Friday, 12 January 2018

India Day 4 - Chambal River & Taj Mahal

We had been advised to get to the Chambal River as early as possible before people came and flushed all the birds. As a result we left Jungle Lodge at 5 in the morning to get to Chambal for first light. We got a little lost on the way but were still on site for half 7.

Chambal River Cruise
We began our river cruise at 8 so our river cruise was done in the orange glow of sunrise. As a result of our early start there were good numbers of waders and wagtails around, but there was a distinct lack of crocodiles as it was still too cool for them to emerge from the river. The boat cruise lasted for about an hour and a half, and whilst it wasn’t dripping with birds once again the change of scenery produced a new assortment of species; with many new waders added to our trip list. Almost all of the bird species which were site specific we managed; Indian Skimmer, River Tern, Great Thick Knee, Pallas Gull. The river was also alive beneath the surface, with huge shoals of fish with their eyes emerging above the water.
After the boat trip we spent a bit of time birding the riverbank. We checked all areas of scrub and open land with many good birds found. Sadly our time birding there was cut short after we were advised to return to the river, as gangs apparently operate in that area…

Ganges River Dolphin - One of the highlights of whole trip! We had not seen any Gharial on the cruise and it had not delivered on the whole in the way we would have liked. Then, on our way back to the boatyard NP and I spotted a large shape appear and disappear in the water. It clicked with NP who shouted that he thought he had a river dolphin. There was a lot of suspense in the following minutes before it appeared again. This was a pattern that followed for about ten minutes before everyone connected with it. We figured that it would then just swim off upriver, but it lingered and could be seen regularly whilst we birded the river shore. I knew that River Dolphin was possible beforehand, but not in my wildest dreams did I think we would see this critically endangered species.
Crocodiles - There are two species at this site, and both are easy to see. However, because of our early boat trip hardly any crocodiles had emerged from the water, and it wasn’t until we were birding the riverbank that we saw Gharial. We did get close to a few Mugger Crocodiles that emerged at the end of our trip. It was brilliant to be able to get so close to these prehistoric beasts.
River Lapwing - When we arrived at the boatyard we were treated to several of these rather fine birds lined up next to the boat jetty. They are really smart birds, and very approachable, really enjoyable to watch.
Painted Snipe - After yesterday’s males, today we were treated to a more accessible viewing of a very smart female bird on the banks of the river. I was actually able to approach the bird and get good views of it. A much more rewarding experience than yesterday!

-River Lapwing
-Mugger Crocodile
-Indian Skimmer & River Tern
-Great Thick-knee
-Brown-headed Gull
-White-browed Wagtail
-Paddyfield Pipit
-Sirkeer Malkhoa
-Ganges River Dolphin

Species List:
Chambal River Cruise: Masked Wagtail, Sykes Wagtail, White-browed Wagtail, Ruddy Shelduck, River Lapwing, Red-wattled Lapwing, Great Stone Curlew, Pied Kingfisher, White-breasted Kingfisher, Feral Pigeon, Shikra, Black-winged Stilt, Painted Snipe, Brown-headed Gull, Palla’s Gull, Indian Robin, Common Babbler, Paddyfield Pipit, Brown-throated Martin, Laggar Falcon, River Tern, Indian Skimmer, Blue Rock Thrush, Bar-headed Goose, Brookes Leaf Warbler, Sirkeer Malkhoa, Egyptian Vulture, Grey Heron, Painted Stork, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Tree Pipit, Grey Francolin, Indian Peafowl, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Black Redstart, Red-rumped Swallow, Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, House Crow,

Taj Mahal
Somewhat disappointing in all honesty! It wouldn’t be a trip to India without seeing this famous building. However, because we went on a Friday the main gardens were closed so our viewing was restricted to the back garden, and the beauty was somewhat lost. That being said, the back garden was a good place for birds, and there were quite a few migrants in the fruit trees in the garden.

Grey-headed Wagtail - The variety of flava subspecies is fascinating. The most common in India was Sykes Wagtail, the same that we had seen in Oman. The only other race we saw was a single Thunbergi which was on a puddle in the gardens, my first of this race.
Common Tiger - The flowering bushes in the garden were alive with this stunning butterfly species. One bush in the top corner had double figures covering it.
-Sykes Wagtail 
-Grey-headed Wagtail
-Five-striped Palm Squirrel
-Large Grey Babbler

Species List:
Taj Mahal: Black Kite, Lesser Adujanat, Whiskered Tern, Purple Sunbird, Avocet, Hume’s Leaf Warbler, House Crow, Ruff, Sykes Wagtail, Grey-headed Wagtail, Egyptian Vulture, Black-winged Stilt, Plain Martin, Barn Swallow, Large Grey Babbler, Collard Dove, Laughing Dove, Taiga Flycatcher, Siberian Chiffchaff, Hoopoe, Oriental White-eye, Cattle Egret, Black Drongo, Red-vented Bulbul, Rufous Treepie, Ring-necked Parakeet, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Common Myna, Little Swift, Five-striped Palm Squirrel, Common Tiger,

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