Tragopan Tours Birding In India - Corbett Tiger Reserve  
  Birding Tour - North India, Corbett, Bharatpur and Nainital Bird Gallery - Birds In India
 

North Indian avian spectacle – Ohkla Bird Sanctuary (Uttar Pradesh), Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan), Corbett National Park and Nainital (Uttarakhand).

The 15 day birding tour takes you from the bird-filled wetlands of Keoladeo National Park at Bharatpur to the dense Sal (Shorea robusta) forests and grasslands of Corbett Tiger Reserve and further north to the hill station of Nainital. It is possible to see more than 350 species in addition to various mammals, reptiles and butterflies. For someone interested in the Indian history there is a visit to the majestic Taj Mahal at Agra during the first leg of the journey.

Suitable time: Mid November to late March.

Ohkla Bird Sanctuary

Okhla Bird Sanctuary is situated on the outskirts of Delhi on the river Yamuna. This is one of the easiest place in Northern India to see some of the specialities like White-tailed Stonechat, Striated Grassbird, Striated Babbler, Yellow-bellied and Graceful Prinias and Small Indian Mongoose.

Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur

Popularly known as Bharatpur, after the name of the next-door town, Keoladeo National Park is situated in the colourful state of Rajasthan. More than 350 bird species have been recorded here. We will take a full day excursion to Bund Baratha during our 4 night stay at Bharatpur. One can expect to see specialities like Bar-headed Goose, Indian Spotbill Duck, Dusky Eagle Owl, Brown Hawk Owl, Large-tailed Nightjar, Indian Courser, Blue Bull and Indian Rock Python.

Corbett National Park

Situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, Corbett National Park is another major birding location. Created in 1936 as the first wildlife park of India, Corbett has a bird tally of more than 500 species. The area attracts large number of sub-Himalayan species in the winters in addition to an equally large number of long-distance migrants. We will stay two nights each at Kumerian on the outskirts of the reserve and at Dhikala situated in the heart of Corbett National Park. We can expect to see specialities like Kalij Pheasant, Great Hornbill, Tawny Fish Owl, Ibisbill, Pallasís and Lesser Fish Eagles, Pied Harrier, Collared Falconet, Spotted Forktail, Wallcreeper, Nepal Wren Babbler, Tiger, Asian Elephant and Gharial.

Nainital

The hill station of Nainital situated close to Corbett Tiger Reserve, but on a higher elevation, is an ideal spot for a birder looking for the Himalayan and sub-Himalayan species which come down to moderate elevations in the winters. More than 200 species have been reported from the area. We will be looking for specialities like Koklass and Cheer Pheasants, Scaly-bellied Woodpecker, Lammergeier, Long-billed Thrush, Golden Bush Robin, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Goral and Yellow-throated Martin.

Day 1: Delhi, Okhla Bird Sanctuary and Bharatpur

It is an experience for someone travelling to India for the first time to be driven through the busy streets of Indian cities. Pace of life is slow and one can watch various articles being sold in the local markets ranging from different vegetables and fruits in the subji markets, an integral part of any Indian town, to the large variety of sweets at the sweet vendor shop and the colourful glass bangles, a must for Indian women.

We spend our first morning birding at Okhla Bird Sanctuary situated on the river Yamuna. Specialities of the place are two endemic species, Striated Babbler and White-tailed Stonechat and are rather easy to find here. Other species of interest are Striated Grassbird, Moustached Warbler, four species of prinias including, Yellow-bellied, Graceful, Plain and Ashy Prinias, Oriental Skylark, Small Minivet and Red Avadavat. A rarity for the Indian subcontinent, White-crowned Penduline Tit has been recorded from this site.The visit to Okhla is an opportunity to quickly observe species which are going to form core of your birding experience at Bharatpur and Bund Baratha for the next four days. These include various waterfowl, shorebirds, gulls, terns and raptors.

The five hours drive from Delhi to Bharatpur gives you the opportunity to observe the beautiful Indian landscape. Birds you can spot from your coach may include Common Kingfisher, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, White-breasted Waterhen, Common Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Red-wattled Lapwing, Black-shouldered Kite, Cattle Egret, Indian Pond Heron, Common Myna, Red-vented Bulbul, Jungle Babbler and Grey Wagtail.

Night stay at a comfortable lodge at Bharatpur.

Day 2-5: Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur

Keoladeo National Park is better known to the world as Bharatpur, named after the next-door town. Once the shooting reserve of the Maharaja, the area is fed by water from the nearby river and the artificially created wetland is arguably the best birding site in Asia. It has an area of approximately 28 square km. and apart from the wetlands there are patches of grassland, woodland and acacia scrub. Mode of transport inside the park is cycle rickshaw but frequently one has to walk on to the trails where the rickshaws can not go.

We will make trips to different parts of the park on each successive day and our four-night stay is likely to produce a bird tally of 150-200 bird species.

Bharatpur is a major nesting area for thousands of Egrets, Painted Storks, Open-billed Storks, Cormorants, Darters, Ibises and Spoonbills in the rainy season. By the time it is winter it is possible to see immature of all these species. Many species of Ducks and Geese can be seen at Bharatpur including Bar-headed Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Comb Duck, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Spot-billed Duck, Red crested and Ferruginous Pochards. Bharatpur attracts lots of raptors in winters including Egyptian, White-rumped, Indian and Red-headed Vultures. Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Shikra, Indian Spotted, Geater Spotted, Tawny, Steppe, Imperial, Bonelliís and Booted Eagles, Common Kestrel and Peregrine Falcon.

The waders we can come across include Black-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Little and Temminckís Stints, Ruff, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, White-tailed Lapwing and if we are lucky the elusive Sociable Lapwing. The worldís tallest flying bird Sarus Crane can be seen in the reserve. Indian Coursers have been recorded from the reserve regularly during last few years.

A day visit to Bund Baratha, a man made lake can be very productive and one can expect River Terns, Indian Skimmers, Great Thick-knee, Brown Crake and Sulphur-bellied Warbler.

Some of the other birds to be seen at Bharatpur are Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Pied Kingfisher, Little Swift, Indian Scops and Dusky Eagle Owls, Grey and Indian Nightjars, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Purple Swamphen, Common Coot, Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas, Whiskered Tern, Black-crowned Night Heron, Black Bittern, Great White Pelican, Bay-backed Shrike, White-bellied Drongo, Orange-headed and Tickellís Thrushes, Tickellís Blue Flycatcher, Siberian Rubythroat, Desert Wheatear, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Streak-throated Swallow, Blythís and Clamorous Reed Warblers, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Rufous-tailed and Crested Larks, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Citrine Wagtail, Paddyfield and Tawny Pipits, Red Avadavat, Black-headed and Red-headed Buntings.

Apart from the birds one can see at Bharatpur other forms of life in the park as well. Northern Palm Squirrels convey their presence by making bird-like calls, as they run around from one branch of the tree to another. Blue Bull, locally known as Neel Gai, is the largest Indian antelope. It prefers the small islands with Acacia trees in the wetland. Sambar, the largest Indian deer shares the same habitat with the Blue Bull. Herds of Spotted Deer prefer the dry woodland areas. Golden Jackal, Wild Boar, Grey and Small Indian Mongoose are the other mammals. Bharatpur is one of the easiest places to see the Indian Rock Python. There are areas where these 4-5 meter long reptiles can bee seen basking in the sun.

Night stay at a comfortable lodge at Bharatpur.

Day 6: Agra and Fatehpur Sikri

After leaving Bharatpur we drive to the fort of Fatehpur Sikri, once the capital of the mighty Mogul empire. Apart from the usual Dusky Crag Martins and Brown Rock Chats, Wallcreepers have been reported from this place. The omnipresent flocks of soaring Black Kites may also have a few Long-billed Vultures.

After Fatehpur Sikri we drive to Agra and visit Taj Mahal, a monument built by the Mogul emperor Shah Jahan, was made in the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz. For someone not interested in the events of the distant past, the river Yamuna, flowing behind Taj can produce Ruddy Shelduck, Pied Avocet, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, River Lapwing, Common Redshank, Brown-headed Gull, River and Black-bellied Terns. In the spacious lawns of Taj Mahal you may find Brown-headed Barbet, Coppersmith, Indian Grey Hornbill, Common Hoopoe, Indian Roller, Spotted Owlet, Laughing Dove and Long-tailed Shrike. There has been a pair of Dusky Eagle owls nesting in a giant Silk Cotton tree here. The sky above may have an occasional Laggar Falcon, Booted Eagle or a Eurasian Sparrowhawk.

In the evening we catch a train to Lal Kuan, located 80 km from Corbett National Park in the Himalayan foothills. The overnight journey is in the air-conditioned sleeper coach.

Night in air-conditioned sleeper class train.

Day 7 and 8: Kumerian

We arrive at Lal Kuan in the morning and get transferred to Corbett. Driving via Ramnagar, a small town situated on the western bank of the River Kosi is the gateway to the Corbett country, the drive to Kumerian takes about three hours. Kumerian Reserve Forest is situated 30 km north of Ramnagar.

A birding tour to Corbett is incomplete without a halt at Kumerian. Birding in the Kosi riverbed and the nearby streams can be very exciting as there are possibilities of finding Common Merganser, Speckled Piculet, Lesser and Greater Yellownapes, Streak-throated Woodpecker, Himalayan Flameback, Great and Lineated Barbets, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Crested Kingfisher, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Tawny Fish Owl, Brown Hawk Owl, Pallasís Fish Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Golden-fronted and Orange-bellied Leafbirds, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Grey Treepie, Black-hooded Oriole, Small Minivet, Spangled Drongo, Large Woodshrike, Blue Whistling Thrush, Grey-winged Blackbird, Slaty-backed, Rufous-gorgeted, Snowy-browed and Slaty Blue Flycatchers, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Little and Spotted Forktails, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Black Bulbul, Grey-breasted Prinia, Tickellís Leaf, Humeís, Greenish and Whistlerís Warblers, White-throated and White-crested Laughingthrushes, Black-chinned Babbler, Blue-winged Minla, White-Bellied Yuhina and Green-tailed Sunbird. Some of the very special birds to look for in this area are Ibisbill, Great Thick-knee, Brown Dipper, Slaty-backed Forktail, Wallcreeper and Black-throated Sunbird.

Night stay at a comfortable lodge at Corbett.

Day 9 and 10: Dhikala, Corbett National Park

After checking up the birds on the periphery of Corbett National Park for two days, you are transferred to Dhikala Forest Rest House situated in the heart of the park. Dhikala is situated on the bank of the River Ramganga and the river bed is more than a mile broad. The adjoining grasslands attracting herds of Elephants, Spotted Deer and Hog Deer surround the resthouse. Among the main mammals species to be seen around Dhikala are Tiger, Leopard, Jungle Cat, Indian Elephant, Wild Boar, Rhesus Macaque, Hanuman Langur, Golden Jackal, Sambar, Indian Muntjac, Grey Mongoose and Small Indian Civet. With some amount of luck it is possible to spot Smooth Indian and Eurasian Otters in the Ramganga river. Sightings of Marsh Crocodile and the unusual fish-eating crocodile also known as Gharial are almost guaranteed.

Major birding attractions at Dhikala are Black Francolin, Red Junglefowl, Kalij Pheasant, Streak-throated Woodpecker, Greater Flameback, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Blue-throated Barbet, Great Hornbill, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Green-billed Malkoha, Lesser Coucal, Red-breasted Parakeet, Crested Treeswift, Brown Fish Owl, Jungle Owlet, Large-tailed Nightjar, Emerald Dove, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Great Thick-knee, Osprey, Lesser Fish Eagle, Himalayan Griffon, Cinereous Vulture, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Hen and Pied Harriers, Besra, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Collared Falconet, Common Green Magpie, Large Cuckooshrike, Long-tailed Minivet, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Verditer Flycatcher, Rufous-bellied and Small Niltavas, White-tailed Rubythroat, Bar-tailed Treecreeper, Ashy Bulbul, Bright-headed and Zitting Cisticolas, Aberrant and Grey-sided Bush Warblers, Smoky and Lemon-rumped Warblers, Puff-throated Babbler, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler, Red-billed Leiothrix, Crimson Sunbird, Long-billed Pipit and Chestnut-eared Bunting.

Night stay at Forest Rest House, Dhikala, Corbett National Park.

Day 11: Corbett National Park and Nainital

From Dhikala it is a 5 hour journey to the hill station of Nainital. On the way we will stop to check up the Kaladhungi House of Jim Corbett which is now a museum. The drive from Kaladhungi to Nainital is a steep climb and full of birding opportunities. Grey Bushchat, Himalayan and Black Bulbuls, Pale-billed Flowerpecker and Blue-throated Barbet are commonly seen birds on this route. With some luck we may have our first sighting of Lammergeier. There can be many Himalayan Griffon and Steppe Eagles in the sky. We shall reach our destination by the time it is dark.

Night stay at a comfortable lodge at Nainital.

Day 12-14: Nainital

Different areas around Nainital can be covered in three days. An hourís drive to Sat-Tal is an ideal birding trip. Sat-Tal is a densely wooded area having a group of seven small lakes. Another dayís birding can be done at Mangoli Valley. It is a beautiful narrow valley situated at 45 minutes distance from Nainital. The third day can be spent around the city itself. We can take the cable car and go to a place called Snow View to check up the mighty Himalayan peaks. It is one spot to look for the elusive Hill Partridge. On all these three days we shall have to trek for 4-5 hours but these are gentle treks without much climbing and we move on the birding pace.

Some of the birds to be seen around Nainital are Hill Partridge, Koklass, Kalij and Cheer Pheasants, Brown-fronted and Himalayan Woodpeckers, Great Barbet, Asian Barred Owlet, Oriental Turtle Dove, Black Eagle, Himalayan Buzzard, Eurasian and Black-headed Jays, Short-billed Minivet, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Long-billed Thrush, Grey-winged Blackbird, Slaty Blue Flycatcher, Siberian Rubythroat, Orange-flanked and Golden Bush Robins, Blue-throated Redstart, White-tailed Nuthatch, Spot-winged, Green-backed and Black-lored Tits, Mountain Bulbul, Striated Prinia, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Buff-barred and Ashy-throated Warblers, Striated, Roufous-chinned and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes, Black-chinned Babbler, Red-billed Leiothrix, Blue-winged Minla, Rufous Sibia, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Mrs. Gouldís Sunbird, Russet Sparrow, Olive-backed Pipit, Altai, Rufous-breasted and Black-throated Accentors, Fire-fronted Serin, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Pink-browed Rosefinch, Black-and-yellow Grosbeak and Rock Bunting.

Night stay at a comfortable lodge at Nainital.

Day 15: Nainital and New Delhi

One has to drive for eight hours through the north Indian landscape to reach New Delhi. The drive, though long, is not uninteresting as it gives you another opportunity to observe the rural India. Apart from the usual traffic of buses, trucks and cars, one can also see the conventional modes of transport on the highway. Carts being pulled by buffaloes, oxen, horses and camels are common. As you move through the land you observe various styles of local Indian attire. The colourful cloths of the women seen earlier during the trip in Rajasthan are replaced by sober shades as you drive through the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Apart from the usual roadside birds you observe from your coach, a stop at the holy river Ganges, at Garh Mukteshwar is very rewarding. Among the various species to be seen are Ruddy Shelduck, Indian Cormorant, Pallasís Gull, Black-bellied Tern, Indian Skimmer, White-tailed Stonechat, Common Babbler, Sand Lark, and Indian Silverbill. The river is also home to the rare River Dolphin. Spotting one or two of these aquatic mammals can be a thrilling experience.

Accommodation

Comfortable wildlife lodges are used at Bharatpur and Corbett. At Dhikala, we will stay at forest rest house complex. Although accommodation is somewhat basic, attached toilet with running hot and cold water is available. Staying at Dhikala has its advantages as the area offers best of the wildlife experience in the subcontinent. At Nainital will use comfortable tourist lodge.

Transport

Transport used on the tour will be car or mini coach. At Bharatpur, we will be using rickshaws in some areas. Most of the birding in Bharatpur is on foot but the walks are easy. At Corbett we will take comfortable walks on the periphery of the park and use 4 x 4 jeeps for transfers and game-drives. At Nainital we will use car or mini coach and take comfortable walks.

Climate

Delhi and Bharatpur will be cold during mornings and evenings, warm during the day and there can occasionally be overcast days that are colder than normal. Rain is unlikely but possible. Corbett and Nainital can be cold to very cold with temperatures going close to zero degree celsius in Nainital.

Photography

There are good chances of photography as we shall be visiting fairly open habitats, most of the time with good light conditions.

Extensions

There can be various extensions to this itinerary. One can choose to do the central India tour visiting some of the best Tiger Reserves like Kanha and Bandhavgarh. An extension to Ranthambhor Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan and Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary near Agra is also possible.

 
Blue-throated Barbet
Blue Whistling Thrush
Ibisbill
Indian Skimmers
Tawny Fish Owl
Little Forktail
Northern Lapwing
River Lapwing
Sarus Cranes
Ultramarine Flycatcher
White-capped Water Redstart
White-throated Fantail
Changeable Hawk Eagle
Indian Courser
Lesser Whistling Duck
Collared Falconet
Large-billed Crow
Large-tailed Nightjar
Hodgson's Bushchat
Spotbill Duck
Birders at Bharatpur
Gharial
Golden Jackal
Bristled Grassbird
Gharial
Indian Elephant
Indian Tiger
Taj Mahal
 
 

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