Archive for the ‘Red-crested Pochard’ Tag

Western India part 7: Nagpur to Melghat Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra – 27th – 30th January 2016   Leave a comment

This the final part of my account of the tour to Western India covers the last few days of the tour, which found us not in the west, but in the centre of this huge country.

There was no real birding on the 27th as the entire day was taken up with flights from Bhuj to Mumbai and from Mumbai to Nagpur. We arrived at our Nagpur hotel after dark. The following day we headed west towards the Melghat Tiger Reserve in northern Maharashtra.

IMG_3775 goat jam

The roads were quite good in this part of India but even on a dual carriageway you could get held up by a goat-jam.

IMG_3766 bullock cart

Comfort break for bullocks? When I last visited western and northern India 30 years ago much of the transport was by traditional bullock cart ….

IMG_3772 village scenes

…. but now most people are using motorbikes and lorries to transport themselves and their goods.

IMG_3782 Red-crested Pochard & Coot

We stopped at a lake some 25 miles west of Nagpur, there was an interesting mix of water birds from the familiar Red-crested Pochards and Eurasian Coot ….

IMG_3784 Cotton Pygmy Goose

…. to the more localised Cotton Pygmy Goose.

IMG_3767 LRP & statues

I wasn’t sure if I should focus on these little Hindu statues on the lake shore or the Little Ringed Plover behind them – the LRP won.

IMG_3780 Booted Warbler

In the surrounding bushes we saw a Booted Warbler, a close relative (and formerly lumped with) the Syke’s Warblers we saw in Rajasthan. Both species occur as vagrants to the UK and indeed I’ve seen both in Dorset.

IMG_3876 Tiger Reserve

Eventually we arrived at the Melghat Tiger Reserve where we were to stay for two nights.

IMG_3871 Melghat

The reserve consists of 1500 square Km of mainly Sal forest. Of course it was highly unlikely that we would see any Tigers, although our guide ensured us there was a good population. A couple of locals on a bike stopped us and said they had just seen a Leopard, but the only cat I recorded was a brief view of a Golden Cat  as we drove back one evening.

IMG_3793Tiger scat

But our guide showed us some Tiger scat on the road, full of the hair of its recent victims.

IMG_3818 Forest Owlet

The bird we had come all this way to see was the critically endangered Forest Owlet. The estimated world population is in the range of 25 -250 individuals and is known from only 12 highly fragmented sites in northern Maharashtra and south-east Madhya Pradesh. Other sites may exist, a new location has recently been discovered close to Mumbai, possibly negating the need for future bird tours to fly to Nagpur.

IMG_3822 Forest Owlet

The size of a Little Owl, but with unusually large head and feet, this species is largely diurnal. Diligent searching of known locations eventually gave us stunning views. We able to watch the species calling and preening (see below) right in front of us.

IMG_3814 Forest Owlet

The history of the discovery and rediscovery of the Forest Owlet is one of the most bizarre in the history of ornithology. It was first collected in 1872 in eastern Madhya Pradesh by F. R. Blewitt (who is commemorating in the birds scientific name Heteroglaux blewitti) and described by Allan Hume. A further six specimens were collected in central India in the 19th century, mainly by James Davidson, but one of these was subsequently lost. Another specimen was collected by the infamous Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen in Gujarat in 1914. Subsequent searches in the 20th C in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh showed that the sites where the birds had been collected were largely deforested and no birds could be found. Attention switched to Meinertzhagen’s site in Gujarat, but that also drew a blank and the bird was assumed to be extinct. However by the 1990s suspicion was gathering about the veracity of Meinertzhagen’s claims and American ornithologist Pamela Rasmussen had the Gujarat specimen X-rayed. This showed that the specimen hadn’t been prepared in Meinertzhagen’s usual careful style, but in the amateur fashion of Davidson; it was the missing specimen – stolen by Meinertzhagen from the British Museum and relabeled as one of his own! In 1997 Pamela Rasmussen, David Abbott and Ben King mounted an expedition to where all the 19th C specimens had been collected, including the remaining forests of Maharashtra, and the bird was rediscovered !

IMG_3853 Barred Owlet

Later that day we had excellent views of the much commoner and more widespread Barred Owlet.

IMG_3848 river bed

At a nearby river I picked up another life bird and one that I didn’t really expect, Malabar Whistling Thrush. It was quite distant, well behind the horizontal log ….

IMG_3842 Malabar Whistling Thrush

…. which is my excuse for why the photo is so poor!

IMG_3855 prob Jerdon's Baza

Talking of distant photos; a medium-sized raptor overhead puzzled us but I was able to get a shot and although it was just a dot in the viewfinder, blowing it up indicated it was a female Jerdon’s Baza. Well out of range (at least according to the first edition of the Ripley guide) but the wing and tail pattern all seem to match.

IMG_3787 field lunch

After a successful morning’s birding we paused for a packed lunch. Sometimes we were given a curry, which was really good and sometimes sandwiches, which weren’t. Even so after curry twice a day for 18 days I was really looking forwards to steak and chips, bacon sandwiches, roast beef etc.

IMG_3790 siesta

It was clear that the trip was drawing to a close ….

IMG_3792 Rainer's siesta

…. and that 18 days of early starts and long drives was taking its toll.

IMG_3860 White-naped WP f

… but some stayed awake long enough to locate this female White-naped Woodpecker on a nearby tree.

IMG_3877 Gt Cormorant and Lesser Whistling Duck

So our excellent trip to Western India drew to a close, my 65th with the company Birdquest. On the return to Nagpur we stopped at the lake again, adding Lesser Whistling Duck (seen here with a Great Cormorant) to our list. At Nagpur some stayed on for further adventures in India whilst most continued on to Mumbai and home.

IMG_3780 locals

It had been a good trip, with great birds and mammals, good scenery and architecture and good company, both from the other participants of the trip and the many kind and pleasant local people that we met along the way.

 

12th – 13th May 2015: The Alps part 5 – Interlaken, the Jungfraujoch and Lucerne, Switzerland   Leave a comment

Incidently this blog is four years old today. The first entry was on 17th June 2011, the day I retired. Since then I have uploaded 446 posts, which averages just over two a week and covered many subjects, but have concentrated, of course, on my main interests of birding and travel. In that time my blog has been viewed over 66,000 times.

IMG_7674 Interlaken lakes

Late on the 12th we arrived in Interlaken. As the name suggests the town is situated on land between two large lakes, Thunersee and Brienzersee. This is the view a short distance east of the town over the Brienzersee.

IMG_7679 on route to Jungfraujoch

The main tourist attraction in the area is taking the train all the way to Jungfraujoch, a view-point at 3475m between the Jungfrau and the Eiger. If you start at Interlaken West the almost 3000m climb involves three changes of train and takes about two and half hours.

IMG_7684 on route to Jungfraujoch

A mainline train took us to Interlaken East, where we changed for Lauterbrunnen. From here another train took us steeply through the alpine meadows and coniferous forest ….

IMG_7693 on route to Jungfraujoch

…. until, under the shadow of the Jungfrau, we were above the tree line.

IMG_7805 N face of Eiger from Kleine Scheidegg

At Kleine Scheidegg, with the north face of the Eiger dominating the view, we changed again to a rack and pinion railway

IMG_7699 Jungfraujoch train

…. which then climbed into a tunnel that went right under the Eiger. The terminal was still underground and we had to ascend several floors to reach the observation platforms.

IMG_7748 Jungfraujoch

The view from the top was magnificent. This shot gives a panoramic view of the valley below.

IMG_7735 Jungfraujoch

This is the same view zoomed in.

IMG_7753 Interlaken from Jungfraujoch

To the right Interlaken was visible in the distance.

IMG_7707 Jungfraujoch

In other directions an endless vista of ice and snow was revealed ….

IMG_7741 Jungfraujoch

…. including this wonderful view over the Grosser Aletschgletscher, at 23 Km long, the biggest glacier in the Alps.

IMG_7764 my Taiwanese friend

I had been chatting to some Taiwanese tourists on the way up, and this nice Taiwanese girl wanted to be photographed with me.

IMG_7785 ice eagles

As well as being a viewpoint, the site has been developed into a bit of a theme park with a restaurant, these ice sculptures ….

IMG_7777 ice tunnel

…. and tunnels cut in the ice that you can slip and slide along to your heart’s content.

IMG_7837 Jungfrau

On the way back we changed trains at Klein Scheidegg and then returned via Grindelwald to the east. This gave a different perspective on the mountains ….

IMG_7828 meadows from train

…. and also gave great views of the flower filled Alpine meadows.

IMG_7840 from train

I would highly recommend this journey, it’s not cheap, about 200 Euros pp from Interlaken, but it takes you through a complete cross-section of the Alpine habitats, from lowland valleys to flower filled meadows, coniferous forest, open areas above the tree-line to the land of permanent ice and snow at the top. If you want to see Switzerland and have only a short time available then here it is in a nutshell.

IMG_7865 Lucerne church

We spent the evening in Lucerne. First we visited the impressive church ….

IMG_7873 Lucerne Church

…. arriving in the nick of time just as it was being locked up, there was only the opportunity for this one photo.

IMG_7884 Alpine Swift 2

Apart from Les Alpilles in southern France, Lucerne was the only place we saw the somewhat inappropriately named Alpine Swift.

IMG_7942 Lucerne

The Chapel Bridge and Water Tower were built in the 14th century and are Lucerne’s best known tourist attraction. The bridge served as a rampart and part of the town’s fortification. The Water Tower served as a dungeon, archive and treasury vault.

IMG_7924 medeval paintings

In the 17th century the bridge was adorned with a set of paintings depicting the development of the town and the Republic of Lucerne and the life of two patron saints.

IMG_7919 photo of Lucerne fire

Tragically on the night of 17th August 1993 a fire broke out on the bridge, burning 81 of the 111 bridge paintings, only those at the two ends escaped. The bridge structure was quickly renovated (at a cost of about £1.5 million) and some of the paintings removed in the 19th century (when the bridge was shortened to make way for a new quay) have been hung in the place of those destroyed. Photo taken from an information board by the bridge.

IMG_7960 RC Pochard

The surrounding waters held a healthy population of Red-crested Pochards, some of which were quite tame ….

IMG_7906 GC Grebe

…. as were the Great Crested Grebes.

IMG_7965 pub Lucerne

We ended up in an ‘English Pub’ for dinner. It sounds a bit corny but it must have been ok as it was patronised by many locals.

IMG_7973 Lake at Lucerne

We headed back along the shore of the lake, getting our last view of the high mountains as Lucerne is at the northernmost edge of the Alps.

IMG_7982 river at Root

As hotels were so expensive in the centre of Lucerne we drove to one at Root, some way to the north. The following morning we took a walk along the bank of the nearby river.  We came across some species more typical of the lowlands like Garden Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher. After all the mountain torrents we had checked for Dippers with limited success it was a surprise to see a pair flying over this lowland river.

IMG_7978 Black Kite

We had seen lots of Black Kites in southern France but there had been none in Italy or the mountains of Switzerland so it was nice to start encountering them again. From here we drove to the tiny Principality of Liechtenstein before meeting up with the family in Austria. More of that in the next post.