Birding Tour India: The North – Tigers, Amazing Birds and the Himalayas
Dates and Costs
24 January – 09 February 2023
Price: US$7,740 / £6,585 / €7,768 per person sharing, assuming 4-8 participants.
Single Supplement: US$1,110 / £944 / €1,114
* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.
(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)
Duration: 17 days
Group Size: 4 – 8
Tour Start: Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi
Tour End: Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi
All accommodation (as described above)
Meals (from lunch on day 1 until breakfast on day 17)
Drinking water – two bottles of mineral water per day per person from our tour vehicle, please bring a refillable water bottle (if taken from the hotel this will be at your own cost)
Expert tour leader
Local bird and wildlife guide fees
Monument entrance fees and monument guide (Taj Mahal grounds and Fatehpur Sikri grounds)
National park/birdwatching reserve entrance fees and jeep safaris
All ground transport and tolls while on tour, including airport pick-up and drop-off
Flights to/from New Delhi International Airport
Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts, laundry, internet access, phone calls, etc.
Optional tours (e.g. extra monument entrance fees not included above such as entrance into Taj Mahal building and associated additional travel expenses)
Any pre- or post-tour accommodation, meals, or birding/sightseeing/monument excursions
Camera (still/video) permits
Personal travel insurance
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)
2023 Featured Guide:Dylan Vasapolli
Birding Tour India: The North – Tigers, Amazing Birds and the Himalayas
India, with its fabulous scenery, incredible wildlife, fascinating culture, and wonderful monuments, must truly be on any world-birder’s and traveler’s wish list! This small group birdwatching tour will visit world-famous national parks such as Ranthambhore, Keoladeo Ghana (formerly known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary), and Jim Corbett National Parks and spend time in the breathtaking scenery of the Himalayan foothills at Pangot and Sattal. A visit to this part of India would not be complete without taking in the majestic UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Fatehpur Sikri and the Taj Mahal, and we will visit both of these very impressive places to soak up the sights and sounds. India is well-known for its amazing food, and we will sample a great deal of different, interesting, and tasty local dishes throughout the tour.
Bengal Tiger is the big mammalian target on this trip.
The tour gives the possibility of connecting with numerous exciting birds, such as Ibisbill (a monotypic family), Indian Skimmer, Indian Courser, Kalij Pheasant, Koklass Pheasant, Cheer Pheasant, Painted Spurfowl, Bearded Vulture (Lammergeier), Indian Vulture, Indian Spotted Eagle, Collared Falconet, Sarus Crane, Painted Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Tern, River Tern, Tawny Fish Owl, Brown Fish Owl, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Great Hornbill, Sirkeer Malkoha, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Himalayan Woodpecker, Long-billed Thrush, Spotted Forktail, Slaty-backed Forktail, Little Forktail, Brown Dipper, Golden Bush Robin, Himalayan Bluetail, Himalayan Rubythroat, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Altai Accentor, White-capped Bunting, and Wallcreeper (another monotypic family). Furthermore the tour offers the chance to search out one of the world’s most highly sought but elusive big cats, the Bengal Tiger, with a supporting cast that could include Indian Leopard, Asian Elephant, Ganges River Dolphin, Gharial, Mugger, and Indian Python.
You can enjoy some of our birding highlights from the Himalayas.
You could combine this tour with our preceding Birding Tour India: The South – Western Ghats and Nilgiri Endemics and with our following tours: Birding Tour India: The Northwest – Lions and Desert Birding in Gujarat followed by Birding Tour India: The West – Forest Owlet Extension, which is followed by our Birding Tour India: The Northeast – Spectacular Birds and Mammals that visits the mountains of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. We can also easily offer you extensions at each location if you would like to extend your stay in this wonderful and vibrant country.
Ibisbill is the sole member of its own family and a huge target bird for any family listers or world birders.
Itinerary (17 days/16 nights)
Day 1. Arrival in New Delhi, nearby afternoon birding
After your late-morning arrival in New Delhi we will transfer to our nearby hotel for check-in (check-in is usually at noon). After lunch we will spend the first afternoon of the tour birding at a fantastic wetland site near New Delhi, where we could see some interesting species such as Painted and Black-necked Storks, Bar-headed Goose, Knob-billed Duck, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Northern Shoveler, Garganey, Ferruginous Duck, Eastern Imperial, Indian Spotted, and Booted Eagles, Brook’s Leaf Warbler, Sind Sparrow, Striated Babbler, Citrine Wagtail, Baillon’s Crake, Spotted Owlet, and Moustached Warbler. This site is a great introduction to Indian birding and is the perfect first birding site for those who have never been to India/Asia before, but it is also really enjoyable for those who do already know the birds of the region. Our guides love visiting this site time after time, and a great afternoon will be had by all.
Overnight: New Delhi
Day 2. Travel to Ranthambhore and tiger safari in Ranthambhore National Park
As New Delhi wakes up we will take the early morning train out of the city and head south to the Ranthambhore area, where we will arrive in time for lunch in our luxurious hotel on the outskirts of the national park. We will keep our eyes peeled along the way in case of any birds close to the train. Sometimes we get close views of waders/shorebirds, raptors, and storks during the train ride.
During the afternoon we will take our first game drive (called ‘safari’ in India), our prime target being the majestic Bengal Tiger. Seeing one of these incredibly huge and stunningly beautiful big cats is sure to be an early trip highlight. Ranthambhore is a great place to find them, yet they are generally never easy, and patience and careful scanning will be required; it is amazing how such a large animal can hide in grass! However, it is definitely worth the effort.
Certainly one of our biggest avian targets in Ranthambhore, Painted Spurfowl
Day 3. Ranthambhore National Park, all day birding/wildlife watching
We will have a full day in and around Ranthambhore National Park; this will include two game drives to look again for Bengal Tiger and other wildlife. Target birds include Indian Peafowl, Painted Spurfowl, Plum-headed, Alexandrine, and Rose-ringed Parakeets, River Tern, Rufous Treepie, Citrine Wagtail, Indian Vulture, Yellow-legged Buttonquail, Small Minivet, White-browed Fantail, White-bellied Drongo, White-naped Woodpecker, Crested Serpent Eagle, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Bluethroat, Bay-backed, Long-tailed, and Southern Grey Shrikes, Indian Bush Lark, and Large Grey Babbler. In addition to looking for Bengal Tiger we will also keep our eyes peeled for the Mugger crocodile, Rhesus Macaque, Southern Plains Grey Langur, Sambar, Chital (Spotted Deer), and Wild Boar.
Day 4. Ranthambhore to Bharatpur
Today we will transfer between Ranthambhore and Bharatpur but will make several birding stops along the way, depending on local water levels and our local knowledge of current bird distribution. Birds we will look for during the course of the day include Indian Stone-curlew, Painted Sandgrouse, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, and Variable Wheatear near the hotel, and then Greater Flamingo, Indian Skimmer, Brown Crake, Great Stone-curlew, Black-bellied Tern, Small Pratincole, Isabelline Wheatear, Greater Painted-snipe, and Yellow-wattled Lapwing on the way. We are likely to arrive in Bharatpur in the late afternoon.
Day 5. Keoladeo Ghana National Park (formerly known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary)
We will spend the full day birding around the incredible Keoladeo Ghana National Park, one of the best-known birding sites in the country, and with good reason; this is a great place and always popular, with good views of a range of species possible. We will spend the day moving around this vast area on cycle-rickshaws, which is an excellent way to see the site. Time will be spent birding in a range of habitats such as scrub, woodland, lakes, and marshes to try to maximize the number of species seen. Some of the species possible during the day from the wooded/scrubby areas include Grey Francolin, Indian Peafowl, Indian Scops Owl, Dusky Eagle-Owl, Spotted Owlet, Eurasian Hoopoe, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, White-eared Bulbul, Pied Myna, Brahminy Starling, Tickell’s Thrush, and Indian Robin, while the wetlands may produce Bar-headed Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Black-necked Stork, Black Bittern, Oriental Darter, Sarus Crane, White-tailed Lapwing, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, and Pied Kingfisher. We may also find Western Marsh Harrier, Black-winged Kite, Egyptian Vulture, and Indian Spotted Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, and Eastern Imperial Eagle hunting or scavenging over the wetlands.
We should find Bar-headed Goose in Keoladeo Ghana National Park.
Day 6. Bharatpur to National Chambal Sanctuary via Fatehpur Sikri
We will have an early start today to look for Indian Courser, a difficult and local species. We will also keep our eyes peeled for other open-country species such as Black Francolin, Sarus Crane, Isabelline (Daurian) Shrike, Desert Wheatear, and a range of larks, pipits, and wagtails such as Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Indian Bush Lark, Oriental Skylark, Citrine Wagtail, Western Yellow Wagtail, White-browed Wagtail, Tawny Pipit, and the stunning Indian Roller.
The beautiful Indian Courser can be found in agricultural fields near the town of Bharatpur.
After the morning birding session we will commence our journey to the delightful Chambal Safari Lodge for our two-night stay, visiting the very impressive Fatehpur Sikri World Heritage Site along the way. Fatehpur Sikri is one of the best-preserved collections of Mughal architecture in India, the fort was actually (amazingly) abandoned in 1585, only 14 years after the huge building project was completed. We will arrive at our hotel in the late afternoon and look for Brown Hawk-Owl and Indian Scops Owl in the hotel grounds in the evening. Sometimes there are interesting mammals around the cabins too, such as Common Palm Civet.
Day 7. National Chambal Sanctuary
We will have the full day to explore this area, which is very different from other areas on the tour and gives us the opportunity for a wide range of interesting species of birds and other animals. We will take an early-morning boat ride along the Chambal River, where we will look for Indian Skimmer as well as River Lapwing, Great Stone-curlew, River and Black-bellied Terns, and the huge Pallas’s Gull. It is not just birds here, however, as we will keep our eyes firmly peeled for the incredibly rare and Endangered (IUCN) Ganges River Dolphin as well as the Critically Endangered (IUCN) Gharial. We will spend time checking out the scrub around the river, where we may find the secretive and skulking Sirkeer Malkoha, Crested Honey Buzzard, Bonelli’s Eagle, Plum-headed Parakeet, Yellow-eyed Babbler, and White-capped Bunting. Farmland in this area can also hold some interesting species, and we will have time there as well as in the wooded grounds of our accommodation to look for numerous species.
Day 8. Chambal to New Delhi via Agra and the Taj Mahal
We will do some early-morning birding around the hotel grounds before we swap birding time for some culture. After breakfast we will start the journey back to New Delhi. However, along the way we will stop for a tour of the outside grounds of the majestic Taj Mahal World Heritage Site, allowing you the chance for that ‘must have’ photo souvenir in front of this iconic building. The Taj Mahal was completed in 1648 and is said to be the world’s finest example of Mughal architecture. This architectural masterpiece was described by the poet Rabindranath Tagore as ‘the tear on the face of eternity’. We will spend the late morning here, enjoying the various pavilions, forts, and other attractions of the Taj Mahal, but keep your binoculars with you as there are often interesting birds flying around the grounds and along the river out back.
After lunch in Agra we will continue our journey to New Delhi, arriving in time for dinner.
Overnight: New Delhi
The majestic Taj Mahal
Days 9 – 10. By train from New Delhi to Kathgodam, continue to and birding at Sattal
We will wake early in the morning and check in at the station for our morning train ride to the city of Kathgodam in the north. Here we will experience an altogether different yet incredibly exciting birding experience in the cooler and stunningly beautiful Himalayan foothills as we make our way to Sattal. On arrival at our hotel around lunchtime we will be immediately impressed by the landscape, cooler air, and a whole suite of new birds. After lunch we will spend the rest of the day, and the whole of the next day, birding in this fascinating and bird-filled area.
Possible highlights during our time in Sattal may include Jungle Owlet, Great, and Blue-throated Barbets, Speckled Piculet, Greater and Lesser Yellownapes, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Black-headed Jay, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Grey Treepie, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Red-billed Leiothrix, Himalayan Rubythroat, Siberian Rubythroat, Golden Bush Robin, Himalayan Bluetail, Spotted Forktail, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Blue Whistling Thrush, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, Crimson Sunbird, Russet Sparrow, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Olive-backed Pipit, Common and Pink-browed Rosefinches, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, and White-capped Bunting. There will also likely be a number of laughingthrushes to keep us entertained: Rufous-chinned, White-throated, Streaked, and Striated Laughingthrushes (the latter is often voted one of the birds of the trip as it is rather nice-looking).
The Spotted Forktail is one of the most beautiful in the whole family.
Day 11. Sattal to Nainital and Pangot
The day will be spent birding around Sattal and Nainital, finally arriving at our wonderful lodge high in the mountains in Pangot. We will have a second chance at some of the species listed above, as well as many others, including Kalij Pheasant, Green-backed Tit, Himalayan Black-lored Tit, Himalayan and Black Bulbuls, Black-throated Bushtit, Rufous Sibia, Bar-tailed Treecreeper, Small Niltava, Slaty-backed Forktail, Blue-capped Redstart, Plumbeous Water Redstart, White-capped Redstart, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Crested Kingfisher, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Long-billed Thrush, Green-tailed Sunbird, and so many more!
The grounds around our accommodation offer some great birding, and either today or tomorrow we will be sure to pay them due attention. We could find Black Francolin, Black-headed Jay, Great Barbet, Grey-headed and Brown-fronted Woodpeckers, Striated Prinia, Altai Accentor, White-throated Laughingthrush, Blue Whistling Thrush, and Rock Bunting here, as well as plenty more. A photographic hide also gives good photo opportunities.
Day 12. Pangot
There will be an early start this morning to gain some further elevation to allow us to focus on some high-elevation key targets, which will include both Cheer Pheasant and Koklass Pheasant along with commoner and more widespread Kalij Pheasant, Hill Partridge, Bearded Vulture (Lammergeier), Griffon Vulture, Himalayan Vulture, Altai Accentor, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Himalayan Woodpecker, Himalayan Bluetail, (Spot-winged) Coal Tit, and White-tailed Nuthatch. We will also hope to get some great landscape views of the even higher snow-capped Himalayan mountain ranges, which really are spectacular. We will have the full day to explore this area, and it could be one of the best days of the trip with some very special birds.
The beautiful Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush.
Day 13. Pangot and Nainital to Jim Corbett National Park
After some final birding in the Nainital/Pangot area, where we will look for anything that we may want to concentrate our final efforts on, we will head to the Corbett area after lunch. Time permitting we will likely explore the Kosi River area to look for two beautiful and highly sought monotypic species, Ibisbill and Wallcreeper. We could also find Brown Dipper, Little Forktail, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Brown Fish Owl, Red Junglefowl, Besra, Himalayan Swiftlet, Nepal House Martin, White-capped Redstart, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, and Blue-bearded Bee-eater here. The grounds of our hotel also offer good birding, and we will look for Collared Scops Owl and Crimson Sunbird among many others over the next few days.
Sighting after sighting, northern India produces so many extraordinary species and never ceases to amaze. Pictured here is a Crimson Sunbird.
Days 14 – 15. Jim Corbett National Park
We will have two full days to explore the areas within and around Jim Corbett National Park (potentially even spending one night inside the park itself). There are numerous great birds to look for here, and we will also look for some of the park’s most spectacular wildlife, maybe getting further sightings of the regal Bengal Tiger, with the added possibility of Indian Leopard, Asian Elephant, and an assortment of other creatures such as Indian Crested Porcupine and Yellow-throated Marten.
Some of the birds we will look for over these two days will include Red-headed Vulture, Cinereous Vulture, Jungle Owlet, Asian Barred Owlet, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Tawny Fish Owl, Great Hornbill, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Collared Falconet, White-rumped Spinetail, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Banded Bay Cuckoo, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Himalayan Flameback, White-crested Laughingthrush, Rosy Pipit, Maroon Oriole, Common Green Magpie, Grey-bellied Tesia, and Crested Bunting.
The vividly colored Common Green Magpie.
Day 16. Corbett to New Delhi
After some time birding around our hotel in the morning we will commence our journey back to New Delhi. Depending on exact timings we may grab another opportunity to look along the river for Ibisbill, Wallcreeper, and Indian Cormorant and will keep a lookout for any other new and interesting species along the way. After our final day birding together we will enjoy another great meal and think about our trip highlights before saying goodbye, as the main tour concludes in New Delhi.
Overnight: New Delhi
Day 17. Departure from New Delhi
You will be transferred to the airport for your flights home or your continuation on the Northwest India tour.
Overnight: Not included
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.Download Itinerary
India, the North – Tigers and Birds Trip Report
26 JANUARY – 12 FEBRUARY 2020
The stunning Himalayan Bluetail is a prized target and showed well on a number of occasions.
This 17-day set-departure tour takes in the best of Northern India, and combines birding and searching for one of India’s, and indeed the world’s, most-prized mammals – the tiger. Beginning in the capital city, New Delhi, the tour visits the diverse Sultanpur National Park on the outskirts of this megacity before moving south to the famous Ranthambhore National Park, where tigers are the main priority. Moving onward Bharatpur with Keoladeo National Park follows suit, as does Agra with the iconic Taj Mahal, before we arrive at the Chambal River. Following an obligatory cruise on the river we travel back to New Delhi and northward into the foothills of the Himalayas. Here we base ourselves in both Sattal and Pangot and explore the surrounding areas. Our last stop is the famous Corbett National Park, where we spend a few days both within and outside the park, searching for the area’s many prized species before we travel back to New Delhi once more, bringing the tour to an end.
The scarce and declining Black-bellied Tern is always a welcome sight on this tour.
This tour had a small group, with only three participants joining, Betty, Katie, and Ken. The tour went smoothly, with the only hiccup coming from the slight change of plans in the Himalayas with us having to trade a night in Pangot for another night in the Sattal area due to heavy recent snows in Pangot. This did also mean that the weather was on the cool side in this region, but we weren’t impeded in any way. We did well and recorded the vast majority of the area’s prized specials, including some of the most sought-after birds in the world. Some of the trip’s many highlights were Koklass Pheasant, Bar-headed Goose, Himalayan, Red-headed, and Indian Vultures, Eastern Imperial, Greater Spotted, and Indian Spotted Eagles, Brown Crake, River Lapwing, Ibisbill, Painted Sandgrouse, Indian Courser, Black-bellied Tern, Tawny and Brown Fish Owls, Great Hornbill, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Black-headed Jay, Spotted and Slaty-backed Forktails, Himalayan Rubythroat, Grey-crowned Prinia, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Nepal and Scaly-breasted Cupwings, Brown Dipper, Rufous-chinned and White-crested Laughingthrushes, Golden Bush Robin, and Himalayan Bluetail among others. We ended the tour with a total of just over 370 species seen. Mammals are also an important component of this tour, and although the main quarry, Tiger, gave us a bit of a headache, we eventually connected with these stunning cats near the end of the trip. Other highlights were the rare Ganges River Dolphin, Tarai Gray and Nepal Gray Langurs, Common Palm Civet, Golden Jackal, and the expected suite of deer and antelopes, including Northern Red Muntjac, Sambar, Chital, Nilgai, Chinkara, and Himalayan Goral. The impressive Gharial was another major target, and indeed a highlight of the tour, with us fortunately having a number of encounters with these rare reptiles. Full species lists can be found at the end of this report.
Day 1, January 26, 2020. Arrival in Delhi and birding the Sultanpur surroundings
With the group having all arrived during the previous afternoon and evening, two days ahead of the main tour (starting on the 27th), we met for a sedate breakfast before heading out for the day, which we’d spend as a pre-day around the Sultanpur National Park area as an introduction to birding in the area. As today was Republic Day, the actual national park was jam-packed, so we spent our time away from the crowds, birding in the nearby wetlands, agricultural fields, and dry grasslands. Our morning session was incredibly productive as we walked along a few dirt tracks that skirted some wetlands, but otherwise passed through agricultural fields. One of our early highlights was a mixed group of three Sarus Cranes and four Common Cranes, giving great comparative views as they walked about, before we picked up a small group of the prized Sind Sparrow. The marshes were good and held Bar-headed Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Northern Pintail, Grey-headed Swamphen, White-tailed Lapwing, Temminck’s Stint, Green, Marsh, and Wood Sandpipers, Common Redshank, Red-naped Ibis, both Moustached Warbler and Clamorous Reed Warbler, Rosy Pipit, and heaps of Wagtails with the bulk being Citrine but with Western Yellow and White also present. The brushy areas surrounding this held Grey Francolin, Common Hawk-Cuckoo, Eurasian Wryneck, Isabelline Shrike, Graceful, Plain and Ashy Prinias, Lesser Whitethroat, Bluethroat, numbers of the snazzy Indian Robin, and Siberian Stonechat, amongst others. We took a break during lunch, resuming birding afterwards in a different, much drier area. While we saw a number of species that we had seen earlier in the day it was good to acquaint ourselves further with the more regular species, and we did manage to find a few new species as well. We spent some time scouring the open fields and came up trumps with brief Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse flying away (after being spooked by a flying Eurasian Sparrowhawk), Indian Stone-curlew, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Pied and Bank Mynas, Black Redstart, Isabelline and Desert Wheatears, Brown Rock Chat, and Paddyfield and Long-billed Pipits. Having had our fill, we made our way back to our hotel, where we settled in for the evening after a good first day.
Day 2, January 27, 2020. Birding Sultanpur National Park
Starting the official tour today we headed again to the Sultanpur National Park area but spent the bulk of our time inside the reserve. Our morning began with a stop at the Basai Wetlands, where a plethora of birds awaited us in hazy weather conditions. A few Oriental Skylarks greeted us as we climbed out the car before we started scanning for birds. Even though it was a short stop here we picked up nearly 50 species, with waterfowl including Bar-headed Goose, Knob-billed Duck, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Eurasian Teal, and Ferruginous Duck, a large flock of Greater Flamingos, incredible masses of Grey-headed Swamphens, our first Painted Stork, Grey and Purple Herons, Western Marsh Harrier, and a single Booted Warbler in the surrounding scrub. There weren’t many waders/shorebirds around, but we did see Common, Green, and Wood Sandpipers and Common Snipe along with White-tailed Lapwing. We then moved a short distance to the Sultanpur National Park, where we resumed our mornings birding with a walk around the park until we broke for lunch. The haze was still in effect, with low light conditions, but it soon lifted. We focused on the acacia woodland surrounding the dam and then did a bit of wetland birding from the dams’ edge. The wooded areas kept us busy, and we found the tricky Brooks’s Leaf Warbler early on. Our first woodpecker of the tour was the stunning Black-rumped Flameback, which we then saw a few times during the morning, before we focused on warblers for a bit. We did well to pick up Hume’s Leaf Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Lesser Whitethroat, and Moustached Warbler in the reeds, while noisy Large Grey Babblers were a pleasant distraction. A number of Red-breasted Flycatchers were present, but sadly we couldn’t turn any of them into Taiga Flycatcher, and a few skulking Bluethroats were also present. We also picked up some more-widespread species, such as Common Kestrel, Common Woodshrike, Rufous Treepie, Common Tailorbird, Indian White-eye, Jungle Babbler, Oriental Magpie-Robin, and the stunning Red Avadavat. A bare tree allowed excellent looks at both Wire-tailed and Streak-throated Swallows.
Rufous Treepie was a common sight in the drier woodlands during the first leg of the trip.
When we moved into the wetlands waterfowl were again present in immense numbers, and it took some time to sift through the throngs of birds present on the water. Greylag Goose was present in low numbers, while the vast majority of species were Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, and Eurasian Teal. Among them we also noted Eurasian Wigeon, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Red-crested and Common Pochards, and Ferruginous and Tufted Ducks, along with numbers of Eurasian Coots and Common Moorhens. Waders were few and far between, but a new species was a small group of Ruff. While turning our attention to the larger herons and egrets, a pair of the snazzy Black-necked Stork stole the show, while a small colony of Painted Storks were also present, together with Eurasian Spoonbill, Oriental Darter, Little and Great Cormorants, Great White Pelican, Great, Intermediate, and Little Egrets, and Indian Pond Heron. A few raptors perched atop the trees surrounding the water and gave us some good views – Booted and Eastern Imperial Eagles were noted, as too were a few Western Marsh Harriers. Following our lunch break we searched a nearby stream for Striated Babbler and almost immediately found our target, before continuing and starting with a few of the cute Spotted Owlets. We worked our way through the warblers but couldn’t find any new species, while many of the same waterbirds were present and seen again – allowing us to all get more familiar with them. The same suite of raptors was present as well, until a single Greater Spotted Eagle gave us a wonderful aerial display before moving out of view. A similar suite of species to those seen during the morning and some of the species seen yesterday were seen again during our afternoon spell, with little new, but we did round off our time in the park with a lovely pair of roosting Indian Scops Owls, which proved tricky to spot in their shady enclave. Then we made our way back to our hotel after another fantastic day.
We had a few sightings of the sought-after Greater Spotted Eagle – this bird is a juvenile.
Day 3, January 28, 2020. Transfer from New Delhi to Ranthambhore and afternoon safari
The morning was set aside as a travel day, as we made our way by means of the Golden Temple train from New Delhi to Sawai Madhopur on the outskirts of the famous Ranthambhore National Park. Although our train was slightly delayed, the actual trip itself went smoothly, but it was a bit tight getting to the hotel, having a quick lunch, and then getting ready to board the van that would take us into the park for the afternoon. We were assigned Zone 5 and bumbled our way along the road, stopping occasionally. Although the drive wasn’t to produce our hoped-for Tiger, we had a fairly enjoyable drive filled with quite a few birds, which was better than expected. Numbers of Indian Peafowl littered the ground, while some of the waterbodies held Brown Crake, Common Greenshank, Black, Painted and Woolly-necked Storks, Great Cormorant, Black-headed Ibis, Common Kingfisher, and White-browed Wagtail. Other notable birds seen during the afternoon included Crested Serpent Eagle, Indian Scops Owl, Black-rumped Flameback, Small Minivet, White-browed Fantail, numbers of the comical Rufous Treepie, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Cinereous Tit, Dusky Crag Martin, Hume’s Leaf Warbler, and Black Redstart. In addition to Sambar (a deer) and Chital (Spotted Deer) we found Northern Plains Gray Langur, Wild Boar, and our first Mugger (Marsh Crocodiles). As we had been cooped up in a vehicle for most of the day we were eager to walk around, and once we had returned to our hotel we took a stroll around the area until it got dark. Although things were on the quiet side we did well to see Common Babbler, Ashy Prinia, Pied Myna, and Bay-backed Shrike before we encountered a few unidentified sandgrouse that disappeared into the darkness.
Comical Northern Plains Gray Langurs were common around Ranthambhore.
Day 4, January 29, 2020. Full day in Ranthambhore National Park
We were up and ready to go early but had to wait a little while for our van to arrive. Eventually we were all aboard and on our way into Ranthambhore National Park once more. We were assigned Zone 4 for the morning and worked our way through the mosaic of open woodlands, riverine areas, and some more open grassland/scrubland. By and large the morning was relatively quiet, with very limited bird activity, and unfortunately the same was true on the mammal side. We certainly gave it a good go, stopping regularly, scanning around, and listening, but the prized Tiger did not materialize. Some birds seen during the morning were Eurasian Teal, a brief Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Crested Serpent Eagle, a stunning Brown Fish Owl, White-bellied Drongo, Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark, and Grey Wagtail. A similar suite of mammals as had been seen the previous afternoon were seen again this morning. After returning back to our hotel we had a quick bite to eat before heading out to explore the dry scrub surrounding our hotel. In stark contrast to the morning thus area was brimming with birdlife, and we enjoyed a wonderful few hours working it. A small group of the stunning Painted Sandgrouse was a highlight early on and showing well before we found Shikra, Green Bee-eater, Plum-headed Parakeet, Bay-backed Shrike, Brown Rock Chat, and both Rosy and Brahminy Starlings. We then saw an Indian Bush Lark, which gave us saturating views along with a Tawny Pipit, and shortly before returning to the hotel we saw a Rufous-fronted Prinia, which showed well. Another small bite to eat followed before we set off to Ranthambhore once more, this time bound for Zone 10. It was a bit of a drive until we got to the gate, but once we were in we immediately started to track down our major target, the Tiger, which had shown well here during the morning session. We again spent lots of time searching, scanning riverbeds and open forest, and listening, but we had to resign ourselves to not seeing this majestic animal just yet and being content with the fresh tracks were had found along one of the roads. Not to be forgotten, of course, the birding was pretty good here, and we enjoyed Grey Francolin, Black Stork, Indian Vulture, Shikra, Besra, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Yellow-throated Sparrow, and a few White-capped Buntings, among many others. Ruddy Mongoose and Chinkara (Indian Gazelle) joined our ‘normal’ suite of mammals seen, and we also saw Indian Softshell Turtle. We settled in for another good evening, hoping for better luck with Tigers later on during the tour.
Day 5, January 30, 2020. Transfer from Ranthambhore to Bharatpur
With a long travel day ahead of us, as we were to transfer from the Ranthambhore area to Bharatpur, we had to make the most of our time available. So we were out at dawn and walked around the outskirts of our lodge and the surrounding area. We didn’t quite get as far as we wanted to, a testament to the good birding we had as we enjoyed a wide range of species, including some shorebirds, woodland species, and a few open country birds. Our first major highlight was finding a small puddle that was alive with birds. Here we enjoyed views of Common Redshank, Common, Green, and Wood Sandpipers, and Ruff, among others, while the surrounding woods produced Eurasian Wryneck, Hume’s Leaf Warbler, Small Minivet, White-bellied Drongo, and Common and Large Grey Babblers. Numbers of Plum-headed and Alexandrine Parakeets were moving overhead, and while we were able to find perched Plum-headed Parakeets, we had to be content with fly-by views of Alexandrine Parakeet. Arguably our best bird of the morning, and probably the day, would come shortly afterwards as we picked up a small group of the prized (and scarce) Indian Courser. We were elated and enjoyed excellent looks at this species, and some scanning around revealed a total of 10 birds. Also present here were a flock of Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Larks, which also showed well, Greater Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, Great Grey Shrike, and Brahminy Starling before we picked up a single Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, which gave us better looks than we had had before. After checking out of our accommodation we set off, hoping to call in at the Soorwal Lake, but access turned out to be somewhat problematic with our vehicle, and we decided to rather press on and spend some of the afternoon at Keoladeo National Park (formerly known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary). Following a long drive we eventually arrived, with a few hours of daylight to spare, and immediately set off on foot to explore some of the closer paths. Despite our limited time we enjoyed a good sampling of what was to come for our full day in the park tomorrow. Arguably our main highlight was a small group of the unpredictable Greater Painted-snipe, but we also enjoyed seeing numbers of Bar-headed Goose, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Spotted Redshank, Woolly-necked Stork, and Eurasian Spoonbill, while the bushes on the outskirts of the water held Oriental Turtle Dove, large numbers of Yellow-footed Green Pigeons, Egyptian Vulture, Booted and Steppe Eagles, Spotted Owlet, White-eared Bulbul, Common Babbler, and Red-breasted Flycatcher, among other more widespread species. A number of Golden Jackals were also seen, wrapping up our day.
A family of Spotted Owlets enjoying the sun
Day 6, January 31, 2020. Full day birding Keoladeo National Park
Following an early breakfast we made our way into the incredible Keoladeo National Park once more, where we would spend the entire day birding around the network of roads and trails going through the various marshes and wooded areas. In short, we had nothing shy of an exceptional day filled with far too many highlights to go through them all. We first explored some of the wooded areas, well away from the water, and after having had our fill here, we made our way into the central reaches of the park and into the wetlands proper – all the while getting around by cycle rickshaws, which offered a great break after a bout of walking. Our morning period went by all too quickly, and we soon found ourselves reminiscing about all the many sightings we had while enjoying our fabulous ‘packed lunch’ in the park, which was a fully catered hot Indian meal. The woods had been quiet in the morning, but we did see Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Spotted Owlet, Indian Grey Hornbill, Coppersmith and Brown-headed Barbets, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Indian White-eye, Indian Robin, and Yellow-throated Sparrow. The wetlands held immense numbers of birds, with the bulk of the numbers being made up by various ducks, but also present were large numbers of herons, egrets, and coots and smaller numbers of waders. During our first few hours sorting through the many birds we noted Bar-headed Goose, Lesser Whistling Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, Garganey, White-tailed Lapwing, Bronze-winged Jacana, Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Black-necked Stork (including a pair devouring a large fish), Painted Stork, Great White Pelican, a secretive Black Bittern, and Striated Heron.
The smart-looking Bar-headed Goose was a regular feature of any wetland area.
The trees dotted around the wetlands held among others a glorious family of Dusky Eagle-Owls, Bay-backed Shrike, Common Tailorbird, Blyth’s and Clamorous Reed Warblers, Bluethroat, and Red-breasted Flycatcher. Raptors were also well in evidence, and we had to keep an eye on the sky constantly to see all the many raptors moving overhead and occasionally also perching to give us excellent looks. We did extremely well, watching Egyptian Vulture, Crested Serpent Eagle, both Indian Spotted and Greater Spotted Eagles, Booted, Eastern Imperial, Steppe, and Tawny Eagles, and Western Marsh Harrier, with arguably two of the ‘better’ raptors coming in form of a single Himalayan Vulture and a few of the Critically Endangered (IUCN) Indian Vultures. The birding did not slow down in the afternoon, and we continued to work different sections of the wetland and a similar patch of woods during our remaining time in the park. The wetland sections were kind to us, and we were able to find many of the ‘missing’ species we still had, such as Cotton Pygmy Goose, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, and Eurasian Curlew, among others, while a few of the regionally rare Grey-headed Lapwings were a welcome sight. The scrubby trees in the area also finally gave us Eastern Orphean Warbler, and we lucked out with Grey-bellied Cuckoo before ending our day in some wooded areas. A noisy group of Yellow-eyed Babblers and a showy Bluethroat greeted us before our persistence paid off and we found an Orange-headed Thrush that sat for all of us to see. But try as we might, we couldn’t turn any of the Bluethroats hopping around into our hoped-for Siberian Rubythroat. Following our great full day in the park, with over 130 species seen, we settled in for the evening.
Day 7, February 1, 2020. Transfer from Bharatpur to Chambal via the Taj Mahal
Today was one of the most-anticipated days of the tour, as we would be getting to the majestic Taj Mahal. However, our morning began with a journey to the Kumher plains, where we spent the first few hours. We had a productive session walking through the open plains and enjoying many species that we’d only seen once before. These included numbers of the scarce Indian Courser, Indian Roller, Isabelline Shrike, immense flocks of Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Larks and Greater Short-toed Larks, Desert Wheatear, and Yellow-throated Sparrow, while the neat Red Turtle Dove was our only new species. Following breakfast we checked out and traveled to Agra and the Taj Mahal. Visiting this iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must for any traveler, and we enjoyed our time here immensely and were completely enthralled by the beauty, majesty, and history of this incredible site. Following a run-through inside the mausoleum we did a bit of birding along the river. This was productive, and a number of species were present, including our first River Lapwings, but also seen here were Bar-headed Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Whiskered Tern, Painted and Woolly-necked Storks, Great White Pelican, Egyptian Vulture, Common Chiffchaff, and Red-breasted Flycatcher. Then we proceeded to our accommodation, Chambal Safari Lodge, where we arrived in the late afternoon. After checking into our rooms we took a short walk around the grounds and the surrounding area and found our main quarry, Brown Hawk-Owl, fairly easily early on. After having had our fill of the bird we stopped for a nearby pair of Indian Scops Owl (nearly in the same view as the hawk-owl) before resuming our walk, which was enjoyable, but we didn’t pick up many new species. Rather we enjoyed some we had only seen a few times, such as Lesser Whistling and Knob-billed Ducks, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Indian Stone-curlew, and Coppersmith Barbet, among others. Following a great dinner, we went on a short night walk, trying to see if we could find any nocturnal mammals. After a concerted effort we eventually found a Common Palm Civet and also enjoyed Indian Hare on our walk.
Day 8, February 2, 2020. Morning birding the Chambal River, transfer to New Delhi
We made our way to the National Chambal Sanctuary at pre-dawn, arrived at day break, and set out for a walk through the dry acacia scrub and grass before continuing our way to the Chambal River, where we would take a boat cruise. It was a fairly busy morning with quite a few birds moving around, with the top highlights being a vocal Sulphur-bellied Warbler, families of Grey-breasted Prinia, a large group of White-capped Buntings, and a plethora of Babblers – namely Jungle, Large Grey, Common, and Yellow-eyed, among others. It had been a pretty clear morning with no fog, but that all changed during our walk, as thick fog rolled in somewhat surprisingly. At the river we enjoyed our breakfast and a hot cup of chai before the fog lifted just as suddenly as it had arrived, and we boarded our boat. Due to the high level of water in the river this season one of our prime targets, Indian Skimmer, had moved far downstream and was largely inaccessible, requiring a multi-hour trip one-way to reach the site – sadly out of reach for our morning cruise. We spent several hours on the water and enjoyed a wonderful boat trip while finding many of our other targets. Some of the top birds seen included a few of the scarce and prized Black-bellied Tern, a large flock of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Great Stone-curlew (Thick-knee), River Tern, Pallas’s Gull, close views of River Lapwing, Bonelli’s Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Sand Lark, and Blue Rock Thrush. Our biggest target, however, was the incredible Gharial, and we weren’t to be disappointed, enjoying many views of these immense and fascinating reptiles. Ganges River Dolphin also obliged, much to our pleasure, and we spent some time enjoying views of this rare mammal as well! A wide range of bird species we had seen multiple times on the trip already was noted as well, along with several Muggers (Marsh Crocodiles) and Indian Softshell Turtle. Returning to shore, feeling very satisfied, we slowly made our way back to the lodge making a few birding stops, which delivered among others a few Baya Weavers. We had lunch, checked out, and drove back to New Delhi, arriving in the early evening, brimming with excitement for what the next leg of the trip would entail – the Himalayan zone.
The impressive Gharial was a major highlight on the Chambal River.
Day 9, February 3, 2020. Transfer from New Delhi to Bhimtal
Today was effectively a travel day as we made the long transfer from New Delhi to our base for the next few nights in Bhimtal. Our travel was hindered by dense fog (clearing only after 11 a.m.) and many slow-going vehicles as a result of this. We eventually arrived at our birding area in the mid-afternoon and immediately started birding. The next few hours went by in a blur of excitement filled with new birds. Our first vigil for Spotted Forktail produced the goods, with excellent looks at a pair moving up and down along the stream, and our time here also produced Great Barbet, Blue Whistling Thrush, Grey-winged Blackbird, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Brown-fronted Woodpecker, Himalayan Black-lored Tit, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, White-capped Redstart, Plumbeous Water Redstart, and a brief Rufous-bellied Niltava that disappeared a bit too quickly for our liking. A shrill call coming from the undergrowth belonged to Scaly-breasted Cupwing, and we were treated to brief looks at this tiny bird as it hopped and moved around in the undergrowth before melting back into the scrub. A bird party a bit farther along held Green-backed Tit, Mountain Bulbul, Whistler’s and Grey-hooded Warblers, Whiskered Yuhina, and Black-chinned Babbler, while a magnificent blue spot belonged to a Small Niltava which showed well. A bit farther along the stream we did well to pick up Slaty-backed Forktail and enjoyed good comparative views as it foraged alongside its larger Spotted Forktail cousin. We took a short drive to another area, where our search for Brown Dipper was a success; we picked up a pair moving about and enjoyed good scope views of this prized bird. The large Crested Kingfisher soon flew into view, and as if that wasn’t enough our day was rounded off with close looks at Aberrant Bush Warbler. Following a great end to a rather long day we settled in for the evening, looking forward to our full day in the area tomorrow.
Spotted Forktail was a target in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Day 10, February 4, 2020. Full day birding Sattal and surroundings
Following our pre-dawn coffee and cookies we loaded the van and headed to the Sattal area, where we would spend the morning. Our first stop was on the outskirts of the village, where we tried for Himalayan Rubythroat. We worked a few patches, and fortunately it didn’t require too much effort and we soon located our target, and, although it took some patience to ensure that we all got good looks at this prized and awesome bird, we were successful. Then we encountered our first bird party, which included Streaked Laughingthrush, the snazzy Black-throated Bushtit, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Olive-backed Pipit, and our first of many Grey-hooded Warblers for the day. We worked the outskirts of the village for a short time longer, finding Kalij Pheasant, numbers of Slaty-headed Parakeets, Asian Barred Owlet, Grey-backed Shrike, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Green-tailed Sunbird, and one of our early highlights, a few of the dapper Red-billed Leiothrix. After a breakfast break we soon found ourselves in a haze of activity, with species seen including Speckled Piculet, Brown-fronted Woodpecker, White-throated Fantail, Grey Treepie, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Rufous Sibia, Blue-winged Minla, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Bar-tailed Treecreeper, the prized Himalayan Bluetail, and Common Rosefinch. The good birding didn’t stop, and we continued from strength to strength, progressing to one of the dams in the valley, which produced further species including Greater Yellownape, Greater Flameback, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Himalayan Prinia, brief looks at the secretive Grey-sided Bush Warbler, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, White-throated Laughingthrush, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Tickell’s Thrush, numbers of Grey-winged Blackbirds, the stunning Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, and Russet Sparrow. Two of the best species seen in this last morning session were the rare and declining Grey-crowned Prinia, which was slowly seen working its way through the scrub thickets, and the rather exceptional Chestnut-headed Tesia, which played hard to get, but after hearing it for some time we were finally rewarded when the bird hopped out onto the edge of the stream, giving most of us good views. We then broke for lunch and afterwards resumed birding, as we transferred to another area, higher up in the mountains. Our afternoon was sadly not nearly as productive as the morning session had been, as a cold wind, cloud cover, and generally poor conditions all conspired against us, resulting in a tough afternoon session. Although we were able to locate a large Striated Laughingthrush and a brief Mountain Hawk-Eagle that disappeared a bit too quickly, these were virtually the only species we could show for our efforts.
The cute (and diminutive) Black-throated Bushtit was a common ‘bird party’ member.
Day 11, February 5, 2020. Full day birding Bhimtal and surroundings
We had a slight change of plans, as we were supposed to be heading up to Pangot today, but with some recent heavy snowfall, access to the area was difficult, and we opted to extend our stay in the lower elevation area around Bhimtal/Sattal for one more night, meaning we had another full day at our disposal there. We spent the morning birding in and around one of the outlying villages with its mosaic of fruit trees and mix of some alpine and riverine vegetation. Right from the onset the birding was good, and so it continued for most of the morning. First was a stunning male White-collared Blackbird perched near the road, and a feeding group soon after consisted of Himalayan and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Maroon Oriole, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Grey Treepie, Green-backed Tit, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Bushtit, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Striated and many Streaked Laughingthrushes, Rufous Sibia, Grey-winged Blackbird, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Green-tailed Sunbird, and Rock Bunting. We spent some time working through the group to ensure we all got onto the birds. We eventually tore ourselves away, continued a bit farther, and paused to search some seeding trees, which turned up a large flock of European Goldfinches along with Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, White-tailed Nuthatch, Rufous-bellied Niltava, and arguably one of the best sightings of the morning, and indeed the day, a Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush seen feeding on the ground a short distance away for some time. Small stops here and there produced further species, such as Asian Barred Owlet, Slaty-headed Parakeet, some surprise Himalayan Shrike-Babblers, Red-billed Leiothrix, Black-throated Thrush, Blue-fronted Redstart, and another top contender for bird of the morning/day, a sharp-looking male Himalayan Bluetail, which showed wonderfully to all of us. Satisfied with the morning we made our way back to our hotel, arriving around midday. Following lunch and a break we resumed our birding in the mid-afternoon, heading to the Chaafi area, where we had started our Himalayan birding a few days ago. While we saw a similar suite of species to those seen on our first afternoon in the area (day 9), we also found a number of different species. A mixed group of woodpeckers was an early highlight, consisting of Greater and Lesser Yellownape and Grey-headed, Brown-fronted, and the snazzy Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers.
We had a few sightings of Rufous-bellied Woodpecker in the foothills.
We enjoyed more excellent looks at Spotted and Slaty-backed Forktails and bettered our views of the secretive Scaly-breasted Cupwing. We worked hard for Golden Bush Robin, but despite our best efforts we couldn’t lure an individual out into the open and had to be content with hearing the bird. Other species of interest seen during our afternoon included Crested Kingfisher, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Aberrant Bush Warbler, Brown Dipper, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, and Crimson Sunbird. We retired to another good meal, ready for the next few days’ adventure.
Day 12, February 6. Transfer from Bhimtal to Pangot, birding en-route
Following an early checkout we made our way to the Sattal area, where our first port of call was one of the hides in the area, where we would target a few birds. It was an eventful morning in the hide, and although we only spent a relatively short span of time there was never a dull moment. One of our big targets, White-crested Laughingthrush, didn’t keep us waiting for too long, and we enjoyed some excellent looks at this attractive bird, as a small group of them fed together with a massive party of White-throated Laughingthrushes. A Common Green Magpie that spent some time at the hide was a treat, as were getting prolonged and close looks at Great Barbet, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Grey Treepie, Kalij Pheasant, Red Junglefowl, and Red-billed Leiothrix. After we tore ourselves away from the hide we spent the morning birding some of the surrounding forested areas, which for the most part gave us a similar suite of species we had been seeing over the last few days. A large flock of Black-headed Jays and a brief Common Emerald Dove were the only new species, but we did better our views of other species, such as Blue-winged Minla and Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush. We then made some ground to the Nainital area, where we had our next birding stop, which was incredibly productive. Open scrub areas yielded Blue-capped Redstart, a small flock of Pink-browed Rosefinches, Plain Mountain Finch, and a number of Rock Buntings, while the more wooded/forested areas including watching a garbage dump was brimming with birds, with the highlights going to a large group of the snazzy Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush.
We had wonderful encounters with the stunning Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush.
We also had excellent sightings of Mountain Hawk-Eagle (including an adult bird trying to catch a squirrel right in front of us!), Himalayan Bluetail, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, and a few Chestnut Thrushes intermingled with a mixed group of Grey-winged and White-collared Blackbirds. We also finally found Buff-barred Warbler, and once the first bird was out of the way, as is so typical, the flood-gates opened and we saw many more. Then we continued to Pangot, changing vehicles to a jeep from our larger van, as the latter was unable to drive the road into Pangot due to all the recent snow. Misty conditions were the order for the rest of the afternoon, and we didn’t see much but enjoyed close looks at Himalayan Woodpecker, further views of Chestnut Thrush, and the prized Golden Bush Robin. We settled in for a cool evening at elevation.
Day 13, February 7, 2020. Full day birding Pangot and surroundings
Following an early chai and biscuits we set off pre-dawn to the Vinayak area, where pheasants would be the main target of the day. As we slowly wound our way higher up we paused at sunrise to admire the peaks of the distant Himalayas before continuing onward. Our first target would be Koklass Pheasant, and it took some searching, but quite literally at the farthest point we could reach, due to the recent snowfall, we bumped into a group of four individuals, which, after scurrying away initially, settled down and gave us some great views! We then made our way to ‘Cheer Point’, where Cheer Pheasant would be the order for the remainder of the morning. We spent some time scanning the steep grassy slopes but in the end were unsuccessful. Other birds seen in the area included a few eye-level Himalayan Vultures, Black Eagle, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, a large flock of Altai Accentors, Blue-capped Redstart, and a few stunning Himalayan Bluetails. Hill Partridge frustrated us by remaining unseen. Our morning was rounded off by a visit to a village area and its surrounding terraced fields, which were a bit quiet but did yield Mistle Thrush and brief Black-throated and Rufous-breasted Accentors, among others. Himalayan Goral, Northern Red Muntjac, Sambar, and Wild Boar were all seen during the course of the morning. We then made our way back to our lodge to break for lunch before resuming birding in the midafternoon, visiting another area nearby. Here we slowly walked the roads, passing through patches of open land and some forested areas. The weather wasn’t fantastic, similar to the previous day, but we persisted and enjoyed some good birding as we worked the area. Another low flyby of a Mountain Hawk-Eagle was appreciated, while an Asian Barred Owlet sat up in the open for all to admire. We also finally connected with the handsome Scaly-bellied Woodpecker, while Coal Tit played hide-and-seek with us, vanishing before we could all get good views. A pair of Dark-breasted Rosefinches was the last new species for us. Other species we found included Himalayan Woodpecker, Maroon Oriole, Eurasian Jay, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Himalayan Black-lored Tit, White-tailed Nuthatch, White-collared Blackbird, Blue-fronted Redstart, Rock Bunting, and improved views of Altai Accentor. A dinner in front of the fireplace rounded off another good day in the mountains.
Day 14, February 8, 2020. Birding Pangot and transfer to Corbett
With the morning available to us we set off once more to the Vinayak area, where Cheer Pheasant would be our main focus for the morning. We arrived in good time as the first rays of sun began to appear over the mountains and spent a while scanning the steep grassy slopes of the Cheer Point area. We were sadly unsuccessful once again, but two stunning Yellow-throated Martens bounding away through the grass were the undoubted highlight. Birding some of these higher forests was on the quiet side, but we did run into a group of Yellow-browed and Coal Tits, and also successfully connected with Green Shrike-babbler. Then we made our way back to Pangot, where we gathered our things, checked out, and headed off to bird some of the forested areas farther down the road. Although we didn’t have much time available we did well, finding a large group of Black-faced Warblers along with enjoying stunning views of Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Eurasian Jay, and Spotted Forktail.
A quick stop in the scrub near Nainital was alive with birds, providing Tickell’s Leaf Warbler, a brief Golden Bush Robin, Common Rosefinch, and numbers of Rock Buntings, while Himalayan Vulture, Himalayan Buzzard, and Peregrine Falcon worked the skies above. Following a smooth transfer we found ourselves in the Corbett area in good time and immediately set off for the Kosi River, where monotypic birds would be the order of the afternoon, with both the prized Ibisbill and Wallcreeper on offer. We started trying to find the former and couldn’t believe our luck when we found a stunning Ibisbill working the river, fairly close to us, very soon after we had arrived!
The monotypic Ibisbill was one of the most-prized specials we found on the tour!
We spent a long time enjoying this spectacular bird, getting stunning views, before beginning to pay attention to some of the other birds in the area as well. The likes of River Lapwing, Crested Kingfisher, Red-breasted Parakeet, Taiga Flycatcher, Grey-breasted Prinia, and Olive-backed Pipit, among others, were all present. But despite a lot of searching we had to go empty-handed on the Wallcreeper side, eventually calling it a day with the sun going down and the temperature beginning to drop. Still, we felt very accomplished about finding what is one of the world’s most sought-after birds and excited at our prospects of going into Jim Corbett National Park tomorrow!
Day 15, February 9, 2020. Jim Corbett National Park
One of our most-anticipated days of the tour had arrived – with us due to enter Jim Corbett National Park. The Dhikala zone of thee park only opened a bit later in the morning, but following an early breakfast we headed out birding and focused on an area similar to where we had been yesterday on the Kosi River. It was a cold morning, and evidently the birds thought so too, with not much happening on the riverside or in the surrounding woods. We eventually found a mixed flock or two and spent a while sifting through them, picking up a few new species such as Long-tailed Minivet and Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, but otherwise enjoying birds we had seen on the trip already, such as Black-chinned Babbler, Whistler’s Warbler, and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch. The river was particularly quiet, perhaps due to the many locals frequenting its banks, and soon we cut our losses here and headed onward, closer to the gate, for another spell of birding. This proved a good move with a hive of activity keeping us going until we were allowed into the park. Red-breasted Parakeet showed well early on before we found a nice mixed flock, which held Scarlet Minivet, Maroon Oriole, Hair-crested Drongo, and a mass of woodpeckers, including Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Fulvous-breasted and Streak-throated Woodpeckers, Black-rumped and Greater Flamebacks, and Greater Yellownape. Finally in the park itself we made our way to the Dhikala Camp, slowly birding. The birding was pretty good, and we encountered a number of mixed flocks on the trip along with a few other species here and there, and by the time we had checked into the Dhikala Camp around lunchtime we had enjoyed the likes of Crested Treeswift, the Critically Endangered Red-headed Vulture, both Pallas’s and Grey-headed Fish Eagles, Lineated Barbet, the dainty Collared Falconet perched close to the road, many more Scarlet and Long-tailed Minivets, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, and Rufous-bellied Niltava, among others.
We were lucky and found a Collared Falconet next to the road, which showed well.
Our afternoon safari saw us crossing the Ramganga River as we headed out in search of a family of Tigers that had been showing well recently. While the afternoon was focused on the Tigers we of course didn’t forget the birds and enjoyed some good birding and excellent birds throughout the afternoon. Sadly our poor run of luck with the Tiger would continue, as none were seen during the afternoon by us or any of the other groups. The birding, however, somewhat compensated for this, with the likes of repeat views of Red Junglefowl and Kalij Pheasant showing well, while a Lesser Coucal played hide-and-seek with us at the base of a grass clump, only showing for some of the group. Glancing at the skies every so often also paid off and produced White-rumped Spinetail and Himalayan Swiftlet along with another Red-headed Vulture. We found a well-camouflaged Jungle Owlet perched in some riverine trees and also enjoyed our first Blue-throated Barbet and Black-hooded Oriole. Ashy Bulbul kept to the thickets, only giving us some brief views, and our last sighting of the day came with a brief flyby of the massive Great Slaty Woodpecker, which left us wanting more. But we didn’t have to worry because after rounding a bend we enjoyed a group of these massive, noisy woodpeckers perched and displaying in an open tree some distance away, before all flying over us, giving us some great views! Our non-avian highlights for the day were Golden Jackal, Northern Red Muntjac, and repeat views of the scarce (and awesome) Gharial!
Day 16, February 10, 2020. Morning in Corbett, afternoon birding Kumeriya
Our morning safari in the Dhikala zone of Corbett began with early mist over the Ramganga River, which made for an atmospheric scene as we set off. Tiger would be our main target for the morning, and we headed in the same direction as on the previous day, trying our luck once more. An early highlight was a stunning male Hen Harrier seen quartering over the grass before we got wind of the first Tiger sighting and headed off. We joined a number of other jeeps staking out a crossing where the Tigers had just been seen, but soon headed a slight bit farther to wait it out. After a short wait the cry of “Tiger” went out as we picked up one of these stunning cats walking through the long grass. Not all of us managed to see it, but some reshuffling and repositioning saw the remainder of the group also getting sight of this most-prized of mammals. We enjoyed some great, albeit brief, close views of at least two of these cats (probably two of the three large cubs present with a female in the area) as they strolled by in the grass close to the track. There was a bit of frustration with all the jeeps moving positions and jostling around, and we ultimately missed the cats crossing the road, but we were well pleased with finally laying eyes on a Tiger! We spent a little while longer, waiting for one to reappear, but this was in vain. While walking through the grass one of the Tigers flushed a Black Francolin, which left us wanting a bit more, and an unidentified buttonquail also disappeared into the grass in front of one of the cats. We could finally concentrate a bit more on some of the birds, and our trip back to the lodge yielded Lesser Fish Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Brown Crake, and Streak-throated Woodpecker, among others. We had a quick bite to eat and some chai before venturing off to another patch of Dhikala, where we would spend the rest of our allotted safari time. It was beginning to get quiet, and the birding was slow, but we enjoyed a nesting family of Pallas’s Fish Eagles, some close River Tern flybys, and a flock of the noisy Yellow-eyed Babblers. Following our checkout we took a leisurely stroll around the lodge grounds, enjoying the Gharials once more, along with Black-necked Stork, Western Osprey, a close Lesser Fish Eagle, Black-throated Thrush, and Red-breasted Flycatcher before making our way out of the park. We had some ground to cover and not much time to do it, so we made only a few stops. Two of them, however, gave us a stunning male Great Hornbill perched in the open and a fabulous Tawny Fish Owl. Eventually we found ourselves leaving Corbett National Park and progressed to our lodge, where we dropped our things off and had a quick lunch before heading to the Kumeriya area, where we would spend the rest of the day.
The large Tawny Fish Owl was one of the main highlights of the tour.
After arriving in the area we found ourselves in a bird feeding party with Grey-headed Woodpecker, White-throated and Yellow-bellied Fantails, Grey-hooded Warbler, and Cinereous Tit among others present. Brown Fish Owl gave us some excitement before we spent a while searching for Orange-bellied Leafbird, and almost as we had given up heard one calling bird but just could not find it. We walked a little farther, enjoying another stunning Tawny Fish Owl, before the leafbird started calling again, this time from much closer, and a quick change of position allowed us to enjoy good looks at this attractive species! As if that weren’t enough, we then heard a calling Nepal Cupwing (Wren-babbler), but it soon went quiet. After a while, though, we heard another one calling from the other side of the river. Fortunately the river was reasonably narrow, so we went to the edge of the water and attempted to call one out of the bushes. It took some patience and careful scanning of the rocks at the base of the bushes, but we eventually enjoyed some good, albeit, brief looks at this prized bird as it bounded along the rocks. A great sighting to cap off a wonderful, successful day!
Day 17, February 11, 2020. Morning birding Corbett, transfer to Delhi
Today was a pretty full day for us, which started early with a morning safari in the Bijrani zone of Jim Corbett National Park. After completing all formalities we were eventually able to enter into the park soon after dawn and started slowly working our way along some of the tracks, birding as we went. It was generally a quiet morning with only a few bouts of activity, but we were still able to add a few new birds to our list, which included a good sighting of the large Stork-billed Kingfisher, a massive flock of over 30 Large Woodshrikes, finally finding Common Iora, and seeing Large Cuckooshrike amid a bird party. In addition we also enjoyed many of the species we had seen already, with Red Junglefowl, Indian Peafowl, Black Stork, up-close-and-personal Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, White-bellied and Hair-crested Drongos, Common Woodshrike, and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch giving us good views. We returned to the lodge, where we had a good, hearty brunch before starting a short walk around the property and the nearby Kosi River. The area full of birds, and we enjoyed a fruitful walk with River Lapwing, Crested Kingfisher, Black Bulbul, Common Chiffchaff, Sykes’s Warbler, Black-throated Thrush, Verditer Flycatcher, and a stunning male Crimson Sunbird before checking out. We also said our goodbyes to Katie, who would be staying behind and continuing on her own, while the remainder of the group transited back to Delhi, where the tour would conclude. Before we got going, though, we called in at the Kosi River Barrage, where we would have one last try for Wallcreeper (after having missed it at its other known areas a few times already), but despite working the area extensively over the next hour luck was not on our side. All was not lost, however, as we enjoyed a large group of Ruddy Shelducks, Woolly-necked Stork, Booted Eagle, Nepal House Martins flying overhead, and a few of the snazzy White-capped Redstarts, among others. Our drive back to Delhi went smoothly enough, with Bronze-winged Jacana being the only notable bird seen, and we arrived at our hotel after dark and settled in for the evening.
Day 18, February 12, 2020. Departure
We met for a leisurely breakfast, reminiscing about the tour and the many great birds seen throughout, and some of our highlights before we said our goodbyes and parted ways, departing at various times throughout the day.
I just want to thank the group for joining the tour, and for being excellent clients that made the trip all the more enjoyable and the birding a delight! Overall we did have a successful tour, filled with far too many highlights to list, but some of them included our close and prolonged views of Ibisbill, eventually laying our eyes on a Tiger, our vast tally of the region’s woodpecker species, and a thoroughly enjoyable river cruise on the Chambal River, which produced our much-wanted Gharial and some great looks at the rare Ganges River Dolphin, among others!
We had great views of the stunning Common Green Magpie in the Himalayan foothills.
Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included. This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.
BIRDING TOURS INDIA: GENERAL INFORMATION
PASSPORT AND VISA
Most people will require a visa for visiting India depending on your country of origin or length of stay. Please check your government’s advice; this may be achievable via the e-visa system (there is a small fee for most visas). Your passport must be valid for a period of at least 6 months after the date of your arrival in India. Please make sure that there is at least one empty page available in your passport. Please make sure that you also bring a photocopy of your passport, to be kept in a different location from your hard copy of your passport, in case of loss/damage.
Passports should be kept on your person for safety and ease of use. You will need to show passports and give passport details at most accommodation, trains, and national park entrance gates.
Note: If your passport changes between the time you book a tour and provide your information and your trip you must let us know ASAP so we can update the details on the national park and train tickets. Failure to do so could result in difficulties on arrival at parks or train stations.
For details on visa see the following website: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/index.html
We strongly recommend that you purchase trip cancellation insurance to protect yourself against accidents, medical, illness, loss of valuables, luggage, etc., and travel interruptions or delays of all kinds.
Please consult your doctor regarding any vaccine requirements. All travelers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters (e.g. tetanus). There is no risk of yellow fever transmission in India; however, there is a certificate requirement if travelers have visited/come from any of the following countries: http://www.who.int/ith/2015-ith-annex1.pdf?ua=1. Some travelers may require Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, and Rabies. Risk of Malaria is considered low, although you should seek the recommendations of your doctor and please read https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/yellow-fever-malaria-information-by-country/india#seldyfm879 carefully. Please also read https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/india or a UK site that gives great info as well: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/india/health. Note that these pages are only a guide, so do consult your usual source for travel health advice.
Sunscreen should be carried, and a hat should be worn to protect from the powerful rays of the sun with sunglasses to help prevent glare. A plentiful supply of water should be carried at all times to maintain hydration. Insect repellent is recommended.
Due to air pollution in and around New Delhi it is advised to purchase a face mask to reduce the potential for breathing in dirty air. These face masks can be purchased from most chemists. A bandana can also help reduce dust intake in dusty areas such as in national parks if they are dry.
lease make sure that you are covered by medical insurance in case of an emergency while on this trip. Without insurance the cost of medical care can be extremely high. Please notify us at the time of registering for this tour of any medical conditions you think we should know about (including allergies, heart conditions, epilepsy, etc.). This will greatly help us to cater to your needs and update emergency services if required.
Indian Rupee. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, including for drawing cash from ATM’s (as everywhere, bank charges may apply). Note: US dollars or British pounds cannot be used for purchases. We will be able to exchange or draw money at the airport upon our arrival and in the various cities we pass through. But it is worth noting that ATMs will give you large denomination notes, and getting smaller change (e.g. useful for tips) is quite difficult to obtain. Most ATMs only allow a maximum withdrawal of 10,000 rupees in one go. The ATM at the airport (in the arrivals lounge) can be a bit temperamental but does accept Visa and MasterCard cards.
We will experience a range of temperatures in India, including some cold/very cold mornings in the mountains of the north on the North India and Northeast India tours. Game drives here can be very cold in the early morning (the jeeps are open-top). It is advisable to bring layers, including a warm coat, woolen hat, gloves, etc., for these tours. Birding sites south of New Delhi will be hot during the day but can drop to be fairly cold overnight and early in the morning, and it may get a bit chilly in the southern Indian hills on the Western Ghats tour. A bandana or face mask would be helpful for time spent near New Delhi due to pollution but also for keeping dust out of your face while in any of the national parks on the jeep safaris.
230 V at 50 Hz. Two- or three-pronged round sockets. Adaptors are needed for overseas appliances. See the following link for details and photos: https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/india/. Types D and M seem to be the most common sockets where we stay on our tours. The electricity can go off unexpectedly due to power shortages. A decent torch (flashlight) is essential. Power surges can be common, so ensure your devices are suitable to withstanding these.
LENGTH OF DRIVES
Whenever there are moderate or lengthy drives they are broken up where possible with birding stops and stops for refreshments, etc. Driving in India is not as good as in most of the rest of the world and can take some getting used to. Our drivers are used to the road conditions and driving style and do a great job of keeping everyone safe. Distances traveled are not particularly huge in most cases, but the roads are often in a poor condition, making drives take longer than they would in more developed areas. Many roads are in the process of getting upgraded, and there are a few very good toll roads we will likely use.
Many but most certainly not all of the places visited on our tours have WIFI in some form. This may just be in the hotel lobby and can be a bit hit-or-miss. If you want more reliable internet connection it is possible to purchase a SIM card at the airport, e.g. Airtel works well through most of the country and is fairly cheap.
WHAT TO BRING
This is not a fashion statement trip! Casual and informal, practical dress is fine in the hotels. Loose lightweight field clothing works best, with a warm fleece or jacket for cooler weather and warm clothing for early-morning game drives. Shorts and T-shirts are fine in the south. You will also need to bring some warmer clothing and a rain jacket. Rain is always a possibility, so an umbrella and/or rain gear is always useful to have. Early mornings can feel very chilly in some areas, so come prepared, especially in the northern mountains at higher elevations.
Sunglasses, sunhat and sunscreen (rated SPF 30 or higher) are useful. A pair of pants/trousers or a long skirt and a long-sleeved shirt should be included to help protect against forest vegetation and the sun. Swimwear can be brought as there are swimming pools at some of the hotels.
We would recommend lightweight walking boots when out on foot. You might like to consider sandals/trainers (tennis shoes) for use in the vehicles and for walking between your room and restaurant in the hotels and lodges.
Do not forget – Binoculars, prescription drugs (also bring the generic names for these drugs), toiletries, prescription glasses (and a spare pair), insect repellent, sunscreen and sunglasses, camera, flashlight (torch), batteries (for electronic equipment and chargers for re-chargeable batteries if required), converter plug set if needed and plug adaptors, alarm clock, money pouch, field guide(s), daypack. While our guides typically carry a scope, if you have your own scope you might wish to bring it too as this will speed up observations.
Key Documents and Cash – Passports, your travel or health insurance cards, photocopies of which can be carried by the tour leader in case of emergency, credit cards (see info above). US dollars, euros, or British pounds can be exchanged into Indian rupees if you prefer not to simply draw cash from ATMs for drinks, gifts, tips, items of a personal nature, etc., which are not included in the tour cost.
>Due to restricted space in the vehicles please pack as lightly as possible. A medium soft-sided duffle bag (not the hard-sided cases) works best for packing in the vehicles. This allows us to better fit the bags. Please bring a daypack to keep items that you wish to use or need on a daily basis.
There are several dangerous animals in India such as tiger, leopard, and Asian elephant. We will endeavor to see these beautiful creatures but remain a respectful distance from them. There are several species of venomous snakes in India, so all snakes should be viewed from a safe distance with care taken when walking in forests, scrub, and grassland (e.g. check where you are putting your hands and feet).
India is generally a safe place to travel with very friendly people. However, as anywhere in the world it is advisable to take care and remain cautious and observant for the unexpected, especially in busy areas with lots of people, e.g. train stations, airports, markets, monuments, etc.
English is widely spoken. Our local guide will assist with communication with some jeep drivers who may not speak English.
It is expected to tip practically everyone who provides any form of service in India, so try and get as many small notes as possible as early as possible (but this is not always easy!). The following is a guide, and if you feel like a service provided was better/worse than expected you can adjust accordingly. Note: Examples of tips below are per group (2-4 persons) and not per traveler and are in Indian Rupee (INR). Nature Guide (full day) 750-1250 INR, Jeep Guide (3 – 5 hours) 200 – 300 INR, Monument Guide (full day) 500-1000 INR, Monument Guide (half day) 300-500 INR, Driver 500-1000 INR/day, Hotel porters 50 INR/bag/porter (extra if lots of heavy bags), Hotel Staff (2 to 3 nights duration of stay) usually 250 INR per room per night as a consolidated amount to be put into the box or handed to the hotel manager to share among his staff, Hotel greeting staff 50-100 INR for car door opening at plush hotels, Railway porters (pay them once they have shown you to your seat and carried your bags into the carriage) expect around 100 INR/bag but agree about the price in advance, Rickshaw guides (Bharatpur) 500-750 INR per day.
The entrance fees for monument visits (e.g. Fatehpur Sikri, the Taj Mahal, and any others we may decide to visit) are not included in the tour price and are to be paid on arrival at the monument. For example, on the Northern India tour at the Taj Mahal a local monument guide is included in your tour price (he will talk to you about the history of the building, and point out interesting features etc.), but the actual entrance fee is not included.
Note: On the Northern India tour the visit to the Taj Mahal is just to walk around the outside with lots of nice photo opportunities, but it does not go inside as there simply isn’t enough time for this. If you would like to go inside the Taj Mahal we can arrange a pre- or post-tour extension where this would be possible.
Some of the places visited are ‘dry’, i.e. they do not serve alcoholic drinks. Some places will allow you to bring purchased alcohol into their restaurants, others will only allow it in your room. There are bottle shops in most towns we go through, so it is easy to buy wine, beer, or spirits here. The local Sula red/white wine is quite nice, especially in the cold evenings in the north!
There are many good photo opportunities on our tours, ranging from natural and human-made landscapes to birds and other wildlife. Depending on the size of your camera (e.g. if you have a huge lens) you may be charged a fee at some locations. The fees for this are usually very small.
GENERAL USEFUL INFORMATION
Take a toilet roll from the first hotel with you for roadside/emergency stops; there are plenty of toilets at gas stations but most are basic with no toilet roll.
Take a bottle of hand sanitizer and use after shaking people’s hands and touching money/doors/taps etc., and use it before eating. General hygiene and sanitation levels in India are much lower than in most of the rest of the world.
Never drink any water coming out of taps. Only drink bottled water or purified water. You will be provided with a couple of bottles of water by your local guide each day. Note that sometimes hotels will provide a couple of bottles of water for free, but sometimes additional bottles will be charged for, so just be sure what is or isn’t included by discussing it with the hotel.
Laundry services are available at a number of hotels we stay at during our tours, and the costs for this are fairly reasonable.
On arrival you’ll be met by our ground agent, who’ll take you to your hotel or wherever you need to be. They will have a sign with your name.
Ensure that you arrive at the airport three hours before your international flight, as there is a lot of red tape to go through and it can take a while getting through check in, immigration, and security. There should be no departure tax, which should be included in your flight ticket, but it’s worth it confirming this with your chosen airline.