Bharatpur, one of Asia’s most outstanding wetland reserves, along with a productive stretch of the perennial Chambal River and the semi-desert of Ranthambhore, provides an excellent introduction to the resident and migratory birds of the north Indian plains.
This 10-day tour begins in eastern Rajasthan at Ranthambhore National Park, where we have a good chance of Tiger on jeep drives in one of India’s finest tiger reserves, while also enjoying an array of dryland species that thrive in the combination of acacia scrub, rocky outcrops and open plains. From here we move on to Bharatpur, undoubtedly India’s most famous bird sanctuary whose artificial wetlands and the mosaic of habitats that surround them support an impressive number of waterbirds, raptors and passerines. We end the tour with an exploration of the Chambal River, one of India’s cleanst waterways and of crucial importance to a distinctive avifuna, and Ganges River Dolphin, one of India’s most endangered mammals.
An interesting tour that samples a variety of habitats and their associated species, and provides a glimpse of a rich culture and history with a visit to India’s most iconic monument, the Taj Mahal. Excellent opportunites for sightings of two if India’s most sought after mammals, with birding particularly productive during the winter months when resident species are augmented by large numbers of migratory birds, whose presence is most conspicuous as large congregations of waterfowl that gather in the region’s wetlands.Less
Arrive in Delhi, departing on an evening train to Sawai Madhopur (5hrs), a busy town on the periphery of Ranthambhore National Park. Situated in a region of semi-desert interspersed with rocky outcrops, sheer cliffs, and grasslands dissected by jungle-filled ravines, Ranthambhore’s birdlife is a rich combination of desert species and the more widespread of north India’s forest birds. Key species include Painted Spurfowl, Painted Sandgrouse, Indian Courser, Sirkeer Malkoha, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, and 6 species of vulture. Ranthambhore is home to an array of mammals, including Tiger, that congregate around the park’s fiver perennial lakes during the dry winter months. Although the number of Tigers in Ranthambhore is relatively low given the park’s area they have become so accustomed to human company here that this is one of the most assured sites in the country for a sighting of this otherwise elusive cat. Spend the following two days exploring Ranthambhore from open jeep or canter, with some time birding on foot in surrounding scrub. Nights in a wildlife lodge on the edge of the park.
Depart Ranthambhore for Bharatpur (6hrs) in the morning of day 4 to spend the following two days exploring what is undoubtedly India’s most famous bird sanctuary, on foot and with the park’s unique cycle-rickshaws to cover distance. The park is one of the most important wetland reserves in the whole of Asia, the water accumulated in the artificial marshes during the monsoon providing refuge to thousands of waterfowl, storks, cranes, herons and waders. Successive regional droughts throughout the last decade began to effect a decrease in the numbers of birds wintering in the wetlands, however recent years have shown a dramatic improvement as plans to replenish the wetlands with water diverted from the Chambal River are realised. The park is of vital importance to a vast selection of species, and a day or two spent exploring the artificial wetlands provides an impressive number of birds. The most notable include Black-necked Stork, Sarus & Common Cranes, Eurasian Spoonbill, Glossy and Black-headed Ibis, Bar-headed Goose, Comb and Indian Spot-billed Ducks, White-tailed Lapwing, Greater Painted-snipe, and Black Bittern, with numerous passerines in the intricate mosaic of mature woodland, sandy acacia scrub, and open grassland surrounding the wetlands. During our stay at Bharatpur we will also make a visit to nearby Bund Baretha, scanning the expansive reservoir, its islands and sand banks for waterfowl, raptors and a selection of species more common here than at Bharatpur, such as Blue Rock-thrush, Brown Rock-chat, White-capped and Rock Buntings, and Eurasian Wryneck. The journey between Bharatpur and Bund Baretha (1hr) negotiates a network of country roads, with marshy pools along the boundaries of irrigated fields a good place to search for elusive crakes and rails. Nights in a birding lodge on the outskirts of the reserve.
Depart Bharatpur for Agra (2hrs) in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and a visit to India’s most iconic Mughal monument, the Taj Mahal, as well as the impressive Agra Fort, from which the Taj Mahal can be viewed at a distance. The Yamuna River which flows past the Taj Mahal is likely to provide some distractions, such as River Tern, Great Black-headed and Brown-headed Gulls, River Lapwing, Pied Avocet, and a selection of smaller waders, while the mature gardens host a selection of warblers, Common Hoopoe, Spotted Dove, Bank Myna and Indian Grey Hornbill. Continue on to Jarar village (1hr) at the heart of the agricultural region sustained by the perennial Chambal River, the latter half of the journey passing through fields of mustard frequented by, among others, Egyptian Vulture, Black-winged Kite, Laughing and Eurasian Collared Doves, Common Myna, Asian Pied and Brahminy Starlings, and Bay-backed Shrike. Arrive in Jarar by early evening, where we can expect a good selection of Indian species, including Brown-headed Barbet, Indian Grey Hornbill, Orange-headed Thrush, Sirkeer Malkoha, Indian Roller and Brown Hawk-owl, plus Common Palm Civet and rarer Jungle Cat in the surrounding fields and open woodland, and a delicious buffet of local produce. Spend two nights in a cosy eco-lodge, ideally located to explore the Chambal River and its surroundings.
While the Chambal River is the lifeline to this agricultural region it is equally invaluable in ecological terms, in recognition of which a 400km stretch of the river and its banks are protected, primarily to support Ganges River Dolphin and a re-introduced population of Gharial. The river is also home to a diverse avifauna that includes Indian Skimmer, our primary target here, alongside Black-bellied Tern, Indian Black Ibis, River Lapwing, Brown Crake, Indian Stone-curlew, Great Thick-knee, Bonelli’s, Booted and Steppe Eagles, and Bar-headed Goose – the world’s highest flying bird, with Sand Lark, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and Desert Wheatear along the shore. This is one of India’s least polluted waterways and exploring the river by boat is enjoyable – the waters are calm and birding facilitated by the lack of shoreline vegetation. Off the water, the Chambal’s floodplain is charactersied by it’s unique mud ravines, reformed with every monsoon, their thorn scrub hosting species such as Common and Yellow-eyed Babblers, Crested Bunting, and Jungle Bush-quail. Spend the day at Chambal, exploring the river by boat from Nandgaon Ghat, with time on foot in its surroundings and around our lodge
Spend a final morning at Chambal, departing after lunch for the return drive to Delhi (6hrs). Night in a comfortable city hotel.
Depart Indira Gandhi International Airport for your on your onward journey