Day 1. Arrival Delhi, India
Our Western India birding tour starts with arrival in Delhi. Most flights arrive late in the evening or very early in the morning. On arrival you will be transferred to our hotel, which is very near the airport for a well deserved rest.
Day 2. Delhi area
After a leisurely start we visit Sultanpur, a small wetland not far from Delhi. Here we will get an introduction to some of the more common marsh and water birds of the region, and we will look for Sind Sparrow. We then return to our airport hotel in Delhi.
Day 3. Taj Mahal
This morning we head for Agra, where we will visit the Taj Mahal. No matter how often you have seen it in images, it remains a stunning building and complex and is a must-see when visiting India. The Yamuna River behind the Taj can be surprisingly bird-rich – there is a profusion of raptors over the Taj and there are chances of seeing Pallas’s Gull, River Lapwing and Brown-headed Barbet. Afterwards we turn west and drive to Bharatpur. En route, time permitting, we may visit Fatehpur Sikri, a deserted town built during the Mughal Empire. Overnight at Bharatpur – Birder’s Inn.
Days 4 and 5. Keoladeo Ghana National Park and surroundings
These two days will be spent at Keoladeo Ghana N.P., the most renowned bird sanctuary in all of India. We will use cycle rickshaws and also make a number of walks. If the monsoons have been good, there will be lots of water with huge numbers of birds (geese, ducks, herons, storks, raptors, shorebirds, etc.), but even in dry conditions there will be plenty to see. On the second day we may visit Bundh Baretha, an impoundment that should produce a variety of ducks, raptors, and possibly Indian Skimmer. The list of possible goodies includes raptors such as Greater Spotted Eagle, Red-headed Vulture and Crested Serpent-Eagle, Sarus Crane, Black-necked and Painted Storks, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Darter, Greater Painted-snipe, Marshall’s Iora, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Coppersmith Barbet and Ashy Prinia. Wintering Asiatic species could produce Bluethroat or Siberian Rubythroat. Night birds include Collared Scops Owl and Dusky Horned Owl. Overnight at Bharatpur – Birder’s Inn.
Day 6. Return to Delhi and transfer to Velavadar
We return to Delhi to catch a flight to Ahmedabad. From there we drive to Velavadar. This day will get us into semi-desert country, the focus of this tour. Overnight at Velavadar – Blackbuck Lodge.
Day 7. Velavadar
At Velavadar we will have two game drives, during which we will be on the lookout for Blackbuck and other large mammals. Indian Wolf, Striped Hyena and other carnivores are possible. The park also contains a large harrier roost (Montagu’s and Pallid) and we should see francolins, sand grouse, wheatears and a variety of larks. Night at Velavadar Blackbuck Lodge.
Day 8. Transfer to Gir National Park
We drive to Gir N.P., where we will spend the next day. The Gir Lion Sanctuary and National Park covers some 540 square miles of wonderfully unspoiled rugged hill country. We bird en route. Overnight at Gir – Gir Birding Lodge.
Day 9. Gir National Park
Three drives in Gir N.P. will give us chances at Asiatic Lion, although the species is quite rare. The numerous Spotted Deer, Sambar, and Nilgai form the lions’ main prey base, while other mammals in the park include the elusive Leopard. We’re sure to see an array of new birds, too, perhaps including Spotted and Painted Sandgrouse, Indian Black Ibis, Crested Hawk-eagle, Rock Bush-quail, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon and Tawny-bellied Babbler. Overnight at Gir – Gir Birding Lodge.
Day 10. Transfer to Bhuj
Today is mostly a driving day, with occasional birding and comfort breaks, in order to reach Bhuj. Located at the Great Rann of Kutch, Bhuj will be our home base for the next couple of days. From here we search the low lying area of salt flats with scattered vegetation for many hard-to-find species. Overnight at Bhuj – JP Resort.
Days 11 and 12. Bhuj
Two full days at Bhuj, including a half-day visit to the coast at Mandvi, will give us many opportunities to look for specialties of the region, including coursers, Gray Hypocolius, Sykes’s Nightjar, White-naped Tit, Desert Warbler, Gray-necked Bunting and Pale Rock Sparrow. Numbers of vultures, eagles including Eastern Imperial and falcons are also present in impressive numbers. Along the coast our targets include Crab Plover, Terek Sandpiper and various gulls and terns. Nights at Bhuj – JP Resort.
Day 13. Transfer to Little Rann of Kutch
After a last check of the Bhuj area for species missed in the last few days, we head for the Little Rann of Kutch. Once again we will make stops en route to our destination. Overnight at L.R.K. – Rann Riders.
Day 14. Little Rann of Kutch
We will have a full day to explore the area and look for Wild Ass. Indian Wolf and Desert Fox are also possible. Star birds of the area include Great White and Dalmatian Pelicans, McQueen’s Bustard, Demoiselle Crane, Indian Courser, White-tailed and Sociable Plovers, Greater Hoopoe Lark, plus harriers, Tawny, Eastern Imperial and Greater Spotted Eagles. Overnight at L.R.K. – Rann Riders.
Day 15. Mount Abu
After morning birding we head for Mt. Abu in Rajasthan, where in the evening we will visit a site for Green Avadavat, a local specialty. Overnight near Mt. Abu.
Day 16. Mount Abu
We will have another chance at Green Avadavat at Mt. Abu. This is a small hill station located below the summit of the mountain with the same name. At 1722 Mt. Abu is the tallest peak in the Aravalli Range. Afterwards we head for Siana, our base for the next two days. Night at Siana – Siana Garden.
Day 17. Siana
Siana was the location where David Attenborough’s Life of Mammals was filmed. We have a full day to explore the area. During a number of game drives, including at night, we may luck into Striped Hyena, Leopard and Desert Cat. Birds to look for include Rock Bush Quail, Indian Vulture, Indian Thick-knee, Sirkeer Malkoha and White-bellied Minivet. Night at Siana – Siana Garden.
Day 18. Siana - Jaisalmer
After an early breakfast we drive to Desert National Park. We enjoy our lunch at a local restaurant in Jaisalmer with a visit to the spectacular Jaisalmer Fort & Havelis inside the Fort. We continue to Sam (40 kms from Jaisalmer) and stay at a Deluxe Tented Camp.
Days 19 and 20. Desert National Park
There will be two full days to explore Desert National Park, home of the Indian Bustard. Other species of interest include White-rumped and Red-headed Vulture, Long-legged Buzzard, Laggar Falcon, Chestnut-bellied and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Cream-colored Courser and Stoliczka’s Bushchat. One of the evenings we will do a jeep safari to Desert National Park.
Day 21. Desert National Park - Kheechan
After breakfast we drive to Kheechan and check in at our resort, which is close to the Demoiselle Crane site. In the afternoon, we look for Spotted Creeper around Kheechan and enjoy an evening visit and birding at the site where Demoiselle Cranes gather to feed on grain spread by the locals. It should be quite the sight…..and sound! Night at Kurja Resort, Kheechan.
Day 22. Kheechan - Bikaner
After some early morning birding, we will leave Kheechan for Bikaner. After arriving at Bikaner we will visit a Yellow-eyed Pigeon wintering site. This Rock Pigeon look-alike is endangered and highly localized. The local carcass dump is also on the agenda. It should produce a number of vulture species. Night at Bikaner – Lallgarh Palace.
Day 23. Transfer to Jodhpur, flight to Delhi and Departure home
We rise early for the drive to Jodhpur, where we will catch a flight to Delhi, from where we have a late departure for home at the conclusion of our Western India birding tour.