Monday, 25 March 2013

An Elephant Ride!

This was the morning of our Elephant safari through the grasslands and we set off with a beautiful sunrise behind us with the sounds of trumpeting wild Asian Elephants as a backdrop. It is more of an experience than anything, but we did get close to seeing a Tiger with one Elephant almost standing on it (well that’s what it looked like) as it bellowed, trumpeted and seemed to lurch sideways very quickly. All of this was observed from a distance by my group I have to add! We searched and searched but couldn’t come up with a view of the beast so had to settle for Black Francolin, Black-hooded Oriole, Yellow-eyed Babbler and best of all, a Chestnut-eared Bunting that perched nicely for us. With that over we jumped in the jeeps and drove along the Sambar Road again, but it was very quiet and all we got that was new was a little flock of Red Avadavat

Birding the Sambar Road

With both Pygmy Wren-babbler and Grey-bellied Tesia calling but not responding it was a very frustrating couple of hours. Upon our return we vacated the rooms and then phaffed around waiting for lunch, which gave us plenty of time to scan the scene below us. 

View from Dhikala

All the same birds were present as yesterday, albeit in smaller numbers, but a Golden Jackal was new. So as soon as lunch was over we headed back towards the Dhangari Gate on what turned out to be a very ‘birdy’ drive, starting with Greater and Himalayan Flamebacks finally being seen, followed by a Grey-faced Woodpecker. Continuing the theme, there was a fine Rufous Woodpecker, followed by Grey-capped Pygmy and Fulvous-breasted Woodpeckers as well. We also managed a pair of Large Woodshrikes and an Orange-gorgeted Flycatcher as well before reaching the main gate. 

Corbett Scenery

I must admit, Tiger Camp was sheer luxury after 2 nights at the basic Dhikala site – with chicken sandwiches and hot chocolate from room service. That’s right Frank!

Sunday, 24 March 2013


We woke pre-dawn to the calls of Large-tailed and Savanna Nightjars around the Dhikala compound and after breakfast headed out on our jeep safari around the grassland. It was wonderful to listen to the sounds of the jungle coming to life and as we drove around the grassland following the edge of the forest a small herd of Indian Elephants emerged onto the track in front of us. 

At least 6 animals with a youngster tagging along were present and as we watched them heard the alarm call of a Sambar from behind us. We spent the next 30 minutes or so chasing the calls and waiting for a Tiger to appear without much luck. But still saw Jungle Owlet, a pair of Black-chinned Babblers, Short-billed, Long-tailed and Scarlet Minivets, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo and Maroon Oriole

Black-chinned Babbler

In the grassland a Chestnut-crowned (Large) Bush-warbler only showed briefly, but a female Slaty-blue Flycatcher was a little more obliging nearby. Blyth’s Leaf-warbler and Lemon-rumped Warbler, Hen Harrier and an Eurasian Wryneck was seen well. Moving on we had an Aberrant Bush-warbler that wasn’t so successful at skulking in some tussocks beside the track, and both Zitting and Bright-capped Cisticola showed very well. A Black-throated Thrush perched out in the grassland was a bit out of the ordinary, and we also had both Steppe Eagle and Pallas’s Fish-eagle – oh and we did get another Tiger this morning. Without trying hard at all we were driving through an open grassy area when we could see a guy waving to us from 100m away and sped towards his jeep and there it was, a fine male Tiger striding into the forest. 

Tiger - again!
We drove along a trail into the same forest and parked up and waited. After a short wait, it reappeared and walked though the forest to our left and eventually crossed the track in front of us giving amazing views. How lucky were we? Upon arrival back at the lodge we spent a very pleasant hour scanning the Ramganga River, lake and grassland below our lookout point. Highlights here included a pair of Black-necked Storks, 8+ Black Storks, a flock of Small Pratincoles, Ruddy Shelduck, an Osprey, 2 Great Black-headed Gulls, plus a few Gharials and Marsh Muggers. In the afternoon we drove along the Sambar Road which meant crossing several little tributaries of the Ramganga River which was a very scenic route and we got off to a great start with a perched Lesser Fish-eagle, which we would also see flying overhead giving its distinctive call later. 

Stork-billed Kingfisher
A Pygmy Wren-babbler was only glimpsed a while later but a fine male Ultramarine Flycatcher and a Stork-billed Kingfisher were very obliging, as was a Streak-throated Woodpecker. Crossing the streams we found a pair of Crested Kingfishers, White-capped River-chat, River Lapwings, more Elephants, before entering the forest. 

White-capped River-chat
Here we had Pied Flycatcher-shrike and a few other common species but it was a little quiet. So on our return we had a perched Mountain Hawk-eagle, as well as Alexandrine Parakeet, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler, our first Ashy Woodswallows and best of all, a pair of Great Hornbills that slowly flew overhead. 

Great Hornbill

Another great way to end a successful day. 

Friday, 22 March 2013

Corbett at Last

We left Delhi early doors and drove up to Corbett national Park, stopping at Tiger Camp for lunch. As lunch was not quite ready for us, we walked down to the river. Lots of raptors were soaring around the clear sky and we had Red-headed, Himalayan Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Black Kite and an Oriental Honey Buzzard as well. Margaret made the find of the morning when she spotted a Wallcreeper several hundred metres downriver, which prompted a brisk walk to get closer views. We also had White-capped Water-redstart, White-browed Wagtail and a Grey-backed Shrike as well before returning for lunch. Afterwards we set off into Corbett NP in three gypsies (jeeps) with our luggage going in a 4th vehicle ahead of us. It was several kilometres to the park entrance and along the way we had Spangled Drongo, Plum-headed Parakeet, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Common Woodshrike and Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker. Once inside the park things livened up and it was a very pleasant drive through rolling hills covered in dense forest, along river valleys and through grassland to our destination at Dikhala. 

Yellow-throated Marten

We kicked off with Red-breasted Parakeet, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Short-billed Minivet, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Pied Flycatcher-shrike,  a few White-crested Laughingthrushes and Yellow-throated Marten. As the scenery got ever better as we followed some huge  boulder-strewn rivers we saw Changeable Hawk-eagle, Collared Falconet and a cracking Pallas’s Fish-eagle. Time was slipping away fast so we had to speed up our journey but still managed flocks of Grey-winged Blackbirds and at one gulley a superb Long-billed Thrush was watched feeding right out in the open, oblivious to us watching it. What a bird! 

Long-billed Thrush - record shot!

So we eventually arrived at Dhikala compound around 6.15pm and were regaled with stories of a Tiger on a kill just a few kilometre away, which made our minds up what to do first thing tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013


We went straight to our hotel upon arrival in Delhi in the early morning and had breakfast before heading out to Sultanpur – a drive of about two hours. As soon as we arrived we headed over to the main area of pools and had cracking views of a pair of Sind Sparrows which were nesting in a hole in a tree right below the track. 

Sind Sparrow
This is such a range restricted and local species so was a great way to start the mornings birding. We also found an Eastern Imperial Eagle perched in a large dead tree and several Ferruginous Ducks, both new species for us. We also got word that a Baikal Teal had been present recently so we sifted through several thousand waterfowl, but to no avail. 

Black-necked Stork
We also found Black-necked Stork, Greater Spotted and Booted Eagles, another Brooks’s Leaf-warbler, a pair of Yellow-fronted Woodpeckers, and a surprise find in a Yellow-browed Warbler. There were loads of birds here and it was a very pleasant few hours watching all the activity with numerous egrets, herons, storks. Then we drove back to our hotel after a picnic lunch and met up with the new members of the group joining us for the second half of the tour. 

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Another Day Another Tiger

Our final jeep safari into Ranthambhore saw us travelling along Route 3, and this turned out to be not only a very scenic area but also held more birds than other sections of the park we had visited. At the entrance gate inside the park a flock of Plum-headed Parakeets were feeding on the floor right beside us, and a Peacock was rather unobtrusive. We had a close pair of Painted Spurfowls, which was a great way to start. 

Plum-headed Parakeet


Painted Spurfowl

There were several lakes that held a lot of the usual birds and we spent some time observing the overall scene as Marsh Muggers cruised by close to shore and all the usual egrets, herons and waders were dotted along the water’s edge. At the first lake there was a distant Crested Serpent-eagle which was new for the tour, but best of all was an Indian Stone-curlew standing in the shade of a tree next to another lake. 

Indian Stone-curlew
We’d spent a few hours going around all of the good areas and were just about thinking of leaving when a canter went speeding by us in the opposite direction. They were obviously aware of something we weren’t so followed them in hot pursuit and after a bumpy, dusty fast drive we pulled up behind a group of 6 or 7 other jeeps and sure enough, there was a rather large female Tiger sitting amongst some bushes under the trees. She was partially obscured but kept moving around and she looked huge compared to the other Tiger we saw a few days ago. 

Our Second Tiger
After 20  minutes or so she got up and went over to her recently killed Sambar and dragged some branches and leaves over it and walked off into the jungle. And that was it. The whole episode made us fully appreciate the amazing encounter with our first beast the other day. On the way out of the park we had a close perched Indian Vulture, followed by a soaring Red-headed Vulture, and a Rat Snake to end our wildlife encounters here. 

Rat Snake

In the afternoon we drove to Mansarovar Lake for a quick look and was surprised to find 9 Great Black-headed Gulls present, as well as a whole bunch of common birds but had nothing new to add to our lists since the Common Iora in the car park of our lodge. All that remained to do was make our way to Sawai Modhpur train station and catch the overnight sleeper train to Delhi – and all the chaos that always surrounds such an event!