Bird Watching Tour

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India Birdwatching Tour


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Bird Watching In India

Northern India is an incredible area to visit during January for wintering and resident birds. Many species appear to co-exist quite happily with huge numbers of people. We have designed this tour to maximise our chances of observing almost 380 species of birds and have a good chance of seeing tigers. The first birding is along the Yamuna River in Delhi itself, which will give us a gentle introduction to India's abundant wildlife. From Delhi we travel towards world-famous Bharatpur, a birdwatcher's paradise. This famous wetland may yield over 130 species in a single day. Corbett National Park is next on our agenda, an extensive reserve of forest and grassland. We can take elephant rides to birdwatch over the sharp grass fields. Ramnagar, situated outside the park, offers us our best chance of observing tigers. The final destination is the old hill resort of Nainital nestling in the Himalayan foothills. This is an excellent base for exploring the coniferous forests and open country of Northern India. We have not neglected the manmade wonders of India, as visits to the Taj Mahal and Fatephur Sikri are included in the tour.

Day 1: We have a flight to Zurich and an onward connection to Delhi. Overnight in Delhi.

Day 2: Today we visit the Yamuna River on the outskirts of Delhi and the ruined fort at Tughlaqabad. Our first stop is at a canal bridge which may have Intermediate Egret and wintering shorebirds. Passerines of interest include Red-breasted Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied and Grey-chested Prinias. We eventually reach a degraded marsh near the Yamuna River where roadside birds are White-tailed Stonechat, Pied Bushchat and Asian Pied Starling. In the marsh itself we should locate Bar-headed Goose, Purple Heron, Eurasian Spoonbill, Painted Stork, White-tailed Lapwing and the commoner ducks. Nearby deep-water lakes attract Ferruginous Ducks whilst riverside vegetation lures Bluethroat and Hume's Warblers. In the afternoon we visit Tughlaqabad, a ruined fort with a perimeter of crumbling walls which attract Indian Chat and Indian Robin. Walking inside the fort compounds may produce Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Oriental Skylark and the localised White-eared Bulbul.

Day 3: We leave the hustle and bustle of Delhi and travel to Bharatpur in Keoladeo National Park for a six-night stay. As we progress south, telegraph wires attract Rufous Treepie and Black Drongo. Wheat fields have the elegant Sarus Crane. We stop at a roadside lagoon for Little and Indian Cormorants, Spot-billed Duck, Graceful and Plain Prinias, and hawking Plain Martins. Muddy patches may have White-browed Wagtail and nearby bushes the spectacular Long-tailed Shrike. As we approach Bharatpur we may encounter Black-shouldered Kite, Indian Roller and noisy parties of Brahminy Starlings. After lunch we embark on a walk passing abandoned buildings and along acacia lined tracks and rough grassland. The gardens have Yellow-footed Pigeon, Coppersmith Barbet, Oriental Magpie Robin, Jungle Babbler, Olive-backed Pipit and Purple Sunbird. Leafy trees lure wintering warblers notably Greenish and Lemon-rumped. As dusk starts to fall we have a chance of Spotted Owlet and Indian Scops Owls and roosting Eastern Imperial and Steppe Eagles.

Days 4-7: Bharatpur is one of nature's wonders, attracting huge numbers of birds in a relatively small area. We have four full days to explore the reserve that was a hunting preserve of a Maharajah. The extensive low-lying marsh contains shallow lakes known locally as jheels. On the marsh edge there is woodland, savannah and scrub attracting huge numbers of birds. Over four hundred species have been recorded in Bharatpur to date. Our base at the Forest Lodge is ideally situated for Bharatpur. Babul trees dot the landscape and attract a range of herons, storks and egrets to nest. These may include Purple Heron, Painted, Asian Openbill, Woolly-necked and Black-necked Storks and Black-headed and Glossy Ibises. Open water areas lure hundreds of wintering wildfowl comprising Great White and Dalmatian Pelicans, Bar-headed Geese, Comb Duck, Red-crested Pochard, and Ferruginous Duck whilst Baillon's, Ruddy-breasted and Brown Crakes vie with Greater Painted-snipe, Indian Swamphen, Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas on the marsh edges and lily-pads. We may also see Yellow and Black Bitterns flying from one place to another. With so many birds it is hardly surprising that Bharatpur attracts raptors. Overhead we should look out for Steppe, Tawny, Bonelli's, Short-toed, Booted, Crested Serpent, Pallas's and Eastern Imperial Eagles and Lagger Falcon. Bharatpur is also home to Sarus and Common Cranes and, recently Siberian Cranes. Shorebirds present include Yellow-wattled and White-tailed Lapwings. Our local guides are particularly good at locating night birds, with the possibility of Brown Hawk, Collared Scops-owls and Large-tailed, Indian and Grey Nightjars. As we wander around the reserve, kingfishers (including White-breasted, Pied and Black-capped) fish from vantage points. The surrounding trees harbour resident species and migrants from Siberia. The former habitat has Brown-capped and Yellow-crowned Woodpeckers. Birds from Siberia regularly wintering are Siberian Rubythroat, Clamorous Reed, Syke's, Orphean, and Yellow-browed Warblers, Citrine Wagtail, Kashmir Flycatcher, Common Woodshrike, Long-tailed, Steppe, Bay-backed and Isabelline Shrikes plus Chestnut-breasted, Black-headed and Red-headed Buntings. Resident species of interest include Indian Grey Hornbill, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Rufous Treepie, Orange-headed and Tickell's Thrushes, Brahminy Starling, Chestnut-shouldered Petronia, Red Avadavat and Black-breasted Weaver. On one morning we can visit The Nursery, an area of mature trees and allotments. Interesting species we may locate include Orange-headed and Indian Grey Thrushes, Tickell's Leaf Warbler, Ashy and White-bellied Drongo's, Indian Grey Hornbill and Slaty-blue Flycatcher. Just outside the reserve entrance we visit an area of farmland and stagnant pools, the latter habitat attracting waders including Greater Painted Snipe. On the fields themselves we should find Paddyfield Pipit, Chestnut-shouldered Petronia, Bimaculated, Greater Short-toed, Crested and Rufous-tailed Larks and Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse. Bharatpur produces many surprises apart from birds. Mammals present include Blackbuck, Fishing and Jungle Cats, Indian Smooth Otter and Small Indian Mongoose.

Day 8: Today we have an optional day trip to the city of Agra which is home to the magnificent Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri, both manmade attractions. Fatehpur Sikri is a deserted sandstone city where Indian Chat and Dusky Crag-martin occur. Behind the Taj Mahal the Yamuna River continues on its way with Black-necked Stork, Small Pratincole, River Lapwing and Great Black-headed Gulls amongst the avian attractions.

Day 9: A long drive today to Kumaria for a two-night stay. En route we pass marshes with Black Ibis and Bronze-winged Jacana and we have to cross the mighty River Ganges where Asian Openbill, Cotton Pygmy Geese, Purple Swamphen, River and Black-bellied Terns, Streak-throated Swallow and Sand Lark reside.

Day 10: We start this morning by birdwatching in the hotel grounds. New species here are Blue Whistling Thrush, White-crested Laughingthrush, Himalayan Bulbul, Red-gorgeted and Grey-headed Canary-flycatchers. If a fruiting tree is nearby, Crimson Sunbird, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Black-hooded Oriole, Rufous and Grey Treepies, Blue Magpie and Greater Yellownape can be expected. After breakfast we take a track going through woodland down to the rock-strewn Koshi River. The trees and scrub attract Yellow-bellied and White-throated Fantails, Rufous-bellied Nilvata, Bronzed Drongo and, hopefully, Brown Fish Owls. On the river itself common residents include White-capped and Plumbeous Redstarts, Spotted and Little Forktails, Crested, Stork-billed and Common Kingfishers and Brown Dipper. A search of scrub may reveal Grey-hooded Warbler, Black-chinned Babbler and Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike. Later in the morning we take a nature trail running through deciduous woodland with cliffs and running streams. Before reaching this area an area of open gardens with compost heaps may reveal Tickell's Blue Flycatcher, Long-tailed Minivet and the stunning Little Pied Flycatcher. We should check dead treetops for Collared Falconet. The woodland has resident Tawny Fishing Owl, Lesser Yellownape, Fulvous-breasted and Grey-capped Woodpeckers, Velvet-fronted, White-tailed and Chestnut-bellied Nuthatches and Blue-throated Barbet. After lunch we visit Ramnagar with Kalij Pheasant and Red Junglefowl en route. At Ramnagar we search for the rare Ibisbill, River Lapwing, Greater Thick-knee and overhead hope to see Himalayan Swiftlets.

Day 11: Optional early morning walk along the nature trail. We may add Slaty-blue and Snowy-browed Flycatchers, Grey Bushchat and Rufescent Prinia. We need a wet vegetation area for Oriental White-eye, Golden-spectacled Warbler and Grey-sided Bush Warbler. After breakfast we head to Dhikala in Corbett National Park for a two-night stay. En route, Pallas's Fish Eagles may be present in their traditional haunt. The entrance track has Black Bulbul, Black-lored Tit, Red-billed Leothrix, Blue-bearded Bee-eater and Lineated Barbet. Corbett is particularly good for mammals and we can take an elephant ride to search for tigers, although they can be difficult to locate. We should see Spotted and Hog Deer, Muntjac, Sambar and, possibly, Indian Elephant and Yellow-throated Martin. Birds seen on the elephant ride have included Himalayan Griffon and Eurasian Black Vultures, Osprey and Indian Peafowl.

Day 12: Pre-breakfast walk around the gardens, searching for Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Rufous-bellied Niltava and, in flowering trees, Red-vented and Red-whiskered Bulbuls, Yellow-eyed Babbler and Plum-headed Parakeets. The open fields attract Dark-throated Thrushes and Black Francolins. After breakfast we head out into the reserve by jeep. An enclosed forest area is good for Streak-throated and Grey-faced Woodpeckers, Ashy and Black-crested Bulbuls, Small Niltava and rarely Ultramarine Flycatchers. We can birdwatch on foot at a remote camp with the gardens holding Himalayan and Siberian Rubythroats, Alexandrine Parakeet and Indian Robin.

Day 13: Today we head east to Nainitel, a hill resort overlooked by the snow-capped mountains of the Western Himalayas. En route we a stop at Ramnagar Barrage for wintering Wallcreeper. The road winds slowly upwards eventually reaching the cooler air of Nainitel. On arrival we visit a nearby gully for Grey-winged Blackbird. A town field with large pine trees may yield Red-flanked Bluetail, Brown-fronted Woodpecker, Bar-tailed Treecreeper, Black-lored and Green-backed Tits and singing Streaked Laughingthrushes.

Day 14: An exploration around the hotel and an old Christian church for Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Spot-winged Tit and Russet Sparrow. Later in the morning we take a cable car to Snow Ridge with the snow-capped Himalayas in the background. At this altitude we search for Black-headed Jay, Blue-capped and Blue-fronted Redstarts and Rufous Sibia. A check of mixed species flocks may produce Yellow-browed Tit and Buff-barred Warblers. A rubbish dump is a reliable spot for the attractive Striated Laughingthrush.

Day 15: Sat Tal is our destination, an attractive area of forest and agricultural land. Scrub here attracts Grey Bushchat and Chestnut-eared Buntings. Nearby gardens lure Himalayan Rubythroats and, overhead, screeching parties of Slaty-headed Parakeets can be heard. A field near an old factory is good for Black-throated and Rufous-breasted Accentors and White-capped Bunting. Our main interest is a dilapidated campground near a river and lake-system surrounded by mature forest. The stream may have Long-billed Thrush, Spotted Forktail and Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler. Scrub is home to Streaked and Rufous-chinned Laughingthrushes and in overhanging trees White-collared Blackbirds. Great Barbets start to appear and call later in the afternoon.

Day 16: Today we head down to the Mongoli Valley another outstanding area for birds. A walk along the valley may produce White-throated and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes, Blue-winged Minla, Fire-tailed Sunbird and Common Rosefinch. Our journey takes us through rice fields bordered with scrub, an ideal place for Aberrant Bush Warblers. En route back to Nainitel, a field overlooked by a rock cliff is visited for Lammergeier, Golden Eagle, Black-throated and Altai Accentors and other passerines.

Day 17: A return visit to Sat Tal looking for Greater Flameback, Scaly Thrush and Asian Barred Owlet. We can also search for any species we have missed.

Day 18: An early start is essential today as we head back down to Delhi via the River Ganges. The river has good numbers of Ruddy Shelduck and Brown-hooded Gulls. Nearby villages hold scavenging Egyptian Vultures and Black Kites. Later in the day we travel to the airport for our early morning flight back to England. Arrival is later the same day.

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