On January 2nd, 2022, I set about on a birding trip to Uttarakhand. It is a popular destination among birdwatchers due to its diverse range of habitats, from the snow-capped Himalayan peaks to the woodlands and grasslands in the foothills. The state is home to over 600 species of birds, making it a paradise for bird enthusiasts.
Our first destination was Chilla Range of Rajaji National Park in Haridwar, Uttarakhand. The location is popular among wildlife enthusiasts for amazing Leopard and Elephant sightings and some pretty amazing birds too!
My first sighting of the day was an incredible Jungle Owlet that I found just outside the park. This small and elusive owlet was a real treat for me. I clicked some photographs of it but they were not so ideal because of the direct overhead sunlight. But, still I felt great to finally have this lifer checked off my list!
After this, we went straight to the park’s entrance gate, and met up with our guide there, who took us into depths of this amazing national park. Of the various habitats there, grasslands were of particular interest to me because I had very high hopes of finding a White-Throated Bushchat there.
As we ventured deeper into the park, I came across a pair of Wooly-necked Storks perched on the top of a dead tree in the middle of a grassland. These large waders are known for their distinctive long and thick white necks and iridescent body feathers. It was a fantastic sighting, and I was able to capture some great shots of them.
Next, I found a group of River Lapwings. These birds are usually very vocal which makes them easy to spot.
As the day went on, I saw my first ever Changeable Hawk Eagle. The juvenile bird was a bit far away, but I was still able to get decent habitat shots of this bright white bird in the golden evening sunlight.
Soon after that, I got my first ever Indian Nuthatch, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get any usable shots of it. Nonetheless, I was happy to see it and check yet another lifer off my list.
The highlight of the trip was a pair of Himalayan Flameback that I found with the Nuthatch. Both of them were pretty restless at that time and kept hopping from one branch to another and I couldn’t get the shots I hoped I would get. But, still the sighting was definitely a memorable one.
Moving on, I got a Blue-Bearded Bee-Eater pair and it was yet another bird I had wanted to see for a long time. But, again I could not get any decent shots of them. Nonetheless, these fidgety little birds were a joy to watch.
Towards the end of day, I got a Long-Billed Pipit that gave me some excellent views. These birds are usually found in open grasslands and are often very well camouflaged with the surroundings. They are often confused with the Tawny Pipit, but the Long-billed Pipit is overall a bit larger, has a longer tail and as its name implies, has a longer bill.
After spending some time with the Pipit we called it a day and started on our way back. But just as we were about to start, I spotted a large bird flying high above from where we were. My initial thoughts were that it was some raptor, but, on checking the photographs, to my pleasant surprise, it was a male Great Hornbill!! Even though all I could manage was a distant and hazy shot, I was just over the moon with the sighting of this majestic bird.
All along the way, we saw number of Spotted Deers and Sambhar Deers.
Overall, it was an incredible day-trip, and I was able to tick 7 lifers off my list. Now, it was time to move on to the next leg of journey – Kotdwar!