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Arunachal Pradesh and Assam:

TBC April - May 2019

 

Leader: James Eaton

 
Max group size: 7

 

Situated along the southern frontier of the mighty Himalaya, Arunachal Pradesh was for many years cut-off from the birding circuit due to red-tape and access restrictions, and birders visited the neighbouring country of Bhutan to explore this fascinating region. With the restrictions lifted, we are finally able to reach Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the least-known yet biologically most diverse regions in the whole of Asia. The topography is truly amazing; stretching from the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam up through tangled ridges at elevations of around 1,500m before rising to 3,080m. A jeep track runs from a pass at 2800m down to the flood plains of Assam at 100m. This easy access, excellent forest and wide altitudinal range is a unique combination that makes Eaglenest one of the premier birding sites in the whole of Asia. The Bugun Liocichla, a completely new species to science, was discovered here and described as recently as 2006. It will be one of our main targets. However, the seemingly endless list of potential species also includes three species of tragopan, seven species of wren babbler, ten species of laughingthrush, four species of shortwing, six species of parrotbill and the stunning Fire-tailed Myzornis.
Following on from Eaglenest we head down into the Brahmaputra floodplain, visiting the World Heritage Site of Kaziranga and Dibru-Saikhowa. Kaziranga is famed for its population of Indian Rhinoceros and Bengal Tiger, but also has an impressive range of bird life. We will search diligently for Bengal Florican, Pallas’s Fish Eagle and Swamp Francolin. Dibru-Saikhowa is home to a whole host of threatened and range-restricted species including Black-breasted Parrotbill, Marsh and Jerdon’s Babblers and Swamp Prinia. A visit to the Digboi Oilfields allows an opportunity to see the range-restricted Chestnut-backed Laughingthrush, along with Collared Treepie and Rufous-necked Laughingthrush.
Finally, we bird an area that until recently was off-limits, Mishmi Hills. This area has a single endemic, Mishmi Wren Babbler, as well as being one of the few accessible sites for a range of mouth-watering species – Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, Rusty-bellied Shortwing, Blyth’s Tragopan and Yellow-rumped Honeyguide with an outside chance of Sclater’s Monal and Gould’s Shortwing to wet the appetite.

Day 1:
Arrivals into Guwahati and transferred to Tezpur. Night in Tezpur.

Day 2:
An early start to head in to Arunachal Pradesh; the gateway to the foothills of the Himalayas. We drive to the town of Dirang, situated at 1500m, for a two-night stay. Birding en route will give glimpses of this incredibly diverse region. We shall search for species such as White-hooded Babbler, Yellow-vented Warbler, Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Bhutan Laughingthrush, River Lapwing, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Brown Dipper and the spectacular Crested Kingfisher. Night at Dirang.

Days 3-4:
During our two days birding around Dirang we visit up to three sites, including the scenically spectacular Sela. At 4200m above sea-level it is one of the few areas at this elevation accessible by road. We spend the day here searching for some classic Himalayan species; Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Rufous-breasted Bush Robin, Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch and the stunning Grandala. Visiting the nearby Sangti Valley could provide us with Black-tailed Crake and lingering winter visitors including Long-billed Plover.
Towards the late afternoon of day 4 we drive back south to Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary to begin our five-night camping.

Days 5-8:
The morning of day nine we reach the fabulous Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary. We will spend five nights inside this amazing national park, made famous by the discovery of the Bugun Liocichla, described as recently as 2006 and currently known only from this area.
We will spend our time along several different sections of a jeep track which cuts through this rich forest from the pass at 2900m descending to the scrappy though productive foothills at 800m. Our accommodation will be in serviced tented camps accompanied by sumptuous meals. Our camps will be transported when required and erected at each day’s final destination before our arrival.
Starting from high altitudes and working our way down the track to the lowlands, we pass through a wide range of avifaunal zones and the bird life will vary noticeably during our descent. The bird list for the sanctuary is huge, and includes many species which can no longer be considered Bhutan specialities.
Among the huge list of potential species are such mouth-watering possibilities as Blyth’s and Temminck’s Tragopans, Chestnut-breasted and Common Hill Partridges, Kalij Pheasant, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Ward’s Trogon, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Collared Grosbeak, Blue-fronted Robin, Golden, White-browed and Rufous-breasted Bush Robins, Green and Purple Cochoas.
There are also a whole host of laughingthrushes with Grey-sided, Blue-winged, Chestnut-crowned, Scaly, Striated, Bhutan, Spotted all possible and, of course, the recently discovered Bugun Liocichla and its commoner cousin, the Crimson-faced Liocichla. Both Coral-billed and Sickle-billed Scimitar Babblers favour the tracts of bamboo, the mind-blowing Fire-tailed Myzornis, seven species of wren babbler, the amazing Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler, Himalayan Cutia, Beautiful Nuthatch, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, six species of parrotbill and a whole host of sibias, tits, flycatchers, warblers, yuhinas, niltavas, flowerpeckers, sunbirds, accentors and finches.

Day 9:
Following a mornings birding the lowest elevations inside Eaglenest WLS we head down into Assam, crossing the mighty Brahmaputra and venture east till we hit Kaziranga. Night at Kaziranga.

Days 10-11:
We have two full days to explore the national park and its surroundings. Inside the park we search for such rarities as Bengal Florican, Spot-billed Pelican, both Greater and Lesser Adjutants, Black-necked Stork, Pallas’s and Grey-headed Fish Eagles, Swamp Francolin, Slender-billed Babbler and Black-breasted and the very rarely-encountered Finn's Weaver.
Birding inside the park will be from a jeep because of the abundant wildlife that inhabits this wonderful area. It is home to no fewer than 70% of the world’s Indian Rhinoceros, along with 70% of the world’s Eastern Swamp Deer, 75% of the Asiatic Water Buffalo and also retains significant populations of Asian Elephant and Bengal Tiger. We have only an outside chance of encountering the latter species.
The nearby forest and tea-estate, which is sometimes inaccessible, holds such specialties as Blue-naped Pitta, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Great Hornbill, Red-headed Trogon, Jerdon's Baza and the localised Pale-chinned Flycatcher. Nights at Kaziranga.

Day 12:
Today we drive further east, to Tinsukia. Depending on our previous success at Kaziranga, we either spend the morning around Kaziranga, or depart early and bird at Dibru-Saikhowa in the late afternoon. Night at Tinsukia.

Day 13:
Today will be spent along the shores of the Brahmaputra River on foot and aboard boats at Dibru-Saikhowa Biosphere Reserve. This little-known site a biodiversity hotspot situated in the alluvial flood plains of the Brahmaputra. We will search the swamp and grasslands for threatened species including Marsh and Jerdon’s Babblers, Swamp Prinia, Sand Lark, and Black-breasted Parrotbill, the latter two unfortunately are now very rarely recorded.
While searching for these localised species, we will come across a large variety of other species which might include lingering winter visitors such as Baikal, Spotted and even Chestnut-crowned Bush Warblers, Smoky Warbler and Ruddy Shelduck. Night at Tinsukia.

Day 14:
We start today by heading for a small patch of lowland forest inside or outside the Digboi Oilfields complex, depending on the current access restrictions in search of three species unlikely to be seen elsewhere on the tour; Collared Treepie, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush and the rare Chestnut-backed Laughingthrush. Other possibilities include Blue-naped Pitta, Blue-throated Flycatcher, White-cheeked Partridge, Silver-breasted Broadbill and Blue-bearded Bee-eater.
After our morning here we spend the full afternoon driving north-east, across the Brahmaputra to the town of Roing, situated at the base of the Mishmi Hill. Night in Roing.

Days 15-17:
Three full days birding along the road in Mishmi Hills.
Birding along the forest-clad roadside we give us our first introduction to Himalayan birding, though despite the continual distractions of the more numerous Himalayan species we will attempt to locate such gems as Mishmi Wren Babbler, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Rusty-bellied Shortwing, Blyth’s Tragopan, Sclater’s Monal (very unlikely unless we trek where chances increase to possible!), Bar-winged Wren Babbler, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, Ward’s Trogon and Blue-fronted Robin. Night in basic guesthouse in the Mishmi Hills.

Day 18:
After a final mornings birding we depart Mishmi, and head back south across the Brahmaputra, to Tinsukia. Night in Tinsukia.

Day 19:
Departure from Dibrugarh Airport to connect with onward international flights from either Delhi or Kolkata.

Tour Photo Albums

Eastern Himalaya 2017

Eastern Himalaya 2015

Eastern Himalaya 2013

Eastern Himalaya 2012

Eastern Himalaya 2011