Sunday, December 12, 2010

India Birding - Trip Report Part 1

Spanish Nature – India Tour part one November 15th to November 24th 2010


Tour Leader – Peter Jones

Tour Guide – Gajendra Singh

Author – Peter Jones

 
 

Free Day (day 1). With all our party arriving the previous day before the official start of the tour, we were able to spend a relaxed pre-tour day in Delhi, if such a thing is possible! The sheer number of people and volume of traffic makes Delhi a wonder to all of us from other far away places, quite how everything functions is a testimony to all who live in this vast city. Most chose to venture into the city during the morning with all of us meeting for lunch near to Lodhi Gardens, giving us a leisurely afternoon to wander this wonderfully scenic park and witness offerings of wildlife seemingly so unexpected in such a metropolis. We soon added some great birds to start our tour list including a nesting pair of Grey Hornbill and had wonderful views of Brown-headed Barbet and Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, whilst the open blue sky played host to hundreds of Black Kite and wheeling flocks of House Swift. Of course the ubiquitous Jungle Babbler made an appearance to give a taste of what we could expect each day of our tour, real characters and never a bird to grow tired of seeing.


Day One. The big journey began today heading from Delhi to Corbett, the pure density of traffic in this sprawling city was best described as immense! It took us all of 3 hours to clear the city limits and even then we had to contend with worsening road conditions, damaged during particularly bad monsoons earlier in the year. Writing in relative terms, traffic became lighter after around 4 hours travelling, we even managed a stop to do some birding, sighting Sarus Crane, Intermediate and Great Egrets as well as other members of the heron family. Actually the bird list was surprisingly good considering the limitations on birding activities, we managed a brief stop on a bridge seeing River and Gull-billed Tern, Temminck’s Stint, River Lapwings and several waders together with our first sighting of Brown-headed Gull. Clamorous Warbler, both Ashy and Plain Prinia with of course a few daily records such as Black Drongo, Myna sp., Black Kite etc. We saw a number of Egyptian Vulture and also Woolly-necked Stork together with our first sighting of Painted Stork.


Day Two. It was a bright and early start from our hotel, just outside the national park boundary, to enter Corbett via Dhangari Gate. Our journey through the park was in open jeeps and our first stop was in the woodland clearing of Sultan FRH, where mixed flocks of feeding birds held our attention for over an hour! Vari ous warblers, woodpeckers, oriole and flycatchers kept the group busy and our bird list grew with each passing moment. Not far from the Champion Road junction we stopped at a view point to overlook the river and had great views of Pallas’s, and Grey-headed Fish Eagle as well as Black-necked Stork and Crested Serpent Eagle, but too our great surprise and delight we saw a pair of Indian Otter, a first for 3 local guides who previously had only seen their track and spraints. We arrived at our camp at Dhikala in good time for lunch and spent the afternoon birding, seeing a few sought after species such as Collared Falconet, Black Francolin, several pipit species and Crested Bunting. Of course the scenery of this area and mammals make it a must visit location despite extremely basic accommodation!

Day Three. Not to miss a trick, we were up and about early and headed out into the wonderfully scenic parkland surrounding Dhikala Lodge. It was a great day throughout for birding with both Dusky Eagle Owl and Brown Fish Owl being a personal highlight, but I guess the real Red Letter bird was a 1st for Corbett, the small and beautiful Asian Desert Warbler (photo to the left). The bird was spotted and identified by myself and Gajendra (our tour guide) providing a great deal of excitement for the locals. Another good stop for us on the day was in the open grounds of Khinnanavli Lodge, the presidential camp for visiting dignitaries. Here we had really good views of several woodland birds and I especially appreciated seeing close showings of the beautiful Blue-throated Barbet, relatively common, but not always seen so clearly. Later in the afternoon we headed out near to a site close to the Ram Singh Road junction and were extremely fortunate to have a great sighting of a male Tiger crossing a dried riverbed.



Day Four. We set out at a leisurely pace to head for our reluctant exit from the park and although we had a quiet time bird wise, we did manage better views of the large and very noisy Great Slaty Woodpecker, spectacular and easily one of my favourite birds in Corbett. The sunlight beaming through the high forest canopy and dissipated by the early morning mist made for a magical feel to our slow retreat from this wild and wonderful area. We again stopped at the open area surrounding the Sultan FRH, but with little success on this occasion. The park is an area I will look forward to visiting again and I very much enjoyed the area. After lunch we took to the road for Naini Tal and after leaving the relatively flat land surrounding Corbett we began our climb towards the Himalayas! We saw a fairly good list of birds and apart from the usual sunbirds, minivets, warblers and oriole we had good views of Changeable Hawk Eagle (photo above). Needless to say the scenery took pride of place, but unfortunately some low cloud meant we would have to wait for sights of the Himalayas.

Day Five. We based ourselves in Pangot for the birding of this area and an early start didn’t disappoint with raptors a feature of our morning. We all had stunning views of a Lammergeier as it flew low and just above us, Himalayan Vulture and Black Eagle also came very close, the latter being hassled by Ravens. Whilst watching Altai Accentors we were given a show by a hunting male Hen Harrier that continued until we departed the higher ground, but before we made our decent a fine Peregrine stooped and then perched just yards from where we were standing! More or less as soon as we arrived back to our accommodation for lunch we were again treated to great views of another raptor as a Mountain Hawk Eagle flew near to our vantage point. Unfortunately bad weather curtailed our afternoon activities, however, with White-throated Laughingthrush, Black-headed Jay (photo above), several tit species, Striated Laughingthrush, Streaked Laughingthrush and too many other species to mention, our bird list grew and with some very impressive species!

Day Six. We made our decent towards Corbett again and managed a couple of stops to take drinks and do some birding, being entertained by such regular species as Oriental Magpie Robin, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch and a host of other, by now familiar, birds. A notable bird for me during the first part of our tour was the handsome Blue Whistling Thrush and along with Ultramarine Flycatcher, so many birds remain vivid in my memory!  I suppose the sparrow family doesn’t usually strike most people as being exciting, but Russet Sparrow is a species I always enjoy seeing, smart and perky birds. A bizarre, but handsome bird seen on a regular basis was the Himalayan Bulbul (photo right). After a lunch at our hotel for the next 2 nights, we decided to visit a major river, the Ramganga, to seek a few specialist birds such as Brown Dipper. Although we missed our target bird, we did find Red-billed Blue Magpie, a bird we missed whilst in Pangot and also managed very much better views of Spotted Forktail. The surrounding woodland was rich and busy with birds and Grey-hooded Warbler was extremely obliging.

Day Seven. We took our jeep ride outside of Corbett Park and skirted the park boundary looking for birds of the more open and semi-cultivated areas. We soon added Cinereous and Red-headed Vulture (photo left) to our day list and also had great views of Yellow-wattled Lapwing. In the pastures we found Upland, Tawny and Rosy Pipit, with both Singing and Indian Bush Lark showing well. Several sup-species of Yellow Wagtail walked the meadows, whilst Indian Roller hawked over the long grasses, overhead we saw many Asian Palm Swift and great views of hovering Black-winged Kite. In the afternoon we decided to venture out from our hotel and go for another target bird on the shores of the river Ramganga. Our gentle walk down to the riverside led us through open woodland and gave us excellent views of the very beautiful Common Emerald Dove, whilst in the low scrub we were amused by groups of Black-chinned Babbler. After seeing several common birds such as White-capped Redstart, we spotted the object of our journey, the Ibisbill, an elusive wader for me and at last a ‘first’ for my life list!


Day Eight. A travel day as we left the Corbett Park to head back to Delhi. Given the time the journey had taken on our first day, we decided to leave early and get back to our city hotel in daylight. Our return journey proved to be much better and the volume of traffic much less than it has been on our outward journey. These travel days had an advantage in that they allowed us to sit back and enjoy the countryside as well as the hussle and bussle of India, quite apart from offering opportunities to see birds! Our journey was marked by the odd sighting of Sarus Crane, plus Egyptian Vulture and many heron species that occupied the old and newly planted rice paddies. Red-wattled Lapwing and Indian Pond Heron were the most common species, with of course Mynia species namely common, pied and bank mynias being seen throughout the journey. A bird to be seen on almost each day of the tour, White-throated Kingfisher, seemed to appear every few kilometres and Green Bee-eater (photo above) always caused us a point and admire their presence.


Free Day (day 10). Our tenth day, that is including the first day in Delhi, was designed to be a transit day. Our consecutive tours designed to give a day in between for those departing the 1st leg and those joining the 2nd. On this occasion all the group had booked to attend both tours. Because I had a free day, expecting to say a few goodbyes and hellos, I made previous arrangements to go birding with Gajendra, my friend and guide for the 2 tours, it transpired though that those on tour wanted to join us, so it was back into birding mode! See Part Two (coming soon) of this report for details.



Why not join Peter and Spanish Nature on a wildlife adventure tour to India?


The above itinerary will be repeated in 2011, if you would like to find out more, please see the links below:


India Wildlife Adventure Tour 1: 14th November to 23rd November 2011


India Wildlife Adventure Tour 2: 24th November to 6th December 2011


Wildlife Tours to Asia: Nature Tours in Asia


Wildlife Tours to Africa: Nature Tours in Africa


Wildlife Tours to the Americas: Nature Tours in the Americas


To contact Peter directly please use this link: Contact us



If you enjoyed reading Peter's account of India and his latest trip, please leave your comments or reactions below, thank you.

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