Sunday, August 02, 2009

India March 2009

 

North India, March 2009 

Pangot/Sattal; Keoladeo/Bharatpur; Bandhavgar;Chambal River; Sultanpur

Martin & Julie Eccles, Colin Bradshaw, Celia Bryce

 

 

Itinerary

The itinerarywas arranged with Jo Thomas of Wild About India (www.wildaboutindia.com ) working with Asian Adventures (www.indianwildlife.com ).  They provided a superb, flexible service at a very competitive price. Wild about India comes highly recommended and we would use them again. 

Friday 6thMarch

Flew BritishAirways from Newcastle to Delhi via Heathrow arriving at 05.30 local time and weremet by Asian Adventures and our first driver, PK. We drove northeast from Delhito Pangot arriving at Jungle Lore Birding Lodge (http://www.pangot.com/, 6000 ft) after a drive of about 9 hours. We spent the remainder of the day birding around theLodge with Hari, our Nepali guide.

Saturday 7thMarch

Breakfast at 06.30 and then birded along the Kilbury Road to the Cheer Pheasant overlook. Back to Jungle Lore Birding Lodge for lunch then birding the Timla valley in the afternoon.

Sunday 8thMarch

Breakfast at 06.30 and once again along the Kilbury Road this time about three kilometers beyond the Cheer Pheasant overlook and then birded back to Jungle Lore Birding Lodge. After lunch Colin and Celia went to photograph Steppe Eagles at Nanital dump, Julie walked around Pangot (seeing the trip’s only Spotted Forktail in the process) and I spent the time drawing around the camp. A last minute change of plan saw us spend the night in a tented camp at Sattal (http://www.sattalbirdinglodge.com/,4400 ft) – leaving at 18.00 we arrived about two and a half hours later.

Monday 9thMarch

A 06.30 start we walked up the road from the camp then along a deep gully and into an area ofscrub to look for Siberian Rubythroat. We were picked up by PK and drove to two river sites looking for Forktails the latter site near the Kainchi temple. In the afternoon we went to the Sattal lakes and completed the day walking up from the camp to look for Great Barbet. We then drove in the dark to Kathgodam to catch the train to Delhi – first class sleeper we had a carriage of four bunks to ourselves.

Tuesday 10thMarch

Arriving about half an hour late into Old Delhi train station, we obeyed instructions and waited by the carriage until it became apparent that no-one was turning up. A series of phone calls to Mohit produced a porter with an Asian Adventures card and the explanation that, as it was the eve of the Holi festival our driver couldn’t get past the enhanced security for the platforms. We finally drove to Bharatpurand to our hotel (Forest Lodge http://www.theashokgroup.com/hotels/bharatpur.html) in Keolado National Park. We were met by Randhir our guide and he, Colin and I birded in the nursery before lunch. In the afternoon we all walked along Ram bund towards Mrig Tal.

Wednesday11th March

The whole day was spent walking the various paths. We took cycle rickshaws to Jatoli cross-roads and from there walked to Keoladeo Temple for lunch then took the track between Mansarovar and Kadam Kunj Jheels in the afternoon. The rickshaws took us back to the hotel.

Thursday 12thMarch

Colin went outearly to the Sunbird fields looking for Indian Cousers and I took a late breakfast with Julie and Celia before going back to the nursery to draw. After lunch at the Sunbird Hotel we caught the overnight train from Agra to Umaria. This time we were in sleeper AC-2 and had sequential longitudinal pairs ofbunks along the passageway. With urns of Chai, soup and various foods being served up and down the passageway; a choice of type of toilet and the uncertainty about how we would know where to get off (the guard camespecifically to tell us) made the 14 hour long trip very exciting.

Friday 13thMarch

We left the train at 05.30 and were driven to the Nature Heritage Resort in Tala (http://www.nivalink.com/natureheritage/index.html). After dropping our bags and having a biscuit and a cup of tea a driver (Pappu) took us into Bandhavgarh National Park (open 06.15 to 11.15 and 16.00 to18.15). Within 20 minutes we were on the back of an elephant and looking at our first (female) tiger. Back to the Resort for lunch, then an early afternoon rest before returning for the afternoon drive – this time we saw one of the males (B2) as he walked for about a kilometer through long grass and forest edge.

Saturday 14thMarch

Two more drives in the park. In the morning Julie and Celia got to track another male (New Male) for about two kilometers from the back of one of the elephants. In the afternoon we went to visit the statue of Vishnu reclining and then got excellent views of a different female Bengal Tiger stalking through cut grass.

Sunday 15thMarch

Two more drives in the park. We had one brief but close sighting of a female tiger in long roadside grass before going up to fort and temple where good views of Vultures and Malabar Pied Hornbill were the highlights. On the afternoon drive we focused more on birds and eventually got brief views of Painted Spurfowl and saw a female tiger lying asleep in a riverside cave completely oblivious to the traffic chaos she had caused.

Monday 16thMarch

Two more drives in the park but today we didn’t try for tiger but concentrated on some of the scarcer birds (Painted Spurfowl). We visited an elephant camp and fed the two year old baby “elephant chapattis” – a foot in diameter and each weighing one kilogram. We then caught the night train from Umaria to Agra. It was three and a half hours late – as we waited a group of trainee policemen came and engaged us in conversation. We found our bunks (sleeper AC-2 again) and this time we had a small curtained-off section of four bunks together.

Tuesday 17thMarch

Most of the morning was spent on the train though it did make up two hours. From the station we drove to the Taj Mahal and then Chambal Safari Lodge (http://www.chambalsafari.com/). Arriving at about 16.30 we spent an hour or two birding around the Lodge.

Wednesday18th March

A morning drive to the Chambal River for our river trip. We birded in the ravines and river bank along the way and set off at about 07.45.  The Chambal River is not sacred - not used for burials andso is clean – a 450 mile stretch is a nature reserve and it is home to Gharial, Marsh Mugger and Ganges Dolphin – we saw all three. After an afternoon siesta we birded around the lodge.

Thursday 19thMarch

Early morning birding around the Lodge then back to Delhi. To avoid going into the Delhi traffic we headed to Sultanpur Nature Reserve on the southern outskirts of Delhi. It had two big advantages – it is close to Delhi Airport and it also had breeding Indian Courser and wintering Sind Sparrow [which we dipped]. We then stayed at the Star Hotel (about 2 kilometers from the airport) before the flight home.

Friday 20thMarch

Up at 04.15 for the trip to the airport. After we had managed to persuade the security guards to let us into Departures we were delighted to find that we had been upgraded to Business Class. All the flights were on time and we arrived home atabout 14.30.

The full systematic list for the trip is available at  http://www.surfbirds.com/trip_report.php?id=1629

   

 



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