Friday, January 13, 2017

Still birding in northern India. Pt 6 Vangat.

Our final destination was Vangat River Camp next to the Ramganga River in the Corbett N. P. buffer zone. Again different habitat meant different birds. This was an idyllic spot although the fact that tigers are probably ambling about close by meant that you had to be on your guard and you couldn't wander off on your lonesome. A bit dangerous apparently.

Me...birding along the Ramganga River.
The river valley held good numbers of Plumbeous Water Redstart and White-capped Water Redstart as well as White-browed Wagtail, a lonesome  Brown Dipper, Crested and Common Kingfisher, a single Small Forktail, Lesser Fish Eagle and, for me, the star bird Wallcreeper. The Wallcreeper was feeding amongst  the boulders along the river banks but it did occasionally fly over the river to crawl along the cliff walls...just like it should.

Wallcreeper  Tichodroma muraria. A real, proper, real bird!
Crested Kingfisher   Megaceryle lugubris
Female Plumbeous Water Redstart   Rhyacornis fuliginosa
White-capped Water Redstart  Chaimarrornis leucocephalus
Little Forktail  Enicurus scouleri
White-browed Wagtail  Motacilla maderaspatensis
Away from the river valley there were plenty of birding opportunities in the grounds of the lodge and woodland on the slopes on the other side of the valley. Here we had crippling views of White-tailed Rubythroat but, unfortunately, my photos are too embarrassing to post.

Black-crested Bulbul  Pycnonotus flaviventris  They look completely bonkers.
Black-throated Tit  Aegithalos concinnus
Himalayan Bulbul  Pycnonotus leucogenys
Indian Silverbill  Eurodice malabarica
Scaly-breasted Munia  Lonchura punctulata
Whiskered Yuhina  Yuhina flavicollis
After we left Vangat we had a few days in Delhi doing a bit of touristy sightseeing although you couldn't see much because of the terrible smog. I'm still coughing six weeks later. Our man on the ground Prasanna Gautam who organised our extension accompanied us to Okhla wetlands just outside of Delhi were we added a further 15 species to the trip including such majestic birds as Wigeon and Pochard.

The sun sets over Okhla wetland and on our trip to Northern India.
Many thanks to Chris Mills, Prasanna Gautam, all of the guides rickshaw drivers and taxi drivers that made the trip so memorable. If you fancy a trip yourself then I suggest you check out Norfolk Birding's website at:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Birding Northern India. Pt 5. Corbett N.P.

Next stop was the Kosi River at Garjiya to look for Ibisbill. This is a known site for this iconic wader, provided that you know the site! We were only on the bridge for a couple of minutes before the shout of Ibisbill went up and we had great views of three individual birds. The locals on the bridge were more interested in us and our scopes and began queuing-up to have a look through the optics. We thought about charging a few rupees each but nobody had any money as the Indian government had taken it all out of circulation.
My photos of Ibisbill are rubbish so I will not be posting any.
We spent the night in Tiger Camp hotel having added a few more species to our trip tally. The following morning  it was into Corbett N. P. for a few days staying at the park camp at Dikhala. From here on it was all open-backed jeeps, birds, dust, birds, dust more dust, birds and tigers.
There were loads of birds on the way to the park, at the park gates, in the park and over the park.
Blue tended to be the dominant colour!

Blue-throated Barbet  Megalaima asiatica
Blue-bearded Bee-eater Nyctyornis athertoni
Blue Whistling Thrush   Myophonus caeruleus
Changeable Hawk Eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus
Collared Falconet Microhierax caerulescens
During our stay in the park we saw a number of raptors, the collared falconet being one of the smallest I have ever practically overlooked. It's only 3cms or an inch bigger than a sparrer. Osprey, Lesser and Pallas's Fish Eagles were all making life miserable for the fish in the river.

Lesser Fish Eagle  Ichthyophaga humilis

Pallas's Fish Eagle  Haliaeetus Leucorphus
Osprey  Pandion halietus
Red-headed Vulture  Sargogyps calvus
We were fortunate to see a number of owl species in the park including Jungle Owlet,  Brown Fish Owl and Tawny Fish Owl and Spot-bellied Eagle Owl. Mostly big fearsome owls!

Spot-bellied Eagle Owl  Bubo nipalensis  63 cms big!!
Tawny Fish Owl  Ketupa flavipes. Looking at me looking at him.

The park was also really good for species of woodpecker: Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker ( very small), Great Slaty Woodpecker (absolutely enormous), Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Lesser and Greater Yellownape (biggish), Streak-throated Woodpecker (medium size), Himalayan Flameback, Greater Flameback and Black-rumped Flameback (impressively bright). Flamebacks are now known as goldenbacks but flameback captures the essence of these birds much better.
Greater Flameback  Chrysocolaptes lucidus
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker  Dendrocopus canicapillus
Lesser Yellownape  Picus chlorolophus

Streak-throated Woodpecker  Picus xanthopygaeus
Whilst driving around the park looking for birds we were always mindful of the fact that this is one of the best places in India to see wild tigers. So we saw a couple!

Tiger # 1
This is also a great place to observe Indian Elephants. So we observed some.

Indian Elephant

We also saw plenty of Spotted and Sambar deer as well as both Mugger and Gharial crocodiles both of which I couldn't get close enough to to take photographs without risking death!
A few other birds seen in the park were:
Black-Hooded Oriole  Oriolus xanthornus
Long-tailed Shrike  Lanius schach  Extremely common in the park.
River Tern  Sterna aurantia
There are not a lot of terns or gulls to see inland in northern India but we did manage Pallas's Gull, Brown-headed and Black-headed Gulls and both Whiskered and River Terns.
Stonechat  Saxicola torquata
Next stop Vangat and the Ramganga River.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Birding Northern India. Pt.4: Pangot

On the morning that we left Bharatpur we drove to a village about half-an-hour's drive away to search a pool that Chris knew could be good  for Painted Snipe. Walking through the village the locals could not hide their amusement and interest as a minibus full of scope, binocular and camera toting westerners sauntered through this rural village heading for, what appeared to be, a pool filled with the village sewerage! Worth it though as there were at least half a dozen Painted Snipe. Again local knowledge and competent guidance paid off.

Greater Painted Snipe  Rostratula benghalensis.  Male - The females are far more attractive!
This small pool also held Wood and Green Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Citrine Wagtail, White-browed Fantail and White-browed Wagtail. A confiding Spotted Owlet and our first real sighting of House Sparrow.

Black-winged Stilt  Himantopus himantopus
Spotted Owlet  Athene brama
We travelled by minibus and train and then another minibus due north-north west to the Jungle Lore Lodge at Pangot. Arriving in the small hours we chased a porcupine a mile or so down the road before settling down for a short night.
Jungle Lore Lodge is equipped with feeding areas for the birds and drinking pools so we didn't have to venture far in the morning to start birding. Being in the foothills of the Himalayas and a bit high up the avifauna was so different. We saw between 60 and 70 species here and at least 46 were new for the trip.
Black-headed Jay Garrulus lanceolatus
Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush  Garrulax erythrcephalus
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Large-billed Crow  Corvus macrorhynchos
Red-billed Blue Magpie  Urocissa erythrorhyncha
White-throated Laughingthrush  Garrulax albogularis
Yellow-breasted Greenfinch  Carduelis spinoides.
All of the photos above were taken in the grounds of the lodge. As one of the group members said when we first stepped out in the morning, 'I need a month here to do it justice.' The views were just as spectacular as the birds.

Them there Himalayan mountains from Pangot

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Birding Northern India. Pt. 3: Still at Bharatpur!

Whilst at Bharatpur we lodged in the Birder's Inn which was almost at the entrance to the National Park. I can recommend this hotel due to it's location, food, friendly, helpful staff (but then again all Indians seem to be) and clean modern facilities. Each morning we were met at the front door by our team of rickshaw drivers who cycled into the park and spent the day ferrying us to the birds....Brilliant!

The Birders' Inn Bharatpur
Bharatpur contains a fair old number of other animals as well as birds. We saw plenty of Wild Boar, Indian Jackal, Rhesus Macaque, Nilgai, Chital, Grey Mongoose and Six-striped Squirrel as well as great views of a Rock Python and Flying Fox.

Wild Boar
Golden Jackal with mad, crazy eyes.
Rhesus Macaque - smoking a fat stogy.

Chital or Spotted Deer
Indian Grey Mongoose
Six-striped Ground Squirrels
Fortunately this Indian Rock Python had recently eaten and was not interested in wrapping itself around anyone in our group. Preferring instead to laze around digesting its last meal.

Snoozing Python - Head shot!
Not long after photographing the Rock Python we came across this monitor Lizard also just hanging about catching some rays as reptiles have to do to warm-up. Two reptiles in quick succession.
Monitor Lizard
My favourite mammal in the park had to be the Flying Fox. A fruit bat that does not possess echolocation but relies on smell and eyesight to locate its food which consists of fruit (surprisingly), blossoms, nectar and pollen. They can, apparently, smell a good piece of fruit 40 miles away! They are the most amazing creatures. We found a group hanging about in the they do.
Flying Fox
During the morning of the third day we were taken out over one of the lakes to look for Indian Nightjar. Gliding over the still waters in the early morning was an unforgettable experience. The Nightjar was where it was supposed to be looking like it was glued to a branch. We had great views of Booted Eagle and White-throated Kingfishers seemed to be everywhere. Pied and Common Kingfishers were also present but in fewer numbers. The sky was alive with Wire-tailed Swallows and Plain Martins. You get the picture!
Birding Bharatpur
White-breasted Waterhen Juvenile - Amaurornis phoenicurus
Purple Swamphen  Porphyrio porphyria
Bay-backed Shrike  Lanius vittatus
Red-vented Bulbul  Pycnonutus cafer

Pied Kingfisher  Ceryle rudis

White-throated Kingfisher  Halcyon smyrnensis