Nepal: Birding the Central Himalaya
Nepal is an incredible birding destination. The remarkable diversity of altitude and habitat, from grasslands at little more than sea level to the highest peaks of the Himalayas, is reflected in the rich diversity of species. Over 850 species of birds have been recorded here, more than in any other region of comparable size in Asia.
Straddling the central Himalayas, Nepal is one of Asia’s most scenic countries, dominated by mountains which provide a universal backdrop punctuated by colourful Buddhist stupas, Hindu temples and royal palaces. Once one of the most isolated and inaccessible places on earth, both geographically and by choice, Nepal opened its borders little over half a century ago allowing birders to explore some of the best birding locations anywhere in the Indian subcontinent.
Our comprehensive birding tour begins on the forested slopes of Phulchowki Danda, the highest of the peaks surrounding the Kathmandu Valley. From subtropical forest at lower levels to moss-draped oaks, firs and rhododendrons towards the 2767m peak Phulchowki offers an excellent overview of Himalayan birds across the elevations and their associated habitats. Key among these are Himalayan Cutia, White-crested Laughingthrush, Scaly-breasted Cupwing, Spiny Babbler, Nepal’s only endemic bird, and Mountain Scops-owl. We then fly southwest to the terai zone at the base of the Himalayas to Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. Here, vast riverine grasslands and internationally important wetlands beneath the Kosi barrage are a vital refuge of grassland specialities and Nepal’s largest concentrations of waterbirds, notably White-tailed Stonechat, Swamp Francolin, Comb Duck, Bar-headed Goose and Lesser Adjutant, plus birds of prey including Pied Harrier and Imperial Eagle and a fine list of mammals including Wild Water Buffalo and Ganges River Dolphin. Staying in the terai we move west to Chitwan National Park, looking for Ibisbill among the shingle banks of the Rapti River as we drive. Chitwan hosts the richest assemblage of birds anywhere in the country and we will encounter a rich selection of forest birds such as Great Pied Hornbill, Common Green Magpie, Red-headed Trogon and Collared Falconet and an important selection of grassland species including Slender-billed Babbler, Grey-crowned Prinia and Bengal Florican in the most extensive protected lowland grasslands in Nepal. We will also see Indian One-horned Rhinoceros, with a chance of Sloth Bear and Tiger. Finally, we travel into the mountains to Thulo Kharka at 2060m in the foothills of the Annapurna Conservation Area. In spectacular temperate forests we will see a variety of resident and wintering birds, such as Kalij Pheasant, Snow Pigeon, Chestnut Thrush, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Altai Accentor, Scarlet Finch, Wallcreeper, Bearded Vulture and Himalayan Griffon.
This tour offers a comprehensive overview of the exceptional birdlife of the central Himalayas up into the bird-rich mid-altitudes, passing through a variety of landscapes with a backdrop of Nepal’s rich culture and stunning mountain scenery and the added attraction of some of Asia’s most iconic large mammals.
19 February - 4 March 2020
(also available as a custom tour)
Ground price: £ 3490
Single room supplement: £ 495
Deposit: £ 500
The price includes: Accommodation, all meals, bottled drinking water, internal flights, all ground transport, all birding/wildlife activities as described, entry fees, guiding, pre-tour information, species checklists.
The price excludes: International flights, visa fees, travel insurance, drinks other than water, tips and any other expenses of a personal nature.
Maximum group size: 8
Accommodation: Comfortable rooms with private facilities in wildlife lodges and hotels.
Tour grading: Easy to moderate. Birding will be on foot in places and from open jeeps in others; the tour is intensive in terms of time spent in the field.
Key species: Himalayan Cutia, Scaly-breasted Cupwing, Spiny Babbler, Altai Accentor, Himalayan Griffon, Bearded Vulture, Collared Falconet, Mountain Scops-owl, Wallcreeper, Snow Pigeon, Slender-billed Babbler, White-tailed Stonechat, Swamp Francolin, Bengal Florican, Ibisbill, Pied Harrier, Greater One-horned Rhinoceros, Asian Elephant, Ganges River Dolphin.
Day 1: Kathmandu
Arrivals into Kathmandu international airport this morning, spending the afternoon exploring the surrounding Kathmandu valley where we can expect a good introduction to Nepal’s more common species, such as Red-vented Bulbul, Jungle Myna, House Swift, Steppe Eagle and Black Kite. Time permitting, we will explore the surrounding hillslopes, looking for Himalayan Red-flanked Bush-robin, Himalayan Aberrant Bush-warbler, Red-billed Leiothrix, Grey Bush-chat, Spotted Forktail and Red-billed Blue Magpie.
Day 2: Phulchowki Danda
On day 2 we will explore Phulchowki Danda up to the peak at 2767m, where subtropical and temperate forests at varying elevations host a plethora of Himalayan specialities, and we will look for various Laughingthrushes including Striated, White-crested and White-throated, Rusty-cheeked and Streak-breasted Scimitar-babblers, Black-chinned and Grey-throated Babblers, the Nepal endemic Spiny Babbler, Scaly-breasted Cupwing, Scaly Thrush, Grey-winged and White-collared Blackbirds, White-browed and Golden Bush-robins, Himalayan Cutia, Rufous Sibia, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Black Eagle, Mountain Hawk-eagle, Collared Owlet and Mountain Scops-owl.
Day 3-6: Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
On day 3 we fly to Biratnagar in the country’s southern lowlands before driving to Koshi Tappu for a four-night stay. Koshi Tappu is a vital remnant of a once impenetrable tract of swamp forest, among the most fragile and threatened habitats in the subcontinent. Home to White-tailed Stonechat, Striated Grassbird, Bright-capped Cisticola, Yellow-bellied Prinia and Swamp Francolin in riverine grasslands, we will also go in search of Lesser Adjutant, Black-necked Stork, Red-naped and Black-headed Ibis, Bar-headed Goose, Comb Duck, scarcer Falcated Duck and Baer’s Pochard, Black Bittern, Greater Painted-snipe, Grey-headed Swamphen and Grey-headed Lapwing plus Wild Water Buffalo and possibly Ganges River Dolphin in the vast wetlands and reedbeds beneath the Kosi barrage. The impressive selection of waders and waterfowl we see here will be complemented by species such as Siberian Rubythroat, Abbott’s Babbler and Oriental Pied Hornbill patches of woodland, and birds of prey including Cinereous and White-rumped Vultures, Pallid and Pied Harriers, Imperial and White-tailed Eagles, Pallas’s Fish-eagle and Short-toed Snake Eagle.
Day 7-10: Chitwan National Park
Day 7 will take us on the long drive to Chitwan for a four-night stay, looking for Crested Kingfisher, Little Forktail and Ibisbill on the shingle banks the Rapti River along the journey. At Chitwan, the avifauna of the Himalayas meets that of the Indo-Gangetic plains creating the richest assemblage of birds anywhere in the country. Over the next three days we will explore dense forests and riverine grasslands in various parts of the park on foot and by open jeep, making a special effort to track down grassland specialities including Slender-billed Babbler, Grey-crowned Prinia, Indian Grass-babbler and Bengal Florican. Other highlights here include Great Pied Hornbill, Common Green Magpie, Red-headed Trogon, White-browed and Speckled Piculets, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Pin-striped Tit-babbler, Spotted Bush-warbler, Collared Falconet, Black Baza and Grey-headed Fish-eagle, plus One-horned Rhinoceros and a chance of Sloth Bear and Tiger.
Day 11-14: Thulo Kharka and the Annapurna Conservation Area
A long drive on day 11 will take us north and up to 2060m in the mid-altitude Himalayas of central Nepal, towards the trekking gateway of Pokhara to Thulo Kharka for a three-night stay on the edge of the Annapurna Conservation Area. Against the stunning backdrop of the snow-capped Annapurna range we will explore the temperate forests and scrubby slopes of the surrounding area, looking for montane specialities associated with the higher altitude, including Snowy-browed and Rufous-gorgeted Flycatchers, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Barred Cuckoo-dove, Scarlet Finch, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Black-faced and Rufous-chinned Laughingthrushes, Blue Whistling-thrush, Chestnut Thrush, Blue-fronted Redstart, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Tibetan Serin, Altai Accentor, Snow Pigeon, Kalij Pheasant, Wallcreeper, Black-backed and Slaty-backed Forktails, White-capped Redstart, Asian Barred Owlet, Bonelli’s Eagle, Bearded, Slender-billed and Red-headed Vultures and Himalayan Griffon. We will leave Thulo Kharka in the afternoon of day 14, flying from Pokhara back to Kathmandu for an overnight stay.
Day 15: Depart Kathmandu
Departures from Kathmandu international airport today.