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A Report from

Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh, India, January 28th - February 11 th 2006,

John Kirby

This trip was organised through an Indian company based in Jaipur that I found through the Internet. The company is

Indo Vacations
(Tour Operator & Holiday Planner)
312 / 6, Valmiki Marg, Pushpawali, Raja Park
Jaipur-302004, INDIA

Tel.: 0091 141 2622098 & 0091 94143 12872 Fax: 0091 141 2622098
Mobile: 0091 98291 53949                          E-Mail:

We told them the places we were interested in visiting and they arranged an itinerary for us to include these. After a little adjustment we agreed on this and were quoted a price of $1010 (approx £580) per person to include all transportation in India and accommodation with breakfast, the services of a driver with a Toyota Qualis car and an experienced bird guide.  Also included were airport transfers and a full day sight-seeing in Delhi.

All the arrangements went very smoothly and we would recommend this company for their flexibility and organisational skills. The driver we had, known to us as Paul was really good. He had to drive on the most testing of mountain roads as well as endure the traffic jams in the cities and he did this all without complaint or the slightest sign of road rage that we all get from time to time. He was great and, once he got used to mad birders asking him to stop at the slightest sighting of a new bird, he joined in with us.

Our bird guide was Raju (Jagdish Bhatt). This young man is from Binsar and works as a guide at the Binsar Tourist Rest House. He had good eyes and ears and with the mountain birds he was invaluable. He knew the places we needed to go to see the birds and was excellent. Raju was so friendly and such a pleasure to have with us. He seemed to enjoy the trip as much as we did! We were very sad to leave him at the end for his 100k journey back to Binsar (a lot of it to be covered on foot!!)

Flights were arranged through with Virgin Atlantic for £515 each. This was a direct flight which arrived in Delhi at 11.30 am and back in London at 5.30pm approx. We liked these flight times and even though we could have got a cheaper price the flights were either via a European or Middle East airport and/or arrived in Delhi around midnight and left about 2am for the return journey. We felt it was worth the £30-40 pounds extra to get this flight and it certainly proved to be true.

Our itinerary was as follows.

Day 01 – 29.01.06 – Arrival in New Delhi, transfer to the Hotel / Hotel Metro Heights
Day 02 – 30.01.06 -  Drive to Saatal / Saatal Tourist House
Day 03 – 31.01.06 – Full day birding in Saatal / Saatal Tourist House
Day 04 – 01.02.06 – Excursion to Pangot
Day 05 – 02.02.06 – Drive to Binsar / Binsar Tourist House
Day 06 – 03.02.06 – Drive from Binsar to Ranikhet / Hotel West View
Day 07 – 04.02.06 – Drive to Corbett National Park / Hotel Tiger Camp
Day 08 – 05.02.06 – Full day Sightseeing in Corbett National Park / Hotel Tiger Camp
Day 09 – 06.02.06 – Drive to Nainital / Hotel Claridges Naini Retreat
Day 10 – 07.02.06 – Full day in Nainital / Hotel Claridges Naini Retreat
Day 11 – 08.02.06 – Full day in Nainital / Hotel Claridges Naini Retreat
Day 12 – 09.02.06 – Drive to New Delhi / Hotel Metro Heights
Day 13 – 10.02.06 – Full day Sightseeing in New Delhi / Hotel Metro Heights
Day14  - 11.02.06 – Flight to London

January 29th

We arrived in Delhi at around 11.30 am and were met by our driver from Indo Vacations. We had changed some money at the airport so were ready to go straight to our hotel.  Hotel Metro Heights is in the Karol Bargh area of Delhi not far from Connaught Place. We really wouldn’t recommend it although it was adequate. The rooms were ok and had everything we needed including a “ minibar”  which contained 2 bottles of water and 3 soft drinks! It is in a “motor trade” area and there are no local restaurants you can walk to so we used the hotel restaurant which was interesting!. The food I have to say was excellent. We were puzzled however by the fact that most of the dining chairs were actually computer chairs on wheels. The dining room staff were great and real whizzes with a spoon which they used to open beer bottles and also to change channels on the TV!

In the afternoon we took a taxi from the hotel to Okhla Barrage on the Yamuna River. Due to new road construction and also to the fact that the driver probably wasn’t a registered taxi (our hotel reception called him) we got lost taking an hour and a half for the journey. We eventually found Khalindi Kunj Park and in desperation got out of the taxi there. Don’t bother with the park itself but bird along the tracks leading off the road to the left of the park. The return trip back to our hotel took 30 minutes!

Birds seen

Ruddy Shelduck                       Red-vented Bulbul
Bluethroat                              Gull-billed Tern
Plain Prinia                              Citrine Wagtail
Painted Stork                          Purple Heron
Long-tailed Shrike                    Purple Swamphen
River Lapwing                          Black Drongo
Green Bee-eater                       Scaly-breasted Munia
Eurasian Starling                       Rose-ringed Parakeet
Pied Starling

January 30th         -      1st February         Saatal

After leaving the tour company’s office at around 10am we set off on the long drive to Saatal. This took most of the day with a little birding along the way.  We stopped at a restaurant for lunch after about 4 hours. After this we set off again along the road following the Kosi River. We stopped between markers 36 and 37 just past a large temple.   Along the river and on the sands we saw

Himalayan Rubythroat
Brown Dipper
Plumbeous Redstart
White-crowned Water Redstart
Rufous Treepie.
Himalayan Griffon
Russet Sparrow
Jungle Babbler

It was dark when we arrived in Saatal and very cold. We stayed at the KMVN Tourist Rest House. There is very little accommodation in this area and this lodge is very basic. There is no heating or hot water (although they will bring a bucket of hot water to your room on request) and meals have to ordered in advance. As we arrived around 7.30 pm it was too late to get dinner there but a local opened his café for us and we all went down there for a delicious meal at about £1 each!  We found out in the morning that a cow had been taken from behind this café by a Leopard during the night! You will need plenty of warm clothing at night in this place. It is built to be cool in the summer so in winter is freezing! 4 layers including a padded shirt were not enough till we added hats and sock! Day times the weather was pleasant – clear and sunny and around 16C.

We birded behind the tea stalls and then through the fields. No Golden Bush Robin seen. (When was the last one seen at this site behind the tea stalls?) Next we went along the road around the lake and into the Saatal Estate.  Lastly we walked along the track through the Windrift Tented Camp.

Birds seen:

Red-Gorgeted Flycatcher                                       Grey-hooded warbler
Orange-flanked Bush Robin                                     Kalij Pheasant
Spot-bellied Eagle Owl                                           Grey-headed Woodpecker
Grey-winged Blackbird                                            Greater Yellownape
Red-billed Leothrix                                                 Lesser Yellownape
Black-chinned Tit                                                  Red Junglefowl
Great Tit                                                              Slaty-headed Parakeet
Green-backed Tit                                                  Himalayan Bulbul
Black-lored Tit                                                      Blue Whistling Thrush         
Great Barbet                                                        White-browed Fulvetta
Red-throated Barbet                                              Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
White-crested Laughing Thrush                                Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch
Streaked Laughing Thrush                                       Grey Treepie
Red-billed Blue Magpie                                            Scarlet Minivet
Black-headed Jay                                                  White-browed Fantail
Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler                                Blue winged Minla
Speckled Piculet                                                    Red-headed Vulture

2nd February                           Binsar

The drive from Saatal to Binsar was again a long one. The roads were mostly reasonable but involved a lot of hair-pin bends and sheer drops. Not the best of journeys for a nervous disposition! We arrived mid-afternoon at the KMVN Tourist Rest House. This was a nice place, where the rooms were much warmer as they were lined with wood and wooden floors. Lighting was by candle as there was no electricity and again no running hot water. Large buckets of hot water were delivered to the room in the morning for showers. There was a viewing terrace for the sunrise with unobstructed views of the Himalayas including Nandi Devi, the Annapurnas and Fishtail Mountain.

We birded around the lodge in the evening and morning before setting off to Ranikhet.

Birds seen

Dark-sided Thrush                                  Black-throated Thrush
Himalayan Woodpecker                           White-tailed Nuthatch
Blue-capped Redstart                             Black-naped Tit  
Eurasian Jay                                         Brown-fronted Woodpecker
Hill Pigeon                                            Mountain Bulbul
Rufous-naped Tit                                   Upland Pipit

On the road up to Binsar inside the National Park there is a temple (Binsewar Temple) with a field in front and a muddy area to the side. This had Spotted Forktail, Blue Whistling Thrush and Plain-backed Thrush.

3rd February                             Ranikhet

On the drive to Ranikhet we again had good views of the Himalayas although the cloud cover comes over early in the morning.  We made several stops along the way to view overhead raptors and one of these proved to be a Golden Eagle. Ranikhet itself is an army town with several barracks. We stayed at West View Hotel, an old colonial style hotel with very large rooms. A little faded in its glory but warm and comfortable with electricity AND hot water!

The area looked good birding habitat but we saw very little apart from Asian Barred Owlet and Himalayan Griffon

4th – 5th February.                              Tiger Camp. Corbett’s National Park

The journey to Corbett’s took about half a day and we arrived at Tiger Camp in time for lunch. This is a very comfortable lodge with two roomed bungalows.  The food at this place is buffet style but plentiful and delicious! On our arrival the resident ornithologist/organiser had his scope set up on a pair of Collared Scops Owls close to the restaurant. After lunch we drove back along the Ranikhet road for a few kilometres. We stopped by a bridge over an almost dry river bed. Walking up the river bed we were looking for Slaty-backed Forktail but were unlucky. We did see Small Niltava, Rufous-bellied Niltava and Crested Kingfisher.

The resident “organiser” arranged our visit next day to the Corbett’s reserve with the permits, guide (obligatory), jeep included. Total cost was approx 4500 rupees for 5 people (included Raju our bird guide).  Also 1500 rupees for an elephant ride. The elephant ride was just that – a 2 hour trek through the forest with little chance of seeing anything!

The reserve guides are geared up to finding a tiger (we failed although there was plenty of evidence of tiger activity) and to get them to stop for birds is quite difficult.

We went to Bijrani  Camp and saw most of the birds around this area. While we ate our packed lunch here we also saw a Jackal.

Biggest failure here was not seeing Slaty Woodpecker.

Best birds seen

Lesser Fish Eagle                                           Grey-breasted Prinia
Crested Serpent Eagle                                    Yellow-bellied Prinia               
Changeable Hawk Eagle                                  Red-breasted Parakeet
Small Niltava                                                 Grey Bushchat
Black Redstart                                               Pied Bushchat
Black Stork                                                   Rufous Woodpecker
White-browed Wagtail                                    Great Hornbill
Grey-sided Bush Warbler                                 Pied Hornbill
Oriental White-eye                                         Lineated Barbet
White-backed Vultures

6th – 8th February                              Nainital

On the way from Corbett’s we passed through Ramnagar.  We crossed the Kosi River at the barrage and parked by the road. We walked along the almost dry river bed. No Ibisbill seen and there have been no reports of any here for some time!

Birds seen. Egyptian Vulture. Hair-crested Drongo. Pied Bushchat. Indian Robin. Pied Kingfisher, Lesser Whitethroat

From Ramnagar we stopped after 4kms at a very wide river bed, just past the village of Chhoi.  Here we saw Ashy-crowned Sparrowlark, Common Kingfisher and Plain Martin.

We came to a place called Corbett’s Falls and paid a small entry fee. The drive down inside the entrance was through a forested area to a car park. It’s a very scenic spot with some birds.   Black Bulbul, Crested Bulbul. Tits and Warblers

Another long drive along winding mountain roads to Nainital.  We stayed at Claridges Naini Retreat which was almost luxurious compared to Saatal and even gave us hot water bottles! A stop at a ravine by a sign for Nainital Zoo and Hotel Aroma was very productive. Spotted Forktail, Rufous Sibia, Bar-tailed Treecreeper. White-capped Water Redstart, Plumbeous Redstart, Brown-fronted Woodpecker, Pink-browed Rosefinch, ,Rufous-naped Tit and a little further on by a sign for Himalayan Botanical Gardens, and some rather curious statues of Hindu Gods, we had wonderful close views of a Lammergeier.

A trip to Pangot from Nainital took about 45 minutes. Unfortunately by the time we were on the road the mist had rolled in and we didn’t get to see the mountain views. This happened each day and you really need to be at the viewpoints for sunrise or you wont see anything. After Pangot the metalled road turned into a dirt track to the village of Gugukan. Here, near the school, we saw a party of 20 White-throated Laughing Thrushes.

Other birds seemed scarce (no accentors) and we returned to Pangot and had lunch at the Jungle Lore Lodge (a good birding base with guides).

 In the garden we saw Black-headed Jays, Streaked Laughing Thrushes, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Stonechat, Green-tailed Sunbird, Red-rumped Swallow and Grey-backed Shrike

Taking the road downhill to Bagar. We passed over a stream said to be good for Slaty Forktail but there were a lot of workmen shifting boulders so no forktails at all. The trees had a lot of Phylloscopus warblers but we could only identify Blyth’s Leaf Warbler and Lemon Rumped Warbler.

9th – 10th  February                                              Delhi

We left Nainital to head back to Delhi and on leaving the town we noticed a large number of raptors on what looked like a rubbish tip on the left of the road. Most of these proved to be Steppe Eagles, probably 30+ .Once again the road was terrifying with lots of hair pin bends. Thank goodness for a steady driver!! We heard on our return to Delhi that the Nainital – Delhi bus had gone off the road and down into the ravine the same day.

The road crosses several rivers and stops can be made at these. A walk along one wide river (name unknown) produced Wire-tailed Swallow, Ashy Prinia, Hoopoe, Greenshank, Redshank, Snipe, Ruff, Indian Cormorant and Black-winged Stilt. Black-tailed Godwit, River Lapwing. Spotted Dove, White-throated Kingfisher.

We spent most of the day on the 10th on a city tour taking in the sights of the temples and mosques and the Red Fort and Gandhi’s Cremation site.  In the afternoon we went to Tughlaqabad

The fort here covers 6 km2   and was very interesting and would have been well worth a longer visit! We went in through the main entrance at a cost of 100 rupees and birded the scrub inside the walls.

Birds seen

Common Babbler                                     Brown Rock Chat
Long-billed Pipit                                      Crag Martin
White-throated Munia                              Purple Sunbird
Bluethroat                                             Laughing Dove

Mammals seen on the trip.

Black-faced Langur Monkey
Rhesus Macaque
(Wild) Elephant
Wild Boar
Yellow-throated Marten
Barking Deer
Spotted Deer
Many Tiger footprints seen in Corbett’s


A good trip with a total of 202 birds (60 lifers). Some of the raptors were very difficult to identify as were the Phylloscopus warblers.
Disappointments included missing Accentors, Great Slaty Woodpecker and Ibisbill. We didn’t see any “green” pigeons throughout the trip.
Don’t forget your warm clothing!!!


We got some information from a website but I have been unable to access this since our return.
Northern India Trip Report by Gruff Dodd (found on the BirdTours website) This was very useful!
Birds of Northern India by Grimmett and Inskipp: below:

Birds of Northern India
Richard Grimmett, Tim Inskipp: Buy from or

  • From the wet evergreen forests and alpine peaks of the Himalayas, to the Thar Desert and the vast wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural habitats that stretch to New Delhi and beyond, northern India is a diverse and welcoming paradise for birders and ecotourists. This field guide provides a concise, fully illustrated introduction to the region's known species.

Complete Trip List.

Little Grebe
Little Cormorant
Grey Heron
Purple Heron
Great Egret
Intermediate Egret
Little Egret
Indian Pond heron
Cattle Egret
Painted Stork
Black Stork
Greylag Goose
Ruddy Shelduck
Spot-billed Duck
Black-shouldered Kite
Black Kite
Lesser Fish Eagle
Egyptian Vulture
White-rumped Vulture
Himalayan Griffon
Cinereous Vulture
Red-headed Vulture
Crested Serpent-eagle
Steppe Eagle
Golden Eagle
Booted Eagle
Changeable Hawk-eagle
Mountain Hawk-eagle
Eurasian Kestrel
Black Francolin
Red Junglefowl
Kalij Pheasant
Indian Peafowl
White-breasted Waterhen
Indian Swamphen
Common Moorhen
Common Coot
Bronze-winged Jacana
Black-winged Stilt
River Lapwing
Red-wattled Lapwing
Pin-tailed Snipe
Black-tailed Godwit
Common Redshank
Common Greenshank
Green Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Brown-headed Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Rock Dove
Hill Pigeon
Spotted Dove
Laughing Dove
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Slaty-headed Parakeet
Red-breasted Parakeet
Greater Coucal
Collared Scops Owl
Spot-bellied Eagle Owl
Asian Barred Owlet
Himalayan Swiftlet
Crested Treeswift
Common Kingfisher
White-throated Kingfisher
Crested Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher
Green Bee-eater
Eurasian Hoopoe
Indian Grey Hornbill
Oriental Pied Hornbill
Great Hornbill
Great Barbet
Lineated Barbet
Blue-throated Barbet
Speckled Piculet
Brown-fronted Woodpecker
Himalayan Woodpecker
Rufous Woodpecker
Lesser Yellownape
Greater Yellownape
Grey-headed Woodpecker
Greater Flameback
Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark
Plain Martin
Dusky Crag-martin
Eurasian Swallow
Wire-tailed Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow
Asian Martin
White Wagtail
White-browed Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
Oriental Pipit
Long-billed Pipit
Tree Pipit
Olive-backed Pipit
Upland Pipit
Scarlet Minivet
Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike
Black-crested Bulbul
White-cheeked Bulbul
Red-vented Bulbul
Mountain Bulbul
Black Bulbul
Brown Dipper
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush
Blue Rock Thrush
Blue Whistling Thrush
Plain-backed Thrush
White’s Thrush
Dark-sided Thrush
Grey-winged Blackbird
Black-throated Thrush
Striated Prinia
Grey-breasted prinia
Yellow-bellied Prinia
Ashy Prinia
Plain Prinia
Grey-sided Bush-warbler
Common Tailorbird
Siberian Chiffchaff
Pale-rumped Warbler
Greenish Warbler
Blyth’s Leaf-warbler
Grey-hooded Warbler
Lesser Whitethroat
Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher
Verditer Flycatcher
Small Niltava
Rufous-bellied Niltava
White-tailed Rubythroat
Red-flanked Bluetail
Oriental Magpie-robin
India Robin
Blue-capped Redstart
Black Redstart
White-capped Redstart
Plumbeous Water Redstart
Spotted Forktail
Siberian Stonechat
Pied Bushchat
Grey Bushchat
India Chat
White-browed Fantail
White-throated Laughingthrush
White-crested Laughingthrush
Streaked Laughingthrush
Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler
Black-chinned Babbler
Common Babbler
Jungle Babbler
Red-billed Leothrix
White-throated Shrike-babbler
Blue-winged Minla
White-browed Fulvetta
Rufous Sibia
Black-throated Tit
Black-breasted Tit
Great Tit
Green-backed Tit
Black-lored Tit
Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch
White-tailed Nuthatch
Eurasian Treecreeper
Bar-tailed Treecreeper
Purple Sunbird
Gould’s Sunbird
Green-tailed Sunbird
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
Oriental White-eye
Black-hooded Oriole
Long-tailed Shrike
Grey-backed Shrike
Black Drongo
Ashy Drongo
Hair-crested Drongo
Eurasian Jay
Black-headed Jay
Blue Magpie
Rufous Treepie
Grey Treepie
House Crow
Large-billed Crow
Jungle Myna
Bank Myna
Common Myna
Asian Pied Starling
European Starling
House Sparrow
Russet Sparrow
Nutmeg Manikin
Black-headed Munia
Pink-browed Rosefinch


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