Trip Report – March 2012
Comments: I wouldn’t recommend trying to drive yourself in India as it is the worst place we have ever been for driving – crazy distances, crazy drivers and every motorized vehicle imaginable including some you couldn’t imagine! There is a lot of driving required to cover these places so our recommendation is to hire a guide and driver and enjoy the process!
There is an unbelievable amount of garbage in India – but there is also some beautiful scenery and fantastic birds if you get out of the towns and the cities where you can see beyond the filth!
We also found the service to be excellent and the people very friendly.
Day 1: We arrived from Katmandu and drove straight to Bharatpur (4.5 hours). Once we were about 3 hours from Delhi we started birding the side of the roads – Indian Peafowl, Spotted Owlet, Whte-eared Bulbul, Large Grey Babbler, Indian Robin, Egyptian Vulture, Painted Stork and Crested Lark were all great birds. Arrived in Bharatpur in the dark ( which is the best way to see it!!!) and stayed at the Sunbird Inn.
Day 2: We were met at the hotel by our bird guide (Ghani) and climbed into a rickshaw to tour the Keoladeo National Park – our guide cycled along beside us and it was a perfect way to see the park – especially considering how hot it got. We got 95 species in this park – and I am told that a few weeks earlier and we would have seen more as the European migrants move through.
Highlights for us were Indian Sarus Crane, Bar-headed Goose, Ruddy Breasted Crake, Black-headed Ibis, Bluethroat, Blythe’s reed Warbler, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, White-capped Bunting and Rosy Starlings
With such a fantastic morning we returned to the hotel for a rest and then headed out of town to find Indian Courser and Yellow-wattled Lapwing – just great. And then to top off the day we went back into Keoladeo to find Dusky Eagle Owl. What a great start to the trip. Another night at the Sunbird Inn – and a cold Kingfisher beer.
Day 3: We drove into Agra this morning to visit the Taj Mahal – while we were hesitant to take time off from birding, we couldn’t miss such a famous site – and we weren’t disappointed – it was fantastic. Managed to get a couple of life birds on the way – Ashy-crowned Sparrowlark, Black Ibis and Brown Rockchat.
After a lovely lunch in the garden of our next lodge ( the Chambal Safari Lodge) joined our guide for a trip along the Chambal River. Wow! Apart from the fabulous scenery and the (very quick) view of River Dolphin the birds were fabulous. Highlights were Red-headed Bunting, River Tern, Great Thicknee, White-browed Wagtail, Brown Crake, Indian Eagle Owl, Black-bellied Tern, Small Pratincole and Indian Skimmer.
We always take a mosquito net with us when we travel and we were very glad to have it over us at night!
Day 4: Not a very birdy day to day – we started out trying to find buttonquail in the ravines near the Chambal River- but we weren’t’ successful. We did get a couple of life birds though – Yellow-eyed Babbler and Yellow-footed Green-Pigeon. It was very quit though so we decided to start the long drive back into Delhi (6 hours!). Did get Booted Eagle and Citrine Wagtail on the way. Stayed at the Star Grand Villas Hotel – very nice but a really odd restaurant!!
Day 5: Started early to get out of Delhi before the traffic and drove 7 hours to Nanital to bird the Sattal area. After a great lunch of pasta (not curry!!!) we started birding. Really great area – new for us were, Kalij Pheasant, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Common Hawk Cuckoo, Bonelli’s Eagle, Black Headed Jay, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Tickell’s Thrush and both White-crested and Streaked Laughingthrush.
It was dusk as we headed back to the hotel and we managed to call in both Indian and Large-tailed Nightjar.
Day 6: Started the day bag at Sattal – more great birds including Slaty-blue, Ultramarine & Rusty-tailed Flycatchers, Chestnut-headed Tesia, White-throated & Striated Laughingthrush and Brown Wood-owl. An afternoon hunt for Spotted Forktail in the area wasn’t successful but did provide great views of Emerald Dove, Brown Dipper, Spot-winged and Grey-headed Starling and Golden-spectacled Warbler. Another night at the Pine Crest and another pasta dinner!
Day 7: Leaving the hotel early we took a packed breakfast and explored an area nearby with a great tea plantation and some totally different birds. Himalayan Woodpecker, Grey-bellied Cuckoo and Speckled Piculet were added to our list. Then it was onto an amazing area with Steppe Eagles literally dripping off the trees – and finally a Spotted Forktail – and in a flurry of activity we added Tickell’s Leaf, Black-faced and Whistler’s Warblers along with Whiskered Yuhina & Yellow-breasted Greenfinch.
Then it was off to Pangot – a short but very windy drive of 2 hours – to the Jungelore Birding Lodge. Our afternoon outing was rather quiet although we started off well with white-tailed Rubythroat at the end of the driveway and finally added a few new species at the end of the walk – Blue-capped and Chestnut-bellied Rockthrush, Tawny Pipit, Blue-throated Barbet and Chestnut-headed Beeater.
Day 8: A great start to the day with Koklass Pheasant before dawn. Then a long hunt at the top of a mountain for Cheer Pheasant – which was unsuccessful – but the wait gave a chance to enjoy great views of Altai Accentor and Upland Pipit. Then stops in the wooded areas on the way back down produced Spot-winged Tit, Collared Owlet, White-tailed Nuthatch, Rufus Sibia and White-browed Shrike-Babbler.
After lunch we birded the same road as yesterday afternoon – it was still rather quiet but we enjoyed Blythe’s Leaf Warbler, Barwinged Flycatcher Shrike and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch.
Day 9: Decided to give the Cheer Pheasant another chance and after about an hour we were successful.
The good news was that we had great views of them once they appeared. Also got to see Black Eagle and Lineated Barbet before heading back down to the grasslands and forests in the lowlands. Wonderful view of Indian Spotted Eagle, Oriental Skylark and Zitting Cisticola as we drove out to a huge dam off to the east of the main road back to Delhi.
Next we headed towards Corbett national Park and birded the road. Wow! Hundreds of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Green-billed Malkoa, White-browed Fantail, Red-breasted Parakeet, Red-headed Vulture and an amazing opportunity to see White-rumped Vultures nesting. Stayed at Tiger Camp Lodge.
Day 10: Off in Corbett Park today. Drove in slowly, stopping for picnic breakfast and arriving at the Dhikala Rest House for lunch. The birding on the way was fabulous although, of course you can’t leave the vehicle so we were in an open jeep. Many new species, including Collared Falconet, Tawny Fish Owl, Pin-tailed Green-pigeon, Changeable Hawk-eagle, and Pallas’ & Lesser Fish-eagle to name a few.
Went out on an elephant in the evening which wasn’t great for birding but was intended to help us see an tiger. Although there were a couple around we didn’t see it although it was an interesting experience – quite different from our previous time in Nepal because this time we cut through jungle rather than just being in the open. Stayed at the rest house.
Day 11: Out in the jeep before breakfast to see if we could find the tiger – this time we were successful which was wonderful but there were a number of other jeeps and it seemed rather intrusive. Also saw Demoiselle Crane, Black and Black-necked Storks on the area by the lake. Decided to start the drive back to Tiger Camp after breakfast birding en route – managed to add Crimson Sunbird, Red Adavat and Streak-throated Woodpecker despite the fact that it was raining.
Another afternoon outing wasn’t too productive but we did add Jungle Owlet, Collared Scops-Owl, Red Collared-Dove, Great Hornbill, Blue-throated Flycatcher and Green Magpie. Our last night of our birding trip – stayed at Tiger Camp again before our long drive back to Delhi the next day where we luxuriated at the Hilton Gardens!!!
Guides & Resources
Guides: We booked through Indian Footprints who did a great job. Our bird guide was probably the best guide we have ever had, Ghanshyam Singh (Ghani) – he doesn’t currently have a web site and doesn’t get to see his email every day, but he is worth waiting for!!!! His contact information:
Email: [email protected]
Mobile: +91 9887282165
Field Guide: Birds of Northern India- Richard Grimmett, Tim Inskipp, (I would buy the Pamela Rasmussen book as well in future as it has maps.)
Bird Song: Indian Bird Sounds C.Chappuis F. Deroussen and D Warakagoda
Lonely Planet guide for points of interest.