Wednesday, 5 August 2015

India (Rajasthan and Kashmir) Trip - 26th July - Day 2

Martin and I were up at 03:30 and down to the hotel foyer for 04:00 to meet Andy and Ian after their long flight from Midlands Airport - they looked shattered when they eventually arrived at 04:15 but they were keen to get going. After a bit of faffing we were ready and on our way to Surajpur Wetland through the still dark streets of Delhi but slowly the sun rose and the first birds became visible, House Crow, Black Kites, Night Heron, Cattle Egret and Indian Peafowl still roosting on the billboards and pylons. The Surajpur Wetland was approximately one hour from our hotel and it was light when we arrived and we birded the wet fields just outside the entrance seeing Red-wattled Lapwing, Pied Bushchat, a fine male Red Avadavat, Ashy Prinia, Indian Bushlark, Indian Thick-kneeGreen Bee-eater, Wood Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper. After sometime familiarising ourselves with these birds and once that initial headless chicken phase of the first day of a foreign trip had passed we wandered into the reserve. We birded the first 300-400m of the track which led through thorn scrub, wet grassland and a Water Hyacinth choked lagoon. Birds here included Greater Coucal, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Asian Openbill Stork, Red-naped Ibis, smart Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Purple Gallinule and Grey Francolin. We also came across Leopard pug marks along the main track, a little surprising given the built up nature of the site. We eventually arrived at an area of open flooded grassland with scattered thorn scrub where we quickly heard and obtained fair views of our main target, the Bristled Grassbird classified by Birdlife as Vulnerable, a surprisingly large grassbird with a distinct jet black mouth visible when singing and bristles around the base of the bill. These were particularly evident when one bird performed a song flight above our heads. After some final birding just outside the park entrance where we added Indian Spotted Eagle to the list we headed back to the hotel at around 08:30 to gather our bags before setting off on the long drive southwards to Ajmer.

To break up the journey we stopped at the Nahargah Biological Park (15:00-17:30) just to the north-east of Jaipur. The thick overcast had turned to a heavy drizzle and so we birded the thorn forest here without cameras. The birding was good and pretty lively and we saw Brahminy MynahBlack-headed Cuckooshrike, Western Crowned Warbler, Rufous Treepie, White-browed Fantail, Bay-backed Shrike, Cinereous Tit, Chestnut-shouldered Petronia and White-bellied Drongo. Mammals included Nilgai and Langur Monkey. However, the undoubted highlight were a pair of Indian Pitta which showed very well alongside the main track as they perched in the thorn scrub in response to playback – absolutely cracking birds and great to see them so well – but no camera!!

Back on the road to complete the final three of the eight hour drive to Puskar near to Ajmer. We arrived at the Hotel Paradise at 21:30 had superb curry but no beers as this is a strictly religious state and alcohol is prohibited, completed the log and crashed.

Hoopoe of race ceylonensis - Surajpur Wetland

Bristled Grassbird showing the remarkable black mouth - Surajpur Wetland

Bristled Grassbird in song flight showing the bristles at the base of the bill - Surajpur Wetland

Black-crowned Night Heron - Surajpur Wetland

Indian Pond Heron - Surajpur Wetland

Greater Coucal (nominate) - Surajpur Wetland

Green Bee-eater (adults) of race beludschicus - Surajpur Wetland

Green Bee-eater (juvenile) of race beludschicus- Surajpur Wetland

Green Bee-eater (juvenile) of race beludschicus - Surajpur Wetland

Indian Bushlark (lumped by some including HBW as race of Bengal Bushlark but differs in vocalisation, song flight and habitat choice) - Surajpur Wetland

Indian Spotted Eagle (adult) - Surajpur Wetland

Cows on the highway

The first lunch in India

Langur Monkeys - Nahargah Biological Park

Langur Monkeys - Nahargah Biological Park

Weather Today: Mostly overcast with some sun in the AM but rain for much of the afternoon.

Links to the other Days of the Trip:
Day 1 - Background and Travel day
Day 3 - Sonkhaliya
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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