India - north:
Birds, Tigers and the Central Himalayas
A 16-day, small group birding tour that explores the incredible birdlife and mammal diversity of the Indo-Gangetic Plains and the mid-altitude Central Himalayas.
Our comprehensive tour encompasses a wide variety of the habitats found in northern India, and their associated birdlife. We begin south of Delhi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, exploring the rivers and wetlands of India's agricultural heartland before moving west into the semi-desert of eastern Rajasthan. From here we travel north to the Himalayas, where the temperate forests of mid-altitudes, in combination with woodland, grassland and snow-fed rivers at the base of the hills present a contrast in landscape and an entirely new selection of species. Birding on foot, by boat and from open jeeps we'll look for an for Indian Skimmer, Black-bellied Tern, Sarus Crane, Black-necked Stork, Indian Courser and Siberian Rubythroat in the plains, with Himalayan Rubythroat, Golden Bush-robin, Nepal Wren-babbler, Black-chinned Babbler, a cacophany of laughingthrushes including White-crested, Altai Accentor, Koklass and Cheer Pheasants, Himalayan and Bearded Vultures, and Ibisbill in the hills and adjacent terai zone. We'll also be looking for Ganges River Dolphin, Asian Elephant and Tiger among a fine selection of mammals.
Day 1: Delhi to the Chambal River
Arrivals into Delhi airport this morning. We spend most of the driving southeast to Jarar village, at the heart of the agricultural region sustained by the Chambal River, for the night. Along the way we will encounter many of north India’s more common species and will arrive with time for some late afternoon birding around our lodge where we may find Sirkeer Malkoha, and Brown Hawk-owl at dusk.
Day 2: Chambal to Bharatpur via Agra and the Taj Mahal
This morning we will explore the Chambal River, one of north India’s least polluted waterways. By boat we will go in search of Indian Skimmer, Black-bellied Tern and Ganges River Dolphin, and on foot along the sandy riverbank and adjacent mud ravines we will look for Sand Lark, Desert Wheatear, Yellow-eyed Babbler and Crested Bunting. By early afternoon we will leave on the drive west to Bharatpur for a two-night stay, travelling via Agra where we will stop for a brief visit to India’s most iconic monument, the Taj Mahal.
Day 3-4: Bharatpur
The man-made wetland of Bharatpur is undoubtedly India’s most famous bird reserve. Using the park’s unique cycle-rickshaws to cover distance we will go in search of Sarus Crane, Black-necked and Painted Storks, Oriental Darter, Indian Spot-billed and Comb Ducks, Black-headed Ibis, Black Bittern, Greater Painted-snipe and White-tailed Lapwing. The impressive selection of waders and waterfowl we see here will be complemented by species such as Siberian Rubythroat, Orange-headed and Tickell’s Thrushes, Orphean Warbler and Indian Scops-owl in patches of woodland and acacia scrub, and birds of prey including Steppe Eagle and Short-toed Snake Eagle. We will leave Bharatpur by late morning on day 4, driving southwest to Ranthambhore National Park for a two-night stay.
Day 5-6: Ranthambhore National Park
Distinctly arid, yet dotted with lakes, Ranthambhore hosts an interesting combination of desert species and northern India’s more widespread forest birds. We will explore from open jeeps for specialities such as Painted Spurfowl and Sulphur-bellied Warbler, among Rufous Treepie, Indian Peafowl, Great Thick-knee, an abundance of bulbuls and parakeets, up to six species of vulture, and of course Tiger. We will also explore arid scrubland outside the park for Indian Courser, Painted Sandgrouse, various larks, White-capped Bunting and Southern Grey Shrike. We leave Ranthambhore in the afternoon of day 6, returning by train to Delhi for an overnight stay.
Day 7-8: Sattal
An early start for the journey north into Uttarakhand and the foothills of the Western Himalayas, making our way to the small town of Sattal at 1450m, our base for a two-night stay. Birding en-route as we make the transition from the plains into the hills will provide a tantalising introduction to the diversity of this region and we will encounter our first Himalayan specialities which may include Blue Whistling Thrush, Himalayan Bluetail, Red-billed Blue Magpie and Cinnamon Sparrow. From our base at Sattal we will visit sites at a range of elevations, encountering an impressive selection of birds in a range of habitats. Key among these are Himalayan Rubythroat, Golden Bush Robin, Nepal Wren-babbler, Blue-capped and Blue-fronted Redstarts, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, White-bellied Erpornis, Great Barbet, Rufous-breasted and Black-throated Accentors, Red-billed Leiothrix, Brown Dipper, three species of forktail, numerous laughingthrushes and flycatchers, and various tits, nuthatches, sunbirds and warblers associating in fast-moving feeding flocks.
Day 9-10: Pangot
Today we make our way further into the Himalayas to the village of Pangot at 2150m for a two-night stay, passing stunning views of the high Himalaya from spectacular mountain roads. In dense, moss-draped temperate forests, rhododendrons, Chir Pines, and grassy slopes of the surrounding hills we will look for montane specialities associated with the higher altitude, including Himalayan Greenfinch, Scarlet Finch, Spot-winged Grosbeak, Himalayan Pied Woodpecker, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Black-chinned Babbler, Altai Accentor, Collared Owlet, Himalayan and Bearded Vultures, and two of our key targets Koklass and Cheer Pheasants.
Day 11-15: Corbett National Park
Today, we make our way south to Corbett National Park for a four-night stay in the terai region of Uttarakhand. At Corbett the avifauna of the Himalayas meets that of the Indo-Gangetic plains and the great diversity of habitats, dominated by dense forest bisected by rivers and grassy pastures, contributes to making this one of the richest birding areas in Asia. Much of the best birding is to be had in dense roadside forests in the fringes of the reserve, which we will explore on foot for Long-billed Thrush, Chestnut-headed and Grey-bellied Tesias, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Common Green Magpie, Maroon Oriole, Great Hornbill, and Green-tailed Sunbird, with Wallcreeper, Plumbeous Water Redstart, White-capped Redstart, Crested Kingfisher, and small numbers of overwintering Ibisbill along the Kosi River. We will spend one night inside the remote western ranges of the reserve at Dhikala, allowing unrivalled access by jeep to undisturbed areas of forest and the grasslands of the Ramganga floodplain. Among our key targets here are Collared Falconet, Pallid, Hen and rarer Pied Harriers, Lesser, Grey-headed and Pallas’s Fish-eagles, White-throated Bush Chat and Red Avadavat, plus Tiger and Asian Elephant. We will leave Corbett by mid-morning on day 15 to drive back to Delhi for an overnight stay.
Day 16: Depart Delhi
Departures from Delhi airport today.
31 October - 15 November 2020
with Leio De Souza
14 February - 1 March 2021
with Lokesh Kumar
5 November - 20 November 2021
with Lokesh Kumar
12 February - 27 February 2022
with Lokesh Kumar
Duration: 16 days
Maximum group size: 8 with 1 leader
2021: £ 2380 (Delhi/Delhi)
2022: £ 2450* (Delhi/Delhi)
Single room supplement 2021: £ 330
Single room supplement 2022: £ 340*
Deposit: £ 500
Estimated flight costs: £ 600
Estimated visa costs: £ 20
Custom tours (November to April)
2021: from £ 3375 per person
2022: from £ 3450 per person*
[prices are per person based on 2 people travelling together; costs for other group sizes on request]
Information on what's included
*2022 costs provisional
Tour grading: Easy to moderate.
Some birding will be on foot along quiet, paved roads or well-marked trails, some from open-topped jeeps; the tour is intensive in terms of time spent in the field.
Accommodation: Comfortable good to medium standard hotels and wildlife lodges, with the exception of more basic forest lodge rooms at Dhikala, all with private facilities.
Photography: Good to excellent
Key species: Indian Skimmer, Indian Courser, White-tailed Lapwing, Sarus Crane, Black-necked Stork, Painted Sandgrouse, White-throated Bushchat, Siberian and Himalayan Rubythroats, Golden Bush-robin, Himalayan Bluetail, Nepal Wren-babbler, Black-chinned Babbler, Blue Whistling-thrush, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Common Green Magpie, Rufous-chinned, White-crested and White-throated Laughingthrushes, Long-billed Thrush, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Altai Accentor, Himalayan Greenfinch, Koklass and Cheer Pheasants, Spotted, Slaty-backed and Little Forktails, Ibisbill, White-capped Redstart, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Crested Kingfisher, Himalayan and Bearded Vultures, Lesser, Grey-headed and Pallas's Fish-eagles, Collared Falconet, Collared Owlet, Tiger, Asian Elephant, Ganges River Dolphin, Gharial.
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