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Northern India Trip 2016. Part II Binsar To Corbett

  • Thu 19th Jan, 2017

Steve and I travelled as wildlife guides to India in November 2016 to set up nature and photography tours for Indus Experience. In part I we started our journey in the foothills of the magnificent Himalaya. Here is Part II of our story.

Steve gets to know the locals by the Kosi River © Richard BainesSteve gets to know the locals by the Kosi River © Richard Baines 

The Kosi River is thought to be named after Kausiki, the sister of the sage Vishvamitra. She was cursed by her husband who prayed for her to turn into a river. Despite Kausiki’s notorious temper, her river was blessed with many fantastic birds; she certainly shined on us as we travelled south from Binsar to Corbett.

Himalayan Vulture near the Kosi River © Steve Race Himalayan Vulture near the Kosi River © Steve Race    

We were a great team joined by Sindhu Gangola from the wonderful Grand Oak Manor (Binsar). Our first stop was a roadside birding emergency; “big low raptors” I shouted from the back of the car. Luckily we were able to stop and pile out to watch six Himalayan Vultures, Lammergeier, Steppe Eagle and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk which looked very small circling under these huge bad boys! It was my job to identify the birds, Steve to get the photos and Sindhu to make sure we didn’t get run over.

Lammergeier near the Kosi River © Steve Race Lammergeier near the Kosi River © Steve Race   

Travelling through a beautiful river gorge we planned a stop at the lowest point where the road is close to the river. Within minutes Steve found a Wallcreeper creeping across a low wall on the opposite bank. Below the wall, a Crested Kingfisher was busy slapping a fish on an old pipe! After spending time ‘drinking in’ these birds we were distracted by close views of White-capped Water Redstarts.  A bird then flew across the river and landed in the stones right in front of us. The Wallcreeper had morphed into a Rivercreeper! Equally adept at feeding like a wagtail as clambering around on vertical walls, we were really pleased to get some wonderful close views.

Wallcreeper by the Kosi River © Steve Race Wallcreeper by the Kosi River © Steve Race  

Arriving at Jungle Jim’s (JJ’s) resort close to Corbett National Park was a delight as we were met on the road by a VIP jeep. JJ’s is located in a fantastic area for birds and wildlife. In the grounds were beautiful Crimson Sunbirds, lots of Woodpeckers and amazing views of Jungle Owlet. Within a few meters of our cabin we noticed high flying raptors, on closer inspection one turned out to be a magnificent Pallas’s Fish Eagle, a rare sighting at JJ’s.

Streak-throated Woodpecker at Jungle Jim's Retreat © Steve RaceStreak-throated Woodpecker at Jungle Jim's Retreat © Steve Race 

Black-rumped Flameback at Jungle Jim's Retreat © Richard Baines Black-rumped Flameback at Jungle Jim's Retreat © Richard Baines  

Jungle Owlet at Jungle Jim's Retreat © Richard Baines Jungle Owlet at Jungle Jim's Retreat © Richard Baines  

Birding days with Manoj Sharma the head naturalist at JJ’s is guaranteed to produce loads of great sightings and our tour didn’t fail to impress. Our highlights included; four species of Vulture, Wooly-necked Stork, Black Stork, Black-necked Stork, Sarus Crane, a flock of diminutive Ashy-crowned Sparrow Larks and enough Wagtails to keep us going for a week! A small flock of wildfowl on Tumariya Reservoir contained seven species of duck including Ferruginous Duck. The wetland theme continued in the nearby jungle as a monster Stork-billed Kingfisher sat patiently above a small stream.

Stork-billed Kingfisher Corbett NP © Steve RaceStork-billed Kingfisher Corbett NP © Steve Race 

With Kausiki’s temper still in relative slumber we returned to the banks of her river and the famous bridge near the Garjiya Devi Temple. As we were still early in the winter we didn’t anticipate that the Ibisbills which spend the winter here would be back. Cue big thrills when after only a few minutes I looked through my scope to find an Ibisbill feeding in the river, BOOM!  

Richard after finding the Ibisbill all smiles! © Steve RaceRichard after finding the Ibisbill all smiles! © Steve Race 

How do you follow finding an Ibisbil?   It’s a difficult task but we managed it with wonderful views of a tiny Collared Falconet on our way back to JJ’s. Our stay at JJ’s was coming to an end.  With great memories we travelled south to Agra and the magnificent Taj. Part III to follow soon…