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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Nepal

2009 Tour Narrative

In Brief: This was the first time since 2001 for WINGS to run this Nepal tour, and we had high expectations. We spent time in the Kathmandu Valley, at Koshi Tappu (a wetland sanctuary in lowland southeastern Nepal), and at world-renowned Chitwan National Park. During our three days on the edge of the Kathmandu Valley in Phulchowki Mountain’s moss-encrusted oak-rhododendron and subtropical broad-leaved forests, we found Collared Owlet, several superbly obliging Speckled Piculets, Nepal Cutias on all three days, Scaly-breasted and Pygmy Wren Babblers, two species of tesia, several Fire-tailed Sunbirds, and more barwings, minlas, fulvettas, sibias, and yuhinas than we could shake a stick at—a great introduction to all the ornithological delights to follow.

In Detail: The next morning we made the half-hour flight to Biratnagar, in the southeastern corner of Nepal. Our route took us parallel to the mighty Himalayan mountain chain that formers the northern border of this tiny landlocked nation, and we were treated to superb views of the mightiest peaks on the planet. We spent the next four nights at a comfortable camp right on the edge of the Koshi Tappu National Park. No sooner had we arrived than we were treated to stupendous views of what turned out to be the “Bird of the Tour”: a magnificent male Siberian Rubythroat, which soon became a semi-permanent fixture at the bird bath right outside the camp’s restaurant and bar! Other ornithological highlights inside camp included the “globally vulnerable” Lesser Adjutant, a fine male Yellow Bittern, a Small-billed Scaly Thrush, and a typically recalcitrant Rusty-rumped Warbler. The undoubted mammalian highlight was the repeated evening solo performance of a Fishing Cat.

The Koshi Camp crew, keen birders almost to a one, certainly kept us busy, whether with a jungle walk that produced the “vulnerable” Subcontinent endemic Swamp Francolin, Brown Fish Owl, and Brown Hawk Owl; or a jeep safari to a nearby wetland that produced, among others, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Greater Painted-snipe, and Striated Grassbird; or a river raft trip whose myriad highlights included the poorly known Swamp Prinia, a single critically endangered White-rumped Vulture, an adult Eastern Imperial Eagle, Great Black-headed Gulls, and Black-bellied Terns. That raft trip also treated us to some spectacular close-range performances by a party of Ganges Dolphins. Somehow we even found time to explore a patch of forest where we were treated to a couple of parties of Oriental Pied Hornbills, two Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, Rufous Woodpecker, and the only Banded Bay Cuckoos that we’d actually see all trip. On the way back to camp we stopped and enjoyed close range views of a fine pair of Indian Coursers. And Koshi Tappu also provided some of the best Dal Bhat of the entire tour.

Chitwan was our next port of call, and here again the quality species came thick and fast, with Black Francolin, Red Junglefowl, Lesser Coucal, Himalayan Flameback, Tickell’s Thrush, Himalayan Rubythroat, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Yellow-eyed Babbler, White-bellied Erpornis, Spotted Bush Warbler, Crimson Sunbird, and Common Green Magpie all added from the grounds of our first lodge. We never need to venture very far afield, and our short walk and jeep drive produced highlights including Black Stork, Brown Crake, Collared Falconet, a couple of majestic Great Pied Hornbills, White-tailed Stonechat, and two subcontinent endemics: Gray-crowned Prinia and the rarely encountered Bristled Grassbird.

Access from our second lodge into the reserve’s western grasslands was easy, and we had impressive views, plus good photo opportunities, of several Indian Rhinos. Add to that a couple of encounters with Slender-billed Babbler (another grassland specialist and a vulnerable Subcontinent endemic), a soaring Gray-headed Fish-eagle, Changeable Hawk-eagle, umpteen Indian Peafowl and Rufous-rumped Grassbirds, and we fared pretty well before we had to leave Chitwan and the Terai. We found Ibisbill and Spiny Babbler, Nepal’s only endemic, en route back to the historic Kathmandu Valley, and even managed to spend an afternoon sightseeing around the city.

- Paul Holt

Created: 21 April 2009