Introduction to India birdwatching

North India where the Himalayas gently merge and join the fertile gangetic plains, and the great Thar desert and vast alluvial plains form the centres of some of the oldest civilisations in the world, is home to about 800 species of birds. Let us take you on a journey of exploration to experience some of the best birding sites in the Western Himalayas and offer you the opportunity to photograph some of the most exotic species found in India. This itinerary is a great Introduction to Indian birdwatching for the first timer.

Best Time: November to March

Outline Summary:

Day 01: Delhi to Corbett Tiger Reserve
Day 02 – 04: Corbett Tiger Reserve
Day 05: Corbett TR – Pangot
Day 06: Pangot
Day07: Pangot to Sattal
Day 08: Sattal to Delhi
Day 09: Delhi to National Chambal Sanctuary
Day 10: National Chambal Sanctuary to Bharatpur via Agra
Day 11 & 12: Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Bharatpur
Day 13: Bharatpur to Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
Day 14 & 15:  Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
Day 16: Ranthambore Tiger Reserve to Delhi

The Journey 

A birding trip to North India will begin in the National Capital Region of Delhi. From here you will head to the renowned grasslands of the Corbett Tiger Reserve which lies in the Terai region at the foothills of the Himalayas. The Corbett Tiger Reserve named after the well known hunter and author Jim Corbett is one of the oldest Project Tiger reserves in India. With a bird list of 557 species including 18 globally threatened species, Corbett TR is a bird watchers paradise.

From Corbett TR you will travel to the Middle Himalayas in the state of Uttarakhand. Pangot is a village in Nainital district, at the foothills of the Kumaon forests made famous by Ruskin Bond’s evocative tales. A small village, this boudoir of tranquility is set in a landscape of incredible natural beauty. Over 500 species of birds have been recorded in the oak and pine forests of the region.

From Pangot you will travel to Sattal, an oasis of seven interconnected lakes that offers an unparalled experience of migratory bird activity.  The idyllic environs admist the beautiful forests are the setting of one of the great birding locales in the Himalayas.

From the Himalayas you will journey to the Chambal Sanctuary. The Chambal is one of India’s most pristine rivers. Part of this river was declared a protected area and hosts an amazing riverine faunal assemblage including 2 species of crocodile, 8 species of freshwater turtles, smooth coated otters, the gangetic river dolphin, skimmers, black-bellied terns and over 250 species of birds.

After an enchanting interlude on the Chambal River you will head to Agra and see the Taj Mahal enroute to the Keoladeo Ghana National Park, a wetland site of international importance and a designated Ramsar site. This is a manmade and managed wetland area home to 336 species of birds, and every year thousands of migratory waterfowl visit the area for winter breeding. The sheer number of birds has often led to the region being declared one of the richest bird areas of the world.

The last destination on your journey is the world renowned Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in the desert state of Rajasthan. The Reserve is famous for its tiger population and the picturesque Fort that serves as a backdrop to the Reserve. About 272 species of birds are found here many of which you will encounter on safaris in the Reserve.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 0: New Delhi

You are met and transferred to your hotel for the night.

Day 1: New Delhi – Corbett National Park.

Pick-up from Hotel at 0600 hrs and transferred to Corbett by road (7.5hrs). Afternoon birding at Kosi river.
Overnight stay at Resort. 

Day 2 -4: Corbett National Park (Dhikala)

After breakfast, drive onward for Dhangarhi gate for entry to Dhikala tourism zone and the wildlife adventure of Corbett begins. Visit the Interpretation Centre and continue the safari through the stately dense Sal (Shorea robusta) jungle. You follow the lower jungle track along the Ramganga River accompanied by an expert guide. The safari offers a great opportunity for viewing wildlife, especially the Tiger and the Asian Elephant in their natural habitat. You cross the river at Gethia Rao Bridge for the Kanda Range, where Jim Corbett shot the famous Kanda man-eater to arrive at the main tourist complex, Dhikala. In the afternoon, after lunch, you visit the grasslands and forested area for birding. Overnight stay at Dhikala Forest Lodge.

Birding in the lower jungle track along the Ramganga river is very rewarding for water birds such as River Lapwings, Waders, Mergansers and other Waterfowl. While relaxing at the lodge or visiting the grasslands one can see Long-tailed Nightjar, Jungle Owlet, Spot-bellied Owl, Common Stonechat, Black Francolin, Purple and Crimson Sunbirds, Golden-fronted & Orange-bellied Leafbirds, Black-Shouldered Kite, Hen Harrier, Changeable Hawk-eagle, Chestnut-tailed Starling etc.

Day 3 is also spent bird watching and tracking Tigers in the Grasslands. An Elephant ride for game viewing may be possible subject to availability.

On Day 4 you take a morning safari through the grasslands and dense forests. Return for breakfast and then spend time till lunch on a watchtower overlooking a water hole. Drive to Resort on outskirts of Park. Arrive at Resort for dinner & overnight stay. Some of the best birding areas of Dhikala are Sambhar Road and Khinanauli. One expect to see great Slaty Woodpecker, Great Hornbill, Puff-throated Babbler, White-rumped Shama, Pallas’s Fish Eagle etc.

Day 5: Corbett National Park – Pangot

Morning walk at Kumeria. Return for lunch. One can look for Black Bulbul, Brown-eared Bulbul, Brown Fish Owl, Little & Spotted Forktail, Yellow-bellied and White-browed Fantail, Crested Laughing thrush, Black-winged Cuckoo Shrike, Little Heron, Wallcreeper, Red-breasted Parakeet, Short-billed & Long-tailed Minivet, Brown Dipper, Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark etc. Afternoon drive to Corbett Falls stopping en route at Dabka causeway to look for Ashy Crowned Sparrow Lark. After birding at Corbett Falls continue to Pangot to arrive in  time for lunch. The afternoon is spent leisurely birding in and around the Lodge looking for species such as Woodpeckers including the  Greater Yellownape, Scaly-breasted, Speckled Piculet , Slaty-headed Parakeets, numerous Spotted and Oriental Turtle Doves, Grey Bushchat, Russet Sparrow. Cuckoos including Indian, Oriental, Large-hawk and Eurasian. Large-billed Crow, Grey Treepie, Black-headed Jay, Maroon Oriole, Large Cuckoo Shrike, Tits such as Rufous-naped, Black-throated & Yellow-browed and smaller numbers of Black-lored and Green-backed. White-tailed Nuthatches, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatches and Bar-tailed Treecreeper.
Overnight stay at Lodge.

Day 6: Pangot

Another day of birding at Pangot village, Baggar and Gughu Khan. These walks can be very rewarding. ernight stay at the lodge. Bird species listed in the area include Crested serpent-eagle, Mountain Hawk-eagle, Woodpeckers such as brown-fronted, stripe-breasted, rufous-bellied, and Thrushes including dark-throated, mistle. Striated Prinia can be seen in the terraced fields. Warblers found in the region include Tickell’s Leaf-warbler, Greenish, Golden-spectacled, Grey-hooded. Also noteable are a variety of Flycatchers such as Asian Brown,Rusty-tailed, Ultramarine, Verditer, Tickell’s Blue, Rufous-bellied Niltava etc., Orange-flanked Bush Robin, Blue-capped Redstart. Laughingthrushes such as White-throated, Striated & Streaked, Chestnut-crowned etc. Accentors, Upland Pipits, Blue-winged Minla, Whiskered Yuhina are other species seen on walks.
Overnight stay in Lodge

Day 7: Pangot – Sat Tal

Drive to Sat Tal (2 hours) in the morning. Birding along the way and around SatTal. The entire drive is through the forested area of Cheena Peak Range via Snow View Point and Kilbury. One can see a variety of Himalayan species along the way such as Lammergeier, Himalayan Griffon, Blue-winged Minla, Spotted & Slaty-backed Forktail, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Khalij Pheasant, variety of thrushes etc. More than 200 species have been recorded at Pangot and surrounding areas. The numerous perennial & seasonal creeks are home to an amazing variety of flora and fauna including the Leopard, Yellow-throated Himalayan Martin, Himalayan Palm Civet, Ghoral, Barking Deer, Sambhar Deer, Red Fox etc.
Overnight stay in Lodge

Day 8: Sat Tal – Kathgodam – Delhi

We continue to birdwatch around Sat Tal looking for more species including the Red-breasted Accentor, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Greater & Lesser Yellow-naped Woodpecker, Blue-throated Barbet, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Black Bulbul, Dark-throated Thrush etc. In the afternoon you transfer to Lal Kuan at 1600 hours and take the overnight train to Delhi.

Day 9: Delhi – National Chambal Sanctuary

You arrive at Delhi at 5am. You are met and transferred to Chambal early in the morning (5-hour drive). In the afternoon you embark on an exciting boat cruise to see Indian Skimmer, Black-bellied Tern, flocks of migratory Waterfowl, Cranes such as Common, Demoiselle and Sarus, and Fish-eating crocodile (Gharial) and Marsh Mugger, Gangetic Dolphin, Turtles etc.
Overnight stay at Lodge.

Day 10: National Chambal Sanctuary – Agra – Bharatpur

Morning visit to the Taj Mahal. Transfer from Agra to Bharatpur (1½ hours), arriving Bharatpur by noon. Afternoon birding in the wetlands of Bharatpur.
Overnight in the hotel.

Day 11 & 12: Bharatpur

Full days of birding in Keoladeo Ghana National Park on foot and cycle rickshaws with a birding guide. The birds to expect are Indian Courser, Sarus Crane, Dusky eagle Owl, Large tailed Nightjars, Common Pochard, Great white Pelican, Greylag and Bar headed Goose.
Overnight at Lodge

Day 13: Bharatpur – Ranthambhore National Park

Drive to Ranthambhore National Park (5 hours) in the morning stoppingen route at Bund Baretha for birding. In the afternoon you enter the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and continue bird watching there. The birds that one can expect to see include Grey francolin, Sirkeer Malkoha, Painted Sandgrouse, Indian Courser, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Southern Grey Shrike, Isabelline Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, Variable Wheatear, Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Blue Rock Thrush, and Common Buzzard.
Overnight in the resort.

Days 14-15: Ranthambhore National Park

Morning & afternoon safaris are planned for this day for tiger-tracking. You also have the option of visiting the 1000-year old fort.
Overnight stay at the resort.

Day 16: Ranthambhore National Park – Delhi

You spend your last morning on this trip birding outside the Park. After lunch, you transfer to train station to connect the day train to Delhi. Arrive at Delhi and transfer to hotel room for wash and change and then head to the airport for your flight back home.

See some of my images from this tour here