25 October - 4 November 2003
by Andy Musgrove
This is a report on a birding trip to North India. Only nine days were available but with some careful planning and remarkably smooth logistics we were able to visit all the key sites. Looking back, the itinerary worked very well and we wouldn't have changed anything (although it would have been great to have been able to spend longer everywhere!).
Most of the transport and acommodation was arranged by Mohit Aggarwal of Asian Adventures and we would thoroughly recommend his services.
Saturday 25 October: Norwich to Heathrow to Delhi.
26 October: Delhi, Basai, Sultanpur & Yamuna River.
27 October: Kumeria & Bijrani, Corbett.
28 October: Jhirna & Mohan, Corbett.
29 October: Sitabani, Corbett Falls to Pangot.
30 October: Pangot, Cheena Peak.
31 October: Pangot. Ghugu Khan to Sattal.
1 November: Sattal, Lalkuan to Agra.
2 November: Agra to Bharatpur.
3 November: Bharatpur to Delhi.
4 November: Delhi to Heathrow to Norwich.
I got the taxi from home about midnight into Norwich, and eventually got on the coach for London, arriving pre-dawn at Heathrow. Good views of Windsor Castle then over the Orwell Bridge and up the Suffolk coast, with Cantley Beet Factory visible in the distance. Good views of Dresden then wooded snowy hills, presumably in Czech Republic. Soon became cloudy and nothing to see then until the Caucasus, much dryer and more barren-looking mountains. It got dark as we reached the Caspian Sea but occasional scattering of lights in central Asia. Nothing to be seen of Afghanistan but towns again visible in Pakistan and India. Approaching Delhi was spectacular as it was the festival of Diwali, meaning that every light in the city was lit up and fireworks were going off everywhere. Took an age to get through passport control but quickly got bags then met by Mike at the barrier. Mike had a taxi waiting which saved us from the scrum, then a first hair-raising experience of Indian driving and cow-infested roads. Back to Mike's for a few beers and Indian sweets then to sleep quite quickly, despite the jet-lag.
Woken at dawn by Mike for a quick bite whilst we awaited our pre-arranged taxi-driver. Obviously, looked out as soon as it was light and picked up the first species in Mike's street of apartment blocks: House Crow, Feral Pigeon, Common Mynah and Black Kite. Amazingly, the driver turned up as planned and we headed off through the suburbs of Delhi. The most notable feature of Indian roads for a first time visitor are the sheer number of feral cows on the roads but we made good progress. Additional species were noted as we drove along; my first Indian Peafowl by the roadsides and in gardens, many Rose-ringed Parakeets, Laughing Dove (not such a common bird as in Israel and Gambia), House Sparrow, Black Drongo, White Wagtail, Pied Starling, and Bank Mynah (which appeared to be more common than Common Mynah along this route).
After about 40 minutes we made it to Basai to the west of Delhi. This is basically an area of agricultural fields which were wet in places. We spent a few hours wandering around and by mid-morning it was getting rather hot for my European tastes! Lots of birds were seen here, including my first sightings of many common Indian species. By the small building where we parked, Cattle Egrets, White-breasted Kingfishers and Little Cormorants were seen and a small pool held both Green and Wood Sandpipers, Citrine Wagtail, White-breasted Waterhen, Indian Pond Heron, a pair of White-browed Wagtails and my only Rosy Pipit of the trip. We also had a brief but distinctive view of a single White-eyed Buzzard flying over, followed by several Painted Storks and a single Spot-billed Duck. Other birds in the scrub included Plain Prinia, Red-vented Bulbul, Long-tailed Shrike, Collared Dove and a stunning male Eurasian Golden Oriole. Another small pool behind the building held several Red-wattled Lapwings and Little Grebes whilst Black-headed Ibises flew over and several Purple Swamphens were seen in a wet field.
We then walked out across drier fields but to an area of reedy vegetation. Several Paddyfield Pipits were noted, along with Rufous-tailed Shrike, Redshank, Greater Coucal, a singing Oriental Skylark, Siberian Stonechat, Pied Bushchat and Mike's first Common Starlings of the winter. From one damp corner we flushed both Common Snipe and two Jack Snipe. In amongst the reeds we found Chiffchaff, Clamorous Reed, Blyth's Reed and Paddyfield Warblers (but no sign of Mike's hoped-for Moustached), along with Ashy Prinia and the much more attractive Yellow-bellied Prinia. A good local record was a single Eurasian Curlew in the fields, with a wet area holding more Green and Wood Sandpipers, a quick fly-past Temminck's Stint and lots of Yellow and Citrine Wagtail, along with a few Plain Martins. Another good find was a single Pacific Golden Plover first heard then seen in flight before it landed. We also heard distant Sarus Cranes but Mike wouldn't let me tick them, assuring me I'd see some later… Back on the dryer fields we came across an Isabelline Wheatear, three White-tailed Lapwings and both Crested and Ashy-crowned Sparrow Larks. A little further on we came across several Hoopoes and a Bluethroat, a Gull-billed Tern flew over and then a small area of crops held Scaly-breasted Munia, Indian Silverbill, Baya Weaver and Red Avadavat. Finally, back by the car we came across a Brown Rock-chat on a building (typically) and several Wire-tailed Swallows.
On then for the short drive to Sultanpur. This is a bird reserve centred on a lake but with a wide variety of surrounding habitats. We did pretty well here but by the time we'd gone all the way around it was getting hot and I was pretty whacked with the combination of the heat, jet-lag and hardcore birding.
Around the car park are trees, scrub and open lawns. We failed to find the local speciality; Brook's Leaf Warbler (probably a little too early). However, we came across plenty of other new species with a party of Large Grey Babblers, Purple Sunbird, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, a pair of Small Minivet, the first Hume's Warbler of the trip, Greenish Warbler and Common Tailorbird, along with Lesser Whitethroat, Black Redstart, Blyth's Reed Warbler and several Red-breasted Flycatchers, including a fine male parva (the only race identified here, although both occur commonly).
The lake (or 'jheel') had a large selection of waterbirds. There was a large breeding colony of Painted Storks and amongst the colony and elsewhere around the marshy lake fringes we noted Great, Little and Indian Cormorants, Purple and Grey Herons, Little, Great White and Intermediate Egrets, many Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Garganey (a few) and Spot-billed Ducks, Moorhen, Coot, Ruff and Black-headed Ibis. Amongst these were several Nilgai, a large wetland antelope, whilst we also saw several 'Five-striped' Squirrels in the trees. Amongst the trees and scrub we came across more Peafowl, Ashy Prinia, a Shikra, several Olive-backed Pipits and some Indian Robins. A flock of five Black Ibis flew over but didn't land, nor did a flock of 25 Common Cranes. One tree held both an elusive Yellow-crowned Woodpecker and a pair of Black-rumped Flamebacks. Further on were Rufous Treepie and Bay-backed Shrike, with Common Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, another White-eyed Buzzard and an Asian Openbill overhead.
At the far end of the reserve the terrain was much drier (and uncomfortably lacking in shade!). We flushed a small covey of Grey Francolin and then flushed, several times, a large pipit that on size and call Mike identified as a Long-billed Pipit (unfortunately never seen well though). More Paddyfield Pipits and several Tawny Pipits were seen, along with further Paddyfield Warbler, Pied Bushchat, Bluethroat, Long-tailed and Rufous-tailed Shrikes and a flock of swallows including Barn, Red-rumped, Wire-tailed and, further on, several Streak-throated Swallows. A distant Black-shouldered Kite was seen in flight. On the dry area known as the 'flats', it was too early in the season for Indian Courser unfortunately but we did get to see a female Variable Wheatear and excellent views of a party of Ashy-crowned Sparrow Larks. We then headed back to continue our circumnavigation of the lake, picking up two Indian Bushlarks, a pair of Spotted Owlets at a Mike Prince stake-out and seeing further ducks on the jheel; Wigeon, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Ferruginous Duck and a few Comb Ducks.
We then rested with lunch at the Rosy Pelican; the adjoining rest-house/café. Several cold cokes were very welcome and the food was delicious, although we had to send the chicken back twice to get it properly cooked! A Grey Francolin was heard in the grounds but we couldn't see the Collared Scops Owls here. We then headed off back to Delhi on a fairly long drive through the suburbs to the river. The only new birds for the trip seen en route were Black-winged Stilt and brief flight views of an Indian Grey Hornbill. Also, the first Rhesus Macaques were seen at Tughlaqabad Fort.
We then crossed to the east bank of the Yamuna river and stopped by the banks. There were very large flocks of ducks (mostly Shoveler and Pintail) and Coots here but the light was not conducive to careful searching and counting. A flock of 30 Eurasian Spoonbill flew south and Whiskered Terns were seen. Several bee-eaters overhead were frustratingly not identified between Blue-cheeked and Blue-tailed, but several Green Bee-eaters were seen better shortly afterwards (the only ones of the trip). We got out a little way north from the crossing and walked down a track to the 'temple' (not as spectacular as it sounds!) We found most of Mike's hoped-for specialities here but although a Striated Grassbird was singing well when we arrived, we failed to catch a glimpse of it and I didn't add it to the list (as I'd never have recognised it again). We did see our first party of Jungle Babblers, the commonest of this group during the trip, but also our only single Common Babbler and a party of four Striated Babblers in the reeds. A mixed flock of Black-breasted and Streaked Weavers also contained a male Black-headed Munia, the latter probably of feral origin apparently. About 30 Yellow-footed Green Pigeons were seen in the large fruit tree by the temple. Down by the reeds, Mike pointed out a male White-tailed Stonechat which I'd probably have overlooked on my own. At the river's edge was a flock of Black-headed Gulls along with smaller numbers of Brown-headed Gulls and a single first-winter Pallas's Gull. More waders were seen, including Black-winged Stilts and six River Lapwings, and several Marsh Harriers were hunting here.
For dusk, we got back in the car and drove around to the opposite (west) bank of the river. From here we could see the gull flock again, now including an adult Heuglin's Gull (in fact the first record for Delhi). Hundreds of ducks and more waders (though mostly distant) were seen, including a flock of Avocets. There was also a flock of 100 Greater Flamingos, a single Ruddy Shelduck, more Whiskered Terns and a Eurasian Hobby at dusk.
We then made it back to Mike's flat, one of the most hair-raising car-journeys of the whole trip. Mike's housemaid cooked us an excellent meal, then we packed up our bags and got the taxi to Old Delhi Station. This was also quite an experience, but not too worrying as it was so clearly a pickpocket's paradise that it was easy to remember to keep a check on your possessions. The train to Ramnagar came and set off bang on time, with Mike having pre-booked us beds on the higher quality sleeping car. I'd been worried about sleeping on the train beforehand. However, in the event I was so tired it wasn't really a problem, with my valuables in my blankets and under my head so I felt pretty secure.
Day total 141 species (66 ticks).
I awoke as we drew in to Ramnagar station before dawn. We quickly got our stuff together and fell out onto the station where we were met immediately by the driver that Mohit had laid on for us for our time at Corbett. He loaded us up into the small jeep which was to be our transport for the next few days; somewhat bumpy but pretty reliable! We drove out of the small town and followed the main road north along the Kosi valley, seeing our first Spotted Deer in the headlights. Soon we arrived at Tiger Camp with the staff ready to receive us. We were shown our room (perfectly adequate), had a quick wash and tooth clean and went off for a quick drink and bite as the day started to lighten up, with what sounded like a possible Golden Jackal yowling from the forest nearby.
It already felt very different here on the edge of the hills compared to the noise and chaos of the city. It was also notably cooler, with the sun still to rise. As the light grew we started to record a few species around the camp, with Hume's Warbler and a fly-over Grey Wagtail heard, a few drongos which Mike expected to be Ashy but turned out to be Black, and then a number of new species: Grey Treepie, Spotted Dove, the first of many Oriental White-eyes and a cracking White-throated Fantail. A Common Tailorbird was skulking in the bushes and Great Tits were also seen.
We then set out in the jeep north along the road following the west side of the Kosi valley, heading for Kumeria. However, the birding along the road was first-rate; one of the best morning's birding I've ever had. We stopped fairly soon and a quick wander around by the roadside produced our first Coppersmith Barbets, Jungle Babblers, Brown Rock-chat, Blue Whistling Thrush (a very common bird here) and also a mixed flock of about 40 Lineated Barbets and 10 Indian Grey Hornbills sharing a fruit tree with Rhesus Macaques. Off along the road again, and at the first stream we crossed was a fine White-capped Water Redstart, another common bird around here.
The next main stop was exceptionally good, with ticks coming thick and fast. Our first Grey-hooded Warbler was seen, with a Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher and a Common Iora. A flock of Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrikes then bustled through, accompanied by Long-tailed Minivets, Small Minivets, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatches, the stunning Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Streak-throated Woodpecker (my 1000th world species), Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker and a fine Black-hooded Oriole. Common Mynahs, Red-vented Bulbuls, Pied Starlings and Long-tailed Shrike were accompanied by Magpie Robin, Himalayan Bulbuls, Red-whiskered Bulbuls and a quick Plum-headed Parakeet.
Further along the roadside, our first Grey Bushchat was perched up atop a bush and a little further on we stopped as a female and three juvenile Red Junglefowls crossed the road (these ones not so chicken-like as expected!), followed by a Barking Deer (a different species of Muntjac to that found in UK?) We then pulled up at the top of a steep slope down to the river, in which there was a large dead tree on its side. Perched in this was a magnificent Lesser Fish Eagle, a species I didn't think we had much chance of seeing. It flew before Mike could photograph it unfortunately, although this did give us a good view of its tail pattern. Also by the river here were Common Sandpiper and Plumbeous Water Redstart. We decided to walk a little way along the road here and picked up a good mixed flock of swifts high above, comprising White-rumped Needletails, Himalayan Swiftlets and Crested Treeswifts. More small birds in the tree included a possible Lemon-rumped Warbler but I didn't see it well enough; Phylloscopus warblers in the large forest trees could be challenging, often requiring setting up the scope and waiting for one to pop into it. Further on, another view of the river produced the first of the huge, wacky Crested Kingfishers, followed by the somewhat less thrilling Large-billed Crows. There were also much wilder looking Indian Peafowl than yesterday on an island in the middle of the river. A stop at a previous stake-out for Tawny Fish Owl was, unfortunately, unsuccessful (as were numerous further stops over the next few days for this and Brown Fish Owl!)
We finally made it to the river at Kumeria where we got out and wandered on the boulder field produced by the monsoonal river. Crested Kingfishers were very much in evidence here, along with Common Kingfisher, White-capped and Plumbeous Water Redstarts, White Wagtails and our only Brown Dipper of the trip. No sign of any Wallcreepers or forktails though. The woods around here were also very productive, with Black-lored Tit, the only Lesser Yellownape of the trip, up to three of the dinky Speckled Piculets, a somewhat retiring Common Woodshrike almost overlooked as another troop of Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrikes came through, accompanied by Grey-hooded Warblers, Long-tailed Minivets, White-throated Fantail and a skulking Black-chinned Babbler. Further along, a Bar-tailed Treecreeper was seen, albeit somewhat poorly, along with another Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher.
The sun was getting hot now and the first Black Kites were getting up, whilst we saw some River Lapwings down by the river. We headed off back to Tiger Camp, keeping an eye out for raptors on the way and being rewarded with poor views of Red-headed Vulture, two immature raptors we were pretty sure were Changeable Hawk Eagles, accompanied by a Common Buzzard and a Eurasian Hobby, as well as two soaring Black Storks. Finally, we stopped at a narrow bridge to look again for fish owls, forktails and wallcreepers and saw our only Pied Kingfisher of the trip, along with a domesticated elephant being washed in the river by its 'mahout'. We then returned for a superb Indian lunch; the food at Tiger Camp was pretty excellent, the only problem being that it was easy to have far too much.
After lunch, we headed off to go into Corbett National Park properly. Normally the park (which is massive) is shut before mid November but this year access was being granted to the small area at Bijrani in the south-east corner (in jeeps accompanied by a ranger only). We were told this was a good area for tigers, and Mike had heard one here in the past, but we were also told there was little chance of seeing one at this time of year, given the amount of vegetation and water around. Unfortunately also, we would not be going far enough into the park for a chance to see wild elephants.
Still, we were lined up for some more excellent birding, despite an obvious afternoon lull in bird activity which was typical of each day. The first bit of a forest was fairly quiet, with Spotted Deer, Barking Deer and then our first Sambur. We noted Black-rumped Flameback and Streak-throated Woodpecker, then chanced upon a party of four superb Oriental Pied Hornbills, which were very obliging, even allowing me to get some pretty poor photos. Further on then, with better views of Red-headed Vultures than the morning, then near the resthouse/compound we came across a very obliging Changeable Hawk Eagle perched right next to the track. We took loads of photos of this bird, then went into the compound area where we were allowed to get out and walk a short distance. Whilst here, the Changeable Hawk Eagle swooped down right next to us and caught a squirrel right in front of us, taking it back into a tree to eat. There were also a few more birds around the compound, including Chestnut-shouldered Petronia, Tree Pipit, Grey Bushchat, Blue Rock Thrush, an annoying Grey-headed Woodpecker which I had poor view of (as with my last one in Belgium in 1991!), Grey-breasted Prinia, Alexandrine Parakeet, lots of Rose-ringed Parakeets, Spotted Dove, Lineated and Coppersmith Barbets, Greenish Warbler and a flock of seven Black Storks over. Finally we set off again, going deeper into the park, getting into more open country (although more reedy than grassland). Spotted Deer were common, interspersed with groups of Common Langurs. A few Long-tailed Shrikes and Siberian Stonechats were seen, along with a few Plain Martins and other common species. The next new bird was a pair of Crimson Sunbirds amongst reedy vegetation.
By this time, there had been a fair amount of talk about tigers and the whole concept of tigers became increasingly real. However, the first supposed tiger paw tracks in the sandy trail were not entirely convincing and looked a little obscure and small (possibly Leopard though!) However, we later came across a group of rangers sat waiting in a jeep where they had heard a tiger a little time before. We then saw a huge pawmark that was clearly very fresh, as it was on top of a tyre track that looked like it had been made by the jeep in front of us. The adrenalin really started flowing then, although I had to keep telling myself our chances of a tiger were slim. Still, there were relatively few birds in evidence at this stage so I kept looking out. However, when we finally came round a bend in the track and I saw the back-end of a Tiger walking steadily away from us along the track, I was somewhat pleased to say the least. I shouted "Tiger", the jeep driver went mental and floored the accelerator and we sped around the corner, to see the Tiger ahead again. It then walked across the track and disappeared into some of the ubiquitous Lantana bushes next to the track.
I thought that was it, but our driver was having none of it and drove right up to the bush. The ranger then opened his door and stuck his head down near the ground to look in the bush. This struck me as somewhat rash and beyond the call of duty and I was pretty nervous sat in what was clearly now a very small and flimsy jeep! I therefore had my scope and tripod at the ready to clobber the beast should the need arise! Shortly, the driver said he could see it. Mike and I stared for ages into the darkness of the bush, but it was a long time and several false alarms until finally, I focussed correctly and there, about 5 m away, were the flanks of the Tiger going steadily up and down with its breath. Even then, it took Mike several more minutes to get onto it; the camouflage was extraordinary. There would have been no chance at all to have known it was there if we hadn't seen it go in.
Eventually, we drove on. The evening was drawing in and lots of Rose-ringed Parakeets were going over to roost. We did have two more new birds before leaving the park though. The first was most unexpected; a Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo showing well atop a tree (with tail streamers of uneven length). A little further back towards the park entrance, a Blue-throated Barbet was noted in a tree. Finally we returned to the camp and had a fine meal again, followed by some amazing (but unidentified) moths at the lights by the room.
Day total 85 species (46 ticks).
Cumulative trip total 197 species (112 ticks).
We were up at dawn again, looking for the Collared Scops Owls in the camp without success, although we had some good close Magpie Robins to accompany our morning tea and toast. The plan today was to visit a different area of Corbett at Jhirna, on the southern edge, which was also open in a limited fashion.
We soon set off in the jeep, picking up species seen the previous day such as Grey Treepie, Jungle Babbler, Blue Whistling Thrush, Yellow White-eye, Hume's Warbler and Spotted Dove. Coming back to the town of Ramnagar in the early morning light produced Feral Pigeons, House and Jungle Crows and my first new bird of the day, a Dusky Crag Martin flying around the buildings. Other birds in the town included Common and Bank Mynahs, my first House Swift of the trip, Brown Rock-chat and five Egyptian Vultures (the 200th species of the trip) with the Black Kites at the local tip. Moving out through the 'suburbs', dodging the ubiquitous cows, dogs and (for a change) pigs on the road, we eventually moved into an agricultural area, with White-breasted Kingfisher, Laughing Dove, Cattle Egret, Hoopoe, Indian Pond Heron and Red-vented Bulbul by the roadside, followed by a single Brahminy Starling on a fence with mynahs.
To the south of us the land was uniformly flat as far as the eye could see whereas to the north the first wooded hills of Corbett rose up. We drove west along the road between these two extremes, with the cultivated land gradually giving way to larger stands of trees, albeit apparently secondary forest or plantations. Further species noted along here were Red-whiskered Bulbul, Scaly-breasted Munia, Pied Starling, Plum-headed and Rose-ringed Parakeets, Collared Dove, Indian Grey Hornbill, Red-wattled Lapwing, Rufous Treepie, Plain Martin and Barn Swallow and Grey Bushchat, whilst careful looking at the Black Drongos finally revealed an Ashy Drongo.
After a while, our driver stopped in a wooded area which he said was good for malkohas. A short walk here produced a Black-rumped Flameback, lots of Lineated Barbets and Indian Grey Hornbills, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, good views at last of a Plum-headed Parakeet and Grey-hooded Warbler. The woods soon seemed quiet though so we returned to the jeep. We'd only driven a short way, however, when I spotted a small owl fly over the road. Screeching to a halt, a short search of the tree produced good views of two Jungle Owlets. Even better, a drongo popped up nearby which on closer examination proved to be a Drongo Cuckoo, a new bird for Mike, although it unfortunately didn't stay long.
The next few miles were quite productive. Crossing a river we saw a Wild Boar leading four piglets. Further on, an area of bird activity produced Greenish Warbler, Himalayan Bulbul, Grey-breasted Prinia and Crimson Sunbird, followed by a flock of fine Spangled Drongos accompanied by Black-crested Bulbuls and a Common Woodshrike. A little further, we watched as a total of 18 Oriental Pied Hornbills flew across the road, with further species along here being Indian Robin, Eurasian Hobby, Peafowl, Red-rumped Swallow, Long-tailed Shrike and White-breasted Waterhen.
We finally entered the real forest again at Jhirna, where we had to stop to get permits at a lodge. We were told we could have a little wander around and we walked a few hundred metres along a track into primary forest. This looked great although we could only see Rose-ringed and Plum-headed Parakeets and flocks of presumed Long-tailed Minivets flying over. Soon, however, our driver and a park guard came running up, telling us we'd walked where we weren't supposed to be, as there was a lone wild elephant somewhere in the woods nearby, which added to the adrenalin somewhat. As we were bustled back to the jeep, however, we did spot an Ashy Bulbul high up in the trees.
We then continued into the park, with the thrill of elephant and tiger to buoy the spirits. The habitat became increasingly open and scrubby. An immature Red-headed Vulture sailed over and we saw further Himalayan Bulbuls, Grey-breasted Prinia, Red-rumped Swallow, Common Iora, Bay-backed Shrike, several Hobbies and Scaly-breasted Munia. We came to a hide situated high up in a tree and from here viewed the mostly dry river bed where we saw little except brief poor views of a female Kalij Pheasant. I spent much of the time here and for our time in this part of the park looking out for Great Indian Hornbill, which was supposed to occur here, but without success. However, we did later see better Kalij Pheasant along the track, further Hobbies and then a pair of Variable Wheatears. A distant raptor looked interesting and flew closer and then almost overhead, proving to be a good find of a Rufous-bellied Eagle. Further on, our only White-bellied Drongo was seen high up on a tree, followed by another good view of a Changeable Hawk Eagle. Another distant raptor was then picked up and proved to be our first Himalayan Griffon of the trip, accompanied in its thermal by Himalayan Swiftlets and Crested Treeswifts. Finally, upon leaving the park, we noted a Spotted Owlet sitting by the exit.
We then made our way back to Ramnagar, more quickly than we'd arrived in the morning. The last new bird of the morning was a pair of Yellow-breasted Greenfinches by the roadside, along with a couple of mongoose and a fine but brief sight of a Yellow-breasted Marten crossing the road. For much of the way back though we helped give a lift to some people whose car had broken down. We finally made it back for another slap-up lunch and much-needed cold cokes, accompanied again by the Magpie Robin and with Hobby and Buzzard seen overhead.
We then went off for another drive north along the Kosi valley. It was mostly very quiet, although we'd probably been spoilt along here the previous day. We stopped to walk along one track parallel to the road where our guide/driver said he'd seen Great Slaty Woodpecker in the past, but that treat wasn't for us. We did find another Spangled Drongo, hunted a skulking bird in a bush which finally proved to be a Black-chinned Babbler and saw another Grey-breasted Prinia. Looking ahead along a long stretch of track, we then saw three Golden Jackals sat on the path ahead, with the incongruous sight then of a male Red Junglefowl strutting out onto the path in between us and the jackals.
Further along, we stopped by the river and picked up a Greenshank wading amongst the boulders, accompanied by Plumbeous Water Redstart, Crested Kingfisher and White-browed Wagtail. I then picked up two adult Red-headed Vultures perched on the opposite shore in the trees, then also found a perched Lesser Fish Eagle, presumably the same bird as seen the previous morning. Further on, three Kalij Pheasants were flushed by the road. However, despite many stops at likely spots, we still failed to find any fish owls.
Finally, as the afternoon drew on, we left the jeep and walked off along a track in the 'Mohan' area. The valley here was very quiet, with only a White-capped Water Redstart to look at for some time. After a while though, we could hear some loud, strange calls coming from up ahead. We got closer and eventually tracked the calls down to a party of five wacky-looking White-crested Laughingthrushes. These were great birds, really active and noisy. However, that was it for the day, and we got the jeep back to the camp with just a Sambur en route of note.
Day total 91 species (14 ticks).
Cumulative trip total 214 species (126 ticks).
Up again at dawn and again failed to see the owls by the restaurant area in the camp. However, as we walked up to the jeep, we were rewarded with two Collared Scops Owls in the first light of dawn. After this excellent start we set off again, down to the town of Ramnagar as yesterday but this time heading east and crossing the Kosi river by the barrage, which held large numbers of Feral Pigeons and where we saw a few Little Egrets. Soon after crossing the river, we took a rough track northwards along the eastern side of the Kosi valley. A few birds were seen along this first stretch, including Lineated Barbet, Magpie Robin, Jungle Babbler and Peafowl, along with a large herd of Spotted Deer, whilst the 'cock-a-doodle-doo' of several Red Junglefowls was heard from the surrounding woods.
After a while, we came back to the stony edge of a tributary river of the Kosi. A quick stop to look at the ubiquitous White-capped and Plumbeous Water Redstarts was then eclipsed by a stunning Wallcreeper which gave brilliant views as it fed around the boulders of the river bed. This was the bird which I hadn't seen again for the longest period of time, my last sighting being in France back in 1983. This bird gave somewhat closer views - as good as another new bird!
We then followed the new river, crossing several times in the jeep which was somewhat exciting (i.e. would we get to the other side). The plan was to follow the track up this new valley to the small village of Sitabani. The valley was an excellent place for birding and would clearly repay much more attention; it took us a long time to progress as we had to stop for birds so frequently.
The first stop was for a mixed flock around some bushes. The highlight here was our only Tickell's Leaf Warbler of the trip, the first of several Phylloscopus today. This flock also contained plenty of Himalayan and Black-crested Bulbuls, Common Iora, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker and Great Tit, whilst three Oriental Pied Hornbills flew over and a Common Sandpiper flew along the river. A little further on we spent some time chasing two warblers around in low scrubby vegetation amongst the boulders, which looked like excellent candidates for Mountain Chiffchaff. Unfortunately, we didn't feel we could be sure unless we heard them call and despite much chasing them around, they refused to do so. A White-throated Fantail was seen here though, along with our first Eurasian Sparrowhawk of the trip flashing past, followed by a Crested Kingfisher along the river.
Further on, we came across a particularly rich patch of woodland which, despite my rapidly deteriorating 'Delhi belly' situation, we found to be crammed with birds. Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrikes were common and accompanied by Black-lored Tits and Velvet-fronted Nuthatches, with a surprise second Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo. There appeared to be lots of warblers around here and given that, given the slope of the land, the birds were mostly on eye-level and it was possible to have a good look at them. Although several still only showed briefly, we were at last able to confirm Western Crowned Warbler and Lemon-rumped Warbler, as well as Hume's Warbler and the numerous Grey-hooded Warbler. Also present here were Red-whiskered Bulbul, Black-chinned Babbler, Long-tailed Minivet, White-throated Fantail and another splendid little Speckled Piculet.
We carried on up the trail and came to a slightly more open area. A small bird atop a tree turned out to be our only Dark-sided Flycatcher of the trip whilst scrubby vegetation below held Olive-backed Pipit, Lesser Whitethroat and another small dark warbler which was probably a Dusky Warbler but didn't show well enough to clinch the ID (although the call sounded good). Further up, we came to a cross-road of tracks and a local helped us out and sent us off along the right-hand one (we had to have a barrier raised for us for some reason). The track was then enclosed by taller forest. A little way along here we stopped and had a triple-whammy of new birds in a short period. A Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker was seen on a tree-trunk, a small warbler in low scrub appeared to be the newly split Whistler's Warbler (or at least part of the Golden-spectacled Warbler complex) and then another skulking calling bird popped out briefly and was instantly recognisable as the stunning White-rumped Shama (our only one of the trip). On a bit further and we had great views of a Crested Serpent Eagle within the woods, flying and landing on another low tree a little further on.
Finally, we went down a slope and came back to a small river which we crossed in the jeep, flushing a Green Sandpiper as we did. A noisy call drew our attention to an Alexandrine Parakeet and we then had good views of a singing male minivet which we were at last able to confirm as a male Scarlet Minivet (very similar to Long-tailed Minivet). Eventually, we made it to the village where people were, unsurprisingly, somewhat curious about us. However, they mostly ignored us and chatted to the driver. We went for a look out up the valley but saw relatively little around the village itself, although we could hear White-crested Laughingthrushes somewhere across the river. Having taken much longer than planned to get up to Sitabani, we didn't stay long in the event and soon set off back the way we'd come. However, almost straight away we came across another flock of birds, this time mostly comprised of Large Woodshrikes and our only sighting of this species. A Blue-throated Barbet was also seen in this flock but best of all was when I saw a large dark bird with a long tail which I initially was at a complete loss to name; better views showed it to be a cracking Green-billed Malkoha.
After this, we drove fairly constantly back with few stops and covered the ground relatively quickly; there were no further sightings of note that I recorded in my notebook anyway. Despite planning to head east next, we doubled-back to Tiger Camp to have some lunch (later than planned!) and get our gear. Here we said goodbye to our driver and the jeep and met up with our next driver, who had a small comfortable car instead. This guy had been arranged for us to take us on to Pangot and accompany us for the rest of the time higher up in the hills. We said goodbye to the rest of the staff at the camp and headed off.
Back to Ramnagar and over the barrage again but this time we stuck on the main road eastwards along the border between the plains and the hills. Various species more typical of agricultural areas were seen along the roadside, including Red-wattled Lapwing, Common Mynah, Indian Pond Heron, Little Egret, Ashy Drongo and White-breasted Kingfisher. Eventually, we came to our only planned stop of the afternoon, the small area of forested streamside at Corbett Falls where Mike had had success on previous visits.
We drove up to the car park and had plenty of bird activity around the stream as soon as we got out. Blue Whistling Thrush, Great Tit, Grey-hooded Warbler and Oriental White-eye were all seen, but the best find was a stunning Little Pied Flycatcher; Mike had seen this species here on his previous trip also. Soon afterwards, we ticked again with a Verditer Flycatcher. Two more presumed Whistler's Warblers were also seen along the streamside. We carried on to the waterfall, hoping to jam into a forktail but saw relatively little else of interest, except for Ashy Bulbul, Black-crested Bulbul and Blue-throated Barbet.
Soon we got back in the car for the drive uphill. We drove east then turned north towards Nainital. This involved a long drive along a winding road reaching higher and higher. The views were very impressive. Forested areas later gave way to more a more open valley. By the roadside we saw Grey Bushchat, Spotted Dove, Jungle Babbler, Blue Whistling Thrush, Himalayan Bulbul and Jungle Crow. We stopped or at least slowed at loads of stream crossings feeling sure that a forktail would reveal itself soon but always drew a blank (except for White-capped Water Redstarts and a Grey Wagtail). However, as the afternoon drew on and we got higher we finally saw some new species. Firstly, a small drab bird caused us to stop and it proved to be a Streaked Laughingthrush, one of the commoner birds up here (albeit something of a skulker). More obvious was a splendid roadside flock of about ten Red-billed Blue Magpies. This species is far to gaudy to look real!
We reached Nainital as it was getting dusky. We bypassed the town and as the light was starting to fade, we came to a viewpoint crowded with tourists. The view from here was world-class! Looking northwards, there was a wide country of rolling (though clearly large) forested hills but looking above those, the high snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas towered above the clouds. Over the next few days, whenever the line of sight allowed it, these mountains drew the eye like a magnet. The highest peak of this part of the range was Nanda Devi (7816 m) and others included Trisul (7120 m) and Nanda Kot (6860 m).
Finally we drove the last few miles to the small village of Pangot which we reached as the light was failing. The lodge here is situated just over a col and overlooks a valley falling steeply away to the south-west. There is a main room where food is served and then a number of smaller lodges down the slope. They made us a fine mug of tea then we went to freshen up, followed by a fine meal. We then ended the day with the sound of at least two Mountain Scops Owls calling from the surrounding forests; seeing as the chances of chasing after these in the dark seemed pretty improbable, and seeing as the call was so distinctive, I felt it was OK to count these. However, the day ended on a crisis as it became apparent that I was missing my notebook. I hoped I'd dropped it in the car but this had been driven elsewhere for the time being so I couldn't check for some time; not a comfortable situation half-way through a foreign trip!
Day total 83 species (17 ticks).
Cumulative trip total 233 species (143 ticks).
We woke at dawn and I had to borrow a spare notebook from Mike to tide me over for the time being at least. We had an hour or so before we'd asked for breakfast so I figured there'd be some serious ticking to be done. As soon as we started up the steep steps, however, the effect of the altitude became apparent. After a rise of about 10 feet I was out of breath. Whilst I'm not exactly the fittest person in the world, it was a bit of a surprise and the first time I'd experienced the effect of altitude, even if we were at a paltry 2000m or so.
Anyway, for a while, the expected deluge of ticks didn't materialise. In fact, for a while nothing at all was seen. However, the first new bird of the day then appeared in the shape of a Black-headed Jay, with several of these around the lodge, coming to a stocked bird-table along with Red-billed Blue Magpies. After this, a skulking bird turned out to be a Striated Prinia, although views were pretty poor (but seen better later). A few Streaked Laughingthrushes were also lurking around the undergrowth. Other species were Large-billed Crow, House Sparrow, Common Mynah, Blue Whistling Thrush and a flock of 25 Yellow-breasted Greenfinches. New for the trip, a few Black Francolins were calling and a pair were flushed.
Somewhat disappointed, we went back to the room then headed back up for breakfast. However, on this 100 m walk, all hell broke loose in bird terms with a mixed passerine flock suddenly appearing. The first new bird was Green-backed Tit which superficially looks more like a European Great Tit than do the greyish Great Tits we'd seen at Corbett. The core of the flock was made up by the cracking Black-throated Tits, different in appearance but very similar in behaviour to the closely related Long-tailed Tits. Next, we picked out a dull brownish bird which kept mostly hidden under bushes but eventually came out enabling Mike to name it as a female Slaty-blue Flycatcher (not the most stunning bird in the world!) More pleasing was a Buff-barred Warbler that came through with the flock, our only one of the trip. Not long behind, a White-tailed Nuthatch was seen; this species appeared (to us at least) to have completely replaced the Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch at this altitude. Next, a stunning pair of Rufous Sibia joined the throng. As well as these new birds, a few Oriental White-eyes and Grey-hooded and Hume's Warblers were present. Finally, before making it to breakfast, a small bird with a flash of red turned out to be a Fire-tailed Sunbird, a male although unfortunately not in full breeding plumage.
We went in for breakfast but whilst waiting for the food to appear, one of the staff called us back to the veranda for a flock of White-throated Laughingthrushes which come into view. These were great-looking birds and much more striking than illustrated in the field guide. Ten new birds by breakfast then; not bad going!
We then set off for a real hike! We were planning to walk from the lodge to the summit of the highest peak in the nearby area; Cheena Peak. This seemed a little adventurous, given my problems climbing a few steps, but we decided to give it a go. To help us along, we had a guide (Lokesh) and another porter carrying our lunch. We made our way up from the lodge to the village, picking up Grey Bushchat for the day and our next new bird - a pair of Russet Sparrows. We then took the main road from the village back towards Nainital and walked for a few miles along the road (fairly quiet, traffic-wise). We saw plenty of good birds along the roadside, including many of those already recorded plus some more ticks. Green-backed Tits were common and we saw more Black-throated Tits, a few Black-lored Tits and some fine Spot-winged Tits. Rufous Sibia was common and the call distinctive and far-carrying. More White-tailed Nuthatches and another female Slaty-blue Flycatcher were seen along with plenty of Large-billed Crows but just one more Red-billed Blue Magpie heard. Grey-hooded Warblers were numerous, with smaller numbers of Hume's Warbler and Oriental White-eyes. A few more Streaked Laughingthrushes were seen and another noisy party of about 30 White-throated Laughingthrushes went through.
The next new bird got away; brief views of a brownish flowerpecker but the bill couldn't be seen. Soon afterwards, however, we found three Green-tailed Sunbirds by the side of the track. A flock of 20 presumed Long-tailed Minivets flew over. We passed several streams, reputed to be good for forktails. Lokesh led us on a diversion up one for 10 mins or so but all we found here was a White-capped Water Redstart. A little further along the road, we had good views of a Verditer Flycatcher, followed by a few Black Bulbuls, mostly in flight. Then we finally had superb views of a Spotted Forktail foraging in one of the many streams running down and underneath the road. Although a striking bird, it was extremely well camouflaged with its black and white plumage and bobbing long tail merging very effectively with the fast-flowing rocky stream.
Several Eurasian Jays were seen along this stretch of road, my 250th species of the trip so far and very different in appearance to British birds. The next new bird by the side of the road was initially puzzling but when seen better proved to be a female Maroon Oriole, followed by the first of at least six Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers seen on this walk.
We then came to a viewpoint at a bend in the road, with views off to the snow-capped mountains again. The day was beginning to warm up and scanning across the hills on the opposite side of the valley showed the first raptors of the day getting up; at least 15 Himalayan Griffons and two further raptors which caused momentary confusion when in gliding posture, with tucked back wings, but when they turned into a soaring circle were immediately obvious as Lammergeiers, my first record since 1993 in the Pyrenees. A Kestrel joined the vultures, followed by two young Steppe Eagles.
After this, Lokesh led us up a path off the road at Kilbury (a single building as far as I can remember). We then began to wind our way upwards, generally at quite a gentle incline but fairly sustained. Most of the route was through thick forest and long stretches could be quite bird-less as typical in forests. However, it was a fine walk in stunning surroundings. In fact, the land below the path was so steep it could sometimes be quite nerve-wracking!
At one junction of trails we found a small mixed flock of birds. These appeared to be mostly those species seen already but with careful looking we also found a Bar-tailed Treecreeper (bars on the tail seen well on this one) and my first Yellow-browed Tit, distinctive if a bit dull! Carrying on along the trail, we heard the clatter of what sounded like gamebirds' wings in a clump of bamboo which we suspected might be Hill Partridges. However, we couldn't see anything and had to carry on. The next few miles was dominated by Black Bulbuls, of which there seemed to be hundreds in the canopy although often only heard rather than visible in the tall fruit-trees. We got higher, flushed more possible partridges and came out to a more open col. Views were impressive, although the height of Cheena Peak in front of us was still a little concerning. Resting here for a few moments, we had great views of a Mountain Hawk-eagle soaring directly overhead, not too far above us at first although it rapidly gained height. A little further on, a Crested Serpent Eagle broke out of the canopy and soon disappeared from sight.
Further on, we turned a corner and were rewarded with a party of four Hill Partridges on the path, very pleasing after earlier suspicions of heard birds. These were also Mike's second new bird of the trip. Surprisingly, Mike's third tick of the trip came shortly afterwards as we came across a party of three Brown Bullfinches feeding quietly in trees beside the path. This was a good record and one we hadn't expected at all; it was even a tick for Lokesh who knew the hills well. Mike and Lokesh watched them for a while but I carried on around the corner as I'd glimpsed something interesting looking. My suspicions proved correct as it turned out to be a party of Great Barbets, the only ones I saw on the whole trip, despite Mike saying they were usually very common (we did hear a few more).
Shortly after this, we joined a more substantial-looking track, with even stone steps in places. This track led directly from Nainital to the summit. Despite our long walk and steady incline, this last few miles proved to be the steepest and hardest part of the walk (and the day had got much warmer by now as well). Even with the help of our two companions, who picked up our scopes whenever we left them unattended for more than a second and would no way let us carry anything except our bins, it was pretty hard going. Frequent stops for possible sightings were a good opportunity for a rest though, although we couldn't find very much except for a quick Mountain Hawk Eagle. Eventually, we could hear a woodpecker tapping and after much searching we found a Himalayan Woodpecker.
Finally, we made it to the top. Cheena Peak is pretty high by UK standards, at over 2600 m (8622 feet), although still entirely wooded. However, as we munched our lunch and sipped our tea provided to us at the top, we had a clear view across to the real mountains to the north which were three times as high. After lunch and a well deserved rest, we walked a short way to a viewpoint looking over the town and lake of Nainital. From here we had a Sparrowhawk, Steppe Eagle, Himalayan Griffon overhead whilst we had further views of several Himalayan Woodpeckers in the surrounding woods. We then tramped back down the main track to the road, with little of note on the way, to where our car was waiting. Much to my relief, my missing notebook was under the front passenger seat!
The afternoon (well advanced by then) was then a fairly quiet affair. After a cup of tea we had a look around the area surrounding the lodge. Despite Mike having seen loads here on a previous visit, it seems we may have been a little early for most of the altitudinal migrants such as thrushes and accentors; we found little apart from Siberian Stonechat and Streaked Laughingthrush. However, we did have brief views of a raptor flying across the valley and soon out of sight behind the wooded hills. We identified this as a Crested Goshawk; it was a rather unsatisfactory tick as it was essentially identified by process of elimination (appearing to be clearly an Accipiter which was too big for a Besra, Shikra or Eurasian Sparrowhawk, too small for a Northern Goshawk and not really right for any of the other medium-sized raptors in the area) but it was probably a reasonably sound identification. We wandered along the track into the woods here but, apart from lots of Common Langurs, we saw almost no birds at all. We gave up and returned to the lodge as dusk fell, to hear at least three Mountain Scops Owls calling around the valley again. A few moths were seen around our room, including one that was pretty much a dead-ringer for a Ni Moth, although without knowing if similar species occur it wouldn't be safe to claim it. Another fine slap-up meal and we fell asleep to the calls of the owls. The lowest daily number of species of the trip today, but almost half of them lifers.
Day total 50 species (24 ticks).
Cumulative trip total 261 species (167 ticks).
Up for breakfast at dawn and then we headed out on another trek with our two guides, this time turning left in the village and heading in the opposite direction along the road. We encountered various species we'd seen the day before: Black-headed Jay, Streaked Laughingthrush, a single Common Mynah in Pangot village, Blue Whistling Thrush, Plum-headed Parakeet, Long-tailed Minivet, House Sparrow, Red-billed Blue Magpie and Grey-hooded Warbler. However, for at least half an hour that was pretty much it, which was becoming increasingly disappointing. We were told that Koklass Pheasants were sometimes seen along this road so we made our way round every bend carefully but to no avail.
The first decent bird of the day was a fine Grey-headed Woodpecker which gave excellent prolonged views; my first decent views of this species at last. A little further, however, Lokesh found my first tick of the day, a pair of Brown-fronted Woodpeckers. This was a relief as the forest was appearing increasingly birdless at this stage. We continued further, picking up Rufous Sibia and Eurasian Jay for the day. Finally, we could hear birds calling from up ahead and then, as yesterday morning, things went a bit mental for a few minutes! Green-backed Tits, Spot-winged Tits and Black-throated Tits were the first species seen, followed by Hume's Warblers, Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers and Himalayan Woodpeckers. The first new bird of the flock was a distinctive but pretty dull-looking Green Shrike-babbler. Almost within the same minute, however, Mike picked up a White-browed Shrike-babbler in a much closer tree. This was a total contrast, being a stunning bird. Unfortunately, it didn't stay long but another medium-sized interesting-looking bird passed through the trees, eventually becoming visible as a Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush. Shortly afterwards, yet another mystery bird was glimpsed; this one took longer to track down but eventually proved to be a Blue-fronted Redstart. Four ticks in about five minutes after such a quiet spell was a real adrenalin surge. Also in the flock were White-tailed Nuthatches, a Yellow-browed Tit and a Maroon Oriole.
Carrying on along the track, it then went a bit quiet again although we picked up a Sparrowhawk, Bar-tailed Treecreeper and heard a couple of distant Great Barbets. In contrast to yesterday, only about five Black Bulbuls were seen. Then we saw a small hawk briefly fly past us and into the back of a tree. We tracked it down carefully and it proved instead to be a cuckoo. This proved tricky to identify but eventually we clinched it as a Large Hawk Cuckoo, Mike's fourth new bird of the trip. A little later, we came to a col at a place called Ghugu Khan where we had a quick rest before turning left off the road along a smaller track that wound around the back of the hill. The land was a little more open here and we spent some time looking through a number of birds around a scrubby ravine where there were some skulkers that never fully revealed themselves (bush warblers?) There were loads of Rufous Sibias here and more Streaked Laughingthrushes, then three Striated Laughingthrushes went through; a much larger bird than Streaked.
We then had stunning views of an adult Lammergeier gliding about 30 feet overhead, even allowing me to get photos; an amazing sighting! After this we carried on around the track, with little of note for a while except for Rufous Sibias. We came to an open grassy area but couldn't find any Upland Pipits as hoped. By now, Himalayan Griffons were up and often floating around overhead. However, I noticed that one looked a little odd and indeed it proved to be a Black Vulture, which I managed to get a few photos of along with the griffons. Further on, we found Himalayan Griffons on the ground and in small trees, whilst a Mountain Hawk Eagle was seen overhead. After this, we wound our way back through the woods carefully looking at various flocks of small birds but picking out little but Black-throated and Spot-winged Tits. Eventually, we came out of the woods just by the lodge at Pangot.
After lunch, we got our gear together and packed up the car, driving back to Nainital and then went part of the way back down the valley we'd come up two days before, the most notable sighting from the car being another Lammergeier gliding low over the road. We were heading for a couple of valleys at slightly lower elevation, although the naming of these sites was a little confusing. The first we went to was what our gen book told us was Mongoli Valley, but our guide said was actually Bajun Valley. Later, we went to another area we were told was actually the real Mongoli Valley.
Anyway, the afternoon lull had set in as we stopped at the roadside at a col at the top of Bajun Valley. We set off downhill along a track on the left-hand side of the valley and for a whole we struggled to see anything at all, despite spending some time trying to pish out odd-sounding things. The first birds of note were a flock of about 20 White-throated Laughingthrushes making their way along the streamside. Looking up to the ridge above the other side of the valley, we saw yet another Lammergeier, Himalayan Griffon and the only pair of Peregrines of the trip; the latter appeared identical in appearance to UK birds and were presumably migrants from the north as opposed to any local race. That was about it until we got to the lowest part of the valley. Around the stream here there were a few birds skulking, including Blue Whistling Thrush, Grey-hooded Warbler and Oriental White-eye. After this we crossed over and headed back up the valley on the opposite side. We passed through small cultivated fields here, as well as in amongst the villagers' houses. This area was a bit more promising, although we saw nothing new for the trip, with several Grey Bushchats, Chiffchaff, Common Mynah, Long-tailed Shrike, Streaked Laughingthrush, Tree Pipit, Scaly-breasted Munia, Russet Sparrow, Himalayan Bulbul and Siberian Stonechat. Further up the hill an adult Red-headed Vulture passed over and we also noted Black-headed Jay, Red-vented Bulbul and Hume's Warbler.
Back at the car, it was only four km more to our next stop which we reached quite late in the afternoon. We initially walked along the top of a southwards-facing escarpment which, with the heat of the day reduced now, was much more bird-filled. One of the first birds was a Blue-throated Barbet, followed by lots of Himalayan and Red-vented Bulbuls, Grey-hooded and Hume's Warbler, Scaly-breasted Munia and Grey-breasted Prinia, whilst a Eurasian Sparrowhawk flew over. Then my first new bird for about eight hours finally popped up; a male White-capped Bunting in non-breeding plumage with white-spotted black throat. This certainly raised the spirits and we carried on, also noting Jungle Babbler, Great Tit, White-tailed Nuthatch, Grey Treepie, about 20 Russet Sparrows, Chiffchaff, Grey Bushchat, Blue Whistling Thrush, Olive-backed Pipit, White-throated Fantail and three Yellow-breasted Greenfinches.
We then crossed over to the top of what was presumably the 'real' Mongoli Valley. This looked like a good spot but it was getting fairly late now so we didn't go far down the track here. However, a small bird flew up from the floor and into a bush which we managed to get a decent look at. It was a very drab bunting with no obvious features, only a slight ear spot and eye-ring, with faint breast streaking. On much leafing through the book we concluded it could only really be a Chestnut-eared Bunting, a likely species for the area but it would have been more satisfying to have had a positive ID feature. Soon after this we turned back thinking that must be about it for the day when two small birds hopped out on the path in front and proved to be a pair of Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babblers, excellent looking birds. Even that wasn't it, as a few minutes later we were checking through a few more birds by the path when one turned out to be a fine Rufous-bellied Niltava. Four new birds in about half an hour here was very pleasing after a quiet afternoon.
We drove back then to Nainital as it got dark, this time going through the town itself which looked typically hectic. We then took the roads east and south to Sat Tal, reaching here an hour or two later, with only a Sambur in the headlights of note. We were booked in here at the local rest house, which wasn't the smartest establishment of the trip it has to be said (and included local style toilets only). Our room was relatively plush compared to the others we could see through the windows, though a bit on the dark side with the variable but mostly low power light-bulbs. One of the staff brought us a menu, we picked a few items and he clearly went off to one of the nearby food stalls and got it prepared for us, then we hit the sack (not a right lot else to do in Sat Tal after dark).
Day total 62 species (12 ticks).
Cumulative trip total 274 species (179 ticks).
We woke at dawn and headed out with just a flask of water, there being no other facilities. Sat Tal was a very attractive locality, being essentially a dead-end in the bottom of a valley where a lake had formed. In fact, the name means seven lakes although we only saw two! We headed a little way back up the road, with a Great Barbet calling in the distance. We turned off along a path by a stream running down from a weir and past a campsite, to an area apparently good for tesias and wren-babblers, two of Mike's targets.
The morning was quiet at first, although there was a strange growling sound coming from the woods up the hill which was a little unnerving; I thought Leopard but Mike was probably more realistic with his suggestion of monkey! We came to the second lake, where a White-throated Kingfisher was seen. Over the back of the lake, there were birds in the tree-tops which proved to be Long-tailed Minivets, Black Bulbuls, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch and the first new bird of the day, a flock of about 50 Slaty-headed Parakeets. Around this time, we also heard an unfamiliar song coming from the undergrowth up the slope beside the path which sounded pretty similar to the book-description of Scaly-breasted Wren-babbler. Unfortunately, we couldn't track it down. We were then distracted by the appearance of a small flock of about ten Red-billed Leiothrix, a very smart bird. A Common Kingfisher was also seen by the lake, followed by Blue Whistling Thrush and Ashy Drongo.
A party of Red-billed Blue Magpies then appeared, followed by about 30 White-throated Laughingthrushes accompanied by Striated Laughingthrushes. As we continued down the path, we chanced upon a splendid Greater Yellownape giving excellent prolonged views on a tree by the path, soon followed by a Grey-headed Woodpecker. We then continued down the valley, away from the lake and following the stream which got steeper and broke into rapids. Great Tits and Streaked Laughingthrushes were seen in the undergrowth, but there was no sign of any tesias or forktails, despite prolonged searching and chasing around various unidentified small birds. We did eventually strike lucky with a pair of Rufous-bellied Niltavas though, in low bushes by the stream.
We then headed back the way we'd come but flushed a small hawk. Following it, we flushed it again and again until we finally had good scope views of it perched and were able to confidently identify it as a juvenile Besra. It soon started being mobbed by the mob of Red-billed Blue Magpies present and despite constant provocation, it never flushed very far, enabling Mike to get some good photos of the diagnostic tail and other features. Continuing back, we found our only first duck since leaving Delhi, a single Ferruginous Duck on the smaller lake, followed by a Grey Wagtail by the stream. Back along the road by the rest house, we came across a small owl in the roadside trees. We had excellent view of the front of the bird then made our way round behind it to see its wings and identify it as an Asian Barred Owlet, which Mike also photographed.
We then stopped at a stall for a fine breakfast and tea, after which we explored the area of fields behind the tea stall area. This was a fine spot in the late morning, with loads of bird activity. Lots of Himalayan and Red-vented Bulbuls were present, along with Russet Sparrow, Oriental White-eye, Black-headed Jay, Spotted Dove and Grey Bushchat. At the back of the fields on the edge of the woods, there was a hot-spot with Black-lored Tit, Grey-hooded Warbler and Lemon-rumped Warbler. Then a small bird flashed up into the tree which looked pretty smart but went straight out of sight; I initially suspected Himalayan Rubythroat but when it appeared it was a splendid male Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher. Near here, an area of bushes had had a path cut through it, leaving a low area in amongst the bushes. Some of the skulkers here probably got away without being identified but we did manage a female Rufous-bellied Niltava, two Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babblers and a Black-chinned Babbler. In the trees behind here, another Grey-headed Woodpecker was seen, along with the second Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker of the trip.
Down by the lake we came across White-capped Water Redstart and White-browed Wagtail, along with a striking personata White Wagtail, along with a number of Olive-backed Pipits in the fields. Then followed a frustrating incident, when I heard a high pitched call and glimpsed a small dark bird flit past. Mike managed to see it perched, a male Fire-breasted Flowerpecker. Unfortunately, it had gone by the time I managed to find the correct green clump of the tree - darn! We then packed our stuff back in the car and drove up to the top of the valley. We got out and asked our driver to follow us down the road, meeting at the tea-stalls we'd passed half way along. However, we weren't entirely sure he'd grasped what we were asking. Anyway, we set off down the hill through a more scrubby open area, along with small fields. The day was getting hotter now and activity was declining. We found Siberian Stonechat, Long-tailed Shrike, House Sparrow and Scaly-breasted Munia. I then started scanning ridge-tops carefully looking for Black Eagle, which we failed to find although we did pick out Himalayan Griffon, Red-headed Vulture, Lammergeier, Steppe Eagle, Black Kite and Kestrel. We made our way down to the tea-stall and had a couple of cups of tea and debated whether to wait for our driver, to continue further down the hill in the hope he'd come looking for us, or to wander back up the hill. In the end, we chose the latter course, coming across three White-crested Laughingthrushes by the path then nothing but a long sweaty slog until nearly back at the car when we jammed into an unexpected juvenile Pied Cuckoo, being fed by its host, a Streaked Laughingthrush. Also here, we had a fine Grey Bushchat which even I managed to photograph through my binoculars. We then found our driver, who appeared to have had no intention of coming to get us, so we'd probably made the right decision.
After this, it was time to head off out of the hills, although we still had a fair amount of spectacular hill scenery, along with Hobby and White-capped Water Redstart from the car (but no Green Magpies, which Mike had seen in this area on a previous visit). We stopped for snacks and a coke at one roadside stall, then for dinner in Kathgodam down in the valley bottom (where Red-billed Blue Magpie was still present). This was the best value meal of the trip, with a masala dosa (pancake thing) and a uttapam (waffle thing) plus two teas and two cokes, all for about £1.20. We then carried on down to Haldwani, with Cattle Egrets and Black Kites flying around the town in the evening, then to the station at Lal Kuan. It was getting dark now and we had two huge Flying Foxes over the station. We said goodbye to our driver, and to the hills, then got on the train to Agra. This again set off bang on time and was again clean and fine, although we had to share a cabin with an elderly Indian couple this time. After reading for a bit, I soon fell asleep.
Day total 59 species (7 ticks).
Cumulative trip total 281 species (186 ticks).
We were woken as the train pulled in to Agra main station and got blearily out onto the platform, having then to cross over many railway tracks on foot to get to the exit. Again, Mohit's organisation of our trip was first rate; a driver was waiting to pick us up immediately and we sped away through the bustle of the city. The change in scenery, well south of the hills now, was immediately reflected in the avifauna with House Crows, Black Kites, Feral Pigeons and House Swifts around the station.
With the trip list rapidly approaching 300 species and Bharatpur beckoning, we weren't going to hang about doing tourist stuff. However, our driver insisted that we could get a good view of the Taj Mahal from our route and we stopped by the roadside as the sun rose across a dusty expanse of open ground. We picked up a few birds here, including Egyptian Vulture, Collared Dove, Jungle Babbler, Red-wattled Lapwing, White-breasted Waterhen, Cattle Egret, Rose-ringed Parakeet and Common Mynah. Eventually, we could see the familiar silhouette loom out of the morning smog and haze. However, this was as good as it got, and the haze soon closed in again. Thinking it far more impressive to have had barely-tickable views of one of the world's most famous buildings, we decided that was quite enough tourist stuff and headed west. It was about an hour's drive from Agra and we picked up various common roadside birds, including Black-winged Stilt, Bank Mynah, House Sparrow, White-breasted Kingfisher, Peafowl, Indian Pond Heron, four more Egyptian Vultures, Black Drongo, Jungle Crow (presumably the other race than that seen in the hills and a potential split), Painted Stork, White Wagtail, Green Sandpiper and Rufous Treepie.
Finally, we made it to the town of Bharatpur and the world-famous Keoladeo Ghana National Park. We were staying at a hotel within the park; a little more expensive than those just outside but seeing as we were here only a short time we thought it worth it to maximise birding time. It was still fairly early and we had some breakfast, then headed out in search of birds.
We headed through a scrubby area and around some other buildings, where a Golden Jackal was seen along with other new birds for the day; Red-vented Bulbul, Hume's Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Laughing Dove, Grey Francolin and Red-breasted Flycatcher. The first new birds of the Bharatpur were a few White-eared Bulbuls, although not great views. We then came to the first of the wetland areas and soon started notching up loads of waterbirds as expected. Painted Storks tended to be the most numerous, but we also saw Spoonbill, Cattle Egret, Indian Pond Heron, Black-headed Ibis and Moorhen, whilst along the edge of the path were Pied Bushchat, Large Grey Babbler, Paddyfield Warbler and Blyth's Reed Warbler. Three new species then came fast: Indian Darter (albeit a possible lump with African Darter), Lesser Whistling Duck and Bronze-winged Jacana. Little Cormorants were very numerous and the first of many Marsh Harriers of the day passed over. A tentative female Red Collared Dove was then confirmed by being joined by a male, with Mike offering the fascinating piece of trivia that this was the only sexually dimorphic species of Streptopelia dove in the world!
The wet areas had relatively little in the way of open water, being almost entirely covered with vegetation. There were lots of wildfowl present but it was pretty impossible to make any assessment of numbers. Pintail, Teal and Shoveler were all common, along with Comb Ducks, Pochard, Coot, Spotbill and a few Garganey, Wigeon and Ferruginous Ducks, plus the first Gadwalls of the trip. In addition, Grey and Purple Herons were both numerous, along with White-throated Kingfisher, Asian Openbill, Green Sandpiper, Great White and Intermediate Egrets (but relatively few Little Egrets here) and White-breasted Waterhen. Then, a fast-flying flock of 15 sandgrouse zoomed across, which Mike was confident were Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, although views weren't great.
As well as the waterbirds, the smaller birds in the trees along the pathside were interesting. There were lots of Brahminy Starlings here (only one seen previously on the trip so far), along with Pied Starlings. Magpie Robin, Black Drongo, Long-tailed Shrike and Laughing Dove were seen, along with a Common Woodshrike, a fine Clamorous Reed Warbler, several Chestnut-shouldered Petronias and good views at last of Yellow-crowned Woodpecker (seen poorly at Sultanpur). Continued scanning of the marshy areas finally produced a few Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, although these were much scarcer than I was expecting. The first Woolly-necked Storks of the trip were logged, along with Indian Cormorant, Black-rumped Flameback and Common Kingfisher. We then had a piece of luck with excellent views of at least one Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker by the path. Finally, further scanning of the distant wildfowl produced several Cotton Pygmy Geese.
By this stage, we'd reached 292 species for the trip and 195 ticks for me. The race was on for 300 and 200. We headed back towards the main track (we'd only popped down this bit as a short diversion!) and, following a fine Greater Coucal, we heard Sarus Cranes. Still Mike wouldn't let me tick them on sound. Continued searching for them, however, produced our first magnificent male Black-necked Stork, the largest wild bird I'd ever seen. Back at the main track, we took up the services of a cycle-rickshaw driver to take us down the main track deeper into the park. Chiffchaff, House Sparrow and Jungle Babbler were picked out along here then finally, a fine Sarus Crane was seen standing in a marshy area by the main track, well worth the wait. After this, the track went between the main heronries, packed with birds on their nests, dominated by Painted Storks, egrets and cormorants (including Great Cormorants) but also my first Night Herons of the trip. Little Grebes were seen in the ditches.
We then made it to the 'temple'. As at the Yamuna, this is not as spectacular as it sounds. In fact it was difficult to make out anything resembling a temple. More disappointing was the fact the drink stall was shut. It seemed quite remarkable to me that, with Bharatpur being such a famous birding attraction, the park doesn't make any effort to make a few rupees by selling a much needed cold drink to visitors. We were offered a snake skin or some sort of ritual by a strange chap but he soon left us along. The only welcome facility here was a toilet (which was pretty welcome, however!)
We continued south along the main track in the rickshaw, past the main area of grassland. Chital and Nilgai were present here as well as lots of Rhesus Macaques along the path. In the distant, a soaring raptor proved to be our first Bonelli's Eagle of the trip. We also started picking up Aquila eagles which were initially left unidentified. Oriental Skylark and Stonechat were seen along here. We then finally came across an apparently dirt common bird I'd started to worry whether we were going to see or not, an Indian Roller sat on the top of a bush in typical roller style. It seemed somewhat surprising that it should take so long that this was bird 297 of the trip (198th tick).
At the next crossroads, we let our rickshaw driver go and decided to walk back from here. We first checked an area to the west of the track, which had two main attractions. Firstly, this was a stake-out for Grey Nightjar, which Mike needed. Secondly, there were more bushes here to help with my continuing bowel problems! We failed to find anything much here. We then got led off into the scrub on the east side of the track by two small boys offering to show us a python. They led us deep into the bushes but managed only to find us some porcupine burrows where they claimed the python slept. They offered to take us further in but we declined at this stage, giving them a small tip for trying. We then set off back along the main track, picking up a Purple Sunbird. It was pretty hot now and I was struggling a bit with not a lot of water left in my bottle. This was the only time on the whole trip when an Indian came up and blatantly asked for money from us, although not in a particularly threatening way. We told him where to go and he went. If he'd had a bottle of coke to offer I'd have given him a tenner for it!
The next new bird of the trip then appeared right in front of us as a Koel popped out of a bush, showed for a few minutes and then disappeared again into deep scrub - tick 199 and bird 298. A Sparrowhawk flew over, followed by a Red-headed Vulture and then a Bluethroat by the trackside. A possible 200th tick then appeared tantalisingly, with three Blue-tailed or Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters overhead but, as with the sighting at the Yamuna on the first day of the trip, we couldn't see enough on them to be certain.
The large area of grassland here has traditionally been the favoured area for the famous Siberian White Cranes in the past. However, the number of these birds had been declining for years and in several recent winters there had been no birds at all, including in 2002 when there was very little water at the reserve. We didn't have very high hopes of getting this species (it was a little early anyway), although one couldn't help hoping! However, we did have good views of a family party of Sarus Cranes and a flock of nine Common Cranes. We also had great views of another male Black-necked Stork, which was particularly impressive in flight. We then spent a long time looking at Aquila eagles here. At least four were present here and at least some were definitely identified as Greater Spotted Eagles (the 299th bird of the trip), with a range of ages and one fulvescens bird. However, the identification of these is made difficult by the possibilities of Indian Spotted Eagle (for which the ID features are not fully known), Tawny Eagle and Steppe Eagle (as well as the larger Imperial Eagle which turned up at Bharatpur after we left).
We made it back to the temple, with a Hoopoe new for the day, then a couple of surprise fly-overs; a flock of three Curlews and a Eurasian Hobby. Then, at last we managed to clinch the identification of two Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, the blue uppertail visible as they'd hawked above us, simultaneously becoming the 300th species and my 200th lifer of the trip. It was then getting a bit dusky and we had a fair way to go still before getting to the known stake-out area for Dusky Eagle Owl so we slogged along the track, picking up a single Brown-headed Gull (bizarre that such a major wetland only held one gull and no terns today!) and a Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher. After a while though, Mike realised that we'd come too far! At this stage, I was pretty tired but this was a pretty guaranteed tick so we got another cycle rickshaw and got pedalled back. As we went through an area of tall trees, I noticed a large-ish passerine up in the high branches, which proved to be an Orange-headed Thrush. This was very pleasing, given that we'd not had much success with thrushes in the hills. Immediately after this, a deep call started from a little way out in the marsh and we had great views as it was getting dark of a Dusky Eagle Owl out on a branch, whilst the second bird was calling nearby.
We finally got driven back to the hotel and had a much-wanted drink of coke. After a clean-up we had an excellent meal and a few beers with the first other British (or ex-pat) birdwatchers we'd seen on the whole trip.
Day total 104 species (16 ticks).
Cumulative trip total 302 species (202 ticks).
Up at dawn for the final morning of the trip. We left pre-breakfast, heading towards the 'nursery' area although we were side-tracked for a little while by a calling owl. However, this soon stopped calling and we returned to plan A, with Grey Francolin, Peafowl, Cattle Egret, Painted Stork, Hume's Warbler and Little Cormorant noted. As we approached the nursery, a large fruiting tree was seen to contain several Indian Grey Hornbills and then the only missing barbet of the trip list so far, three very satisfying Brown-headed Barbets. Whilst watching these, we were joined by local top guide Ratan Singh who knew Mike and joined us for the morning with his cycle rickshaw.
Ratan led us into the denser woods of the nursery and shortly found us one of his specialities, Large-tailed Nightjar. Three of these were seen on the ground, merging perfectly with the leaf-litter. We then had a good look around a small swampy pool where several Bluethroats were seen. The third new bird of the day then appeared shortly after the first two, when a raptor perched a little way off in a tree top turned out to be an Oriental Honey Buzzard, also seen in flight shortly afterwards.
After a good breakfast, Ratan then took us on what turned out to be pretty much a repeat of the previous day's route. We saw plenty of birds but not a great deal different, although it was a pleasant and relaxing morning's birding. First off was the Dusky Eagle Owl, visible in its daytime roost tree close to where we'd seen it the night before. We then headed off across a grassy area to a different lake where Ratan had recently seen something noteworthy (can't remember what it was - Black-capped Kingfisher and Grey-headed Eagle spring to mind; whatever it was we didn't see it!) We did come across Ashy Drongo, Oriental White-eye, Large Grey Babbler, Common Mynah, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Black Redstart, Brahminy Starling, Laughing Dove, Small Minivet, Rufous Treepie and Bay-backed Shrike. Four distant flying geese unfortunately proved to be Greylag Geese, the first of the trip but we were a few weeks early for Bar-headed Goose. We flushed a Spotted Owlet and I glimpsed a Black-naped Hare running away through the scrub. Black-rumped Flameback and Red-breasted Flycatcher were both seen, along with the standard selection of waterbirds including Woolly-necked Stork, Lesser Whistling Duck, Painted Stork, Purple and Grey Herons, White-breasted Kingfisher and Green Sandpiper. Marsh Harrier and Eurasian Sparrowhawk were seen overhead. Also in the scrub were Greater Coucal, Lesser Whitethroat and Greenish Warbler. We then spent some time trying to get decent views of a warbler which we were eventually fairly happy was a Sykes's Warbler (my only record since one in Eilat in 1994).
Back in more open areas, Pied Bushchat and Paddyfield Pipit were seen. Back on the main track, Ratan found us a Collared Scops Owl at roost in a palm tree, which I got a reasonable photograph of. A little further on, Ratan took us to another Spotted Owlet, this one known by him to be particularly confiding and I got photos of this too. He then tried to find us Cinnamon Bittern which he'd seen recently near the temple, but without success. We heard a Ruddy Shelduck and another new species for the trip was a fly-over Spotted Redshank. Back in the open grassland areas we again spent time on the Aquila eagles and Mike got decent photos of several birds. Ratan claimed at least one of these was an Indian Spotted Eagle, although as he couldn't explain what the distinguishing features were we left it unsettled. We had at least one adult and four immature Spotted Eagles though, plus another new trip species, an adult Short-toed Eagle flying over. About 20 Purple Swamphens were seen in one area (Mike had seen thousands here earlier in the autumn), along with eight Sarus Cranes, a juvenile Bonelli's Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Jungle Crow and Chiffchaff.
We then returned to the hotel and packed up to return to Delhi. Ratan accompanied us just outside the park to try to show us Yellow-wattled Lapwing, without success but we did see Indian Robin, Plain Prinia and Indian Silverbill. We then set off on the journey of several hours north to Delhi. Roadside birds included Black-winged Stilt, Brown Rock-chat and Bank Mynah. Later, however, we stopped at some roadside pools at a place called something like 'Chachampati'. A quick scope here revealed an amazing diversity, including no less than five new species for the trip; 30 Marsh Sandpipers, two Dunlin, two Kentish Plover, two Little Ringed Plover and 20 Black-tailed Godwits. Also here were 69 Asian Openbills, 13 Black Ibis, three egrets, Little Cormorant, Indian Darter, one Green Sandpiper, 200 Little Stint, 100 Black-winged Stilt, 20 Redshank, 10 Spotted Redshank, 20 Comb Duck, Spotbill, Wigeon, Pochard, Shoveler and Pintail, along with several White Wagtails. Further along the road, three more Sarus Cranes were seen, followed by three Woolly-necked Storks, Black Kites, Marsh Harriers and, by a river crossing somewhere, ten Streak-throated Swallows.
Soon we joined the faster Agra to Delhi highway and fair sped along, although it was intriguing to witness camel trains along the main motorway along with all the other traffic. We stopped for a drink and for me to buy some presents then ploughed on into Delhi. Traffic was pretty chaotic again but no worse than Mike expected and we finally made it back to his apartment where we had a brief disagreement with the driver who thought he'd finished his duties but we (via a phone call to Mohit) convinced him to stay on to take me to the airport later. We went in and finally met up with Nisha who had been with her family when I'd arrived 10 days before. After a much-needed shower and some clean clothes, we went out for a meal with some of the Delhi birders at Bill Harvey's house, which was a very civilised wind-down to the trip. Back to Mike's then for a last cup of tea and then I said goodbye and the driver took me to the airport.
Day total 115 species (3 ticks)
Cumulative trip total 315 species (205 ticks).
I plunged in through the chaos of the outside of the airport and finally got to the reassuring familiarity of the British Airways desk. I then spent a few hours trying to find something in the duty free area that was, a) affordable, b) worth having and c) priced in rupees - some stuff could only be bought in dollars, which struck me as slightly bizarre. I eventually got ripped off for some sweets and went through to the departure lounge, had a few coffees and a sandwich to keep me going and we finally boarded at about 2 a.m. We were off on time and I dozed off fairly soon, but was woken shortly afterwards by the unlikely offer of a meal. In my sleep-befuddled state I couldn't work out it would have been sensible to decline so I found myself consuming a very British-style curry and rice before falling asleep again.
I woke as we were flying over the Baltic north of Poland. It was pretty cloudy until we made the Dutch coast then excellent views and over the North Sea. We came up the Thames Estuary, with excellent views of the Swale, Medway, Cliffe area then London including the Dome, London Eye, Houses of Parliament with Big Ben just visible then down to Heathrow. We had to wait a while on the runway to get docked but I got through the terminal very quickly, first bag off. The coach was a little late but I was soon speeding through the English countryside and made it home about 2 p.m., in time to pick up Tom from school.
Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus Recorded
only at Pangot, with at least four on 30/10 (two seen upon flushing).
Grey Francolin Francolinus pondicerianus Recorded
only in the lowlands; eight flushed at Sultanpur plus one heard
by the Yamuna on 26/10, and recorded at Bharatpur on 2/11 (five)
and 3/11 (ten, including good views on the ground at last).
Hill Partridge Arborophila torqueola After
hearing suspected birds flushing from the trail from Pangot up
to Cheena Peak on 30/10, we finally had good views of four birds
on the path. A new bird for Mike.
Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus Recorded only around
the Corbett area. On 27/10, a female with three juvs on the road
along the Kosi valley, followed by another later on. Not so obviously
chicken like as expected. However, excellent views of a male in
same general area on 28/10, which did look just like a fine rooster!
This bird was seen in the same scope view as three jackals, further
down the track. Another bird by the road the same day. On 29/10,
at least three males heard on the other side of the Kosi river
from the track to Sitabani - "cock-a-doodle-doo"!
Kalij Pheasant Lophura leucomelanos Recorded at
Corbett and Sat Tal. A female plus poor views of a male at Jhirna
on 28/10, followed by three males along the Kosi valley road later.
Two along the track to Sitabani on 29/11. A pair at Sat Tal on
Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus Widespread in lowlands
and at Corbett but not at Pangot/Sat Tal. First recorded in the
suburbs of Delhi on 26/10, plus also at Sultanpur. Much wilder
looking in the Corbett area, mostly along the Kosi valley, on
27-29/10. Also along the road near Agra and at Bharatpur, in small
Lesser Whistling-duck Dendrocygna javanica Only
recorded at Bharatpur, where c100 on 2/11 and c50 on 3/11 (although
in general, ducks were not carefully counted, in part at least
because of the amount of emergent vegetation).
Greylag Goose Anser anser Four flew over at Bharatpur
on 3/11 but we were just slightly too early for Bar-headed Goose.
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea One was at the
Yamuna river on 26/10 (my first definitely wild record). One was
heard (pointed out by Ratan Singh) at Bharatpur on 3/11.
Comb Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos Recorded only
in the lowlands: five at Sultanpur on 26/11, three at Bharatpur
on 2/11 and 20 on roadside pools at 'Chachampati' on 3/11.
Cotton Pygmy-goose Nettapus coromandelianus Only
recorded from Bharatpur, where at least ten on 2/11 and at least
one on 3/11.
Gadwall Anas strepera Five at Bharatpur on 2/11.
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope Only in the lowlands;
10 at Sultanpur on 26/10, 30 at Bharatpur on 2/11 and 10 on roadside
pools at 'Chachampati' on 3/11.
Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha Only in the
lowlands. One over Basai, c30 at Sultanpur and 10+ at the Yamuna
on 26/10, 10+ at Bharatpur on 2/11 and c20 at roadside pools at
'Chachampati' on 3/11.
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata Perhaps the most
numerous duck in the lowlands; c300 at Sultanpur and c1000 at
the Yamuna on 26/10, c300 at Bharatpur on 2/11 and c50 at roadside
pools at 'Chachampati' on 3/11.
Northern Pintail Anas acuta Only in the lowlands;
c40 at Sultanpur and c200 at the Yamuna on 26/10, c100 at Bharatpur
on 2/11 and c50 at roadside pools at 'Chachampati' on 3/11.
Garganey Anas querquedula At least ten at Sultanpur
on 26/10 and ten at Bharatpur on 2/11.
Common Teal Anas crecca At least 100 at Sultanpur
and 50 at the Yamuna on 26/10 and at least 30 at Bharatpur on
Common Pochard Aythya ferina In the lowlands,
six at Sultanpur and 10+ at the Yamuna on 26/10, c20 at Bhatapur
on 2/11 and five at roadside pools at 'Chachampati' on 3/11.
Ferruginous Pochard Aythya nyroca At least one
at Sultanpur on 26/10, one on a small lake at Sat Tal on 1/11
(the only record of a duck in the hills) and c10 at Bharatpur
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula Only on 26/10 when
three at Sultanpur and c10 at the Yamuna river.
Speckled Piculet Picumnus innominatus Up to three
were seen amongst mixed feeding flocks in the woods by the edge
of the Kosi river at Kumeria on 27/10 and another was seen on
29/10 by the track to Sitabani, again within a mixed feeding flock.
Superb little birds!
Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos nanus
One was seen in low trees by the edge of a lake at Bharatpur on
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos canicapillus
On 27/10, two seen at a roadside stop along the Kosi valley and
two more at Kumeria. Another two were seen along the track to
Sitabani on 29/10.
Brown-fronted Woodpecker Dendrocopos auriceps The
only records were two in the woods between Pangot and Ghugu Khan
Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker Dendrocopos macei Singles
were seen along the track to Sitabani on 29/10 and at Sat Tal
Yellow-crowned Woodpecker Dendrocopos mahrattensis Only
in the lowlands; poor views of one at Sultanpur on 26/10 and one
at Bharatpur on 2/11.
Rufous-bellied Woodpecker Dendrocopos hyperythrus
Only around Pangot, with six seen on the trek to Cheena Peak on
30/10 and one on the track to Ghugu Khan on 31/10.
Himalayan Woodpecker Dendrocopos himalayensis
Only around Pangot, with at least two near the summit of Cheena
Peak on 30/10 and three more along the track to Ghugu Khan on
Lesser Yellownape Picus chlorolophus One seen
at Kumeria on 27/10 was the only record.
Greater Yellownape Picus flavinucha One at Sat
Tal on 1/11 was the only record, a particularly fine bird!
Streak-throated Woodpecker Picus xanthopygaeus
Only recorded on 27/10, when one by the roadside along the Kosi
valley and at least five in the Bijrani area later that day. No
records of Scaly-bellied Woodpecker though.
Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus Following previous
poor views of this species in Belgium in 1991, I was disappointed
to have poor views again of one at Bijrani on 27/10. However,
excellent views of one at Pangot-Ghugu Khan on 31/10 and two at
Sat Tal on 1/11.
Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium benghalense The
only flameback seen and most frequent woodpecker. Recorded from
Sultanpur (two on 26/10), Corbett area (four on 27/10, singles
on 28/10 and 29/10) and Bharatpur (singles on 2/11 and 3/11),
although none in Pangot area.
Great Barbet Megalaima virens The only ones seen
were a flock of ten along the trail from Pangot to Cheena Peak
on 30/10 (despite expecting these to be much more numerous). Birds
were also heard from Pangot on 31/10 and at Sat Tal on 1/11 (according
Brown-headed Barbet Megalaima zeylanica Not recorded
until 3/11 when three seen at Bharatpur.
Lineated Barbet Megalaima lineata The most numerous
barbet, although only around the Corbett area on 27-29/10; daily
totals of c50, c20 and c20.
Blue-throated Barbet Megalaima asiatica One at
Bijrani on 27/10, two at Sitabani and one at Corbett Falls on
29/10 and one at Mongoli Valley on 31/10.
Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala Recorded
around Corbett, with two in Kosi valley and two at Bijrani on
27/10 and two along the road between Ramnagar and Jhirna on 28/10.
Indian Grey Hornbill Ocyceros birostris Poor views
of one by the road in Gurgaon (edge of Delhi) on 26/10, but then
ten along the Kosi valley on 27/10, five near Jhirna on 28/10
and five at Bharatpur on 3/11.
Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris Four
seen well at Bijrani on 27/10 (poor photos taken), a flock of
18 by the road between Ramnagar and Jhirna on 28/10 and three
over the valley on the way to Sitabani on 29/10. An excellent
bird, although unfortunately no Great Hornbills could be found
(apparently likely at Jhirna).
Common Hoopoe Upupa epops Widespread in lowlands
and foothills: small numbers recorded at Basai, Sultanpur, Bijrani,
Ramnagar, Jhirna and Bharatpur.
Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis An apparently
common species but we unaccountably failed to record it until
2/11, when up to three seen at Bharatpur.
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis Two at Kumeria
on 27/10, one at Sat Tal on 1/11, three at Bharatpur on 2/11 and
two there on 3/11.
White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis Common
in lowland areas, to edge of the hills. Up to 20 per day. Recorded
at Basai, Sultanpur, Yamuna, Ramnagar, Sat Tal (one here), Bharatpur
and along roadsides.
Crested Kingfisher Megaceryle lugubris Several
recorded daily along the Kosi river from Ramnagar to Kumeria on
27/10 (six), 28/10 (one) and 29/10 (two).
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis Surprisingly, only
one was recorded, along the Kosi river on 27/10.
Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis Three were seen
near the 'temple' on the east side of the Yamuna on 26/10.
Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus At least
five in flight at Bharatpur on 2/11 on which the blue tails could
be seen. Also, unidentified Blue-tailed / Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters
over the Yamuna on 26/10 but not seen well enough to identify.
Pied Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus A surprise sighting
on 1/11 was a juvenile quite high up the Sat Tal valley being
fed by a Streaked Laughingthrush.
Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides One
along the track from Pangot to Ghugu Khan on 31/10. Initially
confusing and very hawk-like; eventually had good views and extensive
notes taken (along with photos by MGP).
Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris One was seen
briefly perched by the road between Ramnagar and Jhirna on 28/10;
very drongo like but slender decurved bill seen well. A tick for
Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea The only record
was one by the path at Bharatpur on 2/11 for a couple of minutes
before it disappeared into the scrub.
Green-billed Malkoha Phaenicophaeus tristis One
seen on 29/10 near Sitabani amongst a mixed flock of mostly Large
Woodshrikes. A cracking bird!
Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis Only in the
lowlands. On 26/10, two at Basai and singles at Sultanpur and
Yamuna, plus two at Bharatpur on both 2/11 and 3/11.
Alexandrine Parakeet Psittacula eupatria Two were
seen at Bijrani on 27/10 and one at Sitabani on 29/10.
Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri A very
common bird with several hundred each day in the lowlands and
Corbett area but not at Pangot or Sat Tal. Clear indications of
birds making evening flights to communal roosts at Corbett.
Slaty-headed Parakeet Psittacula himalayana A
flock of about 50 at Sat Tal on 1/11 was the only record. No records
of Red-breasted Parakeet.
Plum-headed Parakeet Psittacula cyanocephala
Small numbers around Corbett and Pangot. Two in Kosi valley
on 27/10, c10 around Jhirna and south side of Corbett on 28/10,
five near Sitabani on 29/10 and one at Pangot on 30/10.
Himalayan Swiftlet Collocalia brevirostris At
least five seen over the road along the Kosi valley on 27/10 with
needletails and treeswifts, and two more at Jhirna on 28/10.
White-rumped Needletail Zoonavena sylvatica A
flock of about 20 over the road along the Kosi valley on 26/10,
with swiftlets and treeswifts.
House Swift Apus affinis At least two seen around
Ramnagar on both 28/10 and 29/10 and about five around Agra on
Crested Treeswift Hemiprocne coronata Six were
seen over the road along the Kosi valley on 27/10 in a mixed flock
with swiftlets and needletails, with two more upstream at Kumeria.
Two more seen on 28/10 at Jhirna.
Mountain Scops Owl Otus spilocephalus Not seen
but the distinctive double-whistle calls were heard from the woods
surrounding Pangot after dark on 29/10 (two) and 30/10 (three,
first calls slightly before dusk).
Collared Scops Owl Otus bakkamoena A pair
seen around Tiger Camp at Corbett at dawn on 29/10. One seen (and
photographed) at Bharatpur on 3/11.
Dusky Eagle Owl Bubo coromandus At Bharatpur
on 2/11, what sounded like two calling at dusk along main track
and one seen out on a branch silhouetted against the evening light
(photo taken). Also, one bird seen during daytime roost here on
Asian Barred Owlet Glaucidium cuculoides One seen
near the café/hotel at Sat Tal on 1/11. Photo by Mike; I found
this and the next species very difficult by the book.
Jungle Owlet Glaucidium radiatum Two were
seen by the roadside between Ramnagar and Jhirna on 28/10.
Spotted Owlet Athene brama Two were found by MGP
at a known stake-out at Sultanpur on 26/10. Two were at Jhirna
on 28/10. Three singles seen at Bharatpur on 3/11 (photo taken
of a particularly confiding one, thanks to guide Ratan Singh).
Large-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus macrurus Three
were seen in leaf-litter at the "Nursery" at Bharatpur on 3/11,
pointed out by Ratan Singh.
Rock Pigeon Columba livia Common feral bird (up
to 200 per day) in urban areas, including Delhi, Basai, Sultanpur,
Yamuna, Corbett villages, Ramnagar (especially along dam), Agra
Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis Common
in some areas but not abundant, with up to ten per day in Delhi
area, around Ramnagar and at Bharatpur.
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis Up to 30 per
day in Corbett area (27-29/10) and three at Sat Tal on 1/11 but
not at Pangot or in lowlands.
Red Collared Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica About
five of these were seen on 2/11 at Bharatpur.
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto Noted
in the lowlands (Delhi, Agra, Bharatpur) and around Ramnagar but
not higher up.
Yellow-footed Green Pigeon Treron phoenicoptera
About 30 were noted around the 'temple' on the east side of the
Yamuna on 26/10 (easily disappearing within the top of a large
fruiting tree here) and one was seen between Ramnagar and Jhirna
Sarus Crane Grus antigone Heard at Basai on 26/10
but could not be seen. No records then until 2/11 when heard again
at Bharatpur, then finally seen, with about nine during the day
including at least one family party (photographed). Eight seen
at Bharatpur on 3/11, with three more later by the roadside on
the way back to Delhi.
Common Crane Grus grus A flock of 25 at Sultanpur
on 26/10. At Bharatpur, nine on 2/11 and 15 on 3/11.
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus
Recorded from Basai, Sultanpur, near Ramnagar, near Agra and at
Bharatpur, although numbers not huge (up to 10 per day).
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio Six seen at
Basai on 26/10. Surprisingly few at Bharatpur, with none seen
there on 2/11 and c20 on 3/11.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Three at Sultanpur
on 26/10, then not until Bharatpur when c50 on 2/11 and c100 on
Common Coot Fulica atra Only in the lowlands;
c200 at Sultanpur on 26/10, c300 at Yamuna on 26/10, c100 at Bharatpur
on 2/11 and c200 there on 3/11.
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles exustus A
flock of 15 flew over at Bharatpur on 2/11.
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago Three flushed
at Basai on 26/10.
Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus Two flushed at
Basai at 26/10.
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa About 20 at
roadside pools at 'Chachampati' on 3/11.
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata One at Basai
on 26/10 and three over at Bharatpur on 2/11.
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus One at Bharatpur
on 3/11 and about ten later that day on roadside pools at 'Chachampati'.
Common Redshank Tringa totanus About five at Basai
on 26/10 and c20 on roadside pools at 'Chachampati' on 3/11.
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis About 30 on
roadside pools at 'Chachampati' on 3/11.
Greenshank Tringa nebularia One by the Kosi river
near Mohan on 28/10 and one on roadside pools at 'Chachampati'
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus Noted on 26/10
at Basai and Sultanpur. One by the river on the track to Sitabani
in the foothills on 29/10. On 2/11, noted by the roadside between
Agra and Bharatpur and on 3/11, again at Bharatpur and on roadside
pools at 'Chachampati'. Only small numbers at each site (up to
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola About 20 at Basai
on 26/10 was the only record.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Singles seen
along the Kosi river each day from 27/10 to 29/10.
Little Stint Calidris minuta About 200 on roadside
pools at 'Chachampati' on 3/11.
Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii One flew
past calling at Basai on 26/10.
Dunlin Calidris alpina Two on roadside pools at
'Chachampati' on 3/11.
Ruff Philomachus pugnax Noted at Sultanpur (20)
and the Yamuna (10) on 26/10 and c100 on roadside pools at 'Chachampati'
Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus
About five only at Bharatpur on 2/11.
Bronze-winged Jacana Metopidius indicus About
ten at Bharatpur on 2/11 (photographed).
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus On 26/10,
c100 at the Yamuna river and c100 elsewhere on roadside pools.
On 2/11, c10 on roadside pools between Agra and Bharatpur. On
3/11, c200 on roadside pools between Bharatpur and Delhi, mostly
at 'Chachampati' on 3/11.
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta About 100 at
the Yamuna river on 26/10.
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva One at Basai
on 26/10, first picked up on call as it flew over, then landed
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius Two on
roadside pools at 'Chachampati' on 3/11.
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus Two on
roadside pools at 'Chachampati' on 3/11.
River Lapwing Vanellus duvaucelii Six by the Yamuna
on 26/10. Singles by the Kosi river on 27/10 and 28/10. About
ten by roadside river crossings east of Ramnagar on 29/10.
Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus Common in
lowland areas, including Delhi area, Ramnagar and lower areas
at Corbett, Agra area, Bharatpur and roads north to Delhi; up
to 40 per day.
White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus Three were
seen at Basai on 26/10.
Heuglin's Gull Larus heuglini An adult at the
Yamuna on 26/10.
Pallas's Gull Larus ichthyaetus One first-winter
at the Yamuna on 26/10.
Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus About 100
at the Yamuna river on 26/10. One flew over at Bharatpur on 2/11.
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus About 1000
at the Yamuna river on 26/10.
Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica One flew
over at Basai on 26/10.
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus About 30 at
the Yamuna river on 26/10.
Oriental Honey-buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus The
only record was one perched, then later briefly in flight, at
Bharatpur on 3/11.
Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus Two were
seen at Sultanpur on 26/10, one in flight and another perched
at very close range.
Black Kite Milvus migrans Common, with up to 100
recorded daily except on 30/10 and 31/10 at Pangot (although one
seen at Sat Tal on 1/11).
Lesser Fish Eagle Ichthyophaga humilis Great views
of one perched on a large dead tree in the Kosi river on 27/10,
then seen nearby on another tree the following day.
Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus Two seen along trek
to Cheena Peak from Pangot on 30/10; easy to identify when soaring
but initially puzzling shape when gliding. On 31/10, superb views
of one about 30 feet overhead at Ghugu Khan (photo) then another
over the car between Nainital and Bajun Valley and another in
Bajun Valley. Finally, one at Sat Tal on 1/11.
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus About 30
around Ramnagar tip on 28/10 with c10 there next day. About five
seen around Agra and Bharatpur on 2/11 with just one at the latter
Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis The first
was one over Jhirna on 28/10. More numerous higher up, with about
15 around Pangot/Cheena Peak on 30/10, c20 the next day around
Ghugu Khan (some seen on trees and on the ground) with also one
on 31/10 at the Bajun Valley and seven over Sat Tal on 1/11.
Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus One flew directly
overhead with Himalayan Griffons at Ghugu Khan on 31/10 (photographed).
Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus About five
seen around Corbett NP on 27/10 (Kosi valley and Bijrani) and
28/10 (Kosi valley and Jhirna). Singles at Bajun valley on 31/10,
Sat Tal on 1/11 and Bharatpur on 2/11.
Short-toed Snake Eagle Circaetus gallicus One
flew over at Bharatpur on 3/11.
Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela Two individuals
seen along the track to Sitabani on 29/10, one at close range
perched within a wood. One was seen on 30/10 along the trek from
Pangot to Cheena Peak, briefly visible as it broke out of cover.
Another was seen much more clearly at Bharatpur on 3/11.
Eurasian Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus One
at Sultanpur and about five at the Yamuna at dusk on 26/10. About
five per day at Bharatpur on 2-3/11.
Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus One flew
over Pangot valley shortly before dusk on 30/10. Views brief but
in open sky. Identified somewhat by process of elimination but
couldn't really have been anything else, based on size, shape
Shikra Accipiter badius Two at Sultanpur on 26/10
and one at Bharatpur on 3/11.
Besra Accipiter virgatus Prolonged and close views
of a juvenile at Sat Tal on 1/11; all features noted and photographed
by MGP. Heavily mobbed by Red-billed Blue Magpies.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus One in the
Sitabani valley on 29/10, one over Cheena Peak summit on 30/10,
one near Ghugu Khan and one in Mongoli Valley on 31/10, two at
Bharatpur on 2/11 and one there on 3/11.
White-eyed Buzzard Butastur teesa Fairly brief
views of singles at both Basai and Sultanpur on 26/10.
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo Singles in the Kosi
valley on 27/10 and 28/10.
Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga Several Aquila
eagles at Bharatpur but the only ones identified conclusively
were this species, with at least four on 2/11 and five on 3/11.
A range of ages and including fulvescens types. Our guide, Ratan
Singh, also pointed out what he said was 'Lesser Spotted Eagle'
but it seems that the identification features of Indian Spotted
Eagle are insufficiently known to be sure.
Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis Two flew over by
Cheena Peak on 30/10 and one over Sat Tal on 1/11.
Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus Singles were
noted at Bharatpur on 2/11 and 3/11.
Rufous-bellied Eagle Hieraeetus kienerii A good
record of one at Jhirna on 28/10.
Changeable Hawk Eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus Two
immatures seen in the Kosi valley on 27/10, followed by an extremely
confiding one at Bijrani near the rest area which was photographed.
Good views of another on 28/10 at Jhirna.
Mountain Hawk Eagle Spizaetus nipalensis Two over
the track up from Pangot to Cheena Peak on 30/10 followed by one
the next day near Ghugu Khan.
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus One at Sultanpur
on 26/10, one near Jhirna on 28/10, one near Pangot on 30/10,
three at Sat Tal on 1/11 and one at Bharatpur on 3/11.
Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo Quite frequent.
One at dusk on 26/10 at the Yamuna chasing waders. Around the
Corbett area, at least two on 27/10, at least six on 28/10 (mostly
Jhirna) and one on 29/10. Two at Sat Tal on 1/11 and one at Bharatpur
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus A pair in Bajun
Valley on 31/10, but looked like nominate-type race so presumably
migrants and not local breeders.
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis Two at Basai
and three at Sultanpur on 26/10 with four at Bharatpur on 2/11.
Darter Anhinga melanogaster Up to c20 recorded
at Bharatpur on 2/11 and 3/11, with some also on roadside pools
at 'Chachampati' on 3/11.
Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger About 100
per day seen in the lowlands only, at Basai, Sultanpur, Yamuna,
Bharatpur and roadside pools at 'Chachampati'.
Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscicollis About
50 per day seen at Sultanpur and Bharatpur only.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo About 15 at
Sultanpur on 26/10 and about 30 per day at Bharatpur.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta At least two at
Sultanpur on 26/10, five around Ramnagar on 29/10 and up to 10
at Bharatpur on 2-3/11.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Up to 20 per day in the
lowlands, at Sultanpur, Bharatpur and roadside pools at 'Chachampati'.
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea Up to 20 per day in
the lowlands, at Sultanpur, Bharatpur and roadside pools at 'Chachampati'.
Great Egret Casmerodius albus Up to 50 per day
in the lowlands, at Sultanpur, Bharatpur and roadside pools at
Intermediate Egret Mesophoyx intermedia Up to
100 per day in the lowlands, at Sultanpur, Bharatpur and roadside
pools at 'Chachampati'.
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Up to 200 per day in
the lowlands, at Basai, Sultanpur, Yamuna, Bharatpur and roadside
pools near Agra and at 'Chachampati'. Also small numbers near
Ramnagar and Haldwani on the edge of the foothills.
Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii Up to 30 per
day in the lowlands at all wetland sites, plus small numbers in
the Ramnagar area on the edge of the foothills.
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax Up
to 20 per day recorded at Bharatpur.
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber About 100
at the Yamuna river in Delhi on 26/10.
Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus
Up to 100 per day in the lowlands, at Basai, Sultanpur and Bharatpur.
Black Ibis Pseudibis papillosa Five seen in flight
at Sultanpur on 26/10 and 13 on roadside pools at 'Chachampati'
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia A flock
of 30 over the Yamuna on 26/10, plus up to 15 per day at Bharatpur.
Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala Up to 300
per day in the lowlands, especially around the colonies at Sultanpur
and Bharatpur but also Basai, Yamuna and from roadsides.
Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans One in flight
at Sultanpur on 26/10, up to 40 per day at Bharatpur and a count
of 69 on roadside pools at 'Chachampati' on 3/11.
Black Stork Ciconia nigra Nine in flight over
the Bijrani area of Corbett NP on 27/10 plus five at Bharatpur
Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus Up to six
per day in the Bharatpur area.
Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus
At least three males at Bharatpur on 2/11; a fantastic bird
particularly in flight over the marshy grasslands here.
Rufous-tailed Shrike Lanius isabellinus Noted
only on 26/10 when two at Basai and one at Sultanpur.
Bay-backed Shrike Lanius vittatus Two at Sultanpur
on 26/10, one at Jhirna on 28/10 and two at Bharatpur on 3/11.
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach Most widespread
shrike with up to five recorded most days; at Basai, Sultanpur,
Corbett area, Bajun Valley, Sat Tal and Bharatpur. Not higher
up in Pangot area though.
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius About ten per
day seen in the Pangot area (30-31/10); very different in looks
and even calls to British race.
Black-headed Jay Garrulus lanceolatus At
Pangot, about five on 30/10 and two on 31/10 (mostly around the
lodge), with one at Bajun Valley the latter day and five around
Sat Tal on 1/11.
Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythrorhyncha A
fantastic-looking bird, only seen higher up in the hills. A flock
of ten seen by the road on 29/10 down the hill from Nainital.
Six around Pangot and Cheena Peak on 30/10 and only one on 31/10.
Superb extended views of about 30 at Sat Tal on 1/11, seen mobbing
a Besra. Further roadside views right down into the valley at
Rufous Treepie Dendrocitta vagabunda Much less
common than expected. One at Sultanpur on 26/10, two near Ramnagar
on 28/10, two by the road from Agra on 2/11 and singles at Bharatpur
Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae About ten seen
along the Kosi valley at Corbett on 27/10, including at Tiger
Camp, with at least one the following day. Also one at Mongoli
Valley on 31/10.
House Crow Corvus splendens Common in urban areas
but absent in wilder areas; about 500 on 26/10 in Delhi area,
c10 around Ramnagar on 28/10, c100 around Agra on 2/11 and c50
on 3/11 around Delhi (with a few at Bharatpur also).
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos Recorded
daily except on 26/10. Potentially two species, although not studied
in detail. Up to 40 per day in Corbett area, Pangot area and Sat
Tal were presumably all or mostly 'Large-billed Crows', whilst
singles at Bharatpur on 2-3/11 were presumably 'Jungle Crow'.
Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus Stunning
views of a close-up male at Basai on 26/10.
Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus One seen
by the roadside in the Kosi Valley on 27/10, part of a mixed feeding
Maroon Oriole Oriolus trailii Single females seen
along the roadside near Pangot on both 30/10 and 31/10, the latter
in a mixed feeding flock.
Small Minivet Pericrocotus cinnamomeus Two seen
at Sultanpur on 26/10, three in Kosi Valley on 27/10 and one at
Bharatpur on 3/11.
Long-tailed Minivet Pericrocotus ethologus Flocks
of minivets in flight were commonly seen in the hills and thought
to be mostly this species, although some may have been Scarlet
Minivet as the two are very similar. The majority of birds seen
well were Long-tailed though. Recorded all around Corbett, Pangot
and Sat Tal.
Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus Two seen
well near Sitabani village on 29/10.
Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus picatus Charismatic
birds forming the nucleus of several mixed feeding flocks, in
the Kosi Valley on 27/10 (c50) and en route to Sitabani on 29/10
White-throated Fantail Rhipidura albicollis A
cracking bird, one first seen at Tiger Camp on 27/10 with another
later that day in the Kosi Valley. Further singles at Sitabani
valley on 29/10 and Mongoli Valley on 31/10.
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus Common in lowlands,
including the Ramnagar area as well as all areas around Delhi
and Agra/Bharatpur, with up to 40 per day.
Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus Relatively scarce,
with one on 28/10 between Ramnagar and Jhirna, two on 29/10 on
the way to Corbett Falls, two at Sat Tal on 1/11 and two at Bharatpur
White-bellied Drongo Dicrurus caerulescens The
only record was one perched high on a tree at Jhirna on 28/10.
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus remifer Singles
were seen at Bijrani towards dusk on 27/10 and two along the track
to Sitabani on 29/10; this was not an expected species and we
were lucky to record them.
Spangled Drongo Dicrurus hottentotus Only noted
on 28/10, when about 25 were seen along the roadside between Ramnagar
and Jhirna and later about five were seen north of Tiger Camp.
Common Iora Aegithina tiphia Only in the Corbett
area, with three on 27/10 (Bijrani and roadsides), one on 28/10
(Jhirna) and two on 29/10 (Sitabani).
Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis gularis A flock of
about 20 seen well on 29/10 near Sitabani village (with the Green-billed
Malkoha) but no other sightings.
Common Woodshrike Tephrodornis pondicerianus One
at Kumeria on 27/10, one near Jhirna on 28/10 and three at Bharatpur
on 2/11; a fairly unobtrusive bird and easy to overlook.
Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii One along the Kosi
river at Kumeria on 27/10 was the only one seen (and photographed
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush Monticola rufiventris One
in a mixed feeding flock along the road from Pangot to Ghugu Khan
on 31/10 was the only record; a woodland bird.
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius One around
the compound at Bijrani on 27/10.
Blue Whistling Thrush Myophonus caeruleus One of
the common and widespread species of the hills, with up to 10
per day recorded throughout Corbett, Pangot and Sat Tal areas.
Orange-headed Thrush Zoothera citrina One seen
in tree-tops along the main track at Bharatpur on 2/11, at dusk
whilst watching the Dusky Eagle Owl.
Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica One by
the track up to Sitabani on 29/10.
Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher Ficedula strophiata A
stunning bird; one seen at Sat Tal (low fields behind the tea
huts) on 1/11.
Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva At least
ten seen around Sultanpur on 26/10 but only parva was specifically
noted, including a fine male. One at Sat Tal on 1/11 was the only
one in the hills, then two at Bharatpur on 2/11 and four there
on 3/11 (again only parva identified).
Little Pied Flycatcher Ficedula westermanni An
absolute cracker, one was seen by Corbett Falls car park on 29/10
where Mike had recorded the species previously.
Slaty-blue Flycatcher Ficedula tricolor A female
(pretty dull really with pale throats) seen at Pangot on 30/10
with another female later by the track to Cheena Peak.
Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassina Singles
at Corbett Falls on 29/10 and Pangot on 30/10.
Rufous-bellied Niltava Niltava sundara One at
Mongoli Valley on 31/10 and two at Sat Tal on 1/11.
Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis
One at Sultanpur on 26/10, two along Kosi valley on 27/10 with
one there on 28/10, three on the way to Sitabani on 29/10 and
one at Bharatpur on 2/11.
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica Only in the lowlands;
one at Basai and two at Sultanpur on 26/10 and up to four per
day at Bharatpur.
Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis Recorded
in Corbett area (up to three per day) and at Bharatpur (up to
six per day).
White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus The only
record was of one in scrub by the side of the track up to Sitabani
on 29/10; a cracker!
Indian Robin Saxicoloides fulicata Five around
Sultanpur on 26/10, eight around the Kosi valley on 27/10, two
on the way to Jhirna on 28/10 then none until one at Bharatpur
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros At least six
in Delhi area (mostly Sultanpur) on 26/10, at least three around
Kosi valley and Bijrani on 27/10 and one at Bharatpur on 3/11.
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicuus frontalis The
only record was one in a mixed feeding flock by the track between
Pangot and Ghugu Khan on 31/10.
White-capped Water Redstart Chaimarrornis leucocephalus
Common along all rivers in the hills, throughout the Corbett
area, at Pangot and at Sat Tal, as well as by the road during
journeys between sites. Up to six per day recorded but this must
have been an underestimate.
Plumbeous Water Redstart Rhyacornis fuliginosus
Common along the Kosi valley (main river and side streams) and
towards Sitabani on 27-29/10, with up to c15 estimated per day.
Not recorded at Pangot or Sat Tal though.
Spotted Forktail Enicurus maculatus After
checking every river and stream, one was finally seen on a small
wooded stream at Pangot on 30/10. A superb bird and amazingly
well camoflagued, the black and white and wagging tail merging
with the movement of the fast-flowing stream.
Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata About 15 around
the Delhi area (all sites) on 26/10, two at Bijrani on 27/10,
two high in the hills at Pangot on 30/10, two at Bajun Valley
on 31/10, two at Sat Tal on 1/11 and one at Bharatpur on 2/11.
All 'Siberian' types.
White-tailed Stonechat Saxicola leucura A male
on the east side of the Yamuna (at the 'temple') on 26/10; not
an outstandingly distinctive bird but neat enough.
Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata About ten
around the Delhi area (Basai, Sultanpur, Yamuna) on 26/10 then
none in the hills with the only other records being up to five
per day at Bharatpur.
Grey Bushchat Saxicola ferrea One of the typical
roadside birds in the hills, with up to c15 per day recorded from
all parts of Corbett, Pangot, Bajun Valley, Mongoli Valley and
at Sat Tal where one obliging bird photographed.
Variable Wheatear Oenanthe picata Close views
of a female on the 'flats' at Sultanpur on 26/10, with a pair
seen at Jhirna on 28/10.
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina One at
Basai on 26/10.
Brown Rock-chat Cercomela fusca At least six in
the Delhi area on 26/10, two around Corbett on 27/10, one at Ramnagar
on 28/10 and two along roadside near Bharatpur on 3/11.
Brahminy Starling Sturnus pagodarum One seen in
Ramnagar on 28/10 then none until c20 per day at Bharatpur on
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris A flock of 20
at Basai and one at the Yamuna on 26/10 were Mike's first of the
autumn in the area apparently.
Pied Starling Sturnus contra Common in the Delhi
area on 26/10 and around Bharatpur on 2-3/11, with up to c300
per day recorded. Also c5 per day in the Corbett area on 27/10
Common Mynah Acridotheres tristis One of the most
widespread species, recorded at most locations and on every day
except one; none on 1/11 at Sat Tal and roadside in surrounding
areas. First new bird of the trip, seen at dawn in Delhi. Most
numerous in Delhi area and around Bharatpur. However, locally
outnumbered by Bank Mynah.
Bank Mynah Acridotheres ginginianus Very common
in the Delhi area and around Bharatpur, with up to c200 per day.
Two at Ramnagar on 28/10 were the only ones noted in the hills
Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch Sitta castanea About
six recorded on 26/10 around the Kosi valley and at Bijrani, with
one on the way to Sitabani on 29/10. None at Pangot but one at
Sat Tal on 1/11.
White-tailed Nuthatch Sitta himalayensis None
at Corbett but once higher at Pangot, this species apparently
completely replaced Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch. At least six recorded
on the way from the lodge to the top of Cheena Peak on 30/10,
four between the lodge and Ghugu Khan on 31/10 and on the latter
date, one also at Mongoli Valley. Not recorded back down at Sat
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis A super
little bird, only seen in the Corbett area. Two recorded along
the Kosi Valley on 27/10 and five along the Sitabani track on
Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria Cracking views
of one along the riverine boulders in the Kosi valley, on the
way to Sitabani, on 29/10. My first record since 1983, breaking
my record of a species seen then not recorded again subsequently!
Bar-tailed Treecreeper Certhia himlayana One seen
at Kumeria on 27/10 but not great views. Seen better at Pangot,
with one on the way up Cheena Peak on 30/10 and one near Ghugu
Khan on 31/10.
Spot-winged Tit Parus melanolophus Only recorded
in the Pangot area, with five per day on 30-31/10; rather Coal
Tit like, with some at least associating with conifers.
Great Tit Parus major Up to 15 per day at Corbett
and a few at Mongoli Valley and Sat Tal, but just that bit higher
up at Pangot this species was absent and replaced by Green-backed
Green-backed Tit Parus monticolus Very common
in the Pangot area and also at Bajun Valley on 30-31/10. No overlap
with Great Tit noted, although the two must have been in close
proximity at the adjacent Bajun/Mongoli Valleys.
Black-lored Tit Parus xanthogenys Widespread in
the hills. One at Kumeria on 27/10, one at Sitabani Valley on
29/10, two at Pangot/Cheena Peak on 30/10 and four at Sat Tal
Yellow-browed Tit Sylviparus modestus Singles
seen on treks near Pangot on both 30/10 and 31/10. Distinctive
but pretty non-descript.
Black-throated Tit Aegithalos concinnus Up to
15 per day around Pangot on 30/10 and 31/10; moving in flocks
(often mixed species) very much like Long-tailed Tit in the UK.
Plain Martin Riparia paludicola About ten around
Basai on 26/10 but not great views. Also two at Bijrani on 27/10
and about eight by the road near Jhirna on 28/10 but no later
Dusky Crag Martin Hirundo concolor Only noted
around Ramnagar, where one on 28/10 and three on 29/10.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica About 50 at Sultanpur
on 26/10, with singles near Jhirna on 28/10 and Bharatpur on 3/11;
Wire-tailed Swallow Hirundo smithii Four at Basai
and six at Sultanpur on 26/10, with c10 at Bharatpur on 2/11.
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica About five
at Sultanpur on 26/10 and c40 around Jhirna on 28/10.
Streak-throated Swallow Hirundo fluvicola About
five at Sultanpur on 26/10 and c10 by the road between Bharatpur
and Delhi on 3/11.
Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotus melanicterus Only
in the Corbett area, with c10 along the roadside between Ramnagar
and Jhirna on 28/10 and a few at Sitabani and Corbett Falls on
Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus Common
throughout the Corbett area, with c30 per day during 27-29/10,
but not recorded elsewhere.
White-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus leucotis The only
records were c5 at Bharatpur on 2/11.
Himalayan Bulbul Pycnonotus leucogenys Common
throughout the Corbett area, including along the roadside on the
way up to Nainital on 29/10 but not seen at the altitude of Pangot.
Re-appeared a little lower, at Mongoli and Bajun Valleys and at
Sat Tal. Up to 40 per day recorded.
Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer Very widespread
and recorded at every location except Pangot; daily totals of
up to 30 per day.
Ashy Bulbul Hemixos flavala One was seen in the
forest by the park entrance at Jhirna on 28/10 and about four
seen at Corbett Falls on 29/10.
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus None at
Corbett but abundant in the forested hills around Pangot, with
c200 on 30/10 mostly heard only as they fed noisily in the canopy.
Smaller numbers here on 31/10 and c20 lower down at Sat Tal on
Striated Prinia Prinia criniger Two seen around
Pangot lodge on 30/10 was the only record.
Grey-breasted Prinia Prinia hodgsonii Up to ten
per day in the Corbett area, at Bijrani, Jhirna and Sitabani.
Also one at Mongoli Valley on 31/10.
Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris Four
at Basai on 26/10 was the only record.
Ashy Prinia Prinia socialis Two at Basai and one
at Sultanpur on 26/10 but unmemorable birds!
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata About 20 recorded
in the Delhi area on 26/10, at Basai, Sultanpur and the Yamuna,
but none then until one on the edge of Bharatpur on 3/11.
Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus None
around Delhi on 26/10 but one of the most numerous species in
the hills, especially at Corbett but also Pangot and Sat Tal.
Up to 50 per day. One was also at Bharatpur on 3/11.
Paddyfield Warbler Acrocephalus agricola Excellent
views of four at Basai and one at Sultanpur on 26/10, with another
at Bharatpur on 2/11.
Blyth's Reed Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum Up
to five per day noted in Delhi area (Basai, Sultanpur and Yamuna)
Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus
Up to five per day noted in Delhi area (Basai and Sultanpur) and
Sykes's Warbler Hippolais rama One watched carefully
at Bharatpur on 3/11 eventually showed well enough to identify
it as this with a fair amount of confidence; long bill and harsh
chacking call at least.
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius The only
records were three at Sultanpur on 26/10 and two at Tiger Camp
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita One at Basai
on 26/10, one at Bajun Valley and four at Mongoli Valley on 31/10
and up to five per day at Bharatpur.
[Mountain Chiffchaff? Phylloscopus sindianus?]
Two birds seen well flitting around low vegetation amongst flood
boulders in the Sitabani Valley on 29/10 looked like good candidates
for this species but would not call and so the identification
could not be confirmed.
[Dusky Warbler? Phylloscopus fuscatus?] One skulking
warbler along the track to Sitabani on 29/10 sounded like this
species and on the brief views obtained looked superficially similar,
but didn't seem quite right for some reason. One that got away.
Tickell's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus affinis One
along the track to Sitabani on 29/10.
Buff-barred Warbler Phylloscopus pulcher One
seen in a mixed flock (mostly Black-throated Tits) at Pangot Lodge
on 30/10 was the only record.
Lemon-rumped Warbler Phylloscopus chloronotus
Several were suspected amongst many unidentified Phylloscopus
warblers in the hills but singles were confirmed at Sitabani on
29/10 and Sat Tal on 1/11.
Hume's Warbler Phylloscopus humei The only species
recorded on every day of the trip, often only heard (call mostly
pointed out by Mike as I struggled to get my ear in!). Up to six
per day recorded and appeared fairly similar in abundance at all
Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides Singles
recorded at Sultanpur on 26/10, Bijrani on 27/10, Jhirna on 28/10
and Bharatpur on 3/11.
Western Crowned Warbler Phylloscopus occipitalis
Several unidentified Phylloscopus in the hills suspected to be
this species but one seen well along the track to Sitabani on
Whistler's Warbler Seicercus whistleri Single
warblers of the 'Golden-spectacled' complex, recently split, were
recorded at both Sitabani and Corbett Falls on 29/10. These were
tentatively identified as the newly split Whistler's Warbler on
the basis of having wingbars, unbroken eye-ring an crown stripe
not to bill. Low altitude compared to published paper but that
referred to breeding season and so lower altitude to be expected?
Grey-hooded Warbler Seicercus xanthoschistos A
very common bird of the woods in the hills, especially once the
call learnt; up to 30 per day at all parts of Corbett, Pangot
area and Sat Tal.
[Striated Grassbird Megalurus palustris] One singing
on the east side of the Yamuna on 26/10 but could not be seen.
Apparently usually quite showy. Not counted for list.
White-throated Laughingthrush Garrulax albogularis
Flocks of 10 and 30 around Pangot on 30/10, 20 at Bajun Valley
on 31/10 and 30 at Sat Tal on 1/11; very smart birds, much more
striking than illustrated in the book. Travels in obvious, noisy
White-crested Laughingthrush Garrulax leucolophus
A party of five seen along a stream valley at Mohan (Corbett)
on 28/10, the only birds along a quiet afternoon walk, but picked
up from a distance on noisy calls. The following day, heard from
the village of Sitabani in nearby forest but could not be seen.
Finally, three seen at Sat Tal whilst resting at a tea hut.
Striated Laughingthrush Garrulus striatus Three
seen at Ghugu Khan (Pangot) on 31/10 and two at Sat Tal (with
a flock of White-throated Laughingthrushes) on 1/11.
Streaked Laughingthrush Garrulax lineatus One
of the most common birds higher in the hills, despite being a
skulker. Recorded from the roadside down the hill from Nainital,
then Pangot (up to 15 per day), Bajun Valley and Sat Tal, where
one seen feeding a juvenile Pied Cuckoo.
Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler Pomoatorhinus erythrogenys
Excellent views of a pair which popped out on the path in front
of us at Mongoli Valley on 31/10, then another pair seen well
the following morning at Sat Tal.
Black-chinned Babbler Stachyris pyrrhops Another
skulker but probably common; mostly seen whilst carefully watching
mixed flocks. Singles along the Kosi valley on 27/10 and 28/10,
two at Sitabani on 29/10 and two at Sat Tal on 1/11.
Common Babbler Turdoides caudatus Contrary to
its name, only one seen, at the Yamuna (east bank) on 26/10.
Striated Babbler Turdoides earlei Four in reedy
area by the 'temple' on the east side of the Yamuna on 26/10.
Large Grey Babbler Turdoides malcolmi About 30
at Sultanpur on 26/10 then up to 10 per day at Bharatpur on 2-3/11.
Jungle Babbler Turdoides striatus Most widespread
babbler, with up to 30 per day recorded, from Yamuna, Corbett
area, Mongoli Valley, Agra and Bharatpur, but not higher up at
Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix lutea One flock
of about ten at Sat Tal on 1/11.
White-browed Shrike Babbler Pteruthius flaviscapis
Brief views of one in a mixed species flock along the track
from Pangot to Ghugu Khan on 31/10, a real crippler!
Green Shrike Babbler Pteruthius xanthochloris
Like the previous species, brief views of one in the same mixed
species flock along the track from Pangot to Ghugu Khan on 31/10.
However, not such a stunning bird!
Rufous Sibia Heterophasia capistrata Very common
in Pangot area on 30-31/10, especially at Ghugu Khan where seemed
to be everywhere. Not seen anywhere else though.
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca About ten at
Sultanpur/Yamuna on 26/10 and up to 20 per day at Bharatpur but
none in the hills apart from one at Sitabani on 29/10.
Indian Bushlark Mirafra erythroptera Three seen
at close range at Sultanpur on 26/10; rufous wing panel very distinctive
Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark Eremopterix grisea Four
at Basai and four (pair and 2 juvs) at Sultanpur on 26/10.
Crested Lark Galerida cristata About ten around
Basai/Sultanpur on 26/10 were the only ones.
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula Two at Basai on
26/10 (singing, very similar to Eurasian Skylark) and three at
Bharatpur on 2/11.
[Fire-breasted Flowerpecker Dicaeum ignipectus]
A small dark bird flew over at Sat Tal calling, then Mike picked
it up in a tree and identified it as this species. Unfortunately,
it flew off before I could see it perched. Not counted for list.
Purple Sunbird Nectarinia asiatica Five at Sultanpur
on 26/10 and 1-2 daily at Bharatpur on 2-3/11.
Green-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga nipalensis Three
seen along the track near Pangot on 30/10.
Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga siparaja Only in Corbett
area. Two at Bijrani on 27/10, three along roadside from Ramnagar
to Jhirna on 28/10 and one at Sitabani on 29/10.
Fire-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga ignicauda Two (including
eclipse male) at Pangot lodge on 30/10.
House Sparrow Passer domesticus Widespread but
not especially abundant at most places (and not recorded around
Corbett except in Ramnagar). Present high up at Pangot however,
with Russet Sparrows.
Russet Sparrow Passer rutilans Up to six at Pangot
on 30-31/10, four at Bajun Valley and 20 at Mongoli Valley on
31/10 and 30 at Sat Tal on 1/11.
Chestnut-shouldered Petronia Petronia xanthocollis
One seen at very close range at Bijrani on 27/10; was able to
walk beneath and look up to see yellow throat. Also c10 per day
White Wagtail Motacilla alba Recorded at most
locations but not high up at Pangot; up to 15 per day. Probably
a variety of races involved, with one particularly striking one
at Sat Tal presumed to be personata.
White-browed Wagtail Motacilla maderaspatensis Two
at Basai on 26/10, up to five per day along the Kosi river on
27-29/10 and one at Sat Tal on 1/11.
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola Three at Basai
and two at Sultanpur on 26/10.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava About 20 at Basai/Sultanpur/Yamuna
on 26/10 but no further records.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea Three along the
Kosi valley on 27/10, two there on 29/10 and two at Sat Tal on
Paddyfield Pipit Anthus rufulus About 15 seen
at Basai/Sultanpur on 26/10, two at Bijrani on 27/10 and three
at Bharatpur on 3/11.
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris About three on the
'flats' at Sultanpur on 26/10.
Long-billed Pipit Anthus similis Poor views, mostly
in flight, of one at Sultanpur on 26/10; very striking call at
the time and very large.
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis Many Tree/Olive-backed
Pipits were left unidentified but definite Tree Pipits recorded
at Bijrani, Jhirna and Bajun Valley.
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni Confirmed Olive-backed
Pipits were identified at Sultanpur, Sitabani, Mongoli Valley
and Sat Tal.
Rosy Pipit Anthus roseatus The only one was on
the edge of a small pool at Basai on 26/10.
Black-breasted Weaver Ploceus benghalensis About
15 seen by the Yamuna on 26/10.
Streaked Weaver Ploceus manyar At least three
with Black-breasted Weavers by the Yamuna on 26/10.
Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus One, not very
striking, at Basai on 26/10.
Red Avadavat Amandava amandava Poor views of four
at Basai and one at the Yamuna on 26/10.
Indian Silverbill Lonchura malabarica About five
at Basai and 15 at Sultanpur on 26/10, with none then until four
at Bharatpur on 3/11.
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata Eight
at Basai and three at the Yamuna on 26/10, ten at Ramnagar/Jhirna
on 28/10, ten at Bajun Valley and one at Mongoli Valley on 31/10
and 20 at Sat Tal on 1/11.
Black-headed Munia Lonchura malacca One by the
Yamuna on 26/10 (apparently probably of feral origin).
Yellow-breasted Greenfinch Carduelis spinoides
Two at Jhirna on 28/10, 25 at Pangot on 30/10 and three at Mongoli
Valley on 31/10.
Brown Bullfinch Pyrrhula nipalensis Three seen
well along the trek up Cheena Peak on 30/10; a good record apparently
and a new bird for Mike.
White-capped Bunting Emberiza stewarti One non-breeding
male seen well at Mongoli Valley on 31/10.
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata One non-descript
female bunting seen at Mongoli Valley on 31/10; seen well but
identified largely by process of elimination as few notable features!
Flying Fox Two huge bats over Lal Kuan railway station at dusk on 1/11.
Bat sp. Small bats seen at several locations, including roosting by day at Bharatpur.
Five-striped Squirrel Small stripy squirrels seen at Sultanpur, Corbett (where one caught and eaten by a Changeable Hawk-eagle in front of us) and Bharatpur at least. All same species? Deceptive call at Bharatpur, suggestive of a bird and not noted previously so is this a different species?
Black-naped Hare One seen at Bharatpur on 3/11.
Rat sp. Old Delhi station.
Rhesus Macaque Common in most places, although somewhat less abundant higher up at Pangot (though still present).
Common Langur Common at Corbett and Pangot.
Mongoose sp. Two in a roadside ditch near Jhirna on 28/10.
Yellow-throated Marten One ran across road between Jhirna and Ramnagar on 28/10.
Golden Jackal Three near Tiger Camp on 28/10 (seen along a track with a Red Junglefowl in same view) and one at Bharatpur on 2/11.
Tiger The highlight of the trip. After being told it was nigh-on impossible to see Tiger at this time of year, we went for a game drive at Bijrani on 27/10, my 2nd day in India. After being shown tracks, at first not all that convincing but later much more convincing (in track of previous vehicle, suggesting last few minutes!), we got more hopeful and then as we rounded a bend in the jungle track I saw the back end of a Tiger walking away down the track. The driver sped after it and we saw it again around the next bend as it crossed the track and slid under the Lantana bushes. We drew up next to it and, to my considerable discomfort, the driver virtually stuck his head into the bush! He could see it but it took Mike and I about 5 minutes to see it, perfectly camoflagued in the shade of the bush only about 5 m from us (in a rather small jeep!) My first ever wild species of cat and not a bad one to start with!
Wild Boar Roadside in Corbett area and at Bharatpur.
Nilgai Wetland antelope seen at Sultanpur and Bharatpur.
Barking Deer Several seen around Corbett; a different species to 'our' Muntjac?
Chital Common around Corbett and some also at Bharatpur.
Sambur Two singles at Corbett and one at Sat Tal.
Turtle sp. Bharatpur
Bengal Monitor Lizard Bharatpur
Other Lizards Surprisingly, not all that common with singles on three dates and five on one date.
Moths Fine selection of moths around lights at night, notably at Tiger Camp. A few photos taken. Other notable sightings were something that looked very much like a Ni Moth at Pangot lodge and a cracking bee hawk-moth species at Mongoli Valley.
Butterflies Lots and lots but little effort made to identify any.