Arriving in Uttarkhand and birding at Sattal

"Ramnagar, Ramnagar has come" yells our coach attendant and all of us half dozing - half dazed alight from the Ranikhet Express. it is 4.30 a.m. in the morning.There is a perceptible nip in the air - a real change from the March heat of Delhi and the hustle and bustle of Old Delhi railway station the night before. A hot cup of tea at the very quiet station helps to open our eyes a bit wider and we head towards the 4 waiting Innovas that will drive us around the hills for the next two days. Our Group leader Adesh Shivkar introduces us to the local expert Ornithologist Manoj Sharma.Like Adesh and his partner Mandar, Manoj belongs to one of those rare human species who have given up a high flying corporate marketing career in the city to give his time to live in Nature. He lives close to Ramnagar and now leads expert birding tours for hard core birders from India and overseas. Together Adesh and Manoj make a great team to unveil the beautiful birdlife of Uttarkhand to us 14 eager birders.

It is still dark as we vend our way from the small town of Ramnagar into the countryside - all of us excited about our trip. I meet some old friends - Len and Reggie D'costa from my Borneo trip, Bhoopat and Mrudulla Jadeja from the Kenya trip & Dr. Ravi Rajagopal from my Sikkim trip. However, many of us are meeting for the first time and we have already introduced ourselves to each other. A stop at a very interesting resort to refuel our bodies helps to start birding with some interesting birds - Spangled Drongo, Pied Hornbills and much more. However, we have to be on our way to reach Sattal before noon. On the way we stop at a rubbish dump - ugh you might say but the best place to watch some raptors - we get the Steppe Eagle and the Eurasian Griffon.

The day at Sattal yeilds some goood birdlife and these are just few of the many birds that were spotted throughout the trip
Steppe eagle on the way from Ramnagar
Eurasian Griffon
Emerald Dove - near the lake opposte the guest House
Verditer Flycatcher
a very common Bird of the Himalayas - Green-backed Tit
Experts pls ID this
Romance is in the air!  Mating of the Slaty-headed Parakeets
Black-throated Sunbird hidden in the canopy
Another commoner - Blue Whistling Thrush
Black Bulbul
Himalayan Bulbul
Lesser Yellow nape - see the title of this blog for another picture. This is part of the Woodpecker family
this handsome guy is the Red-billed Blue Magpie - found a pair of them at a small restaurant just outside Sattal

Red-billed Blue Magpie

Birds of Nainital, Kilbury, Pangot

An early morning start to explore the birdlife of higher altitudes upto 1900 mts. Passing through the very touristy town of Nainital known for its beautiful lake and some of its well known schools, we go ahead and frequently alight the Kilbury road to see the flying beauties. Here is the catch for the day!
this dour looking beauty is the Black-throated Tit
Ultramarine Flycatcher
Grey-headed Warbler
Spot-winged Tit
Female of the Chestnut-bellied Thrush
The Rhododendron's have started blooming
Possibly the Greenish Warbler
A common bird of the Himalayas - both Western & NE - Green-backed Tit
look for the small beauty - Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch
Above & below -This was a real catch - Mistle Thrush beyond Pangot towards Vinayak
Another good catch - Altai Accentor
Probably Striated Prinia
Streaked Laughingthrush
Himalyan Bulbul
Little Pied Flycatcher
Could this be the Grey-breasted Prinia? experts pls ID

Corbett Tiger Reserve

After 2 days traversing the hills to view birds of the the high altitude, we descend to the plains to visit one of the finest national parks of our country and the first under project Tiger. - Corbett National park. the park lies in the foothills of the Himalayas. Corbett is one of the best managed parks in the country with good facilities and excellent guides who are well versed with both the Birdlife and mammal life.

Bidding goodbye to our innovas we transfer to 4 open jeeps with drivers who are excellent naturalists too. Our driver is Irfan who is also callled Nanhe. the next 3 days are at Corbett where our Group leaders, guides and drivers are constantly keeping a sharp lookout for any living being. We enter the Dhanagiri gate as we are fortunate to be able to stay at Dhikala Forest Rest House 32 kms inside the park. Our safari begins even before we check in and we pass through some beatiful forests. The photo below shows Thandi Sarak (cool road).Did we see the tiger? the most common question. Yes but a very fleeting glance - once at a great distance & the second time when it just leapt across the path and into the forests. But our focus was to enjoy the birdlife. So here are some of the sightings.

River Lapwing

Brown Rock Chat

Marsh Crocodile locally called Mugger sunbathing

Above & below - Do you see a stone or a crouching bird? Yes this is the savannah Nightjar seen close to Dhikal Guest house

Maroon Oriole - picture taken in poor light

Common Stonechat

Chestnut-tailed Starling feeding on Flame of the Forest

Crested Tree Swifts

Long-tailed Shrike

Nest of the Pallas' Fish Eagle

 above & below - Tawny Fish Owl

Indian Munjac or barking Deer the only Omnivorous Deer

Above & below - Black-crested Bulbul

Honey Buzzard

Red-breasted Parakeet
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