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A Report from

Kaladhungi, Naini Tal, India,

Christopher Salt

I have been visiting this fascinating part of the Himalayan foothills for 14 years. It's about 25 km east of Corbett Tiger Reserve, in the same belt of dense forest (Terai and Bhabar tracts), but is not part of any wildlife reserve, although the forests here are designated "Government Reserve Forest". There is a blanket ban on felling in the sub-Himalayan region, to protect the watershed, which means that the forest changes little from year to year. In fact, the birding has got better over the years that I have been going there!

The fauna and flora of the Kaladhungi area is basically similar to Corbett Reserve. The Kaladhungi forests have resident tigers, leopards, elephants and an incredible diversity of birds. Best of all, as it isn't a designated reserve, you are free to walk in the forest, which is certainly not the case in Corbett Reserve, where you are restricted to jeeps and, if you are lucky, elephant rides. Also, Kaladhungi has more interesting and varied scenery, all in a relatively compact area of about 12 x 8 km. These dimensions are approximate as we are talking about a tract within a belt of forest that extends for hundreds of km. west to east. To the north, the bhabar forest passes into oak and pine forest above about 1200 metres, but this report is restricted to the terai and bhabar forest below 1200m.

The Kaladhungi forests have long been famous for their birds. Jim Corbett, the legendary wildlife author and hunter of man-eating tigers, who lived in Kaladhungi betwen 1875 and 1947, remarked in his book "Jungle Lore" that he never saw such a variety of birds as existed in Kaladhungi.

Mu own birdlist for this area now totals about 305 species. Most of these were seen within a small area of about 4 x 3 km. This reflects the amazing diversity of habitat types in such a small area (as opposed to the huge areas of rather boring sal forest in Corbett Reserve). Most productive are the wooded margins of the Boar River and its tributaries, where numerous sub-environments can be found, each with its own characteristic birds. Keep a good look-out for tiger tracks and elephants at the same time!

If you want to visit Corbett Reserve, it is about a one-hour jeep ride away. Alternatively, a jeep ride further up into the Himalayan foothills can take in some excellent birdwatching localities in mountain oak and pine forest, such as Pangot and Binser.

Birdwatching highlights of my last visit to Kaladhungi in March-April and November 2000 are as follows.
I have included some commoner species to give a flavour of the diversity of the birds in this area:

Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Migrant, frequently seen March-October
Black Headed Oriole, Common resident
Black Crested Yellow Bulbul, Common resident
Blue Bearded Bee Eater, Large Bee Eater; uncommon
Blue Whistling Thrush, Common resident
Brown Fish Owl, Resident pair; huge forest owl usually seen at dusk
Changeable Hawk Eagle, Pair hunting low in forest
Crimson Sunbird Resident, local variant of species
Crested Serpent Eagle, Common resident
Emerald Dove, Uncommon
Fire Capped Tit, Winter migrant from hills
Fulvous Breasted Woodpecker, Common resident
Great Barbet, Resident, more often heard than seen
Great Indian Hornbill, Seen daily in parties up to 5.
Great Slaty Woodpecker, Group of 10! Huge noisy woodpecker
Green Billed Malkoha, Resident
Green Magpie, Solitary sighting, very rare
Himalayan Flameback Woodpecker, Common
Grey Capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Common in mixed parties with Minivets, Flycatchers
Grey Headed Canary Flycatcher, Common resident
Griffon Vulture, Not common but resident at higher elevations with Lammergeier
Himalayan Pied Crested Kingfisher, Seen daily by river. Large noisy bird
Large Billed Leaf Warbler, One of numerous Warbler and Prinia species
Lesser & Greater Racket Tailed Drongo, Resident, easily seen, plus 5 other Drongo species
Long Tailed Broadbill, Party of 5, good sighting, very rare.
Nuthatch - Chestnut Bellied & Velvet Fronted, Common residents
Olive Backed Pipit, Uncommon
Orange Bellied Leafbird, Less common than other Leafbird spp.
Orange Headed Thrush, Resident but uncommon
Red Billed Leiothrix, Large parties, easily watched
Red Billed Blue Magpie, Parties up to 10
Red Jungle Fowl, Numerous!
Rubythroat, Siberian & White Tailed, Uncommon migrants
Rufous Bellied Niltava, Resident
Stork Billed Kingfisher, Resident
Scaly Breasted Munia, Uncommon
Scarlet Minivet, Common in large parties with other Minivets, Flycatchers etc
Slaty Blue Flycatcher, Resident
Slaty Headed Parakeet, Common in groups
Spotted Owlet, Often seen in daylight
Tawny Fish Owl, Another huge forest owl
Tickell's Thrush, Occasionally seen
Verditer Flycatcher, Resident
White Capped Water Redstart, Common resident
White Crested Laughing Thrush, Common April-October
White Throated Fantail Flycatcher, Common resident
Yellow Eyed Babbler, Uncommon

Species names are those used in "Birds of India", Grimmett,Inskipp & Inskipp, 1999.

My own total is about 305 species.

I always stay at CAMP CORBETT, which is a long-established wildlife camp run by naturalists, located in the forest near Kaladhungi. Very comfortable, and many interesting birds can be seen in Camp, including Hornbills and Owls! You can just walk out of Camp, straight into the hungle with no hassles.


UK/Europe Agent, and Naturalist for Camp Corbett and Mountain Quail Camps:
Christopher Salt, Lower Sharptor, Henwood, Cornwall, PL14 5AT, United Kingdom

Phone/fax: 01579-362808


Camp Corbett, Corbett Nagar, Kaladhungi 263140, Naini Tal District, Uttaranchal, India
Phone: (91)-5942-242126
Fax: (91)-5946-23623

Mountain Quail Camp, Pangot 263001, Naini Tal District, Uttaranchal, IndiaFax: (91)-5942-35493
Phone: (91)-9811-010-616 (mobile)

Christopher Salt

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