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Nepal - Kathmandu valley & the terai grasslands

Kathmandu & Phulchowki - Koshi Tappu Wildlife reserve - Chitwan National Park

 

Overview

 

Nepal is incredible for birds - the remarkable diversity of altitude and habitat, from grasslands at little more than sea level to the highest peaks of the Himalaya, is reflected in the sheer variety of species - over 850 species of bird have been recorded here, more than in any other region of comparable size in Asia.

 

This is one of Asia's most fascinating countries. Straddling the Himalaya, Nepal is dominated by mountains which provide a universal spectacular backdrop, punctuated by colourful Buddhist stupas, Hindu temples and royal palaces.  Once one of the most isolated and inaccessible places on earth, geographically and by choice, Nepal opened its borders little over a half-century ago, allowing birders to explore some of the best birding locations in the Indian subcontinent.

 

Our 12-day tour takes us through the three best birding localities in Nepal.  We begin in the mid-altitude Himalaya of the Kathmandu Valley, exploring the forested slopes of Phulchowki Danda for montane specialities.  From here we travel east into the terai, the lowland grasslands and forests which flank the Himalaya, to Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, where internationally important wetlands host Nepal's largest congregation of waterbirds.  Staying in the terai, we move west to Chitwan National Park which, spanning the mountains from the terai and outermost foothills to the mid-Himalaya, supports the richest assemblage of birds anywhere in the country, including an important selection of grassland specialities in the most extensive protected area of lowland grassland in Nepal.

 

This is a thoroughly enjoyable and productive tour covering the best of the country's birding sites in a variety of habitats and landscapes, against a backdrop of dramatic mountain scenery.  During the winter months resident avifauna is enhanced by Palaearctic migrants, with excellent opportunities for large mammals, including Tiger and Indian One-horned Rhinoceros, in the lowlands.

 

 

Outline itinerary:

Day 01 - arrive Kathmandu

Day 02 - Kathmandu & Phulchowki Danda

Days 03-06 - Koshi Tappu Wildlife Resverve

Days 07-10 - Chitwan National Park

Day 11 - Chitwan to Kathmandu

Day 12 - depart Kathmandu

 

 

Tour focus: Himalayan specialities, plus a host of mammals including Indian One-horned Rhinoceros

 

Best time to visit: November to April

 

 

Highlights:

• Comprehensive coverage of a cross-section of the Central Himalayan environment, from almost sea-level to 2767m

• Comprehensive coverage of the country's best birding localities

• A range of habitats from lowland plains and sub-tropical forest to temperate conifers 

• Relatively easy birding, more challenging in places as a result of climate

• Extremely rich, varied and exciting birdlife

• Opportunities of a wealth of mammals, including some sought-after large mammals

• Spectacular Himalayan scenery

• Comfortable accommodation in some wonderful wildlife lodges

• Fascinating culture and architecture

 

Tour info

 

Tour code: NP001

 

To register: Contact us, or see our tour calendar, for forthcoming dates and prices, or to arrange a custom tour. 

 

Duration:  11 nights / 12 days

 

Arrival & departure: This tour starts and ends in Kathmandu

Arrival in Kathmandu may be at any time on day 1, departure from Kathmandu may be at any time on day 12.  You may require additional accommodation before/after the tour which we would be happy to arrange for you.

 

Tour price:  on enquiry

 

Prices: Our tour prices are inclusive of all road transport and domestic flights, accommodation, all or most meals, all birding/wildlife activities, park entry fees, and guiding throughout by one of our professional bird tour leaders.

 

Tour documents: Participants will receive detailed tour information with important details regarding health precautions, accommodation, clothing & what to bring, spending money, the visa application process etc., as well as a comprehensive species checklist and list of recommended field/sound guides.

 

Maximum group size:  10

 

Key species

 

Key birds:

• Ibisbill

• Wallcreeper

• Bengal Florican

• Swamp Francolin

• Grey-crowned Prinia

• Slender-billed Babbler

• White-tailed Stonechat

• Siberian Rubythroat

• a selection of warblers including Dusky and Smoky

• Spotted, Black-backed and Little Forktails

• Striped Tit-babbler

• Black-chinned and Grey-throated Babblers

• various laughingthrushes including Rufous-necked, Rufous-chinned, White-crested and Grey-sided 

• Scaly-breasted and Pygmy Wren-babblers

• White-browed and Speckled Piculets

• Tibetan Siskin

• Collared Falconet

• Pallid & Pied Harriers

• Imperial and White-tailed Eagles

• Collared Owlet

• Mountain Scops-owl

 

Key mammals:

• Indian One-horned Rhinoceros

• Asiatic Wild Buffalo

• Golden Jackal

• Jungle Cat

• Tiger

• Yellow-throated Marten

• Ganges River Dolphin

 

Itinerary

 

Day 1: arrive Kathmandu

Arrive in Kathmandu to spend the remainder of the day at leisure, birding locally, or exploring the highlights of Nepal's fascinating capital and the religious architecture that dominates the city skyline.  Kathmandu lies within a wide valley at an altitude of around 1500m, bounded to the north by the main Himalayan range, and to the south by the foothills, merging into the Indo-Gangetic Plains which extend into northern India.  The valley floor is largely under cultivation, yet the surrounding slopes remain partially cloaked in dense scrub, home to Himalayan Red-flanked Bush-robin, Golden Bush-robin, Grey-sided and Aberrant Bush-warblers, and Spiny Babbler - Nepal's only endemic bird.  Paddy fields and areas of wetland surrounding the city, where the pastoral life contrasts to the increasingly modern city centre, host a selection of waterbirds, while within the city itself the more widespread of Nepal's species can be found, including Black Kite, Steppe Eagle, Common and Jungle Mynas, House and Large-billed Crows, House Swift and Barn Owl.  Night in a comfortable city hotel.

 

Day 2: Phulchowki Danda

An early start for the short drive southeast of the city to Phulchowki Danda (30mins), the focus of our birding while within the Kathmandu Valley.  At 2767m Phulchowki is the highest of the peaks surrounding the valley, offering easy access to a variety of montane habitats, from subtropical forest around the base at 1520m to dense forests of moss-draped oak, fir, spruce and rhododendron towards the frosty and often snow-clad peak.  Weather-permitting, we will ascend to the summit, which on clear days presents the spectacle of sunrise over the snow-capped peaks of the great Himalayan range, spending the day descending on foot (with jeep support) through the range of elevations and the species they host.  Bird-rich Phulchowki hosts a considerable list of species that includes Red-billed Blue Magpie, Grey Treepie, Rufous Sibia, Maroon Oriole, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Great, Blue-throated and Golden-throated Barbets, Himalayan, Mountain and Himalayan Black Bulbuls, Whiskered and Stripe-throated Yuhinas, White-bellied Erpornis, Blue-winged and Chestnut-tailed Minlas, Red-billed Leiothrix, a considerable selection of often highly vocal laughingthrushes including Striated, White-crested and White-throated, Rusty-cheeked and Streak-breasted Scimitar-babblers, Scaly-breasted and Pygmy Wren-babblers, Chestnut-headed and Grey-bellied Tesias, Black-chinned and Grey-throated Babblers, Green, Black-eared and White-browed Shrike-babblers, Grey-winged and White-collared Blackbirds, Blue Whistling-thrush, Chestnut-bellied Rock-thrush, Scaly Thrush, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Small and Rufous-bellied Niltavas, a variety of warblers, including Buff-barred, Lemon-rumped, Golden-spectacled, Ashy-throated, Chestnut-crowned and Black-faced, which often congregate in fast-moving feeding flocks during the winter months, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Yellow-browed and Black-throated Tits, Black-breasted and Fire-tailed Sunbirds, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Speckled Piculet, Darjeeling and Crimson-breasted Pied Woodpeckers, White-tailed Nuthatch, Brown-throated Treecreeper, Nepal, White-browed and Rufous-winged Fulvettas, Hodgson's and Blue-fronted Redstarts, Plumbeous Water-redstart, White-capped River-chat, Spotted Forktail, Grey Bush-chat, Asian Barred and Collared Owlets, and Mountain Scops-owl, with Black Eagle and Mountain Hawk-eagle gliding over the canopy.  Scarcer residents include Grey-chinned Minivet, Striated Bulbul, Cutia, Grey-sided and Rufous-chinned Laughingthrushes, Tibetan Siskin, Spot-winged Grosbeak, Rufous-bellied and Bay Woodpeckers, Speckled and Ashy Woodpigeons, Pink-browed and Dark-breasted Rosefinches, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Brown Bullfinch, Black-throated Parrotbill, Common Hill-partridge and Kalij Pheasant.  The forests of Phulchowki are equally rich in mammals, highlights including Orange-belled Himalayan Squirrel, Yellow-throated Marten and Leopard.  Overnight Kathmandu.  

 

Days 3-6: fly Kathmandu to Biratnagar & Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve

Depart Kathmandu in the morning of day 3 by domestic flight to the lowland town of Biratnagar in southeastern Nepal, with spectacular panoramic views across the Himalaya towards Mount Everest in clear weather.  From Biratnagar transfer to Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (2hrs) for a four night stay in Nepal's terai, the lowland plains which flank the Himalaya.  The terai region of Nepal and adjacent northern India was once an impenetrable, mosquito-infested tract of swamp forest, now largely cleared and drained, replaced by fertile farmlands.  Protected areas such as Koshi Tappu are vital fo the protection of this irreplaceable habitat, one of the most fragile and endangered in the subcontinent, and the specialized species for which it is home.  Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, lying in the floodplain of the Kosi River, encompasses a large area of riverine grassland that supports an important selection of grassland specialities, including White-tailed Stonechat, Striated Grassbird, Yellow-breasted and Black-faced Buntings, Black-throated Weaver, Zitting and Bright-capped Cisticolas, Yellow-bellied Prinia, as well as a small population of the threatened Swamp Francolin.  These marshes are complemented by a mosaic of sandbanks, mudflats, woodland, and riverside lagoons, with the vast man-made wetland formed by the immense Kosi barrage hosting Nepal's largest congregation of waterbirds.  Species around the wetlands, a designated Ramsar site, include Great, Intermediate, Little and Cattle Egrets, Eurasian Spoonbill, Purple Heron, Black-headed and Indian Black Ibis, Purple Swamphen and scarcer Watercock, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Little Cormorant, Oriental Darter, Asian Openbill, Woolly-necked and scarcer Black-necked Storks, Lesser Adjutant, Spot-billed Pelican, Yellow-wattled and Grey-haded Lapwings, Pallas's and Brown-headed Gulls, Black-bellied, River and Caspian Terns, Small Pratincole, Temminck's Stint, Kentish Plover, large numbers of Lesser Whistling-duck, Ruddy Shelduck, Red-crested Pochard and Ferruginous Duck, with smaller numbers of Comb Duck and Bar-headed Goose, and with the chance of Falcated Duck, which regularly winters in small numbers along the Kosi River, and Baer's Pochard.  Riverside lagoons attract various herons and crakes, including Cinnamon and less common Black Bitterns, Ruddy-breasted and Baillon's Crakes, and Greater Painted-snipe, with a selection of warblers, including Dusky, Smoky, Paddyfield, Thick-billed, Indian Reed, Blyth's Reed and Tickell's Leaf, in waterside reeds.  We will explore the Kosi River by inflatable dinghies, searching in particular for Great Thick-knee and Sand Lark on river islands.  Other species at Koshi Tappu include Lesser Pied and Stork-billed Kingfishers, Ashy Woodswallow, Blyth's, Richard's, Paddyfield and Rosy Pipits, Citrine and White-browed Wagtails, Bengal Bushlark, Oriental Skylark, Ashy-crowned Finch-lark, Red Avadavat, Graceful Prinia, Bluethroat, Siberian Rubythroat, Abott's Babbler, Indian Courser, Bank Myna, Asian Pied Starling, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Orange-breasted and Yellow-footed Green-pigeons, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Black-hooded Oriole, Fulvous-breasted and Streak-throated Woodpeckers, Coppersmith Barbet, Indian Roller, and Eurasian Hoopoe.  A good diversity of raptors make their home here, including Red-necked Falcon, Black-shouldered Kite, Osprey, Pallid and Pied Harriers, White-eyed and Long-legged Buzzards, White-rumoed and Cinereous Vultures, Eurasian Griffon, Pallas's Fish-eagle, Greater Spotted, Imperial and White-tailed Eagles, and Short-toed Eagle, plus nocturnal species such as Brown Hawk-owl and Brown Fish-owl.  Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve was established primarily to protect Nepa's only herd of Aisatic Wild Buffalo, one of a fine list of mammals which also includes Wild Boar, Golden Jackal, Jungle Cat and the secretive Fishing Cat, with the increasingly uncommon Ganges River Dolphin occasionally seen around the barrage.  Spend four nights in a remote but comfortable permanent tented camp on the edge of the reserve.

 

Days 7-10: Koshi Tappu to Chitwan National Park

Depart Koshi Tappu, driving west through the terai to Chitwan National Park in central Nepal bordering India.  Along the way we will spend some time in search of Ibisbill, one of this region's most recogniseable species, which descneds to the base of the foothills during the winter months when it can be found among the shingle banks of the Rapti River.  Chitwan National Park preserves the most extensive area of lowland grassland and forest remaining in Nepal, encompassing over 900 sq km of dry deciduous forest, evergreen tropical forest and riverine grasslands spanning the outermost foothills and mid-Himalaya, bisected by the Rapti and Narayani Rivers.  Chitwan holds the richest variety of birds in Nepal, a result of its geographical location and diversity in habitat.  Exploring the park on foot, by open jeep, and on elephant-back will allow us to penetrate these various habitats during our four days here.  We will make a special effort to track down Chitwan's more difficult specialities, most of which are characteristic of the tall grasslands, a vital habitat which is increasingly scarce outside protected areas.  These include the localized Slender-billed Babbler, Grey-crowned Prinia, endemic to the terai of Nepal, India and Bhutan, Rufous-rumped Grassbird, and the increasingly uncommon Bengal Florican.  In wetland areas, species include Striated Heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, Brown Crake, White-breasted Waterhen, Indian Black Ibis, Black Stork, and River Lapwing.  These species of wetland and open grassland contrast starkly with those found within the dense subtropical forests - here species include Great and Oriental Pied Hornbills, Emerald Dove, Red Junglefowl, White-browed and Speckled Piculets, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Lineated Barbet, Common Green Magpie, scarce Red-headed Trogon, White-rumped Shama, Bronzed, Greater Racket-tailed and Hair-crested Drongos, Streaked Spiderhunter, Common Hill-myna, Collared Falconet, the occasional Black Baza, Pale-chinned and Slaty-blue flycatchers, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, with Black-backed and Little Forktails in forest streams.  Among other species at Chitwan we may see Indian Peafowl, Black Francolin, Himalayan, Greater and Black-rumped Flamebacks, Common Hawk-cuckoo, Common and Large Woodshrikes, Greater and Lesser Yellownapes, Scarlet, Small and scarcer Rosy Minivets, Pied Flycatcher-shrike, Common Iora, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Black-crested Bulbul, Alexandrine and Red-breasted Parakeets, Green-billed and less common Sirkeer Malkohas, Lesser Coucal, Spot-winged Dtarling, Baya Weaver, Yellow-throated Sparrow, Scaly-breasted and White-rumped Munias, Crested Bunting, Crimson and Purple Sunbirds, White-throated Fantail, Puff-throated, Chestnut-capped and Yellow-eyed Babblers, White-bellied Erpornis, Striped Tit-babbler, White-browed Scimitar-babbler, Greater Necklaced, Lesser Necklaced and Rufous-necked Laughingthrushes, Spotted, Pale-footed and Large Bush-warblers, Tickell's Thrush, scarce Himalayan Rubythroat, White-rumped and less common Silver-backed Needletails, Crested Treeswift, and raptors such as Red-headed and Egyptian Vultures, Shikra, Hen Harrier, Crested Serpent-eagle, Oriental Honey-buzzard, Changeable Hawk-eagle, and Grey-headed Fish-eagle.  At dusk, various owls and nightjars begin to call, including the raucous Jungle Owlet, and Oriental Scops-owl, plus Large-tailed and Savannah Nightjars.  Chitwan is an equally outstanding site for mammals, which most significantly include almost the entire Nepal population of Indian One-horned Rhinoceros, conspicuous and easy to see, and Tiger, less so.  Other mammals include Hog Deer, Indian Muntjac, Sambar, Chital (Spotted Deer), Black-faced Langur, Rhesus Macaque, and the secretive Sloth Bear.  Two species of crocodile occur in this region - Mugger (or Marsh Crocodile) and Gharial, both endangered but sustained here through captive breeding programmes.  Spend four nights in a comfortable wildlife lodge.

 

Day 11: Chitwan to Kathmandu 

After a final few hours at Chitwan depart for the drive back to Kathmandu.  The scenic journey follows the Trisuli and Narayani Rivers, along which we may find Brown Dipper, Himalayan Pied Kingfisher, and Wallcreeper, with another chance of Ibisbill.  Arrive in Kathmandu by early evening to spend the night in a comfortable city hotel.

 

Day 12: depart Kathmandu

Depart Kathmandu on your onward journey.

 

What to expect

 

In summary 

• Easy to moderate walking requirements

• Remoteness in places, which necessitate a good level of fitness and overall good health

Comfortable en-suite hotels and wildlife lodges/camps in all places

Road transport in modern, comfortable car, jeep or minibus

• Roads in variable condition but relatively good, some long distance drives

• Variable weather - warm to hot in lowlands, cold and and at time misty/wet at altitude (Phulchowki)

• Highest altitude - Phulchowki Danda at 2767m 

• Good photographic opportunties throughout  

• Exciting birding, complemented by a range of large mammals, with knowledgeable guides

 

 

Tour grading & health requirements

The walking requirements of this tour are generally easy to moderate although remoteness in places necessitates a good level of fitness and overall good health.  The highest altitude we will experience will be on our ascent to Phulchowki Danda, which at 2767m should not cause any altitude-related symptoms.  No long treks are involved, however birding walks may extend from early morning until lunch.  These walks will be mostly downslope and often with vehicle support.  Mosquitoes are presnet in lowland sites and suitable precautions should be taken.

 

Travel

All road travel will be in modern, comfortable car(s), jeep(s) or minibus.  There will be some long drives on roads of varying quality, but we will stop to break the journey where we can, usually for some en-route birding. 

 

Climate

Nepal's local climates are determined by geography, with temperatures varying with altitude.  Lowland sites are subtropical, warm to hot by day, with cooler nights and early mornings, and with mild winters.  The mid-Himalayan region is temperate, with warm summers and cooler winters when temperatures can drop below zero, warmer in the sun.  Nepal experiences a distinct monsoon from June to September, outside of which Bhutan experiences most of its rainfall in the monsoon of late June to September, however showers are possible throughout the year.

 

Accommodation & food

Accommodation will be in comfortable hotels and wildlife lodges in Kathmandu and Chitwan National Park, all rooms with attached bathrooms.  At Koshi Tappu accommodation will be in a comfortable temporary tented camp (large safari-style 2-man tents) with well-equipped shared bathroom facilities, and limited electricity by generator.  Meals are often served as a buffet incorporating a range of delicious local dishes, with Nepali, Indian, Chinese and Continental cuisine available.  On some days breakfast and/or lunch may be served as a picnic in the field.

 

Special requirements

Leech socks recommended for use in lowland forests.

 

Map

Click the blue location balloons to learn more...

 

Images

Fulvous-breasted Pied Woodpecker Himalayan Black Bulbul Abbotts Babbler Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler Black-throated Sunbird
Fulvous-breasted Pied Woodpecker Himalayan Black Bulbul Abbott's Babbler Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler Black-breasted Sunbird
         
Brown Fish-owl Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush Black-faced Warbler Green-tailed Sunbird Red-breasted Parakeet
Brown Fish-owl Chestnut-bellied Rock-thrush Black-faced Warbler Green-tailed Sunbird Red-breasted Parakeet