So my northern India tour is up and running and what a way to start - a boat ride on the Chambal River. We all woke up in eager anticipation of what our first proper days birding would bring and after a good breakfast we drove towards the river making our first stop amongst some arid canyons whee a quick walk gave us a close perched Shikra, followed by numerous Rose-ringed Parakeets and Laughing Doves, Spotted Owlet, Indian Robin, groups of Common and Large Grey Babblers, Lesser Whitethroat, White-eared Bulbul, Brahminy Starling, Indian Silverbill and best of all a superb White-capped Bunting perched in an Acacia and a Rufous-fronted Prinia. A Golden Jackal sat on a close ridge was also well received and boosted our animal tally, adding to some Rhesus Macaques we had seen earlier in the nearby town. A short drive brought us to another area where walked along the track and saw our first Grey Francolin, Indian Peafowl, Black Redstart, Bay-backed Shrike and Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark before cresting the ridge and getting our first views of the river below us. A few Grey-throated Martins were flying around a narrow gulley here, and a Tree Pipit was perched up nicely as well, whilst a Crested and then a flock of Greater Short-toed Larks and a few Siberian Chiffchaffs were seen on our walk down to the river and our waiting boats.
As we approached the water’s edge a Masked Wagtail was seen at close quarters, a pair of Black-bellied Terns flew along the opposite shore, a pair of Great Thick-knees were spotted on a nearby island, and we also saw Comb Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, Bar-headed Goose, Temminck’s Stint and a flock of Red-crested Pochards.
|Great Thick-knee and Ruddy Shelducks|
Once aboard our two boats we got closer to the thick-knees, who were also joined by a pair of River Lapwings and a River Tern which all gave superb close views. A boat ride along the Chambal River is one the the ‘must-do’ things a birder should do in India as the main focus is on seeing Indian Skimmer, the bird that has made this area famous.
Sure enough we did see them after an hour or so journey upstream and were fortunate indeed to get such great views of a flock of 45 birds roosting on a sandy island. The views of everything seen this morning were incredible and we had nice looks at a pair of Bonelli’s Eagles flying over, at one stage they mobbed an Osprey that had a recently caught fish in its talons. There was also Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Spoonbill, Woolly-necked and Painted Storks, Indian Black and Black-headed Ibis.
|Indian Black Ibis|
There was also some flyover Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, a Brown Crake, a flock of Small Pratincoles, Great Black-headed Gull, Lesser Pied Kingfisher, Desert Wheatear, and Wire-tailed Swallow. Non avian interest was plenty with plenty of huge Gharials, as well as Marsh Muggers, a few Soft-shelled Turtles, Jungle Cat and another jackal.
Following lunch and a siesta we walked around the gardens, chasing a previously reported Whistler’s Warbler without any luck, and this is a major rarity here which I eventually saw but not for long. But the walk was very pleasant and gave us 7 Yellow-wattled Lapwings, Yellow-footed Green-pigeon, a pair of day-roosting Indian Scops-owls, lots of Indian Grey Hornbills, both Brown-headed and Coppersmith Barbets, and best of all a pair of Ashy Minivets – another really scarce bird here. There was also Taiga and Red-breasted Flycatchers, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher and Hume’s Warbler as well. That evening, just before dinner, we managed to spotlight a Common Palm Civet in the garden to round off a great day.