India: Tigers, Taj, & Birds Galore Jan 30—Feb 17, 2018
Posted by Machiel Valkenburg
This tour, one of my favorites, starts in probably the busiest city in Asia, Delhi! In the afternoon we flew south towards the city of Raipur. In the morning we visited the Humayan’s Tomb and the Quitab Minar in Delhi; both of these UNESCO World Heritage Sites were outstanding, and we all enjoyed them immensely. Also, we picked up our first birds, a pair of Alexandrine Parakeets, a gorgeous White-throated Kingfisher, and lots of taxonomically interesting Black Kites, plus a few Yellow-footed Green Pigeons, with a Brown-headed Barbet showing wonderfully as well.
From Raipur we drove about four hours to our fantastic lodge, “the Baagh,” located close to the entrance of Kanha National Park. The park is just plain awesome when it comes to the density of available tigers and birds. It has a typical central Indian landscape of open plains and old Sal forests dotted with freshwater lakes. In the early mornings when the dew would hang over the plains and hinder our vision, we heard the typical sounds of Kanha, with an Indian Peafowl displaying closely, and in the far distance the song of Common Hawk-Cuckoo and Southern Coucal. On and around the many lakes we found Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Red-crested Pochard, Red-naped Ibis, Gray-headed Fish-Eagle, and a large selection of shorebirds including Wood Sandpiper and Common Greenshank. In the dense forests we found several Black-rumped Flamebacks and Coppersmith Barbets. One tree in particular proved very interesting; we had good looks at Plum-headed Parakeets that were in perfect morning light and showed very well. Moreover, we found Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Black-hooded Oriole, Long-tailed Minivet, and Indian Scimitar-Babbler. The best sighting of the park belonged to the emperor of the forest. On almost every drive we had a sighting of a tiger. A young cub playing on the road for several minutes was a splendid experience, and the last one belonged to a female tiger lying around 20 yards from our jeep, giving prolonged views. It remains the best mammal of Asia for me!
At the lodge we discovered a nest of Barn Owls with two almost fully grown chicks that were ready to fly off to discover the world for themselves. In the garden of the lodge we heard and saw Lesser Whitethroat, Taiga Flycatcher, Jungle Owlet, and Chestnut-shouldered Petronia. We also scoped a nice Verditer Flycatcher. The stay in the Baagh was, as always, a pleasure. The meals were fantastic, with fresh vegetables from their own garden, perfectly seasoned. Their excellent cooking in combination with a garden full of butterflies and all sorts of little mammals makes our stay a pleasure every time. I am already looking forward to my next visit.
Read Machiel’s full report in his Field Report.