A bird photography trip to Northern India - 2023

In February 2023 I visited India for about 3 weeks. This was my first visit to this vast country. For once, I wanted to mainly focus on bird photography on a foreign trip. Of course, I wanted to see the tiger and other exotic animals in India, but on this trip the focus would be on birds. For this reason, I searched online for companies specializing on birding trips and on bird photography and not only on twitching tours. I found Asian Adventure recommended on a bird discussion forum and contacted them. They recommended Northern India and an itinerary not too far from New Delhi. After some back and forth, I booked a bird photography trip that would take me to five destinations and birding hotspots. A very expensive tour, for sure, but I would have my own guide for 15 days and a car and driver with me for the whole trip.

After arriving in New Delhi and relaxing the first day, we started early the next morning for Sultanpur National Park. This park is situated only one hour drive south of the capital. Sultanpur was a great place to start. Although very hazy (probably due to pollution from New Delhi?), and with suboptimal conditions for photography, we managed to find 112 bird species the first day. This included species found during a stop along the road to Bharatpur after lunch. Not a bad start! Day 2 and 4 we spent in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. This was also a great place to visit, although Dalveer, my guide who was from Bharatpur, told me the number of birds in the reserve had declined dramatically in recent years. Still, I was happy with the number of birds seen there and to be able to get decent photos of some the more abundant species. On day 3, we drove south toward Dolphur and Chambal River. Here the aim was to see the Gharial crocodile, and hopefully also the Indian Skimmer. Luckily, we found both species.

After 3 days in the south, we headed to Agra for the mandatory stop to see the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. I was not necessarily so eager for this stopover, but this "wonder of the world" was well worth a visit. The buildings very larger and more impressive than I thought. After a stopover in Noida, we headed for Jim Corbett National Park on the foothill of the Himalayas. Here I had pre-booked three trips in an open safari vehicle into the park. Unfortunately, we found no tigers in Jim Corbett, and this park was overall a small disappointment. It was very quiet in the park, and the local guide(s) and driver were not very dedicated. I guess, after doing the same trip day in and day out, you lose the dedication to find wildlife. Safari in Jim Corbett was therefore very different from African safaris, where the guides often communicate between them if anything special is seen. Thanks to my private guide we still managed to find some interesting bird species here. The park was especially good for woodpeckers. Birding outside the park, however, produced some of my target species. Especially the Kosi River was a rewarding place to visit.

Following 3 days in and near Jim Corbett National Park, we continued to Bhimtal and Sat Tal (Sattal hereafter). This is a well-known birding hotspot in the Himalayan foothills. In terms of bird species seen and photographed; this was an excellent place to visit. Here I visited two bird hides early in the morning. For photography, this was much better than running after skittish birds in the thick forest. For this reason, some of my best photos from the trip were shot in Sattal. The final destination was Pangot, also in the Himalayan foothill, but situated at a higher altitude (about 2000 meters). I stayed in Pangot for 6 days in total. My guide left after three days, but I had my driver with me all six days in Pangot and could explore the area on my own the last days. Pangot was also an excellent birding destination, especially for vultures and raptors. In Pangot I stayed at the Jungle Lore Birding Lodge in a cabin with great view. The Jungle Lore Birding Lodge is operated by the owner of the Asian Adventure company. A very nice place.

On this page I show some photos from the three-week trip. Many of the photos were snapped with my iPhone, so the quality is not necessary top-notch. All in all, India was an excellent destination. I have hesitated visiting India because of the well-known health issues most visitors encounter. Nevertheless, I experienced the "Delhi-belly", and had other health challenges. Still, I regret not visiting India earlier. A country with very nice and friendly people (at least all I met), and an interesting culture. With crazy traffic, cattle in the streets, monkeys all over the place, and colorful people. And of course, a lot of new bird species to see. In total I think I ended on 328 bird species seen (and a few only heard). Of these, I got decent photos of maybe 200 or so species.



Travel route


Outside Hotel Shanti Palace in New Dehli



A proper checklist. Gifts from Asian Adventure upon arrival!

Arriving at Sultanpur National Park early in the morning on the first day. Notice the misspelling Prak!


In Sultanpur National Park. It was more like a small reserve

Sultanpur National Park


In Sultanpur National Park

Tea time! We had ginger tea breaks quite often. This is the car we had the first 5 days


Roadside lunch the first day. Dalveer, the excellent guide, to the left, and the first driver to the right

Lot's of mopeds in India


Rural market

Street cow


Roadside cooking

Site for the Chambal River boat trip


Chambal River boat cruise

Woman in a town near Bayana


Bayana Cliffs. The site where we found the Indian Vulture

Entrance at Bharatpur Bird Sancturaty


Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary - rickshaws lined up

Road in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary


Rickshaw bike in Bharatpur Bird Sancturay. With Dalveer and the local guide to the left

Palm trees in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary


Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary rest area



Agra, near the Taj Mahal entrance


"Classic" Taj Mahal. Impressive!

Even at Taj Mahal Dalveer keeps up the good work looking for birds! With our local guide to the left. You often have to have a local guide in India


At Taj Mahal


Not my idea, but still ... :)


At Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal


Impressive size of Taj Mahal!

Taj Mahal seen form the Red Fort in Agra


5000 concubines! The emperor living here had 5000 women in his harem. Imagine living with that number of women! The Great Mughal emperor Akbar kept around 5000 women in his harem and had 300 wives on top of that ..

Local transportation i Agra



Cow dung patties - common in the countryside


Cow dung patties - factory

Plastic waste. Unfortunately, a lot of garbage including plastics is polluting the landscape in India


Garbage. This is actually the site where we found the Himalayan Rubythroat in Sattal

Busy street


Kanwar Yatra pilgrimage. This is a Hindu religious tribute to the Ganges River. Millions of pilgrims fetch sacred water from Ganges and carry on their shoulders for hundreds of miles to offer it in their local Siva shrines, or specific temples

Staple local cuisine. Indias un-official national drink. Ginger tea (chai) in single-use terracotta cup


Busy street

Pond aquaculture


Farm land

Indian agriculture


Jim Corbett National Park. Safari vehicles lining up in the early morning when the park opens at 7 am

Tiger track in Jim Corbett NP. The closest I came to see a tiger in India ...


No tigers in sight ..

Jim Corbett National Park


Riverbed in Jim Corbett National Park

Village near Kosi River


With monkeys. Accomodation at Jim Corbett Tiger Camp

Kosi River near the Tiger Camp


Bridge across Kosi River at the Garjiya Devi Temple, location for Ibisbill and Wallcreeper

Garjiya Devi Temple market


Garjiya Devi Temple

View from hotel room in Bhimtal


Sattal. A famous birding spot outside Bhimtal in the Himalayan foothills

Lush vegetation in Sattal


Sattal birding site

River near Bhimtal/Sattal searched for fish owls (no success) and forktail species


Sattal region vegetation

In the Bhimtal region


Old-fashion Maharaja sewing machine

Tea time again! Outside Bhimtal


Outside breakfast in Sattal with Jaipal (second driver) and Dalveer

On our way from Sattal to Pangot


A quick stop at a local pharmacy in Nainital



Nainital, a Himalayan city popular with Indian tourists from the capitol region

Jungle Lore Birding Lodge in Pangot. I stayed here for 6 days. A very nice place!


At the Jungle Lore Birding Lodge

View from my balcony at Jungle Lore Birding Lodge, Pangot


Restaurant at the Jungle Lore Birding Lodge

Pangot landscape


Pangot birding spot

Pangot hills


Pangot area

The Himalayas


Nanda Devi (middle peak), at 7816 meters, is India's second highest mountain

Pangot birding


A favorite spot - Cheer Point, good for raptors and vultures

Jaipal (driver) and Dalveer (guide) at Cheer Point


Pangot landscape

Pangot landscape


Pangot landscape

On our way back to New Delhi. Asphalt work


Ganges River