We awoke at 03:45, I had a quick shower then Ian and I were out for the cars for the agreed 04:00, we stood in the dark all alone, we waited until 04:10 and realised that the rest of the team had overslept so knocked up Martin and Andy and knocked on the wrong room door for the guide - luckily there was no one occupying it. Ian and I stood in the dark and rain waiting for the others to arrive. By 04:30 we were on our way and after a 1.5 hour drive which involved some random detours we arrived at Sonkhaliya, an extensive, flat expanse of bean, maize and cereal crop with thorn scrub, semi-desert and muddy stuff.
The morning started rather wet which did not bode well but by the time we arrived on site the rain had eased and almost immediately we heard a Rain Quail calling fairly close by. So we scrambled through an acacia hedge and located the bird calling from a bean field and after a bit of taping we had good views of the bird as it fed and sang along the rows between the bean drills. A cracking little bird, like our quail but with an extensive dark marked breast. It called with a quail like tone a loud, rapidly repeated whit-whit. Back at the car we added Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark, Crested Lark, Rock Bush Quail, Southern Grey Shrike and a pair of Red-necked Falcon to the list. We then slowly drove and birded towards our key target of the day through more thorn scrub and crop land. We arrived at our key target at around 08:00 and within a short space of time the guide picked up our first Lesser Florican displaying from a bean field – absolutely fantastic, a bird on a rubber band. It would crouch momentarily before bouncing skyward, gaining height, vertically, by rhythmic yet frantic wing-beats audible as a dull clapping sound at some distance, at the peak of the climb the wings were closed and the head thrown back and the bird would drop to the ground all the while frantically kicking its legs as if to save itself from the impact of the approaching ground while its nape plumes were spread and flapped in the updraft. As was deserving we spent 2.5 hours with the Floricans eventually seeing two displaying males and a single female. After a quick elevenses at Sanaipar we birded an area of wetland and scrub at the rear of the town where highlights were Knob-billed Duck, Greater Painted-snipe, more Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark, Baya Weaver, Common Babbler, Indian Silverbill and a Crimson Speckled moth.
After a rather bland curry at a roadside stop we spent the rest of the day birding the habitat at Sonkhaliya to the west of the highway seeing a good range of birds with highlights being Rufous-tailed Lark, better views of a ‘covey’ of eight Rock Bush Quail, Grey Francolin, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Indian Bush Lark, Long-tailed Shrike and Bay-backed Shrike and a cracking Rock Eagle Owl which Andy picked up initially as it flew to an acacia tree and the drivers picked up a little later perched in an acacia near the car. But we failed to find any Indian Courser which was a big disappointment for me.
We headed back to the hotel at around 17:30 stopping at a roadside off licence on the way to gather some beers – we couldn’t go another night without. As beers were not permitted in the hotel outside of guest rooms we ordered a superb curry to the room and enjoyed cold Kingfishers before bed at 23:00.
Weather today: Early morning drizzle then overcast and warm with brighter spells and a heavy shower
Large Grey Babbler - Common and social birds seen at many sites today
Rain Quail - A male singing from the bean crop
Southern Grey Shrike - Here of the race lahtora
Lesser Florican - This is the initial jump from the ground
Lesser Florican - This is the peak of the jump where some frantic flapping occurs
Lesser Florican - This is the fall to ground while treading 'water'
Lesser Florican - This is the moment just before hitting the ground
Lesser Florican - Male in flight
Lesser Florican twitch
Indian Bush Lark - This bird looks dramatically different from the bird we saw yesterday (shown here), I guess this may be due to feather wear
Rufous-fronted Prinia - Yawn
Cattle Egret - A small breeding colony is present in the middle of Sanaipar. This is the race coromandus which is sometimes split as Eastern Cattle Egret - clearly it is far more orange than the race us British birders are more familiar with
Indian Bush Lark
Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark
Compo meets the locals
Indian Silverbill - Although subdued in colour, these are cracking little birds
Common Babbler of nominate race
Indian Peafowl - Although common they are stunning birds as they wander the gardens and fields
Greater Painted-snipe - This bird, a male, ran out of the water and hid under a short Acacia as we watched
Long-tailed Shrike of race caniceps
Southern Grey Shrike
Indian Robin of race camaiensis, sometimes known as Brown-backed Indian Robin
Rock Bush Quail - Male
Rock Bush Quail - Female
Day 1 - Background and Travel day
Day 2 - Surajpur Wetland and Nahargah Biological Park
Day 4 - Ajmer Thorn Forest and drive back to Delhi
Day 5 - Fly Delhi to Shrinigar (Kashmir) then Yousmarg
Day 6 - Yousmarg
Day 7 - Dachigam National Park, Shankarachariya Temple and Dal Lake
Day 8 - Yousmarg then return to Delhi and flights home
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