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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Nepal, 4-20 January 2001,
Full Bird List
From 4-20th January 2001 we (Remco Hofland (RH), Hans van der Meulen (HvdM) & Chris Quispel (CQ) from The Netherlands) made a birdwatching trip to Nepal. Besides natural beauty and the diversity in culture and religion, this fascinating country has a lot more to offer to birdwatchers. Part of the attraction is formed by the opportunity to see several species from the Eastern Palearctic which are very rare vagrants to Europe, together with sought-after Asian birds such as Great Hornbill and Ibisbill. Most birders visit this country in March, when the number of migratory birds is higher, and summer birds such as Indian and Hooded Pitta, and several species of flycatcher can be found. Also, one of the attractions of the Chitwan NP, the Bengal Florican, will be displaying. It is, however, hard (if not impossible) to find the Ibisbill in March at its regular wintering spot near Hetauda.
Sev. = several
hr(s) = hour(s)
DFL = Dutch Florins / guilders
S = south
We flew from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to Kathmandu with Transavia, a Dutch charter company, and on both ways made a one-hour stop-over at Sjarjah, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, at night. While in Kathmandu, we stayed at the same hotel, and used various taxis to and from the sites visited (Pulchowki, Nagarjung and Shivapuri mountains). For our visit to Kosi we rented a car-with-driver for five days, through the Tibet Guest House, paying 300 cash US$ (including food and lodging for the driver), which I am sure can be done cheaper. We got a small Suzuki van which was just what we needed, with enough room for our luggage and scopes. We used the car for our drive between Kathmandu and Hetauda, using the old highway through the mountains (no traffic and great views), that supposedly takes about as much time as the way round the mountains, which is about 200 km longer. The next morning we drove from Hetauda to Kosi through the Terai (the Nepalese lowlands), only stopping to watch birds on a few occasions. Our third day by car we spent entirely at Kosi Tappu Wildife Reserve (on foot), so we gave the driver permission to visit relatives at nearby Birathnagar.
The fourth day we also spent on foot, partly because there was a 'strike' - meaning that all motorised traffic was prohibited, an event that takes place in Nepal with some regularity. We had wanted to use the car to search for Red-necked Falcons in the afternoon, but ended up doing this from the embankment within the reserve, and failed to find the species. Our fifth day we drove back from Kosi to Meghauli at the far (western) end of Chitwan National Park.
After two days at Chitwan, we rented a car-with-driver to take us back to Kathmandu. A big and very old Ambassador took us halfway to Hetauda, for we wanted to take the old highway again, this time to stop and bird regularly on the way. But near Hetauda the car broke down, and the driver phoned for another car to pick us up. When the replacement turned out to be another Ambassador, even older than the other one, we decided to play it safe, and take the way round the mountains, having to turn back to Narayangadh (near Meghauli) first. Back in Kathmandu, early evening, the other Ambassador also broke down...
Apparently, it is possible to take domestic flights to, for example, Birathnagar near Kosi, but in January this is apparently not advisable because early mornings there is thick fog causing frequent delays in flying.
Note: where ever prices are indicated in US$, they were paid in rupees unless stated otherwise.
We pre-booked the Tibet Guest House in Thamel, Kathmandu. For guests coming with Transavia, our Dutch carrier, there is a 40% discount, so our last couple of nights we also spent at this hotel. Warm water, restaurant o.k. (nothing fancy, not expensive), about 9 US$ / DFL 20,- per person per night, to be paid for in US$ or by credit card. No heating in the rooms however, with 0° C at night.
At Hetauda we used the Avocado Motel, used by many birders, and also by many people on their way to India, so it seemed when we were there. High-priced (about 15 US$ / DFL 35,-), with a good restaurant. We did not see many other hotels at Hetauda, apart from the usual dumps. The Avocado has quite a nice garden, too.
The Aqua Birds Tented Camp that we used at Kosi is one of three tented camps. It is probably in the middle for pricing (30 US$ / DFL 60,- per person, to be paid in US$, including all meals, excluding bird guide), but it is very near the park entrance and has a good kitchen. Prices are likely to be higher in the season (March): we were the only ones using their facilities in January, and they didn't quite expect anyone.
Chital Lodge is the place to go whenever you are in Meghauli, Chitwan for birding. Jib is an excellent bird guide, prices are low (about 4 US$ / DFL 10,- per night, meals are cheap, and a well-worth 9 US$ fee per person for Jib's guiding), and it is a pleasant morning walk to the jungle. Jib also acts as a sort of role-model for the locals, in promoting the importance of nearby wildlife. Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge (about 250 US$ per night including elephants, guiding, jeeps, meals) is worth it if you have and are willing to spend the money.
Thu 4th Jan 2001: Left Amsterdam Airport Schiphol at 9.30 p.m., arriving at Sjarjah, Abu Dhabi at 6.15 a.m. local time (3 hrs later). After an hour we flew on to Kathmandu, arriving on
Fri 5th Jan: at 12.30 p.m. Arrived at our (pre-booked) hotel, the two-star Tibet Guest House, at around 2 p.m. After dumping our luggage there, we headed straight for Nagarjung, which is, like Thamel (the tourist / hotel area of Kathmandu) in the northwest corner of the valley. We took the low entrance and headed up a path through the forest, where we could bird the last two hrs of daylight. Dusk at around 5.30 p.m. (the reserve closes at 5).
Sat 6th Jan: Got up at 5.40 a.m., had breakfast and (at 6.30 a.m.) took a taxi up to the foot of Pulchowki mountain, the highest mountain next to Kathmandu valley (arriving 7.30 a.m.). We birded most of the day in (the vicinity of) the 'ravine' at the start of the windy road up the mountain, climbing a path up the western side of the ravine in late morning (where the sun had warmed things up a bit) and spent part of the afternoon at the nearby Godaveri Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately there was a big party going on next to the Gardens, but we saw several nice birds anyway. Returned to Kathmandu at dusk. Temperature at night about 0° C, cold in the morning at the mountain (even with sweater, jacket and gloves), but about 16-20° C during the afternoon, probably slightly warmer in Kathmandu.
Sun 7th Jan: Took the same taxi as the day before up Pulchowki mountain, and although it was an old Renault and the road was at times (very) poor, we made it up the mountain pretty easily in about an hour. Birded all morning just below the top of the mountain, near a (frozen) pool (where atrogularis Dark-throated and Chestnut Thrushes and White-collared Blackbirds came to drink) next to an open area surrounded by bushes. Between 4 and 5 p.m. were spent at the Godaveri Botanical Gardens. This and the previous day we payed our taxi driver 1500 rupees for the day (about DFL 50,- / 20 US$), which is not much, considering we had to pay 2000 rupees at the end of the trip, for a taxi that didn't even make it up the mountain.
Mon 8th Jan: Started at 7 a.m. at the lower entrance of Nagarjung, but it was closed because of the presence of the Nepalese King. We were allowed in at the higher gate, where there was no military presence. Fog and cold, with little birds. We found our first Scaly Thrush however (three-second sighting though), and several flocks of birds after the sun came out (but apart from Whistler's Warbler and White-browed Shrike-Babbler we did not see anything we didn't see elsewhere). Spent 7.15-12 a.m. at Nagarjung, after which we took our taxi downtown to visit the famous Buddhist temple of Swayambunath, and the Hindu temple complex at Pashupatinath.
Tue 9th Jan: Left Kathmandu at 6.30 a.m. with Sonam, our Tibetan-Nepalese driver and the rented Suzuki van. It took us about an hour to reach the turn-off to the road into the mountains, and about 4 hrs to drive through the mountains, crossing a 2700m-high pass. We only stopped for birding at a shingle river in a village, about 15 km before reaching Daman. Here we found our only (male) Hodgson's Redstart and Wallcreeper of the trip, along with White-capped and Plumbeous Water Redstarts, and White-browed and Yellow Wagtail.
Arrived at the Avocado Motel at Hetauda around 1.30 p.m. The motel manager showed us a letter to the Inskipp's, written the previous winter, and stating that Ibisbills had only been seen at the Rapti river just west of the motel that winter. So we started our search for that species there, only to find that the many people bathing and washing did not leave a lot of room for birds. So we walked south to the big bridge, and on towards the bend in the river and the suspension bridge, birding on the way. We encountered many birds, among which Barred Buttonquail, Rufous-tailed Shrike, Rosy and Tawny Pipits, River Lapwings, Oriental Skylarks, Bright-headed Cisticola, Red-naped Ibis and finally found our 7 Ibisbills in late afternoon (see visited sites for more details). Slightly warmer down here, about 25° C.
Wed 10th Jan: The female Tickell's Thrush in the garden of the Avocado Motel before breakfast was a bit of a surprise, although it is a beautiful garden for birds. It took us some 6 hrs to drive the 250+ km through the Terai from Hetauda to Kosi, arriving there about 3 p.m. On our way there we stopped only three times: at a small marsh just east of the village Cachannighapur (Citrine, Masked and Hodgson's (White) Wagtails, Coppersmith Barbets heard); at Arihan village (our first Indian Roller and Rufous Treepie); and just west of Saraswati Bridge, where our first Lesser Adjutant spotted from the car resulted in seven of these magnificent birds, along with two Woolly-necked Storks (the only ones seen perched), 15 Asian Openbills, a dark-phase Booted Eagle grabbing an Indian Pond Heron right before our eyes, and our first Brown Shrike of the trip. Near Kosi Tappu Wildlife Reserve HQ we found an empty Aqua Birds Tented Camp, where we could stay for 30 US$ per person, including all meals (with an additional 20 US$ per person for our bird guide). This tented camp is right in the middle of the action, with Purple Swamphens and Greater Coucals seen at breakfast, many Olive-backed Pipits around and Asian Palm Swift and Ashy Woodswallow over the camp, and in the early morning of 11th a wild Water Buffalo being chased away from the crops by the villagers.
The afternoon of 10th was spent with Rajendra Narsingh Suwal as our guide. With him we checked some ponds and fields outside the reserve (the latter site holding flocks of Yellow-breasted Bunting), and ended up at the famous 'Pink Tower' west of Kosi River, which is not as good a place as it used to be, with many of the marshes silted and dried up. However, we heard and saw some good birds, such as Swamp (heard) and Black Francolin, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Pied Harrier and Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler.
Great food at night at the dining hall of the tented camp. Cold at night, a pleasant 22° C during the daytime.
Thu 11th Jan: After a good breakfast, and our first wild Water Buffalo we went into the Kosi Tappu Wildlife Reserve on foot with our guide, Dinesh Giri. The entrance of the reserve is a 10 minute-walk away from the Aqua Birds: unfortunately, we had to wait at the entrance for 20 minutes (filling out forms) before being able to enter the reserve. We birded all day along the embankment and the eastern river edge, north of the entrance. Our lunch was brought to us by some guys on a moped, and we ate it with great views on the river, Gangetic Dolphins, my first Crocodile and several other new birds including the incredibly beautiful River Tern. A pleasant 20° C all day, apart from the fog and cold early in the morning. Had a (very good) dinner at Aqua Birds. About 120 species of birds were seen this day.
Fri 12th Jan: Breakfast at 7 a.m., with thick fog that unfortunately stayed until about 1 p.m, although being less thick from about 10 a.m. onwards. It gave us, however, the opportunity to see the endangered Swamp Francolin. This day we birded along the embankment in the reserve south of the entrance. Because of a 'strike' (no motorised vehicles - including public transport - allowed anywhere) we could not use the car in our search for Red-necked Falcons, and we also failed to find them from the embankment, scoping the adjacent fields. A cold day because of the fog, about 10-15° C.
Sat 13th Jan: Left the Aqua Bird Tented Camp at 6 a.m., in a (very) thick fog and still dark. It took us about an hour to reach the barrage (only 15 km's away), encountering many trucks, bicycles and buses without lights on the way (dangerous driving!). When crossing the barrage (the road only being 4m wide) a cow was hit in front of us, when two trucks tried to pass each other. We hoped we would only be troubled by fog about 10 km on either side of the river, but no: it cleared only at 11 a.m. One stop in a forest in the Terai produced some songbirds, as well as a pair of Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpeckers. Weather improved, and it was warmish from Hetauda onwards (22° C). About 12.30 p.m. we reached Hetauda, 2 p.m. Birathnagar, and 3 p.m. we reached Meghauli. The last hour driving was spent on a (very) bad, unsurfaced road through agricultural fields. Chital Lodge at Meghauli is an idyllic place, next to a small river and about 15 minutes walk from the Rapti River. The lodge is run by Jib, an extraordinary bird guide without binoculars but equipped with a lot of knowledge of the local birds and incredible eyes. In the afternoon we made a short (2-hr) walk along the river, and already saw some good birds such as Plum-headed Parakeet and Small Pratincole, with Pale-chinned Flycatcher and Coppersmith Barbets in Chital Lodge garden. Ate at the lodge, cold at night, and lots of noise: from the big pile of shit next to our hut the following morning we could tell that an Indian One-horned Rhino had spent some time there!
Sun 14th Jan: At 7 we were out (in a cold fog, again), enjoying the male Orange-headed Thrush foraging among the fallen leaves under the big tree in the Chital Logde garden. According to Jib, this bird spent some time here on most mornings this winter. After breakfast we started walking through the fog, with Jib as our guide, towards the jungle near Tiger Tops (the expensive and well-run 'safari' lodge in the jungle south of Meghauli). To get there took us 1.5-hr each way, through the village, three river-crossings (two on foot, taking off shoes and putting on sandals both times, and one by boat), and some time through both riverine (half-open) forest and elephant grass. When arriving at Tiger Tops, at around 10.30 a.m., the fog had cleared, although we saw many interesting birds on our way, too. Without too much trouble we saw our three most wanted species: a pair of Great Hornbill up close, several pairs of Red-headed Trogon, and several Black-backed Forktails, along with other birds. We planned on walking to a pond in the afternoon, but we were cut off by a Rhino that crossed the river to our side, about 300m in front of us, so we thought it wise to turn back. Dinner at Chital Lodge, cold at night. About 90 species of birds were seen this day.
Mon 15th Jan: Apart from the early morning fog, had our first warm day (about 26° C). We made the same walk as the day before (and again, failed to find Rufous-necked Laughingthrush), but this day we took an elephant ride in the afternoon. At about 3 p.m. we started at the 'government elephant camp', located in the riverine forest next to the Rapti river - and it was a great experience! When the elephant was walking, we couldn't use our binoculars, but if it stopped (on request) then we were on the perfect hide! The animal moved through the river, high grass and forest with great ease, and we were able to approach several Black Storks and an adult Crested Serpent Eagle that were perched in trees. When crossing through the fields of elephant grass, we noticed that people had started to burn down patches of it, and sooth was coming down from the sky everywhere. So we didn't count on finding the Bengal Florican (what this ride was meant for) - but we did! In a small open short-grass area we found a male in winter plumage (no black on the head) that we could watch up close for about 15 minutes. At the start of the evening we were returned to Meghauli by the elephant driver, and we walked the 20 minutes back to the lodge.
Tue 16th Jan: Left Chital Lodge at 8 a.m. with our rental car, an old Ambassador, that broke down before reaching Hetauda. We waited for the replacement-car for an hour, birding and raising eyebrows in the local community, especially when we found a group of swifts and martins best visible from a schoolyard. We drove back to Bharatpur, and took the way round the mountains through Mugling, which gave us an opportunity to appreciate the nice views. Lots of traffic here, though. At one point along the Trisuli river we watched some Brown Dippers, and some of the other beauties - White-capped Water Redstart making it into the 'top ten list of most beautiful birds seen this trip'. Just after dark at around 6 p.m. we arrived at the Tibet Guest House in Kathmandu. The rental car(s) cost us 4,000 NR / about 50$ / DFL 120,-.
Wed 17th Jan: Night at Kathmandu slightly warmer than a week before. Had breakfast at 6, and tried to find a taxi in the streets near the hotel. The new Daihatsu car and its careful (read:slow) driver that we chose didn't make it to the top of Pulchowki mountain however, so we were forced to bird halfway the mountain. Afternoon was spent in the fields along the Bagmati river near Chobar (just southwest of Kathmandu) where in the past Grey-headed Lapwing wintered. No lapwings of this species were found, though. A pleasant 20° C when birding Pulchowki.
Thu 18th Jan: Made it to the top of Pulchowki mountain this time, using an old Toyota stationcar. However, we did not see many birds that we hadn't seen previously. Spent between 8.10 and 10.30 a.m. at the top, and between 11.15 and 1.45 p.m. in the 'ravine'. Between 2 and 3 p.m. we spent birding on the slopes of Pulchowki, next to Godaveri (called the area of 'red brick buildings' in the book by Inskipp (1987). From 3 p.m. onwards we spent in the Botanical Gardens of Godaveri again. We paid the taxi driver 2100 NR / DFL 60,- / 25 US$, and agreed on using his car the next morning when going to Shivapuri Reserve.
Fri 19th Jan: Spent between 7.15 and 12.10 a.m. at the lower slopes of Shivapuri Reserve. The entrance opens at 7.30, but with a little persistence we were allowed in a bit earlier. As always, it was a place we wished we had visited before: nice forest, with much more Orange-flanked Bush Robins than we had seen sofar, and also several Spotted Forktails, easier to see than the shy one in the river at the ravine of Pulchowki. Afternoon was spent in Kathmandu. Had our last 'Nepalese' meal at the restaurant of Tibet Guest House (I can recommend both the spinach mushroom and the carrot soup), and left for the airport at 6 p.m. Our plane departed at 9.30 p.m.
Swarovski 10x42 EL
Nikon 38x WA 80 mm
Zeiss 10x40 B
Bausch & Lomb 15-40x
Bausch & Lomb 10x42 Elite waterproof
Nagarjung Forest Reserve
This nice reserve is only about 15 minutes (by taxi) away from Thamel, the hotel district in the northwestern part of Kathmandu. The lower entrance has a gate where one has to pay a small entry fee, and here a rather steep path goes up the mountain - it apparently takes about two to three hours to reach the top. On our first afternoon, we took this path only 300m or so, and found several nice birds such as White-crested Laughingthrush, Grey Treepie and Kalij Pheasant.
From the higher entrance where we birded one morning, one can take an unsurfaced road that slightly ascends. The habitat here is half-open forest, with slopes covered in fallen leaves on either side. On one such slope we saw a Scaly Thrush, but only briefly. Several groups of birds were encountered, most birds being Seicercus and Phylloscopus warblers (Grey-hooded and Whistler's, with most phylloscopus hard to ID since they stayed in the canopy); but one group held also Velvet-fronted Nuthach, White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, White-bellied Yuhina, Maroon Oriole, Scarlet Minivet, Nepal Fulvetta and Black-lored Tit.
This 2762m-high mountain is completely covered with forest, and is situated southeast of Kathmandu, about one hour's drive from Thamel (at least in early morning, when the city is thick with fog), with an additional 45 minutes to reach the top by car. Many species have been recorded here, including specialties like Long-billed Thrush, Chestnut-headed and Grey-bellied Tesia, Black-throated Parrotbill and Cutia. Most (if not all) of these are hard to find in winter, as we experienced. It still makes for interesting birding, although most flocks consist of the same species (of Seicerces warblers, yuhinas and fulvettas) and flocks are only seen irregularly. Birding must be done at different heights here, to have a maximum range in species.
We started our first day there with walking up and down the small ravine, (sometimes referred to as the 'valley trail') located at the start of the winding road up the mountain. Home to both tesias and Long-billed Thrush in summer, we didn't see any specialties here apart from the stunning one-of-the-birds-of-the-trip Spotted Forktail. Among several flocks of songbirds here we saw many Rufous-winged Fulvettas and few Black-eared Shrike-babblers, and had good views of Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler here.
Halfway the mountain we encountered several large groups of finches, in which we found Dark-breasted and Common Rosefinch. These groups were usually foraging among the small bamboo stands along the road, and when flushed landed in the tops of nearby trees. Rufous-breasted Accentor and Red-billed Leiothrix were other species found here.
The most abundant species upon reaching the highest 500m of the mountain was undoubtedly Rufous Sibia: it seemed like all weird calls and quick movements belonged to this species. Near the top we found a small pond on the left hand side of the road, with a clearing just past it. The pond was frozen in early morning, but good for drinking thrushes and Rufous Sibias from about 9 a.m. onwards. The second most abundant species near the top turned out to be atrogularis Dark-throated Thrush (gone in March, I was told later), with also quite some White-collared Blackbirds (resembling Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus in size and sound) and even 1-3 Chestnut Thrushes on one occasion. Other birds encountered near this spot were Darjeeling, Brown-fronted and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker; White-browed and Stripe-throated Fulvetta, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Green-backed Tit, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Orange-bellied Leafbird, White-tailed Nuthatch and Hoary-throated Barwing.
Another site explored by us was the immediate vicinity of the "red-brick buildings", mentioned in Inskipp (1987) as a possible site for Spiny Babbler Turdoides nipalensis, Nepal's only true endemic species. These buildings are located on the right hand side of the road about halfway between the turn-off towards Pulchowki mountain in Godaveri, and the Godaveri Botanical gardens. Here we couldn't find any trail reaching onto Pulchowki's slopes, but the garden-like habitat proved good for some species, like Blue-winged Minla, Black-chinned Babbler, Asian Barred Owlet and Grey Bushchat.
Godaveri Botanical Gardens
These gardens are located only about 1000m past the turn-off to Pulchowki mountain in Godaveri. It is a pleasant site with undoubtedly good birds, although it was crowded and at times noisy when we were there. Reportedly, Slaty-backed Forktail can be seen here in early morning, but we only visited in the afternoon. Birds we found here were Plumbeous Water Redstart, Asian Barred Owlet, Blue-fronted Redstart (female only), Rufous-bellied Niltava (female only), Grey-headed Woodpecker (heard only) and Blue Whistling-thrush near the entrance. Some 300m in the gardens on the right hand side one can find an open area with some buildings and beehives: here we saw Grey-backed Shrike, Red-throated (Taiga) Flycatcher (Ficedula albicilla), Grey Bushchat, Long-tailed Minivet, Olive-backed Pipit and Bronzed Drongo, while House and Fork-tailed Swift, along with Steppe and Booted Eagle were seen over the hillside here.
Shivapuri Wildlife Reserve
An area we wished to have visited earlier during the trip, Shivapuri is a wooded mountain just north of Kathmandu. It opens at 8 a.m. (although we were allowed in at 7.30) but birding is already interesting near the entrance, with White-capped and Plumbeous Water Redstart near the stream. Inside the reserve one can find a dirt road (which we followed up the mountain) as well as a path parallelling the stream: at the latter we saw Spotted Forktail, Orange-flanked Bush-robin and Yellow-billed Blue Magpie (CQ only). In the forest patch on the right hand side upon entering the reserve we saw a male Blue-fronted Redstart and a Scaly Thrush.
When following the dirt road we heard some barbets, and saw Chestnut-crowned, Whistler's, Grey-cheeked and Grey-hooded Warblers; White-throated Laughingthrush, Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler, Grey Treepie; Black-throated, Green-backed and Black-lored Tit, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Orange-bellied Leafbird, White-bellied Yuhina, Grey-chinned and unidentified other Minivets, Grey-throated Babbler, Booted Eagle and Mountain Hawk-Eagle.
Fields at the Bagmati River near Chobar, just southwest of Kathmandu
This area used to be a wintering site for Grey-headed Lapwing, but this info was taken from Inskipp (1987), thus 14-year-old information, so we weren't really surprised when we didn't find any of these birds here. Still, it was a nice walk through the village and fields on the eastern bank of the river, and when one has an afternoon to spare in Kathmandu this might be a good spot to spend it. Birds encountered here included Pintail Snipe (flushed from a wet meadow), Brown and Long-tailed Shrike; Pied, Siberian and 'variegata' Stonechat, River Lapwing, Blyth's Reed Warbler, White-browed Wagtail and Plumbeous Water Redstart.
We arrived at Hetauda from the north, having come from Daman in the mountains between Kathmandu and Hetauda. Most people however, arrive at Hetauda from the west, taking the road Kathmandu-Narayanghat-Hetauda. So, arriving from the west, you pass a big bridge crossing the Rapti River, just before entering Hetauda. About 2-3 km prior to reaching the bridge (and Hetauda) from the west, at the right hand side (south) a suspension bridge crossing the Rapti river is located. When standing on the bridge at Hetauda, looking to the south, a large bend in the river turning right (west) is visible. We found that the best area for Ibisbill is about halfway between the bend in the river and the suspension bridge, as we saw our 7 Ibisbills there. The river bed is about 500-900m wide, and is filled with shingles and pebbles. In January the actual river was about 50-100m wide, with some pools adjacent. The Ibisbills were at the quietest part of the river, where there were no people around. Possibly, the area north of the bridge is also good, but when we were there there were many local people bathing and washing, so we didn't see any birds apart from wagtails and swallows.
More specific site details on where we saw our Ibisbills: when walking along the river from the bend towards the suspension bridge, on the left hand side (south of the river) there was a large hill with trees on it. Where this hill ended (west side) and cultivation started, we saw the Ibisbills on a small island in the river. Other birds here included: Red-naped (Black) Ibis, White-capped and Plumbeous Water Redstart, Upland Buzzard, River and Red-wattled Lapwing, and various (WP) waders.
Terai between Pathalaia and Kosi
This Nepali lowland consists of small villages and agricultural land, with deciduous forests in between. Typical birds of the agricultural areas are White-breasted Kingfisher, Indian Roller, Black Drongo, Rufous Treepie and Coppersmith Barbet, while in the forests we saw several Red Collared Doves and Red-vented Bulbuls. These forests are probably good for wintering songbirds, but because of limited time we didn't bird there thoroughly. On our way from Hetauda to Kosi we stopped at a small marsh along the road, but didn't find anything special. On our way back, from Kosi towards Chitwan, we stopped in the forest near a small stream, and found several interesting birds, the best being a pair of Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpeckers.
Kosi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
This wetland reserve consists of part of the quite large Kosi river with some adjacent eastern marsh and small patches of open woodland. A barrage connects both river banks, and the reserve HQ are found some 15 km north of the village of Kosi Tappu, at the eastern side of the barrage. Marshes are found everywhere around the river, but most are quite dry, and many people are herding cattle in them. These are also the biggest threats to the reserve and its bird and wild Water Buffalo population: drought and over-population. Still, in winter many birds can be found here, the most abundant being of course egrets. Other waterbirds include Little Cormorant, Black-necked and Red-naped Ibis; Asian Openbill and Lesser Adjutant; Pied, White-breasted, Stork-billed and Common Kingfishers.
Specialties in this area include the highly endangered Swamp Francolin and Gangetic Dolphin; Black-necked Stork; Red-necked Falcon, larger birds of prey such as Aquila eagles, Long-billed and White-rumped Vultures, and Pied Harrier; Striated Grassbird and wintering Siberian Rubythroat, Yellow-breasted and Black-faced Bunting.
This used to be a good site for Bar-headed Goose, Falcated Teal, Brahminy Kite and Pallas's Sea-eagle (see Inskipp (1987), but these birds are very hard to find nowadays.
We didn't have enough time to check the fields east of the road thoroughly - these can be good for Ashy-crowned Finch Lark and Yellow-breasted Bunting, as well as Red-necked Falcon. Our two days were spent in the reserve with our bird guide Dinesh Giri, whom we hired through Aqua Birds Tented Camp. The first day we walked north along the embankment, checking various parts of the river and the fields and small patches of wood in between the small dykes, finding birds such as River (arguably the most beautiful bird of the trip) and Black-bellied Tern; Brown Fish and Brown Hawk Owl, Collared and Spotted Owlet, Long-billed and White-rumped Vulture, Yellow-breasted and Dark-faced Bunting, Black-necked Stork, Siberian Rubythroat, Swamp Francolin, Common Hawk-Cuckoo; Dusky, Blyth's Reed and Paddyfield Warbler, and Streak-throated Swallow (first record for the reserve?), along with Gangetic Dolphin, Grey Mongoose, Mugger Crocodile and wild Water Buffalo.
Our second day we walked south along the embankment, and although we saw many birds we had seen the previous day, we also saw Spotted Bush-warbler (RH only), White-tailed Rubythroat (rarely recorded at the reserve), Cinnamon and Black Bittern; Smoky Warbler, Spot-billed duck, Spangled (rarely recorded at the reserve) and Ashy Drongo, 'barabensis' Yellow-legged Gull, Shikra, Common Iora and Oriental White-eye.
Royal Chitwan National Park (near Meghauli)
Famous for its Tigers and Indian One-horned Rhinos, Royal Chitwan National Park has a lot to offer to birdwatchers. The best bird here is undoubtedly the endangered Bengal Florican, whose habitat is found in the short-grass fields among the large stands of elephant grass. Other rare birds found here are Rufous-necked Laughingthrush and Grey-crowned Prinia, the former being confined to the edge of the jungle, and irregularly seen near Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge.
We stayed at the Chital Lodge, in Meghauli, its owner being the renowned Jib, a very good bird finder. Both of our two days at Chitwan we walked the 1.5 hour from his place to the Tiger Tops jungle, birding along the way and in the jungle itself (see also day-by-day account).
Best birds seen at Chital Lodge and Meghauli included Orange-headed Thrush, Coppersmith Barbet, Large Cuckoo-Shrike; Alexandrine, Rose-ringed and Plum-headed Parakeet; Red Collared and Oriental Turtle Dove. Around the Rapti river (about 40 minute-walk between the three crossings we made each day) birds seen included Small Pratincole, Buff-bellied Pipit, White-tailed Stonechat, White-tailed Rubythroat, Sand and Rufous-winged Lark. In the elephant grass small groups of Chestnut-capped and Yellow-eyed Babblers were seen, along with several groups of deer.
The riverine forest held Oriental Pied Hornbill, Emerald Dove, Indian Peafowl, Red Junglefowl, Pale-chinned Flycatcher, Greater Flameback. Birds, found at Bhimble entrance / checkpost were White-rumped Shama, White-rumped Munia, Striped Tit-Babbler, Lineated Barbet, Chestnut-bellied and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Long-tailed Minivet, Black-rumped Flameback, Greater Yellownape, Fulvous-breasted and Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker.
In the jungle surrounding Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge the best birds we found included Great Hornbill, Red-headed Trogon, Black-backed Forktail and Streaked Spiderhunter; a mixed flock with in it Greater and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, White-browed Scimitar-Babbler, Green Magpie; Grey-headed Woodpecker, Lesser Yellownape and Greater Flameback; and at the edge of the forest we even came across a White-browed Piculet in a flock of Grey-throated Babblers and Striped Tit-Babblers.
On the second day we spent the afternoon on an elephant, riding through the elephant grass towards a short-grass field known to Jib. There we saw a stunning male Bengal Florican right next to the elephant for 15 minutes. Other birds seen from the elephant back were several Black Storks, an adult Crested Serpent-Eagle and an immature Grey-headed Fish Eagle perched in trees; Indian Peafowl, Black Francolin and Orange-breasted Green Pigeon.
Apart from the obvious dips, such as birds rare in winter (tesias, flycatcher species and Long-billed Thrush) we dipped among others: Slaty-backed Forktail and Black Eagle, residents at least at Pulchowki mountain; Bar-headed Goose (rare winterer nowadays), Brown-headed Gull, Red-necked Falcon, Ruddy-breasted Crake (according to Dinesh, one was present in the pond next to the dining hall of Aqua Birds Tented Camp) and Pheasant-tailed Jacana (one wintering near Kosi Tappu village) at Kosi; Bar-headed Goose (present at upstream Rapti river), Collared Falconet, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush (that we searched for on both days we were in Chitwan) and Blue-bearded Bee-eater (only heard so not 'tickable' for us) at Chitwan.
Top ten of most beautiful birds seen (RH only)
1. River Tern
2. Spotted Forktail
3. Black-necked Stork
4. Lesser Adjutant
5. Orange-headed Thrush
6. White-capped Water Redstart
8. Grey Bushchat
9. Great Hornbill
Full Bird List