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Arunachal Pradesh, Assam & Nagaland:

12th April - 2nd May 2020

 

 

Leader: Mike Nelson

 
 
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. Before Eaglenest we venture into remote Nagaland, where after successful scouting we have found a site to search for Yellow-throated Laughingthrush, while we also search for Naga Wren Babbler, Blyth's Tragopan, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler and Moustached, Striped, Assam and Brown-capped Laughingthrushes.
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 Dimapur Airport (currently all airlines arrive between 1200-1300 from Kolkata). Rest of the afternoon and early evening drive south to our guesthouse perched high above the valley.

Day 2:
Morning in search of Yellow-throated and Moustached Laughingthrushes in roadside scrub and tall grasses. In addition, Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Assam and Striped Laughingthrushes and Striated Prinia are possible. In the afternoon, drive to Khonoma. Night in Khonoma Homestay.

Day 3:
Full day above Khonoma village. The villagers of Khonoma have agreed on a strict no-hunting zone in the surrounding forest. Birding above the village we go in search of Naga Wren Babbler and Blyth’s Tragopan in the morning, with additional possibilities including Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler and Assam and Brown-capped Laughingthrushes. Back at the forest edge in the late afternoon there is a chance of the elusive and local Spot-breasted Laughingthrush, Naga Wren Babbler and Mountain Bamboo Partridge. Night in Khonoma Homestay.

Day 4:
After early morning birding in the forest immediately around the village for Spot-breasted Laughingthrush again, we head north, to Kaziranga. Night outside Kaziranga National Park.

Day 5:
We have at least a day to explore the national park and its surroundings. Inside the park we search for such rarities as Slender-billed Babbler, Bengal Florican, Spot-billed Pelican, both Greater and Lesser Adjutants, Black-necked Stork, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Swamp Francolin and Black-breasted and even an outside chance of Finn's Weaver.
The surrounding forest holds such specialties as Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Great Hornbill, Jerdon's Baza and the localised Pale-chinned Flycatcher.
After birding we drive across the Brahmaputra to Tezpur. Night in Tezpur.

Day 6:
An early start to head in to Arunachal Pradesh; the gateway to the foothills of the Himalaya. We drive to the town of Dirang, situated at 1500m, for a three-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, Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Bhutan Laughingthrush, River Lapwing, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Brown Dipper and the spectacular Crested Kingfisher. Night at Hotel Pemaling, Dirang. Tel: +91 3780 242 615

Days 7-9:
During our three days birding around Dirang we visit up to three sites, including the scenically spectacular Se la. 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.
A day at Mandala, a long, winding road going through forest, bamboo and eventually reaching patches of rhododendron. A huge ranch of species are possible here, but our main targets include Bar-winged Wren-babbler, Black-throated and Brown Parrotbills, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, White-collared Blackbird, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Blue-fronted Robin, a variety of Laughingthrushes, Crimson-browed and Gold-naped Finches, Hume’s Bush-warbler and Slender-billed Scimitar-babbler.
Towards the late afternoon of day 9 we drive back south to Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary to begin our five-night camping, starting at Lama Camp.

Days 10-13:
We have four full days inside the fabulous Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, made famous by the discovery of the Critically Endangered 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, where we split our time between two camps.
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 14:
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 outside Kaziranga National Park.

Day 15:
Early morning at Kaziranga once again, followed by driving to Dibru-Saikhowa for late afternoon birding. This little-known site a biodiversity hotspot situated in the alluvial flood plains of the Brahmaputra. We will search the swamp and grasslands for two threatened species - Marsh Babbler and Jerdon’s Babbler.
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 and Spotted Bush Warblers and Smoky Warbler. Night at Tinsukhia.

Day 16:
We start today by heading for a small patch of lowland forest inside the Digboi Oilfields complex in search of three species unlikely to be seen elsewhere on the tour; Collared Treepie, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush and the rare and local Chestnut-backed Laughingthrush. Other possibilities include Blue-throated Flycatcher, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Blue-bearded Bee-eater and an outside chance of White-cheeked Partridge.
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 at Roing.

Days 17-19:
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.
We also visit two different areas of grassland. One for the Critically Endangered Bengal Florican, and the other for Black-breasted Parrotbill. Night in basic guesthouse in the Mishmi Hills.

Day 20:
After a final mornings birding we depart Mishmi, and head back south across the Brahmaputra, to Tinsukia. Depending on what we have left to see, we either return to Dibru-Saikhowa, or spend more of the morning at Mishmi. Night in Dibrugarh.

Day 21:
Departures from Dibrugarh Airport.


Tour Photo Albums

Eastern Himalaya 2017

Eastern Himalaya 2015

Eastern Himalaya 2013

Eastern Himalaya 2012

Eastern Himalaya 2011