NORTH INDIA: Bharatpur and the Chambal River
A 6-day birding tour that explores the world-famous wetlands of Bharatpur and serene Chambal River, both havens for birds amid the semi-desert of the north Indian plains.
Our tour is a thorough exploration of one of India’s finest bird sanctuaries, the vast man-made wetlands of Bharatpur, along with the nearby Chambal River. We begin at Jarar in Uttar Pradesh where dryland species such as Sirkeer Malkoha, Grey Francolin, Brown Rock Chat and Rufous-tailed Lark dominate the avifauna but where parakeets, barbets, Brooks’s Leaf-Warbler and Brown Boobook find refuge in the greenery surrounding our lodge. From here, we explore the Chambal River, where sandbanks host good numbers of Indian Skimmer, and Ganges River Dolphin can be seen breaching the surface. We will also spend time along the riverbank and in flanking mud ravines, looking for Jungle Bush-Quail, Red-headed and Crested Buntings, and Yellow-eyed Babbler. Next, we travel via the Taj Mahal to Bharatpur in Rajasthan to begin birding amidst the wetlands and surrounding acacia scrub. Here we can expect to encounter a good diversity and abundance of waterfowl, various waders, a selection of storks including Black-necked and Painted, Red-naped Ibis, Sarus Crane, Orange-headed Thrush, Siberian Rubythroat, Dusky Eagle-Owl and Indian Scops Owl, often with more than a hundred species in a day.
A diversity of species in contrasting habitats with dryland species of the wider region, such as Isabelline and Desert Wheatears, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and Indian Courser, complemented by wetland birds in the roadside marshes of irrigated farmland, along the Chambal River and in the vast man-made wetlands of Bharatpur.
An impressive selection of waterbirds over three days at Bharatpur, one of India’s finest bird sanctuaries, including Sarus Crane, up to six species of stork, three species of ibis, White-tailed Lapwing, Greater Painted-Snipe, Black Bittern, and numerous waterfowl including Indian Spot-billed and Knob-billed Ducks and Bar-headed Goose.
Excellent chances to see Indian Skimmer, alongside Black-bellied Tern, River Lapwing, Ruddy Shelduck, Sand Lark, Brown Crake, Ganges River Dolphin and the curious Gharial as we enjoy at least one leisurely boat ride along the serene Chambal River.
Numerous passerines in woodlands and acacia scrub including Siberian Rubythroat, Orange-headed and Tickell’s Thrushes, Eastern Orphean Warbler and several flycatchers, plus Dusky Eagle Owl, Indian Scops Owl and Large-tailed Nightjar, and with numerous eagles including Eastern Imperial and Indian Spotted Eagles drawn to the spectacle.
A glimpse of India's rich past at the splendid Taj Mahal, and an introduction to north India's culture and cuisine.
Day 1: Delhi to Jarar
Arrivals into Delhi airport this morning. We will spend the rest of the morning driving southeast into Uttar Pradesh to Jarar, a small village close to the Chambal River, where we will spend the night. We should arrive in time to explore surrounding dry fields and arid scrubland, where we can expect to encounter a good selection of dryland species as an introduction to the avifauna of the region. Key among these will be Grey Francolin, Sirkeer Malkoha, Eurasian Hoopoe, Indian Roller, Spotted and Laughing Doves, Rufous-tailed Lark, Brown Rock Chat, Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark and Bank Myna, with a variety of woodland birds, such as Indian Golden Oriole, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Brown-headed and Coppersmith Barbets, White-eared Bulbul, Purple Sunbird, Ring-necked and Plum-headed Parakeet, and Indian Grey Hornbill in the comparatively lush grounds of our lodge. We’ll search in particular for the regional speciality Brooks’s Leaf Warbler, and Brown Boobook at dusk, when we will also look for Common Palm Civet and the resident colony of Indian Flying Fox.
Day 2: The Chambal River to Bharatpur via Agra and the Taj Mahal
This morning we will explore a section of the serene Chambal River, one of north India’s least polluted waterways. By boat we will go in search of flocks of the elegant Indian Skimmer on sandbanks midstream, accompanied by Black-bellied and River Terns, River Lapwing, Indian and Great Thick-knees, Ruddy Shelduck, Brown Crake and Egyptian Vulture. We’ll no doubt see several Mugger Crocodiles and curious Gharials, with the chance of Ganges River Dolphin, and Indian Wolf in adjacent farmland. We will also explore the sandy riverbank and flanking mud ravines looking for Sand Lark, Isabelline and Desert Wheatears, Yellow-eyed Babbler and Red-headed and Crested Buntings, Rufous-fronted Prinia, Yellow-legged and Barred Buttonquails and Jungle Bush Quail. By late morning we will leave to drive to Bharatpur for a four-night stay, travelling via Agra where we will stop for a brief visit to India’s most iconic monument, the Taj Mahal.
Day 3-5: Bharatpur
We have three full days to thoroughly explore the extensive man-made shallow wetlands of Bharatpur, undoubtedly among India’s finest bird reserves, on foot and by the park’s unique bicycle-rickshaws. This is a haven for resident and migratory waterfowl, and many of the birds we will find are conspicuous, numerous and easily seen. With more than 100 species in a day not uncommon here, birding is both highly enjoyable and immensely rewarding. Among Sarus Crane, Bar-headed and Greylag Geese, Black-necked, Painted and Woolly-necked Storks, Eurasian Spoonbill, Black-headed and Red-naped Ibis, White-throated and Pied Kingfishers, various egrets, waders, and huge congregations of waterfowl we’ll look for scarcer Knob-billed and Ferruginous Ducks, Red-crested Pochard, Black Bittern and White-tailed Lapwing. In patches of trailside woodland and acacia we’ll look for Common and White-tailed Ioras, Eastern Orphean Warbler, White-browed Fantail, Taiga and Ultramarine Flycatchers, Eurasian Wryneck, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker and skulkers such as Orange-headed and Tickell’s Thrushes, and Siberian Rubythroat. We can also expect to come across Indian Scops Owl, Dusky Eagle Owl and Large-tailed Nightjar at day roosts, and a superb assortment of raptors including Eastern Imperial, Indian Spotted and Steppe Eagles. We will also explore the surrounding farmland and roadside marshes, looking for Indian Courser, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Black-breasted, Streaked and Baya Weavers, White-capped and Grey-necked Buntings, the delightful Red Avadavat, Indian Silverbill, Baillon’s Crake and Greater Painted Snipe. In case we missed Indian Skimmer during our stay at Jarar, we will have the opportunity to make a half-day excursion to the Chambal River at Dholpur to take another boat ride along a different section of the river.
Day 6: Bharatpur to Delhi, depart
After a final morning at Bharatpur we will drive back to Delhi. Departures from Delhi airport this afternoon.