Sunday, 26 July 2015

July keeps giving

After a nice long weekend in Suffolk (a bit of local birding produced a few waders, but nothing out of the ordinary), I'd been back about half an hour when I had a call from Mark Dawson to say he'd got a Garganey at Mons Pool. As a patch yeartick, I headed up there immediately to see it, also bagging my first patch Greenshank of the year, a nice fresh juvenile. 

Mark had already noted that the Garganey was a bit odd, in that it appeared to have white outer tail feathers - and actually more extensibe than on a female Teal... but in all other respects, it looked like a Garganey (Mark had seen the speculum), seemingly an adult (with rather brown and worn looking primaries and tertials). So presumably just an aberration. 

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Birding in Bandhavgarh

It seems like ages ago now, but in April we visited India, spending most of the trip in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve - see here for a write-up of the non-birding element of the trip.

Whilst not caring what birds I saw as long as I saw a Tiger, I did of course want to see as many birds as possible... Having been to Goa in 2007, I had also seen many of the available species before, but still had plenty to go it; in the end, I saw 164 species, of which 37 were new for me (pushing me through the 1000 species barrier for my life list). I didn’t take a scope (instead taking my DSLR), and most of the time didn’t miss it – although it would have been useful for distant waders at Okhla Bird Sanctuary and raptors and pipits in Bandhavgarh.


Agra provided a gentle reintroduction to Indian birding. The Yamuna River held a nice selection of wetland birds, visible from the Taj Mahal, which included Painted Stork, Ruddy Shelduck, Bar-headed Goose and River Lapwing. Brown Rock Chat and Booted Eagle were seen here, but not elsewhere.

Brown Rock Chat
Laughing Dove
Ruddy Shelduck and Black-winged Stilts
Bar-headed Geese

Our free afternoon in Agra involved an explore of the environs of our hotel; a stroll along some leafy streets, peering into the gardens of some large houses, and then having a drink in the garden of a restaurant added several species to the trip list.

Purple Sunbird
Little Green Bee-eaters


Bumping along rough tracks at 30mph in the back of a jeep is not the easiest birding in the world; in fact, I found it very frustrating, catching tail-end glimpses of things disappearing into stands of dense bamboo. As no-one else in the group was a birder, I had to be very careful about picking my moments to ask to stop. Nevertheless, I ended up seeing a good proportion of the available species, including Asian Openbill, Lesser Adjutant, White-naped Woodpecker, Grey Francolin, Jungle Bush-Quail, Painted Spurfowl, Red Junglefowl, Indian Stone-curlew, Alexandrine Parakeet, Sirkeer Malkoha, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Asian Paradise FlycatcherOrange-headed Thrush, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Indian Nuthatch, Brahminy Starling, Indian Golden Oriole and White-bellied Drongo, to name but a few. 

Asian Openbill
Woolly-necked Stork
Lesser Adjutant
Black-rumped Flameback
White-naped Woodpeckers
Yellow-crowned Woodpecker
Indian Grey Hornbill 
Malabar Pied Hornbill
Indian Roller
Common Hawk-Cuckoo
Black-naped Monarch
Brahminy Starling
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Grey Francolin
Jungle Bush Quail (running away)
Painted Spurfowl - beauties!
Red Junglefowl
Rufous Treepie
Sirkeer Malkoha
Puff-throated Babbler
Tawny-bellied Babbler
Small Minivet
Greater Coucal
Black Redstart (rufiventris rather than phoenicuroides?)
Blue-bearded Bee-eater
Indian Stone-curlew

However, one of my main disappointments was missing White-rumped Vulture (a Critically Endangered species which occurs in Bandhavgarh) – although I did, unexpectedly see, a single Himalayan Vulture over Tigergarh, and there were reasonable numbers of Indian Vultures, plus occasional Red-headed Vultures and a good selection of other raptors.

Indian Vulture
Red-headed Vulture
Red-headed Vulture with a Wild Boar
Egyptian Vulture
White-eyed Buzzard
Oriental Honey Buzzard
Crested Serpent Eagle

Scarcer owls also proved troublesome; other people seem to have no problem seeing Brown Fish Owl, and many see Indian Scops Owl and Mottled Wood Owl; but despite asking the guides to show me owls, and a special trip out with the owner of Tigergarh to look for the latter species, luck was not on my side - although two roosting Nightjars - Indian and Savanna - were pleasing.

Jungle Owlet
Spotted Owlet
Jungle Nightjar
Savanna Nightjar

Finally, Indian Scimitar Babbler also eluded me, although this was less of a surprise...

What with game drives starting at dawn and finishing at dusk, opportunities to bird the open land around Tigergarh were limited to the middle of the day. Trying to ID flighty pipits in 35oC heat with only binoculars was a challenge (and there were a confusing selection of calls being produced…), but all that were seen well were Blyth’s. 

Blyth's Pipit
Blyth's Pipit

However, the area held a good selection of other birds, focussed along a small watercourse, including several Palearctic migrants not seen in Bandhavgarh itself, including Brown Shrike, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Booted Warbler and Wryneck, plus Black-shouldered Kite, Indian Black Ibis and Red Collared Dove.

Red Collared Dove
Brown Shrike trying to keep cool
Common Mynas
Spotted Dove
Red-wattled Lapwing
Red-naped Ibis
Large Grey Babbler
Long-tailed Shrike


Delhi itself proved to be surprisingly productive. A visit to the Lotus Flower Temple allowed a walk through the adjacent Aastha Kunj and Kalkaji Distict Park from the Nehru Place metro station (note that you can’t actually get into the temple grounds from the park), which produced a good selection of birds, including several additions to the trip list, namely Common Babbler, Asian Pied Starling, Ashy Prinia and Lesser Whitethroat (the latter seen too briefly to even attempt to assign to race). We also visited Humayan’s Tomb, although the grounds of this site (whilst very pleasant) didn’t produce much of note, except some large flocks of Rose-coloured Starlings.

Common Babbler
Jungle Babbler
Lots of Rose-coloured Starlings
Scavenging Black Kites 

I had wanted to visit either Sultanpur National Park or Okhla Bird Sanctuary whilst in Delhi, ultimately choosing the latter as Sultanpur is more of a journey to get to; that said, travelling the relatively short distance to Okhla by auto-rickshaw turned out to be a bit of an ordeal (as it soon became apparent that the driver didn’t know where he was going). However, once we’d arrived, I was impressed with this site, and could happily have spent the whole day here (instead of the couple of hours I was allowed…). We accessed the site through its southern entrance, initially disappointed that the impounded areas was almost dry; however, the small areas of remaining water supported a decent selection of waders and wildfowl, including Marsh and Wood Sandpipers, Temminck's StintsPainted Storks, Black-headed Ibis and Indian Spot-billed Duck – although a human skull was a bit of an eye opener.... 

Wood Sandpiper
Indian House Crows... and a skull
Painted Storks, Black-headed Ibises and Spoonbills

The northern part of the site was most productive, with the reedbed area particularly interesting, with Striated BabblerYellow-bellied PriniaSiberian Stonechat and Red-whiskered Bulbul amongst others, and the wooded area held Asian Koel and Sulphur-bellied Warbler. Three Citrine Wagtails of the black-backed calcarata race were found in a nearby marshy area. A good description of this site, including how to find it, is available at:
Asian Koel
Citrine Wagtail (calcarata)
Indian Pond Heron
Sulphur-bellied Warbler
Pied Bushchat
Yellow-bellied Prinia
Striated Babbler
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Siberian Stonechat (maurus or indicus?)

In Delhi, we stayed at the Hotel Vikram, which we found to be fine for our needs, and conveniently located next to a metro stop. Our room at the rear of the building looked out over some greenery, and it was nice to be able to see Coppersmith and Brown-headed Barbets and Yellow-footed Green Pigeon from the window. 

Yellow-footed Green Pigeon
Brown-headed Barbet