UTTARAKHAND (Nainital District)

00o00´S/00o00´W, ha, alpine foothills, 1,938m (Naina 2,615m) 


February-March (NAINITAL 11.02.94)


Birding Site Guide


This town was a British summer retreat in the days of empire, but now is a lovely mountain resort for all. It is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas at an altitude where large pines grow. There is a large lake and at the time of our visit a thin covering of snow on the ground. Birding around town is rewarding and we saw Brown-fronted Woodpecker, Hodgson`s Bushchat, Red-headed Laughing Thrush, Black-capped Sibia, Tickell`s Leaf-Warbler, White-tailed Nuthatch, Red-fronted Serin and Black-throated Jay. 

Not far from Nainital are Sat Tal and Bhimtal, tal means lake. Leaving Nainital to the south, we turned left immediately after the toll barrier and headed towards Bhowali Nine kilometres from here we found a small stream cutting across the road which held a couple of Spotted Forktails and Red Flanked Bluetail; 2.5km passed Bhowali we pulled up just before the right hand fork that leads to Sat Tal, and explored a small dry ex-river bed leading uphill to the left. You need to hop up the wall at the roadside to get into this area. This turned out to be a good place even though we only walked a very short distance, as it turned out to be the local villages lavatory. A couple of Golden Bush Robins were the best birds here. A little further on around the right hand fork in the road, there are a number of fields that can either be viewed from the roadside or walked in. These brought both the accentors we were expecting.

Continuing the journey to Sat Tal, we decided to stop at the first lake and walk through the woods to the mission. This is not necessary as it is possible to drive around to the two lakes further on, and walk back to the mission. The way we went, however, seemed full of birds especially around the roadside where we parked before heading into the woods. Three species of Nuthatch, a number of Woodpeckers, Himalayan Treecreeper, Flycatcher warblers and various Tits were abundant. As we walked towards the lake we found a party of White-Headed Laughing Thnishes even before they "laughed". Muntjacs were barking in the wood as we were sorting out our first Rufous-bellied Niltava. The Mission itself is a wonderfully peaceful place and we all imagined ourselves living here as we sipped the cups of coffee we were given. Orange-Gorgeted Flycatchers were new as we left the mission, and a stonking male Red-flanked Bluetail teased us whilst we tried to photograph it. Lesser Spotted and Bonellis Eagles soared overhead as we reached the two lakes and were amused to find a dozen boats waiting for travellers like us to ferry them across the 50 yards or so connecting the two stretches of water. The complex of chai stalls was also quite unbelievable, and we wondered how all the people made a living. One way was evident, however, as nobody was able to change any Rupee notes no matter how small. On our way back along the road to the jeep, we met a group of Sunbirders with their bus following them at a discreet distance and they asked if we had seen any White's Thrushes, so somewhere here there is obviously a site which we failed to find. On the first hill we found a superb male Long-Tailed Minivet, which made up for the rather quiet walk back.

On the return journey we stopped at the same place and saw Black Winged Kite and Blue-throated Barbet. 

The fields around the industrial area at Bhimtal are scrubby and well worth birding, we saw Spotted Munia and a stunning male Siberian Rubythroat and several Black-Throated Thrushes. 

One of the mountains around Nainital has a cable car that leads to Snow View and this can be worth while for a few higher altitude species or species not found around town. Such a bird for us was Hodgson`s Mountain Finch. 

Species seen (need to put in taxanomic order) 

  • Rufescent Prinia Prinia rufescens K, BB, N
  • Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium benghalense K, KR
  • Changeable Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus K, N
  • Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni K, N
  • Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita K, N
  • Plain Prinia Prinia inornata K, N, C
  • Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca K, N, ST
  • Eurasian Griffon Gyps fulvus many places
  • Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus MV, N
  • Russet Sparrow Passer rutilans MV, N
  • Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris Critically endangered N
  • Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis N
  • Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus N
  • Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis N
  • Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus N
  • Great Barbet Megalaima virens N
  • Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla N
  • Brown-fronted Woodpecker Dendrocopos auriceps N
  • Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris N
  • Tickell's Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus affinis N
  • Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis N
  • Spotted Forktail Enicurus maculatus N
  • White-throated Bushchat Saxicola insignis Vulnerable N
  • Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush Garrulax erythrocephalus N
  • Rufous Sibia Heterophasia capistrata N
  • Black-throated Tit Aegithalos concinnus N
  • White-tailed Nuthatch Sitta himalayensis N
  • Fire-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga ignicauda N
  • Black-headed Jay Garrulus lanceolatus N
  • Common Raven Corvus corax N
  • Plain Mountain-Finch Leucosticte nemoricola N
  • Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus N
  • Pink-browed Rosefinch Carpodacus rodochroa N
  • Fire-fronted Serin Serinus pusillus N
  • Golden Bush-Robin Tarsiger chrysaeus N
  • Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus N to R
  • Gray-winged Blackbird Turdus boulboul N, C
  • Dark-throated Thrush Turdus ruficollis N, C, KR
  • Blue-throated Barbet Megalaima asiatica N, KR
  • Rusty-tailed Flycatcher Muscicapa ruficauda N, KR
  • White-throated Laughingthrush Garrulax albogularis N, KR
  • Black-chinned Babbler Stachyris pyrrhops N, KR
  • Green-backed Tit Parus monticolus N, KR
  • Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus N, KR
  • White-throated Fantail Rhipidura albicollis N, KR, C
  • Great Tit Parus major N, KR, C
  • Buff-barred Warbler Phylloscopus pulcher N, MV
  • Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler Pomatorhinus erythrogenys N, MV
  • Gray-hooded Warbler Seicercus xanthoschistos N, MV, C
  • Yellow-cheeked Tit Parus spilonotus N, MV, KR
  • Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus N, ST
  • Bar-tailed Treecreeper Certhia himalayana N, ST
  • Chestnut-breasted Bunting Emberiza stewarti N, ST
  • Streaked Laughingthrush Garrulax lineatus N, ST, MV
  • Blue Magpie Urocissa erythrorhyncha N, ST, MV
  • Lemon-rumped Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus N,ST, C
  • Black-throated Accentor Prunella atrogularis ST, N
  • White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis Critically endangered thousands
  • Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus
  • White-capped Redstart Chaimarrornis leucocephalus
  • Plumbeous Redstart Rhyacornis fuliginosa
  • Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri
  • House Sparrow Passer domesticus D, BB, A, N


  • areas not given for commoner species
  • SAT TAL and/or BIMTAL ST
  • DELHI or near D
  • AGRA A

Mammals seen

  • Red Fox Vulpes vulpes N
  • Reeve's Muntjac Muntiacus reevesi ST, N, C

Butterflies seen (all sites)

  • Indian Tortoiseshell Aglais cashmiriensis
  • Pioneer Anaphaeis aurota
  • Indian Cabbage White Artogeia canidia
  • Malabar Spotted Flat Celaenorrhinus ambareesa
  • Common Crow Euploea core
  • Common Grass Yellow Eurema hecabe
  • Grass Jewel Freyeria trochylus
  • Great Eggfly Hypolimnas bolina
  • White Orange Tip Ixias marianne
  • Peacock Pansy Junonia almana
  • Yellow Pansy Junonia hierta
  • Lemon Pansy Junonia lemonias
  • Blue Pansy Junonia orthya
  • Common Sailor Neptis hylas
  • Lime Butterfly Papilio demoleus
  • Common Mormon Papilio polytes
  • Glassy Tiger Paratica aglea
  • Spot Swordtail Pathysa nomius
  • Pale Grass Blue Zizeeria maha

Author: BSG and Geof Grafton