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North-East India April-May 2010

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Old Friday 18th June 2010, 19:01   #1
tony.saw
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North-East India April-May 2010

After enjoying a previous visit to Eagle’s Nest and hearing about the birding in Nagaland and the Mishmi Hills, we (my wife and I) decided to return to the area. With the help of Sujan Chattergee (Eastindiabirding.com) and Help Tourism of Siliguri, we put together an itinerary, starting in Kazaringa in Assam and heading NorthEast.
22nd April We flew from Delhi to Jorhat via Kolkata where we met Sujan, who was to be our guide and Prashanta Das our driver and Mr Fixit. We drove to the Wild Grass Resort just outside of Kazaringa N P, where we checked in. This consisted of a large, well kept wooden building for meals and other buildings containing double rooms with attached bathrooms.
23rd April the next morning we took the short drive to the park, where we entered through the central gate and registered for an elephant ride – beware, they sit astride the elephants here, it took me days to recover! The elephants tend to be led towards the park’s speciality, the one horned black rhino, but it is also one of the best ways to see some of the grassland birds and we had good views of Bengal Florican, rufous-winged bushlark and brief views of swamp francolin. We returned to the jeep for breakfast, picked up a local guide and drove along some of the tracks in the Park. The tracks are often tree lined and there are various watchtowers along the way. Amongst the birds seen were lineated barbet, black-rumped flameback, great hornbill, chestnut-headed bee-eater, grey headed lapwing, Pallas’ and grey headed fish eagles and chestnut-capped and slender-billed babblers. In the open areas, more rhino, Indian elephants and various deer could be seen. After lunch, we went in via the east gate to look at some of the larger water areas, picking up lesser whistling duck, spot-billed pelican, river tern, darter, little cormorant and both greater and lesser adjutant storks. We returned to the Wild Grass Resort for our evening meal.
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Old Friday 18th June 2010, 19:04   #2
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A few more birds
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Old Friday 18th June 2010, 19:12   #3
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24th April The next day saw us heading for the West Gate, but before we entered the park a pair of painted snipe were spotted in a rice field, as well as baya weavers and citrine wagtails. Similar birds to yesterday were seen once we entered the Park, but the journey was cut short when we reached the flooded river where the bridge had been washed away. On the journey back to Wild Grass for lunch, a female kalij pheasant walked across the road in front of us. After lunch we returned to the Central Gate and drove to the watchtower at the end where we had stork-billed and pied kingfishers, Asian barred owlet, grey capped pygmy woodpecker, rufous treepie, black hooded oriole and blossom-headed parakeet. Back to the resort for tea.
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Old Friday 18th June 2010, 19:17   #4
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25th April As we were leaving later in the day, we had a walk around the resort and the local village tea plantation before breakfast. This proved quite productive, with grey treepie, white browed scimitar babbler and stripped tit babblers being seen. After breakfast, we had a long drive to the state border with Nagaland, where we met Mr Angulie Meyase, whom had helped arrange the permits (a married couple or groups of four are the easiest apparently) and homestay. We drove onto Khonoma, quite near to the state capital Kohima, where our homestay was arranged. It was quite basic, with only cold water, but clean and comfortable. We had time for a short walk out of the village to find blue whistling thrush, plumbeous redstart, grey-hooded warbler, grey sibia and ferruginous flycatcher near a stream at the end of the village.
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Old Friday 18th June 2010, 19:32   #5
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26th April The next day saw an early start and a drive up the road, punctuated by various stops to get out and bird along the road. We finally arrived at a shelter that marked the start of the Tragopan Sanctuary for breakfast. The Naga’s used to shoot birds, mostly for food, and the sanctuary was set up to protect the state bird, the Blyth’s Tragopan, and no hunting is allowed. However, the birds are still very wary and there was little birdsong - Angulie pointed out that a few years ago there was none! A path behind the shelter leads uphill, eventually arriving at another small shelter. It began to rain as we arrived so we sheltered in the hut. Unfortunately, the wet conditions brought out the leeches – I had 11 on one shoe at one time, cue panicky hopping around! When the rain stopped, we heard a Chin Hills/Naga wren-babbler in the bushes behind the shelter and finally managed to see it. We walked up the steps behind the shelter and initially saw little except more leeches, but on the way down had Assam laughingthrush briefly in some bushes. Other birds in this area were crested finchbill, black-throated prinia and white-crested laughingthrush. We had lunch in the bottom shelter and continued walking down the road, seeing stripped and blue-winged laughingthrushes and golden-throated barbet. The weather became progressively more wet and windy, so we headed back to the homestay.
27th April The following day saw us driving further up the roads, stopping and walking for stretches, with black-breasted thrush and bar-winged flycatcher shrike a pleasant surprise. We stopped at another small hut for breakfast and had brief views of mountain bamboo partridge. We spent the rest of the morning walking down the track, seeing blue-naped pitta, grey sibia and white-tailed robin. The weather worsened and we sat (slept!) in the car until it stopped, this brought out the dark-rumped swifts. A flavescent bulbul put in an appearance on the way down. Rain caused an early finish, so back to the homestay for the evening meal.
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Old Saturday 19th June 2010, 12:27   #6
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28th April We left the homestay and headed for Benrue, further up in Nagaland. Again, we were stopping and walking down the road birding and we found a streak-breasted scimitar babbler just outside of the village. Further on, we had got out of the car to watch a black eagle and realised that the habitat was right for spot-breasted parrotbill and 2 were eventually found. There were also fork-tailed swifts nesting in a cave. We finally arrived at Mt Paura Tourist Lodge for lunch in a large dining hall. The rooms were in separate bungalows, where we had a brief nap. We then walked into Benrue, enjoying good views of slaty-backed and verditer flycatchers. We returned to the lodge for tea.
29th April We left the next morning, heading for Dimapure and its zoo(!). We had heard that there was an area in the grounds of the zoo that was good for birds, but there was little around, The zoo does have a pair of clouded leopards and some Asiatic brown bears listed as sloth bears – well they were asleep! We continued to the Naga border to drop off Angulie, who had been a great help. It was certainly quicker to leave than to get into Nagaland. We drove onto Jorhat and then another long drive brought us to Dibrugh to stay in the Little Palace (or not!) Hotel.
30th April After a 6:30 am breakfast, we headed off to Saikhowaghat to cross the Brahmaputra. The landing area had been moved to a dryer zone up a tributary. The car had to drive onto the boat over 2 flimsy planks, fortunately not with us in it. The boat was just wide enough for one car and could carry 3 abreast. Two boats were lashed together if they wanted to take over lorries. After going aground a couple of times, we eventually reached the Brahmaputra and sailed across it. Pied kingfisher, Pallas’ and brown-headed gulls were among the surprisingly few birds seen on the river. The car drove off the ferry over 2 more planks and we continued up to Dibang Valley Jungle Camp. This was a really nice place, high, overlooking the Brahmaputra valley, with good woodland around. The camp has a large dining room and separate bungalows for rooms to sleep in. Unfortunately, the power was off as the electricity had been cut off to the entire area after some heavy storms. We had time for a walk down the road where ashy bulbul, Nepal fulvetta and striated yuhina were in the trees alongside the road. On the way back, we heard a Hodgson’s frogmouth calling, but could not find it.
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Old Saturday 19th June 2010, 12:40   #7
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1st May As the weather was good, we decided to continue up to the ‘Coffee House’, almost at the Myodia Pass. We walked and drove up the road, lunch arriving on a motorcycle! We continued in this vein in the afternoon, seeing rusty-throated (Mishmi) wren-babbler, streak-throated barwing, Manipur fulvetta and rufous-winged fulvetta. We finally arrived at the Coffee House, a large building with a few bedrooms off the main dining hall. It was damp inside, not helped by the very wet floors – at least it was clean. We headed out straight after lunch, getting striated and grey-sided laughingthrushes, with a yellow-billed blue magpie waiting outside the building on our return.
2nd May We left at 4:00 am birding and driving up to the Myodia Pass. Sclaters Monal had been seen in this area, but they were working on the road and causing a lot of upheaval. There was however, little traffic as the road had been blocked by a landslide lower down. The odd ‘bus’ would drive up to the landslide and pick up passengers who had walked over the blockage. White-naped and striated yuhinas along with red-tailed minla were in the roadside bushes. Himalayan swiftlets flew overhead. Finally, we headed back to the Coffee House for lunch and then, after a quick nap, started down below the buildings. Another Assam laughingthrush put in fleeting appearances, along with chestnut-tailed minla and rusty-bellied shortwing, as well as 50+ Eurasian jays. It began to rain as a long-billed thrush appeared, then at the far end of the road, a female Blyth’s Tragopan came into view, walked around and went back into the bushes. We waited as the rain got heavier, finally a male Blyth’s Tragopan walked out (swam out!), giving excellent scope views. A motorcycle then came down the road and that was the last we saw of the tragopans. It was quite wet by now, so we headed back to the Coffee House for tea.
3rd May The next morning was misty and damp, but we still headed back up to the Pass. After a few brief walks, we headed back for breakfast. The rain continued, with us going out now and then in the hope that the rain would stop. Eventually, about 4:00 pm the rain did stop and so we went out down the hill, being rewarded with good views of a pair of Ward’s trogons and 4 gold-naped finch. Further on, we came across a long-tailed thrush and golden-breasted fulvetta. It began to rain again, so we returned to the Coffee House. Dinner by candlelight as the generator failed.
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Old Saturday 19th June 2010, 12:45   #8
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And a few more from the area
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Old Saturday 19th June 2010, 12:52   #9
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4th May It was still misty as we set off at 5:30 am and it continued to rain on and off, so we decided to head back to Dibang Valley Jungle Camp, walking and driving down the road. Lesser shortwing, black-faced warbler, cutia and brief views of fire-tailed sunbird helped the time pass quickly. We got back to the camp in time for lunch, then, after a brief rest, birded the road near the camp, returning for the evening meal.
5th May Tea and biscuits were at 4:00 am and then we drove up the road, to walk back down birding. A greater yellownape and golden-throated barbet got us off to a good start, followed by grey-chinned minivet. Then, in the same area, we found Cachar wren-babbler, Mishmi wren-babbler and spotted forktail. We continued down after breakfast, picking up yellow-throated fulvetta and white-bellied yuhina, to get back to the camp for lunch. After a rest at the camp, we went out onto the road outside the camp. The day continued well with red-headed trogon and collared treepie, although another search for the frogmouth proved fruitless. That evening, the local headman came in for a meal, which passed the evening very nicely, especially with the help of his rice wine!
6th May We returned to the wren-babbler site the next morning, but could only pick up the Mishmi wren-babbler and a velvet-fronted nuthatch. We were back in camp for breakfast at 8:00am so that we could head off back to cross the Brahmaputra. Again, another exciting time watching the car drive on the ferry. They had moved the landing site and the nearby fields were flooded and we only just made it out. We drove onto Digboi, the site of the first Indian oil fields, where there are still some good forest areas. We arrived in time to head out into the site, the manager of the Digboi Tourist lodge, where we were staying, came with us to facilitate our entry into the oil fields. A road runs through the oil field ad various tracks lead off it. A slaty-backed forktail was at a nearby stream and then Sujan spotted a pair of chestnut-backed laughingthrushes. These were followed by a pair of sultan tits flying into the nearby trees. We returned to the lodge for our evening meal.
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Old Saturday 19th June 2010, 12:54   #10
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The boats crossing the Brahmaputre
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Old Saturday 19th June 2010, 13:09   #11
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Good stuff – days of searching for Blyth's Tragopan ended in disappointment for me!
Those boats passing the Brahmaputra look familiar.
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Old Saturday 19th June 2010, 14:08   #12
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7th May The flowing day saw us make two trips into the oilfields, each time accompanied by the hotel manager. We covered similar ground in the morning, picking up hooded pitta and black-backed dwarf kingfisher. A fruiting tree nearby held green-billed malkoha and grey treepie, as well as many red-vented bulbuls. They were drilling for a new well in the area in the afternoon, so we went further down the road before we headed off onto a trail. A nice male paradise flycatcher followed us for part of the way. This area also produced both plain and scarlet-backed flowerpeckers and brief views of greater necklaced laughingthrush. We left the area to drive to Bonoshree camp at Dibru Saikhowa, very heavy rain accompanied us for much of the way, but the roads were reasonable. The Jungle lodge had been flooded recently and a large stream blocked our way, fortunately some planks crossed it and we made our way to the camp. This consisted of separate rooms on stilts, so the rooms and beds had remained dry.
8th May We were up for tea and biscuits at 6 a.m., to discover a creature had visited us during the night. It had partially eaten 2 mangos, but also had some Imodium, an odd combination! We were off around the local estuaries by boat, the recent floods had caused some problems, but the locals knew the areas to visit. After a short time, we got off the boat and headed into the reeds, accompanied by an armed guard(!?). After a lot of blundering around in the tall grasses, we managed to get onto a black-breasted parrotbill, which was followed by Jerdon’s and striated babblers. A yellow-bellied prinia was waiting for us by the boat. We sailed around a little more, seeing grey-headed fish eagle and slender-billed vulture, finally heading for a ranger’s hut, where we had lunch on the boat. When it began to cool down slightly, we headed into the grass again to find Jerdon’s bushchat. A giant Himalayan squirrel kept us entertained on the way back to the boat. It began to rain, so we headed back to the Lodge. A birthday party was going on so we were offered caked and delicious Indian sweets.
9th May Unfortunately, it was time to headed back to Kolkata, so we drove to Dibrugh Airport to catch our flight. It had been a great time and Sujan had been a good companion as well as an excellent guide. We finished by stocking up on Indian sweets at a sweet emporium (shop does not do it justice!) in Kolkata.
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