Dehra Dun, Uttaranchal; 18 - 20 April 2003.

Mike Prince


Sumit Sen from Kolkata Birds was visiting for a few days and went with Bikram and I to join Alpana in Dehra Dun. We arrived early afternoon on 18 April and returned to Delhi in the afternoon of 20 April following an action-packed 48 hours of birding totalling 181 species (not including some en-route species in Haryana, such as Woolly-necked Stork). The highlights were Marbled Duck, Lammergeier, Ashy Woodswallow, Plain-backed Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Rusty-tailed Flycatcher and Spotted Forktail amongst many other good species.

18 April

We spent a few hours by Bikram and Alpana's farm in the late afternoon. Highlights were at least one Crested Kingfisher, two Spotted Forktails, three Brown Dippers (two adults and a juvenile) and a Tickell's Thrush. Other noteworthy birds included Red Junglefowl, Asian Barred Owlet, Emerald Dove, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike, Paradise Flycatcher, White-capped Water Redstart, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Streaked Laughingthrush, Red-billed Leoithrix (four seen bathing in the river), Crimson Sunbird and lots of Common Rosefinches.

19 April

Leaving Dehra Dun at 05:30 we headed up into the hills and eventually returned home at about 18:30, having enjoyed a long but picturesque and bird-filled route via Mussorie, Dhanaulti, Chamba, Rishikesh and the Ganga river as far as Himalayan River Runners camp. We had good views of Kalij Pheasants shortly after leaving Dehra Dun and later heard but were unable to see a Hill Partridge. Strangely the only woodpeckers of the day were two Grey-headed at the Himalayan River Runners camp, where we saw a Dollarbird briefly. An Oriental Pied Hornbill was seen in the forest between Rishikesh and Dehra Dun and various cuckoos seen and heard during the day included both Large and Common Hawk Cuckoos, and Indian and Eurasian Cuckoos.

A flock of Himalayan Swiftlets seen near Dhanaulti included also four Fork-tailed Swifts. We were lucky to get very good views of a calling Collared Owlet in this area, although unfortunately a heavy shower of rain curtailed our birding in this productive area. Later we added an Asian Barred Owlet near Rishikesh. We saw Wedge-tailed Green Pigeons at a few places, and this included great views of a pair displaying and mating, unconcerned at the presence of Sumit and his camera just beneath them!

The day produced a nice selection of raptors, with pride of place going to the fantastic Lammergeier seen near Jajal. Both Himalayan and Eurasian Griffons were seen, along with a migrating Marsh Harrier, a few Eurasian Sparrowhawks and a first-summer Steppe Eagle perched at 5m range!

We saw two noisy Eurasian Jays, a number of Red-billed Blue Magpies and Grey Treepies. A particularly unusual sighting this far north and west was of an Ashy Woodswallow, seen in flight and perched on roadside wires, not far from Narendranagar; Bill and Bikram also recorded this species slightly farther east near Rishikesh last July. Thrushes were generally well represented with several Blue-capped and Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrushes seen en-route, a few Dark-throated, superb views of a pair of Plain-backed Thrushes and of a Mistle Thrush and its nest. On the other hand flycatchers were not obvious, with just one Dark-sided and some Verditers.

One White-tailed Nuthatch was seen, most unusually perching briefly on a roadside wire. Also seen were Black Bulbul, Striated Prinia, Sulphur-bellied, Hume's, Greenish, Western Crowned, Grey-hooded Warbler, five species of Laughingthrush (White-throated, White-crested, Striated, Streaked and Chestnut-crowned) and several Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babblers. Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babblers were one of the species that Sumit was keen to photograph and Bikram duly obliged by managing to hit one with the car! I picked up the stunned young bird which was shocked but otherwise ok and whilst I moved it to a safer place to recover Sumit kept snapping away at the agitated parents!

Chestnut-tailed Minla and Mrs Gould's Sunbird were good species seen briefly, and Upland Pipit and Yellow-breasted Greenfinch also notable birds for quite a day.

20 April

We took a pre-breakfast visit to the Forest Research Institute. Golden Oriole, Large Cuckooshrike, Spangled Drongo, Dark-sided and a Rusty-tailed Flycatcher, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Blyth's Reed, Booted and Sulphur-bellied Warblers, Black-chinned Babblers were the more interesting species here. A brief stop to view the Asan river from a bridge produced a Great Thick-knee, several River Lapwings and many nesting Streak-throated Swallows. Finally we headed to the Asan Barrage where the star bird of the weekend was seen, an excellent Marbled Duck (see separate note). The 13 species of duck here also included Red-crested Pochard and Ferruginous Duck; Garganey was the commonest.

Many thanks to Bikram and Alpana for their hospitality at their wonderful house in Dehra Dun!  

Mike Prince, May 2003.