Monday, December 21, 2009

Birds of Sat Tal & Pangot

Birding tours in Sat Tal and Pangot in Northern India

Both the destinations are equidistant from Nainital Hill Resort in the district of Nainital in Uttaranchal. Sat Tal is about 14 kilometers from Nainital while Pangot is at approximately the same distance. Pangot is at greater height of over 2000 meters MSL while Sat Tal is approximately at 1400 meters MSL.

Both the birding spot in North India display striking difference in species of birds found. The terrain at Pangot is rugged and steep but it is rewarding to work out if you wish to see:

Cheer Pheasant, Koklas Pheasant, Accentors, Peregrine Falcon, White browed shrike babbler,
Yellow browed tit, Spot winged tit, Ultra marine flycatcher, Himalyan Vulture, Dark-throated Thrush, Striated Prinia, Grosbeaks, Hill Partridge, Fire breasted flowerpecker, Himalayan Flameback, Siberian Bushchat, Lammergier, Upland Pipit, Lesser Racket Tailed Drongo, Chestnutbellied Rock Thrush,  Blue capped rock thrush, Verditor flycatcher  and many more.

Sattal is at a lesser height but offers larger number of species to be seen. Leaving the township the landscape is striking beautiful. Unfortunately the rivulets are gagged by plastic waste.  Occasional barking deer can be seen or heard in the forests.

Blue winged minla, Golden spectacled warbler, Eurasian Jay, Black headed Jay, Himalayan Bulbul, Winter Wren, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Khaleej Pheasant, Barred jungle owlet, Dollar bird, Striated laughing thrush, Grey bushchat, Green tailed sunbird,  Bar tailed tree creeper,  White tailed nuthatch, Dark throated sunbird, Blue winged shrike, blacknaped fblue lycatcher, Black eagle, Asian barred owlet, Besra, Fulvous breasted woodpecker, Long tailed broadbill, scaly wren, Lesser yellow nape, Rufus bellied woodpecker, Common Rose finch, Spotted Forktail, Bar winged flycatcher shrike, Crested Hawk Eagle, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Slaty-headed Parakeets, White throated babblers, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler,  Slaty backed Forktail, Black winged cuckoo shrike, Rufus Sibia, Lesser Yellownape, Red Billed Leiothrix, Small Niltava, Rufus Belied Niltava, Streaked Laughing Thrush, White Throated Dipper,Grey headed canary flycatcher, Grey Faced Warbler, Black Hooded Warbler, Rufus-bellied Woodpecker, Blue throated barbet, Small Minivet, Long Tailed Minivet, Great Barbet, Chestnut Bellied Nuthatch, Whiskered Yuhina,   Himalayan griffon, Steppe Eagle, Grey Treepie, Grey Winged Black Bird, Grey backed forktail, Spotted fork tail and Dollar bird.

Sattal offers greater bird checklist than mentioned here. On my frequent bird watching tours I find newer bird species. Winter is the best season to see Indian birds in the North in Himalayas and Terai

Corbett is another exciting bird destination for birding in North India with over 500 species. Birding is best done on foot at Lal Dhang, Sita Vani, Mohan and Kumeria at Koshi River. Inside Corbett National Park birding is done on jeep safaris nevertheless exciting forest birds are seen like nowhere.                 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bird watching in Gujarat

Gujarat though little known is heaven for bird watchers. The places that top the list for birding in Gujarat India are many but less known. I have visited few sanctuaries in the state and found impressive habitation of birds including migratory birds.

I have been to Nalsarovar and Thol on bird watching tours and check listed impressive list of Indian birds. The flamingos are present in Nalsarovar but less seen due rush of tourists that disturbs them. The tourists are mostly noisy picnickers. To see the Flamingos one need to boat for a distance of ten to twelve km with a knowledgeable boatmen in the wetland.   Both lesser and greater Flamingos can be seen.

One can see pelicans, grey lag goose, bar headed goose, spotbilled duck, common pochard, pintail, lesser whistling ducks, redheaded pochards, gargeny teals, gadwall, common teals and shovellers. One can see white tailed lapwing, shikra, greater spotted eagle, marsh harrier, orioles, honey buzzard, larks, pipits and pratincoles.      

Other interesting spots for birding in Gujarat are the Little and large Rann of Kutch for bustards, Flamingo and other desert species. The Gir National Park, Velavadar Sanctuary, Dasada, Jamnagar coast and many yet to be discovered.

During winters interesting birds can be sighted in and around Ahmedabad and other towns. Bird watching Gujarat though not in infancy still requires and organized chaecklist of wetlands, desert and forest birds.       

Sunday, June 7, 2009

More birds at Barha Jabalpur

Bird watching is exciting and gets more exciting if you see/hear interesting species. In summers birds of diverse habitat congregate around water sources. This is the case of birds at Barha reserve forest near Jabalpur Mandla.

In today's morning birding I heard calls of India Pitta (Pitta brachuyra) just as we entered the forest. This bird I had noted earlier only for a brief period between March and April and thought it migrated locally (Kanha?). But today's calls means it stays here for more extended period or could be permanent resident.

More calls: Indian scimitar babbler, Shikra,


Black headed oriole (Oriolus xanthogenys)

Black-naped monarch

Asian paradise flycatcher

White browed flycatcher

White browed bulbul

Bonelli's eagle

Crested Serpent eagle (Adult + juvenile)

Honey buzzard

Greater racket tailed drongo (Dicrurus paradeseus)

Puff throated babbler

Common hawk cuckoo

Pied crested cuckoo (Clamator jacobinus)

Grey breasted prinia

Brown fish owl (Ketupa zeylonensis)

Crested tree swift (Hemoprocine longipenis)

Common Iora

My checklist of bird of Jabalpur is consistently increasing (over 260). Thanks to frequent bird watching trips lately in all seasons. Except my friend Bittu ,I have yet to come come across bird watchers in Jabalpur town which by all means is a large town in India. It is expected that many more youths/elders/men/women would take interest in our birds and contribute somehow to learning about avian wonders and conserving them as a result.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

White Browed Bulbul - Jabalpur Birds

In my recent birding at Barha Reserve Forest in Jabalpur we were surprised to discover White-browed bulbul (Pycnonotus luteolus) in the canopy. This bird has not been recorded in my checklist of Jabalpur Birds in Madhya Pradesh. According to distribution maps its spread is shown much below Jabalpur region.

Similarly Red whiskered-bulbul (Pycnonotus jocusus) is now much less seen in Jabalpur and that too in gardens and not in the wild. From my discussion with the residents the number has gone down?

I have recorded more than 270 + bird species in Jabalpur. I have been surprised by the fact that this is the number that exists in birds of Kanha and Bandhavgarh National Park. In fact the checklists of birds in Kanha and Bandhavgarh show about 250 + species. More species are recorded in Jabalpur in MP Central India.

The reason for such large numbers of bird being sighted in different areas of Jabalpur is the diversity of habitat which ranges from extensive wetlands, scrub, dense forests and drier areas along with agriculture fields. levation also shifts mildly resulting in vast number of species that prefer to spend winters here along with resident birds.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Summer Birding at Kanha Nattional Park

On recent trip to Kanha with friends, I check listed some interesting birds. The park was completely devoid of winter visitors and this was an opportunity to map the skeleton of Kanha's resident avi fauna.

We were on a wild life safari combined with bird watching tour at Kanha in Central India. Kanha by all means has interesting bird species which numbers more than 250 in winters. In between the hot tiger chase I could manage to spot many birds and hear calls of that which we could not see.

Some of the birds sighted were.

Malabar Pied Horn Bill

Common Grey Horn Bill

Black Naped Monarch

Paradise Flycatcher

Tickell's Blue Flycatcher

White Browed Fan Tail Flycatcher

Indian Pitta

Black Hooded Oriole

Golden Oriole

Painted Francolin

Grey Francolin

Wooly Necked Stork

Lesser Adjutant Stork

Common Iora

Common Tailor Bird

Indian Scimitar Babbler (Calls)

Puff Throated Babbler

Jungle Babbler

Common Myna

Bamani Myna

Crested Serpent Eagle


Honey Buzzard

Back Rumped Vulture

Collared Scops Owl

Brown Fish Owl (Calls)

Spotted Owlet

Barn Owl

Red Wattled Lapwing

Cattle Egret

Little Egret

Large Egret

Long Tailed Minivet

Lesser Whistling Teal

Gold Fronted Leaf Bird

Purple Sun Bird

White Rumped Shama (Calls)

Ashy Prinia

Grey Breasted Prinia (Calls)

Plain Prinia

Plum Headed Parakeet

Alexanderine Parakeet

Rose Ringed Parakeet

Black Throated Munia

Rufus Treepie

Greater Coucal

Red Jungle Fowl

Painted Spur Fowl

Indian Night Jar (Calls)

White Eye (Calls)

Crested Tree Swift

Wire Tailed Swallow

Common Kingfisher

White Throated Kingfisher

Lesser Pied Kingfisher

Greater Racket Tailed Drongo

Black Drongo

White Bellied Drongo

White Cheeked Ground Thrush

This popular National Park in India offers pleasant surprises for those in for holistic experience. People singularly obsessed with tiger chase miss lot. Bird life is a vital component of Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh in India.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Northern India bird tours

Trip Report Rajasthan Uttranchal by Uday Patel

Delhi – Bharatpur - Chambal – Sat Tal-Pangot-Corbett

Duration: 5th April to 18th April 2009

India Footprints a package tour operator has been organizing various tours to several destinations in India. But wildlife and birding tours are the company’s forte. This particular itinerary had been devised keeping the sole objective of birding in mind. The group consisted of Germans - a group of sixteen birding enthusiasts, Neelesh Agrawal and tour leader Uday Patel all birders down to core.

The trip started at New Delhi which was just a landing point. Upon arrival at the airport afternoon we left immediately for Bharatpur Sun Bird Hotel in Bharatpur in the evening.

Our birding trip at Bharatpur began at 6.00 in the morning to see yellow wattle lapwing, rufous tailed shrike, ashy prinia and grey franklin in the nearby fields. We spent one and a half day birding at Bharatpur bird sanctuary which yielded good results.

We moved to Agra for overnight stay. The next morning we arrived at Chambal around 7 am. We could sight large number of interesting bird species at Chambal river sanctuary along with gharials, crocodiles and river dolphin. The area consists of sparsely wooded ravines and cliffs on the bank of the river which is one of unpolluted rivers in India. After morning river safari and a brief birding session and lunch at Chambal safari lodge we departed for New Delhi for stay overnight. Next day we proceeded to Sat Tal in Nainital District of Uttranchal. At Sat Tal we sighted interesting bird species. The next birding destination was Pangot about 35 kms from Sat Tal. We spent and three nights Pangot and then proceeded to Corbett National Park to add to our burgeoning list of bird species check listed.

In this birding trip report I am not presenting all the species here but rather those species that interested us the most and those which may interest the readers.

New Delhi -– April 5th

Birding on the way: Rose ringed parakeets, black drongo, bank mynas, pied myna, northern house martin, Black kite, Bronze winged Jacana, Pheasant tailed Jacana, Shikra and Egrets.
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary – 6th to 8th April
The time spent birding at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary was quite fruitful. We had one and a half day of birding at the sanctuary. Our list comprises of following birds.
Grey Francolin, Tickle’s Thrush, Brown Crake, Booted warbler, Ashy and Plain Prinia, Great white pelicans, Shikra, Dusky Fish Owl, Spot-billed duck, Sykes Warbler, Black-rumped Flameback, Common Crane, Sarus Crane, Brown-headed barbet, Hoopoe, Common Kingfisher, Black necked stork, White-throated Kingfisher, Spotted owlet, Collared Scops Owl, Eurasian ring dove, Laughing Dove, Purple Swamphen, White-breasted Waterhen, Wood sand piper, Spotted redshank, Green Sandpiper, Bronze-winged Jacana, Black-winged Stilt, Black Bittern, Yellow-wattled lapwing, Greater Spotted Eagle, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Lesser spotted eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Egyptian Vulture, King Vulture, Temminck’s stint, Yellow footed green pigeon, Oriental Darter, Grey Heron, Indian Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Purple Heron, Painted Stork, Intermediate Egret, Black-crowned Night-heron, Glossy Ibis, Black-headed Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Asian Open-billed Stork, Rufus Treepie, Black Drongo, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Oriental Magpie-robin, Indian Robin, Brahminy Starling, Asian Pied Starling, Bar Headed Geese, Bank Myna, Barn Swallow, Wire-tailed Swallow, House Martin, Common Tailorbird, Hume’s Warbler, Purple Sunbird, Cotton Teal, Northern Pintail, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Eurasian Coot and Indian Silverbill.

Chambal River Sanctuary –9th April

We stayed at Agra overnight and left for morning birding at Chambal River Sanctuary. Chambal is an ancient land with sun baked mountains lining up the river. The ravines are mostly sandy and scrub between mountains. This unique habitat harbors unique species some of which we could sight.

Ferruginous Duck, Bonelli’s Eagle, Booted Hawk eagle, Long Legged Buzzard, Indian Skimmer, White eared bulbul, Sand Lark, Small pratincole, River tern, Black bellied tern, Asian Koel, Brown Fish Owl, Lesser Whistling teal, Bar headed geese, Orphean warbler, and Comb Duck. Other attractions of Chambal River Sanctuary are the River Dolphin, Marsh Crocodile and the Gharial.

Our next move was to New Delhi for overnight stay.
Day 9 th to 11th April

The journey to Sat Tal was long and we reached at around 4pm for some interesting birding. Though the most of wintering birds had departed their place was somewhat occupied by summer visitors to Sat Tal. We had an interesting time at Sat Tal and the results are below.
Crested serpent eagle, Asian barred owlet, Besra, Long tailed broadbill, scaly wren, Fulvous breasted woodpecker, Lesser yellow nape, Rufus bellied woodpecker, Common Rose finch, Bar winged flycatcher shrike, Grey Bush Chat, Mountain hawk eagle, Crested Hawk Eagle, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Long-tailed Shrike, Slaty-headed Parakeets, White throated babblers, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Spotted Forktail, Slaty backed Forktail, Black winged cuckoo shrike, Rufus Sibia, Lesser Yellownape, Red Billed Leiothrix, Verdi or flycatcher, Small Niltava, Rufus Belied Niltava, Streaked Laughing Thrush, White Throated Dipper, Blue winged mina, Golden spectacled warbler, Green tailed sun Bird, Grey headed canary flycatcher, Dark Throated Sun Bird, Brown, Grey Faced Warbler, Black Hooded Warbler, Rufus-bellied Woodpecker, Small Minivet, Long Tailed Minivet, Great Barbet, Coppersmith barbet, White tailed nuthatch, Chestnut Bellied Nuthatch, Whiskered Yuhina, Bar tailed tree creeper, Striated Laughing Thrush, Himalayan griffon, Steppe Eagle, Grey Winged Black Bird, Grey Treepie, Eurasian Jay and Black Headed Jay.

11th April to 14th April
We drove to Pangot for lunch and saw Eurasian Griffons on the way.

At Pangot we sighted:
Kokla’s Pheasant, Striated prinia, Blue capped rock thrush, White browed flycatcher shrike, Altai accentor, Peregrine falcon, Lesser racket tailed drongo, Yellow browed tit, Spot winged tit, Ultramarine flycatcher, Yellow crowned woodpecker, Rufus bellied woodpecker, Himalayan woodpecker, Grey face woodpecker, Fire breasted flowerpecker, Black lored tit, Collared owlet (calls) Hill partridge (calls), Eurasian Cuckoo, Indian Cuckoo, Black bulbul, Common Hawk Cuckoo (Calls), Black eagle, Grey treepie, Red rumped swallow, Siberian bushchat, Maroon Oriole, olive backed pipit and Upland pipit,

14t April to 18th April

On 14th April we left for Corbett tiger reserve. On the way we could see Sulphur bellied warbler, Gold fronted leaf bird, Lammergeyer, Common wood shrike, Black crested bulbul, Common iora, and Black eagle.

We visited Laldhang, Sita Vani and Mohan forests and then moved into the core area of the park for two day wildlife safari and some great birding. On day of departure we visited Kumeria.
We saw Black chinned babbler, White crested laughing thrush, Black chinned Yuhina, Blue throat, singing lark, Oriental skylark, Brown dipper, Yellow footed green pigeon, Chestnut headed bee eater, Spangled Drongo, Maroon Oriole, Black Hooded Oriole, White Bellied Drongo, Dusky fish owl, Brown Fish Owl, Asian paradise flycatcher, Rosy minivet, Small minivet, Scarlet minivet, Kaleej Pheasant, Bar Tailed Flycatcher Shrike, Small Niltava, Rufus Bellied Niltava, Grey Crowned Pigmy Woodpecker, Rufus Breasted Parakeet, Plum Headed Parakeet, Jungle Owlet, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Pallas Fishing Eagle, Lesser fishing Eagle, Honey buzzard, Crested Serpent Eagle, Himalayan Griffon, White Rumped vulture, Steppe eagle. Next we sighted Chestnut headed tesia, White rumped shama (calls), Black naped blue flycatcher (calls), Dollor Bird, Pin Tailed Green Pigeons, Black Francolin, Great Hornbill, Oriental pied hornbill, Common grey hornbill, Himalayan Bulbul, Red whiskered bulbul, Wooly Necked Stork, Black Headed Stork, Ashy Bulbul, Black bulbul, Lineated Barbet, Crimson Throated Barbet, Common Stone Chat, Hodgson’s Bushchat, Lesser Coucal, Grey Bush Chat, Himalayan Flameback, Chestnut Bellied Nuthatch, Crested Kingfisher, Blue Whistling Thrush, Ruddy Shelduck, Stork Billed Kingfisher, Thick Billed Flowerpecker, Crimson Sun Bird, Purple sunbird, Common Kingfisher, Bar Tailed Flycatcher Shrike, Rufous Woodpecker, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Brown-fronted Woodpecker, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Black lored tit.

The birding tour was a big success and we arrived at New Delhi on 19th April. We had check listed over 320 Birds.

Friday, April 24, 2009

North India Bird expedition

North India Birding Trip Report

Tour Conducted by Indiafoot Prints birding tour operator.

North India birding trip

Birding at Chambal River Sanctuary

Though primarily notified to protect marsh crocodiles and gharials Chambal River sanctuary offers a fine birding opportunity. The river passes through many states chiefly Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh in India.

Chambal is visited by tourist on bird watching tours for check listing birds like the Indian Skimmer along with Bar Headed goose and Ruddy Shelled ducks. For birding a cruise on the river offers sightings of Indian Skimmers, River and Black Bellied terns, Raptors like Bonelli’s Eagle, Booted Eagle and Long Legged buzzard. The added attraction of is sighting crocodiles, gharials and river dolphins.

On the river banks a birder can see sand larks, pratincole, ruddy breasted crakes, wheatears and raptors. The skimmers are the star attraction among birding groups. Chambal is the breeding grounds for skimmers in India.

Wintering ducks like shovellers, pintails, common teals and many others can be seen here in cold seasons.

Birding at Kanha

Though the prime attractions of the preserve are the tiger and the swamp deer, Kanha offers good birding prospects. Other attractions are bison, leopard, wild dogs and the sloth bear. The spotted deer or Chital are ubiquitous and the main prey base of the carnivores. Sambar deer too falls in the same category but their numbers are less compared to Chitals.

Kanha offers best birding pleasure as more than two hundred sixty birds are found in the cold season. The migrants start arriving by middle of October and their number increases gradually. There are more of forest birds to be check listed on Kanha bird watching tours than wetland birds. The habitat is most suited for forest and grassland birds though wetland birds can be seen also but not in great numbers.

The major species to be seen are raptors like Crested Serpent eagle, Crested Hawk eagle, Honey buzzard, White Eyed buzzard and Osprey. The endangered White Rumped Vulture and Long Billed vulture can be seen but in less numbers.

Among owls Brown Fishing owl, Mottled Wood owl, Jungle owlet, Spotted owlet and Collared Scops owl can be sighted. Rufus tree pie, Coucal, Cuckoos, Flycatchers abound. White Rumped Shama, Brown Cheeked fulvetta and Indian scimitar babblers are commonly heard but less seen. Similarly Indian Pitta and Seerker Malkoha make Kanha National Park in Central India their preferred habitat.

Grassland birds like Common stone chat, Pied Bush chat, Cisticola, Larks, Pipits and Privies are the main avifauna. Racket Tailed drongo and White Bellied drongo are seen often and heard as well. In winters warblers like Hume’s warbler, Tickell’s Leaf warbler and Greenish warbler arrive along with some more warblers.

Among the wetland birds the Spot Billed duck and Lesser Whistling teals are common while migrants like Northern Pintails, Common Teals, Eurasian Wigeon and Tufted ducks can be seen in Sondhar and Bisanpura wetlands. Lesser Adjutant stork, Opened Billed stork and Wooly Necked stork

Kanha National Park offers fantastic opportunity for bird watching although the tourists are more interested in tigers. The park is often visited by local birders and birding enthusiasts from various countries. The bird tours are growing in Kanha as birders learn about the interesting species of the park.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Birding Tour

It was one of my finest birding tour at Bharatpur in Rajasthan and Kumaon Hills in Uttranchal state. A visit to new places always delivers sightings of new bird species which one is not familiar with.

My recent tour as tour leader and birding guide for India Footprints a leading tour operator that specializes in bird watching tours to India was a journey of discovery. We were able to checklist more than 200 species in Bharatpur in Rajasthan state. We check listed around hundred species in Sattal in Nainital district and similar number in Corbett National Park in Uttranchal state.

Though Corbett and Bharatpur birding sanctuary are well known destinations Sat tal is less known. It is few kilometers from Nainital at height of approximately 4000 plus feet. It has an interesting avi fauna as Kalij Pheasant, Golden Robin, Streaked Laughing Thrush, white throat ed and striated laughing thrush, rusty cheeked scimitar babbler and black chinned babbler. There are interesting species of wood peckers, flycatchers, robins, and owls.

It will require a stay of at least seven days to checklist a large number of species a visit to Pangot few kilometers away will yield more unique species since it is at greater height.

I have lead many birding tour in India but this was the best in terms of bird sightings and wildlife watching a Corbett.

Most interesting part of bird watching is the company of bird lovers that form a part of your group and of course the tour operator that provides the service.