Welcome to Birdquest

WESTERN INDIA

Birdquest's Western India tour is the alternative indian birdwatching trip we pioneered and which takes in the many speciality birds from the Punjab south through Rajasthan and Gujarat to Maharashtra. Our Western India tour features such great birds as Indian Bustard, Crab-Plover, Forest Owlet, Mottled Wood Owl, Sykes's Nightjar, Sykes's Lark, Stoliczka's Bushchat, Jerdon's Babbler, White-naped Tit, Indian Spotted Creeper, Vigors's Sunbird, Green Avadavat, Sind Sparrow and the sought-after Grey Hypocolius, sole member of its family.

Friday 2nd February — Sunday 18th February 2018
(17 days)


Leader: Hannu Jännes

Group Size Limit: 9

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations

The Great Indian Bustard still stalks across the Thar Desert, but for how much longer?  (Mark Beaman)

The Great Indian Bustard still stalks across the Thar Desert, but for how much longer? (Mark Beaman)

If you should visit anywhere in India fast, Rajasthan and the west has to take priority as it is home to the last major concentration of India’s most emblematic yet critically endangered bird, the magnificent Indian Bustard. This species has declined by over 80% in the last 50 years and it is estimated it could be effectively extinct within 15 years if the present rate of attrition from habitat degradation and hunting continues! We must all hope the disaster of extinction can still be avoided, but in the meantime we are still seeing this bird on every Birdquest tour to the region, not least because we are now the only company that allows extra time in our itinerary to find it.

Of all the bird-rich regions of the vast Indian subcontinent, it is the arid northwest that holds the greatest diversity of endemic species. During this unique itinerary, which is designed to focus on the many speciality birds of the region, we will visit the Punjab, situated at the base of the Himalayas, the desert state of Rajasthan, Gujarat, and finally Maharashtra.

The Punjab, the ‘Land of the Five Rivers’, is nowadays divided between India and Pakistan. Here we shall see a rarely visited part of India as we explore the wetland reserve of Harike on the River Sutlej, a place that is still ‘undiscovered’ but which offers some great birding. As well as a superb array of waterbirds, Harike offers wintering Mountain Chiffchaffs from Central Asia and also specialities of the Indo-Gangetic plains such as Rufous-vented Prinia, Jerdon’s Babbler (of the geographically isolated Indus form which may well represent a distinct species), Striated Babbler, Sind Sparrow and Black-breasted Weaver. We will also pay a short visit to the famous Golden Temple of the Sikhs in Amritsar.

Rajasthan with its turbulent history, warring yet cultured rulers and extraordinary cities and fortresses is surely the region that epitomizes the romantic India of a bygone era. Here the Moghul emperors constantly battled for supremacy with the local rulers, who in turn fought each other whenever they were not having to face an outside threat. The riches they accumulated were used to build awesome strongholds in the hills and some of the most fabulous palaces ever constructed. Their lives and times seem like a fairy tale to we inhabitants of a much more crowded and less simple era, but they live on in the remarkable monuments they built that now emblazon India’s rich architectural heritage.

For most birders who have travelled in India, or who have dreamed of going there, Bharatpur and Ranthambhore sanctuaries are the places they associate with Rajasthan, but this huge state extends far to the west, where other remarkable places await the travelling naturalist. We will start our Rajasthani adventure in the Bikaner region in the northwestern part of the state, where the localized Indian Spotted Creeper can regularly be found and where Yellow-eyed Doves from Central Asia winter. After that we will travel far out into the Thar Desert to experience the extraordinary spectacle of thousands of fearless Demoiselle Cranes right next to us at the village of Khichan, something few birders have so far witnessed. Moving still further into the Thar, we will look for the critically endangered Indian Bustard and for Stoliczka’s Bushchat close to the romantic desert citadel of Jaisalmer.

Continuing further south, we will pause to hunt for the critically endangered Indian Vulture, Rock Bush Quail, Painted Sandgrouse, Sirkeer Malkoha, Indian Eagle-Owl, the rare White-bellied Minivet and possibly even Leopard around the small village of Siana.

From here we will travel to Mount Abu in the rugged Aravalli Hills, where we will look for the little-known Green Avadavat as well as Red Spurfowl, Grey Junglefowl, Indian Scimitar Babbler and many other birds before ending our journey through Rajasthan.

To the south of Rajasthan lies the state of Gujarat, bordering India’s Arabian Sea coast. Here we first explore the vast saline flats of the Little Rann of Kutch, famous for its herds of Indian Wild Ass (or Onager), and also home to some great birds including Lesser Flamingo, Macqueen’s Bustard, Indian Courser, Yellow-wattled Lapwing and the little-known Sykes’s Nightjar.

After that we will head westwards to Kutch, the most westerly region of India. Our visit to Kutch will be one of the highlights of our journey through western India, for this once-remote region harbours some very special birds, including the striking Crab-Plover, Sykes’s Lark, Marshall’s Iora, the strange Grey Hypocolius (a must-see bird for all family collectors) and the rare and endangered White-naped Tit, all of which we can expect to see well during our explorations!

Finally we shall go in search of the little-known Forest Owlet at Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra state in west-central India. Only recently rediscovered after a gap of over 100 years, Melghat has been found to hold the largest known concentration of this enigmatic species. This rarely visited sanctuary is also a great place for seeing the sought-after Mottled Wood Owl and the localized endemic Vigors’s Sunbird.

By the time we return home we will have seen a superb series of Indian subcontinent specialities as well as a rich variety of more widespread birds, not to mention some of the greatest architectural monuments in all India.

Birdquest has operated tours to western India since 1985.

Important: The Birdquest Western India tour is unique in having up to three mornings to look for the rapidly declining and now critically endangered Indian Bustard, which has become very difficult to find. You don’t want to miss this very special bird!

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are mostly of good standard. The lodges at Siana and Zainabad are comfortable but simple (Zainabad in particular is rustic) and with charming hosts, a pleasant, peaceful atmosphere and good food. All rooms have private bathrooms. Road transport is mainly by small coach or car, but we use jeeps or open-sided trucks to explore a few areas. Roads are variable in quality.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are a few longer walks in flat terrain in Punjab and Rajasthan.

Climate: Typically it will be cool to warm, dry and sunny (although early mornings are sometimes cold). Although overcast weather is not infrequent, rain is uncommon at this season.

Bird/Mammal Photography: Opportunities are good.

Tour Price: £3990, €4710, $5230 Amritsar/Mumbai. Single Room Supplement: £576, €680, $755. Deposit: £500, €600, $650.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Also includes this flight: Bhuj-Mumbai.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

The enigmatic Forest Owlet, rediscovered in the 1990s after a century during which it was feared extinct, is clinging on in the fast-disappearing forests of west-central India  (Mark Beaman)

The enigmatic Forest Owlet, rediscovered in the 1990s after a century during which it was feared extinct, is clinging on in the fast-disappearing forests of west-central India (Mark Beaman)

5 photos View Gallery Photos From WESTERN INDIA
At sunrise the Demoiselle Cranes of Khichan gather on the nearby dunes...  (Mark Beaman)

At sunrise the Demoiselle Cranes of Khichan gather on the nearby dunes... (Mark Beaman)

Before flighting in to the compound at the village where grain is put out for them, creating an extraordinary spectacle of both vision and sound  (Mark Beaman)

Before flighting in to the compound at the village where grain is put out for them, creating an extraordinary spectacle of both vision and sound (Mark Beaman)

Deeper into the Thar Desert, small numbers of Stolizcka's Bushchats survive where the grass is not overgrazed  (Mark Beaman)

Deeper into the Thar Desert, small numbers of Stolizcka's Bushchats survive where the grass is not overgrazed (Mark Beaman)

The Thar Desert was an important trade route for several thousand years, reflected in the power and wealth of its still-magical cities like Jaisalmer  (Mark Beaman)

The Thar Desert was an important trade route for several thousand years, reflected in the power and wealth of its still-magical cities like Jaisalmer (Mark Beaman)

The Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat is famous as the last stronghold of the Indian Wild Ass  (Mark Beaman)

The Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat is famous as the last stronghold of the Indian Wild Ass (Mark Beaman)

The handsome Indian Courser also frequents the dry plains of Gujarat  (Mark Beaman)

The handsome Indian Courser also frequents the dry plains of Gujarat (Mark Beaman)

And the little-known Sykes's Nightjar winters here from its breeding areas in Pakistan  (Mark Beaman)

And the little-known Sykes's Nightjar winters here from its breeding areas in Pakistan (Mark Beaman)

Sykes's Larks inhabit grassy areas in Gujarat  (Mark Beaman)

Sykes's Larks inhabit grassy areas in Gujarat (Mark Beaman)

Few Indian mammals surpass the elegant Blackbuck  (Mark Beaman)

Few Indian mammals surpass the elegant Blackbuck (Mark Beaman)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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