Trip Report: Chambal River (Uttar Pradesh, India), March 4, 2000

Tom and Margot Southerland, 282 Western Way, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA;


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.

Bird Sightings 3-4-00

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

27 species

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This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser;; May 14, 2000