Visit your favourite destinations
|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Northern India, March 23rd - April 14th 2004,
This report describes our trip to India in spring 2004. This trip included three parts: the first six days a kind off extended twitch trying to see some highly desired species we missed during our previous trip to Northwest India in 2001, then the second part, a five day stay at Rhantambhor to try to see some mammals (mostly for tiger of course) and the fort and the third part, eleven days in Darjeeling and Lava in West Bengal. The ‘needed’ or better, hoped for species in the first part were sind sparrow, Indian courser, Indian skimmer. Tickel’s thrush, Marshall’s iora and hume’s short-toed lark.
This was our third visit to India after Goa in 1998 and the among birders regular circuit in the Northwest in 2001. Both these trips were very successful and a good introduction to the Indian birds and culture. As we both liked India a lot, we decided that we would give it another try. We wanted to visit the Northeast with places like Namdapha, Kaziranga and Manas etc. but this proved impossible in the short time available for both the planning as the trip itself. After some reading the combination Lava and Darjeeling came up and after we learned about the fabulous birds possible there, we started planning. Then came the realisation that we would have time left to try to see Indian Courser, Indian Skimmer and even sind sparrow. So with only a few extra days added, a full programme was finished.
The logistics for the first part of the trip were done by a local company, Asian Adventures, which we had hired before in 2001. They arranged our accommodation and a car with a really great driver for the trip from Delhi to Delhi. They also arranged part of the last two days at Delhi. The first part was very well organised and went very smoothly. Also the cost was reasonable; € 880 for these first 13 days. This was not the case with the cost for the last one and a half day at Delhi. We felt that we were charged an absurd amount (almost € 200) for the services delivered. We do not know if this was arranged by the company or by their contact person whom we met at our hotel. If not for this experience, we would recommend Asian Adventures very strongly.
The rest of the trip was not arranged beforehand. We had booked the ticket
Delhi - Bagdogra at home. For our transport there we used public transport, taxis or hitched. Both at Lava as in Darjeeling was plenty accommodation and restaurants so no trouble or need to book beforehand.
We flew to New Delhi from Amsterdam via Vienna with Air Austria for € 660 return. Total time flying was about 10 hours. The flight New Delhi - Bagdogra v.v. was done with Jet Airways for € 300 return.
Service on board on the Austrian flights was good. The only disadvantage was the 8 hour stopover on our way back in Vienna. We took a train to the city and made a long walk along the various monuments and the Donau.
The time difference India - The Netherlands was 4,5 hours. India is completely within one time zone. This means that, compared with New Delhi, it gets light very early at Lava.
You must have a visa for India. We got ours at the consulate at The Hague for € 50 each. The process took 2 days but can be done in 1 day if you get there early enough. A thing to remember is that your passport must be valid for 6 months after your visit to India!
The local currency is the Rupee (Rs) and during our visit the rate hovered at Rs 52 to 54 for 1 euro. We took only cash as we did not need very much money as most of our accommodation and car/driver were paid beforehand. There are more and more ATM's in India nowadays but we did not try any.
Personal safety is not really a problem in India. Theft and other crimes directed at tourists are rare. Petty thefts occur when you are not careful enough with your stuff but, with care, should not be a problem. We never felt unsafe.
The most serious risk is traffic. Traffic is a serious matter in India. The average speed is low due to the continues congestion of the streets and the complete neglect of any rule. Do not be too surprised when you see cars, trucks etc driving towards you on your lane. Overtaking is possible anywhere, anytime even if you think (or know!) that it is not. Then of course there are the cows which wander around at will and love to take a nap at a busy crossing etc.
Just remember the rule: the biggest car goes first. Just sit back, relax and try to enjoy it. That said, we were very happy with our driver Sibi. He drove very carefully but always using every opportunity to gain an inch. I would not recommend driving yourself.
Personal health is another thing to take serious in India. Almost all travellers get ill during the trip due to the low standard of hygiene. Alma lost almost 1,5 day this trip due to a light food poisoning. I myself escaped this trip. Still it's best to be careful with food that is not well cooked, ice, unbottled water etc.
There were loads of mosquitoes at Sultanpur, Bharatpur and Chambal. Although we normally avoid Malaria tablets (I got very sick because of these in Thailand) we took them this time and I'm glad we did because of the big number of bites we received. Otherwise we did not have any problems with insects and other critters. Alma got 1 leech at Lava and we saw a few more.
Be sure that your vaccinations are up to date. Consult a doctor for this. Things are changing constantly. I thought we would not need anything but due to new insights some previous injections were only valid for 10 instead of 15 years.
In the lowlands it was hot and I do mean HOT! In Delhi and Rhantambhor temperatures soared over 40 C most days and reached 45 on some. This meant that in the lowlands we birded most days from before sunrise till about 10 or 11 and then from 15.30 again. Some days we continued during the day and this was surprisingly productive some days. Humidity was low, about 15%, so the heat was bearable most days. We did not encounter rain, or for that matter, clouds in the lowlands.
In Lava and Darjeeling we had often very low clouds in the afternoon and sometimes during the whole day. This fog meant poor visibility on several days. At Lava we lost about 1 to 3 hours each day because of this and at Tiger Hill we encountered dense fog for most of the time. Temperature was between 10 and 20 C.
We had some drizzle on two days and one spectacular rainstorm one afternoon which lasted way into the next morning. We've never seen so much lightning’s in so short a time.
To plan our trip we used Kazmiercak's A birdwatchers guide to India with additional information from tripreports from Henk Hendriks, Jan Vermeulen and Phil Benstead. All these are at the web, for instance at www.birdtours.co.uk.
As fieldguides we used the compact edition of Grimmit, Inskip & Inskip and the Kazmiercak and Van Perlo guides. We liked both. The first for the plates and the second for the maps and information of the calls and sometimes typical habits. Unfortunately you need the combination of the books for several speciesgroups.
For mammals we brought: Fieldguide to the mammals of the Indian Subcontinent' by K.K. Gurung and Raj Singh but in Bharatpur we came across the new fieldguide to Indian mammals' by Vivek Menon which we liked much more. Although it is a photo guide it's very useful and gives a lot of information. And it contains most of the bats, smaller rodents and sea mammals.
Almost all the locations we visited are well described in Krys Kazmierczak's birdfinding guide and, as this is an essential book which I assume every would-be India visitor has, I will not repeat this information. The only exceptions were Sonepat and Chambal River.
This is a town about 40 km North of New Delhi. It is easily visited from Delhi or as a stop on the way North to, for instance, Harike. This site got famous when local birder Suresh Sharma discovered breeding Sind Sparrows there some 3 years ago. This was way outside the therefore known breeding range which was mostly confined to Pakistan and around Harike in India. The birds breed at Sonepat in babultrees along the canals that bring water from the Himalaya to Delhi.
Now that the site is more often visited more and more good birds are discovered and it is not unusual to see over 120 species in a single morning. Besides the canals and the vegetation along their banks the area consists mostly of agricultural field, seasonal marshes and small patches of scrub. We spend the biggest part of a morning there and saw about 100 species including 3 lifers.
This site is about 60 km South of Agra. It can be visited as a daytrip from New Delhi (not recommended as it is a very long drive) or from Agra. Recently a lodge, the Chambal Safari Lodge, opened about 20 km from the river. We had lunch there and made a walk around the premises. The grounds were quite birdy. The lodge consists of an old (over 100 years) farm that is being transformed in a dining room. Accommodation is in the form of small bungalows about 100 m from the main building. I guess that staying there is a very nice experience but as we had not heard of it before, we had booked a hotel in Agra.
The birding is done on a wide stretch of the Chambal River about 30 minutes from the lodge. Due to it's high population of both muggar and gharial crocodiles and all of the typical river birds, the river is a sanctuary.
There is a small boat available for trips upriver. The river is quite wide, has many sandbanks and rocky plateaus and a good waterplantvegetation. The water was very clear and you could look quite deep in the water. Our trip was great with the only disappointment that it was too short, just 2 hours. We would have loved to double that. Besides the crocs, there's Gangetic dolphin, breeding river, black-bellied and little terns and the main attraction, a regular flock of up to 60 Indian skimmers. There is just one 'but', go there before the second half of March as the skimmers leave early to breed upriver and your chances of seeing them get much lower. Also the lodge closes from April 1st. Their address is: www.chambalsafari.com
22 flight from Amsterdam through Vienna to New Delhi
23 New Delhi a.m Sonepat, p.m. Sultanpur
25 Sultanpur to Chambal, p.m. boattrip Chambal River
26 a.m. Agra: Taj Nature Walk p.m. Bharatpur
29 a.m. to Rhantambhor p.m. Rhantambhor
31 a.m. Mansarowar p.m. Rhantambhor
1 a.m. Soorwal p.m. Rhantambhor
3 Rhantambhor > Jaipur > New Delhi
4 flight New Delhi > Bagdogra p.m. Lava
5 Lava: Algarah road
6 Lava: Algarah road
7 Lava: Neora Vally
8 Lava: Algarah road
9 a.m. Lava to Darjeeling p.m. Darjeeling
10 a.m. Tiger Hill p.m. Darjeeling
11 a.m. Tiger Hill p.m. Darjeeling
12 a.m. Darjeeling > Bagdogra p.m. flight Bagdogra > New Delhi
13 Tourist tour Old en New Delhi
14 a.m. Okhla p.m. Tughlaqabad
15 flight New Delhi > Vienna, visit Vienna, flight Vienna > Amsterdam
March 23 Sonepat
We arrived at Delhi at 00.10, met our driver and were brought to our hotel for a very short night.
At 6 our driver Sibi picked us up and we left for Sonepat. The first part of the drive was quite dull with only roadside thrash such as red-vented bulbul, rose-ringed parakeet, common and bank myna, cattle egret, red-wattled lapwing, Eurasian collared dove and white-throated kingfisher. The only unexpected sighting were 2 lesser whistling ducks flying by.
At Sonepat we met our guide and soon left to the area where the Sind sparrows had been seen before. By now it was already obvious that it would be a hot trip. Summer was very early this year and temperatures much higher then usual at this time of year. Still the landscape looked very green and fertile. This is due to the almost endless water supply from the Himalayas. We first passed some places, including our first sparrownest, we would bird later. We started birding some canals and adjacent scrubby area's. Highlights were: red-naped Ibis, wryneck, black-necked stork, sarus crane, black-crowned night-heron, streak-throated swallows, striated babbler, white-browed wagtail and streaked weaver. Despite checking most regular sites, we failed to turn up any Sind sparrows. After a second area with no glory we went back to the main road where we had passed a nest on the way in. Here we scored; within minutes we were looking at a fine pair of Sind sparrows feeding in roadside bushes. This minute sparrow is better looking and even more distinctive then illustrated in the various books.
After this success we drove along another canal back to town. Along this canal we had more Sind sparrows, a pair of brown fish-owls sitting in the open, a woolly-necked stork and some forestbirds like '>peckers and barbets. Our last stop was at some fallow fields just outside town where recently a recordflock of 69 yellow-wattled plovers was found. We did not see that many but within 10 minutes we saw over 12 and our target Bengal bushlark. This bird was singing from a pole allowing close study of it's plumage and song. Besides this lark there were also some Hume’s and Indian bushlarks around.
After dropping our guide we left for Sultanpur where we arrived after 16.00h. After checking in we wandered around the restaurant/cottages seeing, amongst others, Hume’s warbler, Asian paradise flycatcher, spotted owlet, lots of peafowl and lots of parakeets. Best was a jungle cat which wandered a few minutes over the bund around the jheel.
March 24 Sultanpur
This day was spend at Sultanpur. In the morning we walked the bund around the jheel clockwise and, after a brunch and a rest, in the afternoon anti-clockwise for about a third of it's length. This way we had much better light to look at the ducks and waders on the remaining water. Amazingly, there was more water now, way in the dry season, then during our previous trip in November 2001. At that time there was almost no water. Now there was water all around the main island and some smaller pools along the bund. Consequently, there were much more birds now. On the various pools and ponds we saw purple and grey herons, cattle, little, intermediate and great egrets and pond heron. All off these proved common later during the trip on the larger water bodies. Nice were 4 species of stork: painted, openbill, woolly-necked and black-necked and a small group of 5 common cranes.
Other species seen included Eurasian spoonbill, a flock of 400 bar-headed geese, black-shouldered kite, oriental honey-buzzard, peregrine, purple gallinule, yellow-footed pigeon, common hawk-cuckoo, brown fish owl, yellow-crowned woodpecker, Indian roller, black-rumped flameback, long-billed pipit, southern grey shrike and lots of regular ducks and waders.
The highlight of the morning was a short detour from the bund into the dry farmlands south of the Jheel. Here we saw one of our favourite birds of the trip: Indian courser. Within seconds of getting into the fields we saw a small flock of 4 and careful scanning yielded 8 more! We enjoyed them a long time and decided not to enter the flats proper as not to disturb these wonderful birds. So we only checked for larks from the edge and saw Indian bushlark, oriental skylark, crested, short-toed and ashy-crowned sparrow-larks. Nice was a small flock of 12 rosy starlings migrating past us.
Just before we went back to the track, 2 chestnut-bellied sandgrouse flew by and landed at a quite far pool to drink. The afternoon trip did not bring new birds but better views of some species and good views of the local nilgai.
March 25 Chambal
We left early for the long and quite boring drive to the Chambal Safari Lodge. This ride took about 8 hours with some stops. Nothing unusual was seen and we were glad to arrive at the lodge for a late lunch. Here too it was awfully hot and therefore the manager had arranged the boattrip for 15.30. So we had a few hours to kill. After lunch we rested a bit but soon started to wander around the buildings finding a good flock of flying foxes, both red-throated and red-breasted flycatchers and our only blue-tailed bee-eaters of the trip, 3 flying over.
Finally we left for the boattrip accompanied by our driver, the local guide and someone from the park staff with a very old rifle. To protect us from the crocs? After arriving at the river we immediately were stunned by the number of birds; there were singing sand larks, river lapwings, dark-backed citrine wagtails, several black-bellied and many river terns, great thicknee's, loads of garganeys, little and temminck's stints and many more! Soon we piled into the boat with two extra men and started looking for skimmer. The river is quite wide with several sandbanks and rocks in the water. On these there were lots of gharials and smaller numbers of muggar crocodiles and big turtles. Birds were also around with displaying bonelli's eagles, pied kingfishers, red-crested pochard, pheasant-tailed jacana's, sarus cranes, little terns, big flocks of bar-headed geese and comb ducks and a great cormorant. Soon after our propeller got stuck in the dense mats of waterplants and became unable to function anymore. And no poles or something like that in the boat. So, one of the men jumped into the water to remove the plants, the engine was started and went into the plants again. So, back in the water, etc. It took several tries to get out of the plants, not least due to stupid steering. With all the crocs around, this was real fun...
Anyway, after arriving at the turning point it was clear that there no skimmers at any of their regular places. And as Alma did not see the single surfacing Gangetic dolphin in time, we were not a happy bunch. On the way back we had good views of small pratincoles, little grebe, brown crake and a glimpse of a baillon's crake but still no skimmer. We hoped that we would continue under the bridge but soon the boat went back to the beach to land again. Only then 2 Indian skimmers flew by causing great relief amongst most people in the boat.
Our return journey was only interrupted by a male barred buttonquail on the road which did not know where to go and just kept on walking ahead of us. Night at Agra.
March 26 Agra and Bharatpur
The Taj Nature walk was our first destination this day. This walk goes through a series of public parks which form a semi-circle around the Taj Mahal. It's being promoted as a great nature walk and indeed it proved quite good for birding! At the entrance (on the right, a couple of 100 meters before the entrance of the Taj Mahal) the park is very artificial with pools, grassy meadows, ornamentals but soon after you'll get into dry thornforest and scrub with open sandy places and a maze of tracks. We just kept going in the direction of the river and the Taj and got there easily. From there we walked back to the start after admiring the Taj Mahal again. Unfortunately only from the outside as it was closed today but we got fine views from the river and have visited it before.
Birding was quite good with many warblers like chiffchaff, smokey warbler, orphean warbler and lesser and Hume's whitethroats. Besides there we saw common babbler, bay-backed shrike, little swift, displaying peafowl, plain martin, red-rumped swallow and a crested bunting.
After checking out of our hotel we left for Bharatpur where we arrived at midday. We stayed at the Sunbird Hotel. We had stayed here the previous trip too and enjoyed the place, the food (the best we had in India) and its location just outside the Keoladeo Ghana National Park. After settling in our rooms and a light lunch we left for the park. We walked to the nursery and then along the mainroad till the Sapan crossing. From there we walked along the brick path for half a km before we went back. From there we got a rickshaw back to our hotel.
Birding was very slow at first. Of course we should have waited a while for it to cool down but still it did feel very slow. From the entrance to the barrier we only had a few lesser whitethroats and white-eared bulbuls. The nursery was very slow too with no nightjars, thrushes or anything else worth mentioning. Only after we walked about 1 km along the main road we started to see some birds in the roadside puddles. Hundreds of painted storks were gathered there with lower numbers of spoonbills, glossy ibis, woolly-necked and black-necked storks, purple gallinules, darters, Indian shags, little cormorants and all regular herons and egrets. Ducknumbers were low but included a fine falcated duck in a small flock of common teals.
But it became much better as we arrived at the Chakwa Chakwi lake. This held much water and was filled with 1000's of birds. A really spectacular sight and it was hard to decide where to look first; the 100's of painted storks, the wheeling flock of over 50 glossy ibis, a feeding frenzy with over a 150 spoonbills, 40 or so common cranes, the normally shy black-crowned night-heron which were stalking fish in the open or....
Less obvious were the ducks which included 100's of garganey and shovelers with lower numbers of gadwall, wigeon, teal, spotbill and lesser whistling ducks. The shores were dotted with small groups of ruddy shellduck, a few greylag geese, many bar-headed geese and a combduck. Such a spectacle must attracts raptors of course and despite we had thought before that the eagles would have be gone by now, we easily found both imperial and greater spotted eagles on dead trees in the water, dwarfing the common marsh harriers. But the most unexpected sighting were the unmistakeable vulturesilhouettes at the far end of the lake. Here in a big tree we saw 5 slender-billed vultures looking out over the lake.
March 27 Bharatpur
As arranged the evening before, we were picked up by rickshaw just before the park opened and brought to the temple. Here we walked along the bund to the east till the wall that surrounds the park. This walk included some excellent birding. We started with a showy black bittern and our only white-tailed lapwings of the trip. Soon we came to a good viewpoint and counted over 10 eagles in the area. Soon the scope was out en we puzzled for an hour or so seeing both greater (6) and Indian (1) spotted eagles, 1 tawny, 1 imperial and 2 steppe eagles. In between we saw 2 black-necked storks and many purple herons.
The remainder of the morning was spend walking along the bund and checking some dry areas near the end of the bund. Doing this we managed to see several very good birds including oriental pratincole, lanceolated warbler, booted warbler, clamorous reed warbler, tickell's leaf-warbler, sulphur-bellied leaf-warbler, greenish warbler, baillon's crake, common rosefinch and pallid harrier.
Besides these, the more expected species were cotton pygmy goose, 2 peregrines, pheasant-tailed jacana, 9 yellow-wattled lapwing, citrine wagtails and 2 bluethroats. After we got back at the temple we walked back towards yesterdays hotspot of Chakwa Chakwi were we saw nothing new but again enjoyed the spectacle for a long time. Alma tried to photograph some golden jackals whilst I tried some more Phylloscopus warblers. Very surprising were the numbers of Sulphur-bellied warblers. We saw over 7 of these yellow mini-nuthatches clambering in trees.
Walking further south we noticed that the eagles got active and we obtained great views of greater spotted, imperial and steppe eagles and a lone Montague's harrier. At 17.30 we took a riksja back to the hotel.
March 28 Bharatpur
We did not expect much new birds in the marshes so we went to the nursery and walked through the forest towards the Jatoli canal and followed that back towards the main road. Birding in the nursery was, again, very slow and we did not see any of the thrushes around and dipped on Marshall's iora again. The rest of the walk was quite boring but we managed to see our first small minivets and white-bellied drongo's of the trip, a pair of the dusky eagle owl, Asian paradise flycatcher and common hawk cuckoos.
Along the canal Sibi discovered a quite distant male Siberian rubythroat and we had more paradise flycatchers, 2 river terns and a grey-bellied cuckoo.
At the crossing with the main road we took a break and watched the eagles and slender-billed vultures for quite some time. In about an hour we saw at least 3 imperial, 2 steppe, over 5 greater spotted eagles, 1-2 slender-billed vultures and several Egyptian vultures. Quite a spectacle and unexpected this far in spring we thought. The biggest surprise was yet to come however. Suddenly an oddly shaped eagle drifted in and it proved to be the lesser fisheagle which had spend the winter here!
After this we looked a last time at Chakwa Chakwi, checked the waders seeing more temminck's stints, black-tailed godwits, common snipes, marsh sandpipers and the more common species. The walk back to our car was uneventful and at 13.00 h we were back at our hotel to have lunch. As I grew tired of the heat I opted not to go back in the park. Later that afternoon Alma went to visit the fort in town and I worked on this report and other notes.
March 29 to Rhantambhor
After breakfast we left for the 4,5 h drive to Rhantambhor. The journey was rather dull going mostly through already harvested fields and lots of small villages. The only noteworthy birds seen were our only booted eagle and white-rumped vultures of the trip, five of the latter in a small flock about 20 km before Sawai Madhopur.
After arriving at that town we quickly located our hotel for the next five nights, the Hammir Wildlife Resort. Directly after arriving we let the manager book our first gamedrive in the park for that afternoon. After that we had lunch, dropped our stuff in the room and got used (a bit) to the oppressive heat. Our main target here was obtaining good views of tiger. During our last trip we had seen one at Corbet quite well but for less then 20 seconds. Now we wanted better looks and as we had booked five nights we had good hopes. Little did we know then...
At 15.00 we got picked up by a canter (bus) for our first drive. After the usual red tape at the entrance and the hassle of the salesmen with caps and T-shirts we finally got in the park. The landscape was totally different from what I'd thought before. It was very dry, most of the trees leafless and much more hilly. A good thing was that there were plenty of watering holes. So, viewing opportunities were great so, lets get that tiger! These gamedrives go along set routes of which no deviations are allowed. Depending on the driver you stop for other mammals or not and you need to inform the driver and guide beforehand that you would like to stop for birds too. On three of our five drives this worked out fine. On one drive we had an absolute prick as a driver which even did not stop for other large mammals and the last one was simply great. He stopped whenever someone asked, paused long enough for even the slowest guy with a camera and stayed as long as possible in the park.
This first trip was a very good one. We got loads of sambar deer, axis deer, nilgai, wild boar, Indian gazelle and ruddy mongoose. No tiger as we missed one by seconds at a big lake. This was more then compensated however by a great sighting of a sloth bear. It was spotted in dense undergrowth walking past us. Backing up we took a sideroad which crossed a broad dry riverbed. Some waiting there was rewarded when it came out of the forest and slowly crossed the river bed and climbed the other bank before disappearing for good. Fabulous! Birdwise it was rather good too. Almost continuously we had Indian vultures in the sky and at dusk about 40 came to sleep at the cliffs below the huge fort. Other birds seen included red-naped ibis, Eurasian kestrel, white-browed fantail, crested bunting and 3 lifers: laggar falcon 2 painted spurfowl and savannah nightjars. A last lifer was seen outside the park when 2 painted sandgrouse flew in front of the canter.
March 30, Rhantambhor
Today we did two gamedrives into the park and in between the two trips hung around the hotel. Both gamedrives followed the same route as the one the day before and were poorer in sightings. So not much news to add. We saw more crested buntings, our lifer grey-necked bunting, woolly-necked and painted storks, about 15 Indian vultures, 1 red-headed vulture, crested serpent eagle, more painted spurfowls, 1 oriental turtle dove and great tits.
Most exciting sightings today were outside the park. Whilst I was writing my notes Alma went shopping and found an Iora in the hotelgarden. Knowing that we '>needed' marshall's she came back to fetch me. After some frantic searching I refound the bird but unfortunately it was the common one. Soon after she came back again telling that she'd found a white-naped woodpecker along the mainroad, 300 m from the hotel! I grabbed my camera and ran to the spot finding the bird still at the same spot feeding in a big tree. It stayed there for over 20 minutes and was still there when we left. A really nice sighting! On the way back Sibi found some crested buntings and a male blue rock-thrush.
March 31, Mansarowar Lake
After an early start we arrived at this big reservoir about an hour after sunrise. Just as we got out of our car an Eurasian sparrowhawk shot by, scattering a small group of red-headed buntings. Quite a start! After climbing the dam we put up the scope and checked the lake for 2 hours or so. There were plenty birds around and we saw, amongst others, 4 little grebes, 2 great cormorants, 30 openbills, 1 black-headed ibis, 40 bar-headed geese and 40 ruddy shelduck, 2 cotton pygmy goose and some wigeon, teal and coot, a great thicknee, 4 river lapwings, 15 river, 2 little, 2 black-bellied and 4 whiskered terns, pied kingfisher, 100's of swallows, mostly barn but also including plain, dusky crag, red-rumped and streak-throated swallows, yellow-eyed babbler, black-tailed godwit. The two most unexpected sightings were the regular groups of rosy starling migrating north and just as we left, 35 Indian vultures rose to the sky from nearby cliffs.
After that we went back towards the hotel stopping for a walk in a extremely dry and birdless thorny forest along the mainroad and a visit to a small temple in a village we passed. After that we had a brunch at our hotel and a short rest afterwards. As soon as the heat became tolerable again we left to the path of semi-desert and the sandgrousepool opposite the entrance of Rhantambhor NP. Here we first scoured the scrubby gullies and desert seeing almost nothing until we found a small stream. Here and in the adjacent bushes we saw Indian and singing bushlarks, rufous-tailed larks, ashy-crowned sparrow-lark, jungle and rufous-fronted prinia's and common babbler. Following the stream we came to a small pool surrounded by paths and some low vegetation. Here we flushed a wryneck and after sitting down we had drinking jungle bush-quail, grey-necked buntings and 2 grey wagtails and when it was almost dark about 40 painted sandgrouse. At first they were very wary but later they walked right past us and drank as long as they wanted. On the way back to our car we heard and saw several savanna nightjars.
April 1, Rhantambhor
Just after dawn the jeep with driver for our trip to Soorwal Lake arrived. Our target here was mostly Dalmatian pelican and with luck demoiselle crane and extra skimmers. Whilst waiting for the jeep we watched a big fruiting fig on the hotel grounds. Within this single tree we counted over 25 species of bird in just 15 mins! These included large cuckoo-shrike, golden oriole, common woodshrike and oriental white-eye. Below the tree was a yellow-eyed babbler.
We soon left for the lake using some really poor roads till we came to drive on a raised bank. But there was no lake in sight. A very dried out mudflat, already in use for growing crops was the only thing remaining of the '>lake'. So much for our chances for pelicans... We did not give up hope though and started walking the bund checking the vegetation below the bund. This yielded our only Richards and Blyth's pipits of the trip, several small flocks of red-headed bunting and baya weavers and 100's of beema yellow wagtails. Best birds however were 2 rain quail.
In the afternoon we made a new gamedrive into the park. This time we took a much more attractive route which passed several lakes, open grassy area's and good looking scrub. On one of the lakes we saw great thicknee and darters, overhead was the only black stork of the trip and beside the track we saw our only brown-capped pygmy woodpecker of the trip. Other birds seen included jungle bush-quail, black-crowned night-heron, Eurasian kestrel, river tern, dusky eagle owl and the highlight of the trip, a just fledged rock eagle owl on the ground directly besides the track.
On the way out we got out at the sandgrousepool where Sibi was waiting for us. Here we saw over 50 painted sandgrouse and several savanna nightjars.
April 2, Rhantambhor
Bird- and mammalwise this was a wasted day. Parkrangers we met through our driver tried to arranged access to normally closed area's to improve our chances of seeing tiger. This was surprisingly easily granted but we had to drive to the southern end of the reserve. Here we met the family of one of the rangers, entertained the rest of the village and waited for our transport.
Just after we got into the jeep we received a call about a tigress which was at a nearby kill. We could not find her when we arrived there. Plenty of tracks but nothing more. After that we spend a lot of time driving back roads and jeeptracks doing our best to get a big striped cat. Only when it became too hot we went back to the village. There our problems started. One of our guides insisted to visit his relatives in a '>nearby' village. This village proved about an hour away... We stayed a while, learned about the rural live in a very small town in the middle of nowhere and wasted more and more valuable time. I must admit that Alma enjoyed most of it though. However, when we got back to the original village, it was too late to go back into the park again. We hung around some more to the amusement of the local kids who tried to imitate us as much as possible and who wanted to be photographed. This was rather funny and we enjoyed our time there. Still no tiger though and this became even more painful when, after arriving back at our hotel, we learned that the students also staying at our hotel had seen 11 this day, and had video to prove it.
The only birds of note were 2 barred button-quail, 2 red-headed vultures and southern grey shrike.
April 3, Rhantambhor and back to New Delhi
The local rangers had promised to take us in the park again but had to visit the office first. We waited for two hours but they did not return. We left, packed our bags and drove back to New Delhi driving through Jaipur on the way. Here we visited the Pink City for just a few minutes as we wanted to be in Delhi before the evening rush-hour. This we managed to do, just.
After installing ourselves at our room Alma went to a market and made plans for the next few days. After that we had dinner with Mohit Aggarwal the manager of Asian Adventures. Today nothing noteworthy was seen.
April 4, New Delhi > Bagdogra > Lava
This was mostly a travel day. We flew from New Delhi to Bagdogra in West Bengal state. Bagdogra is obvious in the hot steamy lowlands and rain was threatening when we arrived. The passport check (no border crossed!) took quite some time but I got a nice stamp in return. After that we quickly took a taxi, a small van, towards Lava about 3 hours away.
The drive was first through well forested lowland and hilly area's crossed by big rivers with wide grassy margins. Therefore the almost complete lack of birds was very surprising. Even within the forest it was very quiet. The only birds seen worth mentioning were 2 lesser adjudants, chestnut-tailed starlings, black-headed cuckoo-shrike and a Himalayan griffon.
We arrived at Lava with just 2 hours left before dark. The recommended guesthouse was unknown so we ended up looking at several places and ended up in the Orchid Resort. This is a very new hotel directly at the start of the Kalimpong Road Although the rooms were quite small and work was still going on, this was a quite nice place to stay with reasonable food in the restaurant downstairs.
The remaining time we walked the bypass seeing quite a few birds including some lifers. The highlights were black eagle, >4 rufous-breasted accentors, >4 grey-winged blackbirds, abberrant and brownish-flanked bush-warblers, red-tailed minla, whiskered yuhina and the only yellow-browed warbler of the trip. Frustrating were poor views of a small group of rosefinches which looked quite like blandford's rosefinches.
April 5, Lava
Today we walked the Algarah Road till about km 6. Here I started to feel quite sick and we walked back. After arriving at the hotel at 16.30 h I went to bed and Alma walked the bypass again. Birding along this road is simply a great experience. Although there were quiet periods, most of the time there were birds around and often good ones too. Feeding flocks were not common but we saw two this day, each including up to 25 species! Good area's were the first km out of town with small meadows, hedges and patches of forest, then the area around km 3 and the whole area between KM 3,5 and 6. In this stretch a scrub covered '>cliff' of only 20 m high proved very good for all kinds of babblers and finches. We spend over two hours there just waiting. Also the two gullies just after the highest point of the road were interesting. Access is difficult but a lot can be done from the road. Much of the forest consists of high cedars and at other places oaks and rhododendron dominate. Bamboo is very local und occurs mostly along old landslides.
A problem on both this as the following days were low clouds. Parts of every day were spend in dense fog with visibility down to 15 meters. Although it kept the birds active, seeing them was very hard. Several times raptors, pigeons and woodpeckers were glimpsed or heard but impossible to find due to the fog.
This first day we saw 69 species of which 20 were lifers. Species seen included: black eagle, oriental turtle-dove, large hawk-cuckoo, Eurasian, oriental, Indian and lesser cuckoo's, Asian barred owlet, Himalayan swiftlet, white-throated needletail, great barbet, Darjeeling woodpecker, rosy and olive-backed pipits, short-billed minivet, striated bulbul, rufous-breasted accentor, chestnut-bellied rock-thrush, white-collared and grey-winged blackbirds, chestnut thrush, grey-bellied tesia, buff-barred, ashy-throated, lemon-rumped, blyths leafwarblers, golden-spectacled, grey-hooded, grey-cheeked, broad-billed and chestnut-crowned warblers, rufous-bellied niltava, blue-fronted redstart, white-throated fantail, dark-sided flycatcher, straited and chestnut-crowned laughing-thrushes, rufous-throated wren-babbler, rufous-capped babbler, white-browed shrike-babbler, rusty-fronted and hoary-throated barwings, all three minla's, yellow-throated and rufous-winged fulvetta's, rufous sibia, whiskered, stripe-throated and rufous-vented yuhina's, yellow-cheeked and yellow-browed tits, crimson-browed finch, brown bullfinch, gold-naped finch and little bunting. On her walk Alma added another lifer: hill prinia.
April 6, Lava
Today we walked the same road as yesterday and got only to KM 5. We birded only till about 14.00 h as Alma picked up something with breakfast and started throwing up. She took a bus back to the hotel whilst I walked back. I got back just in time as we had a huge thunderstorm which lasted till far in the night.
Birding was again very good and we picked up several birds new for the trip: besra, mountain hawk-eagle, black-winged cuckoo-shrike, long-tailed minivet, tickel's thrush, tickel's leaf-warbler, snowy-browed flycatcher, blue-fronted robin, yellow-bellied fantail, blue-winged and black-faced laughing-thrushes, white-browed scimitar-babbler, red-billed leiothrix, spotted wren-babbler, cutia, black-throated tit, fire-breasted flowerpecker, ashy drongo, common rosefinch, red-headed bullfinch, collared grosbeak and upland buzzard. Of these nine were lifers.
The best spot today was just above the Lolaygaon turnoff. Walking up the jeeptrack there to the small temple we first had at least two cutia's calling from a few high cedars. Then I walked down a small gully to the left of the temple with dense cover to check out a shortwing-like song. This was quickly forgotten when a blue-fronted robin emerged from the vegetation and crossed the path several times. On playing a white-tailed robintape the bird came out quickly but did not stay long. Still I got quite nice views of this rare species. A few 100 meter further along this track we later got a glimpse from a similar bird but in female plumage. Due to the quite poor view the rather similar white-bellied redstart could not be excluded. However, nothing more was heard from the shortwing.
Still recovering from this sighting I climbed back to Alma only to hear that she'd seen a big buzzard-like raptor. The bird was soon found circling a couple of 100 m away and proved indeed big but still an obvious buzzard. The first thought was of a long-legged buzzard but because of the huge size, pale whitish head and tail, big square primary flash and pale upperwingcoverts I started to think about an upland buzzard. A check off the books revealed two very similar drawings of indeed an upland buzzard and because of the very common buzzard-like underparts with a dark bellyshield and the whitish tail we wrote it down as an upland buzzard.
April 7, Lava
When we woke it was still raining hard so we took the chance for some more sleep. When we woke again an hour later or so the rain had eased down to a drizzle. So we took breakfast and after that walked towards the Neora Valley. At first we missed the entrance. This was soon realised but as the habitat looked good so we continued down a few km's. Here we got in more open forest with much alder and bamboo. Birding was a bit slow here so after about 4 km we turned around and walked up again. Two km down the village Alma took a taxi to Lava as she started to feel ill again.
On the way down we explored some gardens on the edge of town where we found russet bush warbler and a dark-sided flycatcher. In the low shrubbery just past the entrance to Neora we saw small flocks of red-billed leiothrix and after years of looking for it, our first golden bush robin. A fine male showed itself for a few minutes getting in and out of a low bush. Close by, in a large pine, a flock of about 20 red crossbills fed noisily. Otherwise it was rather slow with in 4 hours the only birds of note being besra, black-winged cuckoo-shrike, chestnut-bellied rock-thrush, gold-naped finch, grey-hooded warbler, and loads and loads of blyth's leaf warblers.
After Alma went back I walked back up and took all of the sidetrails and explored parts of the forest along the road. After arriving at the Neora Valley trail I took it for a short distance but then turned back to the hotel. The birding was quite good despite all of the disturbance along the trail. Lots of cattle and people cutting firewood. After that I went back to the Hotel where Alma was feeling better. After a light meal we went back to the Neora Valley and followed the trail for about 2 km. As it became very foggy and cold birding was not very good but on the two visits today I collected some good sightings: pale blue flycatcher, crested serpent eagle, grey-bellied tesia, crested goshawk, streaked laughing-thrush, streak-breasted scimitar-babbler, spotted wren-babbler, black-throated parrotbill and brown and red-headed bullfinch.
As the rain started to come down in buckets again we went back to town using the bypass seeing a few birds including my lifer hill prinia and plain mountain-finches and the only large niltava of the trip. Other birds seen there included: white wagtail, rufous-breasted accentors, brownish-flanked bushwarbler, long-tailed minivet, common rosefinch, tickel's thrush and over 20 little buntings. There clearly had been a good migration of these little buntings as they were suddenly everywhere.
April 8, Lava
Our last day here. Originally we had planned to stay a day longer here but as Alma grew tired of the rain and fog she opted for a longer stay at Darjeeling. Little did we know then...
Checking the tripreports and because of our good earlier experiences we choose for another try along the Algarah road. We walked to about Km 7 exploring several sidetracks. Good tracks were the short one just after KM 2 and the upper jeeptrack. This last one we followed for about 3 km till we got into the duller pineforests. This track has several short sidetrails into shrub and forest, all very nice looking. As these tracks are quieter and have a grassy shoulder different birds can be seen here compared with the main road. Also your chance of seeing flycatchers is better within the forest.
Further down, about KM 6 and 7 there are several short, steep trails and rocky outcrops which are very good vantage points. We birded till about dusk and then took a bus back to town. Even after several days here we still managed to see something like 10 birds new for the trip including several lifers.
Birds seen included: KM 1-3 brown woodowl, spotted forktail, crested serpent eagle, barred cuckoo-dove (first seen after plenty heard), grey-sided bush-warbler, snowy-browed flycatcher and all three minla's.
KM 4-5: crested goshawk, red-flanked blue-tail, maroon-backed accentor, sapphire flycatcher, small niltava, rufous-gorgeted flycatcher, besra, pale blue flycatcher, grey-headed canary flycatchers, striated laughing-thrush, scaly laughing-thrush, pygmy and rufous-throated wren-babblers, both barwings, plenty yellow-throated fulvetta's, fire-breasted flowerpecker, crimson-browed finch, gold-naped finch and grey-cheeked warbler.
KM 6-7: mountain hawkeagle, great and golden-throated barbets, 4 black-faced and 1 broad-billed warblers, short-billed minivet and white-tailed robin.
Another great day at Lava!
April 9, Lava > Kalimpong > Darjeeling
The owner of our hotel arranged a car to Kalimpong so we could leave whenever we wanted. We left at 6.30 after a quick breakfast and a rainy walk to the lower fields not seeing anything noteworthy. The road to Kalimpong proved really poor and the car was just about ready to expire on the spot. So after two hours we were glad to get out of the car at the taxicorner of Kalimpong.
From there we took a taxi to Darjeeling some 50 km away. Finally we got into glorious sunny weather and could take our sweaters off. The drive was through good looking but basically birdless forest with, higher up, more and more tea plantations. In one of these we saw our lifer blue-capped rock-thrush but otherwise it was a rather dull ride.
Darjeeling proved to be a quite filthy, little town. There were plenty hotels but nothing nice like we'd found at other places in India. We got a room at the old main Bellevue hotel. Big rooms but nothing special and grossly overpriced for the quality offered. Still, it's location right next to the main shopping road, some nice restaurants and observatory Hill was okay.
The rest of the afternoon was spend walking around observatory Hill. This proved quite good for birding with red-billed leiothrix, black bulbul, rufous sibia, fork-tailed swift, blue whistling-thrush, brownish-flanked bush-warbler, blyth's leaf-warbler and red-tailed minla.
April 10, Darjeeling (Tiger Hill)
At 4 or so we left with a jeep to the tourist hotspot Tiger Hill. From here you can get magnificent views of the great Himalayan chain. This morning we arrived very early when it was still completely dark and very clouded. Luckily part of the clouds lifted just before sunrise so that we got good views of the Everest and Kanchenjunga (both over 8500 m high). This we enjoyed with over 300 people...
But within 20 minutes of sunrise the tourists had all left so that we could start birding. From the watchpoint we saw white-collared thrush, maroon-backed accentor and chestnut-crowned laughing-thrush. In the dense bamboo below the viewpoint and till the barrier we explored some short trails which yielded aberrant and yellowish bellied bush-warblers, slender-billed scimitar-babblers, white-browed fulvetta, black-throated parrotbill, broad-billed warbler and dark-rumped rosefinch.
From there we started the circular trail which goes to the lower peak. The habitat here is mostly dense bamboo which makes birding hard. We followed the trail for about 3 km. There we found much disturbance, people working on and next to the trails so we went back. During this walk and the walk down towards Ghoom was quite nice although we had poor visibility due to dens fog. Birds seen included Eurasian buzzard, hill partridge, large hawk-cuckoo, Himalayan swiftlet, great barbet, blue whistling-thrush, aberrant and yellowish bellied bush-warblers, grey-winged blackbird, white-browed shortwing blue-fronted redstart, yellow-bellied fantail, rufous-throated wren-babbler and red-headed bullfinch. Frustrating was an untickable glimpse of a yellow-billed blue magpie crossing a trail.
Halfway Ghoom and Darjeeling we took a taxi to town. Here we had lunch and walked to the Observatory Hill again. Still lots of fog so not much birds. Only new bird for the location were little swifts and an oriental white-eye. The rest of the day was spent shopping, visiting the local nature museum and temples. Most fun were the Assamese macaques which have learned how to drive dogs crazy by pulling all kinds of tricks.
April 11, Darjeeling Tiger Hill
This day was mostly a repeat from yesterday only was the fog much denser. We could barely see for 10 meters during most of the day! We visited the viewpoint, the trails below, the circular trail for about 5 km and walked down to Ghoom. Birding was very depressing due to the fog and we missed our two remaining targets (yellow-billed blue magpie and golden-breasted fulvetta). We barely managed to see 40 species at Tiger Hill today. Birds seen included stripe-throated yuhina, hill partridge, oriental turtle dove, oriental cuckoo, collared owlet, rufous-breasted accentor, broad-billed warbler, white-tailed robin, slender-billed scimitar-babbler, chestnut-bellied nuthatch and large-billed crow.
Back in town we had lunch and visited the zoo. But even here it was impossible to see some of the caged animals due to the fog! Absolute highlight were the red panda's. The grounds were also quite birdy with lots of sibia's, yuhina's and leaf-warblers.
April 12, Darjeeling > Bagdogra > New Delhi
This was a travelday with not much time planned for birding. The only bird of note today was a brown shrike just before Bagdogra airport. A bit surprising were the common myna's and house crows in Darjeeling which we saw during breakfast. It seems a bit high for these species which I usually associate with the lowlands.
At New Delhi airport we arranged a citytour for tomorrow. When we got outside our driver was waiting and dropped us off at our hotel.
April 13 City tour New Delhi
This was just a tourist tour through both Old and New Delhi. We visited the local highlights, mostly temples, forts and mosques and Indira Ghandi's house. A nice but awfully hot (>45 C) day. Birdwise it was, of course, very slow with only the very common urban species like rose-ringed parakeet, cattle egret, black kite, etc.
April 14, New Delhi: Okhla and Tughlaqabad
From 6 to noon we birded the banks of the Yamunariver at Okhla. Our driver first dropped us at the westbank were we checked two of the in the river protruding bunds after which we went to the eastbank. Here we walked from the bridge towards the temple. Despite it being quite late in spring, birding was still good. Near the bridge was much open water but about halfway the waterlevels were much lower with much exposed mud. The number of waders was very high with 1000's of ruff and 100's of wood sandpipers and little stints. Mixed in were lower numbers of other waders. The next part was quite slow with too much waterhyacint and dry scrub. We ended our walk at the templebund.
Birds seen included purple heron, pond heron, flamingo, little grebe, darter, openbill and painted storks, black-headed and red-naped ibises, Eurasian spoonbill, ruddy shelduck, wigeon, gadwall, common teal, pintail, common pochard, Egyptian vulture, shikra, red-necked falcon, black francolin, purple gallinule, Kentish plover, marsh sandpiper, temminck's stint, brown-headed and black-headed gulls, whiskered tern, Asian koel, little swift, yellow-bellied prinia, striated babbler, white-tailed stonechat, booted warbler, golden oriole, bay-backed shrike, streaked weaver, common rosefinch and baillons crake.
After lunch we visited the old fort of Tughlaqabad but this visit was cut short due to the heat. We walked for about an hour before we surrendered and got back to an air-conditioning. Anyway, the ruins were a disappointment; from the outside, from the roads, it looks great but within the walls there was not much left of the buildings and walls.
Our last birds in India were hoopoe, Sykes warbler and rufous-fronted prinia.
The rest of the afternoon was spent shopping and packing and at 2 o’clock next morning we left New Delhi Airport to Vienna.
April 15, Vienna
We arrived at Vienna just after dawn and had a stopover here off 8 hours. We took the train to town and made a long walk along the various monuments. We had clear, quite cold weather which we enjoyed big time after the heat in India. Also the songs of all kinds of familiar warblers and thrushes made us feel at home already. Only the sight of hooded crows, almost gone in The Netherlands, in town were a bit confusing.
Later that day we continued to Amsterdam and by train back home in Heerhugowaard. Home after a very tiring but rewarding trip.
My favourite ten birds of the trip were: Indian Skimmer, upland buzzard, Indian courser, white-naped woodpecker, maroon-backed accentor, blue-fronted robin, black-faced warbler, golden bush-robin, chestnut-tailed minla, and gold-naped finch.
Annoted list of species seen in India March 23rd till April 14th 2004
Pierre van der Wielen and Alma Leegwater
Little Grebe Tachybaptus
Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax
Uncommon at Bharatpur with up to 10 each day.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax
Only a few seen: 1 at the Chambal River on March 26th, 2 at Bharatpur and 2 at Rhantambhor.
Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax
Common at all lakes, rivers and marshes visited.
Up to 50 at Bharatpur, 2 at Rhantambhor and 4 at Okhla.
Grey Heron Ardea
Purple Heron Ardea
Less common but still up to 10 each day in the right habitat.
Great Egret Ardea
Intermediate Egret Egretta
Little Egret Egretta
Indian Pond-Heron Ardeola
Cattle Egret Bubulcus
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax
2 at Sonepat, each day over 20 at Bharatpur and 1 at Rhantambhor.
Black Bittern Ixobrychus
1 was seen extremely well just east of the temple at Bharatpur.
Painted Stork Mycteria
Common. Highest numbers at Bharatpur with over 300 at one pond!
Asian Openbill Anastomus
Widespread in low numbers. Seen at Sultanpur (2), Chambal (1), Bharatpur (1), Mansarowar (30) and Okhla (>10).
Black Stork Ciconia
Just 1 on April 1st at Rhantambhor.
Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia
2 at Sonepat, 1 at Sultanpur, 2 each day at Bharatpur (different birds?) and low numbers at Rhantambhor (ones and twos).
Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus
One at Sonepat, 2 at Sultanpur and up to 4 at Bharatpur.
Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos
Two were seen in a thee plantation between Bagdogra and Lava on April 4th.
Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis
Widespread in low numbers.
Red-naped Ibis Pseudibis
Surprisingly common compared with our previous vist when we saw only one! We saw 3 at Sonepat, 20 along the Chamball River, 4 between Agra and Bharatpur and 10 between Bharatpur and Rhantambhor.
Glossy Ibis Plegadis
Only seen at Bharatpur where common with up to 50 each day.
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea
We saw 7 at Sultanpur, over 150 at Bharatpur and 14 at Okhla.
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber
46 at Okhla on April 14th.
Lesser Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna
Seen at most larger waterbodies like the Chambal River (>100), Bharatpur (>100) and Mansarowar (30) and 2 were seen over the centre of Delhi on our first morning.
Greylag Goose Anser
4 at Bharatpur on March 27th.
Bar-headed Goose Anser
There were many at Sultanpur (about 400), over 400 at Bharatpur and lower numbers at Mansarowar (40).
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna
Seen at all larger waterbodies with over 50 at Sultanpur, over 30 at Bharatpur, spread out in small groups of 2 to 4 birds and 2 at Rhantambhor and 40 at Mansarowar. On our last morning we saw over 40 at Okhla.
Comb Duck Sarkidiornis
>70 Chambal River on March 25, 1 at Bharatpur on March 26 and 2 at Mansarowal om March 31.
Cotton Pygmy-goose Nettapus
Over 30 at Mansarovar, Bharatpur on March 27 and 2 at Mansarowal on March 31.
Eurasian Wigeon Anas
Over 50 were at Sultanpur, a similar number at Bharatpur, 12 at Mansarowar and about 10 at Okhla.
Falcated Duck Anas
1 at Bharatpur on March 26.
At Sultanpur we saw >20, >30 at Bharatpur and 10 at Okhla.
Common Teal Anas
Widespread but mostly in one and twos with only at Bharatpur small flocks of up to 20 teal.
Spot-billed Duck Anas
Common at Bharatpur and very common at Okhla (100's) but at other sites less then 5 birds were seen.
Northern Pintail Anas
>20 at Sultanpur, 10 at Bharatpur and >50 at Okhla.
Commonest duck with 1000's at Bharatpur, 100's at Okhla and smaller numbers elsewhere (Chambal, Sultanpur, Mansarowar).
Northern Shoveler Anas
Good numbers at Sultanpur (>200), 100's at Bharatpur and lower numbers at most other lakes and marshes.
Red-crested Pochard Netta
1 male at the Chambal River on March 25.
Common Pochard Aythya
1 male at Okhla on April 14.
Tufted Duck Aythya
2 females at Bharatpur on March 27.
Oriental Honey-buzzard Pernis
Of the 13 days in the lowlands, seen on 6 with 1 to 3 birds each day.
Black-shouldered Kite Elanus
Widespread but uncommon with 16 kites seen.
Black Kite Milvus
Common in towns but surprisingly scarce, in fact barely seen, outside towns.
Lesser Fish-Eagle Ichthyophaga
This rare winter visitor was still present at Bharatpur where we saw it on March 28.
Egyptian Vulture Neophron
Only seen outside the reserves with up to 20 a day in the lowlands.
White-rumped Vulture Gyps
5 flew over the main road a few km before Rhantambhor.
Indian Vulture Gyps indicus
Seen daily at Rhantambhor where it is still a widespread breeder on the cliffs. We saw two colonies/sleeping places around the fort and one just North of Mansarowal Lake each containing 20 to 40 birds.
Slender-Billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris
We were rather surprised to find a small flock of 5 birds each day in Bharatpur.
Himalayan Griffon Gyps
Just one between Bagdogra and Lava on April 4.
Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps
Only seen at Rhantambhor with up to 2 on three days.
Crested Serpent-Eagle Spilornis
One was seen at Rhantambhor on March 30 and at Lava we saw 4 at April 7 and 2 on the 8th.
Western Marsh-Harrier Circus
8 out of 9 were seen in Bharatpur with the remaining one in the agricultural landscape between Bharatpur and Rhantambhor.
Pallid Harrier Circus
1 juvenile bird was seen at Bharatpur on March 27.
Montagu's Harrier Circus
1 female was seen at Bharatpur on March 27.
Crested Goshawk Accipiter
Only seen at Lava with 2 on April 7 and 1 on the 8th.
Widespread in low numbers, seen daily in the lowlands.
Only seen at Lava with 1 on three dates.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter
1 was seen at Mansarowar Lake on March 31st.
Eurasian Buzzard Buteo
1 Flew over Tiger Hill April 10th.
Upland Buzzard Buteo
Maybe the most unexpected bird of the trip. One circled along the Algarah road about 3 km from Lava op April 6th. The bird was identified on its huge size, shape, the pale head and tail, the square whitish flash on the primaries in combination with the pale brownish upperwingcoverts.
Black Eagle Ictinaetus
Only seen at Lava with 3 different birds seen, 2 adults and 1 immature bird. Seen on 3 out of 4 days there.
Indian Spotted Eagle Aquila
1 at Bharatpur on March 27.
Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila
Surprisingly we saw still quite a few of these (and other) wintering eagles. We saw over 20 in total with up to 12 a day.
Tawny Eagle Aquila
Just 2 at Bharatpur on March 27.
Steppe Eagle Aquila
About 5 seen at Bharatpur.
Imperial Eagle Aquila
Seven sightings of up to 5 immature birds at Bharatpur.
Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus
A displaying pair was seen over the Chambal River on March 25.
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus
One was seen on the drive from Bharatpur to Rhantambhor on March 29.
Mountain Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus
Only seen at Lava with two sightings of one bird each: on April 6 and 8.
Eurasian Kestrel Falco
Rather uncommon: 2 at Sonepat, 2 at Sultanpur, 1 at Bharatpur and 1 at Rhantambor.
Red-necked Falcon Falco
1 over the Yamuna River on April 14.
Laggar Falcon Falco
1 at Rhantambhor on March 28.
Peregrine Falcon Falco
1 male at Sultanpur on March 24 and 2 at Bharatpur on March 27. All where northern birds.
Black Francolin Francolinus
Commonly heard at Sonepat, Sultanpur and Okhla but less then 5 seen.
Grey Francolin Francolinus
Common in the lowlands.
Rain Quail Coturnix
2 at Soorwal Lake.
Jungle Bush-Quail Perdicula
About 10 were seen at the sandgrouse pond just outside Rhantambhore on March 31 and 3 were seen inside the park on April 1.
Hill Partridge Arborophila
Only heard at Tiger Hill and along the road back to Ghoom.
Painted Spurfowl Galloperdix
Only seen at Rhantambhor with 2 on March 29 and 1 the following day.
Indian Peafowl Pavo
Common in the lowlands.
Barred Buttonquail Turnix
1 at Chambal and 2 just outside Rhantambore on April 2 and 1 inside the park the following day.
Sarus Crane Grus
Only seen in the lowlands with over 5 at Sonepat, 1 at Sultanpur, 2 at Chambal River and about 10 to 14 different birds at Bharatpur.
Common Crane Grus
5 birds spend less then 10 minutes on the ground in Sultanpur on March 24 and about 40 were seen daily at Bharatpur.
Brown Crake Amaurornis
1 was seen during the Chambal River boattrip.
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis
Common in the lowlands but with only 1 sighting in Rhantambhor.
Baillon's Crake Porzana
1 was seen during the Chambal River boattrip, 1 at Bharatpur and the last one at Okhla. The last two birds were seen very well for several minutes.
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio
Common at Sultanpur and Bharatpur with lower numbers (>10) at Okhla.
Common Moorhen Gallinula
Common in the moist lowlands.
Eurasian Coot Fulica
Widespread in the lowlands in small numbers.
Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus
5 were seen during the boattrip on the Chambal River and over 50 were at Bharatpur.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus
Very common in the lowlands with 1000's of birds behind the Taj Mahal and birds at the smallest possible ponds and pools.
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra
>50 were seen at Okhla.
Great Thick-knee Burhinus
Over 6 were seen during the boattrip on the Chambal River, 1 was seen at Mansaowar and 2 within the Rhantambhor NP.
Indian Courser Cursorius
One of the highlights of the trip was a loose flock of 12 birds directly outside the fence of Sultanpur. The birds could be studied for a long time fouraging and displaying.
Oriental Pratincole Glareola
A major dip for Alma was missing this bird when it flew over us at the Mansarovar lake at Bharatpur on March 27. More birds were seen later by others but we could not connect with those...
Small Pratincole Glareola
Over a 100 were seen along the Chambal River.
River Lapwing Vanellus
Over 10 were seen during the boattrip on the Chambal River, 4 were at Mansarovar, 15 at Rhantambhor and 3 were seen at Okhla.
Yellow-wattled Lapwing Vanellus
Over 12, the remains of a recordflock of 69, were at the outskirts of Sonepat on March 23 and 9 were seen at Bharatpur on March 27.
Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus
Common in the lowlands, even within cities.
White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus
Seen only once with 2 birds in Bharatpur on March 27.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius
Quite common in suitable habitats, seen on 7 days with a maximum of 10 at Mansarowar on April 1.
Kentish Plover Charadrius
2 were at Okhla on April 14.
Common Snipe Gallinago
1 was at Sonepat, 7 were seen at Bharatpur (with an unidentified large, silent snipe) and 2 were at Mansarowar.
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa
Uncommon at Sultanpur and Bharatpur with just 3 to 20 a day but 100's were seen at Okhla April 14.
Spotted Redshank Tringa
Widespread in the lowlands in low numbers.
Common Redshank Tringa
Widespread in the lowlands in low numbers.
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa
Widespread in the lowlands in low numbers.
Common Greenshank Tringa
Widespread in the lowlands in low numbers.
Green Sandpiper Tringa
Widespread in the lowlands in low numbers.
Wood Sandpiper Tringa
Commonest Tringa with 10's at Bharatpur and 100's at Okhla.
Common Sandpiper Actitis
Widespread in the lowlands in low numbers.
Little Stint Calidris
Over 50 at Bharatpur on both days, 1 at Mansarowar and 100's at Okhla.
Temminck's Stint Calidris
Up to 3 daily at Bharatpur, 6 at Mansarowar and over 20 at Okhla.
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris
About 15 at Okhla on April 14.
Widespread in the lowlands with 100's at Sultanpur and Bharatpur and 1000's at Okhla..
Brown-headed Gull Larus
About 10 were at Okhla on April 14.
Black-headed Gull Larus
1 was with the previous species at Okhla.
River Tern Sterna
Over 10 along the Chambal River, 2 at Bharatpur, 15 at Mansarowar and up to 4 over ponds within Rhantambhore.
Little Tern Sterna
2 along the Chambal River and 2 at Mansarowar.
Black-bellied Tern Sterna
A small flock of at least 5 were feeding over the Chambal River on March 25 and 2 were at Mansarowar on March 31.
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias
4 at Mansarowar and >25 at Okhla.
Indian Skimmer Rynchops
Another highlight and our main reason to include Chambal in our itinerary was the skimmer. It took some time and just when we thought that wed missed our goal, 2 flew by, causing great relief. It turned out that most had already left upriver to breed. This was on March 25.
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles
2, a pair, arrived at the drinking pool beside the >courserfield at Sultanpur on March 24.
Painted Sandgrouse Pterocles
Seen daily at the pond and the surrounding semi-desert just outside the main gate of Rhantambhor with up to 50 birds coming to drink each evening. They arrive way after sunset, just before it gets really dark.
Oriental Turtle-Dove Streptopelia
Uncommon at Lava and Tiger Hill with max. 5 a day.
Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia
Widespread and common in the lowlands.
Red Collared-Dove Streptopelia
Seen almost daily in the lowlands but in low numbers, normally just 2 to 6 each day. Still a much better showing then during our previous trip to this region when we saw only 1!
Spotted Dove Streptopelia
Common around Rhantambhor but only one sighting elsewhere, 1 at Sonepat on March 23.
Laughing Dove Streptopelia
Common in the lowlands.
Barred Cuckoo-Dove Macropygia
None seen but several heard at Lava.
Yellow-footed Pigeon Treron
Common in the lowlands, even withi large gardens in Delhi!
Alexandrine Parakeet Psittacula
Just 2 seen at Sonepat on March 23. It may be commoner as we did not pay much attention to parakeets but I do not think so as Im very familiar with calls of rose-ringed parakeets (I work in Amsterdam which has a thriving population) and have not heard anything even vaguely different.
Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula
Very common in the lowlands.
Plum-headed Parakeet Psittacula
Low numbers at Sonepat and Sultanpur and 10 to 20 each day at Rhantambhor.
Large Hawk-Cuckoo Cuculus
Uncommon at Lava and Tiger Hill, just 1 to 4 each day.
Common Hawk-Cuckoo Cuculus
Common at Sultanpur with >10 birds at March 24 but otherwise max. 2 each day in the lowlands. Not heard or seen higher up in Lava and surroundings.
Indian Cuckoo Cuculus
Only a few at Lava, just arriving back. We heard max. 2 a day and saw just 2.
Common Cuckoo Cuculus
Uncommon at Lava and Tiger hill with 1 to 2 heard each day.
Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus
Commonest cuckoo in the hills with up to 4 most days also easily seen compared with other cuckoos.
Lesser Cuckoo Cuculus
Just 1 heard and seen at Lava on April 5 along the Algarah road.
Asian Koel Eudynamys
Arriving in force during our trip. Not heard or seen during our first days, the 1 or 2 daily at Bharatpur, common at Rhantambhor and common in Delhi on April 12-14.
Greater Coucal Centropus
Daily in small numbers in the lowlands.
Rock Eagle-Owl Bubo
1 in Rhantambhor on April 1, a juvenile bird just out of the nest.
Dusky Eagle-Owl Bubo
2 at Bharatpur on March 28 and 1 calling each morning outside our hotel at Rhantambhor and 1 seen within this park on April 1.
Brown Fish-Owl Ketupa
a pair at Sonepat on March 23 and another pair at Sultanpur the following day. Both pairs were seen very well sitting out in the open in the early morning.
Brown Wood-Owl Strix
1 was heard at Lava, about 1,5 km outside of town on April 8. This is the subspecies newarensis, sometimes considered a separate species.
Collared Owlet Glaucidium
2 were along the circle track just below the summit of Tiger Hill on April 11.
Asian Barred Owlet Glaucidium
Perfect views were obtained of 2 birds on April 4 and 5. The birds were in the big meadow just outside Lava on the Algarah road. Very useful birds for drawing out smaller birds!
Spotted Owlet Athene
Only seen the first 3 days with 2 at Sonepat and about 4 birds at Sultanpur.
Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus
2 were at Bharatpur on March 29 and up to 4 were seen near the sandgrouse pool at Rhantambhor.
Himalayan Swiftlet Aerodramus
Common at Lava, Tiger Hill and over Darjeeling.
White-throated Needletail Hirundapus
Within the big flocks of the previous species we saw 4 needletails on April 6 and 2 the next day.
Fork-tailed Swift Apus
Only seen once, a small flock of at least 4 birds during our ride from Lava to Darjeeling on April 9.
Little Swift Apus
Locally (very) common in the lowlands, mostly associating with towns.
Common Kingfisher Alcedo
Just 4 seen, 2 at Bharatpur and 2 in Rhantambhor.
White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon
Common in the lowlands.
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle
2 along the Chambal River, March 25, 1 at Bharatpur next day, 2 at Mansarowar March 31 and 1 at Rantambhor April 1.
Green Bee-eater Merops
Common in the lowlands.
Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops
Just one sighting of 3 over the Chambal Safari Lodge on March 25.
Indian Roller Coracias
Common in the lowlands.
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa
Common in the lowlands.
Indian Grey Hornbill Ocyceros
Uncommon in the lowlands but still seen almost daily.
Great Barbet Megalaima
Very obviously present at Lava where heard continiously but not easily seen. Less common at Tiger Hill.
Brown-headed Barbet Megalaima
Uncommon in the lowlands not seen daily and with normally just 1 to 2 a day.
Golden-throated Barbet Megalaima
Just 1 along the lower part of the Algarah road (KM 7) near Lava.
Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima
Common in the lowlands.
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx
1 at Sonepat on March 23 and 1 feeding near the sandgrouse pool at Rhantambhor on March 31.
Brown-capped Woodpecker Dendrocopos
Just one sighting of 1 in Rhantambhor on April 1.
Yellow-crowned Woodpecker Dendrocopos
2 at Sonepat, 1 at Sultanpur and 1 each day at Bharatpur were all our sightings.
Darjeeling Woodpecker Dendrocopos
1 at Lava, along the Algarah road between KM 4 and 5.
Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium
Uncommon in the lowlands but seen almost daily.
White-naped Woodpecker Chrysocolaptes
Prolonged views were obtained from a male, feeding along the main road from town to the entrance to Rhantambhor NP. The location is easily found: from the Hammir Wildlife Resort walk towards the park for about 300 m till you come to a roadsign with the text >deadslow. Just opposite the sign is a big tree with several holes. It was in this tree.
Singing Bushlark Mirafra
2 were in the semi-desert opposite the entrance of the Rhantambhor NP, March 31.
Indian Bushlark Mirafra
one was seen at Sonepat on March 23, over 10 were displaying at Sultanpur the following day and a few were seen at Rhantambhor.
Bengal Bushlark Mirafra
1 was seen on March 23 just outside Sonepat town.
Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark Eremopterix
2 at Sultanpur March 24 and quite common, with up to 10/day in the desert like areas outside Rhantambhor.
Rufous-tailed Lark Ammomanes
a pair seen on March 31 and April 1 near the sandgrouse pool near Rhantambhor.
Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella
>10 at the >courserfield at Sultanpur.
Hume's Lark Calandrella
3 just outside Sonepat town March 23.
Sand Lark Calandrella
About 3 on the shore of the Chambal River March 25.
Crested Lark Galerida
Common in the dry lowlands.so not seen at Bharatpur.
Oriental Skylark Alauda
Very local but common where present. Seen at Sonepat, Sultanpur and Mansarowal and Soorwal.
Plain Martin Riparia
Quite common along rivers and some large lakes.
Dusky Crag-Martin Hirundo
A minimum of 30 were within a huge flock of 100's if not 1000's of swallows and martins above Mansarowar Lake and surrounding electricitywires. Smaller numbers (10) were seen that evening above the sandgrousepool outside Rhantambhor.
Barn Swallow Hirundo
Seen on only 7 days with mostly low numbers.
Wire-tailed Swallow Hirundo
2 at Sonepat March 23, 4 above the Chambal River March 25, 2 at Bharatpur March 27 and a few at Okhla on April 14.
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo
4 at the Taj Mahal March 26, >8 at Mansarowar March 31 and 2 in Rhantambhor the next day.
Streak-throated Swallow Hirundo
Common along rivers, rare outside this habitat. Often breeding under bridges.
White Wagtail Motacilla
Quite common in the first few days of the trip, very uncommon later on. At Sonepat we saw 3 of the subspecies dukhunensis March 23, at Sultanpur there were at least 8 birds of this subspecies with two personata in the same flock. At Bharatpur there were quite good numbers of mostly dukhunensis but also a few leucopsis birds were seen there. At Soorwal on April 1 most of the 10 or so birds were to far to ID for sure but seemed all to belong to dukhunensis. At Lava two birds were seen at the tank on April 7 and 1 was at Okhla on April 14. All these were also dukhunensis.
White-browed Wagtail Motacilla
Uncommon in the lowlands, about 17 seen in 7 days.
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla
1 near the Chambal River March 25 and over 30 at Bharatpur. Most males belonged to the dark-backed calcarata subspecies.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla
Common with big numbers at Sonepat and Soorwal (100's at both sites) and often seen at other places in the lowlands. Only birds belonging to the beema subspecies were seen.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla
1 was at Bharatpur March 26 and 2 were feeding at the sandgrouse pool outside Rhantambhor, March 31.
Paddyfield Pipit Anthus
Common in the lowlands.
Richard's Pipit Anthus
Just 1 heard and seen, April 1 Soorwal.
Blyth's Pipit Anthus
1 was at Soorwal April 1.
Long-billed Pipit Anthus
1 was at Sultanpur March 24.
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni
[Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis]
Birds of one of these species were commonly heard all over the lowlands with especially high numbers at Rhantambhor with often 10's in less the 2 hours. However, all birds seen were Olive-backed Pipits.
Rosy Pipit Anthus
Just outside Lava was a sleeping place with up to 15 birds each evening.
Large Cuckoo-shrike Coracina
In a large tree outside our hotel at Rhantambhor (Hammir wildlife resort) was a big fruiting fig wich attracted 2 every morning we bothered to look.
Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike Coracina
2 were seen along the Algarah road near Lava April 6 and 1 was seen next day along the road towards the Neora Valley.
Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike Coracina
one seen on April 4 during the ride from Bagdogra to Lava.
Small Minivet Pericrocotus
Quite common in the forested parts of Bharatpur and Rhantambhor.
Long-tailed Minivet Pericrocotus
Uncommon at Lava with normally 2 to 4 each day.
Short-billed Minivet Pericrocotus
2 were seen on April 5 and 4 on April 8 and both sightings were along the Algarah road out of Lava.
Striated Bulbul Pycnonotus
Uncommon at Lava or maybe just hard to see as they frequented the very high treetops. Seen on three days with 4, >5 and 6 birds respectively.
White-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus
Surprisingly rare now compared with our previous trip, only seen at Bharatpur with a maximum of only 3 birds on March 26!
Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus
Abundant all over the lowlands.
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes
1 Was seen during the drive from Lava to Darjeeling and up to 5 were seen in Darjeeling town around the observatory hill every time we went there.
Common Iora Aegithina
1 female was in the hotel garden at Rhantambhor March 30.
Rufous-breasted Accentor Prunella
Seen almost daily at Lava with 2 to 5 birds each day and 1 was seen at Tiger Hill April 11. At Lava most birds were seen in the small fields with hedges along the bypass road and just above town.
Maroon-backed Accentor Prunella
4 were seen at Lava April 8 and 1 was at the summit of Tiger Hill April 10. The birds at Lava were along the upper jeeptrack that starts at the Lolaygaon turnoff. They fed on grassy verges of the track. Other birders saw 3 the same day on the grass between the roads near the forest resthouse. We missed these as we usually took a shortcut.
Blue-capped Rock-Thrush Monticola
1 fine male was seen from the car on April 9 during the ride from Lava to Darjeeling.
Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush Monticola
Seen daily at Lava mostly along the lower parts of the Algarah road (KM 4-6) with up to 3 a day. One male was seen at Tiger Hill April 8.
Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola
1 male was seen along the main road near our hotel at Rhantambhor.
Blue Whistling-Thrush Myophonus caeruleus
Quite common at Lava, Tiger Hill and Darjeeling with up to 4 each day.
Tickell's Thrush Turdus
Dipped big time at Bharatpur (like last visit) but connected with this bird at Lava where we saw 1 to 3 each day. The best area was within 1 km of the town limits, between the forest department office and the first hairpin. Birds were singing high in the cedars but better views were obtained of feeding birds besides the road.
White-collared Blackbird Turdus
2, a pair, were seen at Lava on April 5in a mixed flock of thrushes near KM 3 along the Algarahroad. On April 10 a female was at the summit of Tiger Hill.
Grey-winged Blackbird Turdus
Quite common at Lava and Tiger Hill with up to 4 a day.
Chestnut Thrush Turdus
One male was in a mixed flock of thrushes on April 5 along the Algarah road above Lava.
White-browed Shortwing Brachypteryx
Common at Tiger hill but very hard to see well.
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola
Very local and uncommon but not really looked for too.
Hill Prinia Prinia
Seen twice at the bypass road around Lava on April 5 and 7.
Rufous-fronted Prinia Prinia
3 were in the semi-desert outside the main entrance of Rhantambhore NP and several were within the Tughlaqabad ruins just outside Delhi.
Graceful Prinia Prinia
Common in the lowlands.
Jungle Prinia Prinia
Only seen in the semi-desert outside Rhantambhor, 1 bird March 31.
Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia
1 was at Sonepat on March 23 and 1 was seen at Okhla April 14.
Ashy Prinia Prinia
Quite common in the lowlands.
Plain Prinia Prinia
Local and quite uncommon in the lowlands but we did not try very hard to check out the prinias...
Grey-bellied Tesia Tesia
1 was just above Lava on April 5 and two were along the Neora track on April 7.
Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler Cettia
Common around Lava where its >song could be heard everywhere. Seeing was a bit harder.
Aberrant Bush-Warbler Cettia
1 was seen at Lava on April 4 and it was common along the road to the summit of Tiger Hill and along the circle track. We heard and saw over 10 each day there.
Yellowish-bellied Bush-Warbler Cettia
Uncommon at Tiger Hill with about 5 each day. Quite hard to see well.
Grey-sided Bush-Warbler Cettia
Just one was seen on April 8 and 9 at Lava.
Russet Bush-Warbler Bradypterus
1 or more were heard in the small gardens between Lava and the start of the Neora Valley track on April 6.
Lanceolated Warbler Locustella
1 was at Bharatpur along the bund that runs east from the temple on March 27. This bird was seen only two times but very close. It showed very heavy streaking on both the under- and upperparts and very clean, pale tertial edgings.
Paddyfield Warbler Acrocephalus
On our last morning (April 14) we saw 1 along the templebund at Okhla.
Blyth's Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus
Common in Bharatpur, marshy areas in Rhantambhor and at Okhla.
Clamorous Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus
We saw 5 at Bharatpur, mostly near the temple in the scrub along the bunds and 1 at Okhla near the templebund.
Booted Warbler Hippolais
One at Bharatpur on March 27.
Sykes' Warbler Hippolais
At least 1 at the Tughlaqabad ruins on April 14.
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus
Common in the lowlands.
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus
Common in the lowlands.
Smoky Warbler Phylloscopus
Nice views were had from 1 in the Taj Nature walk at Agra on March 26.
Tickell's Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus
At Bharatpur 3 were seen on March 27 and 1 on the 28th. At Lava we saw 1 to 3 each day along the Algarah road.
Sulphur-bellied Warbler Phylloscopus
Only seen at Bharatpur with 1 on March 26, over 7 on the next day and 1 on March 28. They were feeding in big trees with rough bark like a small nuthatch and calling very often.
Buff-barred Warbler Phylloscopus
Quite common at Lava with about 5 each day.
Ashy-throated Warbler Phylloscopus
Common at Lava with 5 to 10 each day and uncommon at Tiger Hill with 1-2 each day.
Lemon-rumped Warbler Phylloscopus
As the previous species.
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus
Just 1 seen on April 4 at the meadows just outside Lava.
The last wintering birds were seen at Sultanpur, Bharatpur and Rhantambhor with a few birds at each site.
Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus
Only 5 seen and all at Bharatpur.
Blyth's Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus
Commonest warbler at Lava with often over 50 a day but surprisingly uncommon at Tiger hill and Darjeeling with only 2 each day. The funny winglifting display was seen several times.
Golden-spectacled Warbler Seicercus
Common at Lava and Tiger Hill. The birds above and below town differ in voice and slightly in plumage and are thought to belong to two species S. burkii and S. whistlerii. It is not clear however which is which one, how to ID tem and how to exclude the forms breeding relatively close to the North in China.
Grey-hooded Warbler Seicercus
Surprisingly uncommon and mostly seen below town along the Neora track and the road towards it. We saw 1 on April 5, 2 on the 7th and 1 at the 8th.
Grey-cheeked Warbler Seicercus
We saw this species only along the Algarah road between KM 4 and 6. We saw 1 on April 5th and 6th and 2 on the 8th.
Chestnut-crowned Warbler Seicercus
Uncommon at Lava in mixed flocks of other warblers with 1 on April 5, 2 on both April 6 en 7 and 3 on April 8.
Black-faced Warbler Abroscopus
3 were seen along the lower stretches of the Algarah road between KM 6 and 7 from Lava. 1 was with other warblers near KM 6 and both sightings were on April 8.
Broad-billed Warbler Tickellia
1 was at Lava on April 5 and another one on April 8. The first one was along the Algaragh road and the other one on the Neora Valley track. Both were in mixed wablerflocks. At Tiger Hill they were quite easy with 6 sightings in two mornings, 2 on April 10 and 4 on the 11th.
Striated Grassbird Megalurus
Just one at Okhla on April 14.
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia
Common all over the lowlands.
Hume's Whitethroat Sylvia
Uncommon at Bharatpur with about 3 birds seen. We did not check much lesser whitethroats so the real number might have been higher.
Eastern Orphean Warbler Sylvia
At least 2 but probably over 4 were seen at the Taj Nature park at Agra on March 26th.
Siberian Flycatcher Muscicapa
One bird was seen just outside Lava on most mornings and it (or another one) was seen along the bypass road around Lava.
Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher Ficedula
About 4 were at Lava on April 8 and 3 were at Tiger Hill on April 10.
Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula
Common all over the lowlands.
Red-throated Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla
After we saw the first male at Chambal on March 25 we did not bother to check the rest of the red-breasted/throated flycatchers...
Snowy-browed Flycatcher Ficedula hyperythra
Twice seen at Lava, each time single males on April 6 and 8.
Sapphire Flycatcher Ficedula
Two sightings at Lava on the same day (April 8th) a pair was along the upper jeeptrack and an male was seen just after the KM 6 marker along the Algarah road.
Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias
Common at Lava with up to 10 each day but not seen at Tiger Hill.
Large Niltava Niltava
1 was at the Lava bypass on April 7.
Small Niltava Niltava
1 was seen along the Algarah road April 7.
Rufous-bellied Niltava Niltava
Common in the hills.
Pale Blue-Flycatcher Cyornis
1 on April 7 and 2 the next day at Lava.
Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher Culicicapa
6 were along the Algarah road on April 8 but not seen on any other date.
Siberian Rubythroat Luscinia
1 male was at Bharatpur along the Jatoli Canal on March 28.
2 near the temple at Bharatpur March 27.
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger
4 females were seen along the upper jeeptrack at Lava.
Golden Bush-Robin Tarsiger
1 male was at the start of the Neora valley track on April 7.
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus
Common in the lowlands.
Indian Robin Saxicoloides
Common in the lowlands.
Black Redstart Phoenicurus
Common in the lowlands. We saw mostly males and all were of the red-bellied rufiventris subspecies.
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus
Local at both Lava and Tiger Hill with numbers between 1 to 6 a day.
White-tailed Robin Cinclidium
1 was seen at Lava just after the KM 6 marker on April 8 and 1 was seen next day sitting on the roadside halfway to Kalimpong. At Tiger Hill we had at least 3 on April 11.
Blue-fronted Robin Cinclidium
1 was seen in a gully above the Lolaygaon turnoff from the Algarah road. If you walk up from there youll get to a small temple from where you can walk down into the forest or up along the upper jeeptrack. If you go down, there is an indistinct track going to the left into the undergrowth. About 10 m in is where we had this bird.
Spotted Forktail Enicurus
On April 8 1 was at the road about 2 KM above Lava.
Common Stonechat Saxicola
Common in the lowlands
White-tailed Stonechat Saxicola
A pair and a female were seen near the temple bund at Okhla on april 14.
Pied Bushchat Saxicola
Common in the lowlands.
Grey Bushchat Saxicola
Daily at both Lava and Tiger Hill with 2 to 6 each day.
Mostly seen on travelling days easily seen on ruins and edges of old villages.
Yellow-bellied Fantail Rhipidura
1 at Lava April 6 and 1 at Tiger Hill April 10.
White-throated Fantail Rhipidura
Uncommon at Lava with 1 each day and 2 on Tiger hill April 10.
White-browed Fantail Rhipidura
Only seen at Rhantambhor with 2 to 6 each day.
Asian Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone
2 at Sultanpur a female and a white male on March 23th, the female again next day and 2 each day at Bharatpur. March 28 en 29th.
Striated Laughingthrush Garrulax
Only seen at Lava along the Algarah road with 1 on April 5th and 3 on April 8th.
Streaked Laughingthrush Garrulax
Just 1 seen, April 7th, along the Neora valley track.
Scaly Laughingthrush Garrulax
One small group of about 5 birds were along the Algarah road, Lava on April 8th. Several times we glimpsed similar birds which could have been this or the following species.
Blue-winged Laughingthrush Garrulax
Two were seen near KM 5 at Lava on April 6th.
Black-faced Laughingthrush Garrulax
1 crossed the road with other laughingthrushes near KM 4 at Lava on April 6th.
Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush Garrulax
Commonest laughingthrush at both Lava and Tiger Hill often 10 to 20 birds seen in a day.
White-browed Scimitar-Babbler Pomatorhinus
3 near KM 4 Algarah road Lava on April 6th.
Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler Pomatorhinus
3 near KM 5 Algarah road Lava on April 7th. Many more heard.
Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler Xiphirhynchus
2 heard and glimpsed at Tiger Hill April 10th and 11th.
Pygmy Wren-Babbler Pnoepyga
1 at Lava on April 8th.
Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler Spelaeornis
At Lava about 6 birds seen in 4 days and at Tiger Hill we had 1 on April 10th.
Spotted Wren-Babbler Spelaeornis
On both april 6th and 7th we heard one along the Algarah road near Lava. The first one just after the highest point and the second one about 1 km further down.
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyris
Uncommon at Lava and Tiger Hill with 2 to 5 each day.
Yellow-eyed Babbler Chrysomma
2 at Mansarowar on March 31st and 1 in the hotel garden at Rhatambhor on April 1st.
Common Babbler Turdoides
2 at the Taj Nature park March 26 and 13 were seen at Rhantambhor spread over 3 days. A good site was the sandgrouse pool.
Striated Babbler Turdoides
Over 10 were at Sonepad March 23rd and about 6 were near the temple bund at Okhla April 14th.
Large Grey Babbler Turdoides
Common in the lowlands.
Jungle Babbler Turdoides
Common in the lowlands.
Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix
At Lava 2 were in the forest departement garden on April 6th and over 10 were seen below town towards the Neora Valley track on April 7th. At Darjeeling a small flock of about 5 were seen daily at the observatory Hill.
At least 2 were in the big cedars high above the Lolaygaon turnoff on April 6th.
White-browed Shrike-Babbler Pteruthius
A male was in a big mixed flock at Lava on April 5th.
Rusty-fronted Barwing Actinodura
Mostly seen between KM 4 and 6 along the Algarah road with 4 to 10 each day.
Hoary-throated Barwing Actinodura nipalensis
Often in the same flocks as previous species but max. 2 birds a day.
Blue-winged Minla Minla cyanouroptera
Quite common at Lava and scarce at Tiger Hill.
Chestnut-tailed Minla Minla strigula
Quite common at Lava and scarce at Tiger Hill.
Red-tailed Minla Minla ignotincta
Quite common at Lava and scarce at Tiger Hill.
Yellow-throated Fulvetta Alcippe cinerea
Mostly between KM 4 and 6 along the Algarah road, Lava with 3 on April 5th, about 10 on April 6th and >15 on April 8th.
Rufous-winged Fulvetta Alcippe castaneceps
Uncommon at both Lava and Tiger Hill.
White-browed Fulvetta Alcippe vinipectus
At Tiger Hill >10 were seen on April 10th and just 2 on the next day.
Rufous Sibia Heterophasia capistrata
Common at Lava and abundant at Tiger Hill.
Whiskered Yuhina Yuhina flavicollis
Common at Lava but uncommon at Tiger hill.
Stripe-throated Yuhina Yuhina gularis
About 12 sightings at Lava in 4 days but just 1 at Tiger Hill on April 11th.
Rufous-vented Yuhina Yuhina occipitalis
Only seen at Lava with about 20 birds on the 3 days with sightings.
Black-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis
1 along the Neora Valley track on April 7th and about 6 in a mixed flock at the last barrier before Tiger Hill summit on April 10th.
Black-throated Tit Aegithalos concinnus
At Lava we saw 4 on April 6th and >8 the next day and at Tiger Hill we saw 6 on April 10th and 1 the next day.
Great Tit Parus major
Seen in low numbers (1 to 2) each day at Rhantambhor and 1 was seen during the drive from Bagdogra to Lava on April 4th.
Green-backed Tit Parus monticolus
Common at Lava and about 2 each day at Tiger Hill/Darjeeling.
Yellow-cheeked Tit Parus spilonotus
Just 5 seen at Lava, 4 along the Algarah road and 1 along the Neora Valley track.
Yellow-browed Tit Sylviparus modestus
At Lava 2 were seen April 5th and 1 on the next day.
Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch Sitta castanea
At Lava we saw 1 on April 5th and 6th and >6 on April 8, mostly below KM 6. At Tiger Hill we saw 1 on April 11th.
Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus
Common in the lowlands.
Green-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga nipalensis
Common at the hills.
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker Dicaeum ignipectus
We saw 2 at Lava, 1 on April 6th and 1 on the 8th.
Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus
Local and uncommon in the lowlands and a surprising sighting of 1 with plenty blyths leaf warblers in a garden in Darjeeling.
Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
Uncommon in the lowlands with most sightings (2 to 3 a day) at Rhantambhor in fruiting figs.
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
1 at Bagdogra airport on April 12th.
Bay-backed Shrike Lanius vittatus
7 seen in the lowlands with birds at Sonepat, Sultanpur, Bharatpur, Rhantambore and Okhla.
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach
Widespread in both the lowlands and the hills both mostly low numbers: 1 to 5 a day. With the current wave in splitting shrikes, it would surprise me big time if the long-tailed group would not be separated into several species. Look for instance at the tricolor subspecies near Darjeeling and further east. These are really very different compared with the lowland subspecies.
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis
1 at Sultanpur on March 24th and 2 birds around Rhantambhor on April 1st and 2nd.
Common Woodshrike Tephrodornis pondicerianus
1 at Sultanpur on both days, 1 at Bharatpur March 26 and 1 at Rhantambhor March 31st.
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus
Common in the lowlands.
Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus
Uncommon but the real distribution not clear as we did not bother to ID most of the regular looking drongos...
White-bellied Drongo Dicrurus caerulescens
Quite common at Baratpur and Rhantambhor.
Rufous Treepie Dendrocitta vagabunda
Common in the lowlands.
House Crow Corvus splendens
Abundant in the lowlands and low numbers (max. 3) at Darjeeling.
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos
Quite common in the lowlands and quite uncommon at Lava and Tiger Hill. The birds from the lowlands and the hill areas differ in several ways and may be different species. Besides the structure its mostly the calls that differ obviously.
Bank Myna Acridotheres ginginianus
Common in the lowlands but not many seen within Bharatpur or Sultanpur. Probably more a bird for agricultural landscapes.
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
Common to abundant in the lowlands and rare around Darjeeling with 2 to 6 seen within Ghoom between Tiger hill and Darjeeling town.
Asian Pied Starling Gracupica contra
Common in the lowlands.
Chestnut-tailed Starling Sturnia malabarica
8 flew by about 20 km east from Bagdogra airport on our way to Lava, April 4th.
Brahminy Starling Temenuchus pagodarum
Quite common in the lowlands.
Rosy Starling Pastor roseus
12 flew over Sultanpur on March 24th and several groups, totalling over 90 birds, flew over Mansarowar Lake near Rhantambhor on March 31st.
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Common within towns.
Sind Sparrow Passer pyrrhonotus
After we first passed the nest as there were better places further on, we later had to return to this nest to find a lovely pair of this small sparrow.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Abundant at Lava and Darjeeling within both towns.
Chestnut-shouldered Petronia Petronia
Common in the lowlands.
Streaked Weaver Ploceus manyar
About 5 were at Sonepat on March 23rd and 2 were at Okhla on April 14th.
Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus
Comman around Sonepat on March 23rd and over 50 were at Soorwal Lake.
Indian Silverbill Lonchura malabarica
Local and uncommon in the lowlands.
Plain Mountain-Finch Leucosticte nemoricola
2 were seen along the bypass at Lava on April 7th.
Crimson-browed Finch Pinicola subhimachalus
In the same scrubby area between KM 5 and 6 we saw first 2 ( a pair) on April 5th and later, April 8th, 2 males.
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus
1 female plumaged bird was in the dry area of Bharatpur on March 27, at Lava we saw 2 on April 6th and 1 the next day and on our last morning we saw 1 at Okhla.
Dark-rumped Rosefinch Carpodacus edwardsii
A female was present between the summut and the barrier at Tiger Hill on April 10th.
Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra
A flock of about 20 was seen below Lava Town about 1 km beyond the start of the Neora track on April 7th.
Tibetan Serin Serinus thibetanus
The only definite sighting was of 20 in cedars and alders about 2 km along the road from Lava to Silinguri. We had plenty possible sightings of small yellow birds disappearing into the high, dense pines never to be seen again.
Brown Bullfinch Pyrrhula nipalensis
Seen daily at Lava with daily totals of 2, >6, 2 and 4.
Red-headed Bullfinch Pyrrhula erythrocephala
Seen on 3 out of our 4 days at Lava, our totals were 6, 1 and 2. We had 1 sighting at Tiger Hill of 2 birds on April 10th.
Collared Grosbeak Mycerobas affinis
1 flew over the forest departement resthouse on April 6th.
Gold-naped Finch Pyrrhoplectes epauletta
A male was seen in a scrubby area between KM 5 and 6 on April 5th. In the same area we saw a male and 3 females on the 8th, on the 7th we saw a male at the start of the Neora Valley track and above the Lolaygaon turnoff we saw 2 females on April 8th.
Crested Bunting Melophus lathami
A female was in the Taj Nature Park at Agra on March 26 and at Rhantambhore it was common with up to 20 in a day. Almost all were males.
Grey-necked Bunting Emberiza buchanani
a female was seen at a drinking place within Rhantambhore NP on March 30th and the next day 2 males were seen at the sandgrouse pool outside Rhantambhore.
Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla
On the first few days at Lava we saw 2 to 3 a day but on our last day small migrating groups arrived and we counted at least 20.
Red-headed Bunting Emberiza bruniceps
3 were at Mansarowar lake on March 31th, over 20 at Soorwal on April 1st, over 10 and 6 in Rhantambhore park on April 2nd and 3rd.