North India - Birds, Tigers, and the Taj Mahal
2 - 22 December 2006

Guides: Keith Barnes & Iain Campbell
Set-departure tour
All photos taken on this trip.
(All photos by Keith Barnes unless otherwise noted)


Blue-throated Barbet photographed at Sat Tal in the Himalayan foothills.


A somewhat aggressive Bengal Tiger showing us his teeth
in Bandhavgahr National Park (photo by Neil Dyson, trip participant).

Itinerary

December 2

Arrival. Birding at Okhla Barrage, New Delhi

December 3 a.m. Birding Kosi, p.m. birding Bharatpur Canal
December 4 Bharatpur - Keoladeo Ghana NP
December 5 Bayena & Bund Baretha
December 6 Dholpur District
December 7 Agra - cultural excursions
December 8 a.m. Bharatpur p.m. Chambal Safari Lodge
December 9 a.m. Chambal River cruise p.m. Utkal Express to Umaria

December 10

Bandhavgahr N.P.

December 11

Bandhavgahr N.P.

December 12

Bandhavgahr N.P.

December 13

Bandhavgahr N.P.

December 14

Bandhavgahr N.P.

December 15 Utkal Express to Delhi
December 16 Delhi a.m. Okhla Barrage p.m. drive to Garjula
December 17 Garjula - Ramnagar - Naini Tal
December 18 Naini Tal - Sat Tal (full day)
December 19 Pangot, p.m. Kilbury Road
December 20 Pangot p.m. Mongoli Valley
December 21 Forktail Creek p.m. Quality Inn & Kosi River

December 22

Early departure

Introduction
This trip was our very best yet. Not only did we see an amazing seven different Tigers but we also scored a delectable set of 385 birds. Some of the real stars included Koklass Pheasant, Red and Painted Spurfowl, Jungle Bush Quail, Lesser Adjutant, White-naped and Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Red-necked Falcon, Long-legged Buzzard, White-eyed Buzzard, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Tern, Indian Skimmer, Sirkeer Malkoha, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Sand Lark, Ashy-crowned Sparrowlark, Jerdon's Leafbird, Altai Accentor, Gray-winged Blackbird, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Nepal and Scaly-breasted Wren-Babbler, Red-fronted Prinia, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Black-faced Warbler, Ultramarine and Slaty-Blue Flycatcher, Siberian and White-tailed Rubythroats, Tawny-bellied Babbler, White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Wallcreeper, , Green Magpie, Pink-browed Rosefinch, and an incredible nine owl species all seen in broad daylight. This was despite the failed monsoons in India leaved Bharatpur devoid of water. Amazingly we did find another wetland nearby that was still heaving with waterfowl and we saw impressive numbers of most of the palearctic ducks along with Jacanas, Waterhens, stately Sarus Cranes, Bar-headed Goose, and hoardes of bush birds joining the raptor spectacle of Imperial, Greater Spotted and Indian (Lesser Spotted ) Eagles.

The final days of the main trip revealed the most sought-after wildlife experience of them all. An encounter with an incredible Tiger along with a feast of vultures. Seeing a Tiger is indescribable. The thrill, exhilaration and adrenalin rush are phenomenal. No other cat quite does to you what this one does. Oh, apart from all the birds and tigers we also managed the Taj Mahal and the ancient city of Fatepuhr Sikri while we were in India. A successful trip without a doubt!

At the end of the main tour we finished of with a birding bang extension when we headed for the Himalayan foothills at Naini Tal. This fabulous little resort town is full of charm. Highlights included several startling redstarts, dazzling sapphire-and-chestnut rock-thrushes, superb flocks of gorgeous Himalayan tits with nuthatches, leaf-warblers and others interspersed. Some skulkers included Nepal and Scaly-breasted Wren-babbler, a feast of six Laughing-thrushes including the snow-white capped White-crested, the bulbous-headed Striated, the elegant mottled and scaled Rufous-chinned and common Streaked. Added to this was the superb Great Barbet, omnipresent Black-headed Jay and magnificent Blue Magpies which all impressed us greatly.

India has some spectacular starlings...

 Asian Pied Starling Brahminy Starling

2 December. Delhi (arrival) - Okhla barrage
I met the participants in the late afternoon. Although we were in Delhi, it is a remarkably birdy city and because we had an afternoon to kill we sped straight for the Okhla barrage where we soon saw a great bunch of wetland species including Western Marsh and Pallid Harriers, cormorants, herons, Painted Stork, Eurasian Spoonbill, Greylag and Bar-headed Geese, scores of ducks including Red-crested Pochard and waders galore, including our first elegant River Lapwing, as well as our only Greater Flamingo of the trip. We also located many widespread Indian plains birds, including Black Kite, Red-wattled Lapwing, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Little Swift, White-throated Kingfisher, Black Drongo, Asian Pied Starling, Common and Bank Mynas, House Crow and Red-vented Bulbul. We returned to the hotel where we had a hearty Indian Curry “feed” and linked up with the remainder of the group, except for Bill, who had some severe complications in getting to India, he was to catch up with us only much later in the trip.

3 December. Delhi - Bharatpur
We drove via Kosi, across the Gangetic Plain. The sheer congestion of the roads, crammed with buses, trucks, motorized and cycle rickshaws, bullock carts and pedestrians carrying every imaginable item, has to be seen to be believed. We encountered some widespread Indian plains birds during the journey, including Indian Pond Heron, Black Kite and Egyptian Vultures, White-throated Kingfisher, Long-tailed Shrike, Black Drongo, Asian Pied Starling, Common and Bank Mynas, House Crow and Red-vented Bulbul. A short stop at Kosi revealed our first Sarus Cranes, Temminck's Stints, White-browed Wagtail, White-eared Bulbul and a displaying Oriental Skylark, amongst others. A Short-toed Eagle was a welcome addition to the triplist as we closed in on the small and dusty town of Bharatpur. Arriving at the hotel, the Bagh, was like being welcomed into an oasis. The marble walls and floors, huge flowing rooms, bathrooms the size of small houses and general lavishness are in such stark contrast to the plains. Fit for a king and queen, we felt like royalty and certainly enjoyed some fine Mugali cuisine before setting off to look for some birds at the local wetlands before dinner. Our first delights were a group of Indian Peafowl; this remarkable bird is so common here and yet so beautiful, it is always a welcome sight. The woodlands held Indian Grey Hornbill. We also located a great tree full of roosting Painted Storks and saw the first of remarkably few Bronze-winged Jacanas for the trip. The moist puddles also supported White-tailed Lapwing, several Common Snipe, while Streak-throated Swallows flitted over the pans. The scrub held several Bluethroats, including one spectacular male, much to the delight of the party, who reveled in seeing this revered "Sibe" on homeground. Frequently the Bluethroats would tangle with the more common Indian Robins and Black Redstarts in the brush. Large Grey Babblers also put in their first appearance of the trip along with Purple Sunbird, and the common but spectacular Rufous Treepie. Our first Brahminy Starling also drew breaths as this smart starling appeared up close and personal. The less common Indian Silverbill also made a brief appearance coming into the water to drink. We returned to the Bagh happy that we had a few goodies in the bag!

4 December: Bharatpur. Keoladeo Ghana NP
Today was supposed to be our first of several days in this "great" park. However, the severe water shortage and extent of the failed monsoons soon became evident when we found virtually no water in the park at all. In previous years, a failed monsoon meant that there were just not the spectacular numbers apparent that one had become accustomed to, but this year the park was devoid of birds. The low numbers of waterbirds meant that concurrently, there were very few raptors was well. Although the birding was sub-par we did find some very nice things including most of the cormorants, herons and egrets one has come to expect here. We located Indian Cormorants, Oriental Darters, Cattle, Great and Little Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons, Black-headed Ibises and Eurasian Spoonbills. The shallow lakes revealed White-breasted Waterhens, Purple Gallinules and Brown Crake. Nearer the temple we saw Bar-headed Goose, Lesser Whistling Duck, Spot-billed Duck dabbling peacefully. One of the most sought-after waders, the White-tailed Lapwing was seen numerous times. A few spectacular Black-necked Storks strutted thier stuff on the open plains. We located many waders including the only Spotted Redshank of the trip. Blyth’s Reed Warblers grated away on the bunds. In the woodlands we came across decent numbers of Orange-headed and Tickell's Thrushes as well as Gray Francolin, Common Hawk-Cuckoo, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Greater Coucal, Dusky Eagle Owl, with a hooting call reminiscent of a bouncing ping-pong ball, Spotted Owlet, Indian Grey Hornbill, Coppersmith and Brown-headed Barbet, Gray-headed Canary Flycatcher, Ashy Drongo, Black-rumped Flameback, Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpeckers, Bay-backed Shrike, Small Minivet, White-eared Bulbul, Common Babbler and Chestnut-shouldered Sparrow. We were also lucky with nocturnal species, locating a roosting Collared Scops Owl and both Large-tailed and Gray Nightjars. Although raptor numbers were reduced as well, Bharatpur still delivered the key species including several superb views of Steppe, Indian and Greater Spotted Eagle, Black-shouldered Kites, Booted Eagle and Shikra. Wintering passerines from northern and central Asia or the Himalayas included Red-breasted Flycatcher, Hume's Leaf and Greenish Warblers, Bluethroat, and Citrine Wagtail. Bharatpur is excellent for mammals and we had superb views of the huge Nilgai (or Blue Bull), Sambar, Wild Boar, Golden Jackal, Indian Grey Mongoose, Rhesus Macaque and Northern Palm Squirrel.

Bharatpur supports a great variety of birds and even though there was very little water this year we still had great views of a variety of birds such as...

Bay-backed Shrike

 

Black-necked Stork

 

Bar-headed Geese

5 December: Bayena - Bund Baretha
Given the dire situation in the NP we decided to explore some areas outside the park for the next two days.The first day was spent at Bayena and Bund Baretha, two well known areas near Bharatpur. A stop in some grassy clearings soon revealed some of our most sought after species for the day, such as Red Avadavat, Red-headed Bunting, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Spanish Sparrow and Indian Silverbill. Arriving at the breeding cliffs of the fast declining Long-billed Vultures, we were lucky to quickly locate a few of these prize birds. The vulture crisis in India is still in full swing and each year it becomes more of a challenge to find these once widespread and common scavengers. The area was also full of Plum-headed Parakeets and watching these purple-and-green birds contrasting against the red cliffs was a wonderful experience. The cliffs and scrub at the base of the hills also supported Dusky Crag Martin, Blue Rock-Thrush, Common Babbler, Indian Chat, Indian Bushlark, House Bunting and a great surprise find for the day, Red-fronted Prinia. Bund Baretha was absolutely full of water and we quickly added a bunch of new birds for the trip including some great finds such as the three Indian Skimmers that were loafing on a sandbank! Other new species were Osprey, Great Crested Grebe, Intermediate Egret, Black-tailed Godwit, Cotton Pygmy Goose, River and Gull-billed Terns, a trio of Pochards, Red-crested, Common and Ferruginous Pochard and Tufted Duck. A great view of Imperial Eagle was welcome as this bird had not been seen at the dry Bharatpur. We also explored the area near the old fort where we found Crested Serpent Eagle, Asian Openbill, the surprisingly scarce Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Common Kingfisher, Green Bee-eater and our main target the Chestnut-breasted Bunting. We returned home to some more Indian grub and beers with a great daylist!

6 December: Beyond Baretha
Due to the somewhat depressing situation at the NP, we decided to explore some new sites even further away from Bund Baretha and we were delighted we did, as we discovered some superb new localities that we will definitely visit in future years. It was a fun day for me as I'd never been out here and there was a real feeling of experiencing the untested and unknown. We left Bharatpur really early as we were going a long way away from the park. A great early find was a Brown Crake that paraded around on the road in front of us for 10 minutes and it did not want to get into cover!! Soon after this, the country quickly became rocky and dry and we stopped for a first rather unknown stop to see what we might find and were almost immediately surprised by a few Ashy-crowned Sparrowlarks and Southern Grey Shrike. I spotted a White-browed Fantail nearby, but the remainder fo the group would have to wait until later in the tour to catch up on that one! A little way further down I saw something strange from the car and yelled to stop. Soon we were all watching Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse on the deck, but unfortunately they quickly took flight. A short stop in some fields shotly thereafter revealed a gamut of new species such as Greater Short-toed Lark, Variable Wheatear, Indian Bushlark, Tawny and Long-billed Pipits. Some other dry country soon revealed Desert and Isabeline Wheatears. For our lunch stop, we discovered an amazing gem of a waterbody that was thronging with birds. This must be where all Bharatpur's birds had come and it was an incredible spectacle that rivals even the best years at Bharatpur (below). Amongst the enormous number of birds we saw was a great diversity of species and we quickly notched up a few birds that we were still in need of including hundreds of Lesser Whistling Duck, Comb Duck and Striated Heron. However it was the thousands of Greylag and Bar-headed Geese wheeling and turning in massive flocks that grabbed the attention. It truly was a spectacle to behold and a great relief after the the dissapointment of Bharatpur. On our way back to Bharatpur we stopped to look at some passerines, but as we alighted, our local guide found a superb bird in the form of a Red-necked Falcon. Unfortunately, only a handful of people got onto it before it flew, never to return. We also located a handful of Rosy Starlings on our return journey and an open pond scored us a Woolly-necked Stork, a somewhat surprise bird for the day and a less regular bird in India. We certainly celebrated tonight as we had encountered a whole series of birds new for this tour today and we were ecstatic. I'll definitely be back to these spots in future trips.


Birds at the wetlands not too far from Bharatpur

7 December: Agra. Fatepur Sikri, the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort
Having managed the birding in this area, we spent our last day exploring the cultural icons of the golden Triangle; more specifically, the Taj Mahal and Red Fort at Agra and the abandoned city of Fatepur Sikri. However, we did manage to locate a brilliant Red-headed Ibis on the way to Agra, a great find and super bird. We started the day at the impressive city of Fathepur Sikri, the deserted city of Emperor Akbar. It literally means "The City of Victory" and is one of the lesser known, yet more impressive ruins in the area. After that we were off to Agra for lunch and then onto one of the world's most impressive cultural icons. The Taj needs no introduction. A mausoleum of ethereal beauty built by the Mogul emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is one of the seven wonders of the world and once again it did not fail to exceed our expectations. Its beauty, serenity, and symmetry are legendary. This immense building seems to float on its white marble plinth, whilst inside the light filters gently down to softly illuminate the jewel-encrusted tombs of the emperor and his beloved. After exploring this fabulous structure we visited the Agra Fort, a massive yet elegant structure of gigantic red sandstone blocks started during the reign of the Mogul emperor Akbar. The maze of courtyards, mosques and private chambers of the fort echo the story of the Mughal Empire. The Moti Masjid and other magnificent structures reflect the skill of the ancient Indian architects and artists. Here, in this romantic setting, we looked out from the room where Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb and see the distant outline of the lovely monument he built for his wife - the Taj Mahal - further along the Yamuna River. We returned to Bharatpur regaled by the marvellous stories of the past and impressed by the skills of the workmanship that built these great Mughal monuments.

8 December: Bharatpur to Chambal Safari Lodge
We spent one last morning in the park and managed to add a few species including Peregrine Falcon, Asian Koel, Brown Hawk Owl, House Swift, Small Minivet and White-browed Fantail. In the afternoon we took the drive to Chambal Safari Lodge where we quickly located another roosting Brown Hawk-Owl that most people enjoyed before a serious Indian cookup.

9 December: Chambal River - Umaria
The morning started brilliantly as we enjoyed a spectacular river safari on the Chambal River. Before we got to the river, we scored a female Crested Bunting on the roadside. Arrival at the river quickly saw us start to notch up some serious birds such as Desert Wheatear, Crested Lark and an amazing family of Great Thick-knee. After boarding the boat the great sightings continued and at first we found over 30 Indian Skimmer, all on a riverbank. The river also produced Black-bellied and River Terns flitting up and down the waters, a small family of Sand Lark eventually succumbed and the rivers were lined with the impressive Mugger and Gharial crocodiles. A Red-naped Ibis strutted along the river flanks and we found a large flock of Red-crested Pochard amongst some more regular ducks. Other river specialists included Brahminy Kite, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Great Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls. An unexpected treat came in the form of a Long-legged Buzzard that hung over us for some time. The first shout of "dolphin" got everyone quite excitied and we were soon enjoying multiple, if brief, views of Gangetic River Dolphin, with these endangered cetaceans' backs breaking the water regularly. A little gurgle allerted us to a party of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse that sped past en-route to a drinking spot somewhere upstream. All too soon the river adventure was over and we had soon notched up a great number of new and specialty birds amongst the more regular waterbird quarry. We then headed to Agra, where we boarded the Utkal Express for our train trip to Umaria. Quite hard to describe to the first time visitor, a train trip is simultaneously a lowlight and a highlight. We were able to mingle with the passengers and certianly made sure that our smuggled on booze allowed us a reasonably jolly time. A conductor came past and stoped our partying frivolities and no sooner were we all asleep and getting some rest on our way to Bandhavgahr, and our much hoped for encounter with the greatest of all cats, the Bengal Tiger.

Two major highlights at the Chambal River are...
...the threatened Indian Skimmers
...and the bizarre Great Thick-knees.

10 December. Umaria to Bandhavgahr NP
We arrived at Umaria at about 6 am and were soon driving into the hub where we would enter the NP each day. Amazingly, my vehichle scored two incredible sightings as we hit the park border, a Jungle Cat in the headlights as well as Indian Nightjar. We arrived at our lodge and settled into our cabins and had breakfast. We birded the campsite first and added a bunch of new and exciting species including Bonelli's Eagle, Spotted Dove, Alexandrine Parakeet, Gray Wagtail, Large Cuckoo-shrike, Common Iora and Tickell's Blue Flycatcher. Some nearby fruiting trees attracted Pale-billed and Thick-billed Flowerpeckers, Black-hooded Oriole, and Golden-fronted Leafbird. Bandhavgarh is a diverse park and it boasts 43 700 ha of Sal Forest, mixed forests, Saj (Terminalia tomentosa), Dhaora (Anogeissus latifolia), Tendu (Diospyros melanoxylon) and Amla (Emblica officinalis) in the higher elevations of the hills. There are also extensive stands of bamboo and grasslands. We were all pretty focussed, with “old-stripes” being the target of our efforts and affections. The gates of the national park yielded their regular star bird in the form of a group of three Mottled Wood Owls that have been using this as a roost spot for some 10 years. Our very first drive in the park yielded some excellent birds including Lesser Adjutant, Red Junglefowl, Oriental Turtle Dove, Jungle Owlet, Gray-breasted Prinia and White-bellied Drongo as well as some star mammals such as Sambar, Chital and Hanuman Langur. Then, late in the evening, our driver picked up an alarm call bark and the jeep went into top gear. The drivers go like maniacs when they sniff a cat, and as we narrowed in on the alarm call, the adrenalin was pumping. A few other vehichles were already there and the frantic motioning by the others drivers meant that some had already had success. Sliding into the thick of things, a large Tigress was swaggering down the middle of the road and looking occasionally over her shoulder towards us, directing a distainful gaze in our direction. A Chital was standing, eyes wide open, and hair bolt-upright on the neck. We waited. The deer bolted to the right and the Tiger emerged directly in front of us, walked for 5 metres in the open, the flame-orange and black striped pattern flickered through the dappled sunlight and then it dissapeared into the forest! Moving forward we spotted her again, she had slumped down in a heap only three metres from the road, and everyone in the group came to stare straight at the face of this magical cat. It is hard to explain the exhilaration, adrenalin and excitment, of seeing the world’s greatest cat, and just as hard to describe that the desire to see the next one is even more intense than it is to see your lifer Tiger. But within minutes of seeing the first Tiger, everyone was looking forward to the next one. Because we had lingered, our driver was pretty intent on getting out of the park as fast as possible and it was with some astonishment that as we hared out of the park at top speed, we flushed a brilliant Painted Spurfowl that shot across the road just before we exited the park. The celebrations that evening were something else. We basked in the moment, and knew we were lucky to see this spectacular creature on our very first drive in the park.

Two common but spectacular residents of Bandhavgahr National Park:
Jungle Owlet Black-rumped Flameback

11 December. Bandhavgahr NP
Today we enjoyed many of the same birds that we had been seeing on the trip, but also managed to add White-eyed Buzzard, Sirkeer Malkoha, Brown-capped and Yellow-crowned Woodpeckers, Long-tailed Minivet, Tickell's Leaf Warbler, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Verditer Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch, Great Tit, Brown Shrike, Common Woodshrike, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and White-rumped Munia. After breakfast we scored a beauty in the form of a Blue-bearded Bee-eater right in the middle of the camp. However, the highlight of the day was again reserved for "old stripes". On arrival at the centre of the reserve we discovered that the mahouts had located a family of three Bengal Tigers, and they were at a kill. We drove to the spot and indulged in one of the great wildlife experiences on earth, watching Tigers from elephant back. Although only very brief, the exhilaration of riding elephents to within metres of Bengal Tigers, which are oblivious to your presence, is truly magical. They lay there, unpeturbed, as we enjoyed all three of them near their Sambar kill. We also added Chinkara to the mammal list. Another great day's birding in India.

Slender-billed Vultures are a great feature
on the top of the fortress at Bandhavgahr.

12 December. Bandhavgahr NP
Our early drive into the park quickly yielded a Red-headed Vulture. A bird we were much relieved to see given the dire vulture crisis in India. In the morning we also picked up another series of great new birds including Changeable Hawk Eagle, Jerdon's Leafbird, Zitting Cisticola, Jungle Prinia, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Siberian Rubythroat, Spotted Creeper, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Common Rosefinch and the very scarce and seldom see Bristled Grassbird. A hike up to the top of the Bandhavgahr fort in the late morning was a great distraction, with many rewards including several nesting Long-billed Vultures. We also saw our first Malabar Pied Hornbills here. Further on, we encountered a great mixed flock that had, amongst others, Blue-capped Rock-Thrush and Puff-throated Babbler. As we enjoyed our packed lunch on the edge of the plateau we saw an immaculate Shahin (local rufescent race of Peregrine Falcon) come whizzing past. In the afternoon we walked back down to the massive reclining Budda and left the park.

One can see the intensity apparent watching a group ticking their first Bengal Tiger!

13 December. Bandhavgahr NP.

We were running out of things to look for, but still enjoyed some key specialties today including a last save effort by Bill who spotted a "funny-looking" woodpecker that turned out to be the White-naped Woodpecker that we had already spent a great deal of time looking for! We also had great, but rapid looks at more Painted Spufowl that hurtled through the bamboo once they realised we had our beady eyes on them. Later in the afternoon we bagged the scarce Ultramarine Flycatcher and White-rumped Shama. We also heard but never tracked down a distant Indian Scimitar Babbler. We did the Tiger tracking thing on Elephant back today and this time Julie conquered her fear of hights and allowed herself on top of the behemoth for extended and super views of these majestic cats. Neil scored the magnificent photo of the snarling cat on the cover of this TR. Other new mammals included a Muntjac.

14 December. Bandhavgahr NP.

Our last full day in this park was spent looking for, and finding, some very rare animals that we had not yet seen. We lucked out on a bunch of vultures at a thermal, locating our first and only White-rumped Vulture of the tour. The thermal also contained a few Long-billed and Red-headed Vultures. A stop at a river scored us a nearby and spectacular Stork-billed Kingfisher. On an afternoon drive we nailed a large covey of 12 Jungle Bush Quail that scattered off the side of the road and eventually flushed. While looking for the quail, we were distracted by a party of Tawny-bellied Babbler that were nearby, but never very cooperative, but we all eventually got good looks. We also encountered our first Eurasian Crag Martins of the trip. As we were leaving the park we scored another great mammal in the form of a Jungle Cat hunting in broad daylight while some of us also encountered the scarce Ruddy Mongoose. After dinner we boarded the train back to Delhi and then held our thumbs for the long return journey.

Golden Jackal and Egyptian Vulture are common but photogenic
residents within the park.

15 December. Umaria to Delhi
This was always going to be a painful day. We returned to Delhi after the long 18 hour train trip and ended up checking out the many malls and shopping streets near Delhi's Connought place. We returned to Delhi for a final meal of coriander and cumin meatballs and delicious sweet yoghurt sauce, and stopped to shop in the Delhi malls for novel Xmas presents of marble carved Elephants, beautiful sari cloth and other exotic Indian treasures before leaving some people to fly back to England while the rest of us prepared for a fantasic Himalayan Foothills experience.

16 December. Delhi to Gajraula
The morning was spent at the Okhla River barrage on the outskirts of Delhi where we saw over 100 species including a great bunch of birds, but added only Sykes Warbler to our burgeoning triplist. We then tried to escape the hubbub mass that is Delhi. We headed out eastwards to Gajraula, a small town close to the River Ganges. The journey took us through the heartland of Hindu India and the most populous part of the country, providing a fascinating introduction to life on the subcontinent. We then headed across the Gangetic plain and after crossing the Ganges and eating perhaps the best meal of the trip, lunch at a fantastic vegetarian roadside restaurant, we returned to the holy river where we walked along its banks looking for new species. The key bird we found was White-tailed Stonechat. We slept here for the night.

17 December. Gajraula - Naini Tal
Eagre to get into the Himalayas, which was where we knew we'd see new birds, we made a rapid departure from Gajraula at 14h30. Unfortunately, huge banks of mist and cloud kept us going very slowly and we lost a bit of time, but it wasn't long before we reached one of our first stops at the Ramnagar River. This is a great place to start and with the giant mountains looming in the background we were most expectant. Soon we encountered one of our first special birds in the form of a Crested Kingfisher that sat perched on the giant iron bridge. We also saw a few other goodies including good views of Crested Treeswift, Gray Bushchat, White-capped Water Redstart and Plumbeous Redstart, but our main quarry, the spectacular grey-and-rose coloured Wallcreeper was being elusive. Eventually, shouts of "got it" went up and we all feasted our eyes on this highly sought-after and beautiful bird. Moving on, we started snaking up the mountains, and the habitats started to change and we slowly started seeing pine woodlands and broadleaved forest. It wasn't long before I had to bring proceedings to an abrupt halt as we scored our first flock. It was a great one, absolutely heaving with birds, and we soon added a bunch of new things including Speckled Piculet and Gray-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Himalayan Bulbul, a superb male Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush, and Grey-hooded Warbler. However the main flock components were tits of course and we nailed Black-crested, Great, Green-backed and Black-lored Tits along with both Chestnut-bellied and White-tailed Nuthatch. The day proceeded with us mostly working flocks. Further up the hill we saw our first Himalayan Griffons soaring high and it is a relief to see that one of India's Vultures still persists in good numbers. We enjoyed a lunch at our quaint hotel, the Vikram Vintage. Naini Tal, an attractive reminder of the days of the British Raj , is situated at nearly 2000 m a.s.l. and lies in a hollow in the mountains by the shore of the lake that gives the town its name. Surrounding peaks rise to over 2600 m a.s.l. and the whole area is a mixture of open country, patches of forest and small lakes. From the crests of some of the wooded ridges it is possible to obtain spectacular views on clear days of the snowy Himalayan giants stretched out along the horizon. The avifauna here is dramatically different from that of the plains and lower foothills. Such contrasts are one of the pleasures of Himalayan birding - new species are constantly appearing whenever one ascends or descends. Of course coming in winter is best for birding as it frequently forces migrants down into town which is warmer. After lunch we headed out for the ridgeline above the town. Here we enjoyed our first unobscured views of the distant main Himalayan range. These mountains, a full 70 km away, are still awesome and from horizon to horizon their snow-capped peaks stretched unbroken. The birding was also great and we added our first members of a much sought-after group of birds in the form of the laughingthrushes. An absolutely huge flock of some 30 White-throated Laughingthrushes moved across the road and then we located a surprisingly secretive Steaked Laughingthrush that eventually gave us all views. Other new finds in this area included Asian House and Nepal Martins, a sweetly singing Blue Whistling Thrush, Buff-barred Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail, Blue-capped Redstart, Rufous Sibia and Bar-tailed Tree-creeper. Returning to our little retreat we were treated to Vijay’s epic Chicken Butter Masala and nan breads that were roasted in garlic butter!!

Blue Whistling Thrush is a common but melodic resident of these mountains.

18 December: Sat Tal - full day
Being out at 6 a.m. in the morning at these altitudes is somewhat chilly and we were wrapped up in mittens and scarves for the early morning outings. Today we were headed for a full day down the Sat Tal Valley with a packed lunch. The day was filled with many flocks and a great bunch of more common birds, but I will only mention what was new, exciting or added. Our first stop produced a nice small flock, with the main addition being a very cooperative Small Niltava. A Scaly-breasted Wren-Babbler appeared briefly, but frustratingly vanished. At the second stop we nailed the somewhat tempramental Black-throated and Rufous-breasted Accentors and Russet Sparrow. Having seen those easily we were surprised when a Rufous-cheeked Scimitar Babbler showed extremely well. Shortly thereafter a huge flock of Slaty-headed Parakeets appeared from nowhere and we were to see these throughout the day today and we also nailed an exciting Blue-fronted Redstart and Gray Treepie. Then a flock of the giant Red-billed Blue Magpie came flying in. These impressive purple, red, blue and white creatures came through at an alarming speed. These giant steriod-laden beasts came flying across some open forest before landing in the pines. They held us transfixed for some time before they had to head off. Walking down a rather small track we were excited to discover a few Blue-winged Minla and Red-billed Leiothrix as well as our first Black-headed Jay's that fed on the ground. We also found a Barred Owl ready to go to bed and we enjoyed long scope views of these cute birds. Soon we were in a flock and we noticed a nearby fruiting tree which was an absolute find of note as 4-5 Great Barbets and 2-3 Blue-throated Barbets fed constantly while we watched the more common Black Bulbuls scoffing down fruits. Another flock produced Yellow-bellied Fantail, and shortly thereafter we located two Mountain Bulbuls, that were the only ones of the trip. Before lunch we checked a patch of scrub that is famous for Rubythroats. We were stunned to find both Himilayan and Siberian Rubythroats in the area and an even more welcome Slaty-Blue Flycatcher.

We then enjoyed a great packed lunch at the Sat Tal stalls. Fortunately the elastic bands that the lunch packs were wrapped in proved to be useful weaponry to keep the cheeky Rhesus Macaques at bay. One particular individual took particular exception when Iain potted it inbetween the eyes. A short walk afterwards was very productive, especially for woodpeckers. At first I thought I was seeing double, or just plain stringing. I called a Greater Yellownape, then seconds later in the exact same place, saw a Lesser Yellownape. Thinking I'd misidentified the bird I quickly retratced my earlier call, only for the Greater to re-emerge from the other side of the tree and we were treated to great side-by-side views of these birds that are not really similar looking at all! A few moments later we located a Gray-faced Woodpecker. Moving on and towards a small stream and valley area we located the first of several Olive-backed Pipits for the afternoon.

Then we were joined by a mangy mutt. Initially I really didn't like the dog but it refused to leave us alone and I thought it better to just try and ignore it. Little did I know that this dog was an incredible bird spotter. We quickly nicknamed it "Hobo" after the TV show, "the littlest hobo". We found a nice stream that attracted a bunch of birds to bathe and drink, in particular several different Phylloscopus warblers and we noted Buff-barred, Lemon-rumped and Brook's Leaf Warblers here. Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher and Rufous-bellied Niltava also put in an appearance at the stream, which also yielded fantastic and prolonged close-by views of a beautifully cooperative Sclay-breasted Wren-Babbler. Then the amazing "hobo" pulled his first trick, locking onto some Yellow-thoated Martens (a reclusive mustellid) he started chasing these animals up the hill and in the process flushed a group of Kalij Pheasants!! Unfortunately not too any people saw the pheasants, but given that we didn't even know they were there this was quite exciting. Walking on "hobo" then spotted something else in deep cover and just pointed. Quickly we moved around to see what it was and noticed a close and superb Rufous-chinned Laughing-thrush. Soon it bacame obvious the dog had found a whole flock and he constantly ran around pointing the birds out without barking of making a big noise...absolutely brilliant, but he wasn't done just yet! A very surprising late find in the area just as we were leaving was a super Gray-winged Blackbird that stayed teed up on a branch for some time. Leaving the valley the dog turned finder once again, chasing three Kalij Pheasants up a hill and then treeing all of them. We watched the birds for over five minutes as they looked down at our mangy mutt, before they took off into the woods. Leaving the forest, the hobo took off, not even asking for a pat or a bone. He turned and I could swear he "winked" at us before slinking up the hill, leaving us for good!

Two spectacular montane residents:
Great Barbet Black-headed Jay

19 December - Pangot and Kilbury Road
Today was an early day, with pheasants and some other high altitude specialties the intended targets. It was fridgid when we arrived on the high semi-alpine hills above Pangot and tried for a few owls. We struck gold with an early morning Collared Owlet that was vigorously defending his territory. No sooner had we arrived in the clearings when we started encountering some Dark-throated Thrushes that were hiding in the scrub, moving down to wamer climes. We also located an amazing flock of Altai Accentor, numbering nearly 50 individuals that wheeled and circled all around us for some time for the morning. While watching these a Lammergeier came soaring past super-close. Having such a magnificent bird only 15 metres away was amazing. We also noted the call of an Upland Pipit that shot off the wall and vanished down the valley unfortunately to never return again. A Eurasian Buzzard also perched up for all to see and was the only one of the trip. Heading down to the Kilbury Road we located Fulvous-breasted and the spectacularly beautiful Rufous-bellied Woodpecker as well as, Blyth's Leaf and Black-faced Warbler along with a single White-browed Shrike-Babbler and Goldcrest. Keith briefly saw a Himalayan Woodpecker, but before long this bird vanished and unfortunately no-one got onto it. We also located a Hill Partridge that showed briefly and then we had lunch at a great little lodge high up in the mountains adding Striated Prinia, Chestnut-crowned Laughing-thrush, Russet Sparrow, Pink-browed Rosefinch and Yellow-breasted Greenfinch to the list. We headed back to our hotel for dinner.

Collared Owlet... ...and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker are scarce residents on
the upper altitudes of the Kilbury Road.

20 December a.m. Pangot and Kilbury Road p.m. Mongoli Valley
We were up early again and back up to Pangot where we nailed our prime target in this area, a beautiful male Koklass Pheasant. We watched this bird slinking off into the undergrowth of the coniferous forest. However we were just as excited about our location of two rare mammals here, the Himalayan supspecies of Red Fox as well as another encounter with Yellow-throated Martens! Back down at the lodge we added Gray-backed Shrike and relocated the Hill Partridge in the exact same place as yesterday. We also nailed a beautiful pair of Brown Wood Owls on their day roost (see photo)! After luch we headed down to the Mongoli Valley as the lowlands still held a bunch of good birds we still needed. No sooner had we arrived and we nailed a spectacular group of Kalij Pheasant moving off rapidly though the undergrowth. Later we added Fire-breasted Flowerpecker and Ashy Bulbul to the proceedings and scored a party of Black Francolin, which was also new. The valley bottom held some more interesting scrub and riverside vegetation that yielded one of the mega-stars of these highlands. It took us a while to all get good views, but in the end we had great looks at a magical little male Chestnut-headed Tesia dancing around at our feet. The riverine scrub brought more though and we'd soon located a bevy of new birds for the trip including Chestnut-crowned Bush Warbler, Spotted Forktail and Black-chinned Babbler. The open areas supported Bronzed Drongo, and just when we though our opportunities were narrowing we located a party of four Striated Laughing-thrush moving through some high trees.

We nailed another bevy of great birds today:
Rufous Sibia
Brown Wood-Owl
Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush 

21 Dec. Naini Tal (Himlayas) – Quality Inn
After getting spectacular views of the Himalayas on a day of no cloud we dropped down the hillside to Ramnagar. A breakfast stop yielded another new trip bird. About 10 Hair-crested Drongos were all roosting in the same tree outside our roadstop restaurant! After brekky we headed straight to a small valley with thick undergrowth. On our way we were amazed by a great discovery of a Green Magpie, a rare bird in this part of Asia. Once at our main stop, we tried to locate a few local specialties and scored with brief views of the recently found Nepal Wren-Babbler. A flock of Red-breasted Parakeets shot up the valley but only Keith got onto them. Later a party included some Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrikes, White-throated Fantail and Scarlet Minivet. A beautiful Snowy-browed Flycatcher also put in a quick surprise appearance. Another special species was the Velvet-fronted Nuthatches, which we all enjoyed as three of them gave great up close views and then we had a surprise Green-tailed Sunbird. By the afternoon we had arrived at Quality Inn and soon racked up a beautiful (if distant) Pallas’ Fish Eagle and Crested Kingfisher on the river. Scanning from the Inn revealed Crested Treeswift, Mountain Hawk Eagle, White-rumped Spinetail, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, Bianchi's Warbler and Grey-breasted Prinia which skulked in the thicket next to the verandah. An afternoon sortie along the forest by the lodge yielded a spectacular group of White-crested Laughing-thrush, the last of the six species of laughing-thrush that one can find in this part of India. An evening walk along the clear-water torrent produced the immaculate Spotted Forktail as well as the much sought-after Brown Dipper!

Back down on the Ramnagar River we scored some spectacular species...
...including this White-capped Water Redstart... ...and this Crested Kingfisher.

22 Dec. Corbett – Delhi
We did not have much time this morning before heading back to Delhi, however, as we looked for owls we did locate a fabulous male Greater Flameback and then had repeat views of the Nepal Wren-Babbler before we came acoss a surpise Red Spurfowl at the side of the road. As we all piled into the bus for the journey back to Delhi we were reminded of where we were, with a Tiger growling and Sambar barking in return. India is a truly great birding and wildlife destination and I can't wait to get back. We jumped on the bus and returned to Delhi where we all said our goodbyes and toasted a sucessful trip.

Bird and mammal lists

Bird species

Common name Scientific name
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscicollis
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger
Darter Anhinga melanogaster
Gray Heron Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Great Egret Ardea alba
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Indian Pond-Heron Ardeola grayii
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Striated Heron Butorides striatus
Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala
Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans
Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus
Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus
Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus
Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus
Red-naped Ibis Pseudibis papillosa
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Lesser Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna javanica
Greylag Goose Anser anser
Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
Comb Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos
Cotton Pygmy-goose Nettapus coromandelianus
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
Gadwall Anas strepera
Eurasian Teal Anas crecca
Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha
Northern Pintail Anas acuta
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina
Common Pochard Aythya ferina
Ferruginous Pochard Aythya nyroca
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Oriental Honey-buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus
Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus
Pallas' Fish-Eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus
Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus
White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis
Long-billed Vulture Gyps indicus
Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis
Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
Crested Serpent-Eagle Spilornis cheela
Western Marsh-Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus
Shikra Accipiter badius
White-eyed Buzzard Butastur teesa
Eurasian Buzzard Buteo buteo
Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus
Indian (Lesser Spotted) Eagle Aquila (pomarina) hastasa
Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga
Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis
Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca
Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus
Booted Eagle Hieraeetus pennatus
Changeable (Crested) Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus c. cirrhatus
Mountain Hawk Eagle Spizaetus nipalensis
Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Red-necked Falcon Falco chiquera
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Oriental Hobby Falco severus
Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus
Gray Francolin Francolinus pondicerianus
Hill Partridge Arborophila torqueola
Jungle Bush Quail Perdicula asiatica
Painted Spurfowl Galloperdix lunulata
Red Spurfowl Galloperdix spadicea
Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus
Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia macrolopha
Kalij Pheasant Lophura leucomelanos
Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus
Sarus Crane Grus antigone
Brown Crake Amaurornis akool
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus
Bronze-winged Jacana Metopidius indicus
Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
River Lapwing Vanellus duvaucelii
Yellow-wattled Lapwing Vanellus malabaricus
Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus
White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Snowy Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Great Thick-knee Esacus recurvirostris
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles exustus
Great Black-headed Gull Larus ichthyaetus
Yellow-legged (Steppe) Gull Larus cachinnans barabensis
Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
River Tern Sterna aurantia
Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica
Black-bellied Tern Sterna acuticauda
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
Rock Dove Columba livia
Oriental Turtle-Dove Streptopelia orientalis
Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis
Yellow-footed Pigeon Treron phoenicoptera
Alexandrine Parakeet Psittacula eupatria
Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri
Slaty-headed Parakeet Psittacula himalayana
Plum-headed Parakeet Psittacula cyanocephala
Red-breasted Parakeet Psittacula alexandri
Common Hawk-Cuckoo Cuculus varius
Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea
Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis
Sirkeer Malkoha Phaenicophaeus leschenaultii
Collared Scops-Owl Otus lettia
Dusky Eagle-Owl Bubo coromandus
Mottled Wood-Owl Strix ocellata
Brown Wood-Owl Strix leptogrammica
Asian Barred Owlet Glaucidium cuculoides
Jungle Owlet Glaucidium radiatum
Collared Owlet Glaucidium brodiei
Spotted Owlet Athene brama
Brown Hawk-Owl Ninox scutulata
Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus indicus
Indian Nightjar Caprimulgus asiaticus
Large-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus macrurus
House Swift Apus nipalensis
White-rumped Needletail Zoonavena sylvatica
Crested Treeswift Hemiprocne coronata
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Stork-billed Kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis
White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis
Crested Kingfisher Megaceryle lugubris
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
Blue-bearded Bee-eater Nyctyornis athertoni
Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis
Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
Indian Gray Hornbill Ocyceros birostris
Malabar Pied-Hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus
Great Barbet Megalaima virens
Brown-headed Barbet Megalaima zeylanica
Blue-throated Barbet Megalaima asiatica
Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla
Speckled Piculet Picumnus innominatus
Brown-capped Woodpecker Dendrocopos nanus
Gray-capped Woodpecker Dendrocopos canicapillus
Brown-fronted Woodpecker Dendrocopos auriceps
Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker Dendrocopos macei
Yellow-crowned Woodpecker Dendrocopos mahrattensis
Himalayan Woodpecker Dendrocopos himalayensis (LO)
Rufous-bellied Woodpecker Dendrocopos hyperythrus
Lesser Yellownape Picus chlorolophus
Greater Yellownape Picus flavinucha
Gray-faced Woodpecker Picus canus
Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium benghalense
Greater Flameback Crysocolaptes lucidus
White-naped Woodpecker Chrysocolaptes festivus
Sand Lark Calandrella raytal
Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula
Indian Bushlark Mirafra erythroptera
Ashy-crowned Sparrowlark Eremopterix grisea
Plain Martin Riparia paludicola
Eurasian Crag-Martin Hirundo rupestris
Dusky Crag-Martin Hirundo concolor
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Wire-tailed Swallow Hirundo smithii
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica
Streak-throated Swallow Hirundo fluvicola
Nepal Martin Delichon nipalensis
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
White-browed Wagtail Motacilla madaraspatensis
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Gray Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Oriental Pipit Anthus rufulus
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris
Long-billed Pipit Anthus similis
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni
Large Cuckoo-shrike Coracina macei
Small Minivet Pericrocotus cinnamomeus
Long-tailed Minivet Pericrocotus ethologus
Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus
Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus picatus
White-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus leucotis
White-cheeked Bulbul Pycnonotus leucogenys
Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer
Ashy Bulbul Hemixos flavala
Mountain Bulbul Ixos mcclellandii
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus
Goldcrest Regulus regulus (LO)
Blue-winged (Jerdon’s) Leafbird Chloropsis c. jerdoni
Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons
Common Iora Aegithina tiphia
Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii
Rufous-breasted Accentor Prunella strophiata
Black-throated Accentor Prunella atrogularis
Altai Accentor Prunella himilayana
Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush Monticola rufiventris
Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius
Blue-capped Rock-Thrush Monticola cinclorhynchus
Blue Whistling-Thrush Myophonus caeruleus
Orange-headed Thrush Zoothera citrina
Tickell's Thrush Turdus unicolor
Grey-winged Blackbird Turdus boulboul
Dark-throated Thrush Turdus ruficollis
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Striated Prinia Prinia criniger
Red-fronted Prinia Prinia buchanani
Gray-breasted Prinia Prinia hodgsonii
Ashy Prinia Prinia socialis
Jungle Prinia Prinia sylvatica
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata
Chestnut-headed Tesia Tesia castaneocoronata
Chestnut-crowned Bush Warbler Cettia major
Blyth's Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum
Booted Warbler Hippolias caligata
Sykes’ Warbler Hippolias rama
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Tickell's Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus affinis
Sulphur-bellied Warbler Phylloscopus griseolus
Buff-barred Warbler Phylloscopus pulcher
Lemon-rumped Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
Brooks' Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus subviridis
Hume's Warbler Phylloscopus humei
Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides
Blyth's Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus reguloides
Golden-spectacled Warbler Seicercus burkii
Whistler’s Warbler Seicercus whistleri
Gray-hooded Warbler Seicercus xanthoschistos
Black-faced Warbler Abroscopus schisticeps
Bristled Grassbird Chaetornis striatus
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher Ficedula strophiata
Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva
Ultramarine Flycatcher Ficedula superciliaris
Slaty-blue Flycatcher Ficedula tricolor
Snowy-browed Flycatcher Ficedula hyperythra
Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassina
Small Niltava Niltava macgrigoriae
Rufous-bellied Niltava Niltava sundara
Tickell's Blue-Flycatcher Cyornis tickelliae
Gray-headed Canary-flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis
Siberian Rubythroat Lucsinia calliope
White-tailed (Himalayan) Rubythroat Lucsinia pectoralis
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis
White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus
Indian Robin Saxicoloides fulicata
Blue-capped Redstart Phoenicurus caeruleocephalus
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis
White-capped Redstart Chaimarrornis leucocephalus
Plumbeous Redstart Rhyacornis fuliginosus
Spotted Forktail Enicurus maculatus
Common Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
White-tailed Stonechat Saxicola leucura
Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata
Gray Bushchat Saxicola ferrea
Indian Chat Cercomela fusca
Variable Wheatear Oenanthe picata
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina
Yellow-bellied Fantail Rhipidura hypoxantha
White-throated Fantail Rhipidura albicollis
White-browed Fantail Rhipidura aureola
White-throated Laughingthrush Garrulax albogularis
White-crested Laughingthrush Garrulax leucolophus
Striated Laughingthrush Garrulax striatus
Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush Garrulax rufogularis
Streaked Laughingthrush Garrulax lineatus
Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush Garrulax erythrocephalus
Puff-throated Babbler Pellomeum ruficeps
Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler Pomatorhinus erythrogenis
Indian Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus horsfieldi
Scaly-breasted Wren-Babbler Pnoepyga albiventer
Nepal Wren-Babbler Pnoepyga immaculata
Black-chinned Babbler Stachyris pyrrhops
Tawny-bellied Babbler Dumetia hyperythra
Yellow-eyed Babbler Chrysomma sinense
Common Babbler Turdoides caudatus
Large Gray Babbler Turdoides malcolmi
Jungle Babbler Turdoides striatus
Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix lutea
Blue-winged Minla Minla cyanouroptera
White-browed Shrike-Babbler Pteruthius flaviscapis
White-bellied Yuhina Erpornis zantholeuca
Rufous Sibia Heterophasia capistrata
Black-throated Tit Aegithalos concinnus
Black-crested Tit Periparus melanolophus
Great Tit Parus major
Green-backed Tit Parus monticolus
Black-lored Tit Parus xanthogenys
Yellow-browed Tit Sylviparus modestus
Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch Sitta castanea
White-tailed Nuthatch Sitta himalayensis
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis
Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria
Bar-tailed Treecreeper Certhia himalayana
Spotted Creeper Salpornis spilonotis
Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus
Green-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga nipalensis
Pale-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum erythrorhynchos
Thick-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum magnirostris
Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus
Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
Bay-backed Shrike Lanius vittatus
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach
Gray-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus
Southern Gray Shrike Lanius meridionalis
Common Woodshrike Tephrodornis pondicerianus
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus
Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus
White-bellied Drongo Dicrurus caerulescens
Bronzed Drongo Dicrurus aeneus
Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Black-headed Jay Garrulus lanceolatus
Blue Magpie Urocissa erythrorhyncha
Common Green Magpie Cissa chinensis
Rufous Treepie Dendrocitta vagabunda
Gray Treepie Dendrocitta formosae
House Crow Corvus splendens
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos
Bank Myna Acridotheres ginginianus
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
Asian Pied Starling Gracupica contra
Brahminy Starling Temenuchus pagodarum
Rosy Starling Pastor roseus
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
Russet Sparrow Passer rutilans
Chestnut-shouldered Petronia Petronia xanthocollis
Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus
Red Avadavat Amandava amandava
White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata
Indian Silverbill Lonchura argenteus
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus
Pink-browed Rosefinch Carpodacus rhodochrous
Yellow-breasted Greenfinch Carduelis spinoides
Black-and-yellow Grosbeak Mycerobas icterioides
Crested Bunting Melophus lathami
Chestnut-breasted Bunting Emberiza stewarti
House Bunting Emberiza striolata
Red-headed Bunting Emberiza bruniceps
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia

 

Mammal species
Gangetic River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica)
Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatto)
Hanuman Langur (Semnopithecus entellus)
Sambar Deer( Cervus unicolor)
Spotted Deer/Chital (Axis axis)
Indian Muntjac (Muntiacus muntjac)
Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus)
Chinkara (Gazella benettii)
Goral (Naemorhedus goral)
Wild Boar (Sus scofra)
Golden Jackal (Canis aureus)
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Jungle Cat (Felis chaus)
Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris) – 7 of these magnificent cats on three occasions. The major mammal highlight.
Yellow-throated Marten (Martes flavigula) – We saw these scarce but handsome creatures twice in the Himalayas.
Ruddy Mongoose (Herpestes smithii)
Indian Grey Mongoose (Herpestes edwardsii)
Indian Small Mongoose (Herpestes aureopunctatus)
Three-striped Palm Squirrel (Fanambulus palmarum)
Indian Flying Fox (Pteropus giganteus)
False Vampire Bat (Megaderma lyra)

Other animals
Gharial (Garialis gangeticus)
Mugger Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris)
Hard-shelled Terapin