Monday, May 4, 2009

Corbett - Birds and Beauty

Corbett National Park is the first national park of Independent India, established in 1947. It is here that the prestigious "Project Tiger" conservation project was launched in 1973 to protect Bengal tigers. Situated in the Shivalik and outer Himalayan region in Uttaranchal, Corbett is one of the most scenic wild life reserves in India. The minute you step inside, you are captivated by the beauty of the reserve.
At dawn, when your vehicle enters the reserve, a gush of cold breeze jolts you out of your sleep alerting you to the sights and sounds of the jungle.
You first notice the golden hued grasslands swaying gently from side to side. Then you start to pick up the songs of the birds, the calls of peacocks, barking deer and the occasional trumpets of the elephants. As you pass by the meandering Ram Ganga river and gaze at the mountain ridges that seem to extend into the horizon, you realize that you have come to a special place, a place where animal takes precedence over man , a place that leaves you wanting more even after 6 glorious safaris; a place that will beckon you to go back again and again. It took me more than two weeks to get over the hangover of Corbett. The intoxicating smells and sounds and sights just refuse to leave you.

On our last safari, I had a slight fever and body pains. I contemplated not going, but the thought of missing out on exciting sightings made me pull myself together and go. Uma, bless her soul provided me with fever medication that worked like magic. Five minutes into the park and we spotted elephants crossing the road. I posted enough pictures of elephants in my last post, but could not resist posting this one because of the scenery. Even though it is not focused properly, I love the picture of the tusker walking through the canopy of trees.

The forest was absolutely beautiful! Some deciduous trees had shed their leaves giving the place a very autumn-y look. Driving through the forest and seeing scenery such as this makes me miss fall in the US. All I wanted to do was to go inside a New England coffee shop, sit by the fireplace and eat a nice piece of pumpkin pie a la mode. Ummm...nothing like a warm pie with ice cream to lift your spirits!! Sigh!

Morning was great for birding. A flowering tree was full of leaf birds. Red jungle fowls were foraging in the ground for food. We saw several black hooded orioles. Breeding season was in swing and we saw male scarlet mini vets chasing females. They were zipping from one tree to another shamelessly flirting with each other:) . Watching the scarlet red and yellow color birds chase each other was a lot of fun. We also saw a group of yellow footed green pigeons.

loud high pitched ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-kee call alerted us to the presence of a changeable hawk eagle. We all took good pictures and Uma was ready with her camera to record the call, but the bird refused to oblige. It started calling only AFTER our jeep moved ahead! Check out the picture below to see this majestic raptor.

Along the way we saw many birds. I got this nice close up of an Ashy Drongo. I was also pretty thrilled with my first sightings of a small kingfisher and emerald dove.

We went back to the grasslands for one last time before we exited the park. A huge herd of Cheetal were grazing. There is a very healthy population of Cheetal in the Indian jungles (over 35,000), so multiple sightings are almost guaranteed. Because of this most people don't usually care about them, but I think these are the prettiest of all deer, and am happy to see it any number of times. We then stopped at the reservoir to look for waders and turned back.

Along the way we saw stone chats and bush chats, but the target species for the area was the Hodgson's bush chat that is characterized by a white collar. It is named after the renowned eighteenth century naturalist who discovered 39 species of mammals and 124 species of birds and was intrumental in getting artists to sketch birds accurately to leave notes for future ornithologists.

Green Bee Eater

Back at the guest house, I was able to take some close ups of spotted dove and male and female rose collared dove. A rose ringed parakeet also let me walk close to snap a picture.

The next day we woke up early for our last birding session. The morning started a little slow but picked up later. I was able to get great photographs of some common birds and not so great photographs of rare birds! I took a picture of a white throat kingfisher from a distance and kept inching towards it. To my surprise, it let me come very close for a great shot.

A number of people in the group were photographers and each had a different style of approaching a bird. Some were direct, some would sneak behind and snap pictures of the unsuspecting bird while some would photograph the birders instead of the bird:) Nobody and I mean NOBODY was like Uma. Her strategy was amazing! She TALKED to the birds!! Well....that's not so strange - my mom talks to birds.
"Don't poop on my daughter's balconies"
She told the pigeons in my building and I swear I am not kidding, the shit on my balcony went down by half. My maid was very pleased and keeps asking me when my mom would visit again!

Uma was different, she tried to fool the bird and here is how:

" chweet chweet bird! You are cho cute.....gundu!! Don't worry....this is not a camera. I am not taking your picture. See....there is no film in the camera. Sit there and I won't take your picture!!
"I am coming closer, but won't take your picture. Please sit there....gundu:)

Convincing the bird that she was not taking a picture while clicking the camera furiously was laugh-out-loud hilarious. One evening at dinner, Captain mimicked the whole scene and had us all in splits!

We stopped at a spot where we took some pictures of the oriental white eye. I love the mischievous look of the bird and cannot resist posting these three pictures. Look how it twists its body in the last shot.

The black lored tit ( is called a tit and you can snicker away to glory) moving around very fast and this is the best I could get. While I was busy with the tit, a rosy minivet was vying for my attention.

The lifer for me that day was the sighting of a roufous bellied Niltava. This bird has brilliant orange color belly and a metallic blue color back. What a bird !! That location proved lucky for us and we saw super cute black chinned babblers, black headed bulbuls and black lored tits.

This was a wonderful trip and I hope to return back next year. Our guides Adesh and Manoj were simply the best.


  1. Those are brilliant captures and lovely description...

    I am a die hard fan of this park... corbett and Kanha are probably India's most beautiful forests... !!! especially after the monsoons... !!!!

    Those pictures are really fantastic... and somehow i like the first one with the elephant the most !! its simple.. yet it is most striking !!!

  2. Heyy!! This post seems to be as much about Uma the birdbrain as about the birds she loves :)))) Great write-up, Vamsee! There's nothing boring about it at all (well, you can't expect me to find stuff about myself boring ;)).... Waiting to read about your Bandipur-Mudumalai trip!


  3. Vamsee, with each write-up my desire to go birding increases. Please let me know next when Corbett or something up north happens.

    Not to forget that the pix were amazing and write-up so very YOU! Lively, fun and with that unique Vam touch!

    Keep the good work up! :-)

  4. I enjoyed this post thoroughly. :)
    You have got so many precious bird shots! May be you can dedicate one site with just the bird pictures. :)

  5. Dhiren,
    Thanks. I can see why you are a die hard fan of this park. I became one just after my first visit.

    Thanks for being a good sport while i made fun of you.

    Let's make a deal. You come with me to VOF and I take you on my next birding trip in the north.

    Thanks. Some of the pictures came out really well and I was very pleased.

  6. Thanks for the info. will try to visit.

  7. As always, great narration! The birds are so colorful and cute. But the vdos are the best. Out of the world! Thanks to Uma for taking them and Vam, thanks for sharing with us. Maya loved seeing the baby elephants

  8. Beautiful post Vamsee with an astonishing array of birlife. WOW.

    Checkout my latest tiger post, its linked to your blog as well.

    I m still cherishing those wildlife sighting that we guys had...Thomas

  9. Hey,

    what a post..i just got back from my second birding trip and lo, I land on your blog..almost feel like Im in the forest still

  10. I envy you. Another excellent piece with amazing shots of the birds. I would love to see them in person.

    I would love to try my hands in taking such amazing shots of birds.

  11. Beautiful pictures..Thanks for sharing with us.

  12. Very information...
    Keep publish such post continually...

  13. And I am big time J! I want to visit Corbett now .. :-(

    Awesome pics of the birds and also loved the first two ones - of the elephant and the leaves ... When sis n I used to go birdwatching, she would whistle or try her bird calls to get their attention :) I think talking to the birds and getting them to stay is just one level thats ups that :D


  14. hi vam

    i grew up on Jim corbett's books. his narrations were simply astounding, it was like you were behind him as he stalked the man eaters. One -ve was the lack of photographs - but made up with one or two lovely illustrations. If only he had you eye and your camera. i just imagined his books with such photographs.

    thanks for taking us on your wonderful trip


  15. What a fantastic collection of species! Each one is so unique. We in India have such an incredible treasure in our wilderness. It's sad that conservation is not usually the top priority.

  16. Hi Vamsee,
    Thanks for dropping by NatureStop.We love Jim Corbett and have plans for a revisit.You've got some great shots!!!Will be following your blog:)

  17. Amazing bird collection...Thanks for identifying some of them in my post.

  18. Hi Vamsee, I have put up the answers. :)

  19. I came back to see the pictures again! They are so lovely - the birds. Great photos!!

  20. We love India and spent two weeks there last year,lots of fantastic birds and Tigers.
    We will return soon.
    Great blog

  21. I am still lauphing. And your Mother is not the only one talking to birds - mine is doing that too..I'll have to show her your blog next time I visit - she'd love your photos. She feeds the birds through the winter. She has names the ones she swears return every year..:)

  22. you have some brilliant guides taking you around and your posts on bird watching have finally convinced me to go out on my own bird watching trips...though in my case its bird "watching" by sound rather than sight. I'm not very good at visual ids.