Saturday, January 7, 2017

Birding Northern India. Pt 1.

About a month before Christmas we had a birding holiday in parts of northern India. We travelled with Chris Mills of Norfolk Birding. Chris runs a guided trip to northern India each year and as a result he knows his way around! The trip adverts say that there is a good chance of seeing around 300 species of bird and a reasonable chance of seeing a tiger in Corbett N.P. I was up for both of these targets and I was not to be disappointed. By the end of the trip I had notched up 311 species and had great views of two tigers. Chris himself clocked up three tiger sightings during the three and a half days we were in Corbett. When you consider that most people who visit either fail to see a tiger or count themselves very lucky to see a single animal then three in just over three days has to be special!
As well as trying to amass over three hundred species I was also keen to see Ibisbill and Wallcreeper. Two iconic species that have eluded me in the past (hardly surprising as I had never been anywhere suitable to look for them, both are real rarities in Notts.). Chris was confident that we would see both species and he was not wrong. Some great views of three Ibisbill (or bills) and stunning photo opportunities of Wallcreeper were to follow. But I get ahead of myself.
After arriving in Delhi we were transferred to our hotel and early the next morning the birding began in the grounds of the hotel before breakfast. As is always the case on a first visit to a new country most of the birds tend to be 'lifers' and take a bit of identifying as well as remembering but with Chris on hand we notched-up: Common Tailorbird, Jungle Babbler, Common Myna, Indian Peafowl, Coppersmith Barbet, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Little Swift, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Black Kite, House Crow, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Oriental Magpie Robin, Red-vented Bulbul, Oriental White-eye, Lesser Whitethroat, Greenish Warbler and Purple Sunbird then curry for breakfast.
To be honest it was difficult to know where to look.

Coppersmith Barbet   Megalaima  haemacephala
Common Myna   Acridotheres tristis
House Crow   Corvus splendens
Indian Peafowl  Pavo cristatus
Jungle Babbler   Turdoides striatus
Oriental White-eye  Zosterops ceylonensis
As it turned out we were to see plenty of most of these species during the next two weeks.
After my first ever curried breakfast we were rickshawed into the Keoladeo National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site...better known amongst birders as simply Bharatpur. Most every birder has heard of Bharatpur; read of Bharatpur; dreamed of going to Bharatpur or has already been and is planning on going again. Nothing can prepare you for the diversity and numbers of birds to be found inside this national park. If the weather conditions have been right! We had two and a half days of superb birding in the park and we clocked up over 140 species. It's not the numbers and diversity however, it's the crippling views you get of many of the birds that impresses most. To be quite honest I could have spent all of the trip bimbling about in the park, taking photos and mumbling to myself. We had terrific rickshaw drivers (peddlers?) and guides who had the lowdown on just about everything to look for. Where to find Indian Nightjar snoozing on a branch in the middle of a lake; where to see a Rock Python snoozing in dense undergrowth; where to see Oriental Scops Owl snoozing in a hole in a get the picture.

The snappily named Yellow-footed Green Pigeon  Treron phoenicoptera
White-eared Bulbul  Pycnontus leucotis
Rose-ringed Parakeet  Psittacula krameri   Like being in Kew Gardens!

Hoopoe  Upupa epops
Indian Nightjar   Caprimulgus asiaticus

Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus

Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia
Indian Robin  Saxicoloides fulicata
Marsh Harrier   Circus aeruginosus

Asian Pied Starling   Sturnus contra
Brahminy Starling  Sturnus pagodarum
Booted Eagle   Hieraaetus pennatus
Common Hawk Cuckoo  Hierococcyx varius
Common Babbler (Really is common)  Turdoides caudatus
Eurasian Hobby  Falco Subbuteo

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