TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT



India: Bharatpur & Tigers

February 12th ~ 22nd 2005



BUSTARDS & CRANES Extension

February 22nd ~ 26th 2005




Leaders:
Steve Madge

Jamie McMillan





Trip Diary



13th February DELHI

We awoke to a foggy dawn after about four hours sleep, breakfasted to the accompaniment of Dusky Crag Martins, then set off en route at about 9.00 am. We were soon stuck in the Sunday traffic in Delhi, and to be plunged straight into the tumult and chaos of Delhi streets was something of a culture shock. It took us rather longer than we had expected to get to our ‘comfort stop’, but here we saw our first White-backed Vulture and a Booted Eagle.



On towards Bharatpur more marshy fields and pools had a good selection of glimpsed wetland birds, although some roadside Painted Storks and Sarus Cranes were easier to see. We arrived at the Bagh, a stunning set of pavilions and bungalows set amongst ornamental orchards and lawns, and our accommodation for the next five nights, in the early afternoon. We dined in one of the pavilions and set off for the main event: the Keoladeo Reserve. Our local guide Ansar took us straight to a Python’s lair but there was no sign of the eleven-foot reptile. On the way back a ‘sweep’ing call caught our attention and Steve soon identified a Brook’s Leaf Warbler. Grey Francolins scuttled about on the ground as we tried to get better views of this rare sprite which breeds in the far north of Pakistan. We drove to the park gates and took the few hundred yards walk to the nursery. Here we were enthralled by an unending variety of birds, starting with a superb male Eastern Black Redstart by the gate, and continuing with a Spotted Owlet showing well on a dead tree a few yards on, a superb little Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, and a group of Short-nosed Fruit-bats roosting under a palm leaf, a new mammal for Steve.

As dusk crept on we continued to see new birds including a stunning Coppersmith Barbet on a treetop. We walked back into an orange sunset hearing Dusky Eagle Owl call in the distance, giving us a taste of the promise in stall for tomorrow.



14th February KEOLADEO RESERVE

We were out as the sun rose at the gates, where we met Ansar again and walked into the reserve. He immediately took us to a small Acacia where a pair of Collared Scops Owls were peering out side by side from their tiny nest hole, a perfect start to Valentines Day!

As the sun strengthened the birds got more active and we were soon into smart Bay-backed Shrikes, Common Woodshrikes, Pied Bushchats and other dry scrub birds. After another excellent view of Spotted Owlet with a chick, Ansar took us to a Dusky Eagle Owl nest where again we saw an adult and young. Then if was off across the dried out lagoon beds to a parched area of brown grass where Indian Coursers were dashing about, together with Yellow- wattled Lapwings. Further on we saw four Sociable Lapwings (now highly endangered) and a superb Grey-headed Lapwing from China. Then it was back to the pools for the first taste of waterbirds including lovely Spot-billed Ducks and Black Ibis, and we walked slowly along the shady bund towards the temple looking at waders, waterfowl and butterflies.



A picnic spread brought from the Bagh was awaiting us at the temple for a relaxing lunch during the heat of the day. We set off again looking at the remnant of one of the famous lagoons now reduced to a series of small pools but this nonetheless held masses of waterfowl including flocks of cranes, spoonbills and geese, and an excellent variety of waders and herons including a superb close Black Bittern in some waterside trees. We then boarded the electric bus to take us to the far side of the reserve. Here away from the main tourist area we had excellent close views of Sarus Crane and a Golden Jackal, and more views of Nilgai Antelope and both Sambar and Chital Deer. Driving out into the drier country gave us brief views of Pallid Harrier but sadly the electric bus broke down on the way back, leaving us a walk of about a mile across the grassy dried-up lagoon bed back to the temple area. Here we rested and waited for a fleet of rickshaws to take us back, Steve and Jamie passing the time by giving an interview to Indian News TV about the lack of water in the reserve. We heard from the head warden of the reserve that our contribution was most welcome when it went out on TV the next day! Eventually some rickshaws turned up but the rest of the group waiting in the gathering dusk watching huge bats emerge from a tree hole until eventually the electric bus turned up again, this time being towed by a tractor.What a day – fantastic numbers and a wonderful variety of birds…an adventure at the end… and this wasn’t even Bharatpur at its best!



15th February
BUND BARETHA

We headed south towards the dam of Bund Baretha and bumped and squeezed our way through a string of villages getting a flavour of the “cowpat economy” of the area. We stopped at a shrine with nearby ponds giving views of the usual waterfowl, a calling Hoopoe above us and a superb Wire-tailed Swallow perched in the full sunshine. We continued on to a village area near the dam where, in a small public garden, we saw a host of fruit bats: the huge Indian Flying Foxes were chattering from the treetops. The shade held a good assemblage of passerines including Sulphur-bellied Warbler and Paradise Flycatcher. Just up the road the dam itself was a splendid vantage point for seeing the myriads of wildfowl on the lake. Especially impressive were the numbers of Red-crested Pochard, but we also saw Ferruginous Duck and a host of others, while River Terns and Whiskered Terns flew past. On the opposite shore were Open-billed Storks and a few Cotton Pygmy Geese. Despite some fairly intensive interest from the local Indian school children (distracted neatly by Felicity who read to them) we enjoyed a bird-rich couple of hours slowly walking along and getting better views of many of the duck. Then it was time for lunch and we headed up a bumpy track to an old palace (or hunting lodge) up the hill. Here we learned that the Maharajah had been shooting tigers (up to three per day) back in the 50’s, but it fell into disuse over 30 years ago. We can honestly say we had lunch in palatial surroundings here, and it was a superb vantage point over the vast flooded wetland dotted with islands and packed with birds.



After lunch we walked slowly down the hill getting much better views of the Indian Skimmers we had seen distantly earlier, and then Chestnut-breasted Buntings on the scrubby slope together with some delightful Thorn Bugs on an Acacia. Then it was on to the small town of Bayana for a vulture stop. Here on the outskirts are towering cliffs, where 25 or so pairs of Indian Vultures just about survive, but here the population had halved in one year. We watched them soaring about the cliffs as buses laden with passengers both inside and on the roof travelled past with horns blaring. We watched Little Bee-eaters, Plum-headed Parakeets and a splendid Sirkeer Malkhoa at the base of the cliffs. We came back to the Bagh in daylight and after an early supper Bolu Khan, the head warden of the reserve (and Ansar’s dad) gave us a splendid talk about the birds of the reserve.



16th February AGRA AND THE TAJ MAHAL

We set off at 7.15 and arrived at the Taj just after 9. After the obligatory photo with that amazing backdrop, we were shown the intricate stone carvings and inlaid precious stones on the fabulous edifice by our local archaeological guide. It was surprisingly uncrowded as we arrived, and several of the group voted their first view of the Taj in the soft morning light as their best moment of the trip. Then we were free to go ‘birding’ (what else?) on the river round the back where we saw River Lapwing and flocks of waders including Marsh Sandpiper and Little Stint while a Peregrine flew about the Taj and its minarets over our heads. We continued onto the Red Fort with lunch at the Hilton, followed by a fascinating look at a marble shop where the umpteenth generation of marble inlayers who work on the Taj were hard at work making table tops and small jewel boxes, some of which were snapped up by the group. We then headed on to the atmospheric ruins of the ancient Mogul capital Fatephur Sikri, only occupied for 14 years but whose vast ruins are hugely impressive. Here we had a superb view over the plains - and a man offered to jump into a stone water tank for 100 rupees! We headed back through the busy villages after a hugely satisfying sightseeing day.



17th February KEOLADEO RESERVE

Another day in the reserve started with a walk to the ‘nursery end’ where two Golden Jackal made an appearance. We continued past women in saris drawing water from a communal well. Along the trail through the forest we saw a stunning flock of Long-tailed Minivets. At a cross trail Ansar vanished, only to reappear and beckon us, and there on the ground amidst the dappled sunshine was a superb roosting Large-tailed Nightjar. We walked to within 10 yards or so, close enough to see the bristles around the bill in our scopes. We continued round to an open grassy area where we walked seeing Oriental Skylarks singing overhead and Indian Coursers running about. Back at the pools we watched more birds in a patch of mud which seemed to be moving. In fact it was moving - and it had a head! It was a huge Soft-shelled Turtle. We were to see several more of these grotesque creatures both in and out of the water as the day progressed. There were also terrapins, Black Ibis showing red napes, and an impressive Black-necked Stork with cattle alongside to show us how large it was.



We went back to the temple for lunch in rickshaws and while we waited Ansar whistled into a ditch, and out popped a male Siberian Rubythroat that showed itself to one member of the group before vanishing into cover for good. Some went back to the delightful gardens of the Bagh for a relaxing afternoon while the rest opted for more time amid the teeming bird populations in the reserve. Highlights included perched Steppe Eagles (close enough to see the diagnostic oval nostrils!) Avocets, Striated Herons, Black-bellied Terns and an Indian tick for Steve, Jack Snipe feeding on the marsh. On the way back a male Red-spotted Bluethroat scuttled across the track. From the temple we caught rickshaws back to the entrance stopping for a perched Crested Serpent Eagle and went for a final walk near the park headquarters where Yellow-footed Green Pigeons and Coppersmith Barbets in the evening sunshine ended a superb day.



18th February TO RANTHAMBHOR

A foggy start at the Bagh with a late breakfast and a chance to add something to the garden list, but it was hard to see any birds in these conditions. Off at 9.30 for Bharatpur Junction where Ansar made sure we got to the right platform and Steve and Jamie took the opportunity to have a shoeshine and a shoe-mend for Steve, who also got his suitcase mended – and all for just over a quid! Then on to the train for the smooth ride down to Sawai Madhopur where open top trucks or canters were ready to take us to the lodge. After a second lunch we were ready to go out on an afternoon game drive in three jeeps. The first bird was a superb male Red-breasted Flycatcher with Fantails and Grey Tits accompanying it, while pools had the usual wetland birds, but also several large Mugger Crocodiles. It was also good to see Peafowl in their proper habitat for the first time.



At the shore of the main lake a Wild Boar rolled in the mud while Sambar, always nervous about Crocodiles and Tigers, fed in the deeper water. We heard a Brown Fish Owl and went to investigate, successfully seeing a pair and juvenile near a nest site, and a Tickell’s Blue-flycatcher in nearby trees. We cruised round the main lake with the classic view of the ruined hunting lodge superb in the evening light. Further on we had great views of Indian Gazelle before taking a long drive down the bumpy roads beyond the fort. Here we saw Painted Spurfowl running across the road and many Bulbuls before emerging from the park. The other jeeps had done well for Woodpeckers but sadly no tigers this evening. We ended the day with a ‘Flok Dance’ (as shown on the hotel noticeboard), during which several members made fools of themselves, in complete contrast to the elegant Indian dancing of the two local children (and the puppets).



19th February RANTHAMBHOR

A pre-dawn start gave us Indian Hare running away from the headlights, then a mass of parakeets feeding the at the fort gates including Plum-headed Parakeet and Spotted Dove giving superb views. It was a really cold morning, and we needed full winter gear with hats and gloves in the open top canter as it sped along into the park. Just inside the gates we saw both White rumped and Yellow-crowned Woodpeckers in the same tree, and headed for the main lake as dawn broke. Here new birds kept appearing and included Gull-billed Tern, a showy Alexandrine Parakeet, subtle Long-billed Pipits and splendid views of Ashy crowned Sparrow-Lark. As the sun rose two Oriental Honey Buzzards soared in front of the fort and then two Black Storks went swiftly overhead followed by a Bonelli’s Eagle. A feeding frenzy of birds on a termite nest kept us enthralled, with woodshrikes, drongos, Grey Francolins and others joining the fray. As we headed back to the entrance we found the gates shut. We eventually managed to find someone to open them. It was just as well we did, as down by the park entrance several vehicles were scattered across the road full of excited people pointing up at the cliffs: a Leopard had been sighted. We jockeyed for position and eventually saw the Leopard moving along the rock face in and out of the trees. It calmly stood on a promontory and looked down at us, eventually lying down to face its admiring crowd. It was hard to decide what was more entertaining: the Leopard, or the chaos of vehicles and excited people around the gates all struggling to see it. We got back for a late breakfast, after which some went birdwatching in the lodge grounds seeing Common Iora, a superb male Verditer Flycatcher and three White Pelicans flying over. A walk to a nearby water hole also gave us several waders as well as Crag Martins and displaying Black-shouldered Kites.



The afternoon drive was less productive but nonetheless gave us a White-eyed Buzzard, a rare Grey Bushchat, Yellow-eyed Babblers and two Ruddy Mongoose. Best was a group of four Jungle Bush-quail skulking in the grass just beside the vehicle, eventually seen by all as they scuttled out of cover. We got back to celebrate Joan’s birthday at supper with a heart-shaped cake.



20th February RANTHAMBHOR

Back on the canter before dawn, we headed into the park on a cold clear morning. Just inside the gate fresh Tiger pug marks and a drag mark from a fresh kill gave us hope. Several pipits were new with both Tree and Olive-backed Pipits about, together with White-capped Bunting. Small Minivets were nice but two male Crested Buntings were even better. Back at the pool a Painted Snipe dropped in giving good scope views – still no Tigers though. After breakfast it was still cool despite the bright sun. We went for a walk round the fields with Steve finding both Rufous-tailed and Indian Bush Larks and a fine Southern Grey Shrike. Back at the edge of the camp a small flock of Common Rosefinches included three pink males which we could see nicely from inside the camp grounds.



This afternoon we tried the eastern circuit, quiet at first except for a ‘crucial’ prinia stop. It was Jungle Prinia this time. Then (almost as good as the Prinias!) Pauline found a superb Leopard sprawled on a rock outcrop just above us, an unbelievable second chance to see this extremely shy creature – voted ‘mammal of the trip’ by most of us. Our route took us along the watercourse with several pools, then out into the grass savanna with splendid views across the huge forested ridges of this 400 sq km park. Our guides found fresh pug marks and we saw a flock of Jungle Bush-quail before another vehicle told us of a Tiger sighting back at the fort gates. We were off like a rocket, bumping along the rocky tracks and slaloming through the trees. Despite the race back, we waited in vain for the tigress to reappear, acutely aware that it was to be our last chance tomorrow. We ended the day with a dusk walk to the water hole near the camp where as well as more Bush-quail, around 100 Painted Sandgrouse came into drink. We also heard Indian Nightjar and saw Savanna Nightjar in flight.



21st February RANTHAMBHOR

It was time for one last drive into the reserve and the last chance for Tiger. Near the entrance we saw lots of pug marks, and later along the track below the fort to the east we had great excitement following tiger tracks and working out which way they had gone, but also huge disappointment when we saw a vehicle coming the other way following the same set of tracks! So six tries and no Tiger: a very disappointing result. But you did have to be extremely lucky to see a tiger this year after a year of severe poaching pressure on the reserve, and with two of the females hiding with their cubs. After a final breakfast we said farewell to Tiger Moon Lodge and left just before noon for the four-hour drive to Jaipur. All seemed well as we had our packed lunches, with a comfort stop proving excellent for waders at a roadside pool, but as we neared Jaipur the agents phoned us to say that our six pm flight had been delayed till late in the evening. At the airport the agent met us with even more doubtful news: the plane might not even arrive till late evening! So we swiftly made the choice to do the long drive to Jodhpur. A stop at a Jain restaurant, despite looking unpromising, gave us a good simple meal (with the best poppodoms of the trip!) and we arrived at Jodhpur just before midnight for a short sleep in readiness for tomorrow’s early start.



22nd February KHICHAN – JAISALMER

On the road again before dawn in a new coach and it was really cold in the desert as we sped past surprising numbers of Indian Gazelles and a few Nilgai. We warmed up as the sun rose however and got to Khichan just after 8.00 am. At the village the cranes had moved their feeding ground, but we soon caught up with them and enjoyed the incredible spectacle of thousands of Demoiselle Cranes feeding on urban waste ground, paying little attention to us or the villagers as we approached. We headed on to our coffee stop at Midway, where we had our first good look at Variable Wheatear. We continued through an increasingly dry landscape before the impressive fortress city of Jaisalmer appeared looming out over the desert plains in front of us.



A welcome lunch and rest followed whilst Steve and Jamie went to get the essential Desert National Park permits. They came back with exciting news of a camel festival to be held that afternoon! And so in the bright late afternoon sunshine we assembled at what appeared to be the local football ground, for a mass parade of Indian Army camels and drivers (both in full regalia) galloping about in formation to the superb backdrop of the fortress high on the hill behind. Thousands of locals seemed if anything more entertained than us by this spectacle especially of the drivers going past doing headstands on the camels: a memorable introduction to the desert culture of Rajasthan.



23rd February JAISALMER

A day in the Thar Desert with Mahendra Singh, our local guide. We were off to a good start with a stop at a water hole, where about 40 Black-bellied Sandgrouse were flying in to drink. Just before Saim we stopped again for a fantastic flock of 14 Cream-coloured Coursers in a field by the roadside. Then we went in past the checkpoint proudly showing off our hard-won permits, and we thought we had better have a bush stop before entering the Desert National Park proper. While the ladies headed for the somewhat distant bush, the gentlemen lined up behind the coach, not realising that four Great Indian Bustards were watching them from the other side of the road! It was Rob who alerted us as we scurried back into the bus for our scopes, getting superb views of these stately birds in good light. But where had the girls got to? As they returned the bustards decided to fly, showing distinct gender discrimination! As we got to the park itself we left the coach and ordered up a camel cart (as one does) to follow us with our water and back-packs. Mahendra also found a park guide for us. Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse were flying about the park centre, and we had excellent flight views. A Tawny Eagle on the thatched roof of one of the huts stayed perched almost until we reached the hut itself, while a Black Vulture joined the Indian Long-billed Vultures in the air. There was one special bird we were after amongst the Acacia bushes and dry grass of the reserve, and to look for it our guide took us in a wide loop walk with camel in tow. A Stonechat made us look rather carefully, but when the guide found a proper male Stoliczka’s Bushchat there was no doubt at all. We watched this smart hyper-rare chat feeding, running on the ground, perching on bushes and giving a strange chest waggling display on the ground at one point, demonstrated to the group later by Jamie to the vast amusement of the camel driver.



We went back to the centre in triumph as the guide found a key for one of the mud huts, which proved a surprisingly comfortable and cool lunch venue – and even had tables and chairs! After lunch we sat out the heat of the day in the huts watching Desert Foxes trotting past, Desert Jirds scuttling between their holes, and a pair of Laggar Falcons soaring overhead. Steve found a fine male Black-crowned Finch-lark near the huts for us to see. Meanwhile Mahendra had sent the camel driver on a recce and he directed us back in the coach to a spot about 1km down the road, just outside the specially-fenced bustard area. Here we soon found another four (or perhaps the same four) Great Indian Bustards, giving extremely good views on both sides of the coach. We headed back into town stopping for Red-headed and White-backed Vultures on a dead goat carcass and driving against the mass of traffic heading out into the desert for the grand finale of the camel festival.



24th February JAISALMER

A later start for a visit to the Fossil Forest just outside town, an area of scattered bushes and dry rocky low hills. A group of warblers just inside the gate contained both Brook’s and Plain Leaf Warblers, the latter a scarce migrant from Afghanistan. The walk produced little apart from Desert Larks, but then Steve and Don flushed an Eagle Owl from near the fossil trees. We went around the other side of the hill and soon found the Rock Eagle Owl, again in an eminently scopable position on a rock face, where it stayed for at least an hour until we left. After lunch we joined Mahendra for a visit to the ancient fortress city of Jaisalmer. Despite all the hype in the guidebooks nothing could really prepare us for this fantastic extravaganza of elaborate stone-carved decorated temples, palaces and even ordinary houses piled one on top of another. It was a superb afternoon to look round, with golden sunshine lighting up the golden sandstone. We visited one of the local emporia for a frenzy of pashmina- and bedspread- buying, the shop itself in one of the oldest and most fascinating houses. Then Mahendra took us round the town outside the fort where some of the best decorated ‘hevelis’ or ordinary houses can be found, Joan getting a ride back to the coach in a ‘toc-toc’.



At dinner we voted on our trip highlights, the winner of Bird of the Trip being the Demoiselle Cranes at Khichan, with other votes for Peacock, Large-tailed Nightjar, Stoliczka’s Bushchat, Great Indian Bustard, Rufous Treepie, Steppe Eagle, Indian Roller, Spotted Owlet, Laggar and Siberian Rubythroat. Our ‘other animal’ of the trip was the expected Leopard found by Pauline with other votes going to Soft-shelled Turtle, Short-nosed Flying Fox, Langur Monkey, Desert Jird, Indian Gazelle… and the first Leopard. Moment of the trip was without a doubt the first sight of the Taj Mahal, with other votes going to the tiger tracking in Rathambhor, the entrance of the Army camels at Jaisalmer, Sandgrouse coming to drink, = the coursers and plovers at Bharatpur, and the visit to Jaisalmer City.



25th February

JAISALMER – JODHPUR – DELHI

A 5.30 am start, and little to report on the journey, until we neared Jodhpur at about 10.30 and stacks of vultures were soaring on the right. We headed down the road towards them over the local abattoir and were soon staring up at over 100 Eurasion Griffon Vultures, at least 10 Black Vultures and a surprise Himalayan Griffon Vulture with them together with lesser numbers of Egyptian Vultures and Steppe Eagles. The light was fantastic for viewing, and they soared close overhead at times: a splendid finale to the trip. We reached Jodhpur and said goodbye to Mahendra, and flew to Delhi, meeting our good friend Vinod from the local agents. Checking into our hotel day rooms late afternoon, we prepared ourselves for our early morning departure from the chaos of Delhi Airport.



Many thanks to our local agents for arranging a superb tour, to the local guides, especially Ansar and Mahendra, to the local drivers who all deserve medals for coping with Indian traffic, and to the group for your excellent company and good cheer.



Steve Madge

Jamie McMillan































SYSTEMATIC LIST



No of species on whole tour (including extension): 263 (7 of which heard only) No of species on main tour only: 237



(E) = Only seen on extension part of tour. (H) = Heard only.





Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

Widespread, although only one on tour extension: at Khichan waterhole on 22nd.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus

Some 10 scattered birds at Bund Baretha on 15th.

Black-necked Grebe (Eared Grebe) Podiceps nigricollis

2 singles in breeding plumage at Bund Baretha on 15th.

Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus

3 flew high over Tiger Moon at Ranthambhore on 19th.

Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscicollis

At least 3 with other cormorants at Bund Baretha on 15th.

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

Widespread, but not on the tour extension.

Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger

Widespread including some on the tour extension.

Darter Anhinga melanogaster

Widely recorded, but on main tour only.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

Widespread including some on the tour extension.

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea

Singles quite widely recorded, but on main tour only.

Great Egret Ardea alba

Widespread, but on main tour only.

Intermediate Egret (Yellow-billed Egret) Egretta intermedia

Widespread, but on main tour only.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

Widespread, but on main tour only.

Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii

Widespread, including some on the tour extension.

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis

Widespread, but on main tour only.

Striated Heron Butorides striatus

Two singles at Bharatpur, on 14th and 17th.

Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax

ca 40 at Bharatpur and 75 at Bund Baretha.

Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis

Excellent views of one near the temple at Bharatpur on a couple of days.

Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala

Just one on ground at Bharatpur, several others overhead. 30-40 on lakes at Ranthambhore made up for the shortfall.

Asian Open-billed Stork Anastomus oscitans

4 at Bund Baretha on 15th were the only ones.

Black Stork Ciconia nigra

Excellent flight views of at least 2 daily about Ranthambhore on 19th-21st.

Woolly necked Stork Ciconia episcopus

Ones and twos at both Bharatpur and Ranthambhore.

Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus

Magnificent birds, 2 of which were rather distant at Bharatpur on 14th-15th.

Black-headed (Oriental White) Ibis Threskiornis melanocephala

Small parties widely recorded.

Red-naped (Black) Ibis Pseudibis papillosa

Super views of up to 4 at Bharatpur during 14th-17th.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus

A couple of singles at Bharatpur on 14th and 17th.

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia

Widely recorded on main tour, with up to 200 at Bharatpur and 100 at Bund Baretha.

Lesser Whistling duck Dendrocygna javanica

Up to 60 at Bharatpur, plus up to 20 at Ranthambhore.

Greylag Goose Anser anser

150 or so at Bharatpur, plus 350 at Bund Baretha.

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus

70 or so at Bharatpur, plus 100 at Bund Baretha.



Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea

Widely recorded on main tour in small numbers.

Knob-billed Duck (Comb Duck) Sarkidiornis melanotos

3 at Bharatpur and 25 at Bund Baretha.

Cotton Pygmy-goose (Cotton Teal) Nettapus coromandelianus

25 at Bund Baretha on 15th and 6 at Ranthambhore on 18th-19th.

Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope

Widely recorded on main tour in small numbers.

Gadwall Anas strepera

Widely recorded on main tour in small numbers.

Common Teal Anas crecca

Widely recorded, including one at Khichan waterhole on 22nd.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

At least 30 at Bund Baretha on 15th.

Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha

Some 45 at Bharatpur and several other parties at roadside pools on main tour.

Northern Pintail Anas acuta

Widely recorded on main tour.

Garganey Anas querquedula

Up to 4 at Bharatpur and 6 at Bund Baretha.

Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata

Widely recorded on main tour.

Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina

Some 150 or more at Bund Baretha on 15th.

Common Pochard Aythya ferina

About 12 at Bund Baretha on 15th and ca 70 on a roadside lake near Jaipur on 21st.

Ferruginous Duck (White-eyed Pochard) Aythya nyroca

7 at Bund Baretha on 15th.

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula

About 15 at Bund Baretha on 15th and 2 on a roadside lake near Jaipur on 21st.

Oriental (Crested) Honey-buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus

A total of 5 singles; at Bharatpur (one) and Ranthambhore (4).

Black-shouldered Kite (Black-winged Kite) Elanus caeruleus

Some 30 scattered birds.

Black Kite Milvus migrans

Common in the Delhi-Agra area, but few at Bharatpur and none at Ranthambhore. Only the resident form M. m. govinda noted.

Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus

Locally frequent, max of 20 by the river behind the Taj Mahal and 30 at Jodhpur carcass dump.

White-rumped (Indian White-backed) Vulture Gyps bengalensis

Now severely endangered. Single adults at Midway (S of Delhi) on 13th, over Tiger Moon at Ranthambhore on 20th, near Khichan on 22nd and 5 adults by Desert National Park at Sudaseri on 23rd.

Indian Vulture (Slender-billed Vulture) Gyps indicus

Also endangered. 2 over Midway (S of Delhi) on 13th, 6+ at Bayana cliffs on 15th, up to 10 noted daily about Ranthambhore, 6 singles en route from Khichan to Jaisalmer and 12 over Desert National Park on 23rd. This species has recently been split into 2, with westerly cliff-nesting populations being known as Slender-billed or Indian Vulture, whilst easterly tree-nesters retain name of Long-billed Vulture.

Himalayan Griffon Vulture Gyps himalayensis (E)

At least one immature soaring with other vultures at a carcass dump near Jodhpur on 25th.

Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus (E)

One to east of Jaisalmer on 22nd , at least 3 over Desert National Park on 23rd and ca 125 at a carcass dump near Jodhpur on 25th!

Eurasian Black (Cinereous or Monk) Vulture Aegypius monachus (E)

One soaring at Desert National Park on 23rd and at least 10 soaring and 2 or 3 on ground at a carcass dump near Jodhpur on 25th –

what a lovely sight to finish the tour on!

Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus

Singles at Bharatpur on 14th, at Ranthambhore on 18th (on nest) and 20th, and near Sam on 23rd.

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus

A total of 6 scattered: 2 at Bharatpur, 2 at Ranthambhore, at Khichan and in Desert National Park.

Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela

I feel that this bird is declining, but there were 2 singles at Bharatpur and 2 others at Ranthambhore.

Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus

Widely recorded.

Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus

A distant immature briefly over the grasslands of the dry zone at Bharatpur on 14th was the only one.

Shikra Accipiter badius

A total of 17 seen; recorded on most days of the tour.

Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis

One soaring over entrance gorge at Ranthambhore on 17th.

White-eyed Buzzard Butastur teesa

Fine views of one soaring over entrance gorge at Ranthambhore and even better views of one perched on a bare tree, both on 18th.

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo

One soaring en route from Delhi to Bharatpur, to south of Midway, on 13th.

Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus (E)

A total of 17 singles, noted throughout the desert extension of the tour.

Indian Spotted Eagle Aquila hastata

Pretty tricky (as distinctions from other similar eagles not fully clarified) but 2 single adults at Bharatpur (on 14th and 17th) seemed to

fit well. Until recently treated as a subspecies of Lesser Spotted Eagle A. pomarina of Europe.

Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga

The most numerous eagle at Bharatpur, up to 10 daily including both an interesting ginger-rufous bird as well as a pale buff fulvescens morph. An adult over Bund Baretha on 15th was the only other recorded.

Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax (E),

Only found on the desert extension this year, with a total of 10 birds counted along the Jodhpur-Jaisalmer-Desert NP roadsides.

Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis

Only 2 at Bharatpur (on 17th) this winter but this was compensated for by the soaring 40 or so (chiefly juveniles) at a carcass dump near Jodhpur on 25th - a stimulating sight indeed.

Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca

Good flight views of 2 adults and a superb (pale but streaked) juvenile at Bharatpur; the large eagle chasing a young Bonelli’s at Ranthambhore on 20th was also probably a sub-adult Imperial.

Bonelli’s Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus

Excellent views of a juv at Ranthambhore on 19th and 20th and a pair of adults soaring over the centre of Jaisalmer on 22nd and 24th.

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus

A dark morph bird over Midway to south of Delhi on 13th was to be the only one.

Common (Eurasian) Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

More than usual, a total of 17 scattered singles.

Laggar Falcon Falco jugger (E)

Super views of a pair at Sudaseri in the Desert National Park on 23rd, with another at the Fossil Wood Park on 24th.

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

An adult of one of the northern races chasing pigeons from the dome of the Taj Mahal on 16th, with another northern adult hunting at Bharatpur on 17th.

Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus

Joan and Robert saw a male from the electric bus at Bharatpur on 14th.

Grey Francolin Francolinus pondicerianus

Widespread, vocally everywhere but only seen well at Ranthambhore.

Jungle Bush-quail Perdicula asiatica

4 or 5 skulked at the edge of a track at Ranthambhore on 19th giving endearing piping calls; two coveys totalling some 14 birds elsewhere in the park next day were seen much better.

Painted Spurfowl Galloperdix lunulata

Fabulous views of several pairs at Ranthambhore, where seen daily between 18th and 21st. Generally very shy, scampering under cover as soon as possible when approached.

Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus

Widespread, locally common - especially at Ranthambhore, but even in the desert where buildings and the odd little tree present. Seen every day of the tour.

Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo (E)

The famous gathering at Khichan was well up to expectations, with at least 3,500 estimated on ground on 22nd; about village houses and on nearby escarpment overlooking town.

Sarus Crane Grus antigone

A total of 10 during our drive from Delhi to Bharatpur on 13th, with up to 6 at Bharatpur itself, but no others seen.

Common Crane Grus grus

Flocks totalling 120 at Bharatpur on 14th and 17th.

Brown Crake Amaurornis akool

One seen well from bus at a roadside pool en route to Bund Baretha on 15th.

White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus

Widely recorded in very small numbers but only on main tour.

Purple Swamphen (Purple Gallinule) Porphyrio porphyrio

Numerous about Bharatpur and adjacent pools and marshy areas, with 15 at Bund Baretha, but only one noted at Ranthambhore. The various populations of this bird are accorded species status by some, the form concerned would then be Grey-headed Swamphen P. poliocephalus.

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus

Widespread but not recorded on tour extension.

Eurasian (Common) Coot Fulica atra

Bund Baretha held big numbers this year (ca 5000+), but numbers at both Bharatpur and Ranthambhore were remarkably low.

Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (E)

Great views of two groups of 4 (perhaps the same) of these huge, endangered birds; the first 4 were in the morning some 3kms from Sam whilst our second 4 were in the mid afternoon some 12kms from Sam, near Sudaseri in the Desert National Park on 11th. The flying birds were quite outstanding.

Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus

Two rather distant flying birds at Bund Baretha on 15th were to be the only ones of the trip.

Bronze-winged Jacana Metopidius indicus

Widely recorded in very small numbers, chiefly at Bharatpur and Ranthambhore.

Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis

One flew in and alighted by lakeside as we were admiring the view, at Ranthambhore on 20th.

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus

Widespread and common.

Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta

One on river behind Taj Mahal on 16th; 4 at Bharatpur on 17th, up to 4 at pool near Tiger Moon (Ranthambhore) on 19th-20th and one at a roadside pool near Jaipur on 21st.

Stone-curlew (Eurasian Thick-knee) Burhinus oedicnemus (H)

Heard calling at night from fields behind the Bagh at Bharatpur on 17th.

Great Thick-knee (G Stone Plover) Esacus recurvirostris

At least 4 at Ranthambhore on 18th and 19th.

Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor (E)

Superb views of a gathering of 14 birds just north of Sam, later 2 flew over road some 4kms east of Sam, on 23rd.

Indian Courser Cursorius coromandelicus

Good numbers again at Bharatpur, with some 40 birds scattered over dry grassland during 14th-17th.

Small Pratincole Glareola lactea

A flock of some 50-75 on one of the islands in the lake at Bund Baretha on 15th.

Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus

2 in dry grassland at Bharatpur, on 17th.

River Lapwing Vanellus duvaucelii

4 on river behind the Taj Mahal on 16th.

Yellow-wattled Lapwing Vanellus malabaricus

Good numbers again at Bharatpur, with some 40 birds scattered over dry grassland during 14th-17th.

Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus

Another threatened lapwing, we were lucky to see 2 of these distinctive birds (which nest in eastern China) alongside Sociable, White-tailed and Yellow-wattled Lapwings in dry grassland at Bharatpur on 14th.

Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus

Widespread; seen every day of the tour.

Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius

Now a globally threatened species, with a world population estimated at only some 600-800 individuals in 2004. We were lucky to see 4 with other lapwings in dry grassland at Bharatpur on 14th.

White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus

Common in damp grassland at Bharatpur (60-75+) and at Bund Baretha (10+).

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

Ones and twos at Ranthambhore daily,with a max of 5 on 19th.

Kentish (Snowy) Plover Charadrius alexandrinus

2 distant birds on an island at Bund Baretha on 15th.

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago

Widely scattered in very small numbers.

Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus

One found feeding amidst a scattered gathering of Common Snipe at Bharatpur on 17th.

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa

Widely recorded, including up to 250 at Bharatpur, 150 at Bund Baretha and 60+ at Ranthambhore.

Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata

One at lakeside of Bund Baretha on 15th.

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus

Widely recorded in small parties.

Common Redshank Tringa totanus

Widely recorded in small numbers.

Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis

A small scatter of birds, with 12 behind the Taj Mahal on 16th, one at Bharatpur on 17th and 5 near Tonk on 21st.

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia

Widely recorded in small numbers.

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus

Widely recorded in very small numbers.

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola

Widely recorded in small numbers.

Common Sandpiper Tringa hypoleucos

Widely recorded in very small numbers.

Little Stint Calidris minuta

40+ behind Taj Mahal on 16th and 2 near Tonk on 21st.

Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii

Widely recorded in small numbers.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax

Widely recorded.

Caspian Gull (Steppe or Eastern Yellow-legged Gull) Larus cachinnans

A second-winter bird at Bund Baretha on 15th was the only gull identified on the trip.

Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica

One feeding by lake at Ranthambhore all day on 19th.

River Tern Sterna aurantia

Scattered pairs widely recorded, with gatherings of 60 or more on islands at Bund Baretha on 15th.

Black-bellied Tern Sterna acuticauda

One at Bharatpur on 17th, despite not having a black belly the size difference was obvious when flying with River Terns, and when standing.

Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida

ca 350 at Bund Baretha on 15th, but not seen anywhere else.

Indian Skimmer Rynchops albicollis

Party of 5 on islands at Bund Baretha on 15th.

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles exustus (E)

Small groups, totalling 80-100 birds, came to drink at a concrete pool at Sudaseri on 23rd. About 10 came to drink at Fossil Wood Park on 24th. Small distant groups noted in flight en route to Jodhpur on 25th.

Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis (E)

Small groups, totalling at least 50 birds, came to a roadside waterhole between Jaisalmer and Sam at ca 08.00hrs on 23rd.

Painted Sandgrouse Pterocles indicus

An excellent performance, with some 70 coming to drink at dusk (18.30hrs) at the pool not far outside the rear gates of Tiger Moon (Ranthambhore) on 20th, the previous day 2 had been flushed from rocks not far from the pool.

Rock Dove Columba livia

Widespread and abundant. The Indian form intermedia does not have a white rump and is surprisingly pure over most of its range.

Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

Widespread and abundant.

Red Collared Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica (E)

A handful on wires with masses of Collared Doves, towards Tonk and Jaipur on 21st and near Midway on 22nd. However none seen very well - a disappointing trip for this bird.

Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis

2 at Bund Baretha on 15th and 2 at the barrier at Bharatpur on 17th; quite widespread at Ranthambhore.

Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis

Widespread.

Yellow-footed Green Pigeon Treron phoenicoptera

Widely recorded on main tour.

Alexandrine Parakeet Psittacula eupatria

6 on a tree some 5kms north of Bharatpur on 13th; also ones and twos daily at Ranthambhore,

Ring-necked Parakeet (Rose-ringed Parakeet) Psittacula krameri

Widespread and abundant.

Plum-headed Parakeet Psittacula cyanocephala

2 or 3 en route to Bund Baretha on 15th and common at Ranthambhore.

Common Hawk-cuckoo Cuculus varius (H)

The “Brain-fever Bird” heard at Bharatpur reserve and from the Bagh Hotel in town.

(Asian) Koel Eudynamys scolopacea (H)

Heard calling in grounds of Taj Mahal on 16th.

Sirkeer Malkoha Phaenicophaeus leschenaultii

Good views of one in scrub below cliffs at Bayana on 15th.

Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis

Widespread on main tour.

Indian (Collared) Scops Owl Otus bakkamoena

An endearing pair looking out of tree-hole just inside the park at Bharatpur on 14th. The plains Indian form has been separated as Indian Scops Owl, with Himalayan and East Asian populations renamed as O. lempiji but retaining the name Collared Scops Owl.

Rock Eagle Owl Bubo (bubo) bengalensis (E)

Superb views of one sitting by a bush in full daylight on the escarpment at Fossil Wood Park near Jaisalmer on 24th. Formerly considered a subspecies of Eurasian Eagle Owl B. bubo.

Dusky Eagle Owl Bubo coromandus

Wonderful views of 2 pairs at their nests with one and 2 well-grown young at Bharatpur.

Brown Fish Owl Ketupa zeylonensis

A family party of 3 seen by most of the group in creekside trees at Ranthambhore on 18th.

Spotted Owlet Athene brama

A total of 9 seen, chiefly at both Bharatpur and Ranthambhore.

Sykes’s Nightjar Caprimulgus mahrattensis (E)

2 seen crossing road just about on dawn about an hour from Jaisalmer on the road to Jodhpur on 25th.

Large-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus macrurus

A very obliging bird at the Bharatpur on 17th; allowed us to study every detail, right down to its nasal bristles!

Indian Nightjar Caprimulgus asiaticus (H)

Heard calling just after dusk by the waterhole near Tiger Moon (Ranthambhore) on 20th.

Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis

One hunting overhead just after dusk by the waterhole near Tiger Moon (Ranthambhore) on 20th.

Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba (E)

2 seen by Peter at Sudaseri in the Desert National Park on 23rd with another from Ian over the hotel at Jaisalmer on 24th.

Little Swift Apus affinis

Small numbers at Bharatpur, Ranthambhore gorge, Jaisalmer and the Centaur Hotel (Delhi). These plains Indian forms are the same as the African species, whereas Himalayan (and south-east Asian) populations have been separated as House Swift A. nipalensis.

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis

Widely recorded.

White-breasted Kingfisher (White-throated Kingfisher) Halcyon smyrnensis

Widely recorded.

Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis

2 at Bund Baretha on 15th, one at Bharatpur on 17th and 2 singles at Ranthambhore.

Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis

Scattered pairs throughout the tour.

Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis

Widely recorded.

Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops

Widely recorded.

Indian Grey Hornbill Tockus birostris

Frequent at Bharatpur and Agra, plus 2 near Bund Baretha.

Brown-headed (Green) Barbet Megalaima zeylanica

Singles in trees in the nursery at Bharatpur and in a fig tree near Bund Baretha. Formerly lumped with Lineated Barbet M. lineata of SE Asia and the Himalayas.

Coppersmith (Crimson-breasted) Barbet Megalaima haemacephala

A total of 9 seen, others heard, in fruiting trees throughout the first part of the tour.

Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos moluccensis

2 pairs seen well by most of the group at Ranthambhore. Often separated as D. nanus from Malaysian Pygmy Woodpecker D. moluccensis of SE Asia.

Yellow-crowned (Yellow-fronted Pied) Woodpecker Picoides mahrattensis

One seen quite well but briefly by most of the group at Ranthambhore on 19th.

Black-rumped Flameback (Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker) Dinopium benghalense

Widely recorded on main tour.

White-naped (Black-backed) Woodpecker Chrysocolaptes festivus

2 singles seen by most of group at Ranthambhore on 18th and 19th.

Indian Bush-lark Mirafra erythroptera

Pair scoped on ground in arid fields just outside Tiger Moon (Ranthambhore) on 20th.

Black-crowned Sparrow-lark Eremopterix nigriceps (E)

2 drinking at water trough at Sudaseri (Desert National Park) and 2 more en route to Sam on 24th.

Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark Eremopterix grisea

Party of about 10 briefly en route to Bund Baretha on 15th, much better views were had of 2 near the canter on the viewing slope at Ranthambhore on 20th and of 4-5 pairs in dry fields at Tiger Moon, one or two of which were song-flighting.

Rufous-tailed Lark Ammomanes phoenicurus

3 pairs in arid fields just outside Tiger Moon (Ranthambhore) on 20th.

Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti (E)

Some roadside birds en route to Sam on 23rd and several confiding birds at Fossil Wood Park near Jaisalmer on 24th.

(Greater) Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla

20 at Bharatpur on 17th, 2 at Ranthambhore on 20th, and many small parties at roadside between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer and on to the Desert National Park.

Crested Lark Galerida cristata

A pair at the Midway tourist complex to S of Delhi on 13th, were the only ones.

Oriental Skylark (Eastern/Small Skylark) Alauda gulgula

Common this year in dry grasslands at Bharatpur where many in song; also in song at Bund Baretha.

Plain Martin (Brown-throated Sand Martin) Riparia paludicola

Several flying about roadside pools between Bharatpur and Bund Baretha on 15th.

Eurasian Crag Martin Hirundo rupestris

About 10 birds circling over and dipping to drink at pool near Tiger Moon (Ranthambhore) on 19th.

Dusky Crag Martin Hirundo concolor

Small numbers at Bayana cliffs, Ranthambhore gorge, over Jaisalmer and at Centaur Hotel (Delhi).

Wire-tailed Swallow Hirundo smithii

Ones and twos at Bharatpur, and en route to Bund Baretha.

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica

At least 4 at Ranthambhore on 19th, plus one at TigerMoon on 21st.

White/Masked Wagtail Motacilla alba

Widely recorded. A variety of races are found in India in winter, most that we had were probably of the forms baicalensis and dukhunensis (both resemble ‘our’ White Wagtail); some were of the distinctive form personata with its balaclava hood which has been suggested to be specifically distinct as ‘Masked Wagtail’. A few birds showed black upperparts, much white in the wing and extensive white ‘face’ (ssp leucopsis) whereas bird on the river by the Taj Mahal had a black back and most of head and neck black (ssp albioides). These birds have sometimes been included in, or split as, ‘Black-backed Wagtail’ M. lugens.

White-browed (Large Pied) Wagtail Motacilla madaraspatensis

A good scattering in ones and twos on main part of tour.

Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola

A small scattering at Bharatpur and at Bund Baretha.

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava

One flew overhead calling at Tiger Moon (Ranthambhore) on 20th.



Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea

One at Bharatpur nursery on 14th was to be the only one of the trip.

Oriental (Paddyfield) Pipit Anthus rufulus

Frequent in dry cultivation at Bharatpur, Agra and Bund Baretha also 2 on lawn of Heritage Inn at Jaisalmer on 22nd. These were formerly treated as tropical races of the complex formerly included with Richard’s Pipit in A. novaeseelandiae.

Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris (E)

Frequent in Desert National Park; the strange grey subspecies griseus.

Long-billed Pipit Anthus similis

Parties of 6 and 4 at Ranthambhore on 19th-20th.

Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis

4 on wires at Midway on the first day, a few flew over calling at Bharatpur and several small parties encountered feeding on quite open, bare ground at Ranthambhore.

Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni

A few flew over calling at Bharatpur and Ranthambhore, with one or two seen perched as we searched for that elusive tiger.

Small Minivet Pericrocotus cinnamomeus

Several small parties at Bharatpur and Ranthambhore.

Long-tailed Minivet Pericrocotus ethologus

A party of about 10 on the nursery/big kadams walk at Bharatpur on 17th. Lovely birds.

White-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus leucotis

Frequent at Bharatpur and common in Jaisalmer region. Often lumped with White-cheeked (Himalayan) Bulbul P. leucogenys of the Himalayas.

Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer

Widely recorded. Indeed abundant at Ranthambhore but much scarcer on the desert extension.

Common Iora Aegithina tiphia

2 in the hotel grounds at Tiger Moon and 2 near entrance arch of Ranthambhore.

Zitting Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler) Cisticola juncidis (E), (H)

Joan heard one calling at the Desert National Park on 23rd.

Rufous-fronted Prinia Prinia buchanani (H)

Heard calling from scrub just outside Tiger Moon (Ranthambhore) on 20th but we were sidetracked by larks.

Grey-breasted Prinia Prinia hodgsonii

A party of 4 at Bayana cliffs on 15th, plus another very close at Ranthambhore on 20th. This subspecies does not have a grey breast.

Graceful Prinia Prinia gracilis (E), (H)

At least one calling in the scrubby grasslands of Desert National Park on 23 rd.

Jungle Prinia Prinia sylvatica

A pair seen well at Bokala, at the far end of Ranthambhore park on 20th.

Ashy Prinia Prinia socialis

A few recorded at Bharatpur and Ranthambhore.

Plain Prinia Prinia inornata

Several recorded at Bharatpur and Ranthambhore. Formerly included in Tawny-flanked Prinia P. subflava of Africa.

Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius

Widely recorded.

Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita

One at Bharatpur (on 17th) but several at Ranthambhore and one at Fossil Wood Park on 24th; all were very grey birds of ssp tristis.(“Siberian” Chiffchaff).

Plain Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus neglectus (E)

The large Acacias by the entrance to the Fossil Wood Park near Jaisalmer is the only known regular site for this tiny warbler in the whole of India, certainly 2 were there on the 24th and gave a good showing, alongside Hume’s and Brooks’s Leaf Warblers and even a Chiffchaff - what a treat!

Sulphur-bellied Warbler Phylloscopus griseolus

Splendid views of 2 working tree trunks and boughs like a nuthatch in grounds of forest dept bungalow near Bund Baretha on 15th; singles in Ranthambhore park on 19th and 20th.

Brooks’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus subviridis

2 calling from large Acacias just inside park gates at Bharatpur on 13th, gave excellent views and were the first warblers of the trip. 2 more were present in the large Acacias by the entrance to the Fossil Wood Park near Jaisalmer on 24th.

Hume's (Leaf) Warbler Phylloscopus humei

Widely recorded; by far the commonest Phylloscopus. Formerly included in Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus

Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides

Several recorded at Bharatpur and Ranthambhore. The calls are very similar to those of Hume’s which is all over the place, so easily overlooked. - but look for pinkish bill.

Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca

Widely recorded as Siberian subspecies blythi, but replaced by the next form from Jodhpur westwards.

Desert (Lesser) Whitethroat Sylvia minula (E)

Several in Desert NP and at the Fossil Wood Park next day were considered to be this form which is often lumped in S. curruca.

Red-breasted Flycatcher Muscicapa parva

Widely recorded, but chiefly heard calling.

Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassina

A lovely male in grounds of Tiger Moon on 19th and 21st.

Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher Cyornis tickelliae

3 males seen during our drives in Ranthambhore, on 18th and 20th.

Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis

Quite widely recorded at Ranthambore and Bharatpur, but chiefly heard calling.

Siberian Rubythroat Luscinia calliope

A lovely male which wintered in a ditch by the temple at Bharatpur was eventually seen by some members of the group on 17th.

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica

One near the temple at Bharatpur on 14th and 17th; 1-3 by the lake at Ranthambhore on 19th-20th.

Oriental Magpie-robin Copsychus saularis

Widely recorded; but not on the tour extension.

Indian Robin Saxicoloides fulicata

Widely recorded.

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros

Widely recorded as red-bellied ssp phoenicuroides.

Stoliczka’s Bushchat (White-browed Bushchat) Saxicola macrorhynchus (E)

One of the more mythical inhabitants of the Thar Desert, we were lucky indeed to locate and finally to get such good views of a male at Sudaseri on 23rd.

Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maura

Three at Bharatpur on 14th and at least one at Sudaseri in the Desert National Park on 23rd. Asian forms now usually considered specifically distinct from both European Stonechat S. rubicola and African Stonechat S. torquata.

Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata

Widely recorded on main tour.

Grey Bushchat Saxicola ferrea

Fine views of a female at Ranthambhore on 19th and a few kms away a male on 20th. This Himalayan species is unusual here.

Variable (Eastern Pied) Wheatear Oenanthe picata (E)

Frequent in the Jaisalmer-Desert National Park sector of the tour. There are 3 main colour forms, most were of the “picata” morph (like Hume’s), but at least 2 were “opistholeuca” (like Black), the third form “capistrata” (like Pied) was not noted this year. All forms breed in discrete regions (mostly in Afghanistan) and appear to be evolving into separate species.

Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti (E)

Frequent in the Jaisalmer-Desert National Park sector of the tour.

Brown Rock Chat (Indian Chat) Cercomela fusca

Widely recorded.

White-browed Fantail Rhipidura aureola

Frequent about Ranthambhore.

Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi

Female in grounds of forest dept bungalow near Bund Baretha on 15th.

Yellow-eyed Babbler Chryssoma sinense

More like big prinias than babblers, and with a bold red eye-ring adding to the confusion. A party of about 5 showed well as we watched a female Grey Bushchat at Ranthambhore on 19th.

Common Babbler Turdoides caudatus

Frequent about Bharatpur and Ranthambhore, but most common on the tour extension to Desert NP.

Large Grey Babbler Turdoides malcolmi

Widely recorded on main tour.

Jungle Babbler Turdoides striatus

Widely recorded and abundant on main tour.

Great Tit (Grey Tit) Parus major

Common at Ranthambhore. Occasionally separated as Cinereous or Asian Grey Tit P. cinereus.

Purple Sunbird Nectarinia asiatica

Widely recorded.

Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosa

Scattered parties frequent at Ranthambhore.

Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus

Ian saw a female in grounds of forest dept bungalow near Bund Baretha on 15th

Rufous-tailed Shrike (Isabelline Shrike) Lanius isabellinus

Two at Bharatpur on 14th and 17th, plus singles on wires at Jaisalmer on 24th and near Jodhpur on 25th. There is a move to split this into 2 or even 3 species. Our birds showed features associated with Isabelline Shrike L. arenarius.

Bay-backed Shrike Lanius vittatus

Widely recorded in very small numbers on main tour.

Long-tailed Shrike (Rufous-backed Shrike) Lanius schach

Widely recorded on main tour.

Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis

Widely recorded in small numbers in arid country about Ranthambhore and throughout the tour extension to Jaisalmer area. The resident Indian form lahorta belongs to the group of races which have recently been separated from Great Grey Shrike L. excubitor.

Common Wood-shrike Tephrodornis pondicerianus

Several small parties at Bharatpur and Ranthambhore.

Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus

Widespread and common.

White-bellied Drongo Dicrurus caerulescens

One at Bharatpur on 17th and quite common at Ranthambhore.

Rufous Treepie (Indian Treepie) Dendrocitta vagabunda

Widely recorded on main tour, especially common (and tame) at Ranthambhore

House Crow Corvus splendens

Widespread and abundant.

Large-billed Crow (Jungle Crow) Corvus macrorhynchos

Widely recorded on main tour. The relatively small Indian lowland form is often separated as C. levaillanti (the Jungle Crow).

Common Raven Corvus corax (E)

Scattered ones and twos throughout the tour extension to the Jaisalmer area.

Bank Myna Acridotheres ginginianus

Widely recorded on main tour.

Common Myna Acridotheres tristis

Widespread and abundant.

Asian Pied Starling (Pied Myna) Sturnus contra

Widely recorded on main tour.

Brahminy Starling (Brahminy Myna) Sturnus pagodarum

Widely recorded on main tour.

Rosy Starling (Rose-coloured Starling) Sturnus roseus (E)

One flew through at Sudaseri on 23rd and a party of 5 did so as we watched vultures at the carcass dump near Jodhpur on 25th.

European Starling Sturnus vulgaris

Just one bird foraging near 2 Northern Lapwings at Bharatpur on 17th.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus

Widespread but not as abundant in the cities as it used to be.

Chestnut-shouldered Petronia (Yellow-throated Sparrow) Petronia xanthocollis

Widely recorded on main tour - do you remember its song? - probably not!

Indian Silverbill (White-throated Munia) Euodice malabarica

Widely recorded.

Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus

A party of 8 (including 3 red males) at Tiger Moon (Ranthambhore) during 19th-21st.

Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus (E)

2 found by Peter on escarpment of Fossil Wood Park on 24th gave brief views to some of the group before departing.

Crested Bunting Melophus lathami

At least 3 lovely males watched just inside main archway at Ranthambhore on 20th; another male had been seen more briefly on the previous day.

Chestnut-breasted Bunting (White-capped Bunting) Emberiza stewarti

8 below Bund Baretha palace on 15th gave good views, whereas 2 at Ranthambhore on 18th and 20th were much more fleeting.

House Bunting Emberiza striolata (E)

Party of 6 came to drink at Fossil Wood Park on 24th but sadly did not stay very long. Asiatic populations shun human habitation unlike North African populations which live up to their name.







MAMMALS

(Names and sequence follow Duff, A and Lawson, A (2004) Mammals of the World: A checklist. London, A&C Black.)



Indian Hare Lepus nigricollis

6 singles flushed; scattered throughout the tour.

Northern Palm Squirrel Funambulus pennanti

Widespread.

Indian Desert Jird (I D Gerbil) Meriones hurrianae (E)

Superb views of several at Sudaseri in the Desert National Park on 23rd.

House Mouse Mus musculus (E)

One just outside a shop in the centre of Jaisalmer on 24th.

Black Rat Rattus rattus (E)

One of the brown form (“Alexandrine Rat”) seen by Sue en route from Jaipur to Jodhpur on 21st.

Leopard Panthera pardus

The first one was high up on the cliff face behind the main checkpost at Ranthambhore on 19th, it was much enjoyed although rather far away and was being watched by masses of tourists. The next was more atmospheric: as we drove through the low gorge at Bokala on 20th, Pauline spotted a leopard sunning itself on top of a low cliff in the late afternoon sun. We had it to ourselves and enjoyed it until it got bored with us, got up and walked away. As a rule leopards are more difficult to see than tigers.

Tiger Panthera tigris

We came so very close, but not close enough, with fresh footprints almost walking our eyes to that amazing cat of Ranthambhore but it was not to be. The sightings of two leopards however more than helped make up for this shortfall.

Indian Grey Mongoose Herpestes edwardsii

Several sightings at Bharatpur.

Ruddy Mongoose Herpestes smithii

Several sightings at Ranthambhore.

Golden Jackal Canis aureus

A familiar sound at Bharatpur, several excellent views of one to 3, but 10 together by the park HQ. Ones and twos also at Ranthambhore.

Red Fox (Desert Fox) Vulpes vulpes (E)

Four sightings of the subspecies pusilla in the Desert National Park and near Jaisalmer on 24th.

Bengal Fox (Indian Fox) Vulpes bengalensis (E)

One crossed the road in the bus lights between Jodhpur and Khichan on 22nd.

Indian Flying-fox Pteropus giganteus

Hundreds of these huge and noisy fruit-bats had a day roost in the trees of the forest dept. bungalow near Bund Baretha on 15th.

Short-nosed Fruit-bat Cynopterus sphinx

5 of these lovely little bats were huddled under a palm frond in the nursery at Bharatpur on 13th.

Northern Plains Grey Langur (Common or Hanuman L) Presbytes entellus

A few about Bharatpur town and really common at Ranthambhore. Recent studies have shown that Indian populations consist of 7 similar species, the populations on this tour are P. entellus (sensu stricto).

Rhesus Macaque Macaca mulatta

Widespread, especially along roadsides and at temples.

Eurasian Wild Boar Sus scrofa

A few at Bharatpur, plenty at Ranthambhore.

Chital (Spotted Deer) Cervus axis

A few at Bharatpur, plenty at Ranthambhore.

Sambar Cervus unicolor

A few at Bharatpur, plenty at Ranthambhore.

Nilgai Boselaphus tragocamelus

Frequent throughout the tour, but most at Bharatpur.

Indian Gazelle (Chinkara) Gazella bennettii

6 at Ranthambhore on 19th, but rather numerous and widespread on the extension, particularly numerous between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. Sometimes included in Dorcas Gazelle G. dorcas of North Africa and the Middle East.





REPTILES

Indian Sawback Terrapin Kachuga tecta

The smaller terrapins at Bharatpur.

Ganges Softshell Turtle Trionyx gangeticus

The big terrapins at Bharatpur.

Mugger (Marsh Crocodile) Crocodylus palustris

Several (15+), some pretty massive, at Ranthambhore.

Common Indian Monitor Varanus bengalensis

One at Ranthambhore on 18th.

Northern House Gecko Hemidactylus flaviviridis

Bharatpur hotel (the Bagh)

Garden Lizard Calotes versicolor

One on 17th, in the garden of the Bagh.



BUTTERFLIES

The dry season is the least productive time for butterflies in India, hence the brevity of this list.

Common Rose Pachliopta aristochiae

Common Emigrant Catopsilia pomona

Small Grass Yellow Eurema brigitta

Psyche Leptosia nina

Little Orange -tip Ixias etrida

Yellow Orange-tip Ixias pyrene

Indian Cabbage White Pieris canidia

Lemon Pansy Junonia lemonias

Peacock Pansy Junonia almana

Blue Pansy Junonia orithya

Yellow Pansy Junonia hierta

Painted Lady Cynthia cardui

Blue Tiger Tirumalae limniacea

Striped Tiger Danaus genutia

Common Indian Crow Euploea core

Danaid Eggfly Hypolimnas misippus


© The Travelling Naturalist 2005