NORTHERN INDIA TOUR REPORT
A Wildlife & Birding Tour of Northern India 20th November to 5th December 2016 Participants:- Rowland & Jenny Burgess, Roger Griffin, Meg Heyworth, Richard Horton, Andy & Pat Mason and Ricardo Montero. Tour Guide for Norfolk Birding Chris Mills & Prasanna Gautam OVERVIEW OF THE TOUR This tour took in the amazing sights and sounds of Northern Indias wildlife and birds and included a visit to the amazing Taj Mahal. The tour included a wide and varied cross section of habitat, including the wetland and birds of Bharatpur with a vast array of wetland species, plus a good introduction to raptors and passerines. We then visited the forest and mountain areas of Pangot and Nainatal in the foothills of the Himalayas. We then spent 3 full days in the famous Corbett National Park and the final 2 days in the beautiful surroundings of the Vangat camp in the buffer zone forest near Corbett NP. Vangat is set in a secluded river valley alongside the Ramganga river, in a wonderful diverse area of primary and secondary forest.
Tiger in full flight Corbett NP. Image Jenny Burgess
IMAGES FROM THE TOUR A whole sequence of images taken during the tour by Norfolk Birding and clients can be viewed online by going to the following link. You do not need to be registered with facebook to use this link. Please click the link or copy and paste the following:- https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10154816616771684&type=1&l=100e1f07e2 All images in this report are copyrighted and should not be reused without our permission. All images Chris Mills Norfolk Birding & Jenny Burgess as detailed. Sunday 20th November The whole group met up at Heathrow airport to board our British Airways direct flight to Delhi. Everyone in the main group were soon through security and boarding our flight. The flight departed at around 11.40am, the flight was comfortable with good food and drink and the economy seats were relatively comfortable. Flight time is around 8 hours and we arrived in Delhi at a local time of 1.30am. We then had lots of fun trying to get money changed after the recent governments decision to remove 100 & 1000 Rs notes! We managed the tour with a combination of paying in sterling or getting money changed at the Hotels! We were met at the airport by our local guide Prasanna, he escorted us to our minibus and driver. The luggage was loaded into the 12 seater minibus & we were soon tasting the bright lights, hustle and bustle of Delhi! Even at this hour the roads were busy! We soon arrived at the Hotel Ashok Country Resort, everyone was shown to their appointed rooms. Hotel Ashok Country resort had good rooms with a mix of Indian & English breakfast. Overnight at Hotel Ashok Country Resort. Monday 21st November Before a late breakfast at 9.45am we had time for a quick bit of casual birding around the hotel and nearby gardens before departing for Agra and the Taj mahal. The well attended and mature gardens yielded a mix of commoner birds, highlights were Indian House Crow, 50+ Black Kite, 20+ Rose-ringed Parakeet, Oriental White-eye, 2+ Coppersmith Barbet, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Indian Magpie-robin and 2 Greenish Warblers a nice little introduction! We then loaded up the minibus and starting heading for Agra and the Taj Mahal, though we made steady progress this was interrupted by couple of stops for birding at roadside pools! We were treated to a fantastic mix of birds from these roadside stops Indian Peafowl, 3 Egyptian Vulture, Painted Stork, several White-throated Kingfisher, Purple Swamphen, Red-Wattled Lapwing, 100s of Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Black Drongo, Black-winged Kite, Indian Mynah, Black-winged Stilt, 5+ Snipe, 2+ Wood Sandpiper, 2 Marsh Sandpiper, 3 Temmincks Stint, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Long-tailed Shrike, Pied Bushchat, Asian Pied Starling, Scaly-breasted Munia and Citrine Wagtail.
We also screeched to a halt in the midst of some farmland for great views of 2 Sarus Cranes, this repeated several times and probably saw at least 12 Sarus Cranes en-route. We eventually arrived in Agra mid-afternoon navigating through the busy streets and traffic of the town soaking up some of the atmosphere and experience. We then spent a pleasant couple of hours visiting the famous Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of world it was great experience. The group all took their iconic photographs of the Taj Mahal, and we were also kept entertained by numerous Black Kite spinning overhead throughout. From the rear of the Taj the River Yamuna is visible, with shallow edges and deeper water we soon managed to spy rafts of waders and wildfowl, hundreds of Black-winged Stilt, Ruddy Shelduck, Pied Kingfisher, several River lapwing, Great Egret, Greenshank, Redshank, Ruff and Common Sandpiper. There was many Little Swift, Barn Swallow and a few Red-rumped Swallow flying overhead. As the light faded we headed to the minibus and then took the drive to Bharatpur. After around two and half hours we arrived and were soon comfortably settled into our rooms at the Birders Inn. Evening meals were a buffet style mixture of Soup & various curries, with good choice of rice & Indian breads. Puddings were a largely a variation on rice puddings and semolina, with some very nice natural yoghurt! Birders Inn has large comfortable en-suite rooms with hot showers set in nice lawned grounds and is just a short distance of 200m to the Park entrance. Overnight at Birders Inn, Bharatpur. Tuesday 22nd November We all arrived for an early breakfast served at 6.30am. Immediately after breakfast our guide Brijendra got us great views in the garden of an Indian Scops Owl sat roosting in the trees. Our local guide Brijendra Singh is very knowledgeable on all the flora and fauna. He has excellent knowledge of the parks birds and wildlife and I highly recommend him. The park is a haven for storks, egrets ducks and waders, also raptors and owls. Our chosen team of rickshaw riders met us outside the Hotel and we were soon heading to the park entrance. Before we entered the park we were stopping and watching lots of Rose-ringed parakeets, Mynahs and 2 perched Eurasian Hobby. The birding in the park was immediate, intense and very exciting!! It was slow progress as the birds came thick and fast. Over the next few hours we saw an amazing array of 70+ species of birds, exploring the main track and then off to the right in the nursery area. The highlights in the morning were as follows very good views of Coppersmith Barbet, 3+ Grey Hornbill, a lovely sunning Hoopoe, several stunning White-throated Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, 3+ Little Green Bee-eater, Common Hawk-cuckoo, 2 Oriental Honey-buzzard, 3+ Booted eagle, Long-tailed shrike, a smart male Red-breasted Flycatcher, several eye-catching Red-spotted Bluethroat, Oriental Magpie-robin, Indian Robin, 3+ Greenish warbler, Large Grey Babbler, Jungle Babbler, Purple Sunbird, Chestnut-shouldered Petronia, 10+ Indian Silverbill, a cracking roosting Oriental Scops Owl plus roosting Spotted Owlets. A subtle and tricky Tickells Thrush in the nursery area was also a personal favourite!
We headed back at midday for lunch, had a break, then headed back out into another area of the park in the afternoon, heading towards the main Egret and heronry area for dusk. A lot more wetland birds this afternoon. The highlights in the afternoon were as follows:- 10+ Ferruginous Duck, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pintail and Teal were fairly numerous, more eye-catching and non-european were several Spot-billed Duck, and Lesser Whistling Duck. Raptors were in evidence with 2 Egyptian Vuluture, 1 Greater Spotted eagle, Booted eagle, plus beautifully perched Shikra, Black-winged Kite and Marsh Harrier. Other highlights were many! Indian Peafowl, Black-rumped Flameback, White-breasted Waterhen and Bronze-winged Jacana. The Heronry stole the show, the noise and numbers of birds were just amazing. We sat here for a couple of hours, with hundreds of egrets, storks and cormoarnts coming and going. Great White, Little, and Intermediate Egrets, Purple & Grey Herons, Indian Darter, Little and Indian Cormorants, Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Spoonbill, Black-headed Ibis, Glossy Ibis. An amazing spectacle on the water, but complimented by overhead activity of raptors, Red-rumped Swallow and Plain Martin. As well as the avifauna we also saw Spotted Deer, Sambar, Nilgai, Rhesus Macaque and Golden Jackal. We headed back after a fantastic first full day on the reserve. After an early dinner and log call, everyone was tired and off to bed for rest. Overnight at Birders Inn, Bharatpur. Wednesday 23rd November After breakfast at 6.30am we departed aboard the rickshaws for the park again, again the visit was split into two visits. We arrived back at Birders Inn for lunch at around 12.30pm and then headed back out into the park at 2pm till dusk. We saw many species again and started to gain some familiarity with the regular wetland birds, but also added many new species today as well! Avian highlights and new birds in the morning on the central and west areas as follows:- 15 Bar-headed Goose, 20 Cotton Pygmy-goose, 5+ Comb Duck, 20 Little Green Bee-eater, 4 Pheasant-tailed Jacana, White-tailed Plover, River Tern, close views of 3 Pied Kingfisher, Peregrine, 3 Black Bittern, Striated Heron, Osprey, Pied Bushchat, Blyths Reed Warbler and Yellow-eyed Babbler. After lunch we searched the South & East tracks to the grassland area, new species and highlights were:- Much closer and great views of White-tailed Plover, many more egrets and herons, the rare Black-necked Stork was seen, the only pair in the park, lets hope the nest is successful, 100+ Pintail, 50+ Shoveler, 10 Pochard, Tufted Duck, 12 Ferruginous Duck, 2 White-tailed Plover, 3 Pied King