Saturday 27th January
Left Heathrow at 06:30 hrs. on a flight bound for Vienna (Austrian Airlines) After a short stop over we were onward bound for Delhi. Arrived at Delhi International Airport 22:30 hrs. where we were met by our driver from "Asian Adventures" Iqbal Ahmed. We were then taken to our overnight accommodation the White Apartments. After a quick coffee and some sandwiches we crashed out.
Sunday 28th January
Our accommodation was clean and comfortable but with little sleep we were up and about by 06:00hrs. We were cruelly woken by the incessant calling of a House Crow, other birds noted from the hotel balcony:- House Sparrow, Red Vented Bulbul, Black Kite, Rose Ringed Parakeets, Common Myna and Laughing Dove. Our driver Iqbal collected us at 7am and took us to Okhla. and the Yamuna River Barrage. Birds noted:
Purple Swamp Hen, Red Wattled Lapwing, Wood Sandpiper, Grey Heron, Indian Pond Heron, Great Cormorant, Little Cormorant, Indian Cormorant, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Moorhen, Pochard, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveller, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Ferruginous Duck, Greylag Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Black-Headed Ibis, Open billed Stork, Painted Stork, Common Snipe, Little Ringed Plover, Temnicks Stint, Little Stint, Common Sndpiper, Green Sandpiper, Redshank, Black-Tailed Godwit, Marsh Harrier, Black-Shouldered Kite, White Wagtail, Black Drongo, Thick Billed Crow, Indian Spoonbill, Littel Grebe, Greater Flamingo, River Tern, Brown-Headed Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Bank Myna, Asain Pied Starling, Plain Prinia, Ashy Headed Prinia, Lesser Whitethroat, Yellow Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail, Blue Throat, Barn Swallow and Plain Martin. We took our breakfast at 09:30 after which we returned to the hotel to catch up on some zzz's. Afternoon birding on Delhi Ridge with Mohit Aggrawal. Birds noted: Black-Rumped Flameback, Tailor Bird, Jungle Babbler, Common Babbler, Coppersmith Barbet, Brown-Headed Barbet, Little Minivet, Grey Francolin, Indian Robin, Oriental Magpie Robin, Purple Sunbird, Rose Ronged Parakeet, Hoopoe, Grey Wagtail, Silverbill, Common Rosefinch, Bramany Starling, White-Eared Bulbul, Red-Whiskered Bulbul. Mohit then took us into the city centre where we had a tour of the presidential buildings. Later we were entertained at the "Habitat Centre" a private club and restaurant. We had a wonderful meal there before boarding our overnight sleeper train at Delhi Railway Station at 20:10 for Sawai Madhopur, the railhead for Ranthambhor. The journey was dreadfully uncomfortable bumpy and noisey but we were secure in a four berth lockable air conditioned cabin.
Monday 29th January
Arrived later than expected at 06:00. We were then rushed in an open top jeep to our hotel (Tiger Den Resort). After a coffee we walked around the hotel grounds and the semi desert outside. Birds noted: Ashy Ground Sparrow, Southern Grey Shrike, Variable Wheatear, Painted Sandgrouse and Tawny Pipit. We breakfasted early on scrambled eggs on toast with lots of coffee in a vain attempt to ward off the rigours of last nights train journey. More birding in the immediate vicinity of the hotel produced: Isabelline Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, Shrikeer Malkoha, Indian Roller, Pied Bushchat, Stonechat, Black Redstart, Plain Martin, Purple Sunbird, Blue Rock Thrush, Indian Robin and Intermediate Egret. Dave had had enough and retired to his bed for a couple of hours of shut eye before we took our jeep safari into the park at 14:00. Richard and I decided to hire a car and driver for a couple of hours to explore outside the park (Ranthambhor National Park). We proceeded to cruise the road up to the park entrance stopping at likey birding area or where we had seen something interesting from the car. This little trip turned up: Common Iora, Great Tit, Brown Rock-Chat, Dusky Crag Martin, White Bellied Drongo, Little Green Bee Eater, Roufous Treepie, Kestrel, Long Billed Vulture, White Backed Vulture, White Breasted Kingfisher, Kingfisher, Avocet, Greenshank and Bar-Tailed Godwit. Straight back to the hotel to pick up Dave for our trip into the park. Three hours of dusty bumpy tigerless roads produced the following birds: Spotted Dove, Painted Spurfowl, Plum Headed Parakeet, Brown-Headed Pygmy Woodpecker, Spotted Owlet, Collared Scops Owl, Darter, Black Ibis, White-Fronted Waterhen, Bronze-Winged Jacana, Pied Kingfisher, Black Stork, Shirkeer, Red-Crested Pochard, Crested Serpent Eagle, Yellow-Footed Green Pigeon, White-Browed Fantail and Brown Crake. All over by 17:00 whence we retired to our hotel, where we showered before dinner and retired early, but not before several "Kingfishers".
Tuesday 30th January
We breakfasted at 06:30 to catch the 07:00 Gypsie back into Ranthambhor National Park. Although the conditions were considered favourable the Tiger gods let us down. However, we did add the following birds to our list: Wooly-Necked Stork, Pygmy Cotton Goose, Indian Honey Buzzard, and White-Browed Wagtail. Over and above these we also saw almost everything we had on the previous day. At 10:00 we rerurned to the hotel where we picked up Pallid Harrier and Yellow-Wattled Lapwing. Caught the 13:00 train to Bharatpur. We were met off the train by our guide for the rest of the trip Ratan Singh. We had a quick coffee before having a stroll around outside the park (Bharatpur). A nice walk that gave us great views of Grey Hornbill and Yellow Wattled Lapwing, but it didnt turn up any new birds. Retired to our Hotel "Sunbird" at 18:00. We enjoyed a vegetable curry and wonderful nan bread made in a clay oven as you watched.
Wednesday 31st January
Bharatpur National Park. Up at 06:30 not feeling great had a quick shower and was ready for breakfast at 07:00. While enjoying our breakfast we added Chestnut-Shouldered Petronia and Long-Tailed Minivet to our trip list. Ratan Singh arrived at 08:00 prompt and we were off on his Rickshaw (No.9) into the park. Took the Nursery Loop before lunch. We had our lunch sitting on the grass watching the monkeys play havoc with unsuspecting picnicers. After lunch we took the circular route the other side of the main road through the park. Highlights: Lesser Spotted Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, White-Tailed Eagle, Orange-Headed Thrush, Tickels Thrush, Dusky Eagle Owl, Siberian Crane, White Pelican, Sarus Cranes, Common Woodshrike. We eventually ended the day with quite a repectable 121 species in the park. Our trip list now totals 173ish.
Thursday 1st February
Opened the birthday cards that I brought with me from home this morning. Reading the messages made me feel quite emotional. Everyone joined in a and sang a chorus of Happy Birthday to me at breakfast, including a group of Danish birders. Ratan again met us at 08:00 and we entered the park on Richshaw. As we approached the ticket office there was a bit of a commotion on our left. After about 10 minutes searching the object of all the fuss was revealed a stunning male Siberian Rubythroat. Crippling views were enjoyed by everyone. What a magnificent first bird for my birthday. We proceeded into the park past the forest lodges towards Ratans home village Mallah then veered south further into the park. We were joined on this trek by Howard and Thais Armstrong and their guide Bhirinda Singh (Ratans pupil and Nephew). The Armstrongs were an amazing couple who took off six years earlier to visit Australia originally for a year but enjoyed themselves so much they didnt stop. We were hoping to find the nightjars but with no luck. Apparently they hadn't been seen for a week or so. Ratan even picked one up off the floor of the forest and it died dispite his attempts to warm the bird up. Unseasonal cold weather the likely cause of the nightjars demise. Disturbance from the monkeys was another problem the nightjars faced. We did have spendid views of the parks Pythons though. We finished the morning scanning the Sapan Mari for the Dowitcher that had been reported there but failed to find this vagrant. Bird highlights this morning: Siberian Rubythroat, Oriental Whiteye, Grey-Headed Flycatcher, Brooks Leaf Warbler, Clamorour Reed Warbler. Had several opportunities to get close to some wonderful birds. After lunch it was off to get a closer look at the Sib Cranes. On the long walk out we met up with a group of Swiss birders who were looking at a very elusive Black Bittern. We all eventually saw it but not well. Further down the track we stopped to scan the pelicans and picked up a Dalmation Pelican as well as Pallas Gull. We took a short cut across the Jheel (only possible because of the lack of water) and we spotted a rather drab warbler in a small bush it was an exciting find because it was our first Booted Warbler. We eventually stopped not more than 50 yards away from the Cranes in "wonderful light". Richard was revelling in his role as photographer and made the most of this opportunity. On the long slog back we had much better views of the Black Bittern and quick glimpse of a Yellow Bittern. We also found House Swifts and Needle-Tailed Swifts among a throng of swifts and martins wheeling overhead. Finally in the Rickshaw home we stopped for a closer look at the Demoiselle Cranes and a scan through the large number of Eagles. The big surprise was a Golden Eagle sat on a dead tree stump not more than 20 yards from the road. At dinner the owner of our hotel "Sunbird" came over to our table, which we were sharing with John and Janet Martin a couple from Bristol and Ratan Singh, and he poured us all a large drink and wished me a happy birthday. He even left the bottles for us to help ourselves. We didnt leave the table all night and I stayed up much later than usual to telephone home to speak to my wife and daughter. 122 species in the park today.
Friday 2nd February
Ratan met us at 08:00 and we hired bicycles from the hotel and we proceeded to cycle past the entrance of the park (still no sign of the Cinnamon Bittern) and on to Ratan village Mallah. We tried for Painted Snipe which had been seen at the village pond but it wasn't there this morning. We then cycled through the village into the cultivation beyond. Birds seen here included: Chestnut-Bellied Sandgrouse, Bimaculated Lark, Rufous-Tailed Lark, Yellow Wattled Lapwing, Spanish Sparrow, Humes Short-Toed Lark, Desert Lark, Desert Wheatear, Short-Toed Lark and Blyth's Pipit. We stopped for an early lunch at 11:00 as Ratans young son had brought us out our picnic lunch. It was very graciously received and consited of potatoes, peas, spices and herbs (Aloo Mateer) with loads of Chapatis. It was all rather delicious. After lunch we cycled out to the dam, first going right and later further left. The only new bird was a Black-Breasted Weaver. We did have a very brief rear end view of a falcon disappearing into a tree. Ratan had just told us that a Red-Necked Falcon can usually be found in one of these three trees and woosh there it was, unfortunately we didn't get enough on it to list it, and none of us were contemplating cycling back the half mile or so to the tree involved. While we were at our furthest from the village I had a puncture in my rear wheel. It was agony trying to cycle over the rough terrain and it was a long way back. It was baking hot and it had already been a long day in the field. Ratan and I swopped bikes and he cycled it the last couple of miles into his village and the local tyre repair shop. While sitting around waiting for the tyre repair we were entertained by the local strong man who proceeded to lift the cycle up off the floor using just his teeth. We were all suitably impressed. The tyre had in fact 3 punctures and the repairs were carried out very efficiently. We cycled back past the park entrance (still no sign of the Cinnamon Bittern), and got back to the hotel at 18:00. Early evening meal onsited of vegetable curry, egg fried rice, chips and plain pitta bread. All washed down with copious amounts of "Kingfisher".
Saturday 3rd February
Up at 04:30 to leave for the Chambral River trip. Left the Sunbird at 05:00 enroute for the Chambral. Arrived at the river side at 08:00. We then boraded our tender which took us out to a small island mid river. From here we transfered to our river transport for the trip up river. It was an amazing experience, the river was like a mill pond and the birds didn't disappoint. Birds noted: Indian Skimmer (57), Greater Thickknee, Black-Bellied Tern, River Tern, Osprey, Long-Legged Buzzard, Kentish Plover, Little-Ringed Plover, Plain Martin, Lesser Whistling Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, Teal, Spot-Billed Duck, Wigeon, Indian Cormorant, Rock Thrush, Great Cormorant, Little Cormorant, White-Browed Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-Winged Stilt, Little Stint, Egyptian Vulture, Black Kite, Crested Lark and River Lapwing. A wonderful trip and one more of my "wanted list" namely Indian Skimmer ticked off. I think this is the only place left where you can quarantee Skimmers and it ought to be on everyone itinerery. returned to the car at 12:00 for the drive to Agra. Arrived in Agra at 14:00 and had lunch in the JayPee Palace Hotel. The hotel was quite wonderful and while waiting for our car we picked up: Brown Rock-Chat, Egyptian Vultures, Black Kites, White-Rumped Vultures and Oriental Turtle Dove. We then left to visit the Taj Mahal. It was major splendid. No new birds to bother with. The $20 entrance fee for all aliens is perhaps a little pricey especially as you have to pay extra for your video camera. Dinner was back at the JayPee Palace where we used the facilities to send e-mails and clean up. Dinner was excellent another mainly indian cuisine. Left the JayPee at 20:45 for the train to Corbett. Eventually left Agra station at 21:30.
Sunday 4th February
Arrived Lal Kuan at 08:30 after another eventful overnight sleeper trip. At Lal Kuan we were met by our Driver Pratap Singh who drove us to our new accommodation "Tiger Moon Resort". Enroute we stopped off for a coffee at a cafe on Corbett Corner. Here in the space of 5 minutes we added 4 new birds: Ashy Drongo, Collared Falconet, Green Fronted Leafbird and Black Hooded Oriole. At Tiger Moon we were shown to our bungalow and while enjoying the grounds we noted: Barred Owlet, Velvet-Backed Nuthatch, Great Tit, Little Pied Flycatcher, Grey-Headed Flyctcher, Red-Whiskered Bulbul, Brown-Headed Barbet and Oriental Whiteye. We had an early lunch and at 13:45 we left for the Kosi River. Where we noted Red-Crested Pochard, Little Grebe, Ruddy Shelduck, Great Cormorant, Little-Ringed Plover, Redshank, Greenshank, Red-Wattled Lapwing, River Lapwing, Plumerous Redstart, White-Capped Redstart, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Merganser, Spotted Dove, Ashy Prinia, White-Browed Fantail, Blue-Rock Thrush, Brown Rock Chat, Blue-Whistling Thrush, Crested Serpent Eagle, Red-Headed Vulture, White-Backed Vulture, Plain Martin, Barn Swallow, Needle-Tailed Swift, Black Kite, Cinerous Vulture, Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, White-Breasted Kingfisher, Stork-Billed Kingfisher,Thickknee, Greater Thickknee, Humes Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wallcreeper and Ibisbill. Another "most wanted" was crossed off the list namely IBISBILL. We had good views of both birds. We found them feeding at the bend in the river and later saw them fly back down past us towards the river barrage. Later back at Tiger Moon we once again met up with Mohit and while in conversation with him 4 Great Hornbills flew overhead. Finished the day with 218'ish species.
Monday 5th February
Left Tiger Moon after breakfast 08:00, took the jeep with Pratap driving through the Corbett National Park to Dhikala where we were due to spend the night. We stopped several times enroute to look at birds, several birds noted including: Scarlet Minivet, Kalij Pheasant, Red Jungle Fowl, Lemon-Rumped Warbler, Crested Tree Swift, Great Pied Hornbill, Himalayan Kingfisher, Darter, Black Stork, Lesser Whistling Teal, Black Kite, Honey Buzzard, Crested Serpent Eagle, Red-Headed Vulture, Short-Toed Eagle, Grey Pygmy Woodpecker, Green Magpie and amazingly White-Bellied Sea Eagle. This last bird caused a lot of debate among others we informed of our sighting. Mainly because all the books say that its distributed along the coast only, although in Salim Ali's book it says vagrant to Rajasthan. Everyone of us present all agreed that the bird we saw was and could only be a White-Bellied Sea Eagle. The bird was a carbon copy of the illustrations in the book being a full adult plumaged bird. It also soared in a most unusual way ( with its wings held slighly forward but in a deep V. Unlike any other raptor I have seen before). The bird was observed for about 5 minutes before it disappeared from view. This was a new bird for everyone including both or guide Ratan and our driver Pratap (who is a keen birder). A Full description is in prep. We eventually arrived at Dhikala at 13:30. Immediately had a Pallas' Fish Eagle and another Collared Falconet. After lunch we took our elephant ride through the jungle. Our elephant Molly was 50 years old. The ride was interesting and we had some amazing close ups of the deer species, but not many birds and no tigers to record. We finished the ride at 18:00. Before dinner we watched a film show about the nature reserves of INDIA. Bed by 21:00, finished the day on 270'ish species.
Tuesday 6th February
Called at 06:30 and we made our way to the watch tower arriving there at 07:00. Lots of birds noted including: Ashy Bulbul, Alexandrine Parakeet, Slaty-Headed Parakeet,Black-Throated Tit, Winter Wren, Yellow-Vented Warbler, Grey-Hooded Warbler and Rufous-Bellied Woodpecker. We had allowed ourselves 2 hours at the watch tower and we had just about given up any hope of ever seeing a tiger when Ratan and everyone else was watching the "pecker" (Stripe-Breasted Woodpecker) when Ratan cried TIGER. We all swirled around to see a magnificent male Tiger not 30 yards away walking in unobscured view past the water hole. It walked slowly past looked up at us with distain, sprayed the bush in urine and then disappeared as quickly as it had appeared . Only one word to describe everyone's feeling - MAGIC. We all walked back from the watch tower at least a foot taller than when we walked out. Left Dhikala at 10:00. We drove leisurely through the park and out of the main gate. We stopped and had a drink at the Quality Inn where we met up with the group from 'Naturetrek'. We discussed India and birding over our drink and we were told that a White-Tailed Rubythroat was about just over the boundary wall. I picked up the female almost immediately but on returning with Richard and Dave I couldn't relocate it. A rather dull female but still a new bird. We left there for the 'Forktail Stream', we did pick up Small Forktail and Tawny Fish Eagle but coudn't locate the other 2 species of Forktail. It appears from other trip reports that we probably didn't go far enough up the stream. Moving on to Betalghat enroute we picked up Blue-Capped Redstart, Red-Billed Blue Magpie, Green Tit and Black-lored Tit. Arrived Betalghat at 17:30 had coffee over looking the valley and the Himalayan foothills. Dinner was at 19:00, retired to bed at 20:10.
Wednesday 7th February
Up at 06:30, coffee on the terrace at 07:00. Birds noted in the garden: Hill Prinia, Himalayan Bulbul, Green-Tailed Sunbird and Rufour Treepie. Off out of the gate we went a short distance right to a small water gulley where we saw Spotted Forktail. We then went left and followed the road for a couple of miles. Birds noted: Hill Prinia, Rusty-Checked Scimitar Babbler, Streak-Breasted Scimiter Babbler, Chestnut Thrush, Rufous-Bellied Niltava, and Mrs Gould's Sunbird. Back to the hotel for breakfast at 10:00. In the hotel garden we had Crimson Sunbird. Later we went for a walk along the River (Kosi). Birds noted: Plumerous Redstart, White-Capped Water Redstart, Wall Creeper, Crested Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, River Lapwing, Red-Wattled Lapwing, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, White-Browed Wagtail and Lammergier. returning to the hotel for cold drinks. Later we left the hotel for a drive through the countryside, Birds noted enroute included: Himalayan Griffon, Jungle Owlet, Chestnut-Eared Bunting, Small Niltava and Slaty-Blue Flycatcher. Arrived back at the hotel "Call of the Wild Safari Lodge" at 17:00. Sat on the terrace enjoying a cola when Ratan spotted a bird in the fruiting fig tree a Blue-Throated Barbet. Nice end to a good days birding. Finished the day on 310'ish species listed.
Thursday 8th February
Left our lodge at 07:00 enroute for Nainital. The journey was long and cold with frequent stops for birding. Stopped in Nainital to change of our cash. It took forever. We also bumped into Mohit in the main street. We drove out of Nainital stopping at various interesting spots including a vantage viewing area where the Himalayan peaks including Nanda Devi at 7,820 meters, where snow covered in the distance. A very good stop was at Kilbury where we strolled up to the ranger station. We eventually arrived at Pangot at 14:00 where we were made to feel very welcome. We all had a cola and at 15:30 Mohit, Ratan and a local guide took us on a long walk through the forest. Several new birds here including: Bar-Tailed Treecreeper, Green-Backed Tit, Yellow-Browed Tit, Black Bulbul, Jungle Prinia, Streaked Laughing Thrush, Russet Sparrow, Great Barbet, Oriental Turtle Dove, Grey-Backed Shrike, Black-Headed Jay, Eurasian Jay, Common Raven, Mistle Thrush, Orange-Flanked Bush Robin, White-Rumped Shama, White-Tailed Nuthatch and Eurasian Tree Sparrow. We returned at 18:00 for a coffee or beer. We never left the lodge and went straight through to dinner. Mohit has really pulled out all the stops and dinner was great. Retired to bed at 20:30 sated in all respects.
Friday 9th February
We were woken at 06:00 with tea, breakfast at 06:30 eggs, toast and coffee. Left Pangot at 7 for Kilbury where we arrived at 07:30 from here it was onward and upward to Cheena Peak. We eventually got to the top after a very arduous trek at 12:30. Birds noted during the climb: Brown-Fronted Woodpecker, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Griffon and superb views of a very inquisitive Lammergeier. Mohit had organised lunch at the top. After lunch we decided to look over the rubbish tip in Nainital but we got hopelessly lost and walked miles up and down various valleys. We eventually dropped down through the outskirts of Nainital to meet up with Pratap. We arrived at the Swiss Hotel at 18:30 absolutely knackered. The less said about the Swiss Hotel the better it was horrible. No heating and a disco that went on until 04:30!!
Saturday 10th February
Breakfast at 06:30 feeling like death after yesterdays exertions and last nights disco and fireworks. Pratap drove us to the Mongoli Valley. Pratap dropped us off at the tea rooms and we followed the path mentioned in 'A Birders Guide to India'. We had 4 species of Laughing Thrush, Lesser Yellownape and a Rufous-Breasted Accentor. It was a great couple of hours. Pratap was waiting for us as we climbed back up the valley. Left here for our return trip to Delhi. We arrived back at our Delhi base 'The White Apartments' at 19:30 very tired. We all showered, had a meal and retired to bed.
Sunday 11th February
Left the hotel at 08:00 for Okhla. Spent the morning running around various sites in Okhla, several new birds: Northern Lapwing, Red-Rumped Swallow, Red Avadavat, Yellow-Legged Gull and Curlew Sandpiper. Finished birding at 13:00 for lunch with Mohit and his charmimg wife at the Pot Pourri in Noida. Spent the rest of the day shopping for presents and sight seeing in Delhi. Had a Chinese meal at the Imperial Garden Restaurant, very plush, with it seemed more waiters than customers. Left for the airport at 21:00.
Monday 12th February
Arrived London Heathrow at 09:30 for the long drive home. A quick count up on the plane suggested about 350'ish birds listed with perhaps 250 lifers.
click here for Steve's trip list