Bird Watching Safari

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India Bird watching tours

Although rather neglected by birders visiting the vast Indian Subcontinent, the southern sector of peninsula India offers some superb birding in an area quite different in character to other parts of this country. The region is dominated by the hills and mountains of the Western Ghats and the pace of life here is rather less frenetic than in parts of the north. This tour samples a wide range of habitats that characterise this part of the subcontinent and focuses in particular on finding the twenty species endemic to this area of India and a further fifteen shared with Sri Lanka. We will of course find many of the common and widespread species of the subcontinent and a variety of winter visitors from breeding grounds further north.


Day 1: Departure from London to Chennai (Madras).

Day 2: Arrival in Chennai and catch internal flight to Bangalore where we spend the night.

Day 3: Today we travel southwest towards Mysore. We make a stop en-route to look for Spot-billed Pelican and Painted Stork, both of which nest on trees and houses around the village of Kokkare Bellur. We can also visit a small reserve close to the city of Mysore at Raganathittu. Here we will find concentrations of breeding birds including Black-crowned Night, Indian Pond Herons, Eurasian Spoonbill, Asian Openbill and Great, Indian and Little Cormorants and Oriental Darter. These birds allow a close approach in small boats, affording superb close views and excellent photographic opportunities. Another bird we expect to find here is Greater Thicknee as it loafs around on rocks in the middle of the river. Other species we may find include River Tern and Streak-throated Swallow, while a large colony of Flying Foxes is impossible to overlook. We continue to Nagarhole, where we arrive in time for some initial birding before dark. Two-night stay at Nagarhole.

Day 4: Nagarhole comprises a mixture of moist mixed forest, thorny and dry deciduous forest. Around our accommodation in the park we look for White-cheeked Barbet, Black-hooded Oriole, Large Cuckooshrike, Scarlet Minivet, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch and the stunning Indian Pitta. Brown Hawk Owl also occurs here and we will make a special effort to find this species. Explorations in the forests away from our accommodation should produce gamebirds such as Red Spurfowl, Grey Junglefowl and Indian Peafowl. Along the forest rides the shy and skulking Blue-faced Malkoha may be found. Overhead there are raptors, in the form of Changeable Hawk Eagle, Booted Eagle and Black Eagle. Three species of parakeet inhabit these forests with noisy flocks of Malabar, Alexandrine and Plum-headed. Vernal Hanging Parrots tend to whizz overhead at great speed, but with luck we should encounter a few birds feeding in fruiting trees. At dusk we search for Indian and Savannah Nightjars. Other species we may encounter include Indian, Grey-bellied and Drongo Cuckoos, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Asian Brown, Rusty-tailed, Tickell's Blue and Nilgiri Flycatchers, White-rumped Shama, Olive-backed Pipit, and Chestnut-shouldered Petronia.

Day 5: After some final birding at Nagarhole we visit the village of Karapura, where Malabar Lark is regular. We then travel to Mudumalai and arrive in time for some afternoon birding. We explore the forest close to our accommodation where we may locate Asian Paradise Flycatcher, White-browed Fantail and Indian Pitta. We can also search for Grey-headed Bulbul, a speciality of this area. With luck we may locate a Brown Fish Owl in the nearby riverine forest, while other species that occur here include Malabar Whistling Thrush, Emerald Dove, Bronzed Drongo, Indian Scimitar Babbler and Orange-headed Ground Thrush. Fields close by offer another opportunity to look for Malabar Lark and possibly Yellow-wattled Lapwing and Jerdon's Bushlark. An evening excursion in search of Jerdon's Nightjar. Overnight at Mudumalai.

Day 6: We spend the morning doing some final birding at Mudumalai. We then travel to the hill resort of Udhagamandalam (or Ooty for short!). Here the climate is rather cooler than the lowlands and the town is an excellent base for exploring the adjacent Nilgiri Hills. In the afternoon we visit Cairnhill Reserved Forest situated on the edge of town. This is a regular site for wintering Kashmir Flycatcher a species which breeds high in the mountains of north-west India, but which spends the winter in Sri Lanka and the southern parts of the Western Ghats. We also hope to find Nilgiri Laughingthrush, striking Black-and-orange Flycatchers, Nilgiri Flycatcher and flocks of Tickell's Leaf Warblers. At dusk we visit a regular site for Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, but this species is far from guaranteed due to its nomadic habits. Two-nights in Udhagamandalam.

Day 7: We spend the day sampling the birds at a variety of sites in the Ooty area. Ooty is surrounded by a patchwork of tea plantations and other forms of agriculture, together with small patches of forest known at sholas. A search of shady forest ravines may produce the diminutive White-bellied Shortwing. Lesser Yellownape, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Dusky Crag Martin, Nilgiri Laughingthrush, Indian Scimitar Babbler, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Large-billed Leaf Warbler, Western Crowned Warbler and Crimson-backed Sunbird all occur in the vicinity. Raptors in the area may include Crested Honey Buzzard, Common Buzzard, Bonelli's Eagle, Black Eagle and Black Kite.

Day 8: This morning we visit Sighur Ghat in search of Painted Bushquail. Small groups of this often-elusive species are regularly seen crossing the road here. Other species we may encounter include Malabar Parakeet, White-browed and Yellow-browed Bulbuls, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Scarlet Minivet, Brown-breasted Flycatcher and Oriental White-eye. By mid morning it will be time to transfer to the Anaimalai Hills at Top Slip for a two-night stay.

Day 9: Today is spent exploring the rainforest habitats close to the tourist zone at Top Slip. The superb forest habitat at Karian Shola supports a good proportion of the south Indian endemic species. We hope to find the striking White-bellied Treepie, unobtrusive Malabar Trogons, noisy groups of Rufous Babblers, Malabar Grey Hornbill, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher and Crimson-fronted Barbet. Exploring more widely we should find a variety of woodpeckers including, Lesser Yellownape, Black-rumped, Common and Greater Flamebacks, White-bellied and Heart-spotted Woodpeckers. We can also search for Wynaad Laughingthrush, a species often occurring in sizeable flocks, but it can be difficult to locate. The area around Anai Gundi Shola supports a tiny population of the very rare Lion-tailed Macaque, one of the world's rarest primates.

Day 10: Most of the morning birding at Top Slip looking for any remaining target species. We then travel to Munnar. On arrival at Munnar we visit some sites in the immediate vicinity of the town for Grey-breasted Laughingthrush, Malabar Whistling Thrush and Nilgiri Wood Pigeon.

Day 11: A morning visit to Rajamalai National Park. Amongst an attractive landscape featuring a patchwork of high altitude grassland, patches of forest and tea plantations we search for a number of specialities difficult to find elsewhere in the Western Ghats. In the high altitude grasslands Nilgiri Pipit occurs, a bird endemic to the Western Ghats. Grey-breasted Laughingthrush is another endemic that occurs here and this species can be quite confiding at times. Small flocks of Painted Bush Quail are sometimes seen here while patches of forest support Nilgiri Flycatcher, Black-and-orange Flycatcher, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Tickell's Leaf Warbler and White-bellied Shortwing. Other species we may encounter include Indian Scimitar Babbler, Blue Rock Thrush, Bonelli's Eagle, Black Eagle and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch. We will certainly find the localised Nilgiri Tahr and with luck small packs of Dhole (Red-Dog). The afternoon will be spent at sites around Munnar where we may find White-cheeked Barbet, Greenish and Western Crowned Warblers, Loten's Sunbird and Blue-capped Rock Thrush. Overhead we may see Pacific Swallow, Alpine and Pacific Swifts, and Indian Swiftlet. At dusk we look for Nilgiri Wood Pigeon if we have not already seen this elusive species.

Day 12: In the morning we travel to Bodi Ghat, where our target will be the extremely localised, endemic Yellow-throated Bulbul. This area is one of the few regular sites for this attractive species. Among the other species we may find here are White-browed Bulbul, Blue-faced and Sirkeer Malkohas, White-cheeked and Crimson-fronted Barbets and Jungle Prinia. In the afternoon we continue to Periyar sanctuary, Kerala's best known reserve.

Days 13-14: We explore the various habitats in the park, which are home to a rich diversity of wildlife. Possibilities here include Lesser Yellownape, Heart-spotted, Rufous, White-bellied and Streak-throated Woodpeckers, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Ashy and Bronzed Drongos, Scarlet and Small Minivets, White-bellied Treepie, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Dark-fronted and Rufous Babblers, Malabar Trogon, Crimson-backed Sunbird and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch. Galliformes include Grey Junglefowl, Red Spurfowl and Indian Peafowl. Painted Bushquail can be found in the grassland habitats, while raptors might include Brahminy Kite, Osprey, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Black Baza, Jerdon's Baza, Changeable Hawk and Black Eagles. Pigeons are represented by Mountain Imperial, Green Imperial, Nilgiri, and Pompadour Green while flycatchers also feature, with Rusty-tailed, Blue-throated, Asian Paradise and Black-naped Monarch.

Day 15: Travel to Cochin/Madurai where we connect with an internal flight to Chennai.
Optional Extension to the Andaman Islands.....

Day 16: Morning flight from Chennai to Port Blair on the Andaman Islands.

Day 17-18: An exploration of South Andaman, much of which is covered in pristine rain forest. Here we search for a number of species found only on the Andaman Islands. The commoner endemics include Andaman Dark Serpent Eagle, Andaman Cuckoo-dove, Andaman Coucal, Andaman Woodpecker, Andaman Drongo, White-headed Myna and Andaman Treepie. There are a number of more difficult to find endemics, for which we need luck in order to locate. These include Andaman Banded Crake, Andaman Wood Pigeon and Andaman Scops Owl. We may encounter variety of other species in Yellow Bittern, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Pacific Golden Plover, Greater and Lesser Sandplovers, Black-naped Tern, Green Imperial Pigeon, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Dusky and Yellow-browed Warblers.

Day 19: Flight from Port Blair to Chennai for our flight home.

Day 20: Arrival back in the UK.

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