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A Report from

Northern India, a Birding / Trekking Trip, 28th Feb - 22nd March 2004,

Wendy & Richard Newnham

Ramnager - Corbett National Park - Mohan - Ranikhet - Kausani - The Pindari Glacier - Nainital - Kaludhungi


This report gives details of a recent trip that my husband & I made to Corbett National Park & several of the hill stations in the foothills of the Himalayas. The area we visited is situated about 180kms almost directly north of Delhi. Our idea was to incorporate both our hobbies - birding and trekking - together into one holiday. In the event this worked really well, mainly because we chose an area where there were not too many new species of birds for me. I have already made several trips into the Himalayas from the Chinese side of the border & this meant that because I did not have many target species, I could relax & spend more time exploring the countryside, trekking & generally enjoying the India experience. The timing of the trip was such that we knew we would probably miss many of the winter visitors, but we thought that it might be interesting to visit key sites out of the birding season just to see what species could be found then. In the event we did well for species earlier on in the trip when it was still cool & this was also perfect for trekking. However the last week in Nainital was definitely too late bird-wise & with hindsight we would reverse the itinerary & visit Nainital first.

On this trip to India we chose to stay in more moderately priced establishments with the idea of seeing how cheaply we could actually do the trip. We discovered that the months of February & March are still very cold in the higher altitudes but are still classed as the low season price-wise. We also wanted to meet the people of India rather than Western tourists & I have to say that because it was the off-season we also succeeded & once we left Delhi we hardly came across any 'foreigners' at all. Our third aim was to investigate any long-term accommodation on offer as it is our intention to spend time living in India at some future date. During our travels we made quite a number of inquiries en route and this does seem possible.

Although the species checklist for the area totalled around 500, I reckoned on seeing about 250 species and in the event that was almost exactly how many species we did see. The highlight of the trip was the sight of two male Himalayan Monal Pheasants grazing on a high alpine meadow in the early morning sun with the snow-capped Himalayas in the background. Even Richard, jaded from a few too many days of LBJ's was impressed with these absolutely stunning birds. The discovery of the Monals within reasonable access of transport, the possibility of several other game bird species in the Pindari Valley and the fact that we visited various birding spots in the off-season has prompted me to write this report. Hopefully it will be useful to others who also wish to incorporate birding & trekking in this fascinating part of the world.

Flights, Money & Logistics

We booked an inexpensive Gulf Air return flight for £430, with a stopover at Abu Dhabi en route to Delhi and at Muscat on the return journey. Although this added some hours to the journeys, it saved us about £200 each (Virgin & BA were currently charging around £620). The entire trip (including flights) cost us around £700 each so we were quite impressed with our budgetary efforts.

We took £200 in cash and this we changed into Indian rupees at the Delhi airport on arrival (the rate at the time was 82 rupees to the pound). We also carried US$600 in traveller's cheques and our credit cards for any emergency expenses. This worked well. The only thing we had to remember was not to run out of money at the weekend or in a town without a bank - please note, banks are few and far between in the hill stations.

During our trip we made use of several publications. Krys Kazmierczak & Raj Singh's 'A Birdwatchers' Guide to India (Prion Ltd, Sandy. 1998) was invaluable for birding information although the maps were somewhat vague. The latest publication of the Lonely Planet Guide to India (2003) was useful for information on hotels, restaurants and general advice, although I have to say that it was not always accurate and some of the information was out of date. Trekking in the Indian Himalaya, another Lonely Planet guide was good for information on trekking routes. Armed with photocopies of the relevant pages from these three books we managed fairly well. We did not book anything in advance and this was no problem because wherever we went, most hotels were practically empty and almost all offered low season discounts of at least 30%.


Day 1 Arrival in Delhi

Arrived at the Delhi airport at 5.40 pm, changed money at the Bank of India counter and proceeded through to the taxi stalls where the Lonely Planet (LP) guide suggests that you book a taxi to save the hassle of bargaining or being ripped off. That was a major mistake - we were in fact overcharged by at least five times the going rate (which should be about Rs.200 - that was what we paid for a taxi back to the airport from Delhi three weeks later anyway).

The taxi took us straight to the Pahar Ganj district of Delhi opposite the New Delhi railway station where there are numerous cheap and cheerful hotels to be found. We stayed at the Star View Hotel (Rs.500 per room) partly because the LP guide mentioned a charming rooftop restaurant, but mostly because it was the first one we found that had a vacancy at that time of the evening. It was pretty basic although it did have an en-suite bathroom with a hot shower, an air-conditioner and a fan. In the event the restaurant was not in operation, but from this rooftop we spied a restaurant on the top of the Metropolis Hotel opposite & the food & the ice-cold Kingfisher beer were excellent there.

Day 2 Delhi - Ramnagar

Not wanting to waste time in Delhi, we set off for the coach station early the next morning to find a bus to take us to Ramnagar. We are still not sure which bus station this was but the concierge in any hotel can give your taxi directions & we reached the correct one - not far from the old Delhi railway station - after a very short journey. It was a typical Indian nightmare but with the help of several eager touts we were directed to the right coach, managed to procure tickets (RS180 each), deposited our backpacks in the space provided underneath at the back of the bus and found seats inside without hassle. The bus set off without too much delay and we settled in for the 7+ hours journey to Moradabad with a pleasant stop at a chi stall en route. We changed to a very ramshackle local bus (RS.80 each) at Moradabad bound for Ramnagar with the help of several locals who put us on the right bus - its quite useful to look a bit lost in these situations.

In fact it took us a total of nine hours to reach Ramnager and in hindsight it may have been more pleasant to have taken a train, but we put it down to experience and anyway it was quite fun getting back into the swing of third world travel. Ramnagar seemed to be teeming with people and even in the dark we could see that it was pretty basic. We found the Everest Hotel (RS.250 twin room, en suite, bucket hot water) in what we thought would be a quiet side street, (in the event it turned out to be very noisy because it was where every truck and bus in the neighbourhood turned noisily in the night). The room was basic but it opened up onto a nice veranda where we were served supper by the elderly owner. (The next day we did look at the govt. tourist hostel about 200metres further north up the main road and this perhaps would be a better & more peaceful option at Rs.400 a night).

In their birding guide, Kazmierczak & Singh (K & S) recommended a walk along the west side of the Kosi River and this we did the next morning. This produced a stunning male Citrine Wagtail, our only Sirkheer Malkoha for the trip & a number of waders, but unfortunately we did not get Ibisbill our target bird, not here or anywhere in the next few weeks and we concluded that they had already left for higher altitudes.

The next step was to procure a guide, accommodation & permit for the Corbett NP & this was accomplished without fuss. We met Patwal with jeep, touting for business outside the Govt. Tourist Office. He became our guide for the next six days & is thoroughly recommended. We booked accommodation at Dhikala (the main village in the park) & paid the necessary outrageous fees for accommodation etc, etc. Patwal then suggested he start his duties that very afternoon so we leapt into his jeep & set off for what turned out to be his family village, situated a couple of kilometres south of Ramnagar. We sat & drank chi (strong sweet Indian style tea) with his extended family in this charming little hamlet & then wandered around the cultivated area, adding an interesting selection of birds to the list including Indian Grey Hornbill & a resident Spotted Owlet as the sky darkened. We stayed to supper & then Patwal drove us back to the town.

Day 3 Ramnagar - Corbett NP - Dhikala

Patwal picked us up at 5.30am the next morning & we set off for the most northerly entrance to Corbett, the Dhangarhi Gate, reaching there at about 6am. Although this area was recommended in K & S it was dry and bird-less so without delay we set off through the park watching out for tigers from the back of the open jeep. The drive to Dhikala was pleasant, we stopped here & there for a few birds including Kalij Pheasant & arrived at the Dhikala Govt. Tourist Bungalows a couple of hours later & checked in. The officer in charge was surly, the room was not ready and we were not impressed with the typical 'jobs for life' attitude of the government staff. Nevertheless we were finally given the keys to a large but unimpressive room on the 1st floor of one of the 'houses' situated on the eastern edge of the fenceless compound. We unpacked, had lunch in the restaurant & then walked across to the tall watchtower that overlooked the grass plains to the north. Two Red-headed Vultures watched us warily from a tree at the same height as we scanned the plains & the surrounding area. A Barking Deer called from nearby bushes & we wondered if perhaps we might come across a lurking tiger on the return journey through the long grass.

We had booked an elephant ride for 3.30pm (Rs.250 each) so we sauntered over & managed to settle ourselves relatively comfortably in the 'saddle' on the elephant's back with two other people. The elephant & we passengers set off down the bank, across the Ramganga river and out onto the grassy plains where we enjoyed two hours walking majestically through the ten foot high grass searching for tigers. Needless to say we did not see any but it was an experience not to be missed although it is pretty impossible to use binoculars in this situation. The elephant put up a couple of probable francolins and a quail but it was impossible to identify them whilst rolling about on the elephant's back. Once back at the camp the notice board recorded that a tiger had been seen on the road watched by a group of tourists for 20 minutes that afternoon.

Day 4 Dhikala - in the Corbett NP

We had booked a 5.45am jeep drive with a (compulsory) govt. guide so we set off with Patwal & a man named Nirankar Singh who turned out to be very knowledgeable. Along the road in the soft sand the two guides pointed out several tiger pug marks & we had not gone much further when several animals started to make 'alarm calls' to our left. We turned down a track in that direction & drove out onto an open area surrounded by tallish grass. Here Sambar and Spotted Deer had their heads held alertly up, were calling and all were looking in the direction of the taller grass to the north side of the clearing. During the next exciting ten minutes we watched intently, adrenalin pumping, scanning the grass for any signs of a tiger but although the deer stayed alert and wary and continued to call, they gradually switched their line of gaze as the tiger walked slowly through the grass. Needless to say we never even saw a whisker.

However the morning's game drive was not a complete loss as we ticked off many new species for the trip including, several Woodpeckers, Pallas's & Lesser Fish Eagles, a superb White-tailed Rubythroat & a line of Mugger & Gharial Crocodiles at the far end of the huge reservoir seen from a high promontory across the river. Corbett is a superb area & we really enjoyed the morning. Back at the compound, the notice board had again recorded that other tourists had seen a tiger on the road only a short distance from where we had heard the animals alarming that morning. We spent the early afternoon resting & then once it had cooled down we strolled over to the watchtower where we spent another very pleasant hour watching the sun turn pink in the western sky.

Day 5 Dhikala - Ramnagar

We rose again at 5.45 for our second game drive with Patwal & Niranker. This time we took a different direction and although we did not see tiger we did see a number of pug marks as well as adding a number of new species to the bird list. An irate elephant charged us at one point, but it was not a dangerous situation & gave us great views of a wild elephant up close.

After lunch we packed up, checked out and set off in our jeep. Patwal drove us to several of the other compounds in the park where tourists could stay, then once out of the park we returned to Ramnagar. Patwal had recommended we stay at an old tourist bungalow at Mohan (where Jim Corbett had shot the 'Mohan Man-eater' all those years ago) & where there was still excellent primary forest to be found, but a permit was needed. We drove to the Ramnagar Municipal Office, (just past the Govt. Tourist Office), & Patwal wrote a letter in Hindi which we signed, that explained our reasons for wanting to rent the bungalow. We then did some shopping for supplies, cashed a traveller's cheque with Patwal's friend (NB. No bank in Ramnagar will change traveller's cheques) & then returned & picked up the permit an hour later. On Patwal's invitation we drove back to his village where we spent a couple of hours watching the local birds coming into roost, talking to his many and varied relatives & dining with him & his wife. We finally settled down in his 'guest room' for the night as we planned an early start in the morning.

Day 6 - Ramnagar - Mohan

We set off early and drove through Ramnagar northward to the Dhanghari Gate, where we had another delicious omelette sandwich for breakfast. A little further along the road we stopped several times to view the Kosi River and on one of these stops Patwal revealed his 'piece de resistance' a staked-out pair of Tawny Fish Owls who apparently, if you are lucky, can be found sitting in a large tree just off the road, as we found them. Across the river in the distance there is also the nest of a Pallas's Fish Eagle & in this instance an adult with a juvenile could be seen at the nest. We proceeded on to Mohan and having collected a key from the policeman manning the road block, we drove through a gate a little further on and arrived at the Mohan Govt. Tourist Bungalow, an ancient colonial building in the most appalling state of disrepair. Built by the British circa 1840 (& never been repaired since by the looks of it) it sat in about 2 acres of ground. It was quite large & contained two huge bedrooms with spacious en suite bathrooms, a dining room, kitchen, servant's quarters & was encompassed by a wide veranda on three sides. The house was in a sorry state with broken, ancient furniture, threadbare rugs, and collapsing fireplaces. The 20 feet ceilings showed signs of a leaking roof above and the ceilings in some rooms were in the gravest danger of falling in totally. Nevertheless it was situated about a 100 metres from the road leading through an excellent area of primary forest and anyway the overnight charge for this building was a mere Rs.300 (£3.75)! We unpacked our bags and after lunch & a cup of tea all provided & cooked by the multi-talented Patwal, we headed off to the nearby Kosi River and then later walked a short distance up the road that runs along the northern side of the Corbett NP. The habitat was superb & looked very much how Corbett described it in his book.

That night, as we dined in the ancient dining room echoing with ghosts of traveller's past, Patwal suddenly appeared from the kitchen telling us to hurry as he had heard animals alarming & as a tiger was known to cross our driveway at night on its way to the river, we should go out and look. I have to say that I was not desperately keen but Richard was already out through the door after Patwal so I very dubiously followed them out into the dark and we stood by the gate waiting for the tiger. After a few minutes of tense waiting, Patwal suddenly hissed in the dark: 'There..' and on the left of the drive we could just make out a large moving shape about 20 metres away. I have to say it was not a tickable view, nevertheless we had finally seen (the shadow of) a tiger. Once returned to the safety of the bungalow Rick produced the whisky flask & we both took a few celebratory swigs. We fell asleep listening to Grey and Indian nightjars 'chunk - chunking' well into the night.

Day 7 Mohan

We were out on the road by 5.45am and spent the morning slowly walking up the road adjacent to the northern end of Corbett NP through excellent forest habitat. As we gradually increased our altitude the bird species became more interesting & we had flocks of White-crested Laughing Thrushes, Kalij Pheasants, a pair of Pin-tailed Green Pigeons, three species of Nuthatch and several mixed wintering flocks containing an assortment of passerines & several Black-lored Tits. We had almost walked the 15kms to the little village of Murchula before Patwal arrived with the jeep. As we sat drinking chi in the village, a Spotted Forktail suddenly appeared from a grubby drain, whistled at us and disappeared from whence it had come.

We drove back to Mohan and after a snack lunch back at the bungalow, drove further north towards Kumeria. We stopped short of Kumeria about 200 metres before of the entrance to the Corbett Jungle Resort (where some of the birding groups stay) and walked down a newly built stone path to the right & across a pedestrian suspension bridge over the Kosi River to a beautiful little rural village on the other side. Here, as we wandered along the village paths, through well-ordered cultivated fields, followed by an increasing number of village children, we had several new species including a stunning male Crested Bunting feeding in cattle fodder almost right on the path.

Day 8 - Mohan - Ranikhet (1829M)

We had decided to employ Patwal for one more day to drive us to the hill station of Ranikhet, so in the early morning the three of us set off taking the road that passes through Kumeria. The road gradually climbed giving views of small villages dotted amongst the hills but after a few miles it began to climb in earnest with the result that we had a huge drop on one or other sides of the road. The road was literally cut from the side of the mountain & we wondered how it fared in the rainy season. Several times we stopped the jeep and sending Patwal on, we walked the road for a few kilometres at a time -whenever the habitat looked interesting. We added several species to our list including Little Forktail.

Patwal had told us that today was a religious festival, one that allowed young men to let their hair down, drink copious quantities of alcohol & cover themselves in several shades of powdered dye together with any passing motorists that happened by. After the first encounter with these frivolities when we were also pelted with stones and chased for several hundred metres, Patwal became quite nervous and was loathe to pass through any more villages until later that day. Instead we stopped the jeep at the edge of a good patch of mountain forest & to pass the time we wandered along the road. Suddenly a small tail-less bird hopped out onto a branch, a stunning Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler & further on we had our first views of Blue Magpie & the only Blue-capped Redstart for the trip.

Later that afternoon as we slowed down and turned into a track to a temple not far from Ranikhet, the jeep bumped over a huge rut and damaged the back spring, so we limped into the town at a snail's pace. Although we suggested to Patwal that he should have the spring mended in Ranikhet, he was adamant that he wanted to return to Ramnagar where the repair could be carried out more cheaply. We had enjoyed our six days with Patwal who had been an excellent guide. Although he wasn't a birder as such, he knew all the sights as well as the local stakeouts & was also extremely helpful with all logistical arrangements, in fact we couldn't have done without him. Although he charged us Rs.1500 a day he was worth every rupee. We said goodbye, wishing him a safe journey back to Ramnagar.

The Megdhoot Hotel was situated about 3kms further up the hill from the main bazaar and virtually on the ridge at the western end of what was the old British section of the town. The hotel was relatively smart with a pleasant veranda running along the front of the building. We succeeded in convincing the manager to charge us low season rates so we only paid Rs.495 per night for a suite of rooms consisting of a bedroom, a sitting room & a spacious bathroom with a hot shower. Ranikhet is the home of the Kumaon Regiment and most of the British built Army buildings are intact and in excellent repair. Not so the old British houses standing amongst the trees in the area surrounding the hotel. Like the Mohan bungalow, they were in an advanced state of decay, with very few repairs carried out and in a sad state of collapse. Indian families were still proudly living in them & when we were invited into one to have tea, the Indian couple explained that they just closed off rooms as they became untenable. The Indian psyche is such that when a house is beyond repair, another is built alongside it & the original left to rot, an interesting idea. Aesthetic values seem to be missing in India. Nevertheless Ranikhet was an attractive place sitting as it was on a ridge with views of the snow-capped Himalayas in the distance - our first view of these magnificent mountains.

That evening we wandered along the roads past all the old colonial residences. The birding was not great but we encountered the first of the Black-headed Jays & several Rufous Sibias as well as an excellent close view of an Asian Barred Owlet hawking insects in one of the gardens.

Day 9 - The Ranikhet Club & the Holm Farm Hotel

Today was a day of sightseeing, investigating the Ranikhet Club, the old churches (one of which had been turned into a weaving factory), the cantonment in general & then stopping off at the Bank of India who after keeping us waiting for some time finally cashed our traveller's cheques. We then took a taxi out to the Holm Farm Heritage Hotel, an old colonial homestead about 4kms to the east of Ranikhet where we had lunch in colonial splendour followed by tea on the veranda. We walked back to Ranikhet in the late afternoon through some old mixed forest but this did not turn up many new species although it was a pleasant way to work off a large lunch.

Day 10 - Ranikhet - the Chaubatia Army Cantonment

We were up early, had breakfast at the omelette stall & set off along the Mahatma Ghandi Rd towards the Jhula Devi Temple with its 10's of thousands of brass bells. A very nice male Pink-browed Rosefinch showed well on the side of the road next to an area of cultivation. We passed through the gates of the Chaubatia Army Cantonment, once the home of a British Cavalry Unit. The walk up through the mixed forest was quiet bird-wise but pleasant enough and once we reached the actual working area at the top of the hill we ticked off a couple of new species but nothing special. It was certainly interesting to see how the army chaps in very smart uniforms were efficiently carrying out various duties & the entire camp gave an air of positivity & good management. Signposts were intermittently placed along the roads with comments such as: 'Rudeness is weak man's imitation of strength. Be polite & give way' & 'Plant trees, let the earth breath'  - all very inspiring. The Kumaon Regiment looks after the disputed border between India & China. Once at the top & with nothing much else to explore, we climbed into a share taxi heading for Ranikhet with ten other passengers & hurtled down the hill squashed in like sardines in a can. 

We struggled out of the jeep at The Ranikhet Club & spent a pleasant few hours sipping the recommended specialty 'Sydney Fizzes' on the veranda whilst dining on delicious Indian vegetarian dishes served on plates emblazoned with the club name (we paid Rs 50 each for temporary membership and weren't required to follow the strict dress code). We were the only guests. Ranikhet is not a birding spot as such, nevertheless it is an excellent and attractive hill station & is a good place to break the journey & spend a few days relaxing whilst checking out old Raj history en route to the High Himalayas.

Later that afternoon we managed to find a cyber café in the bazaar as well as the bus station. However on seeing the deplorable state of the local buses & knowing that the roads would be pretty terrifying we decided to splash out & hire a private car to take us to Kausani the next day.

Day 11 - Ranikhet - Kausani (1890M)

Our hired Suzuki arrived on time & we set off for Kausani along the narrow winding roads (Rs.700 for the journey - the bus costs Rs50)! The views were lovely, the road mostly ran through hills studded with quite prosperous looking houses surrounded by cultivated fields built in tiers down the sides of the hills. Although there were small areas of quite mature mixed forest in some places, the hillsides were mostly covered in conifers and since it was unlikely that we would find any new species of birds we didn't stop, just drove straight through.

Kausani is built on a ridge with views over both sides & sounded very pleasant in the guide-books, as indeed it was. We attempted to find a hotel recommended by the LP, but it seemed to be under renovation so we eventually followed a very enterprising young lad down a drive & checked into The Blossom Resort (Rs.200 per room, en-suite, bucket hot water). The 'hotel' consisted of two brightly painted bungalows, a small shack which turned out to be the kitchen, several other obscure huts & a flattened area that served as a badminton court. However, the views of the Himalayas, only 30kms away were superb, the bungalow was clean & cheap & the food was delicious.

We settled in & then walked along a side path up to the Govt. Tourist Bungalows a little further along the road. These were as usual, totally uninspiring and we were glad that we had chosen the 'Blossom' but we wanted to check them out anyway. We also wanted to find out about trekking in the Himalayas & we had been told that the government people were the ones to advise us. The manager was not much help but instructed us to travel to Bageshwar the next day where we could get more information. We spent the rest of the day investigating the mixed forest around the hotel. Luckily we wandered up along some of the sheep tracks because we found a fruiting tree & watched Dark-throated Thrushes & Rufous Sibias feeding on the fruit. Red-headed Vultures soared past us on the same level & all in all it was an extremely peaceful afternoon's birding.

Day 12 - Kausani - Bageshwar - Song - Lowarkhet (1750M)

We spent the day travelling, as the plan was get to the Pindari Valley as quickly as possible. Initially we walked to the bus stand at Kausani, then took a local bus to Bageshwar where we spoke to the manager of the Government Tourist Hotel who told us to take another local bus to Bharari where we could share a jeep to Song and from there hire a jeep to Lowarkhet where the tourist bungalow was situated. This worked smoothly and we arrived at Lowarkhet at about 2pm (the entire journey cost Rs266 - £3.40). No sooner had we stepped down from the jeep at Lowarkhet than a pleasant-looking man named Surish strolled over and asked us if we wanted a guide to take us up to the glacier. We negotiated a price and arranged for him to take us the following morning. We were really in a remote area now, the road up had wound along a valley many hundreds of feet above the Pindari River and we were staying in a pretty little rural village nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. Richard & I felt that we had arrived in the 'Real India', where people were friendly, generous and welcoming.

The Govt. Tourist Bungalow at Lowarkhet (Rs250, en suite with bucket hot water) was rather grubby and in the most abysmal state of repair, but we settled in and after organising a meal with the caretaker, set off up through the cultivated fields to check out the local birds. We had not gone more than 100 metres through the rice paddies when a male Black Francolin leapt out in front of us and gave excellent views as it ran uphill. Further up we had our first views of Yellow-billed Blue Magpie. The local people, who seem to be of a different ethnic origin, were quite shy but are friendly although obviously not used to Westerners - we have been told that we are only the second group of people to arrive this year (in fact we have not seen any Westerners since leaving Corbett). Apparently the snow up at the glacier was still a metre deep and we wouldn't be able to get to the top, however we were not concerned as we had not planned to trek to the top anyway. Surish, our guide had told us that Himalayan Monal can be found after only a day's walk so we planned to travel light and stay over at Dhakuri about 11 kms further (& 1080 metres higher in altitude) up the valley. After a couple of hours of birding, we headed back to our bungalow and sat on the veranda watching a pair of Spotted Forktails in the garden until the sun set and it got too cool to stay outside. Dinner at the local 'café' was excellent - and only Rs85 including eight hard-boiled eggs cooked to take with us the next the morning. Today, we had seen our first case of still-active leprosy - an old ex-army man who had passed us on one of the village paths. He had stumps for feet and walked with the help of sticks. Surish later told us that he took medicine provided by the local clinic intermittently but often forgot.

Day 13 - Lowarkhet to Dhakuri (2680M) - in the Pindari Valley

We set off with Surish our guide at 6am and it took us about 4 hours to reach our first 'chi' stop, a circle of stones made into rough seats with a lone man cooking parantha's, dahl, curried potatoes & boiled tea on an open fire. The view was stunning and the air beautifully fresh as we sat gazing at the magnificent views of the hazy valley far below. We set off again after this very welcome break. The path was steep but not difficult & just as we entered a large stand of crimson Rhododendrons, we suddenly found ourselves in amongst a wintering flock of birds. Several dozen species were identified in the course of the next half an hour as we followed the flock slowly up the mountain through the Rhododendrons. It was marvellous. Spotted, Streaked and Variegated Laughing Thrushes, White-collared Blackbird, Chestnut-tailed Minlas, several species of tit including Spot-winged & Grey-crested & Green-tailed Sunbird were all new for the trip. We also had Himalayan & Streak-throated Woodpeckers along this section of the path as well as a stunning male Red-flanked Bluetail. I have never seen so many Phyllosc. warblers at one time before.

After another couple of hours of hard walking, we finally reached the high pass. Rick had gone ahead during the bird wave & now Surish & I found him fast asleep in the sun on a comfortable rock, with a pair of Lammergiers circling lazily high overhead. The last kilometre down to Dhakuri passed through the remnants of what must have very recently been deep snow. Here several ancient bungalows sat on a flat area of grass also recovering from a long-term covering of snow. We ordered 'chi' and sat gazing in awe at the fabulous scenery surrounding us although it was hazy to the north and we could not see the peaks. Later, we showed the G & I field guide to the caretaker (who spoke no English) & he confirmed that Himalayan Monal could indeed be found up at the pass we had so recently walked over. He also showed interest in the illustrations of Snow Partridge & Himalayan Snowcock & indicated that they could be found further up towards the glacier. The Pindari Valley is relatively easy to access & would be an excellent site to explore on future visits. Today's walk up from Lowarkhet had taken around nine hours, including birding & food stops, but Surish told us that it was the most difficult section of the trek, the rest of the walk up to the top of the glacier was less strenuous.

The Dhakuri Govt. tourist Bungalow (Rs220, en suite room with bucket hot water) was again, pretty basic but it was for only one night and we coped with the aid of our whisky flask. They provided blankets (bed bugs included), firewood and very good food. We bought some wood and organised a fire to be built in the bungalow fireplace, moved the beds closer and sat huddled over the flames while we ate supper - cooked by the caretaker. That night we slept in every stitch of clothing we had brought with us including our fleeces, it was freezing. We were of course at an altitude of over 9,000+ feet, should have expected freezing temperatures & regretted leaving our warm sleeping bags down at Lowarkhet

Day 14 - The Return journey from Dhakuri to Lowarkhet

On venturing outside that morning we were amazed to see huge snow-capped mountains on the northern horizon. It was our first close view of the Himalayas & they were hugely tall at this distance virtually blocking out half the sky. Surish was able to name all the peaks & I wrote them down - Nanda Ghunti (6300M), Trishul (7120M), Mrig Thuni (6855M), Mak Toli (6805M), Nanda Devi (7816M) - the tallest in India, Nanda Devi East (7434M), and Nanda Khat (6611M). The ground had frozen over during the night & it was freezing but we breakfasted in the caretaker's smoke-blackened room by his cooking fire where it was warm & then set off back up to the pass.

At the top, through an ancient concrete arch, a path headed higher apparently leading to a temple. Leaving Surish with our backpacks we set off up this path and then after about 100M, we contoured around to the right. We had not gone more than another 50M through the mountain scrub forest when we flushed a brown bird with a small crest and white on its throat - a female Himalayan Monal. However once we had acceptable views we left this bird alone because we were concerned that it may have a nest and we didn't want to disturb it. We made our way back to the path and headed further up. After about another 300M we came to an open area of grassland and suddenly we saw some bright orange spots in the distance and raising our bin's we saw two most magnificent male Himalayan Monals standing in the short grass about 100M away. What a sight they were with the sun shining on their shimmering feathers which glinted blue and turquoise & orange as they slowly moved away from us, their crests blowing in the breeze. It was probably one of the best views I have ever had of a member of the elusive pheasant family & what splendid birds they were.

The rest of the day was an anti-climax after the morning sighting. We did not have any more wintering flocks, but it was a pleasant walk back down to Dhikala. The evening was spent dining at the same local café talking to some of the village residents & then we returned to our bungalow & fell asleep listening to a Mountain Scops Owl calling in the distance.

Day 15 Lowarkhet - Nainital (1938M)

After breakfast we started out carrying our backpacks down the mountain track & managed to find a jeep for hire at the village of Song. This took us to Bharari where we shared a jeep to Bageshwar. After a short wait at the bus stop outside the Govt. Tourist Hotel we caught a local bus to Almora and then shared a jeep with a couple of young men who were in a rush to get back to Delhi. This jeep was driven by a young madman who drove like a maniac along the narrow road which had horrendous precipices on one side dropping down to the river far below. Our 'journey from hell' finally ended at the road junction at Bhowali where we staggered shakily out of the jeep, waved goodbye with enthusiasm & then clambered straight into a final 'share jeep' arriving at Nainital just after dark.

The LP guide had given details of a hotel that had once been the palace of a Maharaja of Awagarh, so we decided that in view of the fact that we had been really roughing it for the last two weeks we would spoil ourselves & go and stay in The Palace Belvedere. We negotiated a good low season price with the man at the front desk who we assumed was the manager & moved into a comfortable suite of rooms for the price of about £18 a night for four nights (credit cards accepted). We later discovered that in fact he was the owner and also the grandson of the Maharaja of Awagarh. Ancient moth-eaten tiger & leopard skins adorned the walls of the wide halls. Servants wandered around in turbans & soft-soled shoes & one of them asked what time we wanted our hot water bottles! We settled in, took a long hot shower the first for weeks & went down to the dining room where we ordered dinner accompanied by two large bottles of Tiger beer. Utter bliss.

Day 16 Around Nainital

We spent the day strolling around Nainital, visiting the Cyber Café & then in the afternoon taking a walk up to the western end of the town where we checked out the alternative accommodation. Although this end is more birdy, none of the accommodation is as smart as the Palace Belvedere apart from the Balrampur House which is also an ex Maharaja's palace. We checked out the Swiss Hotel (cheap, but overpriced for what it was - basic) & the Vikram Vintage Inn - where the birding groups stay (nice, quite western, not cheap but very adequate). We also checked out various birding spots mentioned in S & K's book, but finally decided that Nainital at the end of the dry season is not a good birding destination. The undergrowth & watercourses were dry to the point of parched & we saw few species apart from a stunning Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler.

I have to say that Nainital was a disappointment, not just bird-wise but scenically as well. We had expected a charming hill station set in the foothills of the Himalayas around a lake, but what we found was a rather dilapidated Indian tourist town sprawled around a rather polluted lake. Tourist touts made going out stressful & the atmosphere was not particularly pleasant. 

Day 17 - Around Nainital - Cheena Peak

We left the hotel early and walked up past the Vikram Vintage Inn & onto the road to Kilbury. There were several paths off to the left which saved us having to walk on the road and when we again met the road the path to Cheena Peak was just a few metres away heading left from the U bend (signposted in Hindi only). Once we were walking through less disturbed forest we began to see a few birds - a glimpse of a covey of Hill Partridges, Yellow-crowned & Scaly-bellied Woodpeckers, Greater Yellownape & several Ultramarine Flycatchers. We reached the top of Cheena Peak & stopped for an omelette sandwich and chi at the Forestry hut nearby & then after gazing at the splendid views all around - the snow-capped Himalayas to the north & Nainital below (looking more attractive from 8,622 feet) - we continued on down the track. We passed through some old forest as well as tall pine plantations before finding ourselves back at the pass looking down on Nainital again. We continued walking down what was now a well-used track & this eventually ended up back at the top of the road near the Vikram Vintage Inn. Feeling hot & thirsty we stopped and had afternoon tea including delicious banana fritters - well worth the 50Rs (60P) they charged.  Other birding reports had mentioned that Cheer Pheasant can be seen on Cheena Peak but I guess we were too late in the season to see them & they had no doubt moved on to cooler altitudes.

Day 18 - Nainital - Sat Tal

The car we had booked through the hotel (very expensive - Rs1000 - for the day) was waiting for us & we set off at 6am for Sat Tal about 15Kms away. Initially, we sent the driver to have breakfast & walked down the road from the turnoff. We soon found an open grassy area on the right hand side of the road and explored it. We had Rubythroat but no accentors before carrying on down the road to another path that led left down to an area of cultivation. These are both shown on K & S's map. Apart from several species of Prinia & Spotted Forktail the area was quiet, however once we reached the mature forest further down the road we did see a number of new species for the list. The lakes were pretty & the area would no doubt be excellent in colder, wetter weather, but today with spring in the air & no rain for many months the area was tinder dry & the species count was low. We did find a very interesting path running from the dam down to a waterfall that looked very promising & would no doubt be excellent in winter, but apart from that Sat Tal was disappointing.

Day 19 - Nainital - Kaludhungi

Having done rather poorly at both Nainital & Sat Tal we decided to give the other area recommended by K & S - the Mongoli Valley - a miss & travel straight to Kaludhungi. This is the area where Jim Corbett, the famous tiger hunter had lived all those years ago, mostly during the winter when Nainital was too cold. I was carrying a report written by a birdwatcher named Christopher Salt who had recommended this area highly. We left the Palace Belvedere in the early morning & walked to the local bus stop at Tallital. Unfortunately once there we were told that in fact the bus went from Mallital. We hurriedly grabbed a taxi to the Mallital bus stop & caught the ancient local bus down the mountain road to Kaludhungi a journey of several hours. Once there, we spent some time at Jim Corbett's old home now turned into a museum. It was closed for renovation but the caretaker, realising how far we had come showed us around anyway. It was a lovely peaceful place set in a garden where English flowers still grew. We studied the hand painted maps on the wall of the old house & noted that many hundreds of humans were killed & eaten by tigers early in the 20th century, no wonder that Jim Corbett was still revered even to this day.

A local taxi then took us back along the road we had come for 2Kms to the Camp Corbett Resort (price negotiable but we paid Rs1400 for a 21/2 day stay including all meals, a pretty reasonable rate considering the usual charge). The owners, Suman & Ome Anand were a charming & sophisticated Indian couple who are environmentally aware & quite westernised having been educated in the UK. This was the local resort recommended in Christopher's report & on checking in we discovered that in fact Christopher Salt was actually in residence, an amazing coincidence since it was his first visit for a number of years. We settled in & then Chris took us for a walk around his 'patch' pointing out several interesting birds & telling us that he had seen over 300 species in the area during his many visits over the last twenty years. The habitat was a mixture of dry broad-leaved forest and scrubby secondary growth locally called bharbar & we did see quite a number of species including Indian Grey & Great Hornbill, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon & heard (but did not see) Great Slaty Woodpecker. Camp Corbett is built on the edge of the Boar River and apart from the substantial amount of water flowing in the river for that time of year there were also several old British-built catch-waters still in use for irrigation to local fields. Apparently there were three tigers living in the area but they were not man-eaters so for the next two days we unconcernedly wandered the area without feeling at all nervous (by this time in the trip we realised that it was much more likely that a tiger would see us long before we saw him & would move away unseen into the jungle). Chris did mention however that there was a child-eating leopard operating in the area around Pangot, a town on the north side of Corbett NP not far from Mohan where we had stayed two weeks earlier. It's interesting what you find out when mixing with the local population, Western tourists are usually blissfully ignorant of local news.   

Day 20 - Around Kaludhungi

This morning Chris again took us out, this time along & across the river and through a dry mixed forest to an open grassy area that is sometimes grazed by local herds of buffalo. Here we came across a fruiting tree & were able to get splendid views of Tickell's & Orange-headed Ground Thrush as well as several other species. We also had Brown-capped Woodpecker, Golden-spectacled Warbler & our only Lesser Whitethroat for the trip in the scrub along the river.

Day 21 - Kaludhungi - Delhi

Out again early, to walk along the river. When animals started alarming

Chris suggested that it was probably a leopard - this was more likely than a tiger he said. We didn't see either.

After lunch we spent a couple of pleasant hours visiting the Anand's house situated about 100M from the camp through the scrub. Here we were served tea and cakes whilst relaxing in their garden. We had arranged with Mrs Anand that she book the train journey back to Delhi for us as well as a taxi to the station, so that evening once the tickets had arrived and we had eaten a small supper, we said our goodbyes & set off towards Ramnagar. We had not gone more than ten miles when the van started to shudder & we stopped to find the back wheel had come loose. Our driver managed to borrow a spanner from a passing tractor & we set off once again for the station. A few miles further & now the engine started to cough and again the van came to a halt. This time we realised that it was not going to start, so we hailed several passing cars heading in the direction of Ramnagar & when the second one stopped our taxi driver explained our predicament to the driver. He immediately took it upon himself as a duty to 'guests in his country' to get us to the station in time for our train. Without further ado he threw our packs into the boot, we jumped in & he hurtled off at a furious pace towards Ramnagar. We made it in plenty of time and in the event the train was over an hour late so we did not need to have been concerned at all. The journey on the train, in a second-class sleeper, was extremely pleasant and comfortable and we managed several hours sleep before arriving at the Old Delhi station in the very early hours of the next morning.

Day 22 - Delhi

The train arrived at about 5am & after making our way through the hoards of people on the station nearly tripping over sleeping beggars sprawled haphazardly anywhere there was space, we hopped into a trishaw & set off through the tremendous crowds to the Pahar Ganj area of Delhi where we booked into the Metropolis Hotel & spent several more hours asleep in our sweltering room. At midday we took another trishaw to the Imperial Hotel where we dined in splendour in the main dining room amongst well-dressed 5 star types. We were wearing the cleanest of our trekking clothes but nevertheless felt quite scruffy. Both of us had contracted a mild form of 'Delhi belly' so after a quick shopping trip we returned to our room at the Metropolis & spent the day relaxing, only venturing out for a very basic supper sometime in the early evening.

Day 23 - Delhi - Muscat - Bahrain - London Heathrow

An uneventful journey back, we slept most of the way & I managed to get my checklist and diary up to date. England looked so well ordered and green from the plane.

Bird Species for the Trip

Indian Cormorant
Up to 10 at the Kosi River, Ramnager.

Great Cormorant
Four at the Kosi River, Ramnagar & up to 12 on the reservoir at Dhikala in the Corbett NP.

Oriental Darter
One seen on the reservoir at Dhikala.

Ruddy Shelduck
A pair in the Kosi River at Ramnagar.

Grey Heron
Up to six around the reservoir at Dhikala.

Great Egret
Seen in one's & two's in roadside fields & at the reservoir in the Corbett NP.

Little Egret
Up to six seen around the reservoir at Dhikala, also in roadside fields.

Intermediate Egret
Four seen in a field in Patwal's village near Ramnagar.

Cattle Egret
The most common egret, seen in every suitable habitat with up to 200 en route from Delhi to Ramnagar.

Indian Pond Heron
Up to four seen in roadside fields & around Patwal's village.

Striated Heron
One only, by the river at village across the river from Kumeria.

Eurasian Spoonbill
Eight feeding on the edge of the reservoir near Dhikala in Corbett NP.

Painted Stork
Six in roadside fields en route to Ramnagar.

Woolly-necked Stork
One only for the trip, at the reservoir in the Corbett NP.

Black-necked Stork
Two birds flying along the edge of the reservoir in Corbett NP.

Two birds at the main reservoir in Corbett NP.

Black-shouldered Kite
Ones & twos each day in Delhi, Ramnagar & Corbett NP.

Black Kite
Up to 300 around Delhi & up to 100 en route to Ramnagar. Also ones & twos in Rhanikhet, Kausani & Nainital.

Pallas's Fish Eagle
Two birds near the reservoir in the Corbett NP.

Lesser Fish Eagle
One near reservoir in Corbett NP & one on nest overlooking the Kosi River near Kumeria.

Three sightings of single birds on two days in the Pindari Valley.

Egyptian Vulture
One in Delhi, with up to 20 roosting in tree at Patwal's village near Ramnagar.

Himalayan Griffon
Singles seen at Mohan, Ranikhet & the Pindari Valley & 15 at the Chaubatia Army cantonment near Ranikhet.

Eurasian Griffon
One bird near Dhikala in the Corbett NP & possibly another at Kaludhungi.

Red-headed Vulture
Ones & twos in the Corbett NP & one at Kausani.

Cinereous (Black) Vulture
Ones & twos in the Corbett NP.

Crested Serpent Eagle
Up to five in the Corbett NP on two days. Also up to five at Kaludhungi.

Short-toed (Snake) Eagle
One bird near reservoir in the Corbett NP (identified by the guide).

Hen Harrier
One bird near the reservoir at Corbett NP.

A bird seen near Mohan was probably this species. Also a close view at Jim Corbett's house & one at Camp Corbett, Kaludhungi.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk
One bird in Corbett NP was the only sighting.

Greater Spotted Eagle
A bird seen at Kaludhungi was possibly this species.

Steppe Eagle
A bird at Corbett NP was identified as this species by the guide. The same species was seen on several other occasions at Ranikhet & Kausani.

Changeable Hawk Eagle
One bird at Kaludhungi was the only sighting.

Mountain Hawk Eagle
Two birds seen in the Pindari Valley were probably this species.

Common Kestrel
A bird seen en route from Lowarkhet to Nainital was the only sighting.

Black Francolin
A glimpse of one bird in the Corbett NP. Also an excellent view of a male in the cultivated fields at Lowarkhet village in the Pindari Valley.

Common Quail
A call heard in the Pindari Valley was probably this species.

Hill Partridge
A quick glimpse of two birds on the path to Cheena Peak was probably this species.

Koklass Pheasant
Four birds glimpsed in the Corbett NP.

Himalayan Monal
One female flushed near a path at 9000 feet near Dhakuri in the Pindari Valley. Also two splendid males in open grassland, a few hundred metres further up the same path.

Red Junglefowl
Singles & pairs with up to seven seen in Corbett NP. Also three at Mohan & up to five at Kaludhungi.

Kalij Pheasant
Two females in the Corbett NP. Also 2 pairs at Mohan, three males & one female from the jeep en route to Ranikhet & a pair on the lower slopes of the Pindari Valley.

Indian Peafowl
Up to five in the Corbett NP. Also five by the river at Mohan & several at Kaludhungi.

Yellow-legged Buttonquail
A female flushed on the road in the Corbett NP was either this species or Barred.

Brown Crake
Two birds seen feeding at the river edge in the Corbett NP.

White-breasted Waterhen
A single bird seen in a village near Kumeria was the only sighting.

Black-winged Stilt
15 at the Kosi river at Ramnagar & five the next day. Also three at the reservoir in the Corbett NP.

Common Redshank
One bird at the Kosi River, Ramnagar was the only sighting.

Common Greenshank
Two birds at the Kosi River, Ramnagar was the only sighting.

Wood Sandpiper
Up to eight birds at the Kosi River near Ramnagar.

Common Sandpiper
Up to four birds at the Kosi River, near Ramnagar.

Little-ringed Plover
Three birds on the reservoir edge in the Corbett NP.

Yellow-wattled Lapwing
Four birds from the bus en route to Ramnagar was the only sighting.

River Lapwing
Up to ten birds along the river near Ramnagar. Also seen in twos & threes in the Corbett NP & the Kosi River at Mohan & Kumeria.

Red-wattled Lapwing
Up to ten near Patwal's house, with up to five seen each day in the Corbett NP & singles along the river at Mohan & Kumeria.

Pallas's Gull
Three at the reservoir in the Corbett NP.

River Tern
At least four seen at a river crossing en route from Delhi to Ramnagar. Also several at the reservoir in the Corbett NP on two days. 

Rock Dove
Seen regularly each day in Delhi, Ramnagar, Ranikhet, Kausani, Nainital & Kaludhungi.

Oriental Turtle Dove
Several seen each day at Ranikhet & Nainital & Kaludhungi only.

Laughing Dove
Two at Patwal's village near Ramnagar was the only sighting.

Spotted Dove
Up to ten each day in the Corbett NP, Mohan & Kumeria. Pairs at Ranikhet & Kausani & up to five at Kaludhungi on two days.

Eurasian Collared Dove
Two at Ramnagar, four at Mohan & a single bird at Kausani.

Emerald Dove
Up to three in the Corbett NP on three days.

Yellow-footed Green Pigeon
A bird in Delhi & a distant pair in a village near Kumeria was probably this species. Three finally seen at close quarters at Kahudhungi.

Pin-tailed Green Pigeon
Two birds in trees on the upper Mohan forest road.

Rose-ringed Parakeet
Common & widespread in & near the Corbett NP & at Kaludhungi with up to 100 seen on one day at Corbett.

Slaty-headed Parakeet
Heard at Corbett, eight near the road en route to Ranikhet, five at Lowarkhet & six at Sat Tal.

Plum-headed Parakeet
Up to 20 seen each day in & near Corbett NP, up to 12 seen each day at Ranikhet, Kausani, and several seen at each day in the Pindari Valley, Sat Tal & Kaludhungi.

Red-breasted Parakeet
Heard at Corbett on several days & one seen at a village near Kumeria.

Sirkeer Malkoha
One bird in the scrub on the edge of the Kosi River was the only sighting.

Greater Coucal
One bird heard at Kaludhungi.

Lesser Coucal
One in the Corbett NP & one heard at Kaludhungi.

Mountain Scops Owl
A bird was heard on two nights at Lowarkhet in the Pindari Valley.

Oriental Scops Owl
One bird heard at Kaludhungi.

Indian Scops Owl
Several heard at Corbett, Mohan & Kaludhungi.

Tawny Fish Owl
A pair seen on broad daylight roosting in a tree near Kumeria was an excellent sighting.

Asian Barred Owlet
A bird seen hawking insects in the morning at Ranikhet. Also heard on several occasions in the early morning or early evening at Lowarkhet in the Pindari Valley.

Jungle Owlet
One bird heard in the early morning in the Corbett NP (identified by guide).

Spotted Owlet
One bird heard & seen without proper lighting in Patwal's village was the only sighting.

Grey Nightjar
Heard calling most of the night & several seen without light at Dhikala in the Corbett NP. Also heard at Mohan & Ranikhet, Lowarkhet & Kaludhungi.

Large-tailed Nightjar 

Heard at Dhikala on two nights & also at Kaludhungi.

Savannah Nightjar
One heard & one seen at Mohan village.

Crested Treeswift
Up to four in the Corbett NP & six on the upper Mohan Road.

Himalayan Swiftlet
At least three at Lowarkhet on two days.

White-rumped Needletail Zoonavena sylvatica
One bird in the Corbett NP was the only sighting.

Little Swift Apus affinis
Two over the river at Dhikala in the Corbett NP & up to five over the Nainital Lake.

Common Kingfisher
Several seen in the Corbett NP, also at Kaludhungi.

Stork-billed Kingfisher
Several along the Kosi River at Mohan & Kumeria. Also one at Kaludhungi.

White-breasted Kingfisher
Singles in the Corbett NP, along the Kosi River at Mohan & Kumeria, a pair at Nainital, one at Sat Tal & at Kaludhungi.

Crested Kingfisher
One in the Corbett NP & up to five along the Kosi River at the village near Kumeria.

Pied Kingfisher
Singles & up to three along the Kosi River near Ramnagar & Mohan.

Little Green Bee-eater
Singles at the Kosi River, Ramnagar & a flock of six in Corbett NP.

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
A flock of seven at Kaludhungi.

Indian Roller
Several each day at the Kosi River, Ramnagar & up to four in the Corbett NP on two days.

Eurasian Hoopoe
Three at the Kosi River, Ramnagar, several in Corbett NP & up to three at Sat Tal near Nainital.

Indian Grey Hornbill
A pair at Patwal's village, several pairs in the Corbett NP, Mohan & Ranikhet & up to four at Kaludhungi.

Great Hornbill
Heard & a glimpse of one bird at Corbett. Also Heard at Kumeria & up to four seen at Kaludhungi on three days.

Oriental Pied Hornbill
Heard in Corbett NP with a glimpse of a pair at Kaludhungi.

Great Barbet
Fairly common & widespread, mostly heard but several seen in every area except Kaludhungi.

Brown-headed Barbet
Five seen on the road near Mohan, also heard at Kumeria & Kausani.

Lineated Barbet
Heard in the Corbett NP, & several seen & heard each day at Kaludhungi.

Blue-throated Barbet
Heard in the Corbett NP, Mohan, Nainital & Kaludhungi & seen at Sat Tal.

Coppersmith Barbet
Heard at Kaludhungi.

Brown-capped Woodpecker
Singles at Kaludhungi on two days.

Grey-capped Woodpecker
A male in the Corbett NP, up to three at Mohan on two days & singles at Kaludhungi on two days.

Brown-fronted Woodpecker
A single bird at Corbett was the only sighting.

Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker
At least two in the Corbett NP & a single at Mohan.

Yellow-crowned Woodpecker
Up to four at Ranikhet on three days, two at Kausani & a pair at Sat Tal.

Rufous-bellied Woodpecker
A male at Lowarkhet & a pair at Cheena Peak, Nainital.

Himalayan Woodpecker
A male in the Pindari Valley & a pair at Cheena Peak.

Rufous Woodpecker
A pair in the Corbett NP was the only sighting.

Greater Yellownape
Singles at Ranikhet, the Pindari Valley, Sat Tal & pairs at Kaludhungi on two days.

Streak-throated Woodpecker
A female at the pass just above Dhakuri in the Pindari Valley was the only sighting.

Scaly-bellied Woodpecker
A single bird near the top of Cheena Peak was the only sighting.

Grey-headed Woodpecker
Singles & pairs in the Corbett NP. Also singles at Mohan & Kumeria.

Himalayan Flameback
A pair in the Corbett NP & one at Kaludhungi.

Black-rumped Flameback
A glimpse of a bird in the Corbett NP was probably this species.

Greater Flameback
A single bird at Kaludhungi was the only sighting.

Great Slaty Woodpecker
Three birds heard but not seen, at Kaludhungi.

White-browed Fantail
Several seen in the Corbett NP.

Asian Paradise Flycatcher
One white-phase male in the scrub by the river at Kaludhungi.

Black Drongo
Singles & up to three seen in the Corbett NP, Kausani, Nainital & Kaludhungi.

Ashy Drongo
Up to three at Kaludhungi on two days.

Bronzed Drongo
Two at Sat Tal and up to five at Kaludhungi on two days.

Hair-crested Drongo
A distant bird in Corbett & a single bird at Kaludhungi were the only sightings.

Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
A single bird from the forest road near Mohan. Also two at Kaludhungi.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Two at Kaludhungi was the only sighting.

Black-headed Jay
Common in the hills around Ranikhet, (& at Holm Farm & Chaubatia). Up to 15 in the Pindari Valley with singles at Lowarkhet, Nainital & Sat Tal.

Yellow-billed Blue Magpie
Several seen in higher altitudes en route to Kausani & in the Pindari Valley.

(Red-billed) Blue Magpie
Fairly common at Ranikhet, Kausani & Nainital.

Rufous Treepie
A single at Patwal's village. Singles & pairs also at Ramnagar, Corbett NP, Mohan, Ranikhet & Kaludhungi.

Grey Treepie
Singles at Ranikhet & Lowarkhet in the Pindari Valley.

House Crow
Common around Delhi. Singles seen at the riverside temple at Kumeria & at Sat Tal.

Large-billed Crow
Common & widespread. At least five birds seen each day everywhere except Delhi.

Common Iora
Common at Kaludhungi with up to five birds seen on two days.

Black-hooded Oriole
Pairs seen in the Corbett NP and a single at Kaludhungi.

Rosy Minivet
A male in the Corbett NP was the only sighting.

Small Minivet
A flock of six at Kaludhungi.

Long-tailed Minivet
Pairs in the Corbett NP & in the Pindari Valley on two days.

Scarlet Minivet
Fairly common in the Corbett NP with flocks of up to 20. Smaller flocks also at Mohan, Ranikhet, Kausani, Sat Tal & Nainital.

Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike
Singles at Mohan, Sat Tal & Kaludhungi.

Golden-fronted Leafbird
A male in the Corbett NP, also pairs & a single at Kaludhungi.

Long-tailed Shrike
Up to six each day in the Corbett NP, also singles & pairs in fields along the roadside & at Sat Tal & Kaludhungi.

Large Woodshrike
At least one at Kaludhungi.

Common Woodshrike
A pair at Kaludhungi was the only sighting.

Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush
A pair feeding fledglings on the top of Cheena Peak was the only sighting.

Blue Whistling Thrush
Common & widespread. Up to five seen each day everywhere except Delhi.

Orange-headed (Ground) Thrush
One male at a fruiting tree in Kaludhungi was the only sighting for the trip.

Tickell's Thrush
Several seen each day at Kaludhungi with at least 15 in a fruiting tree.

White-collared Blackbird
Singles, both male & female in the Pindari Valley, also a female on Cheena Peak.

Grey-winged Blackbird
A male searching for worms in a patch of cultivation at Mohan was the only sighting.

Dark-throated Thrush
Three in Corbett NP & over 20 in a fruiting tree at Kausani.

Mistle Thrush
At least three birds near Dhakuri in the Pindari Valley.

Brahminy Starling
Ten birds in Patwal's village near Ramnagar was the only sighting.

Asian Pied Starling
At least 20 birds in Patwal's village was the only sighting.

Common Myna
Common & widespread, seen everywhere except Kaludhungi.

Bank Myna
Up to 20 in & around Ramnagar.

Jungle Myna
Up to five in Ramnagar & in Corbett NP.

(Rusty) Rufous-tailed Flycatcher
A bird seen in the unkempt church garden in Nainital was probably a male of this species.

Slaty Blue Flycatcher
A glimpse of a female seen Sat Tal was either this species or a male Rusty-tailed Flycatcher (as above).

Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher
Singles on the road near Mohan & in the village across the river from Kumeria. Also up to three in the Pindari Valley on two days & one male at Sat Tal.

Snowy-browed Flycatcher
A single bird low in the forest on the upper Mohan Road.

Ultramarine Flycatcher
Up to three around Nainital & several en route to Cheena Peak.

Verditer Flycatcher
Singles & up to three seen nearly every day (except in Delhi) with at least six on the Cheena Peak walk.

Blue-throated Flycatcher
A female in Nainital & another at Kaludhungi were the only sightings.

Rufous-bellied Niltava
Two at Mohan on two days. Also a single at Kaludhungi.

Grey-headed (Canary) Flycatcher
Fairly common & widespread, singles & up to six seen or heard each day in all areas (except Delhi).

White-tailed Rubythroat
A bird in the scrub by the river in the Corbett NP was the only sighting.

Siberian Rubythroat
A bird at the Kosi River near Ramnagar & another in scrub at Sat Tal.

Orange-flanked Blue Robin
Singles & up to three at Chaubatia near Ranikhet, the Pindari Valley & around Nainital.

Oriental Magpie Robin
A male in the village across the river from Kumeria was the only sighting.

White-rumped Shama
A single bird at Kaludhungi was the only sighting.

Indian Robin
Two males & a female in the scrub by the Kosi River near Ramnagar.

Black Redstart
A male & a female at Kausani were the only sightings.

Blue-capped Redstart
A pair on the roadside at high altitude en route to Ranikhet.

White-capped Redstart
Common in one's & two's along most flowing rivers in all areas except Kaludhungi.

Plumbeous Water Redstart
As common as White-capped Redsart & seen in the same habitat in all areas except Nainital & Kaludhungi.

Little Forktail
A single bird on a small roadside waterfall at high altitude en route to Ranikhet. Might have been more common except that most watercourses were dried up.

Spotted Forktail
Pairs in a village up the mountain road from Mohan, at Lowarkhet in the Pindari valley on three days & a single at Sat Tal.

Common Stonechat
Up to four seen on most days in areas of cultivation or scrub by rivers.

White-tailed Stonechat
A male in the cultivated field at Lowarkhet was the only sighting for the trip.

Pied Bushchat
Fairly common & widespread in all open areas with up to 20 in the Corbett NP.

Grey Bushchat
Not quite as common as Pied Bushchat, seen in smaller numbers in all areas except Kaludhungi where there were no sightings.

Indian Brown Rockchat
Two birds seen on rooftops in Ramnagar was the only sighting.

Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch
Singles, with up to four birds in Corbett NP, Mohan & Ranikhet. Also a single at Sat Tal.

White-tailed Nuthatch
Singles & pairs at Mohan, Kumeria, the Pindari Valley & Kaludhungi. Also four on the Cheena Peak walk.

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch
Four birds on the upper Mohan forest road.

A male on a roadside wall in Lowarkhet was the only sighting.

Bar-tailed Treecreeper
Up to five birds each day at Mohan, Kumeria, Kausani, Ranikhet & Cheena Peak.
Black-throated Tit
Up to eight birds seen each day in the higher altitudes in Ranikhet, Kausani, the Pindari Valley & Cheena Peak.

Plain Martin
Up to five each day in the Corbett NP.

Barn Swallow
Fairly common in Ranikhet & Kausani where nests were already occupied. Also a single at Sat Tal.

Red-rumped Swallow
Several in Corbett NP. Also small numbers at Ranikhet, Kausani & Sat Tal.

Black-crested Bulbul
A single in Corbett NP & up to five each day at Kaludhungi.

Red Whiskered Bulbul
Up to six at Kaludhungi on two days.

Himalayan Bulbul
Fairly common in small numbers in all areas except Delhi.

Red-vented Bulbul
The most common bulbul, seen in good numbers in all areas (except Delhi) with up to 50 in Corbett NP on one day.

Ashy Bulbul
A pair at Mohan was the only sighting.

Black Bulbul
Small flocks at Mohan, Ranikhet, Kausani, the Pindari Valley & Cheena Peak.

Oriental White-eye
Seen in small parties in most areas (except Delhi) on most days.

Grey-breasted Prinia
A single at Lowarkhet. Also up to eight in riverside scrub at Kaludhungi on two days.

Jungle Prinia
A single bird at Sat Tal was the only sighting.

Ashy Prinia
Several birds seen each day in the Corbett NP.

Plain Prinia
Up to four birds seen each day in the Corbett NP. Also singles in roadside cultivation on two journeys.

Aberrant Bush Warbler
Singles seen or heard each day in the Corbett NP only.

Common Tailorbird
Singles or pairs seen each day in Ramnagar, Corbett NP, Mohan & several at Kaludhungi.

Dusky Warbler
Singles at Sat Tal & Kaludhungi on three days.

Buff-barred Warbler
Two on the forest road at Mohan was the only sighting.

Tickell's Leaf Warbler
Up to three in the higher altitudes of the Pindari Valley.

Ashy-throated Warbler
Fairly common in the higher altitudes in the Pindari Glacier & at Cheena Peak.

Humes Leaf Warbler
Probably the most common warbler, at least ten almost every day in most areas except Kaludhungi.

Greenish Warbler
Several identified each day in most areas. Phylloscopus warblers were so common & numerous that it became tiresome to try & identify all sightings.

Western Crowned Warbler
Several birds looking like dull Blyth's seen at Nainital & Kaludhungi were possibly this species.

Lesser Whitethroat
A single bird at Kaludhungi was the only sighting.

Golden-spectacled Warbler
Only two sightings of this charming little bird, one at Mohan & one at Kaludhungi.

Grey-hooded Warbler
Small numbers in most areas except Kaludhungi.

White-throated Laughing Thrush
Three at the Chaubatia Army camp & five in the Pindari Valley.

White-crested Laughing Thrush
Small flocks in the Corbett NP, at Mohan & Ranikhet.

Spotted Laughing Thrush
A quick glimpse of a single bird in a mixed flock half way up the Pindari valley was the only sighting.

Streaked Laughing Thrush
The most common laughing thrush, seen singly or in small groups at Ranikhet, Kausani, the Pindari Valley, Nainital & Sat Tal.

Variegated Laughing Thrush
Six in a mixed flock half way up the Pindari Valley & several seen the next day in the same area.

Puff-throated Babbler
A glimpse of a single bird in low bushes at Kaludhungi was the only sighting.

Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler
Fairly common in Corbett NP. Also seen & heard at Nainital & Sat Tal.

Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler
A lucky sighting of one bird off the side of a high altitude road en route to Ranikhet was the only bird for the trip.

Black-chinned Babbler
Singles & small flocks seen in Corbett NP, Mohan, Ranikhet & six at Sat Tal.

Jungle Babbler
The most common babbler, seen in groups of up to12 in the Corbett NP, Mohan, Ranikhet, Kausani, Sat Tal, Nainital & Kaludhungi.

Red-billed Leothrix
Six in Mohan Village, a feeding party of nine at Sat Tal & several at Kaludhungi on two days.

Chestnut-tailed Minla
Several birds in a mixed flock in the Rhododendrun stands higher up in the Pindari valley.

White-browed Fulvetta
Four birds in the same mixed flock as the Minlas.

Rufous Sibia
A single bird at Ranikhet, several at Chaubatia, several also in the mixed flock higher up in the Pindari Valley & a large party on the Cheena Peak walk near Nainital.

Spot-winged Tit
Several birds in the mixed flock in the higher altitudes in the Pindari Valley, also a pair collecting nesting material there. Several also at higher altitudes on the Cheena Peak walk.

Grey-crested Tit
Several birds in the mixed flock at a higher altitude in the Pindari Valley & also at Cheena Peak.

Great Tit
Pairs or small parties seen regularly in lower altitude areas - Corbett, Mohan, Ranikhet, Kausani & Kaludhungi.

Green-backed Tit
Seems to replace Great Tit at higher altitudes although some crossover. Several each day at Ranikhet, Kausani, the Pindari Valley & Cheena Peak.

Black-lored Tit
A middle to high altitude bird, seen at Ranikhet, Kausani, the Pindari Valley, Cheena Peak but one bird also at Kaludhungi (low altitude).

Oriental Skylark
Up to ten birds on the open grassland at the western end of the reservoir in the Corbett NP was the only sighting.

House Sparrow
Common & widespread in small numbers around towns, although none seen in the Pindari Valley or at Kaludhungi.

Russet Sparrow
Seems to replace House Sparrow at higher altitudes. Pairs at Ranikhet, Kausani, Lowerkhet & in the Pindari Valley.

Chestnut-shouldered Petronia
Up to four birds on two days at Kaludhungi.

Red Avadavat
A flock of ten in the grasslands near the reservoir in the Corbett NP.

White Wagtail
Very common near the Kosi River at Ramnagar & Mohan with up to 20 each day. Also fairly common in the Corbett NP & in cultivated fields en route to Ranikhet.

White-browed Wagtail
Singles & pairs along the Kosi river near Ramnagar, Mohan & Kumeria & the Boar River at Kaludhungi.

Citrine Wagtail
A stunning male on the river bank at Ramnagar was the only sighting.

Grey Wagtail
Singles & pairs along rivers & streams in most areas.

Paddyfield Pipit
Flocks of pipits in the grassland around the reservoir in the Corbett NP were probably this species.

Long-billed Pipit
Four birds on the track through the grasslands in Corbett NP were identified by the guide as this species.

Olive-backed Pipit
A pair in scrub by the Kosi River at Mohan & a single in a field near Holm Farm, Ranikhet were the only sightings.

Rufous-breasted Accentor
A single bird at Sat Tal was the only sighting.

Thick-billed Flowerpecker
Several glimpses of birds at Kaludhungi were probably this species.

Pale-billed Flowerpecker
Singles at Nainital, Sat Tal & Kaludhungi.

Black-throated Sunbird
A male at Sat Tal was the only sighting for the trip.

Purple Sunbird
The most common of this species. Up to 10 at Ramnagar, Singles or pairs each day in lower altitude areas - Mohan, Kumeria, Sat Tal & Kaludhungi.

Green-tailed Sunbird
A single male & two the next day at higher altitudes in the Pindari Valley were the only sightings.

Crimson Sunbird
A male in the Corbett NP, another at Mohan, & up to four each day at Kaludhungi.

Yellow-breasted Greenfinch
Up to eight each day in the Pindari Valley & several at Sat Tal.

European Goldfinch C. c. canipes
A flock of up to 40 birds at Kausani was the only sighting of this interesting sub species.

Common Rosefinch
Three birds at Sat Tal was the only sighting.

Pink-browed Rosefinch
Singles & a pair at Ranikhet & a pair at Kausani were the only sightings.

Crested Bunting
A single stunning male in full summer plumage at a village across the Kosi River from Kumeria was the only sighting.

Rock Bunting
Several birds at the side of the road en route to Kausani & two in the Pindari Valley were the only sightings.

Mammal species for the Trip

Indian Elephant
Golden Jackal Carnis aureus
Rhesus Macaque Macaca milatta
Common (Black-faced) Langur Presbytis entellus
Wild Boar Sus scrofa
Spotted Deer (Chital) Carvus axis
Sambar Deer Cervus unicolor
Hog Deer Carvus porcinus
Barking Deer Muntiaccus muntjak
Mugger Crocodile Crocodylys palustris
Gharial Crocodile Gavialis gangetius
Mongoose sp.

Useful Addresses

Metropolis Hotel - Delhi                          
1634-35 First floor, Main Bazaar,              
Pahar Ganj,                                                   
New Delhi - 110055                        
Tel: 235 85766

Hotel Meghdoot - Ranikhet
The Mall
Ranikhet - 263645
Tel: (05966) 20474/20568

Blossom Hotel - Kausani
Kausani Estate,
Disst Bageshwar,

The Palace Belvedere - Nainital           
Awagarh Estate,                                          
Mallital, Nainital,                                           
Uttranchal - 263 001                                   
Tel: (91) (5942) 37434                                

Camp Corbett Wilderness Resort
Corbett Nagar
UP, India

Our Guide in The Pindari Valley
Village Chur Baligin
Post Lowarkhet,
Distt Bageshwar, PN 263679, UA India.

Our Guide at Corbett NP             
Meharban Singh Patwal.                
Address: Village Puchhari,
PO Ramnagar, Distt Nainital,         
UA, India. Tel. 253480.                    
Patwal's relatives don't speak English - the simplest way is to ask for him outside the Govt. Tourist Office at Ramnagar.



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