Himalayas & Wetlands: Himachal Pradesh & Punjab

Rufous-vented Grass Babbler

This north India tour provides an incredible amount of diversity in a relatively small area and short time. It concentrates on two main sites in the Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh, an area that deserves more birding attention. European birders can help us out by finding some extreme Indian rarities, such as Chaffinch, Yellowhammer, Whooper Swan, Common Gull and Red-necked Grebe, all of which have recent records in this area!

We start in Dharamshala for a taste of Himalayan birding. At this time of year heavy snowfalls further north at higher elevations often push birds to the lower levels and sites around Dharamshala are noted for altitudinal migrants.

We then head down into the plains to the most important wetland sanctuary in this part of India, the Ramsar site of Pong Reservoir or Pong Dam Lake, also known as Maharana Pratap Sagar. This huge lake holds impressive numbers of waterfowl and there are few sites that can beat the sight of tens of thousands of Bar-headed Geese against the backdrop of the snow-covered Dhauladhar mountain range of the Himalayas.

Finally we head to Amritsar and another Ramsar wetland, that of Harike Bird Sanctuary. Our brief visit here will be targetted on a few key species seldom seen elsewhere in India, including Rufous-vented Grass Babbler (or Rufous-vented Prinia), the Sind subspecies of Jerdon’s Babbler, and the charming White-crowned Penduline Tit.


Day 1: Arrive in Delhi or Amritsar

International arrivals are most convenient to Delhi or Amritsar, where there may be time for some local birding depending on flights.

Day 2: Delhi/Amritsar to Dharamshala

Early morning will see us either drive (from Amritsar) or fly (from Delhi) for the start of our Himalayan birding. Our first birding is likely to be in the orchards and terraced fields which can attract good numbers of finches and accentors.

Day 3 – 4: Dharamshala

There are plenty of sites to explore in the Dharamshala area and our exact programme will depend on recent weather and sightings. In particular we will explore areas around the Gallu Devi Temple and the lower parts of the trek to Triund, the peak which reaches 2,828 m. Birds in these few days around Dharamshala will be completely different to the next few, and especially for those who continue on our tour to the deserts of Rajasthan and Gujarat!

Day 5: Dharamshala to Pong Reservoir

Just an hour and a half’s drive takes us into completely different habitat, which explains why this part of India has probably the highest recorded day species total for the whole country! Pong Reservoir is huge and it is impossible to explore it fully but there are many excellent areas along its shores that we will visit, including the vulture feeding station which will hopefully attract White-rumped and Slender-billed Vultures as well as the wintering Himalayan Griffons.

Day 6: Pong Reservoir

With a full day to explore we will try a number of spots along the northern shore of the lake, but especially around the small town of Nagrota Surian which is likely to have the greatest diversity.

Day 7: Pong to Amritsar

We will concentrate on a different area of Pong Reservoir today, close to the Punjab border. Then we head to Amritsar for the night, and a visit to the impressive Golden Temple.

Day 8: Harike

We have a full day to cover areas surrounding the Harike wetland. Rufous-vented Grass Babbler is the main target, with the recently discovered population of Jerdon’s Babbler another range-restricted species here. Logistics permitting we may be able to take a boat out onto the wetland.

Day 9: Harike to Delhi via Amritsar

Following a full morning’s birding at Harike we head to Amritsar to catch our flight back to Delhi.

Target Species

  • Bar-headed Goose
  • Koklass Pheasant
  • Himalayan Monal 
  • Cheer Pheasant 
  • Bearded Vulture
  • White-rumped Vulture
  • Slender-billed Vulture
  • Himalayan Vulture
  • Steppe Eagle
  • Golden Eagle
  • Himalayan Buzzard 
  • Brown Crake
  • White-tailed Lapwing
  • Small Pratincole
  • Pallas's Gull
  • Mountain Scops Owl
  • Himalayan Swiftlet
  • Speckled Piculet
  • Himalayan Woodpecker 
  • Slaty-headed Parakeet 
  • Long-tailed Minivet
  • Himalayan Shrike-babbler 
  • Black-headed Jay 
  • Yellow-billed Blue Magpie
  • Yellow-bellied Fantail
  • Rufous-naped Tit
  • White-crowned Penduline Tit
  • Sand Lark
  • Cetti's Warbler
  • Chestnut-headed Tesia
  • Mountain Chiffchaff
  • Striated Prinia
  • Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler
  • Rufous-vented Grass Babbler 
  • Variegated Laughingthrush 
  • Striated Babbler 
  • Jerdon's Babbler 
  • Wallcreeper
  • Scaly Thrush
  • Chestnut Thrush
  • Himalayan Rubythroat
  • Himalayan Bluetail
  • Golden Bush Robin
  • Ultramarine Flycatcher
  • Blue-capped Redstart
  • White-tailed Stonechat
  • Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
  • Crimson Sunbird
  • Rufous-breasted Accentor
  • Rosy Pipit
  • Buff-bellied Pipit
  • Common Chaffinch
  • Brambling
  • Pink-browed Rosefinch 
  •   Near Endemic

Species Checklist

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Important information

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As with all Bubo Birding tours, your booking is handled by Asian Adventures. This tour is guided by Mike Prince, plus local birding guides.

Prices are per person, assuming a total group size of between 4 and 8 people, and exclude international flights. They are approximate and will be confirmed before booking and depending on your expected arrival and departure plans. See Asian Adventures for full tour details, including accommodation, what's included, other exclusions, prices for smaller groups, single room supplements, and booking details.

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