Western India part 4: Siana and Mt Abu, Rajasthan – 19th – 22nd January 2016   2 comments

This post covers the areas around the town/villages of Siana and Mt Abu in Rajasthan. The thorn scrub and montane woodlands held some excellent species, several of which were life birds for me.

IMG_2995 John, Rob & Tom Siana

We arrived at our lodge at Siana in the early afternoon of 19th after some birding on route.

IMG_2987 fig

The clearing by our chalets was dominated by this huge fig.

IMG_2991 bees nest

…. and nearby trees held some enormous bee’s nests ….

IMG_3045 Indian Scops Owl

…. and a roosting Indian Scops Owl.

IMG_3003 Langurs

There were plenty of Hanuman¬†Langurs in the area ….

IMG_3009 Langurs

…. including this mother and baby.

IMG_3042 around the camp fire

It was pretty cold at night so we huddled around an open fire to eat.

IMG_3133 open jeep

Transport in the Siana area was in these open-sided (and open-fronted) jeeps.

IMG_3114 near Siana

The area was composed of rocky hills and dense thorn scrub.

IMG_3047 vulture rock

We spent some time around this rock outcrop ….

IMG_3116 Indian Vultures

…. as this was the only place we were likely to see the critically endangered Indian Vulture which nests on the rock. We saw at least four, possibly six of these birds during our time here. See the previous post for an explanation of the catastrophic decline of India’s vulture population.

IMG_3059 Sulphur-bellied Warbler

Between the rocky outcrops we saw a number of Sulphur-bellied Warblers, on the face of it just another hard to identify Phylloscopus warbler ….

IMG_3054 Sulphur-bellied Warbler

…. but in practice quite easy to identify due to its habit of foraging on tree trucks and rock faces rather than among the leaves.

IMG_3071 under the boulder

Speaking of rock faces we did a fair bit of scrambling and searching around them in an unsuccessful attempt to locate a roosting Indian Eagle Owl.

IMG_3069 eagle-owl site

We failed to find the owl but we did hear and see one in flight in the same area at dusk.

Striped Hyena IUCN Hyena specialist group Photo from a camera trap placed by Alireza Mahdavi

After we had seen the eagle owl we spent some time spotlighting the escarpment and eventually picked up the eye-shine of a distant Striped Hyena. Through the scope the views weren’t bad and we could see the striped legs and flanks, powerful muzzle and huge ears. I think this was the highlight of the entire trip for me. Of course under those circumstances I couldn’t get a photo so I have included this one from the IUCN Hyena specialist group’s website which was taken using a camera trap near Tehran, Iran by Alireza Mahdavi.

IMG_3100 ST Eagle

On the top of one high outcrop a Short-toed Eagle peered down at us ….

IMG_3081 Langur

…whilst from another this Hanuman Langur stared disdainfully at us.

IMG_3105 Yellow-throated Sparrow

Whether you call it Yellow-throated Sparrow or Chestnut-Shouldered Petronia, I got the best views I’ve ever had of this often elusive bird.

IMG_3124 Syke's Warbler

Syke’s Warblers were quite tricky as well. This scarce visitor from Central Asia has turned up in the UK on several occasions including Dorset.

IMG_3020 White-bellied Minivet

One of the key birds in this area was the beautiful, yet elusive White-bellied Minivet which we saw only once.

IMG_3031 Wild Boars

Late in the day we quietly hid by this pool in the hope that Painted Sandgrouse would appear. Whilst we were waiting this herd of Wild Boar came down to drink.

Painted Sandgrouse IBC Jugal Tiwari Gujarat.

Eventually a pair of Painted Sandgrouse appeared but by now it was too dark for photography. This photo from the Internet Bird Collection was taken by Jugal Tiwari in Gujarat. Painted Sandgrouse was the last of the 16 species of sandgrouse in the world for me, another family 100% under-the-belt.

On the 21st we headed from Siana to Mt Abu, a former hill station in the Avalli range which is looking quite down-at-heels these days.

IMG_3214 Mt Abu Hotel

However our hotel, the Connaught House, is a throwback to the days of the Raj, with its paintings of Queen Victoria and photographs of officers and gentlemen in their finery.

IMG_3212 Mt Abu Hotel

This is the dining room ….

IMG_3251 me at hotel at Mt Abu

…. and here is one of the bedrooms. This place complies with the unwritten law on bird tours that the quality of the accommodation is inversely proportional to the length of stay!

IMG_3142 Mt Abu

Back in the village we searched the fields, animal enclosures and trees for our target species ….

IMG_3171 Crested Bunting

…. Chestnut Bunting ….

IMG_3189 Bay-backed Shrike

…. Bay-backed Shrike ….

IMG_3199 Brown Rock Chat

…. another Brown Rock Chat ‘doing what it says on the tin’ ….

IMG_3150 Blue Rock Thrush

…. Blue Rock Thrush ….

IMG_3156 Indian Robin f

…. Indian Robin ….

IMG_3232 Green Avadavat

…. but most importantly a small flock of the very rare and localised Green Avadavat.

We left Mt Abu on the morning of 22nd after scoring with Red Spurfowl and Indian Scimitarbill. From here we headed into Gujarat, a state where both alcohol and meat are banned, not an attractive proposition for a beer-loving carnivore like me.

2 responses to “Western India part 4: Siana and Mt Abu, Rajasthan – 19th – 22nd January 2016

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  1. That is Tom Radford on the right in the first photo! He’s been coming on trips with George and I for years. I instantly recognised his characteristic posture! Fantastic posts by the way Ian. Lots of work I’m sure but appreciated by me for one!

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