May - I've received photos and greetings from my friends Vinod, Dimple, Tarun and Jai who live in the shade of the tall sal forest at Kanha Jungle Lodge and, at this time of year, watch tigers every day for as long as they like. As happy as I am to be home, I miss them, especially Jai who was away at school on my visit this year so I didn't see him. Tu meri adhuri pyas pyas.
|The sal forest entry to Kanha Jungle Lodge|
From weeks ago I have an email from Quentin, who masterminded my mammal-watching bonanza in Borneo, with the identity of a plant I photographed in the beautiful garden of the Sepilok Nature Resort. It is of Clerodendrum paniculatum and Quentin writes that Clerodendrum was traditionally regarded as the most powerful plant in the Malay Peninsula, used by medicine men known as pawangs to summon up pangil pangil or forest spirits. Clerodendrum flowers and leaves, he continues, were used as magical bait by many in Borneo when trapping mouse-deer. Magical or not it is a quite lovely plant.
|Clerodendrum paniculatum in the garden|
at Sepilok Nature Resort
|Clerodendrum paniculatum at Gomantong Caves|
Continuing with identifications, my friend Tim, who has seen snow leopards with me and not seen Sunda clouded leopards with me (but had a lot of fun in the attempt) sent this photo of a hawkmoth, which I rescued from the loo in Tabin. A lepidopterist friend of Tim's tells us that it is Daphnusa ocellaris. It too is very lovely.
|Daphnusa ocellaris (on my own fair finger)|
photographed by Tim Stowe
And on the same trip, my friend Kenny Ross took photos of two species of horseshoe bat, one at Gomantong Caves and the second hanging from a wire fence along the entrance road to Tabin. Our new friend Derek, a batophile of some renown, has identified them since the group's return to the UK. They are, respectively, Rhinolophus creaghi and Rhinolophus trifoliatus.
What happiness there is to be had in seeing, wondering, asking, hearing from friends, and learning.
|Rhinolophus creaghi photographed by Kenny Ross,|
identified by Derek Smith
|Rhinolophus trifoliatus photographed by Kenny Ross,|
identified by Derek Smith
|Curious rainforest species photographed by Kenny Ross,|
as yet unidentified