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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh, India, January 28th - February 11 th 2006,
This trip was organised through an Indian company based in Jaipur that I found through the Internet. The company is
(Tour Operator & Holiday Planner)
312 / 6, Valmiki Marg, Pushpawali, Raja Park
Tel.: 0091 141 2622098 & 0091 94143 12872 Fax: 0091 141 2622098
Mobile: 0091 98291 53949
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 Lastminute.com 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
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!
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
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
White-crowned Water Redstart
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 www.delhibird.org 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
Complete Trip List.
Indian Pond heron
Lesser Fish Eagle
Collared Scops Owl
Spot-bellied Eagle Owl
Asian Barred Owlet
Indian Grey Hornbill
Oriental Pied Hornbill
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush
Blue Rock Thrush
Blue Whistling Thrush
Plumbeous Water Redstart
Asian Pied Starling