This turned out to be a very good day indeed, during which we saw an awful lot of really good birds and a few iconic Indian species to boot. We began with a jeep safari taking in the surrounding grassland and forest edge beginning with further views of Large-tailed Nightjar just before boarding our jeeps or as they are called locally - ‘gypsies’. First of all we headed out into the open grassy plain and then along the edge of the huge forest seeing Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch and Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker – neither being new but nice views. Many new birds came our way here such as Grey Bushchat, Lesser Yellownape, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Crested Treeswift, Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike, Small, Long-tailed, Scarlet and Short-billed Minivets, Common Rosefinch, and a brief Black-throated Thrush. Moving deeper into the forest a Brown Fish-Owl appeared, along with Black-hooded Oriole and Rufous-bellied Niltava.
Also in the grassland we saw Streak-throated Woodpecker, Lesser Coucal, Eurasian Hoopoe, Ashy Prinia, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Eastern Stonechat, Paddyfield Pipit, and a cracking male Chestnut-eared Bunting. A fine male Montagu’s Harrier quartering the grassland in the early morning light was also quite a sight.
We spent the remainder of the late morning and early afternoon inside the Dhikhala compound and turned up a number of good birds with Indian Grey Hornbill, Crimson Sunbird, Hume’s Warbler, Grey-sided Bush Warbler and Black-chinned Babbler along the perimeter fence.
|Probable Grey-sided Bush-Warbler.....|
Below us the view was spectacular with the Ramganga River and grassland harbouring a flock of Small Pratincoles, Eurasian Spoonbill, Woolly-necked Stork, Black Stork, Great Thick-knee, Oriental Darter, a couple of Western Ospreys, Pallas’s Gull, many River Terns, Pied Kingfisher, Grey-throated Martin, a huge male Gharial, Marsh Mugger and Hog Deer.
|Himalayan Griffon (immature)|
|Distant Black and Red-headed Vultures|
|Himalayan Griffon (adult)|
We also had an amazing run of raptors with Changeable Hawk-Eagle flying over to start with, and then later a kettle of Himalayan Griffons was joined by a Red-headed Vulture, huge Cinereous Vulture and a couple of Egyptian Vultures, with a Pallas’s Fish-Eagle joining in later. After lunch Lynne spotted an adult Cinereous Vulture and 2 Red-headed Vultures with a couple of Steppe Eagles standing around a small carcass on the plain below us. We watched them for quite some time through the scopes and another Cinereous Vulture flew in and landed before all these birds took flight which made for spectacular viewing. A male Crimson Sunbird also gave point-blank views.
At 2.30pm we headed out in the jeeps for a short jeep safari and didn’t really see anything new but concentrated on looking for a recently reported Tiger, but again without success, although a Lesser Fish-Eagle was new.
We had to sprint to get back to the compound in time for our 4pm Elephant safari and then spent the next two hours chasing after a Tiger that had just been reported. It caused quite some amusement to begin with but once we headed into the jungle and went crashing through the bushes and trees we had to fend off branches before reaching the open grassland. Well I’m very pleased to report we did get to see a young male Tiger that had been hiding in some dense bushes but he quickly ran away and out of view. But smiles all round and a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
|Spot the Tiger|
On the walk back to camp we saw a Crested Bunting in company with a female Chestnut-eared Bunting to round the day off nicely. That was until our first Jungle Owlet perched out in a bare tree was seen from the viewpoint. What a day!