With an unexpected half-day in Agra, we decided to take the advice of our good friend Mohit Aggalwal, a birder and the director of Asian Adventures, to take a small boat out on the Chambal River. The recommendation was made because Mohit knew we still had never seen an Indian Skimmer, and the Chambal near the town of Bah, southeast of Agra, was one of the best places to find them in Northern India. We made the trip with Trigun Vir Singh Pathania, a friend of Mohit's who lives near the river and had access to a boat with an outboard motor. The trip from Agra to the Chambal took a little over an hour.
The Chambal River is a 650-mile river flowing from the Vindhya Mountains of north central India eastward into the Jumna River. The Jumna in turn originates in the Himalayas and empties into the Ganges River. The Chambal is one of the few places remaining in India with enough unpolluted water that it can support Ganges River Dolphins. We saw several. And we were surprised at how clear the water looked affording views of the river bottom even in water as deep as five or six feet. And there was little or no human habitation that we could see along the few miles we had time (about three hours) to explore.
We saw several large Muggers (crocodiles) and over eight very long Gharials, the crocodiles with the long needle-nose snouts.
We saw six of our target skimmers with the bright fire-colored bills. Our first two were sitting along a sandbar, and later four more made a couple passes around us. We were told that usually there were many more skimmers in the area but had probably temporarily moved to another spot along the river. But we were also rewarded for all our efforts in seeing our six to eight Great Thick-knees and one Demoiselle Crane standing and flying. The four Red-naped Ibises, one Asian Openbill Stork, waterfowl, waders and terns were all nice dividends.
Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger Lesser Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna javanica Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea Comb Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha Northern Pintail Anas acuta Lesser Flamingo (2 flying) Phoenicopterus minor Gray Heron Ardea cinerea Red-naped Ibis (4) Pseudibis papillosa Asian Openbill (one) Anastomus oscitans Woolly-necked Stork (one) Ciconia episcopus Osprey (one sitting) Pandion haliaetus Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus Sarus Crane (2 adults with an imm.) Grus antigone F Demoiselle Crane (one) Grus virgo Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia Ruff Philomachus pugnax F Great Thick-knee (6-8 v. close) Burhinus recurvirostris Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Small Pratincole (six v. close Glareola lactea Snowy Plover Charadrius alexandrinus River Lapwing Vanellus duvaucelii Black-bellied Tern (two) Sterna acuticauda River Tern (two) Sterna aurantia F Indian Skimmer (six) Rynchops albicollis Painted Sandgrouse (25 flying) Pterocles indicus Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
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