In search of Macqueen’s Bustard

My condition has not improved significantly by he morning. Balázs got better but I had a quite high fewer by the morning. What I wanted to avoid to stay home, so decided to took some more pills and joined the crowd. The convoy departed after breakfast which I apparently skipped. We visited the same part of the desert as we did last morning. The morning was beautifully sunny.

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Indian Wild Asses were often escorted by Black Drongos. They hunted on the disturbed insects. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Galloping Indian Wild Asses made our morning. © Gyorgy Szimuly 

We soon fund some flock of Indian Wild Asses what others could photograph well. Dave, from the States, filmed them and we could chat a bit in the same car. It was a fun to follow the galloping group by our vehicle but was hard to photograph or film them in the shaking car. Only regular birds were seen here. We again found flocking Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses. Altogether 45 birds were counted. 10 House Swifts were hunting above us while we watched for 30 overflying Great Knots. At the long lake River Terns were hunting while Indian Rollers, Brown Shrike, Desert Wheatears, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Common Babblers were also seen.

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Laughing Dove was very common in the region. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Grassy patches made the desert quite diverse. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Short-toed Snake Eagle. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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The last lifer of our India trip, the Rufous-tailed Lark. © Gyorgy Szimuly

On our way back to the resort a Short-toed Snake Eagle was found. Another, apparently the last, lifer saved our not so productive morning. In a flock of Lesser Short-toed Lark and Crested Larks we found two Rufous-tailed Larks. We stopped by the arable land again and found 7 Indian Coursers. The single Sociable Lapwing was still present.

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One of the ugliest shorebird ‘habitat’ on earth. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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On our way to the desert we saw large salt works providing job opportunity for local people. © Gyorgy Szimuly 

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Completely wet desert made crossing quite tricky and challenging. Anyway our guide solved it. The 4WD car was really powerful. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Only one afternoon remained to find the local speciality, the Macqueen’s Bustard. We asked local rangers and villagers for informations but no bustard had been seen in the past days. One of the reason could the be unusually high rainfall which made several part of the desert simply inaccessible. We found several good birds though including 2 Black-winged Kites, 6 Montagu’s Harriers, a Besra, 2 Shikra, a Black Stork and Indian Silverbills. In the villages Rose-ringed Parakeets were loudly communicating.

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Kids were stopping by as we crossed the villages. © Gyorgy Szimuly

London

This image tells a story. It does’t belong to the happenings of 30 November. Our way back home was a complete torture what I would not wish for any of my enemies, if I have any. Out of the domestic flight in India all further flights (operated by British Airways) have been cancelled due to the snowy weather in London. Rebooked flight from Delhi to London made us temporarily happy but then the Austrian flight was again cancelled in London. We stuck in London for a night. The image of the two sick and tired adventurer was taken in the Hotel Mariott. The Christmas feeling and the nice dinner did not made us happy at all (moreover the wine thought to be good was obviously lousy but damn expensive). Finally we found a flight next morning (2nd of Dec) to Budapest so our hassle has not finished at all as our loves were prepared to wait for us in Vienna…

Finally I have to express my gratitude for those who made this trip possible:
Unknown Indian friends probably Arpit Deomurari and Vatsal Trivedi, who recommended me to be one of the participants of the 1st Global Bird Watchers Conference; Uttej Rao who kindly invited us and helped in the preparation of the trip; the Gujarat Government who funded our trip; Gaurav Kataria, who professionally organised a pre- and post-conference birding and became a good friend; Rajesh Batt, who was one of India’s kindest people, a guide during our Pangot stay; János Oláh who lend the Canon 500mm lens for the trip; Peter Csonka, who lend the Canon 40D for the trip; a very good friend, requested anonymity, who lend his Swarovski binocular, and spotting scope; and my ever very best friend and my fellow traveller, Balázs Molnár. Last but not least my wife, Andi, who cared our baby during my absence.

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Land of Indian Wild Asses and Indian Coursers

We had an early morning departure for the desert of Little Rann of Kutch. My personal target definitely was to find the spectacular Indian Courser. Traveling in an open jeep in such a chilling morning was not a fun. The vast area didn’t look like a classical sand dune desert. The flat grounds was interspersed by acacia-like bushes making the habitat more diverse than a desert. 

We had another species on our wish list. That was a mammal, the local endemic subspecies of Wild Ass (khur ssp). Our guide knew the desert quite well and he showed us this lovely animal quite soon. We found several small group of Indian Wild Asses with foals. It was a fun to photograph them in the rising sun. Another beautiful mammal, the Blackbuck were also found. We saw a gorgeous male with two females. 

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Endemic subspecies of Wild Ass in the Little Rann of Kutch. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Balázs is trying to photograph a small group of Wild Asses. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Common Cranes shared the bare grounds with Wild Asses. © Gyorgy Szimuly

At sunrise calls of some Grey Francolins broke the relative silence of the desert. The grassy patches was found by large flock of Rose-coloured Starlings. Some birds allowed photographing them from a very close distance. Eastern Marsh Harrier, Besra, Shikra, Long-legged Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Greater Coucal, Laughing Dove, Eurasian Hoopoe (20), Green Bee-eater (60+), Brown Shrike, Rufous-tailed Shrike, Black Drongo, Siberian Stonechat, Variable Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, White-eared Bulbul, Grey-breased Prinia (lifer), Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Oriental Skylark, Eastern Yellow Wagtail (200!), Tawny Pipit (70) have been found in the desert. At a large lake in the desert Ruddy Shelducks, Greater Flamingos (8), Black-winged Stilts (50), Pied Avocets (120), Red-wattled Lapwings (40), Black-tailed Gidwits, Spotted Redshanks, Common Greenshanks and Brown-hooded Gulls (80) have been seen.

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Black Drongo was a common species in the bushy areas. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Desert Wheatear was the most abundant of wheatears. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Some Rose-coloured Starlings was sunbathing in the morning while others were feeding on grasshoppers on the ground. © Gyorgy Szimuly

As we didn’t feel good we decided to return the hotel earlier than planned. Balázs suffered by indigestion while I had a cold and a light fever. However I suddenly forgot all my pain when we spotted a few Indian Coursers on an arable land. How nice bird it was. I have seen many awesome images taken by my Indian online friends and was stunned all the time I was watching them. This species is simply wonderful. There was another bird guide at the same location with a couple of Taiwanese. They informed us about a presence of a Sociable Lapwing as well. Unfortunately circumstances wasn’t perfect for photographing them but for a snapshot it was ok. On this single and not so large agricultural filed we also found 4 Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses (lifer).

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4 Indian Coursers have been found. © Gyorgy Szimuly

In the afternoon we allowed us a longer break in a hope to be recovered. Since we didn’t feel better by the afternoon but bored in the room at the same time, we left for an afternoon session of birding. At the time of our departure a nice flock of Lesser Whistling Ducks flew over the lodge. Actually we visited the same places as yesterday. Birds were quite the same but we had some nice chance to photograph birds in the region. We had two more lifers including a single Hume’s Wheatear and a small flock of Indian Silverbills.

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The gorgeous Green Bee-eater was quite common. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Local people on the streets in traditional clothing. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Another golden moment of Indian logistics. © Gyorgy Szimuly

By the evening a some new guests arrived to the lodge. They all were known from the conference. Next morning we all spend together.

Moving to Little Rann of Kutch

Finally we had a very peaceful morning with a lovely and slow breakfast in the Hotel Express Residency. The taxi picked us up in the morning and we departed for the Little Rann of Kutch where we spend the some days before leaving home. Our accommodation was in the Royal Safari Camp near Bajana village.

On our way to Bajana we saw mainly common species however spotting a flock of 300 Demoiselle Cranes was nice. After arriving the hotel we soon packed for a late afternoon jeep sarafi. On our way to the edge of Little Rann of Kutch just after Patdi I spotted a beautiful Red-necked Falcon next to the road. It allowed a perfect and very close view. A little further Balázs picked a kneeing Indian Stone-curlew under a bush. What a find of a recently split shorebird.

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Balázs was watching hunting Green Bee-eaters from the foreground of our bungalow. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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The vehicle and the guide. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Our guide took us to a wetland where we saw those species we also have here in our hometown. Greylag Goose, Northern Pintails, Gadwalls, Eurasian Wigeons and Northern Shovelers were the most abundant on a large lake.We saw quite many shorebirds as well including 70 Black-winged Stilts, 8 Pied Avocets, 160 Black-tailed Godwits, 24 Marsh Sandpipers, 10 Common Greenshaks, 8 Wood Sandpipers, 6 Common Sandpipers, 8 Little Stints and 30 Ruffs. I was happy to watch them through the scope despite no exotic local bird was found. 

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The atmosphere of the streets was incredible. I have been wondering how they could manage to carry so many people on that single vehicle. © Gyorgy Szimuly 

We were guided around the area and saw many nice species. Again we had a brief view on a few Yellow-wattled Lapwing while we saw many Red-wattled Lapwings at almost every water patch. This area was quite good for raptors including Eastern Marsh Harrier, Black Kite, Montagu’s Harrier, Besra, Crested Honey Buzzard, Peregrine and Shaker Falcon as well as Black-winged Kite.

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Edge of the semi desert with livestock. © Gyorgy Szimuly

In the bushy edges of the large visited lake Long-tailed Shrike, Bay-backed Shrike, Indian Robin, Pied Bushchat, Variable Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, Rose-coloured Starling, White-eared Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark, Greater and Lesser Short-toed Lark, Purple Sunbird, Citrine Wagtail and Tawny Pipit were seen. In the marshy lakeside Wire-tailed Swallow and Paddyfield Warbler were spotted.

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Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark was common on sandy and arid lake shores. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Balázs is enjoying to watch some beautiful Purple Swamphens through the golden painted Swarowski. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Outstanding shorebirding at the Arabian Sea tidal zone

One shorebird species I have been sought after for ages was the Crab Plover. I was told that this unique shorebird would be guaranteed during the excursion to the Marine Reserve National Park, Jamnagar. While the plan was to depart early in the morning some guest complained about too early wake up which resulted a quite late departure. Knowing that the tidal zone was best in the morning this delay disabled to watch Crab Plovers from a close distance.

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We were waiting endless minutes for our departure at the front of the hotel. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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The littoral zone was edged by a mangrove. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Crab Plovers were feeding a hundred meter from us. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The sun was already quite high when we arrived to the beach. 4 stunning Brahminy Starlings was spotted next to the road before we stopped. We were kindly invited for a coffee at our arrival but we decided to go to the sandflat and look for the birds. The first thing I was browsing by the spotting scope were the broad white lines at the edge of the tideline. Those were large flock of Crab Plovers. That was a wonderful moment despite not really a satisfying view. When others arrived we were already into the dead coral reef and looked for new birds.

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Balázs is walking on the wet tidal zone. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Dead coral reef of the Arabian Sea. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Lesser Sand Plovers did not care about us as long as we were sitting. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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We observed many territorial fight among Lesser Sand Plovers for feeding areas. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The most abundant shorebird species was the Lesser Sand Plover but Greater Sand Plovers were also frequently seen. Our target was to find a place where nobody disturb birds and sit down for just watching and photographing the birds. It was a fun indeed. By settling down birds came very close to us. Lights were really unpleasant and harsh bt we took some images of the approaching birds.

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Greater Sand Plovers were also moving around us. © Gyorgy Szimuly

From that spot we saw many shorebird species including Eurasian Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Kentish Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Common Greenshank, Common Redshank, Terek Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Great Knot, Sanderling, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper. Above us Gull-billed Terns, Lesser Crested Terns, Black-naped Terns and Caspian Terns were flying. 

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Western Reef Egrets was also closing us. © Gyorgy Szimuly

From the sitting point I could watch close Crab Plovers through the scope. What a bird it was. Some other birds provided nice view included Western Reef Egrets and Black-headed Ibises. Also an overflying Demoiselle Crane flock were seen.

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Single mangrove bushes was broken the uniform sand flat. © Gyorgy Szimuly

On our way back I saw a flock of Yellow-wattled Lapwing from the bus. In the late afternoon we made a short walk in the backyard of the hotel where some nice birds were seen. Grey Francolins were calling endlessly while sun was shining on Black Ibises. We saw a Black-shouldered Kite, Rufous Treepie, Ashy Drongo, Siberian Stonechat, our first Variable Wheatear, Desert Wheatear and some other common birds.

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The Hotel Express Residency served us kindly. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Birding in the Khijadiya Wildlife Sanctuary again

This morning conference participants “flocked together” to make an early morning visit to Khijadiya Wildlife Sanctuary. We actually continued birding where we finished last day. Some other type of habitats was visited like grassy scrub and shallow marshland as well as arid grounds supporting different bird life. 

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Sunrise was awesome in the Khijadiya Wildlife Sanctuary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

In the slightly misty morning Grey Francolines cried loudly which was heard even from a far distance. While slowly walking on the dam ducks were flying over our head. Lesser Whistling DucksKnob-billed Ducks, a few Garganey, large flock of Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails and Common Pochards were among the most numberous species. Some simple looking but still gorgeous Spot-billed Ducks provided very good view through the scope.

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In this lovely morning Red-wattled Lawings shared the wet meadow with a few White-tailed Lapwing. © Gyorgy Szimuly

In the bushy area we found an single Indian Roller, a few White-throated Kingfishers, Green Bee-eaters, a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, a Jacobin Cukcoo. We were happy to see 4 White-tailed Lapwings. It was a surprise to see a Bailon’s Crake quite well.

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White-throated Kingfishers chased each others early in the morning. © Gyorgy Szimuly

We found some lifers including a single Sand Lark, Isabelline Shrike, Desert Warbler and Black-breasted Weaver but we were unable to picture these moments. For us it was unusual and delightful to watch a flock of feeding Citrine Wagtails together with Lesser Short-toed Lark

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We saw quite a few Purple Sunbirds especially at dusk. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Lovely Oriental White-eyes moved fast in the bushes. © Gyorgy Szimuly

 

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Plain Prinia was captured on the bushy dam. © Balázs Molnár

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White-eared Bulbul was common in the bushes. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Being a shorebird fan I enjoyed our way back to the buses while lovely Small Pratincoles crossed the dam. Over the salt ponds a small flock of Demoiselle Crane were seen. One more lifers made the list complete. It was a Rufous-fronted Prinia. Other notable species was Cetti’s WarblerStriated Grassbird, Ashy Prinia and huge flocks of Rose-coloured Starling. After the morning session birding we returned to the hotel then again to the conference venue but in the late afternoon we visited another part of the wildlife sanctuary.

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Just before reaching our bus suddenly an adult Jungle Cat with kitten appeared on the dam. © Balázs Molnár

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Darters together with Indian Cormorants roosted on the trees in the marshland . © Gyorgy Szimuly

The southern part of the sanctuary was a bit different with more marshy ponds. Bird diversity was lower than in the morning but with some nice species. Flying over Painted Storks coloured the sky. I could not stop watching them through the crisp clear SwaroVision. It was an awesome experience. One of my online friend said it was something when you start birding all over again. Brand new perspectives and joy.

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Large flock of Painted Stork was resting in a dry bushy pond. © Gyorgy Szimuly

We had not much time before sunset but I found a few Pheasant-tailed Jacana which we had never seen during our India trip before. Purple Swamphens, River Terns, Black-necked Stork, Glossy Ibis or Common Cranes were easily seen. We couldn’t spot any Demoiselle Crane in the afternoon.

First Global Bird Watchers Conference opens

This morning we were transported to the conference venue in the heart of Jamnagar. The Global Bird Watchers Conference was organized to promote the diversity and uniqueness of the wildlife of Gujarat state of India. 500 hundred participants from all over the world came together to listen the deep thoughts on nature and the birdlife of the state.

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Conference hall of Jamnagar where the 1st Global Bird Watchers Conference was held. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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In the basement of the hall nice photographic exhibition introduced the wildlife of Gujarat showing the talent of Indian photographers. © Gyorgy Szimuly

In the afternoon we were visiting one of the local birding hot spot, the Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary. We enjoyed it despite we arrived quite late and only a short walk was possible before sundown. It was a huge contrast between the dirty and filthy countryside and the clean and organized wildlife area. It gives a real hope and relief for the thousands of wintering birds.

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The diversity of habitats attracted many kind of bird species. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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It was nice to watch birds with other birders from the other side of the world. © Gyorgy Szimuly

We had quite a few lifers including two beautiful shorebird species seen the on the salt pans. Great Thick-knees and Small Pratincoles was seen. We heard Grey Francolins in many part of the dry areas. We saw Lesser Whistling Ducks, Spot-billed Ducks, many Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails and Gadwalls were flying between the ponds. Common Cranes were responsible for the melancholic mood of twilight.

We saw many shorebirds including a few Eurasian Oystercatchers, Black-winged Stilts, Red-wattled Lapwings, a Grey Plover, a Greater Sand Plover, Little Ringed PloversBlack-tailed Godwits, an Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshanks, Marsh Sandpipers, Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers.

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Glossy Ibis were seen frequently in the sanctuary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Painted Stork was a colourful member of the birdlife of Khijadia. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Other birds of interest were Western Reef Egret, Indian Pond Heron, Striated Heron, Greater Flamingo, Black-necked Stork, Black-necked Ibis, Darter, Indian and Little Cormorant, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Little Green Bee-eater, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Asian Koel, Rufous-tailed Shrike, Rose-coloured Starling, Plain Martin, White-eared Bulbul, Cetti’s Warbler, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Striated Babbler, Purple Sunbird, Citrine Wagtail and Baya Weaver.

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Beautiful sunset in the Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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It was interesting to meet some of the ‘old’ Facebook friends who I had never ever met before. © Gyorgy Szimuly

In the evening a lovely performance was presented for the conference participants by local dancing team. The songs, colours and motions made the evening awesome and unforgettable. It was more than pleasant to see some beautiful Indian female dancers…

Exhaustive journey to another part of India

After the night train hassle we arrived to Delhi where we were transported to the Domestic terminal to take flight to Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat where we were spending the rest of the trip. As expected birding was not the primary activity today but we still had a few lifers.

From Ahmedabad we had a crazy and never ending drive to our hotel near Jamnagar. It was just unbelievable. The bus was one of the most uncomfortable vehicle I have ever traveled by. The whole trip was about 330 km (205 mi) long trip but we accomplished it in 9 devastating hours. Why Jamnagar? We had been invited to participate on the first Global Bird Watchers Conference to be held in Jamnagar, Gujarat. Guys from many countries were collected at the Ahmedabad airport so we got some new fellow.

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Exhausted conference participants are dreaming about their comfortable hotel bed. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Gujarat seemed to be the kingdom of Black Kites. We saw more than 200 birds along our way. Lifers included some beautiful Sarus Cranes although I wished for an even more perfect view on them. Painted StorksBlack-headed Ibises and Red-naped Ibises were also seen through the window of the bus. The lifer list could not be increased further today but despite the 23 hours ongoing traveling this was a really nice result.

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Painted Stork were seen widely in the state. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Black-headed Ibis were occasionally seen on fields. © Gyorgy Szimuly

At our arrival to the Hotel Express Residency we were completely exhausted and dived into bed without too much hesitation.

Another try for the Ibisbill

Today we wanted to give another chance to find an Ibisbill along the Kosi River, north of Ramnagar. We departed early from the hotel and visited the same area what we had been a few days back. The riverbed was more peaceful than during the holy week-end. River Lapwings, Little Ringed Plovers, Green Sandpipers, Pied Kingfishers, White-throated Kingfisher, Wallcreeper, Plain Martins, Red-rumped Swallow, Plain PriniaWhite-browed Wagtails and some very white faced and headed local race, the ‘M. a. personata‘ of White Wagtails were seen from the middle of the riverbed.

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Early morning at the Kosi River north of Ramnagar. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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A Wallcreeper was flying around us in the bed of the Kosi River. © Balázs Molnár

Despite extensive search there was any sign of Ibisbill so we moved further north along the river.

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Our driver did everything to find a single Ibisbill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Balázs is crossing a stream in the Kosi riverbed. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Our guides are looking for new species. © Gyorgy Szimuly

In the coming hours we birded along the river and adjacent forested areas but birding was disappointingly slow. Along the main road, running next to the Kosi, we found a Long-billed Thrush feeding on the muddy forest ground. At our next stop we tried for a Rusty-tailed Flycatcher but we were not able to spot it in the dense vegetation despite it was calling.

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After several attempts a single Long-billed Thrush was found. © Balázs Molnár

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Rajesh and Balázs is resting on the jeep. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Before having our lunch we visited another section of the river where a nice secondary forest was full of birds. That saved our morning birding as it produced some lifers. In a large moving flock we saw Black-rumped Flameback, Rufous Woodpecker, Rufous Treepie, White-throated Fantail, Yellow-bellied Fantail, a beautiful lifer, the Rufous-bellied Niltava, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Velvet-fronted Nuthatches, Grey Tits, Black-lored Tit, Himalayan Bulbuls, Oriental White-eyes, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Grey-hooded WarblersGolden-spectacled Warbler, and another lifer, the Black-chinned Babbler.

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Secondary forest alongside the Kosi River produced some nice species of birds. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Yellow-billed Fantails were a jewel in the bird flocks in this forest. © Balázs Molnár

Just at the end of this birdy forest we entered the riverbed and started to scan the shingly riverbed. No Ibisbill were found but we saw a Crested Kingfisher and Brown Dipper. In that area we should have found another speciality, the Little Forktail. We checked every single stone through the Swarovski HD scope where the bird is regularly seen but we could not spot one. When we decided to leave the area our driver once again asked for the scope to have a final look at the opposite riverside. Luckily he was able to spot a Little Forktail which provided a perfect view.

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Ibisbill was apparently missing from the river but this location was home of Little Forktail and Brown Dipper. © Gyorgy Szimuly

In the afternoon we had our final birding session before we departed for Delhi by a night train. We wanted to see the birdlife of the villages adjacent to Ramnagar. Apart of birding it was exciting to be a part of the country-life which was a nice experience. Shy but kind people smiled to us most of the time. We saw some nice birds late in the afternoon including some Crested Serpent Eagles, a big flock of Red-wattled Lapwing on a rice field, Red Turtle Doves, Indian Roller, Greater Coucal, a lifer Brown Rock Chat, Zitting Cisticolas, Black-headed Oriole, Large Woodshrike and Asian Pied Starlings. After sunset we found a large flocks of parakeets flying over the villages for their night roosting. We stopped at a pre-roosting tree where about a hundred Rose-ringed Parakeets, a few Plum-headed Parakeets and some Slaty-headed Parakeets were roosting noisily. It was funny to see an unflinching Black-shouldered Kite perching on the same tree just next to some very noisy Rose-ringeds.

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A street of Ramnagar in the evening. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Kind little girl was sent to us by her mother to speak some English. © Balázs Molnár

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Pre-roosting tree of Rose-ringed and Plum-headed Parakeets. © Balázs Molnár

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Asian Pied Starlings and Common Mynas on the night roosting tree. © Balázs Molnár

In the night we were transported to the Ramnagar railway station and headed for Delhi. The train was a tricky and unfavored way of transportation but after swapping my place with another traveller it turned to be acceptable.

The last day in the Corbett National Park: Bengal Tiger and awesome diversity of woodpeckers

The tip of the day: be the first and be satisfied. We followed this philosophy and our car departed first from the Dhikala camp. This proved to be a perfect idea as soon after we left the camp our guides found a very fresh pug mark of a patrolling Tiger. Our guides knew we were on track to get it. It was supposed to be ahead of our jeep somewhere on the dirt road. Following the fresh and huge pug marks I suddenly spotted him, a male Bengal Tiger, at a turn. That was an extraordinary moment. Despite his slow and majestic walk it claimed respect. We soon started to photograph it on the yet very dark track.

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This image is unsharp and blurred but clearly reflects the conditions and the atmosphere of the moment when we fist saw this Bengal Tiger. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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It was one of the many breathtaking moments of the day when the Tiger turned back and leisurely started to move towards us. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Last moments before he disappeared in the small dry stream bed. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Unfortunately the next car arrived too late, well after the tiger disappeared in the forest. Soon after we lost the sight of the male large number of jeeps and tourists were waiting for it without any success. Of course we were proud and we were continuously asked for showing the images of this beautiful animal.

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Reparation of a failed car in the territory of a Tiger is not the funniest task. © Gyorgy Szimuly

On our way back to the camp, for checking out and our late breakfast, we enjoyed birding as we were full of satisfaction. Notable species were a Black-necked Stork, Lesser Yellownapes, Streak-throated Woodpeckers, Himalayan Goldenback, Lesser Goldenbacks, Greater GoldenbackRufous WoodpeckersRufous-gorgeted Flycatcher and Crested Buntings.

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Garden of the Dhikala Camp. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Reservoir from the garden of Dhikala camp. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Common Mynas were feeding in the garden of the tourist camp. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Asian Barred Owlet was roosting on a tree at the entrance of the camp. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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The reservoir is surrounded by grasslands where the feeding Crested Buntings were found. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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White-capped Water-Redstart was one of the most common species in the bed of the Ramganga river. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Many dirt road had been flooded during monsoon disabling access to the finest sites. © Gyorgy Szimuly

After leaving the camp we explored the grasslands around the bank of the reservoir. Unfortunately the water level was way too high for entering the local speciality, the Stoliczka’s Bushchat’s habitat, although we saw and photographed a bird what was an unusual stonechat, but we did not proceed with identification. Birds seen on the lowland were Red-headed VulturesEastern OspreyCrested Serpent Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Collared Falconet, Brown Crake, Plain Martin, Oriental Skylark, Graceful Prinia, Ashy Prinia, Lesser Coucal, Booted Warbler, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler (), Citrine Wagtails, Red-throated Pipit and Scaly-breasted Munia.

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Baya Wevers nest colony in the grassland. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Changeable Hawk Eagle was appearing on a tree in front of our car. © Gyorgy Szimuly

On our way out of Corbett National Park we had some nice birds including 4 Kalij Pheasants, feeding alongside the road, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Lesser Fish Eagle, Tawny Fish Owl, Pin-tailed Green PigeonsSlaty-headed ParakeetsCrested KingfisherOriental Pied HornbillsLineated Barbet, Blue-throated Barbets, Crested Treeswifts (a flock of 120), Rufous Treepies, Large Cuckooshrike, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongos, Common Woodshrike, Slaty-blue Flycatcher and Black-crested Bulbul.

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Dead woodland was the home of a hundred of Crested Treeswifts. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Beautiful Corbett forest tunnel. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Finding some feeding Kalij Pheasants was one of the benefit of birding from an open jeep. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The evening and the night we spent again in the comfortable Tiger Camp Resort. The dinner was awesome.

Formidable search for Ibisbill through a man-eating Tiger’s territory

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The garden of the beautiful Tiger Camp Resort. © Gyorgy Szimuly

We had a wonderful night in the Tiger Camp with some internet connection. OK, it was wonderful by the deep sleep and nothing else… It was time to get in touch with the family. I was simply not able to wake up for some birding before we checked out. Balázs explored the garden of the resort without seeing any exciting birds.

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Balázs is pointing to a fresh pug mark of a Bengal Tiger, possibly the deadly one’s. The mark was just 40 meters away from the fatal event. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Our guides picked us up in the morning and we headed to the Kosi River. We had mixed feelings by this birding as we were informed that prior to our arrival to the Tiger Camp, a Tiger had killed two women on two consecutive day. And what a surprise, our guides planned to walk to the river by crossing the garden where one of the ladies died. I thought it was a joke but when he showed the exact scene I started to feel uncomfortable. The trail to the river was about 200 meters long and was running in a dense vegetation. I felt some relief when we reached the river but I had no idea by what reason.

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Holy bath of local people in the bed of Kosi River. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Some local guy came up to us to see what we looked at through the Swarovski spotting scope. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Anyway I tried to dissociate the previous day’s events and enjoy birding. The low bushes were quite busy and we saw many movements although proper view was hard to get. The reason we wanted to visit this section of the Kosi River is to find the wintering Ibisbill, one of my sought after shorebird species for the trip. Unfortunately our attempt coincided with the holy bathing festival in the river which, we suppose, was the reason of lack of Ibisbill despite there had been records of wintering birds from the previous weeks. In there riverbed activity was very low but we saw some Indian PeafowlsBlack KitesRiver Lapwings, a Common Greenshank, Pied Kingfishers, White-throated Kingfisher, Plumbeous Water-Redstarts, White-capped Water-Redstarts, Barn Swallows, Red-rumped Swallows and White-browed Wagtails. On the bank of the river we found an Oriental Magpie RobinSiberian Rubythroat, a few Ashy Prinia as well as a Grey-sided Bush Warbler.

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Guarding hunter in search of the killer tiger. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Very fresh tiger pug mark alongside the main road next to the Corbett National Park. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Local volunteers also patrolled the main road by traditional way. © Gyorgy Szimuly

After giving up finding the Ibisbill we headed for the Corbett National Park. On our way to the gate we stopped by a hunter who was looking for the killing tiger and we found a very fresh pug mark of a huge tiger. Local employees of the Forest Department were also patrolling the roads to save civilians.

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Corbett landscapes with hills and lovely forests. © Gyorgy Szimuly

After managing some formalities we entered the national park. At that moment in childhood dream came true. I was in one of the last kingdoms of tigers and we were on their track. It is not easy to describe the exact feeling I felt in the open jeep but the adrenalin level was definitely moving up.

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Empty monsoon river beds caught my eyes somehow. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I let the guides work as they knew the area, the forest and smells better than me. All I did, I kept my eyes open and concentrating on birds. We had many nice break as the driver stopped immediately when we requested. We had to reach our next resort, named Dhikala before sunset which seemed to be manageable. On our way we saw some further tiger pug marks, some fresh some older.

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A view to the Ramnganga River from a picnic site where anyone can be off the car. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Birding was very slow in the morning but there was some development in the afternoon. Lifers included was some Pallas’s Fish Eagles and a Grey-headed Fish Eagle, a Crested Hawk-Eagle, Mountain Hawk-EagleCrested Kingfisher along the Ramganga River. Corbett is beautifully mixed by different habitat types which makes bird list quite diverse. To make the complete bird list short I list with some interesting records and the lifers including Red JunglefowlCollared FalconetSlaty-headed ParakeetSpotted OwletWhite-rumped Spinetail, Green-crowned Warbler, Common Green Magpies, Large Cuckooshrike, Scarlet Minivet, Yellow-bellied Fantail, White-throated Fantails, Red-breasted Flycatcher and many Lempon-rumped and Grey-hooded Warblers, Golden-spectacled Warbler as well as a Common Iora.

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Collared Falconet was feeding on a dragonfly on the top of a dead tree. What a lovely little raptor. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Grassland alongside the river. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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This adult Indian Elephant was perfectly hided by the bush. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Indian Elephant portrait. © Gyorgy Szimuly

By closing Dhikala the habitat was completely different to the forested areas. The forest was replaced by Elephant Grass fields and so new species appeared. We found a roosting and a sleepy Brown Fish Owl providing a perfect and close view. On the dirt road a few Oriental Skylarks were disturbed by the car. In the grassy areas many Himalayan Bulbuls, Red-vented Bulbuls were singing and calling. Scaly-breasted Munias were feeding on seeds.

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Brown Fish Owl was bored by our presence. The view was not perfect through the photo lens but was perfect through the SwaroVision binocular. The contrast and sharpness amazed me. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Home of River Lapwings. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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River Lapwings were rather tame . © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Just a record shot of a perching Pied Kingfisher while a Bengal Tiger was calling. © Gyorgy Szimuly

In the riverbed Woolly-necked Storks, two Black Storks, River Lapwings and Pied Kingfishers were seen.

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Indian Elephant along the Ramganga River. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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One of the funny moments during our trip. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Late in the evening we found a family of Indian Elephant what many tourists were watching. When one of the adult moved towards the cars everyone started to silently shout to move away from them.

The night was a bit rustic and disturbed as the Dhikala resort was very basic but there is no way to avoid spending a minimum of one night in this accommodation. Booking is mandatory for those who visit the Corbett National Park.