This trip report can also be found at Simon's own site where you'll find more great photos from the trip including shots of Brown Fish Owl, Dusky Eagle Owl, Spotted Owlet, Oriental Darter, Little Cormorant, Crested Serpent Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, Striated Laughing-thrush, Indian Nightjar and more...
We had visited Goa three years ago (see our report), and I had been to India on two other occasions (Rajasthan in 1994, Tamil Nadu/Karnataka in 1996), but it was time to try for tigers and to see some of the fantastic birds of northern India in winter.
The flights were not cheap at this high season period, but at least the BA option gets you direct to Delhi without a stop. Past experiences in Bahrain have not been fun, and we met a group on their way back with Austrian Airways who were about 18 hours late.... We booked our flights through ebookers.
We arranged all our local needs through my old friend Raj Kapila of Gatik Ventures. Raj has arranged two previous trips for me, and I trust him utterly. He will provide just what you need at a sensible price, be it an all inclusive package, or just the car and driver so necessary for a short trip to the subcontinent. We recommend him and his company without reservation. Do visit the website, give him a call, and mention our names. He set us up with an excellent car - a Toyota Qualis. While it's no great looker, this motor is a big step up from a Hindustan Ambassador (=Morris Oxford!). It accommodated four plus a driver and baggage with ease, and at a pinch could accommodate five or even six birders. Excellent visibility, good ride and good power on hills. Recommended!
We got Raj to pre-book our accommodation too - we had little enough time as it was without messing about trying to find rooms in high season. He did us proud, and we had good hotels in prime locations in each case :
Ranthambore: Hotel Jhoomer Bawri - a Rajasthan Government hotel in a prime location right by the park boundary. Stunning views over the plain, and good birding in the dry scrub adjacent, which is also apparently good Leopard habitat!
Bharatpur: Forest Rest House - located actually inside the National Park, so siting hard to fault. Again, a Government run hotel, and typically a bit tired as a result, but recently refurbished, much better than it was in 1994 and food good. Try to avoid rooms 100-103 - they're above the kitchens and a bit noisy/smelly. Try for 50-60.
Nainital: Vikram Vintage Inn - very plush and grand. They are distinctly over-staffed - it can get a bit much after a while! Hot water bottles available and needed at night - cold in Nainital. Excellent food, good assistance when gastroenteritis struck, and a superb antique snooker table.
Corbett: Camp Forktail Creek - superb. The new Backwoods (cf. our Goa Report). A brilliant tented camp off the road 25 km north of Ramnagar. Cracking food, a very warm welcome, excellent guiding, quiet location, ultra soft beds and warm quilts. Do not miss this brilliant new option in the Corbett area. It leaves all other reported lodging standing.
Delhi: Hotel Metro Heights - soulless, urban, perfectly adequate, but bad toast! Fine for a night in Delhi.
Colder than I had remembered, and definitely not a tropical holiday! Daytime is warm but never very hot, but it gets down to c.5°C at night in the plains, and possibly sub-zero in the hills. Nainital can be colder still in winter, of course.... Fog was a bit of a problem early morning in Ramnagar and Bharatpur, but was clear by 10'ish.
Our BA flight departed Heathrow only slightly late at 1900 on 21st, and arrived almost on time in Delhi at 1115 next day. After the usual interminable immigration and money changing antics, we met up with Raj, who soon had us on our way with our driver, Mr. Mahinder Singh. Today was down for jetlag recovery and travel, and we were soon speeding through the countryside on good roads towards Jaipur. We were soon scoring en route with 'easy' species such as Bank Myna, Pied Starling, Black-shouldered Kite, Rose-ringed Parakeet, White-throated Kingfisher, Red-wattled Lapwing, Black Drongo, Indian Roller, Indian Robin, Long-tailed Shrike and so on, and we also picked up good birds such as Black-headed Bunting and a single Oriental Turtle Dove. We stopped a couple of times for drinks and leg stretching, seeing Brown Rock Chat at Amber Fort near Jaipur, plus our first Indian Peafowl and a few waders by the Monsoon Palace. It was well after dark that we finally reached the Hotel Jhoomer Bawri.
To the Tiger Reserve! Our jeep arrived on cue at 0615, and we were soon freezing our respective bits off in the chill dawn air - like we cared! We had a party of Painted Sandgrouse in flight before reaching the park, and almost the first bird we saw after the gates was a cracking Brown Fish Owl, perched and in flight. Good start! While our prime target was Tiger and other mammals (of which we saw Chital, Sambar, Nilgai, Hanuman Langur, Northern Palm Squirrel and Indian Gazelle), we were not ignoring the superb birds! Various common waterbirds at the lakes were accompanied by Cotton Pygmy-goose (a.k.a. Quacky Duck - the world's best bird name), Purple Swamp-hens, Oriental Darter, Little Cormorant and White-backed and Long-billed Vultures. It was good to see at least a few of the latter, both of which have declined by 95%+ in India in recent years....
We got close to a Tiger too - but couldn't see it! The pugmarks were fresh, and the alarm calls sounded good, but the animal just wouldn't emerge from cover. Further birds around the park included Crested Serpent Eagle, Jungle and Large Grey Babblers, Bay-backed Shrike, Grey Francolin and Brahminy Starling.
Back at the hotel over lunch, further good birds came in the form of Small Minivet, Common Iora, Plum-headed Parakeet, Hume's Warbler, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Rufous Tree-pie, Common Wodshrike, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Stone Curlew.
After an hour's negotiation with the jeep company when it looked like our afternnon jeep ride was going to be shifted to a canter (= communal open lorry - no good at all), due to the visit of a supposed VIP, we finally got our jeep as booked, and set off at 2.30ish for another ride round the park. It was rather quiet to begin with, but towards dusk, birds and animals got more active. Sadly, we could again find no Tiger - the bad news is that just a few days ago up to 15 Tiger bodies were seized near Delhi, including at least one from Ranthambore. We all felt pretty sick at such appalling news.
We scored on the bird front with Alexandrine Parakeet, Asian Palm Swift, Spotted Dove, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Osprey, Tawny Eagle, Shikra, Asian Magpie-Robin, Dusky Crag Martin, Lesser Whistling Duck, Painted Stork and Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher. Also, we saw Mugger Crocodile, Wild Boar and a pair of Golden Jackals.
Julia had a bad night in the gut department - she was in no state to go out in a Jeep. So just three of us headed out at dawn - we encountered roughly the same birds, plus a Black Stork and Coppersmith Barbet...but did we see a Tiger? No! We got closer still, however, and tracked fresh pugmarks for 2 miles along the sandy tracks. But not quite close enough....
Fortunately, Julia was feeling well enough to travel by lunchtime. We left Ranthambore and headed out across agricultural plains on the lengthy journey to Bharatpur. Early on in the journey, the road was truly appalling, and we made only snail's pace progress. Along the way, however, we picked up new species such as Rosy Starling, Little Green Bee-eater, Southern Grey Shrike, and three Common Cranes, all species that we did not see elsewhere on our trip. In addition, a few Pied Bushchats, Plain Martins, and various roadside waders enlivened proceedings.
By the time we reached Bharatpur, it was getting dark - it was hard for the three of us who had not been there before to believe that we were in the middle of one of the world's premier wetland bird reserves!
As expected, a a bird-packed day! We tried to get a bit of pre-breakfast birding in, but it was just too foggy - we only began seriously looking after about 8 o'clock. Very quickly we were seeing crippling birds. Within minutes we had seen both Collared Scops Owl and Dusky Eagle Owl (the latter at the nest), Black-shouldered Kite and Olive-backed Pipit. There were Greenish and Hume's Warblers in most patches of trees, and Red-breasted Flycatchers appeared frequently. Bluethroats darted in and out of the wet ditches. Out on the wetter areas by the main track, numerous waterbirds were obvious - various Egrets and herons, Painted Storks, Bronze-winged Jacana, Black-headed and Glossy Ibis, Bar-headed and Greylag Geese, numerous ducks including a few Spotbills, Comb Ducks and Cotton Teals, Purple Swamp-hens and scores of Citrine Wagtails. Particularly popular were at least four absolutely magnificent Black-necked Storks - incredible birds.
We paused for a few photos and a break at the temple, and then headed off on the loop around the Mansarovar lagoon. In the bushes, we were picking up passerines like Asian Magpie-robin, Plain Prinia, Common and Yellow-eyed Babblers, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Siberian Chiffchaff, White-eared Bulbul and some very smart eastern Black Redstarts. The Mansarovar area was the best for waterbirds - hundreds of perhaps 50 species at a time, including, rarest of all, two superb Siberian White Cranes, the only remaining known birds of the central wintering population. Raptors were now getting up too, and we were seeing numerous Spotted Eagles, plus Tawny Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, several Imperial Eagles, including a fine adult, Egyptian and Red-headed Vultures, Marsh Harrier and a crippling male Pallid Harrier. A phoenicuroides (Turkestan) Isabelline Shrike got some serious grilling too.
By now it was mid-afternoon, and we began dawdling homewards, via a superb group of Indian Rock Pythons sunning under the acacia scrub at Python Point. Extra birds picked up included lots of Stonechats, Bay-backed and Long-tailed Shrikes, a Wryneck, Tawny Pipit and a couple of Red Avadavats in with a flock of Indian Silverbills.
The park was very busy by four o'clock, and we were shattered - the last hour of daylight was spent around the hotel! 117 species, without even really trying!
Boxing Day - all healthy! We met up with Jagdish Prasad, a guide Raj had recommended for us, at 7.30am, and headed off into the woods. We were hoping he could find us a few of the trickier dry land birds we hadn't yet seen. We started off around the Nursery, soon scoring with Indian Grey Hornbill, Brown-headed Barbet, Ashy Drongo, Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Spotted Owlet, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon and Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch. A regular spot for Tickell's Thrush was too busy (Monkeys!) by the time we got there, alas.
We birded slowly along the wooded tracks by the Hanuman temple, seeing goodies like Oriental Honey Buzzard en route, before Jagdish took us into the woods for a staked out roost of Large-tailed Nightjar. He found us not one but two of them, a pair, roosting on the ground about 10 metres apart. Fantastic views and photos had by all!
A few hundred yards later on, a bird flew up from a wet ditch to the trees - Tickell's Thrush! This was a major target bird for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed excellent views.
It was getting hot and a bit busy again by now, and we headed off along the brick path trail to escape the crowds by the temple. This is reputed to be a good spot for Spotted Creeper, but sadly we did not connect. We did, however, manage to locate a roosting Indian Nightjar, high in a snag of a dead tree. Nilgai and Sambar kept us company in the dry fields beyond the lagoons.
Quick fire lists of birds don't really do Bharatpur justice. Although 2001 had been quite a dry year, there were still tons of waterbirds about - wherever you looked there were Oriental Darters, Indian Pond Herons, Intermediate and Cattle Egrets, Glossy Ibis and more besides. We took a punt ride late in the afternoon - very quiet and relaxing, even when I did the punting for a bit! - scoring further with Shikra, Asian Openbill Stork, White-tailed Plover, more Black-necked Storks, Sarus Crane and numerous Kingfishers. Bharatpur remains one of my favourite birding spots on Earth.
Today was essentially a non-birding travel day - Bharatpur to Nainital, some 400km....
In dense fog, we left early and headed for Agra, where we did homage to the standard tourist trail at the Taj Mahal. Not that we left our bins behind - River Lapwing, Ruddy Shelduck and lots of Black Kites and Egyptian Vultures were on the Yamuna River behind the Taj.
The journey was indeed long, but really entertaining, passing as we did through big towns and smll villages, the usual chaos of Indian streetlife ensuring interest at every turn, and the countryside leaving us impressed at how many birds there are in intensely farmed areas, at least compared with Britain! Indian Rollers, Black Drongos, shrikes, kingfishers, herons and egrets, doves and mynas everywhere - never a dull moment! We even had brief views of Indian River Tern over the Ganges en route!
We didn't hit the hills until after dark, and Mahinder drove us expertly up precipitous mountain roads to our destination, the hill station of Nainital. It was bizarre to round a bend after 35km of darkness and find a humming little town beside a floodlit lake at 2000m+! We checked in to the Vikram Vintage Inn, and immediately ordered hot water bottles - as expected, it was pretty cold up here!
Crisp and cold this morning in Nainital - excellent! A quick look around the hotel before breakfast produced a Red-billed Blue Magpie and an Oriental Turtle Dove, but it was clear that bird activity was still subdued, at least until the sun got up properly. So we tanked up on toast etc., and set off through wooded lanes towards town. We made fantastically slow progress - almost every bird was a tick! Within minutes we had scored with Grey Bushchat, Rufous Sibia, Bar-tailed Treecreeper, White-tailed Nuthatch, Blue-fronted and Blue-capped Redstarts, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Himalayan Bulbul, Green-backed and Black-throated Tits, Buff-barred and Grey-hooded Warblers, Oriental White-eye, Streaked Laughing-thrush and numerous Blue Whistling Thrushes. It took us a good two hours to reach the town centre and the cable car lift, leaving us with just time for a cup of tea before getting the first cable car up at 10.30am. It was by now clear that it was neither very cold in Nainital this winter (yet), nor was there much water, so the fabled (and rank) gullies near the hotel were not going to be as good as we'd hoped. In particular, we were struck by the complete lack of Turdus thrushes, contra previous trip reports - it would appear that the relatively mild weather meant that such birds were probably still at higher altitudes and spread thinkly through the forests. Still, you can't have everything!
We were soon at the top of Snow View, enjoying crystal clear views of the Himalayas to the north - do go in the morning, as by lunchtime it was quite hazy, and the mountains were invisible by 3.00pm. Around the ridge at the top we saw Spot-winged Tit, more Treecreepers and Nuthatches, Eurasian and at least one Himalayan Griffon Vulture, Red-billed Chough and Raven, Grey-headed Woodpecker, a cracking Eurasian Jay of the local plain-headed form, and brief views of a Plain-backed Thrush, flashing a Zoothera underwing at us as it flew. Additionally, Lemon-rumped and Blyth's Leaf Warblers were active in bushes along the ridge. We found Bronzed Drongo and Striated Laughing-thrush by the TV tower, and then headed steeply uphill through (largely quiet) woods towards Cheena Peak. Star birds here were three White-browed Shrike-babblers, the sexes so different that we thought we had two species at first! Also, we had Himalayan and Scaly-bellied Woodpeckers, Rufous-naped Tit, numerous Rufous Sibias, and most obscurely but most excitingly, a Scaly-bellied Wren-babbler, feeding in a dank gully.. There is a handy café at the very top of the hill, ideal for resting up before the steep and lengthy decent (knee pain!) down the western end of the ridge, to the so-called 'Higher Fields' (really a village), and thence down to the hotel just as dusk was falling. An absolutely brilliant day in the field, with well over 25 new species!
We decided to spend today at lower altitude (our legs were telling us to!), and explore the quieter roads on the western and southern sides of the town. It was chilly again, especially out of the sun, but we were soon finding lots of new birds. Early strikes included Hill Partridge, Great Barbet and Brown-fronted Woodpecker, plus a crippling White-capped Water Redstart. A densely vegetated hillside by the Kumaon University produced Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler and Chestnut-crowned Laughing-thrush, and Black-chinned Babblers in the leaf litter. Most of the common birds from yesterday were also about in good numbers, especially Grey-hooded Warbler, Himalayan Bulbul and Green-backed Tit. Mountain Bulbul was new, however. A raucous calling flock of birds resolved themselves into White-throated Laughing-thrushes - at least 125 of therm! They were crossing the road in a loose band, rather like Jays doing a 'follow-my-leader' trick. Lovely, elegant birds.
After tea at the Naini Retreat Hotel, we birded the track to the south of there. Black-headed Jay was a particular highlight here, along with Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Himalayan Woodpecker, Chestnut-crowned Laughing-thrush, Red-flanked Bluetail (2, including a crippling adult male - at last!), another Scaly-bellied Wren-babbler, again in a wet gully (good habitat tip there!), 2 Rufous-breasted Accentors, and more Blue-fronted and White-capped Water Redstarts.
By now it was mid afternoon, and we made our way back to town, via a particularly rank open sewer, reputedly a Forktail site - no luck, but many Grey Wagtails, Plumbeous and White-capped Water Redstarts and other delightful congeners of human faeces.
Chris and I took a final turn up the hill beyond the Vikram Vintage Inn - only to have to rush back to get the girls when we found an Asian Barred Owlet in broad daylight! Mahinder did the shortest drive of the trip and ran them up the hill, just in time to see the bird! Chris and I ended the day with another Hill Partridge and Rock Bunting, and a lovely walk, in what we think were the 'Lower Fields', again a village on the side of the next valley over.
We spent the evening eating and playing snooker on the hotel's ancient but serviceable table and Chris started to feel ill.
Gut disaster. Chris was really, really ill - he'd been up all night and looked dreadful. Julia and I went for a walk while the others waited to see if there'd be any improvement (there wasn't) - we picked up Lineated Barbet, Black-whiskered Yuhina, Dark-breasted Rosefinch,a very brief Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Oriental Turtle Dove and Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler. We spent much of the morning consulting and wondering, before calling the doctor, extending our stay for an extra night, and desperately trying to work out the changed logistics. Julia and I quickly dismissed the option of going on without the others - Chris's condition was just too uncertain, and we were on this trip as a team. Jacky was obviously very concerned too, especially after the doctor diagnosed severe gastroenteritic food poisoning. We reckon it was an omelette Chris had the day before in town. He went straight on antibiotics and various other drugs, guzzled Dioralyte, and crashed out. He was quiet enough by lunchtime for us to leave him to sleep, and the rest of us went out to salvage an afternoon in the field at the Mangoli Valley.
En route, we stopped by a hairpin in the road and saw Russet Sparrow in with a flock of at least 30 cracking Altai Accentors. As soon as we reached the village of Bajun, we were seeing good birds - Striated Prinia first, quickly followed by a mixed flock of Laughing-thrushes - mostly White-throated and Streaked, but also in with them Striated, Rufous-crowned and best of all a single, stunning, White-crested. Red-billed Blue Magpie seemed common, and we rapidly picked up new species in the forms of Ashy-throated and Golden-spectacled warblers, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Black-throated Accentor, Grey Tree Pie and Black Francolin. The valley is a lovely, quiet mix of densely wooded slopes and family run farms - Shangri-la! The river was a particular target, especially after a local lad who tagged along confidently recognised a picture of a Forktail! We were not disappointed - in a magical 10 second burst, a Common Kingfisher attracted our attention, and we locked our bins onto a superb Spotted Forktail, right beside an adult male Green-tailed Sunbird! No anti-climax here - one of our biggest target birds nailed successfully. We saw a further two Forktails lower down the valley. Also about were many Long-tailed Shrikes, Red-vented Bulbuls, Jungle Babbler, Grey Bushchats and Stonechats, some of the latter resembling 'Siberian' forms. A fantastic place to go birding.
Back at the hotel, Chris was much improved but far from OK - we collectively crossed our fingers for the next day.
Chris was much better, though still a bit ropey, but now Julia and I were somewhat iffy..oh dear. We were fine to travel the shortish distance down to Corbett, however, so we packed our bags and hit the road. We didn't want to stop much on the way, but we did still see Russet Sparrow and Red-flanked Bluetail from the van, plus a small party of Kalij Pheasants. We stopped only once - for a Common Green Magpie which frustratingly proceeded to melt away into the trees.
Down in the foothills, the fog was still quite bad - crossing the rivers was weird in the pea-soup miasma - but we did see River Lapwing and various other waders and kingfishers. By the time we reached Corbett, I was feeling really poorly. On arriving at Camp Forktail, about 25km north of Ramnagar, after a brief but crippling Crested Kingfisher, we had to walk 500 yards up a really steep track to find the Camp - bad timing! I had to crash for two hours to have a chance of birding later on. The camp was fantastic (even I could see that!) - very like Backwoods in Goa, but a bit bigger, with a substantial dining area under cover. Comfy beds, thick duvets, clean bathroom attachment tents, excellent food. The guys running the place were very welcoming and professional, and knew their birds! Once I was vaguely serviceable, we had Yellow-bellied and White-throated Fantails, Crested Tree-swift, Grey-breasted Prinia and a superb Brown Fish Owl right by the entrance track.
But our main target was the River Kosi at Ramnagar, one of those mythical places you only read about. In reality, it resembles a sewer in places, and we had quite a lot of hassle from the local under-10s. But what birds! Loads of hirundines about, plus Siberian Chiffchaffs, Yellow-bellied Fantail and circling raptors. However, the main interest was on the river itself. Again encouraged by a local lad's protestations of recognition from the bird book, we pressed north from the water tower, and scanned the rocky river bed. A pair of Great Thick-knees was good enough, but while watching them Chris went all quiet. "Simon", he said, "have a look at this grey bird here." I peered through his 'scope - "WALLCREEPER!" One of my all time dream birds finally scored! "No, you wally [or words to that effect!], IBISBILL!" He looked again - we were both right! A male Ibisbill was perched quietly among the rocks, with Great Thick-knees walking past it, and a Wallcreeper fluttering on the rock in front. It's strange how birding can cure all manner of physical ailments at times like that - I was feeling very much improved!
We arrived back at the Camp in time for a final evening walk down to the river - Chris was relieved to get back Spotted Forktail, and we also had Muntjac Deer, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Slaty Blue Flycatcher and best of all, not one but two Chestnut-headed Tesias. A (probably Large-tailed) Nightjar flew over the Camp at dusk. Exhausted but happy, we ate a simple meal and crashed out well before midnight!
All were healthy for the first time in days! We set off shortly after daybreak in a jeep, heading for the southern gate into the National Park. We scored en route, with several Red Junglefowl - a poultry reward for our early start, you might think. But things swiftly got hugely exciting, as three enormous Great Hornbills whoomped across the road and disappeared into the dense teak forest. Our circuit inside the park was very productive indeed. Early on, we found a good fruiting fig tree, which supported three different barbet species - Lineated, Brown-headed and Blue-throated. Also, we had several woodpeckers - Grey-capped Pygmy, Fulvous-breasted, Scaly-bellied and a Himalayan Flameback.
Around a village compound in the park, we connected with Variable Wheatear at its only local site, plus Long-billed Pipit (of the extremely dark local form), Blue Rock Thrush, Brown Rock Chat and a crippling male semirufus Black Redstart. We passed close to the area where a group had seen Tiger the day before, and again found very fresh pugmarks. Again, we heard alarm calls, this time from a Muntjac - allegedly the most reliable alarm-caller in the jungle. Sadly, again, the Tiger wouldn't show. This really was our last roll of the dice - we shall simply have to go back!
The birds really did make up for any disappointment, however. We disturbed another two Great Hornbills, and thankfully one of them perched up, showing brilliantly and well enough for Chris to digiscope it! The dry river bed produced another Wallcreeper, and other new birds included Slaty-headed Parakeet (along with Rose-ringed and Alexandrine), Jungle Owlet (along with another Asian Barred Owlet), Changeable Hawk Eagle, Black-hooded Oriole, Large Cuckoo-shrike, 2 separate male Himalayan Rubythroats, Crimson Sunbird, Tickell's Leaf Warbler, a very brief Little Pied Flycatcher, and (unexpected) Rusty-tailed Flycatcher and White-rumped Shama.
Further goodies came in the form of Black Stork, Cinereous (=Eurasian Black) Vulture, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Jungle, Striated and Ashy Prinias, Golden-speactacled, Grey-hooded and Lemon-rumped Warblers, Red-breasted and Slaty Blue Flycatchers, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Crested Tree-swift, White-rumped Needletail, Small and Scarlet Minivets, White-throated and Yellow-bellied Fantails, Velvet-fronted and Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Orange-headed Ground Thrush and both Tree-pies.
It really was a bird-packed and very exciting final 'proper' morning for Julia and me - we saw almost 100 species away from significant water in less than five hours!
Back at Camp Forktail, a cracking female Crested Kingfisher allowed close approach, and after a final log call and packing, we said our goodbyes to Chris and Jacky, and left for Delhi at about 2.00 pm. The ride back was smooth and uneventful - back to the familiar plains birds in good numbers, including a huge gathering of at least 300 Cattle Egrets and 200 Black Kites around a gruesome-looking charnel house outside Moradabad. Sadly, we didn't reach the Ganges Bridge before nightfall, so we couldn't try for Gangetic River Dolphin - all we could see there were the distant funeral pyres along the right bank of the holy river.
Back in Delhi, we reached the functional but unexciting Hotel Metro Heights at about 9.00 pm. Crash out time!
Dense fog today, and no time anyway! We needed to be at the airport by 11.00 am, so it was breakfast at the hotel with Raj, then a final drive with him and Mahinder to IG Airport. Fond farewells over, we proceeded to get stuck in lengthy delays, most relating to hand luggage searches, rechargeable batteries, silk ties dropped in puddles of questionable fluid, aggressive and unpleasant security officers and typical (unamusing at the end of a trip) Indian bureaucracy. Let's not dwell on it!
Success? No Tigers, but feel the bird quality! Siberian Crane, Wallcreeper, Ibisbill, Himalayan Rubythroat, Great Hornbill, Great Barbet, Crested Kingfisher, Red-billed Blue and Green Magpies, Great Thick-knee, Spotted Forktail, White-crowned Laughing-thrush, Tickell's Thrush and Brown Fish-owl - dream birds the lot of them!
Postscript: Chris and Jacky stayed on for a further two nights - I had to get back to work on 3rd January, frustratingly. During their extra time at Corbett, the National Park was actually inaccessible, since park staff held a one-day strike. Undeterred, they explored areas outside the Park, notching up some 30 extra species (in alphabetical order) : Ashy Bulbul, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike,Black-headed Gull, Blue-winged Minla, Brown Dipper, Brown-headed Gull, Chestnut-crowned Bush Warbler, Chukar, Common Rosefinch, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Greater Yellownape, Grey-winged Blackbird, Himalayan Swiftlet, Lammergeier, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Lesser Yellownape, Little Forktail, Long-tailed Minivet, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Nepal House Martin, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Pallas's Fish Eagle, Rufous Woodpecker, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Savannah Nightjar, Small Niltava, Upland Buzzard, Verditer Flycatcher, White-capped Bunting and Yellow-legged Gull.
Incredibly, the team total for the two weeks therefore stands at an amazing 317 species! Such a huge strike rate is unprecedented for any of our previous self-organised trips, outstripping classic venues such as Gambia, Goa and Arizona/California by a considerable margin. Extraordinary success!
Black Francolin (Francolinus francolinus) A male and two females in fields at the Mangoli Valley
Grey Francolin (Francolinus pondicerianus) Up to 30 at Ranthambore and 13 at Bharatpur
Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) Six at Corbett, all foraging on roads and tracks in the early morning
Hill Partridge (Arborophila torqueola) Two separate birds on steep hillsides at Nainital
Kalij Pheasant (Lophura leucomelanos) A small party of 4+ by the road on the descent from Nainital
Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) Abundant at Ranthambore, and a few scattered birds in the plains around Delhi and Agra. Many appear to live in a feral state on intensively farmed land
Lesser Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna javanica) 10 at Ranthambore and 15 at Bharatpur
Greylag Goose (Anser anser) 500+ at Bharatpur
Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus) 200+ at Bharatpur
Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) Two at the Taj Mahal, 5 at the Ganges River crossing and a further 12 at Ramnagar
Comb Duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos) Six at Ranthambore, and up to 2 at Bharatpur - this is a scarce species indeed
Cotton Pygmy Goose (Nettapus coromandelianus) 25+ at Ranthambore and 20 at Bharatpur
Gadwall (Anas strepera) 50 at Ranthambore and 250+ at Bharatpur
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope) 50 at Ranthambore and 50+ at Bharatpur
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) Just one seen, at Bharatpur
Spot-billed Duck (Anas poecilorhyncha) About 30 at Bharatpur
Northern Shoveler (Anas clyptea) 17+ at Ranthambore, 50+ at Bharatpur and 2 at the River Ganges crossing
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) 3+ at Ranthambore and 200+ at Bharatpur
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca) Many at Ranthambore and many 100s at Bharatpur
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina) 15 at Ranthambore and 150 at the River Ganges crossing
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) 200+ at the River Ganges crossing
Small Buttonquail (Turnix sylvatica) Two ran across the main road into Ranthambore NP behind the jeep
Barred Buttonquail (Turnix suscitator) One flushed but then invisible on the ground at Bharatpur
Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) One seen at Bharatpur
Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker (Dendrocopos nanus) One from a punt ride at Bharatpur
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker (Dendrocopos canicapillus) One at Corbett
Brown-fronted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos auriceps) Two noted at Nainital
Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos macei) One at Corbett
Yellow-crowned Woodpecker (Dendrocopos mahrattensis) Four at Bharatpur
Himalayan Woodpecker (Dendrocopos himalayensis) A total of 6 in woodlands around Nainital
Scaly-bellied Woodpecker (Picus squamatus) One at Nainital and a further 3 at Corbett
Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus) Three at Nainital, one at the Mangoli Valley and another at Corbett
Himalayan Flameback (Dinopium shorii) One at Corbett
Black-rumped Flameback (Dinopium benghalense) Two at Ranthambore, 5 at Bharatpur and 2 at Corbett
Great Barbet (Megalaima virens) One seen at extremely close range at Nainital, and another briefly in flight there
Brown-headed Barbet (Megalaima zeylanica) Five at Bharatpur - also heard and another 4 seen at Corbett
Lineated Barbet (Megalaima lineata) Two briefly at Nainital, and another 3 at Corbett
Blue-throated Barbet (Megalaima asiatica) One at Corbett
Coppersmith Barbet (Megalaima haemacephala) Four at Ranthambore, about 11 at Bharatpur, and 1 at Corbett
Indian Grey Hornbill (Tockus birostris) Four at Bharatpur and 1 at the Taj Mahal
Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) One of the highlights of the trip. Three flew noisily across the main road at Corbett, and later the same day we located two more in the park, one of which gave prolonged views.
Hoopoe (Upopa epops) About 16 noted in the lowlands
Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis) Up to 40 noted in the lowlands
European Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) Five around Bharatpur and a further 6 in the hills
White-throated (=breasted) Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) Perhaps 100 seen in the lowlands, and another 5 or so at Corbett
Crested Kingfisher (Megaceryle lugubris) Brief views of one in flight near Camp Forktail, and then prolonged views of it or another there the next day
Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) Two at Ranthambore, up to 6 at Bharatpur and 2 near Agra
Little Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis) Only seen between Ranthambore and Bharatpur - about 30 noted
Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis) Ten at Bharatpur and a further 7 elsewhere in the lowlands
Alexandrine Parakeet (Psittacula eupatria) Three at Ranthambore and 5 at Corbett
Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) Abundant in the lowlands and Corbett but absent at Nainital
Slaty-headed Parakeet (Psittacula himalayana) Five in a fruiting tree at Corbett
Plum-headed Parakeet (Psittacula cyanocephala) About a dozen at Ranthambore
White-rumped Needletail (Zoonavena sylvatica) Up to 60 at Corbett
Asian Palm Swift (Cypsiuris batasiensis) 50+ at Ranthambore
House Swift (=Little Swift) (Apus affinis) Several small parties in the plains, and 10 at Corbett
Crested Tree Swift (Hemiprocne longipennis) Up to 60 at Corbett
Collared Scops Owl (Otus bakkamoena) Two pairs found roosting at Bharatpur
Dusky Eagle Owl (Bubo coromandus) One on the nest at Bharatpur
Brown Fish Owl (Bubo zeylonensis) One at dawn at the main gate at Ranthambore, and another which gave crippling views in broad daylight by Camp Forktail
Asian Barred Owlet (Glaucidium cuculoides) An excellent series of records - one both morning and evening west of the hotel in Nainital, and at least one near Camp Forktail
Jungle Owlet (Glaucidium radiatum) Brief but good views of one at Corbett
Spotted Owlet (Athene brama) Two roosting at Bharatpur
Large-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus) A pair roosting on the ground at the Nursery at Bharatpur, separated by a few yards. Also, a probable flew over Camp Forktail at dusk
Indian Nightjar (Caprimulgus asiaticus) One roosting in a tree at Bharatpur
Rock Pigeon / Feral Pigeon (Columba livia) Many feral birds around habitation, and some more pukka-looking birds in the hills
Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) Two singles at Nainital
Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis) About 12 in the lowlands
Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis) About 12 at Ranthambore and 10+ near Ramnagar
Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) Present in good numbers around habitation
Yellow-footed Green Pigeon (Treron phoenicoptera) Fifteen at Bharatpur
Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus) As hoped, the wintering pair was seen at Bharatpur. This species remains critically endangered, and it remains to be seen how long it will be easily accessible to birders. A superb sight.
Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) Four seen at Bharatpur, including one juvenile
Common Crane (Grus grus) Three flying over agricultural land west of Bharatpur
White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) Common in the lowlands near water
Purple Swamp-hen (Porphyrio porphyrio) 15 at Ranthambore and 100+ at Bharatpur
Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) Common in lowland wetlands
Common Coot (Fulica atra) A few at Ranthambore and common at Bharatpur
Painted Sandgrouse (Pterocles indicus) Three just after dawn at Ranthambore
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) Six at Jaipur and another 2 in flight at Bharatpur
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) Five singles noted
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) Fourteen noted at various sites
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) Nineteen noted at various sites
Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) A few at Ranthambore and roadside pools and 50+ at Bharatpur
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) Eight or so at various sites
Little Stint (Calidris minuta) Ten near Jaipur
Temminck's Stint (Calidris temminckii) One on the River Kosi at Ramnagar
Dunlin (Calidris alpina) 20 at the Taj Mahal
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) About 30 at Bharatpur and 20 at the GRC
Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophasanius chirurgus) 10 at Ranthambore and 1 at Bharatpur
Bronze-winged Jacana (Metopidius indicus) Perhaps 30 at Bharatpur and, more surpsingly, 3 on a eutrophic pool at the roadside near Moradabad
Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) Five in dense scrub at Ranthambore, 3 at Bharatpur and heard at the Mangoli Valley
Great Thick-knee (Esacus recurvirostris) Two at the River Kosi at Ramnagar
Ibisbill (Ibidorhyncha struthersii) A superb male located about 500m north of the circular tower on the River Kosi at Ramnagar
Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) Common at roadside pools and rivers, but surprisingly rare at Bharatpur, where only 3 seen
River Lapwing (Vanellus duvaucelli) One at the Taj Mahal and a further 8 around Ramnagar and Corbett
Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) Common in the lowlands
White-tailed Plover (Vanellus leucurus) Up to 15 at Bharatpur
River Tern (Sternus aurantia) Three at Ranthambore and another two en route from Bharatpur to Moradabad
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) Two at Ranthambore
Oriental Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus) One at Ranthambore and excellent views of four at Bharatpur
Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) 26 noted in the lowlands
Black Kite (Milvus migrans) Not noted until Agra, and thence common around habitation
Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) 5+ at Bharatpur, 50+ around Agra and a few others in the lowlands
White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis) Just three seen, all at Ranthambore
Long-billed Vulture (Gyps indicus) As with the previous species, alarmingly few seen - just 13 at Ranthambore, although encouragingly including a breeding pair
Himalayan Griffon Vulture (Gyps himalayensis) Two certain individuals over the mountains at Nainital
Eurasian Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) Up to 20 in the hills, mostly at Nainital
Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus) One over Corbett NP was a considerable surprise
Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) Up to 3 at Bharatpur and another 2 at Corbett
Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela) 2 or 3 at Ranthambore, up to 4 at Bharatpur and 2 at Corbett
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeroginosus) Only sen at Bharatpur, where probably 3 present
Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) An excellent male in a dry area at Bharatpur
Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) One ringtail quartering hillslopes at the 'low fields' at Nainital
Shikra (Accipiter badius) Eight noted in the lowlands
Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga) Up to 20 at Bharatpur
Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax) One at Ranthambore and 5+ at Bharatpur
Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) One at Nainital and another at Corbett
Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) 3+ at Bharatpur including fantastic views of an adult
Changeable Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus) One in good voice at Corbett
Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) One at Bharatpur and a male on three occasions at Nainital
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) Present in double figures at Ranthambore, Bharatpur and the River Ganges crossing
Oriental Darter (Anhinga melanogaster) One at Ranthambore and 25+ at Bharatpur
Little Cormorant (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis) Present in small numbers at Ranthambore and many at Bharatpur
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 50+ at Ranthambore and similar numbers at Bharatpur
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) One at Ranthambore, 20+ at Bharatpur and a few others in the lowlands
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) About 20 noted
Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) Two at Ranthambore and up to 20 at Bharatpur
Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) Five noted at Bharatpur and a few other nearby wetlands
Intermediate Egret (Mesophoyx intermedia) Seven at Ranthambore, 50+ at Bharatpur and a few at roadside wetlands
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) Common in the lowlands, with an amazing congregation of 250+ at an abbatoir near Ramnagar
Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii) Abundant throughout the lowlands
Striated Heron (Butorides striatus) One flushed from bankside vegetation at Bharatpur
Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) About 20 seen at Bharatpur
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) 30 at Bharatpur
Black-headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus) Seven at Ranthambore and about 15 at Bharatpur
Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) 50+ at Bharatpur
Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) 13 in flight over Bharatpur
Painted Stork (Mycteria leucocephala) 10 at Ranthambore, 200+ at Bharatpur and one one a pool near Agra
Asian Openbill Stork (Anastomus oscitans) Two at Bharatpur
Woolly-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus) Two at Ranthambore and 10 at Bharatpur
Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) One at Ranthambore and three at Corbett
Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhyncus asiaticus) Up to five magnificent birds at Bharatpur
Rufous-tailed Shrike (Lanius isabellinus) An adult (apparently of the form phoenicuroides = 'Turkestan Shrike') at Bharatpur
Bay-backed Shrike (Lanius vittatus) About 10 in the lowlands
Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach) Some 25 seen in the lowlands, mostly at Ranthambore and Bharatpur
Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) About six between Ranthambore and Bharatpur
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) One beautiful bird of the plain-headed bispecularis form at Nainital
Black-headed Jay (Garrulus lanceolatus) 40+, most in one loose flock, at Nainital
Red-billed Blue Magpie (Urocissa erythrorhyncha) Sightings were quite hard to come by in Nainital, with just four seen briefly, but seven showed much better in the Mangoli Valley
Common Green Magpie (Cissa chinensis) Frustratingly brief views of two singles in the hills below Nainital and at Corbett
Rufous Tree Pie (Dendrocitta vagabunda) Common at Ranthambore, Bharatpur and a few present at Corbett
Grey Tree Pie (Dendrocitta formosae) Four in the Mangoli Valley and about 3 at Corbett
Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) One at Nainital
House Crow (Corvus splendens) Common in the lowlands
Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchus) Common in the hills, and also present at Ranthambore and Bharatpur. The birds at Nainital appeared to be of the rather Raven-like form intermedius, sometimes split as a species
Common Raven (Corvus corax) Three at Nainital
Black-hooded Oriole (Oriolus xanthornis) Two at Corbett
Large Cuckooshrike (Coracina macei) Three at Corbett
Small Minivet (Pericrocotus cinnamomeus) 25+ at Ranthambore and 2 at Corbett, apparently of the forms pallidus and peregrinus respectively
Scarlet Minivet (Pericrocotus flammeus) A female at Bharatpur and a pair at Corbett
Yellow-bellied Fantail (Rhipidura hypoxantha) Four at Corbett
White-throated Fantail (Rhipidura albicollis) Up to 8 at Corbett and Ramnagar
White-browed Fantail (Rhipidura aureola) 10+ at Ranthambore
Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus) Common in the lowlands
Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus) Only identified with certainty at Bharatpur, where 5 were seen
White-bellied Drongo (Dicrurus caerulescens) Up to four at Ranthambore
Bronzed Drongo (Dicrurus aenus) Three at Nainital
Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia) One by the hotel at Ranthambore
Common Woodshrike (Tephrodornis pondicerianus) About 10 at Ranthambore and 5 at Bharatpur
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush (Monticola rufiventris) A superb male on a thickly wooded slope on the southern side of Nainital. Surprisingly, it spent all its time perched in trees
Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) A female around a village compound at Corbett
Blue Whistling Thrush (Myophonus caeruleus) A common bird of the hills, with up to 25+ per day around Nainital and Corbett
Orange-headed Ground Thrush (Zoothera citrina) An excellent adult feeding in leaf litter at Corbett
Plain-backed Thrush (Zoothera mollissima) One briefly on the deck and in flight along the high mountain ridge at Nainital
Rusty-tailed Flycatcher (Muscicapa ruficauda) One at Corbett was a most unexpected bonus, given that almost the entire population winters in the Western Ghats of southern India
Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher (Ficedula strophiata) Two excellent males in the Mangoli Valley, and a female at Corbett
Red-throated Flycatcher (Ficedula parva) Two at Ranthambore and about 23 at Bharatpur were either of the form parva or indeterminate
Little Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula westermanni) Brief views of a male in a bird wave at Corbett
Slaty Blue Flycatcher (Ficedula tricolor) Two birds at separate locations at Corbett
Rufous-bellied Niltava (Niltava sundara) A stunning male at Camp Forktail, Corbett
Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher (Culcicapa ceylonensis) Two at Ranthambore, one at Bharatpur, one at the Mangoli Valley and 1 at Camp Forktail, Corbett
White-tailed Rubythroat (Luscinia pectoralis) Two excellent males at Corbett. As an aside, we could not locate the wintering male Siberian Rubythroat by the barrier at Bharatpur
Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica) Quite common at Bharatpur, with about 12 noted
Orange-flanked Bush Robin (Tarsiger cyanurus) A male and two female types in and around Nainitalnital. Less common than expected.
Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis) A very few at Ranthambore and Corbett, but common at Bharatpur, with 50 a day estimated
White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus) A pleasing surprise was a female in a bird wave at Corbett
Indian Robin (Saxicoloides fulicata) A common species, though absent from the Nainital area
Blue-capped Redstart (Phoenicurus coeruleocephalus) Seven in the Nainital area, all but two of them males
Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) About 30 noted, mostly females/immatures, but at least three superb males of the red-bellied form phoenicuroides
Blue-fronted Redstart (Phoenicurus frontalis) Six in the hills around Nainital
White-capped Water Redstart (Chaimarrornis leucocephalus) Quite common around streams in the hills - five around Nainital, 3 in the Mangoli Valley and about 11 sightings at Corbett and Ramnagar
Plumbeous Water Redstart (Rhyacornis fuliginosus) Similarly frequent - 15 noted at similar sites to the previous species
Spotted Forktail (Enicurus maculatus) One of the big target birds of the trip, we found three in the Mangoli Valley, and saw another along the river by Camp Forktail, Corbett
Common Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) About 20 at Bharatpur, 4 in the Mangoli Valley, and 4 at Ramnagar. Most of the former seemed to be of the local resident form indica, but birds in the hills more closely resembled one of the migrant 'Siberian' forms
Pied Bushchat (Saxicola caprata) About 15 at Bharatpur and 1 at Corbett
Grey Bushchat (Saxicola jerdoni) A single male in Nainital, and then a further 14 at Corbett and Ramnagar
Variable Wheatear (Oenanthe picata) A single male at a village compound at Corbett, apparently the only regular site in the park for the species
Brown Rock Chat (Cercomela fusca) Five at Amber Fort near Jaipur, and two at Corbett
Brahminy Starling (Sturnus pagodarum) A very few near Ranthambore, and about 30 at Bharatpur
Rosy Starling (Sturnus roseus) An excellent roadside flock of about 20 between Ranthambore and Bharatpur
Asian Pied Starling (Sturnus contra) Four near Ranthambore, and up to 50 daily at Bharatpur, Agra and nearby lowland sites
Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) A common bird throughout, especially in the hills
Bank Myna (Acridotheres ginginianus) Commoner further west than Common Myna, and a familiar roadside bird, but absent from the high hills
Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch (Sitta castanea) Two at Bharatpur and a further 2 at Corbett
White-tailed Nuthatch (Sitta himalayensis) Up to 20 sightings in the hills around Nainital
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch (Sitta frontalis) Six in two groups at Corbett
Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) Good, if slightly distant views of two individuals, at the River Kosi, Ramnagar, and along a dry river bed at Corbett
Bar-tailed Treecreeper (Certhia himalayana) About 8 noted at Nainital
Rufous-naped Tit (Parus rufonuchalis) At least one at Nainital, but possibly overlooked
Spot-winged Tit (Parus melanolophus) 12+ at Nainital
Great Tit (Parus major) 11+ at Ranthambore and 2 at Corbett, of the 'Grey' cinereus form
Green-backed Tit (Parus monticolus) Common at Nainital and the Mangoli Valley, with 30+ a day not unusual
Black-lored Tit (Parus xanthogenys) One at Nainital, and a further 3 in the Mangoli Valley
Black-throated Tit (Aegithalos concinnus) 20+ per day in the hills at Nainital
Plain Martin (Riparia paludicola) 20 per day at Bharatpur, and 15 at Ramnagar
Eurasian Crag Martin (Hirundo rupestris) 7+ at Nainital
Dusky Crag Martin (Hirundo concolor) 40+ at Ranthambore and 10 at Ramnagar
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 3+ at Bharatpur and 75+ around the River Ganges crossing
Wire-tailed Swallow (Hirundo smithii) 1+ on wires near Ranthambore
Streak-throated Swallow (Hirundo fluvicola) 1+ at Camp Forktail, Corbett
Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica) 4+ at Ranthambore, 4 at Bharatpur and about 25 in and around Corbett
Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus) Two at Corbett
White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis) Only seen at Bharatpur, where 15+ per day
Himalayan Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucogenys) Up to 20 per day at Nainital, and c.9 at Corbett
Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) Five at Nainital
Mountain Bulbul (Hypsipetes mcclellandii) Common in the lowlands, and about 15 in the hills, but absent at Nainital
Striated Prinia (Prinia criniger) One at the Mangoli Valley and another at Corbett
Grey-breasted Prinia (Prinia hodgsonii) About 14 at Corbett
Jungle Prinia (Prinia sylvatica) 1+ at Corbett
Plain Prinia (Prinia inornata) 3 at Ranthambore and 25+ at Bharatpur
Ashy Prinia (Prinia socialis) One near Jaipur, 6 at Bharatpur and 1 at Corbett
Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosa) One at Ranthambore, and common in the hills, with up to 30 per day at Nainital and 5 per day around Corbett
Chestnut-headed Tesia (Tesia castaneocoronata) Two superb adults within 200m of each other close to Camp Forktail, Corbett - our guide had only ever seen one before!
Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler (Cettia fortipes) One at the 'low fields' in Nainital
Blyth's Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus dumetorum) Only noted at Bharatpur, where four seen
Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) Four at Bharatpur and 2 at Corbett
Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) About 25 at Bharatpur and a further 7 at Ramnagar. All were apparently of the form tristis, but only 2 were heard to call
Tickell's Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus affinis) Two at Corbett
Buff-barred Warbler (Phylloscopus pulcher) One of the more distinctive Phylloscs, a total of 10 was noted in the hills around Nainital
Ashy-throated Warbler (Phylloscopus maculipennis) Two in the Mangoli Valley
Lemon-rumped Warbler (Phylloscopus chloronotus) At least 13 in the hills of Nainital and Corbett
Hume's Warbler (Phylloscopus humei) Two seen at Ranthambore, and at least 15 seen and heard at Bharatpur - others suspected too
Greenish Warbler (Phylloscopus trochiloides) The commonest Phyllosc in the plains, with many at Ranthambore and at least 24 at Bharatpur
Blyth's Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus reguloides) Three identified at Nainital
Golden-spectacled Warbler (Seicercus burkii) One at the Mangoli Valley, one from the car on the descent to Ramnagar, and another at Corbett
Grey-hooded Warbler (Seicercus xanthoschistos) The commonest warbler in the hills, with 18 around Nainital and 2 at Corbett
White-throated Laughing-thrush (Garrulax albogularis) After a day with none in Nainital, we found a flock of over 120 birds on the south-west side of town - there were another 20 or so at the Mangoli Valley
White-crested Laughing-thrush (Garrulax leucolophus) An absolutely stunning adult with other Laughing-thrushes at the Mangoli Valley
Striated Laughing-thrush (Garrulax striatus)
Two in the high forests of China Peak, Nainital, and another 4 at the Mangoli Valley
Streaked Laughing-thrush (Garrulax lineatus) The commonest laughingthrush - up to 100 per day at Nainital
Chestnut-crowned Laughing-thrush (Garrulax erythrocephalus) 10 at Nainital and 2 at the Mangoli Valley
Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler (Pomatorhinus erythrogenys)
Groups of 3 and 2 at Nainital
Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler (Pnoepyga albiventer) We were very fortunate to find two separate birds at Nainital - both in damp gullies in thick woodland
Black-chinned Babbler (Stachyris pyrrhops) Thirteen at Nainital, 2 at the Mangoli Valley and 2 at Corbett
Yellow-eyed Babbler (Chrysomma sinense) About 12 at Bharatpur
Common Babbler (Turdoides caudatus) Just two seen, both at Bharatpur
Large Grey Babbler (Turdoides malcolmi) 20 at Ranthambore, 2 at Bharatpur and 2+ near Agra
Jungle Babbler (Turdoides striatus) Abundant at Ranthambore, Bharatpur and Corbett
White-browed Shrike Babbler (Pteruthius flaviscapis) A really crippling party of 2 males and a female, the sexes quite dissimlar, in the high forests of China Peak, Nainital
Rufous Sibia (Heterophasia capistrata) Delightfully common at Nainital, with upwards of 25 seen. Very noisy and not shy
Whiskered Yuhina (Yuhina flavicollis) Brief views of one at the 'low fields' at Nainital
Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) A few at Ranthambore, abundant at Bharatpur, and 1 at Corbett. All those eamined closely resembled the forms blythi and althaea - certainly none raised suspicions of minula
Purple Sunbird (Nectarinia asiatica) Five at Ranthambore and 5 at Bharatpur
Green-tailed Sunbird (Aethopyga nipalensis) A stunning male at the Mangoli Valley
Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja) An eclipse male at Corbettbett
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) Abundant around settlements
Russet Sparrow (Passer rutilans) Two on the way from Nainital to the Mangoli Valley, and another from the car on the descent to Ramnagar
Chestnut-shouldered Petronia (Petronia xanthocollis) One (very briefly) at Bharatpur
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) Three in Rajasthan, but oddly none at Bharatpur, and a further 20 or so in the hills and plains around Ramnagar and Corbett. A mixture of forms present, including personata and dukhunensis
White-browed Wagtail (Motacilla maderaspatensis) Three near Bharatpuraratpur, 6 near Agra and 6 at Corbettbett
Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola) The commonest wagtail by far, but only seen at Bharatpur, where probably 50+ seen
Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) One 'dark-headed' bird near Bharatpur (possibly melanogrisea), and 2 paler-headed birds at Bharatpur itself
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) A total of 15 at a variety of sites
Paddyfield Pipit (Anthus rufulus) Three at Bharatpur, and about 3 other large pipits that were thought to be of this species elsewhere
Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris) Two at Bharatpur
Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni) The commonest pipit - c. 20 at Bharatpur, and a further 5 or so in the hills
Long-billed Pipit (Anthus similis) Two very rufous birds of the form jerdoni at Corbett
Rufous-breasted Accentor (Prunella strophiata) Two on the southern side of Nainital
Black-throated Accentor (Prunella atrogularis) Two at the Mangoli Valley
Altai Accentor (Prunella himalayana) An excellent flock of at least 30 birds by the roadside between Nainital and the Mangoli Valley
Red Avadavat (Amandava amandava) Three flew over with Indian Silverbills at Bharatpur
Indian Silverbill (Lonchura malabarica) About 30 noted in the plains
Yellow-breasted Greenfinch (Carduelis spinoides) One very briefly at Nainital, and another female at the Mangoli Valley
Dark-breasted Rosefinch (Carpodacus nipalensis) Two excellent pink birds at Nainital
Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia) Two in the 'low fields' at Nainital
Black-headed Bunting (Emberiza melanocephala) About 10 on the run west from Delhi.