Birding Tour India: The Northeast – Spectacular Birds and Mammals
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Birding Tour India: The Northeast – Spectacular Birds and Mammals
This small-group birding tour of northeast India visits some spectacular scenery in the eastern Himalayas and the floodplain of the mighty (and extremely lengthy) Brahmaputra River long before it joins the River Ganges in Bangladesh. The mountains and floodplains here are two of the most biologically diverse places in India, and our tour will focus on these areas.
Temminck’s Tragopan is one of our stunning target birds on this trip (photo Summer Wong).
After our arrival in New Delhi we will take a domestic flight (included in the tour cost) to the largest city in Assam, Guwahati, situated on the bank of the Brahmaputra River. From here we will head into the undisturbed wilderness of the Himalayan foothills of Nameri National Park. This area protects numerous species, and we will look for special birds including at least two that are classified as Endangered by IUCN, Greater Adjutant and White-winged Duck (a secretive forest duck). We will also search the area for the highly sought monotypic Ibisbill, one of three monotypic families of birds possible on this tour, the others being Wallcreeper and Spotted Elachura. Nameri also hosts many other interesting birds, such as Great Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, Red-breasted Parakeet, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Great Stone-curlew, River Tern, Small Pratincole, Bengal Bush Lark, and Sand Lark.
After our stop at Nameri we will climb into the incredibly beautiful mountains and spend almost a week birding within and around the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, one of the best-known and highly regarded mountain birding sites in the whole of Asia. This is one of our favorite birding destinations in the world. The scenery, forests, and birding here are all spectacular, and we will be looking for some amazing birds such as Temminck’s Tragopan, Blyth’s Tragopan, Blood Pheasant, Snow Partridge, Himalayan Monal, Spotted Elachura, Bugun Liocichla, Ward’s Trogon, Beautiful Nuthatch, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Himalayan Cutia, and Fire-tailed Myzornis, along with plenty more gorgeous laughingthrushes, parrotbills, rosefinches, barwings, and related species, with species such as Spotted Laughingthrush, White-breasted Parrotbill, and Rusty-fronted Barwing likely to be some of the highlights. The area is also great for babblers, of which we will seek out many, with Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler and Bar-winged Wren-babbler being on the opposite sides of the size spectrum. But there is so much more to this area than the brief highlight reel above!
The monotypic Ibisbill is of great interest to bird family listers and all birders wanting to see a unique and interesting species.
Finally, and gradually, we will descend back down to the Assamese plains of the Brahmaputra, where we will continue our adventure, looking for some difficult yet highly prized species in and around the wondrous Kaziranga National Park, such as Bengal Florican, Greater Adjutant, Lesser Adjutant, Blue-naped Pitta, Indian Grassbird, Swamp Francolin, Black-breasted Weaver, Finn’s Weaver, Dusky Eagle-Owl, Black-necked Stork, Spot-billed Pelican, and Pallas’s Fish Eagle. Once we’ve finished here we will head back to Guwahati for our flight to New Delhi, where the tour will conclude.
This tour will also focus on finding some of the major mammals of the region, such as Greater One-horned (Indian) Rhinoceros, Asian Elephant, Barasingha (Swamp Deer), Gaur, Wild Water Buffalo, Indian Leopard, and Western Hoolock Gibbon, along with plenty of more common and widespread species. With extreme luck we may even find Arunachal Macaque, Red Panda, or Bengal Tiger, either one sure to be yet another highlight on this wonderful wildlife-packed tour.
Immediately before this trip we have a short (four-day) Birding Tour India: The West – Forest Owlet Extension for the Endangered (IUCN) Forest Owlet, a species considered extinct for over 100 years before it was rediscovered in the mid-1990s, and just prior to that we also have our Birding Tour India: The Northwest – Lions and Desert Birding in Gujarat where we find some pretty special wildlife too. We can also easily offer you extensions at each location if you would like to prolong your stay in this exciting country and we offer a wide range of other Indian tours, shown here.
There are so many highlights when birding at Eaglenest; however, we are sure you will be impressed by the rather large and very pretty Ward’s Trogon.
Itinerary (15 days/14 nights)
Day 1. Arrival in New Delhi
After your arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi you will be transferred to our hotel, where the rest of the day will be at your leisure, followed by a group welcome meal.
Overnight: New Delhi
Day 2. New Delhi to Guwahati, transfer to Nameri National Park
Leaving New Delhi in the morning we will fly to Guwahati, the capital of the state of Assam, arriving there around noon. After leaving the airport we will most likely head straight to the local waste facility, where we should find the humongous (and exceedingly ugly) Greater Adjutant and Lesser Adjutant foraging/scavenging among the rubbish. After stopping here we will start our journey in earnest to Nameri, where we will likely arrive late in the afternoon, hopefully for some time birding in our accommodation grounds before dark, where we may find Great Hornbill, Red-breasted Parakeet, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, and Oriental Scops Owl.
Overnight: Nameri National Park
Day 3. Nameri National Park
We will have a morning and afternoon birding session in Nameri National Park (also known as Nameri Tiger Reserve). Nameri is a gorgeous, undulating wilderness area in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas. A large proportion of the national park area consists of swamp forest interspersed with areas of open grassland split up by many river tributaries. Nameri is one of the best places in the world to find the rare, highly elusive, and Endangered (IUCN) White-winged Duck, and this will be one of our major objectives during our time here. There is also a small chance of seeing Bengal Tiger here, but there will be better chances for that later in the tour.
There are, however, numerous other great species possible, such as Greater Adjutant, Great and Wreathed Hornbills, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Pied Falconet, Pied Harrier, Oriental Hobby, White-browed Piculet, Pale-chinned Blue Flycatcher, and Black-backed Forktail. A boat ride along the river here might produce some highly sought species such as Small Pratincole, Ibisbill, River Tern, River Lapwing, Great Stone-curlew, Sand Lark, Striated Grassbird, and the huge Crested Kingfisher. We will make sure to try to find as many of these as possible during the day and during the following morning before leaving the area.
Overnight: Nameri National Park
The shy, secretive, and rare White-winged Duck can be found in swampy forest areas in Nameri National Park.
Day 4. Nameri National Park to Dirang
After a morning birding session in the Nameri National Park we will head toward Dirang. This part of India is one of the most diverse in the country due to the huge gain in elevation of the Eastern Himalayas in a relatively small area, e.g. sea-level to 7,000 meters (22,650 feet) in about 150 kilometers (93 miles). We will pass through some gorgeous scenery and a wide range of habitats (stopping along the way to look for the monotypic Ibisbill) as we make our way up to the 1,500 meters (5,259 feet) elevation zone. Over the course of our journey and the rest of the afternoon we may find Rufous-bellied Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Pied Falconet, Hill Partridge, Golden-throated Barbet, Grey-chinned Minivet, Blue-fronted Robin, Little Forktail, Golden Bush Robin, Rufous-breasted Bush Robin, Green Cochoa, Purple Cochoa, Long-tailed Broadbill, Scaly Laughingthrush, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Himalayan Cutia, Black-headed Shrike-babbler, Green Shrike-babbler, White-naped Yuhina, White-breasted Parrotbill, Pale-billed Parrotbill, and Sultan Tit.
Day 5. Birding the Sela Pass and Sangti Valley
A very exciting and sure to be a memorable day will have us visiting a wide-range of habitats and elevations. After an early start we will head up to around 4,200 meters (14,108 feet) on the famous Sela Pass – one of the highest drivable mountain passes in all of the Himalayas. Here in the alpine meadows we will focus on some very special, highly sought, and seriously stunning montane species such as Blood Pheasant, Snow Partridge, Himalayan Monal, Himalayan Vulture, Snow Pigeon, Grandala, Hodgson’s Redstart, Alpine Accentor, Tibetan Serin, Plain Mountain Finch, Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch, Spotted Laughingthrush, Rufous-breasted Bush Robin, and White-browed Tit-warbler.
Grandala is a rather striking bird of the high-elevation zone (photo Summer Wong).
It is certain to be a memorable morning’s birding, and the afternoon is sure to be just as good as we will visit the Sangti Valley at an altitude of around 1,500-1,600 meters (4,920-5,413 feet), where we will look for several equally exciting species as those possible during our morning birdwatching session, such as the unique and monotypic Ibisbill, the secretive Black-tailed Crake, and the uncommon Long-billed Plover. Other interesting species in the valley at this time of year include Rosy Pipit, Olive-backed Pipit, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Brown Dipper, the stunning White-capped Redstart, Little Forktail, and the second possible monotypic family, Wallcreeper. There is a good chance that the ‘bird of the trip’ may be found today, because the quality of birds on offer is so high! We will end the day in Dirang.
Wallcreeper doing what it does best
Day 6. Mandala birding
We will spend the full day birding around Mandala. Target species are plentiful and may include one of the world’s best-looking birds, Temminck’s Tragopan. It is scarce here, but we will certainly be putting a great deal of effort into trying to find it. There will be plenty of other species in the forests here, such as Blanford’s Rosefinch, Bhutan, Black-faced, and Spotted Laughingthrushes, Gould’s Shortwing, Fire-tailed Myzornis, White-collared and Grey-winged Blackbirds, Grey-headed Bullfinch, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Rufous-breasted and Maroon-backed Accentors, Hodgson’s and White-throated Redstarts, Golden-naped Finch, Rufous-fronted Bushtit, Grey Crested Tit, and Spotted Nutcracker. Ward’s Trogon is also a scarce possibility here. We are sure to have another memorable day.
Day 7. Dirang to Lama Camp
After breakfast we will bird our way between Mandala and Lama Camp, where we will spend the night at a fully serviced camp. Lama Camp is on the periphery of the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, a phenomenal area and one of the best birding locations in India and in fact in all of Asia. We will have a total of five days in and around this exciting sanctuary, which will allow us to fully explore the wide altitudinal range and resultant habitats and birdlife on offer here.
There is a wide range of species possible during the day. There is some overlap with the previous and following days, but there are plenty of new and exciting birds too. Some of the most thrilling birds may include Blyth’s Tragopan and Temminck’s Tragopan (two very impressive, but scarce and often shy birds) along with Himalayan Bluetail, Blyth’s Shrike-babbler, Brown-throated and Golden-breasted Fulvettas, Himalayan Cutia, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Rusty-fronted and Streak-throated Barwings, Himalayan Thrush, Rufous-chinned and Grey-sided Laughingthrushes, Fulvous and Black-throated Parrotbills, Slender-billed and Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers, and Green-tailed Sunbird.
Overnight: Lama Camp
The male Himalayan Bluetail is an incredible hit of color.
Days 8 – 10. Lama Camp to Bompu Birding Camp
We will leave Lama Camp and bird our way to Bompu Birding Camp at 1,940 meters (6,364 feet), where we will spend the next three nights at a fully serviced camp inside the wonderful Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary. Due to the good access here we will be able to enjoy three full days’ birding across a wide elevational range to maximize our chances for the most exciting species and mixed-flocks/bird-waves on offer here. Barwings, yuhinas, laughingthrushes, and related species are likely to be evident, such as the recently discovered Bugun Liocichla, the more well-known Red-faced Liocichla, Himalayan Cutia, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Blue-winged Minla, Red-billed Leiothrix, Silver-eared Mesia, Rusty-fronted and Streak-throated Barwings, Long-tailed and Beautiful Sibias, White-naped, Whiskered, and Rufous-vented Yuhinas, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, and Blue-winged, Bhutan, and Black-faced Laughingthrushes. Beautiful Nuthatch and Rusty-flanked Treecreeper along with Yellow-cheeked and Sultan Tits are likely to be in the bird-waves. A range of parrotbills too could be on offer, with Black-headed, Pale-billed and Brown Parrotbills all possible. Some color and further quality might be provided by Ward’s Trogon, Red-headed Trogon, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Rufous-necked Hornbill, and Scarlet Finch.
Found only in the Eaglenest area, Bugun Liocichla is Critically Endangered (IUCN), was only discovered in 1995, and was first described in 2006.
By spending a few days here we will be able to concentrate our efforts on some of the more secretive and skulking but highly rewarding species such as Spotted Elachura (a recent elevation to monotypic family status), Gould’s Shortwing, Grey Peacock-Pheasant, Chestnut-breasted Partridge, Hodgson’s Frogmouth, Blyth’s Kingfisher, Brown Wood Owl, Speckled Wood Pigeon, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Black-faced Warbler, Chestnut-headed Tesia, White-browed Bush Robin, Golden Bush Robin, Long-tailed and Himalayan Thrushes, and another possible ‘bird of the trip’, the shy and difficult but totally worth-the-effort Blyth’s Tragopan. Two mammals we will be looking for here are the very rare and both Endangered (IUCN) Red Panda and Arunachal Macaque; with luck we may find one or even both of these in the forests.
Overnight: Bompu Birding Camp
Spotted Elachura is sought-after, as it is in its own family, but it is also a serious skulker!
Day 11. Bompu Birding Camp to Lama Camp
We will spend the day birding our way back from Bompu Birding Camp to Lama Camp, looking for the birds already listed above.
Overnight: Lama Camp
Day 12. Lama Camp to Kaziranga National Park
Today we will start our descent from the mountains to the Assamese plains. Leaving Lama Camp we will drop down to the famous and huge Kaziranga National Park in central Assam, eventually crossing the mighty and equally famous Brahmaputra River. Indeed, the national park is the largest undisturbed area of the river’s floodplain and a spectacular sight in its own right, stacked full of jaw-dropping wildlife. This is one area of India that is a ‘must-visit’ for any birder and wildlife lover. After our arrival we will spend the afternoon on safari (as game drives are called in India) in the national park, where we will try to get a head start on finding some of the many incredible birds and wildlife listed for day 13, such as the magnificent, pre-historic-looking Greater One-horned (Indian) Rhinoceros (this is the only place in the world where you can see this huge and incredibly impressive species reliably).
Overnight: Kaziranga National Park
Day 13. Kaziranga National Park
Some very special birds are possible today, and we will primarily look for Bengal Florican, Greater Adjutant, Blue-naped Pitta, Indian Grassbird, Swamp Francolin, Spot-billed Pelican, and Pallas’s Fish Eagle. However, while looking for the above species (and the mammals referenced below) there are plenty of other birds for which we will keep an eye out as we make our way through various open grasslands and wetlands of the area, such as Black-necked Stork, Painted Stork, Woolly-necked Stork, Black Stork, Asian Openbill, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Bar-headed Goose, Grey-headed Lapwing, Alexandrine and Red-breasted Parakeets, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Zitting Cisticola, Chestnut Munia, Red Avadavat, Bengal Bush Lark, Finn’s Weaver, Baya Weaver, Streaked Weaver, Black-breasted Weaver, and Spot-winged Starling.
The more scrubby and wooded areas in and around the national park hold Siberian Rubythroat, Common Green Magpie, Kalij Pheasant, Red Junglefowl, Common Emerald Dove, White-rumped Shama, Rufous Woodpecker, Grey-headed (Black-naped) Woodpecker, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Speckled Piculet, White-browed Scimitar Babbler, Greater Necklaced, Lesser Necklaced, and Rufous-necked Laughingthrushes, Maroon Oriole, Blue-eared Barbet, Great Barbet, Verditer Flycatcher, and Smoky Warbler.
A fantastic portrait of a male Kalij Pheasant
A fine suite of mammals also occurs in Kaziranga National Park, and we will look for Greater One-horned (Indian) Rhinoceros, Asian Elephant, Gaur, Wild Water Buffalo, Barasingha (Swamp Deer), Sloth Bear, and Western Hoolock Gibbon. With some luck we may even come across the rare and secretive Bengal Tiger, Indian Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Jungle Cat, Fishing Cat, or Leopard Cat while here. Our visit in and around this national park is sure to be a very interesting, bird-and-wildlife-packed time.
Overnight: Kaziranga National Park
The Greater One-horned (Indian) Rhinoceros is an incredible sight.
Day 14. Kaziranga National Park to Guwahati and New Delhi
Depending on our flight time from Guwahati to New Delhi there may be some time for a bit of early-morning, pre-breakfast birding and wildlife watching in the Kaziranga area. We will transfer to Guwahati in the morning and fly back to New Delhi, arriving there late in the afternoon or early in the evening.
Overnight: New Delhi
Day 15. International departure
This is a non-birding day with departure from New Delhi.
If you would rather not fly back home on this day we can organize additional nights in New Delhi, or we can arrange a birding or cultural tour around New Delhi or another part of India. Just let us know what you would like to do, maybe an extension to visit the Taj Mahal, or Ranthambhore National Park to look for the majestic Bengal Tiger and a whole load of different birds to those seen on this tour, like Painted Spurfowl and Indian Courser. Just let us know!
Overnight: Not included
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.Download Itinerary
Northeast India: Custom Trip Report
7 – 16 APRIL 2019
By Andy Walker
DOWNLOAD TRIP REPORT
This 10-day custom birdwatching tour of Northeast India commenced in New Delhi on the 7th of April 2019 and ended back there on the 16th of April 2019. The tour was based on a shortened version of our Northeast India March set-departure tour with modifications to fit the timescale available and target the monotypic Spotted Elachura, the main reason for this custom tour. During this short tour we birded at Nameri Tiger Reserve, the Eaglenest (Lama Camp and Bompu Camp) area, and Kaziranga National Park.
A total of 335 bird species were seen (plus 18 species heard only). The main target bird and main reason for this whole trip was the Spotted Elachura, which we saw well. However, by placing ourselves in this part of India we found plenty of other highly sought species such as White-winged Duck, Bugun Liocichla, Temminck’s Tragopan, Ward’s Trogon, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Kalij Pheasant, Greater Adjutant, Lesser Adjutant, Beautiful Nuthatch, Himalayan Cutia, White-breasted Parrotbill, Hoary-headed, Rusty-fronted, and Streak-throated Barwings, Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler, Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler, Bar-winged Wren-Babbler, Great, Wreathed, and Oriental Pied Hornbills, Red-breasted and Blossom-headed Parakeets, Spotted, Scaly, Blue-winged, Black-faced, Bhutan, Striated, Rufous-necked, and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes, Red-faced Liocichla, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Swamp Francolin, Indian Grassbird, Dusky Eagle-Owl, Black-necked Stork, Spot-billed Pelican, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, and Black-breasted and Finn’s Weavers.
It was not just all about the birds on this tour, as we found, and really enjoyed some incredible animals, such as the huge, armor-plated, prehistoric-looking In dian Rhinoceros, the stately Asian Elephant, and a stunning (and rather lengthy) King Cobra, with a supporting cast including Wild (Water) Buffalo, Barasingha (Swamp Deer), Hog Deer, Arunchal Macaque, Capped Langur, Smooth-coated Otter, Black Giant Squirrel, and more. Full species lists are provided at the end of this report.
Day 1, 7th April 2019. Arrival into New Delhi
Everyone arrived in New Delhi during the day ahead of our flight to the northeast the following day.
Day 2, 8th April 2019. New Delhi to Guwahati, then travel to Nameri Tiger Reserve
After a delayed flight out of New Delhi we arrived in Guwahati in the afternoon before driving to the Nameri Tiger Reserve area for the night. A stop in Guwahati at the waste facility was an assault on the senses and heartstrings but did give us an incredible opportunity to see both Greater and Lesser Adjutants, two species of humongous prehistoric and exceedingly ugly creatures, the former being Critically Endangered (BirdLife International). After this quick stop we just picked up the odd common bird along the way, such as Black Drongo, White-throated Kingfisher, and Black Kite. We arrived at our accommodation in the evening, had a quick dinner, and went to bed.
Day 3, 9th April 2019. Nameri to Lama Camp (Eaglenest)
It was light early, so we were up early too. Well, we were awake before it got light due to the calls of Oriental Scops Owl, Asian Barred Owlet, Savanna Nightjar, Indian Cuckoo, and Asian Koel. We had a nice pre-breakfast birding in the grounds of our accommodation, finding numerous birds. The best of these included a pair of Great Hornbills at their nest, plenty of Red-breasted Parakeets, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Common Hill Myna, Great Myna, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Spotted Owlet (as well as seeing the Asian Barred Owlet), Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, and Black-hooded Oriole.
Spotted Owlet is a common species but always nice to see.
After breakfast we started the long drive to Lama Camp. We made several stops along the way, finding Verditer Flycatcher, Blue Whistling Thrush, Grey-throated Babbler, Black Eagle, White-naped Yuhina, Streaked Spiderhunter, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Ashy Drongo, Orange-bellied Leafbird, and White-throated Fantail.
Once we arrived near the camp we bumped into a mixed-species flock, which included Green-backed Tit, Black-throated Bushtit, Buff-barred, Blyth’s Leaf, Hume’s Leaf, and Chestnut-crowned Warblers, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Red-tailed Minla, and Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher. Nearby we also saw Brown-flanked Bush Warbler and Fire-breasted Flowerpecker.
On arrival at the camp we were unfortunately met by low cloud and rain, which substantially hindered our birding. We did, however, see a few birds, such as Grey-headed Bullfinch, Himalayan Bluetail, Olive-backed Pipit, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Grey-chinned Minivet, Yellow-cheeked Tit, and Beautiful Sibia, while several species of fulvettas, laughingthrushes, and flycatchers were heard calling but would not come out, unsurprising given the weather. An early night beckoned, and we hoped for decent weather the following morning.
Day 4, 10th April 2019. Lama Camp to Bompu Camp (Eaglenest)
We spent the morning birding around the Lama Camp area. Although we were unable to find any elachuras we did find a number of highly sought-after species, such as the Critically Endangered (BirdLife International) Bugun Liocichla (an endemic laughingthrush found only in the Eaglenest area). While walking here we found Bhutan, Scaly, Blue-winged, Striated, and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes, Red-faced Liocichla, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Beautiful Sibia, Whiskered Yuhina, Streak-throated Barwing, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Bar-throated Minla, Red-tailed Minla, and Striated Bulbul. Both Red-headed and Grey-headed Bullfinches were found feeding in thistle seed heads, and we kept bumping into a mixed flock containing Ashy-throated, Buff-barred, Yellow-browed, Blyth’s Leaf, and Lemon-rumped Warblers, Black-throated Bushtit, Yellow-cheeked and Green-backed Tits, White-throated Fantail, Green-tailed Sunbird, Black-faced and Grey-cheeked Warblers, Rufous-bellied and Crimson-breasted Woodpeckers, Short-billed Minivet, Blyth’s Shrike-babbler, Little Bunting, White-tailed Nuthatch, Grey-winged Blackbird, and Rufous-breasted Accentor.
Bugun Liocichla, a Critically Endangered (BirdLife International), range-restricted endemic gave us some good views as we searched for Spotted Elachura.
After lunch we drove to Bompu Camp, our base for the night. Along the way we noted Alpine Thrush and a pair of Kalij Pheasants, with Eurasian Hoopoe present in the camp grounds as well as White-collared Blackbird.
We set off walking from the camp, heard several species of wren-babbler and managed to get brief views of a couple, namely Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler and Scaly-breasted Cupwing. We also heard Spotted Elachura but were unable to call it in close enough to see. The visibility was, as during the previous afternoon, terrible. Through the mist we did see Beautiful Nuthatch (it looked very nice but it was hard to do it justice), White-naped Yuhina, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Lesser Shortwing, Great Barbet, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Sultan Tit, Himalayan Cutia, Golden Babbler, and Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler.
Day 5, 11th April 2019. Bompu Camp to Lama Camp (Eaglenest)
We awoke early to a glorious morning of clear blue sky with the sun about to rise. After a quick breakfast we started near the campsite for our main target bird of the trip and our best realistic chance to find one in the early morning – tense! We set off in nervous anticipation by car with the windows down, hoping to hear the distinctive call we’d been hoping for, and suddenly about a kilometer away from our base there it was, singing! Breaks on, we jumped out of the car and got into position. The bird then jumped up and flew across the road, where it proceeded to move stealthily through the vegetation, momentarily pausing to allow us all that hoped-for view as it sang at full volume. We were watching a Spotted Elachura! The excitement and relief were palpable throughout this small team. Full of joy we headed back to camp to continue birding for a few hours. We could enjoy ourselves a bit more now!
Spotted Elachura, the main target species of the trip, was firmly in the bag, and we were all overjoyed!
We found White-collared Blackbird, Golden-naped Finch, and Long-tailed Minivet in the campsite, with Sikkim Wedge-billed Wren-Babbler, Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler, White-breasted Parrotbill, and Rusty-fronted Barwing all seen well in the adjacent forest.
We started our drive back to Lama Camp and stopped for birding along the way at differing altitudes. These stops produced some excellent birds (as well as scenic views and glorious flowering magnolia trees), with Himalayan Cutia, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Striated Laughingthrush, Beautiful Sibia, and Large Niltava seen at one such stop. Another one gave us Black-eared Shrike-babbler, Yellow-browed Tit, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, White-throated Laughingthrush, Red-tailed Minla, and Rufous-winged Fulvetta. And our final stop (apart from an emergency stop for a Common Hill Partridge sitting in the road!) resulted in fantastic views of Bar-winged Wren-Babbler (a really beautiful bird), Stripe-throated and Rufous-vented Yuhinas, Hoary-throated Barwing, and a stunning fly-by of a Temminck’s Tragopan!
Bar-winged Wren-Babbler was one of a number of wren-babblers seen during this section of the tour, and this individual showed very well.
On arrival back at Lama Camp we enjoyed a relaxing dinner and took in some of the sights and sounds around the campsite, such as Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Green-backed Tit, Bhutan Laughingthrush, Rusty-fronted Barwing, and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker.
Our afternoon birding was along some of the higher ridgelines and lower down in the valley. One of the big highlights of the early afternoon was Yellow-rumped Honeyguide. We also found a mixed flock that contained Green Shrike Babbler, Sikkim Treecreeper, Whistler’s Warbler, and a few other more common species. We also saw a pair of Pygmy Flycatchers, Spotted Forktail, and a male Himalayan Bluetail. Down near the village we added a gorgeous male Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Large-billed Crow, and Long-tailed Shrike. At dusk we found Grey Nightjar, Hodgson’s Frogmouth, and Mountain Scops Owl, thus ending a great day in northeast India, with our main trip target firmly in the bag.
Day 6, 12th April 2019. Lama Camp (Eaglenest) to Nameri Tiger Reserve
This was our final morning birding in the mountains before it was time to drive to Nameri for the night. Another morning session along the Eaglenest pass was rewarding with plenty of new and exciting birds seen, such as Spotted Laughingthrush, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Spotted Nutcracker, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Rufous-vented Yuhina, Fire-tailed Sunbird, and Yellow-breasted Greenfinch.
Spotted Laughingthrush is simply stunning and was one of our favorites from numerous species seen during the tour.
We dropped into some beautiful forest and rather immediately were watching a gorgeous male Ward’s Trogon, soon followed by a singing male Black-headed Shrike Babbler, a pair of Chestnut-headed Tesias, Large-billed Leaf Warbler, Lesser Shortwing, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Streak-throated Barwing, Beautiful Sibia, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Dark-sided Flycatcher, and Yellow-rumped Honeyguide. We arrived back at Lama Camp for lunch and to pack before our drive back to the lowlands to Nameri, where we arrived in time for dinner and mulled over all the great birds we’d seen in the mountains, particularly the elachura!
Day 7, 13th April 2019. Nameri Tiger Reserve and travel to Kaziranga National Park
A morning walk in Nameri Tiger Reserve after breakfast was wonderful; however, prior to that we enjoyed most of the species listed for the morning of day 2 again, such as Great Hornbill and Red-breasted Parakeet, with the addition of a troop of Capped Langurs too, beautiful! The walk into Nameri went really well, and we found a pair of the rare White-winged Ducks, our main target bird for the area. Plenty of other widespread species were new for our trip, such as Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Great Stone-curlew, River Tern, Wreathed Hornbill, Small Pratincole, Sand Lark, Bengal Bush Lark, White-rumped Shama, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Lesser Yellownape, Black-crested Bulbul, Pied and Common Kingfishers, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Ruddy Shelduck, Red Junglefowl, Green-billed Malkoha, Banded Bay Cuckoo, and Scarlet Minivet. Another male Blue-capped Rock Thrush was also a good record.
White-winged Duck can be a tough species to connect with, it is particularly shy, and so we were very happy to find a pair and then were able to sneak up on them to grab a photo!
After lunch we drove to the Kaziranga area. A brief walk around the local area of the accommodation produced Indian Cuckoo, Crimson Sunbird, Common Emerald Dove, Alexandrine and Blossom-headed Parakeets, Striated Swallow, and Grey-backed Shrike.
Day 8, 14th April 2019. Kaziranga National Park
A pre-breakfast walk yielded a few new trip birds, such as Siberian Rubythroat, Rufous Treepie, Nepal House Martin, Plaintive Cuckoo, and Oriental Pied Hornbill. A Blue-naped Pitta was heard, but frustratingly a huge thunderstorm rolled in just at that point and then washed out the remainder of the morning. Luckily Assam makes good tea!
The thunderstorm had moved off by the time of our afternoon safari, and in the space of a couple of hours we recorded nearly 100 species! Birds were of course big priorities, as there are several range-restricted species possible here, though the main target was Indian Rhinoceros, of which we saw nearly a dozen! They are just magnificent creatures, fully armored living dinosaurs! Other animals observed included Asian Elephant, Wild (Water) Buffalo, Barasingha (Swamp Deer), Hog Deer, and Indian Wild Pig (Wild Boar), with good, close views of all. Some of the highlight birds during the afternoon included Swamp Francolin, Indian Grassbird, Striated Babbler, Chestnut-capped Babbler, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Black-breasted Weaver, Finn’s Weaver, Spot-billed Pelican, Lesser Coucal, Bronze-winged Jacana, Black-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Woolly-necked Stork, Black-headed Ibis, Oriental Darter, Asian Barred Owlet, Brown Hawk Owl, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Streak-throated Woodpecker, Striated Grassbird, Eurasian Hoopoe, Citrine Wagtail, and Cinnamon Bittern. What a magnificent reserve this is! We left at sunset excited about the next couple of days to further explore this huge area.
Day 9, 15th April 2019. Kaziranga National Park
We had three highly productive birding sessions during the day and recorded almost 150 species! In the early morning we were rewarded with a small group of Rufous-necked Laughingthrushes, a tiny White-browed Piculet, several Baya Weavers, a pretty singing male Pale-chinned Blue Flycatcher, and the rather colorful trio of Crimson Sunbird, Scarlet Minivet, and Common Kingfisher. We also had our first Yellow-vented Flowerpecker of the trip, all of them set to the constant calls from several Indian Cuckoos and within walking distance of our accommodation.
Our first trip into the national park of the day was exciting for birds and other animals, more great looks at Indian Rhinoceros were had, as were views of several Asian Elephants. A couple of new animals were noted too, namely Common Indian Monitor, Smooth-coated Otter, and best of all a huge King Cobra! Birding highlights between heavy thunderstorm showers included Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Wigeon, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Tufted Duck, Temminck’s Stint, Common Snipe, Common Redshank, Grey Heron, Black-headed Ibis, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Golden-headed Cisticola, Bluethroat, Western Yellow Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail, and Rosy Pipit.
Plenty of good views of Indian Rhinoceros were had during this section of our tour.
After a brief lunch stop we were off again, this time to a large wetland area in a different section of the national park, where we saw several of the above species again, along with many more, such as Greater and Lesser Adjutants, Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas, Greater Painted-snipe, Lesser Whistling Duck, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Garganey, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Little Grebe, Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Grey-headed Swamphen, Pied Avocet, Grey-headed Lapwing, Spotted Redshank, Whiskered Tern, Western Osprey, Spotted Owlet, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Indian Pitta, Common Kestrel, Black-winged Kite, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, and Pale-billed Flowerpecker. The number of birds was impressive, and it was even busier than when we usually run this tour in March – it was quite a sight!
Day 10, 16th April 2019. Kaziranga National Park, transfer to Guwahati, flight to New Delhi, departure
A final morning was spent in a different sector of the national park, and again we were treated to simply spectacular views of multiple Indian Rhinoceroses (see trip report cover image) as well as of more Asian Elephants and most of the other mammals listed above. You can’t help but feel immensely privileged to see these ancient-looking creatures walking about the swamps.
We saw plenty of exciting birds on this final safari too, with a day-roosting Dusky Eagle-Owl being one of the best, along with Black-necked Stork, Woolly-necked Stork, Spot-billed Pelican, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Lesser Adjutant, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Eurasian Hoopoe, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Common Emerald Dove, Blue-eared, Blue-throated, and Coppersmith Barbets, Small Minivet, Common Hill Myna, Crimson Sunbird, Chestnut-capped Babbler, and Striated Grassbird.
After lunch we drove back to Guwahati for our early-evening flight to New Delhi, where this excellent short tour concluded with our international departure.
A common and widespread species, Eurasian Hoopoe flew in and landed right in front of our safari jeep!
Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included. This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.
‘The 2016 Northern India Birding Ecotours trip was everything I had hoped for and more. As a novice both when it came to Asian birds and Indian travel, the trip couldn’t have been better. Andy Walker, our guide, was brilliant at finding the expected birds and some amazing rarities and getting us good looks. I managed close to 400 lifers combined with Fatehpur Sikri, the Taj Mahal, some fascinating glimpses of rural India and a spectacular time in the Himalayan foothills. Our driver, van, train travel and hotels were all comfortable and worked like clockwork. Thanks for the trip of a lifetime.’