Trip report: Northern India (Nov-Dec 2008) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Sam Woods. This was a custom tour.

Hein and Tom came to India with one thing in mind, to cram in as many birds into two short weeks in the north. To this end we all worked hard to get as many as we could, and ended up with over 400 species. This list included such thrillers as a threesome of Ibisbills that stole the show near Corbett, Indian Spotted Eagles and Marshall’s Iora in Bharatpur (along with masses of waterbirds following a productive monsoon season in the region), and a raft of Indian Skimmers along the Chambal River.

The trip was put together with birding the absolute priority, and mammals almost an
afterthought. Amazingly though, for this bird-focused trip, we saw three species of cat by the end of the trip. This included a highly fortuitous, (if a little brief), sighting of the ‘daddy of them all’, ‘Old Stripes’ – Bengal Tiger, that crossed the road in front of our car during the first five minutes of our very first unofficial night drive on the edge of Corbett NP. However, the close-up encounter with a bold Leopard (also in Corbett), was the most dramatic of our cat encounters and made our only game drive in the rusty, noisy old canter in Corbett all very, very worthwhile. The most surprising of all the cat sightings though was the Fishing-cat in Bharatpur, that allowed us to watch us as it pulled out a dead fish from a murky pool beside a quiet Hindu temple in the park in broad daylight. On top of that, we also managed to get a number of views of the extremely rare Gangetic River Dolphin in the clean waters of the Chambal River on our final day.

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