Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

North-East India Part 1: Kolkata to Dirang

Greater Adjutant
A three-week trip to the north-east Indian provinces of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in May 2015 by myself, Tony Palliser and Bill Watson was organised through locally based company Jungle Travels India - Our guide was Abidur Rahman and we can highly recommend the services of this capable and affable young man.

Streetside Kolkata

Access to the region is reached most easily through Kolkata, and we arrived a day early to recover from jetlag before the trip and a have a quick look at India's most populous city, visiting local attractions such as Victoria Museum and the Eden Garden Cricket Ground.
Victoria Museum, Kolkata

Coppersmith Barbet

Indian Pond-Heron
Coppersmith Barbet and Indian Pond Heron were among the common south Asian species we saw in the museum gardens. We took an early morning flight to Guwahati, where we were met by Abid and taken to the local rubbish tip - a traditional first port of call for these trips.
Greater Adjutants at Guawahit Rubbish Tip
Here, standing incongruously atop huge piles of rubbish, were 300+ Greater Adjutants - an endangered species for which this unlikely site has become a major stronghold. Foraging in the refuse for saleable scraps alongside the adjutants were a large number of poor villagers, mostly from Bangladesh. The adjutants were oblivious to these folk but quaintly were quick to fly away when we westerners approached. Also at the dump were Striated Grassbird and Citrine Wagtail.

The Show Gets on the Road - Greg, Tony, Bill

Nameri Eco-Camp
We moved on to Nameri National Park and the pleasant Nameri Eco Camp. On the way, birds
seen included the only Black-bellied Terns of the trip and several Lesser Adjutants among the numerous Asian Openbills in the wetlands, grasslands and paddy fields of the Assam lowlands. In and around the grounds of the camp were some nice critters including Asian Barred Owlet, Red-breasted Parakeet, Great Hornbill and Capped Langur.

Capped Langur

Great Hornbill
In the afternoon we strolled to the nearby Jia Bhoreli River, which borders the national park. Indian Cuckoo was common. Nice birds at the river included River Tern and River Lapwing. Birds in the camp that evening included Spotted Owlet and Brown Hawk-Owl.

Nameri National Park
Early the next morning we crossed the fast-flowing river in a canoe. Present on the stony river flats and along the river edge were Great Thick-knee, Little Ringed Plover, Bengal Bushlark and Sand Lark.

Bengal Bushlark
We headed into the lush green sal forest, accompanied by an armed park ranger, to the well-vegetated pools that were the habitat of our main target here: another endangered species, White-winged Duck. We managed to find one of these large ducks at the first pool, with most of the group securing good, close views. We heard but failed to see White-cheeked Partridge here, our efforts frustrated by the arrival of a group of wild (and potentially dangerous) Asian Elephants, which necessitated a quick retreat.
White-winged Duck Pool - Nameri
Other nice birds that morning included Greater and Lesser Yellownape, Pale-chinned Flycatcher, White-throated Bulbul, Puff-throated and Abbott's Babblers, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Ruddy Kingfisher (heard), Vernal Hanging-Parrot, Hooded Pitta (heard), and Velvet-fronted and Chesnut-bellied Nuthatches.
Tokay Geckos
Also of interest were some big tokay geckos. We also came across the fresh footprint of a tiger, while fresh elephant droppings were everywhere.

Tiger Paw Print

Puff-throated Babbler
Late that afternoon, while Abid and I were strolling near the lodge, another White-winged
Duck (most unexpectedly) flew close overhead. The next morning, we headed north towards the Eastern Himalayas, crossing the border from the state of Assam to Arunachal Pradesh at Bhalukpong. As we headed slowly uphill, passing through an area of bamboo we saw a group of (Indian) White-hooded Babblers and the often difficult Rufous-faced Warbler. Other welcome additions to a rapidly growing trip list were a singing Yellow-vented Warbler and a White-breasted (Greater Rufous-headed) Parrotbill. Soon after, a skulking Long-billed Wren-Babbler showed well by the road.

White-breasted (Greater Rufous-headed) Parrotbill
The birds of the Himalayan foothills did not disappoint along the road to our destination - the hill town of Dirang. Those bird groups for which the Himalayas are renowned were well-represented this day: laughing-thrushes (Bhutan, Striated, Chesnut-capped and White-crested) ; yuhinas (Striated, White-naped, Whiskered and White-bellied); niltavas  (Large, Small and Rufous-bellied) and babblers (Golden and Grey-throated). A party of Coral-billed Scimitar-Babblers (this race soon to be split) put on a show while the first of many Rusty-fronted Barwings seen on the trip was impressive. More common fare included Himalayan Black Bulbul, Short-billed and Grey-chinned Minivets, and Great and  Golden-throated Barbets.

Himalayan Black Bulbul
We were pleased to see our first Blyth's Swift, Yellow-throated Fulvetta and Beautiful Sibia, the latter proving to be one of the most numerous birds of the Eastern Himalayan forests. A Blanford's Rosefinch was an unexpected find while Grey Peacock-Pheasant was heard only.

Beautiful Sibia
Other birds included Chesnut-bellied and Blue-capped Rock-thrushes, Common Green Magpie,
and more of the numerous small warbler species we were to see over the next three weeks: Lemon-rumped, Blyth's, Large-billed, Yellow-bellied, Grey-cheeked, Grey-hooded and Black-faced. Many of the Phylloscopus warblers were nesting and vocal during the trip. Rufous-fronted and Rufous-capped Babblers were both chalked up during the drive to Dirang, as was Plumbeous Water Redstart and Nepal House Martin. A White-tailed Robin flicked across the road. We arrived at Dirang (altitude 1400 metres) at our accommodation, the adequate Hotel Pemaling, early that evening, looking forward to heading higher into the mountains in the coming days. We then explored Sela Pass and Mandala Road

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful pictures. Travel back in time, witnessing the beautiful displays that dot the galleries and hallways when you are in Indian Museum in Kolkata. The six sections devoted to art, archeology, anthropology, geology, zoology and industry make this the largest museum in India and one of the largest museums in the world. Explore more Indian Museum Kolkata also.