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Tour Experience Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh, India.
January 28th – February 11th 2006-02-23

From: Monica Kirby
Sent: Monday, March 13, 2006 3:46 AM
Subject: Re: Our trip!

Hello again from England.
 
At last I have the trip report prepared and am attaching it to this mail. Please feel free to use it as you will in your website or to send it to any person interested in it. You can use any of our letters as an endorsement of your excellent service.
 
I hope you can use the trip report and look forward to your feedback on it.
 
 regards Monica and John Kirby

This trip was organised through an Indian company based in Jaipur that I found through the Internet. The company is:

Indo Vacations 
(Tour Operator & Holiday Planner) 
312 / 6, Valmiki Marg, Pushpawali, Raja Park 
Jaipur-302004, INDIA
Tel.: 0091 141 2622098 & 0091 94143 12872 Fax: 0091 141 2622098

Mobile: 0091 98291 53949
www.indovacations.net
 
E-Mail: info@indovacations.net

We told them the places we were interested in visiting and they arranged an itinerary for us to include these. After a little adjustment we agreed on this and were quoted a price of $1010 (approx £580) per person to include all transportation in India and accommodation with breakfast, the services of a driver with a Toyota Qualis car and an experienced bird guide. Also included were airport transfers and a full day sight-seeing in Delhi.

All the arrangements went very smoothly and we would recommend this company for their flexibility and organisational skills. The driver we had, known to us as Paul was really good. He had to drive on the most testing of mountain roads as well as endure the traffic jams in the cities and he did this all without complaint or the slightest sign of road rage that we all get from time to time. He was great and, once he got used to mad birders asking him to stop at the slightest sighting of a new bird, he joined in with us. 

Our bird guide was Raju (Jagdish Bhatt). This young man is from Binsar and works as a guide at the Binsar Tourist Rest House. He had good eyes and ears and with the mountain birds he was invaluable. He knew the places we needed to go to see the birds and was excellent. Raju was so friendly and such a pleasure to have with us. He seemed to enjoy the trip as much as we did! We were very sad to leave him at the end for his 100k journey back to Binsar (a lot of it to be covered on foot!!)

Flights were arranged through Lastminute.com with Virgin Atlantic for £515 each. This was a direct flight which arrived in Delhi at 11.30 am and back in London at 5.30pm approx. We liked these flight times and even though we could have got a cheaper price the flights were either via a European or Middle East airport and/or arrived in Delhi around midnight and left about 2am for the return journey. We felt it was worth the £30-40 pounds extra to get this flight and it certainly proved to be true. 


Our itinerary was as follows.


Day 01 – 29.01.06 – Arrival in New Delhi, transfer to the Hotel / Hotel Metro Heights
Day 02 – 30.01.06 – Drive to Saatal / Saatal Tourist House
Day 03 – 31.01.06 – Full day birding in Saatal / Saatal Tourist House
Day 04 – 01.02.06 – Excursion to Pangot
Day 05 – 02.02.06 – Drive to Binsar / Binsar Tourist House
Day 06 – 03.02.06 – Drive from Binsar to Ranikhet / Hotel West View
Day 07 – 04.02.06 – Drive to Corbett National Park / Hotel Tiger Camp
Day 08 – 05.02.06 – Full day Sightseeing in Corbett National Park / Hotel Tiger Camp
Day 09 – 06.02.06 – Drive to Nainital / Hotel Claridges Naini Retreat
Day 10 – 07.02.06 – Full day in Nainital / Hotel Claridges Naini Retreat
Day 11 – 08.02.06 – Full day in Nainital / Hotel Claridges Naini Retreat
Day 12 – 09.02.06 – Drive to New Delhi / Hotel Metro Heights
Day 13 – 10.02.06 – Full day Sightseeing in New Delhi / Hotel Metro Heights
Day 14 – 11.02.06 – Flight to Londo
n

January 29th:
We arrived in Delhi at around 11.30 am and were met by our driver from Indo Vacations. We had changed some money at the airport so were ready to go straight to our hotel. Hotel Metro Heights is in the Karol Bargh area of Delhi not far from Connaught Place. We really wouldn’t recommend it although it was adequate. The rooms were ok and had everything we needed including a “ minibar” which contained 2 bottles of water and 3 soft drinks! It is in a “motor trade” area and there are no local restaurants you can walk to so we used the hotel restaurant which was interesting!. The food I have to say was excellent. 
We were puzzled however by the fact that most of the dining chairs were actually computer chairs on wheels. The dining room staff were great and real whizzes with a spoon which they used to open beer bottles and also to change channels on the TV!
In the afternoon we took a taxi from the hotel to Okhla Barrage on the Yamuna River. Due to new road construction and also to the fact that the driver probably wasn’t a registered taxi (our hotel reception called him) we got lost taking an hour and a half for the journey. We eventually found Khalindi Kunj Park and in desperation got out of the taxi there. Don’t bother with the park itself but bird along the tracks leading off the road to the left of the park. The return trip back to our hotel took 30 minutes!

Birds Seen

Ruddy Shelduck

Bluethroat

Plain Prinia

Painted Stork

Long-tailed Shrike

River Lapwing

Green Bee-eater

Eurasian Starling

Pied Starling

Red-vented Bulbul

Gull-billed Tern

Citrine Wagtail

Purple Heron

Purple Swamphen

Black Drongo

Scaly-breasted Munia

January 30th - 1st February Saatal:
After leaving the tour company’s office at around 10am we set off on the long drive to Saatal. This took most of the day with a little birding along the way. 
We stopped at a restaurant for lunch after about 4 hours. After this we set off again along the road following the Kosi River. We stopped between markers 36 and 37 just past a large temple. Along the river and on the sands we saw:

Himalayan Rubythroat

Brown Dipper

Plumbeous Redstart

White-crowned Water Redstart

Rufous Treepie

Himalayan Griffon

Russet Sparrow

Jungle Babbler

It was dark when we arrived in Saatal and very cold. We stayed at the KMVN Tourist Rest House. There is very little accommodation in this area and this lodge is very basic. There is no heating or hot water (although they will bring a bucket of hot water to your room on request) and meals have to ordered in advance. As we arrived around 7.30 pm it was too late to get dinner there but a local opened his café for us and we all went down there for a delicious meal at about £1 each! We found out in the morning that a cow had been taken from behind this café by a Leopard during the night! You will need plenty of warm clothing at night in this place. It is built to be cool in the summer so in winter is freezing! 4 layers including a padded shirt were not enough till we added hats and sock! Day times the weather was pleasant – clear and sunny and around 16C.
We birded behind the tea stalls and then through the fields. No Golden Bush Robin seen. (When was the last one seen at this site behind the tea stalls?) Next we went along the road around the lake and into the Saatal Estate. Lastly we walked along the track through the Windrift Tented Camp.
Birds Seen

Red-Gorgeted Flycatcher

Orange-flanked Bush Robin

Spot-bellied Eagle Owl

Grey-winged Blackbird

Red-billed Leothrix

Black-chinned Tit

Great Tit

Green-backed Tit

Black-lored Tit

Great Barbet

Red-throated Barbet

White-crested Laughing Thrush

Streaked Laughing Thrush

Red-billed Blue Magpie

Black-headed Jay

Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler

Speckled Piculet

Grey-hooded warbler

Kalij Pheasant

Grey-headed Woodpecker

Greater Yellownape

Lesser Yellownape

Red Junglefowl

Slaty-headed Parakeet

Himalayan Bulbul

Blue Whistling Thrush

White-browed Fulvetta

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker

Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch

Grey Treepie

Scarlet Minivet

White-browed Fantail

Blue winged Minla

The drive from Saatal to Binsar was again a long one. The roads were mostly reasonable but involved a lot of hair-pin bends and sheer drops. Not the best of journeys for a nervous disposition! We arrived mid-afternoon at the KMVN Tourist Rest House. This was a nice place, where the rooms were much warmer as they were lined with wood and wooden floors. Lighting was by candle as there was no electricity and again no running hot water. Large buckets of hot water were delivered to the room in the morning for showers. There was a viewing terrace for the sunrise with unobstructed views of the Himalayas including Nandi Devi, the Annapurnas and Fishtail Mountain. We birded around the lodge in the evening and morning before setting off to Ranikhet.

Birds Seen

Dark-sided Thrush

Himalayan Woodpecker

Blue-capped Redstart

Eurasian Jay

Hill Pigeon

Black-throated Thrush

Rufous-naped Tit

White-tailed Nuthatch

Black-naped Tit  

Brown-fronted Woodpecker

Mountain Bulbul

Upland Pipit

On the road up to Binsar inside the National Park there is a temple (Binsewar Temple) with a field in front and a muddy area to the side. This had Spotted Forktail, Blue Whistling Thrush and Plain-backed Thrush.

3rd February Ranikhet:

On the drive to Ranikhet we again had good views of the Himalayas although the cloud cover comes over early in the morning. We made several stops along the way to view overhead raptors and one of these proved to be a Golden Eagle. Ranikhet itself is an army town with several barracks. We stayed at West View Hotel, an old colonial style hotel with very large rooms. A little faded in its glory but warm and comfortable with electricity AND hot water! The area looked good birding habitat but we saw very little apart from Asian Barred Owlet and Himalayan Griffon.

4th – 5th February. Tiger Camp. Corbett’s National Park:

The journey to Corbett’s took about half a day and we arrived at Tiger Camp in time for lunch. This is a very comfortable lodge with two roomed bungalows. 
The food at this place is buffet style but plentiful and delicious! On our arrival the resident ornithologist/organiser had his scope set up on a pair of Collared Scops Owls close to the restaurant. After lunch we drove back along the Ranikhet road for a few kilometres. We stopped by a bridge over an almost dry river bed. Walking up the river bed we were looking for Slaty-backed Forktail but were unlucky. We did see Small Niltava, Rufous-bellied Niltava and Crested Kingfisher. 

The resident “organiser” arranged our visit next day to the Corbett’s reserve with the permits, guide (obligatory), jeep included. Total cost was approx 4500 rupees for 5 people (included Raju our bird guide). Also 1500 rupees for an elephant ride. The elephant ride was just that – a 2 hour trek through the forest with little chance of seeing anything! 
The reserve guides are geared up to finding a tiger (we failed although there was plenty of evidence of tiger activity) and to get them to stop for birds is quite difficult.
We went to Bijrani Camp and saw most of the birds around this area. While we ate our packed lunch here we also saw a Jackal. Biggest failure here was not seeing Slaty Woodpecker.


Best Birds Seen

Lesser Fish Eagle

Crested Serpent Eagle

Changeable Hawk Eagle

Small Niltava

Black Redstart

Black Stork

White-browed Wagtail

Grey-sided Bush Warbler

Oriental White-eye

White-backed Vultures

Grey-breasted Prinia

Yellow-bellied Prinia

Red-breasted Parakeet

Grey Bushchat

Pied Bushchat

Rufous Woodpecker

Great Hornbill

Pied Hornbill

Lineated Barbet

 

6th – 8th February Nainital
On the way from Corbett’s we passed through Ramnagar. We crossed the Kosi River at the barrage and parked by the road. We walked along the almost dry river bed. No Ibisbill seen and there have been no reports of any here for some time!

Birds seen. Egyptian Vulture. Hair-crested Drongo. Pied Bushchat. Indian Robin. Pied Kingfisher, Lesser Whitethroat.

From Ramnagar we stopped after 4kms at a very wide river bed, just past the village of Chhoi. Here we saw Ashy-crowned Sparrowlark, Common Kingfisher and Plain Martin.

We came to a place called Corbett’s Falls and paid a small entry fee. The drive down inside the entrance was through a forested area to a car park. It’s a very scenic spot with some birds. Black Bulbul, Crested Bulbul. Tits and Warblers

Another long drive along winding mountain roads to Nainital. We stayed at Claridges Naini Retreat which was almost luxurious compared to Saatal and even gave us hot water bottles! A stop at a ravine by a sign for Nainital Zoo and Hotel Aroma was very productive. Spotted Forktail, Rufous Sibia, Bar-tailed Treecreeper. White-capped Water Redstart, Plumbeous Redstart, Brown-fronted Woodpecker, Pink-browed Rosefinch, ,Rufous-naped Tit and a little further on by a sign for Himalayan Botanical Gardens, and some rather curious statues of Hindu Gods, we had wonderful close views of a Lammergeier.

A trip to Pangot from Nainital took about 45 minutes. Unfortunately by the time we were on the road the mist had rolled in and we didn’t get to see the mountain views. This happened each day and you really need to be at the viewpoints for sunrise or you wont see anything. After Pangot the metalled road turned into a dirt track to the village of Gugukan. Here, near the school, we saw a party of 20 White-throated Laughing Thrushes. 

Other birds seemed scarce (no accentors) and we returned to Pangot and had lunch at the Jungle Lore Lodge (a good birding base with guides).
In the garden we saw Black-headed Jays, Streaked Laughing Thrushes, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Stonechat, Green-tailed Sunbird, Red-rumped Swallow and Grey-backed Shrike Taking the road downhill to Bagar. We passed over a stream said to be good for Slaty Forktail but there were a lot of workmen shifting boulders so no forktails at all. The trees had a lot of Phylloscopus warblers but we could only identify Blyth’s Leaf Warbler and Lemon Rumped Warbler.

9th – 10th February Delhi:

We left Nainital to head back to Delhi and on leaving the town we noticed a large number of raptors on what looked like a rubbish tip on the left of the road. 
Most of these proved to be Steppe Eagles, probably 30+ .Once again the road was terrifying with lots of hair pin bends. Thank goodness for a steady driver!! 
We heard on our return to Delhi that the Nainital – Delhi bus had gone off the road and down into the ravine the same day. 

The road crosses several rivers and stops can be made at these. A walk along one wide river (name unknown) produced Wire-tailed Swallow, Ashy Prinia, Hoopoe, Greenshank, Redshank, Snipe, Ruff, Indian Cormorant and Black-winged Stilt. Black-tailed Godwit, River Lapwing. Spotted Dove, White-throated Kingfisher.
.
We spent most of the day on the 10th on a city tour taking in the sights of the temples and mosques and the Red Fort and Gandhi’s Cremation site. In the afternoon we went to Tughlaqabad.

The fort here covers 6 km2 and was very interesting and would have been well worth a longer visit! We went in through the main entrance at a cost of 100 rupees and birded the scrub inside the walls. Birds Seen

Common Babbler

Long-billed Pipit

White-throated Munia

Bluethroat

Brown Rock Chat

Crag Martin

Purple Sunbird

Laughing Dove

Mammals seen on the trip.

Black-faced Langur Monkey

Rhesus Macaque

(Wild) Elephant

Wild Boar

Jackal

Yellow-throated Marten

Barking Deer

Sambur

Spotted Deer

Many Tiger footprints seen in Corbett’s

Conclusion:

A good trip with a total of 202 birds (60 lifers). Some of the raptors were very difficult to identify as were the Phylloscopus warblers. 
Disappointments included missing Accentors, Great Slaty Woodpecker and Ibisbill. We didn’t see any “green” pigeons throughout the trip.

Don’t forget your warm clothing!!!

References:


We got some information from a website
www.delhibird.org but I have been unable to access this since our return.

Northern India Trip Report by Gruff Dodd (found on the BirdTours website) This was very useful!

Birds of Northern India by Grimmett and Inskipp 

Complete Trip List

Little Grebe

Little Cormorant

Grey Heron

Purple Heron

Great Egret

Intermediate Egret

Little Egret

Indian Pond heron

Cattle Egret

Painted Stork

Black Stork

Greylag Goose

Ruddy Shelduck

Mallard

Spot-billed Duck

Black-shouldered Kite

Black Kite

Lesser Fish Eagle

Lammergeier

Egyptian Vulture

White-rumped Vulture

Himalayan Griffon

Cinereous Vulture

Red-headed Vulture

Crested Serpent-eagle

Shikra

Steppe Eagle

Golden Eagle

Booted Eagle

Changeable Hawk- eagle

Mountain Hawk-eagle

Eurasian Kestrel

Black Francoling

Red Junglefowl

Kalij Pheasant

Indian Peafowl

White- breasted Waterhen

Indian Swamphen

Common Moorhen

Common Coot

Bronze-winged Jacana

Black-winged Stilt

River Lapwing

Red-wattled Lapwing

Pin-tailed Snipe

Black-tailed Godwit

Common Redshank

Common Greenshank

Green Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

Ruff

Brown-headed Gull

Gull-billed Tern

Rock Dove

Hill Pigeon

Spotted Dove

Laughing Dove

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Slaty-headed Parakeet

Red-breasted Parakeet

Greater Coucal

Collared Scops Owl

Spot-bellied Eagle Owl

Asian Barred Owlet

Himalayan Swiftlet

Crested Treeswift

Common Kingfisher

White-throated Kingfisher

Crested Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

Green Bee-eater

Eurasian Hoopoe

Indian Grey Hornbill

Oriental Pied Hornbill

Great Hornbill

Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark

Lineated Barbet

Blue-throated Barbet

Speckled Piculet

Brown-fronted Woodpecker

Himalayan Woodpecker

Rufous Woodpecker

Lesser Yellownape

Greater Yellownape

Plain Martin

Greater Flameback

Great Barbet

Grey-headed Woodpecker 

Dusky Crag-martin

Eurasian Swallow

Wire-tailed Swallow

Red-rumped Swallow

Asian Martin

White Wagtail

White-browed Wagtail

Citrine Wagtail

Grey Wagtail

Oriental Pipit

Long-billed Pipit

Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush

Olive-backed Pipit

Upland Pipit

Scarlet Minivet

Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike

Black-crested Bulbul

White-cheeked Bulbul

Red-vented Bulbul

Mountain Bulbul

Black Bulbul

Brown Dipper

Tree Pipit 

Blue Rock Thrush

Blue Whistling Thrush

Plain-backed Thrush

White’s Thrush

Dark-sided Thrush

Grey-winged Blackbird

Black-throated Thrush

Striated Prinia

Grey-breasted prinia

Yellow-bellied Prinia

Ashy Prinia

Plain Prinia

Grey-sided Bush-warbler

Common Tailorbird

Siberian Chiffchaff

Pale-rumped Warbler

Greenish Warbler

Blyth’s Leaf-warbler

Grey-hooded Warbler

Lesser Whitethroat

Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher

Verditer Flycatcher

Small Niltava

Rufous-bellied Niltava

White-tailed Rubythroat

Bluethroat

Red-flanked Bluetail

Oriental Magpie-robin

White-throated Shrike-babbler

Blue-capped Redstart

Black Redstart

White-capped Redstart

Plumbeous Water Redstart

Spotted Forktail

Siberian Stonechat

Pied Bushchat

Grey Bushchat

India Chat

White-browed Fantail

Bank Myna

White-crested Laughingthrush

Streaked Laughingthrush

Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler

Black-chinned Babbler

Common Babbler

Jungle Babbler

Red-billed Leothrix

India Robin

Blue-winged Minla

White-browed Fulvetta

Rufous Sibia

Black-throated Tit

Black-breasted Tit

Great Tit

Green-backed Tit

Black-lored Tit

Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch

White-tailed Nuthatch

Eurasian Treecreeper

Bar-tailed Treecreeper

Purple Sunbird

Gould’s Sunbird

Green-tailed Sunbird

Pink-browed Rosefinch

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker

Oriental White-eye

Black-hooded Oriole

Long-tailed Shrike

Grey-backed Shrike

Black Drongo

Ashy Drongo

Hair-crested Drongo

Eurasian Jay

Black-headed Jay

Blue Magpie

Rufous Treepie

Grey Treepie

House Crow

Large-billed Crow

Jungle Myna

White-throated Laughingthrush

Common Myna

Asian Pied Starling

European Starling

House Sparrow

Russet Sparrow

Nutmeg Manikin

Black-headed Munia

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