In Association with:
INDIA – Jan - 2006
Day 1 – 19th January
Myself, Gina, Philip and Jean all met on time at Heathrow Airport for our flight to Delhi, India via a stop off at Dubai, where we met up with the rest of the group who had travelled from Manchester. Our overnight flight saw us arrive early the next morning where after a delay in locating all of our luggage we eventually met with our guide and tour arranger Avijit.
Day 2 – 20th January
A short drive through Delhi’s chaotic streets and we arrived at a very nice hotel where breakfast awaited us and several rooms were made available so as to freshen up. In the gardens some of us saw a perched Oriental Honey Buzzard, as well as Bank Mynas, White-browed Wagtail, Rose-ringed Parakeets and a Five-striped Squirrel. As soon as we were ready we set off in our coach towards Bharatpur a journey of around 4 hours. There were plenty of Black Kites to see along the way but it was the hustle and bustle of everyday life that interested most of us. A problem with the coach’s engine was soon realised and a replacement part found and fixed in no time at all. Continuing on we made a roadside stop beside some ponds and here a host of birds got our tour off to a flying start. Flocks of ducks included Common Teal, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Shoveler and Pintail while some very attractive Indian Spot-billed Ducks were well watched. Indian and Little Cormorants perched as they do and an Oriental Darter flew over showing its long snake-like neck. Two Little Grebes were spotted and amongst the herons were Grey, Purple and Indian Pond, plus Little, Intermediate, Eastern Cattle and Great Egrets. A Black-winged Kite was seen and excellent views of a Shikra perched on fence post. Both Wood and Common Sandpiper put in appearances, alongside Black-winged Stilts, Purple Swamphen and White-breasted Waterhen. Several White-browed Wagtails were added to our list and from the vantage point of a roof top we found a perched Greater Spotted Eagle and a group of Sarus Cranes. Not bad for an introduction to Indian birding and when everyone was ready we set off on the last leg of our journey to Bharatpur, where we arrived at our hotel in the dark.
Day 3 – 21st January
Today we had an early breakfast and then set off to Keoladeo National Park better known as Bharatpur. Once inside the park entrance we drove to a car park and then set off on a walk to an area called the nursery. Along the way we saw Rose-ringed Parakeets, and then an excellent bird to start our day a perched Brown Hawk-Owl. Nearby both Greenish and Blyth’s Reed Warbler were found as was a Rufous Treepie and a Southern Coucal. Over in another area we located a very well camouflaged Large-tailed Nightjar sitting in the leaf litter. Hume’s Warblers were calling everywhere and further searching revealed a Red-breasted Flycatcher, Ashy Drongo and stunning views of a perched Besra with a kill. We walked back to the car park and as we prepared to set off on a convoy of Rickshaws we spotted two White-cheeked Bulbuls and three Grey Francolins. Our leisurely ride was interspersed with several short stops, the first of which saw us dismount and head off into the scrub. More Grey Francolins were seen along with Brown Shrike and three superb looking Spotted Owlets cuddled together in a tree top. With further searching we found a Lesser Whitethroat, Bay-backed Shrike and a tree full of Yellow-footed Green Pigeons. In the distance a flock of Eurasian Spoonbills flew past drawing our attention to several House Swifts and finally a very showy Yellow-throated Sparrow singing from a small bush. Back on our rickshaws another short ride had us stop at an area where we could view a Dusky Eagle-Owl sat on its huge nest. More brief stops were made and we got to see flocks of duck, Oriental Darter, Moorhen, and then a pair of Collared Scops-Owl looking out at us from under the fronds of a palm tree. It was still early morning and we now had four species of owl under our belts – pretty good going! Raptors where starting to take to the air as the temperature warmed up and we were soon going through identification features of Greater Spotted, Steppe and an immature Imperial Eagle. Several Egyptian Vultures joined in and flocks of Painted Stork took to thermaling above this wonderful park. It seemed that wherever we stopped we were going to see more birds and scanning the endless lakes and pools we soon added Black-headed and Glossy Ibis, comparisons of Great, Indian and Little Cormorants, plus Black-tailed Godwit, White-tailed Lapwing and a flock of Great White Pelicans. A Woolly-necked Stork circled above, alongside numerous Painted Storks, a flock of Graylag Geese were found and both Common and White-throated Kingfisher were seen perched beside each other. As we left the rickshaws and set off on a walk we spotted a Striated Heron, and more waterbirds that included Eurasian Wigeon, Garganey, Northern Pintail, and Redshank, Ruff, Temminck’s Stint, Common Snipe, more White-tailed Lapwings, Citrine Wagtails and as we returned two flocks of Great White and Dalmatian Pelicans. It was now lunch time so we were taken by our faithful rickshaws to a temple area in the middle of the park where our hotel staff had lunch and picnic blankets all set out for us. Basking in sunshine this was a relaxed affair interrupted occasionally by an inquisitive Small Indian Mongoose and some Five-striped Palm Squirrel’s. Beside the toilet block we saw a Rock Python resting in a hole with just its head visible and beside the waters edge a Bluethroat performed well. Our afternoon walk took us along a different trail with our goal being some distant grassy fields. Passing by many of the species we had seen earlier our progress was slow as we enjoyed excellent views of so many birds. More Citrine Wagtails, White-eared Bulbul, a Western Marsh Harrier and several Tawny Pipits. More wading birds included superb views of a Temminck’s Stint, Little Ringed Plovers, Little Stint, and Greenshank, while a small muddy island held several Comb Duck. Eventually we reached the grassy fields and after much searching located our quarry. We decided to walk closer and were rewarded with views of up to twelve Indian Coursers. A few more Tawny Pipits were seen, and as we made our back to the sights and sounds of Golden Jackal’s we watched a pair of huge Sarus Cranes fly over. Meeting up with our rickshaws we were taken back to the park entrance where we decided to try and see a difficult mammal, the Common Palm Civit. A longer than anticipated wait was eventually rewarded when one of these strange animals came down from a tree to feed on food put out by the locals. With some star gazing along the way we returned to our coach and drove back to our hotel.
Day 4 – 22nd January
This morning we had an early breakfast and set off in our coach to Bundbaretha which is a large reservoir. Stops were made along the way as Harish our local guide spotted things from front of the coach. Beside some fields we got to see several Ashy Prinia’s plus Plain Prinia, Indian Black Robin, Common Stonechat and some Indian Silverbills. The next stop produced superb views of Black-breasted and Baya Weavers, as well as Plum-headed Parakeets, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Black-winged Kite and Crested Lark. A group of Red Avadavats escaped us but we made up for this with Long-tailed Shrike, Common Babblers and some flyby Indian Grey Hornbills. Another stop beside a pool, found us Wire-tailed Swallow, White-tailed Lapwing, Common Teal, Citrine Wagtail, and some Grey-throated Sand-Martins while a further stop beside some dusty fields proved excellent with Ashy-crowned Finch-Larks, Southern Grey Shrike, Indian Silverbills and a very confiding Indian Roller. Not forgetting the farmers with their Camels which made for some very nice photographs.
A combined comfort stop and garden with a roost of Indian Flying Foxes also proved good for birds and we soon found Brown-headed and Coppersmith Barbets, Oriental White-Eyes, Taiga Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher and some very good views of a Sulphur-bellied Warbler feeding on a mossy stone wall. As we pulled up to the huge reservoir an Indian Long-billed Vulture flew over and scanning the open water we founded masses of ducks plus Great Crested Grebe and a couple of River Terns. We then set off on a short walk to the former palace which overlooks the whole area. We started off perfectly by finding some of our target birds including a group of Yellow-eyed Babblers and a very showy White-capped Bunting. In a field we spotted Brown Rock-Chat and Eurasian Hoopoe but an Indian Bush-Lark eluded most of the group. On the first patch of water we saw Cotton Teal, Red-crested Pochards and Ferruginous Duck, plus Bronze-winged Jacanas and a distant flock of about thirty River Terns. Citrine Wagtails proved to be fairly common and we enjoyed seeing them in a variety of plumages. Not to be outdone we saw good numbers of Bluethroats with many birds feeding right out in the open allowing us prolonged close views. Further on we found a nice Rufous-tailed Lark and a Tawny Pipit as well as the ever present Purple Sunbirds. Once we reached the old palace we sat on the steps with its panoramic views and here we ate our picnic lunch. A Greater Flamingo was seen on an island far out on the lake and four Indian Skimmers were distant but our first views of this highly prized species. A huge Imperial Eagle then appeared very close and slowly circled even closer allowing us unbelievable views. We wanted to return for an evening visit to Bharatpur so made our way back to the coach seeing a couple of Common Woodshrike along the way. After a straight drive back we boarded our rickshaws and were taken towards the temple area with a brief stop to see a very attractive Orange-headed Thrush feeding amongst the damp leaf litter. At the temple locals were sent in different directions to search for one of our missing species. It wasn’t long before a very well hidden Black Bittern was located and eventually scoped for all of us to see. A huge Black-necked Stork flew in before we had to return on our rickshaws and hastily retreat as the sun set. A Large-tailed Nightjar flew across the road and was seen by a few of us, as was a Spotted Owlet sat on a dead tree.
Day 5 – 23rd January
This morning was to be our day trip to the wonderful Chambal River, so after an early breakfast and with a few hours to sunrise we set off. A short stop along the way found us a group of Olive-backed Pipits in a field and an Indian Peafowl up a tree. On arrival at the Chambal Safari River Lodge we were invited to a cup of tea and biscuits, but not before being shown a Brown Hawk-Owl sat in full view in a small tree. It was then time to drive down to the river edge in preparation for our boat trip.
This is probably the best and most reliable site in the world to see the sought after Indian Skimmer and we were not to be disappointed as 36 of these gorgeous birds were sat close by on the shore edge, allowing us unprecedented views and photographic opportunities. Beside the skimmers were Little and Temminck’s Stint, Little Ringed Plover and our first River Lapwing. Once aboard our boat we set off quietly up river soon passing flocks of Red-crested Pochard and Bar-headed Geese, while above and alongside us flew Steppe and Pallas’s Gulls, and both River and gorgeous Black-bellied Terns. Ruddy Shelducks were easily seen and on the shore we cruised past a group of Indian Black Ibis, while above us several Egyptian and a Red-headed Vulture circled. A Long-legged Buzzard was then spotted and as we looked at some Soft-shelled Terrapins, a Brown Crake was spotted running into a burrow. Cruising on we drifted close to a small cliff face and there perched on a small rock was an adult Bonelli’s Eagle. Nearby a small island held our first 20ft long Gharials, a Marsh Mugger and on a separate island a flock of Lesser Whistling Duck, several Comb Duck and a pair of Great Thick-Knees. The whole river experience was fantastic and the huge Gharials that we drifted close to were a real highlight. Just before we were due to turn around and return a group of three cranes flew from up river towards and over us finally settling on the shore edge. We turned around and got closer to three Common Cranes, initially thought to be Demoiselle’s as three had been reported in the area. Beside the cranes sat four huge Pallas’s Gulls of varying ages. Almost back to our start point we tried again for the Brown Crake and this time it showed wonderfully right out in the open. Back on shore we admired the flock of Indian Skimmers and added Sand Martin and a few Wire-tailed Swallows to our day list. A short walk around also got us Desert Wheatear and another pair of Great Thick-Knees. We were soon aboard our coach and returning to the Chambal River Safari Lodge where lunch awaited us. Another look at the roosting Brown Hawk-Owl was followed by a delicious meal, a little relaxation and then some birding around the lodge gardens. Two groups of Olive-backed Pipits sat in the trees and allowed good study of identification features, while Brown-headed Barbet, Asian Koel and both Hume’s and Greenish Warblers also showed very well.
Good numbers of Yellow-wattled Lapwings were found and several Red Collared-Doves put on a good show. An Oriental Honey Buzzard tried to hide from the marauding House Crows and a nice Red-breasted Flycatcher gave some very good close views. After completing a full circuit of the grounds we said farewell to our hosts and returned to Bharatpur and our lodge where we arrived in the dark.
Day 6 – 24th January
With our bags packed we set off early towards Agra, arriving at the famous Taj Mahel shortly after sunrise. Amongst the first visitors of the day, this magnificent construction was even more impressive because there were few other people around. The birds were forgotten for a while as we took in the atmosphere and posed for photographs. A cultural guide had joined us and between spells of free time and some birding he explained the history of this impressive building. The gardens held good numbers of birds and Indian Grey Hornbills were easily seen sat in the tree tops sunning themselves. Black Kites and Egyptian Vultures flew around and the river behind the Taj held many wading birds including Wood, Common, Green and Marsh Sandpiper, Greenshank, Ruff, Black-winged Stilt, Red-wattled Lapwing and then a lone Black-headed Gull. Back in the gardens we saw a Shikra, Hume’s Warbler and an amazing find was a nest with two Dusky Eagle-Owls, one of which sat right out in the open. With our visit complete we moved on to the nearby Red Fort and again were privately escorted around by our knowledgeable guide. With the mornings cultural visits satisfactorily concluded we drove to a nearby hotel for a sumptuous lunch. Afterwards with time to spare before we needed to be at Agra train station some of the group went to some shops for a little retail therapy. The time had come for us to go to the station, an experience in itself, as shoes that didn’t want to be cleaned, were cleaned, and the harshness of poverty and hardship were real and intense. This was India at its best and worst and with Avi in charge we could relax as everything around us was taken care of. After a short wait we were escorted to our train and duly appointed our sleeping quarters. Laughs and excitement ensued as we settled in for our overnight journey to Jabilpur, another episode in our Indian adventure. Our guides had organised on-board meals and with these consumed we got some sleep ready for our early morning arrival.
Day 7 – 25th January
Shortly after arriving at Jabilpur station we were met by three landcruisers and their drivers and whisked away to a nearby hotel where breakfast awaited. Replenished and freshened up we set off on the drive to Karna National Park, and the Tuli Tiger Resort. Plenty of birds were seen along the way but we tried not to stop as it was a long journey and we needed to be there by lunch time. Our vehicle spotted a couple of Asian Openbills on the edge of a river and at a rest stop we all got to see Purple Sunbirds and a Blyth’s Reed Warbler. We eventually arrived at Tuli Tiger Resort and what a superb place it was, with excellent rooms, a very nice setting and a wonderfully attentive
team of staff. We were felt very welcome and after our lunch we were ready for an afternoon visit into this excellent yet less visited park. Our reason for choosing Karna over the more well known National Parks where Tigers are still possible, is that we wanted the best chances to see this mammal but without the pressure of too many people and overcrowding. Once we were organised, our three jeeps met us and drove the few kilometres to the park entrance. A small lake prompted a stop where we found a Black Stork, hundreds of Lesser Whistling Duck, and the first of many Spotted Deer (Chital). Beside the entrance gate as we awaited our passes, we got out and found a few things including Large Cuckoo-Shrike, Black-hooded Oriole, Spotted Dove and Black-rumped Flameback. Setting off into the park full of anticipation we were soon stopping to look at a roosting Spotted Owlet. We then followed a track through an area of forest where we saw several Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, Black-rumped Flameback, Indian Jungle Crows, Southern Grey Shrike, Grey-breasted Prinias and for some the exquisite little Jungle Owlet. Amongst the countless Spotted Deer we also found Sambar, Swamp Deer, Wild Boar and the huge Gaur. Probably one of the most evocative wildlife experiences anyone could ever experience is the sound of a Muntjac or (Barking Deer) giving its loud echoing bark, which means that a predator is in close proximity. This sound gets the adrenalin going and everyone is on edge as we listen and look with full concentration in the hope of finding the king of cats. News came fast that a Tiger had been spotted and our driver was soon on the trail arriving in no time at all beside a grassy stream where a group of vehicles had already assembled. Seconds seemed like hours as we waited and then with all of our vehicles present, a stripy shape appeared out of the long grass. Our first Tiger! We watched as it made its way through the dry grass and eventually out of sight towards a woodland. The shear pleasure and excitement everyone felt was beyond words, and until the day you see a Tiger yourself you won’t understand what I mean. It was getting towards park closing time and most of the jeeps were slowly heading back to the park entrance. Our driver had spotted some more action and a distant Tiger was spotted. We immediately drove to a track where the Tiger may have been walking towards. On arrival one of our vehicles had already seen a Tiger and the rest of us just waited as another came out of the grass and crossed the track right in front of us. Simply unbelievable! Three Tigers in our first afternoon. Ecstatic we returned to our lodge and during a superb dinner we toasted this awesome, beautiful creature.
Day 8 – 26th January
This morning we were up early so as to be the first vehicles into the park which opened at 06.30. A hot drink and some biscuits started us off as it was surprisingly cold! but our guides were prepared for this with blankets for everyone and a picnic breakfast packed on board. Following a different track than yesterday we entered a woodland in convoy and soon located the first of many White-bellied Drongos, five Coppersmith Barbets sunning themselves on a tree top, Black-hooded Oriole and a group of Small Minivets. Calling in to the Museum area where a camp fire proved very inviting we scoped our one and only Spangled Drongo of the trip. Other birds were found including a group of three Velvet-fronted Nuthatches, Common Kestrel, Grey Wagtail, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Spotted Doves and a fly over White-rumped Vulture. We then received information that a Tiger had been spotted so jumping into our vehicles we set off in hot pursuit.
On reaching the area and with most people not noticing the Crested Hawk-Eagle sat in a tree we were soon to be treated to an amazing show by three Tigers which included a female and two 14 month old cubs. As we waited, and to the sound of alarm calls from Barking Deer, two of the Tigers came out of the forest together and walked across the grassland right towards our vehicles where they passed by quite unconcerned at our presence. It was as if we were invisible to them! What a buzz we all felt as we soaked up every second of every minute that these magnificent animals were on show. This was a much better showing than yesterday; surely things just couldn’t improve on this. Once they had disappeared from view we looked around and noticed a group of Pygmy Geese on a small pond and several Paddyfield Pipits in the grass. Returning back to the Museum we had our breakfast and watched another White-rumped Vulture fly over. This was a good move on our guides part as we were now set up to see three different Tigers that had been tracked by the Mahouts from Elephant back. We had already requested our interest if any Tigers were found and now we were amongst the first people to get the chance to go and see this other family group. We immediately drove to the area where the Mahouts were waiting, and a few at a time we un-ceremonially climbed onto the Elephants using a ladder and then set off a short distance into the forest where three stunning Tigers were watched at point blank range sat on a group of rocks. What a setting and what views! This had to be one of life’s ultimate wildlife watching experiences, and certainly one that none of us would ever forget. As we drove towards the park exit we made a quick stop for a Common Hawk-Cuckoo sat camouflaged in a tree, and then further on we watched a Black-winged Kite hovering and finally in an area of bamboo forest we got stunning views of a restful looking Jungle Cat. A Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher put in an appearance and just before we left a Spotted Owlet was seen looking out of a hole in a large tree beside the track. Everyone has to be out of the park between noon and 3pm so we returned to our wonderful lodge which was bathed in glorious sunshine and here we had lunch before meeting again for the afternoon visit into the park. Having our fill of six Tigers this morning we decided to split the vehicles with the intension of all meeting up later on the same trail. Amongst the many birds we found were up to 7 fabulous Jungle Owlets, plus Brown-headed and Coppersmith Barbets, Rufous Treepie, Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, Oriental White-Eyes, Tickell’s Blue Flycatchers, Grey-breasted Prinias, Common Tailorbird, Blyth’s Reed Warbler and some excellent views o a perched Crested Serpent-Eagle. Some of us got to see Blue-naped Monarch, Streak-breasted Woodpecker, White-rumped Shama, Black-hooded Oriole and the very attractive Red Junglefowl, while others tracked the pug marks of Tiger and Sloth Bear and we all got to see the Gaur, a type of Buffalo. With all the vehicles together we slowly returned seeing yet another Jungle Cat sat on the track in front of us. Beside a small pond we found five Greater Painted Snipe and a selection of other birds before it was time to leave and return back to our lodge.
Well, what a day – 6 Tigers, 2 Jungle Cats and great selection of birds and other mammals. Perfect!
Day 9 – 27th January
Back into the park early this morning, we soon located some Scarlet Minivets, White-bellied Drongo and our best views yet of Black-headed Oriole. Moving on we located a group of Brown-cheeked Fulvettas, followed by a Grey Bushchat, four Yellow-footed Green Pigeons and some Indian Peafowl in the road. Our daily sighting of Black-winged Kite was followed by excellent views of Streak-throated Woodpecker and some Scaly-breasted Munias, while a Jungle Owlet looked down on us from its exposed perch. Down beside a stream we found Common Kingfisher, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch and another Scarlet Minivet, while a thicker area of forest produced Yellow-eyed Babblers and more Grey-breasted Prinias, and near a stand of Bamboo two of the vehicles watched a pair of Indian Scimitar-Babblers. It was now time for our picnic breakfast and our well appointed stop proved excellent as a fruiting tree played host to numerous birds. Up to six Brown-headed Barbets, plus Coppersmith Barbet, two Common Ioras, Hume’s Warbler and some wonderful butterflies including the smallest one in India – the Grass Jewel. Our continuing search then found us some more Brown-cheeked Fulvettas, a group of Olive-backed Pipits, stunning views of White-rumped Shama, a Taiga Flycatcher, White-eyed Buzzard, a White-rumped Vulture on its nest and then a Woolly-necked Stork circling high above us. We made our way towards the gate and seeing several vehicles stopped, we noticed some Elephants near an area of forest and there in front of them was a Tiger, which was soon to disappear from view. Out beside the first park gate we welcomed a short stroll and soon located an Indian Pygmy Woodpecker, plus Small Minivets, Large Cuckoo-Shrike and a pair of Jerdon’s Leafbirds. Back at our lodge we enjoyed lunch and then after a short rest we set off back into the park for our afternoon session. More Jungle Owlets were found bringing our day total up to an incredible eight. Both Red Junglefowl and Indian Peafowl performed well and stopping in a section of roadside trees we found three Puff-throated Babblers, two Great Tits, an elusive Black-naped Monarch and a very smart Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher. We all got fantastic views of a Crested Hawk-Eagle sat in a tree just above us and then on our return we got to see ten Indian Stone-curlews, which was apparently the first sighting of this species for the year. Another excellent day over we returned to our comfortable lodge and its glorious blazing fires.
Day 10 – 28th January
This morning we drove into the park and set off on a different trail. On reaching an open expanse of grasslands we were greeted the evocative scene of a low mist hanging this and a nearby pond. A couple of Marsh Deer did their best to remain concealed while more exposed were two Sambar that walked through the mist and across the pond. A closer look at the pond found several Greater Painted Snipe, a Bluethroat, Common Teal, Little Grebe and Moorhen, while a single Painted Stork flew over and a Citrine Wagtail made a brief appearance. Continuing on to our picnic breakfast area we stopped when a Barking Deer alarm call was heard and then a Leopard was heard. We tried in vain to predict where the Leopard might appear but the forest was too thick and vast and viewing very difficult. At our picnic spot we saw White-naped Flameback, an Oriental Honey-Buzzard and some Plain Prinias and several very showy Zitting Cisticolas. After we had feasted we set off again passing another pond which held lots of Northern Pintail. Many other birds were seen but a Lesser Adjutant flying around was new for the trip. My vehicle got excellent looks at a Sirkeer Malkhoa and everyone saw a perched Crested Serpent-Eagle, while one of our groups got to see some more Indian Scimitar-Babblers. Back to the lodge for lunch, we returned to the park and soon encountered a small heard of Gaur, some Wild Boar and the seemingly common Jungle Owlet. Leaving the park a little earlier this evening we drove to an area of dry river bed near to our lodge. Here we waited and waited and after seeing an Indian Stone-curlew fly over and a Flying Squirrel disappear into a tree we managed just one species of nightjar and saw a Large-tailed fly over twice. It was again time to return to comfort and warmth.
Day 11 – 29th January
This morning we paid our last visit to Kanha National Park, where we spent the morning. A cold start as usual sent us on our way to a remote area where we enjoyed our picnic breakfast beside a small house. The trees were alive with bird activity and one particular fruiting tree attracted a wealth of birds including lots Brown-headed and Coppersmith Barbets. We also got good views of Hume’s Warbler and a pair of Common Ioras. In the grasses several Plain Prinias and Zitting Cisticolas performed well and as we had our breakfast we found and tried to photograph India’s smallest butterfly the Grass Jewel. As we slowly returned towards the gate we managed to find a couple of Rufous Woodpeckers and the regular Black-winged Kite, and we also got superb views of a Brown Shrike and a White-naped Woodpecker. Back at our lodge we packed our bags and soon departed in our convoy of luxury jeeps. A roadside stop beside a railway which entertained several of the group as a noisy, jam-packed train trundled past, also found us several smart looking Little Green Bee-eaters. Our next stop was beside a weedy lake where we managed to see both Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas. Continuing on we eventually arrived at the Pench Jungle Camp where our lunch awaited us. Glorious warm sunshine was indeed pleasant and once we had eaten and been located into our fabulous tents, we met with our jeep drivers and set off for a visit into the nearby Pench Reserve. As we slowly made our through the park we came across several White-eyed Buzzards, Indian Roller, Indian Grey Hornbill and Southern (Greater) Coucals. Once we reached a huge lake we found a group of Yellow Wagtails, a distant Osprey and a Crested Serpent Eagle. A Blue Bull (Nilgai) was also found and several Golden Jackals showed well. Driving back through the forest a group of Olive-backed Pipits flew over and we managed to find a couple of Oriental Turtle Doves. We returned to our lodge and after our evening meal we did a little star gazing and warmed ourselves around the glorious camp fire.
Day 12 – 30th January
An early morning start had us set off into the park. The day got off to a good start when one of the jeeps kept stalling and was having great trouble starting up again. It was decided we should change the vehicle so while the others waited and watched a White-eyed Buzzard we drove back to the entrance and swapped over. Once back, we all set off together. The day started rather quiet but soon picked up when we found a group of Small Minivets and a White-browed Fantail. A gorgeous pair of Indian Scops-Owls perched openly on a dead tree allowing the best views imaginable.
Our breakfast was taken near the other park gate where an attractive Black Redstart, some Oriental White-Eyes and Little Green Bee-eaters were seen. Both Yellow-footed Green Pigeons and Oriental Turtle Doves were later found and several Hoopoes put in an appearance. In a small woodland we got excellent views of several Indian Pygmy Woodpeckers and further on while overlooking the huge lake we found Yellow-wattled and a River Lapwing, while Ruddy Shelduck, Osprey and some Woolly-necked Storks were also seen. We made our way slowly back to the camp where some spare time allowed several of us to look at the scrub ground across from the car park. Greenish Warblers and Purple Sunbirds showed well and we got good looks at Pale-billed and Thick-billed Flowerpeckers. A Greater Spotted Eagle gave us a superb performance and over lunchtime several White-rumped and Indian Vultures flew over. In the afternoon we revisited the park taking a wide circuit which proved rather quiet. Another pair of Indian Scops-Owls were found looking out from a hole in a tree and nearby we got to see a Greater Flameback. A Black Eagle was seen by one of the vehicles and as we made our way back a group of Tree Pipits was soon forgotten when a Jungle Cat was spotted walking across the road.
Day 13 – 31st January
After an early breakfast we were met by our jeeps and then driven to Jabilpur Airport. After a relatively short wait we boarded our flight to Delhi. Arriving at the capitol we were driven to our comfortable hotel where a sumptuous lunch awaited us. We were given some day rooms to freshen up and then we set off firstly to a local souvenir shop that most of the group wished to visit, and then through the hectic traffic of Delhi to the Okhla Barrage a huge reservoir with an astonishing amount of wildfowl present. Our first roadside stop at this site, produced a good group of waders that included Black-winged Stilts, a group of Pied Avocets, Wood, Common and up to ten Marsh Sandpipers, lots of Ruff and many Western Black-tailed Godwits. In the distance we could see River Lapwing and a group of Northern Lapwings as well as Graylag and Bar-headed Geese. In the reeds a Purple Heron tried hiding, while Indian Pond Herons, Purple Swamphen and a host of more familiar herons could be seen. A couple of Bluethroats skulked in the reed fringes and then as we were leaving we spotted a Yellow-bellied Prinia. Moving on to another area we realised there were thousands of birds on the far side of the lake. We needed to jump aboard a convoy of rickshaws and in no time at all we had weaved our way through the traffic, over a bridge and to a track that would allow close views of all these birds. We walked several hundred yards until we were confronted with literally thousands of ducks and water loving birds. It was a true spectacle and well worth the visit. We scanned through the ducks and found Teal, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, Shoveler, Pintail, Spot-billed Duck, Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, a single Mallard and our only Common Shelducks of the trip. There were hundreds of Black-headed and Brown-hooded Gulls to look through and further searching also revealed Eurasian Spoonbill, Black-headed Ibis, a River Tern and a Greater Spotted Eagle. As the sun slowly set we returned to our waiting rickshaws seeing Black-crowned Night Heron, and a sky full of Indian Pipistrelles. Our rickshaws then took us on an unforgettable journey through the rush hour traffic and back to our coach. We returned to the hotel where we had our last evening meal and then later that evening we went to the airport in time for our flight back to the U.K. where this fabulous tour concluded.
I would like to thank everyone on the tour for making it such a pleasure to lead. My thanks also go to Avijit and Gina for their help and of course to the king of cats the “Tiger” who put on the greatest performance imaginable. Thanks also to Gina for inclusion of some of her photos.