This is a tour led by Nick Bray to NE India in 2010.
This was my 3rd tour to the seldom visited and near-mystical Mishmi Hills once again resulted in a number of Eastern Himalayan specialties being seen. It is a real privilege to go birding in such a remote place that few western birders have visited and the birds certainly did not disappoint, although it is one of those places where you have to persevere to reap the rewards. The weather was dry for most of the tour and the logistics organised by Peter Lobo were, as always, superb.
So we began our birding adventure shortly after arrival in Delhi with a few hours spent at Okhla Barrage producing a number of species not seen elsewhere on the tour including 70+ Greater Flamingo, 8+ Painted Storks, White-tailed Stonechat, Comb Duck, Hume’s Warbler, a flock of Indian Silverbills, Purple Sunbird, White-tailed Lapwing, Graceful Prinia, Siberian Chiffchaff and Red Avadavat. Huge rafts of wildfowl were loafing on the sluggish water and all were familiar to us and in amongst the regular gulls we picked out a few Steppe Gulls.
With Black Kites appearing over the rooftops and Rose- ringed Parakeets screeching past us, our dawn breakfast on the rooftop garden was certainly quite eventful. A Brown Rock-chat also put in an all too brief appearance, as did the warm toast! And soon after we were heading to the brand new Domestic Terminal and after a minor delay we touched down in Dibrugarh only 40 minutes later than scheduled. My good friend and our guide for the tour, Peter Lobo, had joined us on the same plane when we touched down in Guwahati en-route and after collecting our luggage we were quickly driving along the road to Tinsukia and our hotel for the night.
An early start was required in order to reach the ferry at Saikhowa Ghat this morning on our journey to the fabled and bird-rich Mishmi Hills in Arunachal Pradesh. It really is an amazing experience to watch the organisation of this delicate loading operation and with water levels so low it meant a very direct and quick crossing across the depleted Brahmaputra River. A few birds were noted here including Great Black- headed Gulls, Ruddy Shelducks, a Black Stork and a Merlin of the pallidus race before we headed off across the sandy and very bumpy track to a site Peter has found for Bengal Florican. At the appointed place our crew had already set up a sumptuous breakfast of omelettes and porridge which was consumed avidly by all. Then we walked across the grassland and within 5 minutes or so had unbelievably prolonged flight views of a florican slowly flying past us and into the tall grass. A few other species were present such as Lesser Coucal, Greater Painted-snipe and Pintail Snipe. Our raptor list was also doing well with Himalayan Griffon and White-rumped Vultures, Changeable Hawk-eagle and Short-toed Eagle being seen amongst some commoner species. A long and bumpy, pot-holed drive ensued to Roing, and a short while later we arrived at our secluded lodge and base for the next few nights. This area has proved very productive to us in the past and this afternoon was no exception with a good selection of typical Himalayan species on show and all readily visible in the garden. Of course Beautiful Sibia was the first bird but was quickly followed by Blue-throated Barbet, Fulvous-breasted and Grey-faced Woodpeckers, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, White-capped River-chat, Black-backed Forktail and a fine Black-throated Sunbird feeding in a Bombax tree. Down by the lake we had Silver-eared Mesia, female Red-headed Trogon, White-throated and Yellow-bellied Fantails and a mixed flock of Greater and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes.
We awoke early the following morning to a perfect starlit sky and headed along the Roing-Hunli Road and after a quiet start found our first flock of Black-chinned Yuhinas. As we watched these little beauties, a group of Striated Yuhinas appeared and gave decent views, followed by Grey Treepie, Plain Flowerpecker, Orange-bellied Leafbird and Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush. We drove up to a section of Bamboo and scored heavily with 3 Pale-headed Woodpeckers giving prolonged views. From here we drove to 1300m and had a tree full of Golden-throated Barbets and Striated Bulbuls before finding our first group of Cachar Wedge-billed Wren- babblers that were feeding on the floor around some cow dung! A Rufous-necked Hornbill called from the forest somewhere on the hill above us but remained out of view, whilst a flock of White-naped Yuhinas appeared beside the road. Shortly after, a Long-billed Wren-babbler gave a brief appearance and a Collared Owlet stared down at us with piercing eyes. One of the great things about this section of the tour is that you walk around a corner in the road and there is a table and chairs with our hot lunch waiting for us. Afterwards we continued walking along the road and found plenty of more regular species as well as lots of Olive-backed Pipits, Ashy- throated Warbler, a flock of 9 Coral-billed Scimitar- babblers, several groups of Rusty-fronted Barwings, another Long-billed Wren-babbler, our first Maroon-backed Accentor, Daurian Redstart, Golden Babbler and Nepal Fulvetta before returning to our lodge a little earlier than usual where the traditional Mishmi pakoras and flasks of tea were waiting for us.
After a night of heavy rain and thunder we awoke to clearing skies and were soon driving back along the road and up into the hills. This time we headed above Tewarigaon and were enjoying Slaty-backed and Spotted Forktails and flocks of Maroon- backed Accentors feeding beside the road. Parking up around the 2000m mark we began walking back down in the decidedly cool early morning air and were soon notching up Dark- rumped Rosefinch, the first of many Himalayan Red-flanked Bush-robins, an Orange-gorgeted Flycatcher and a tame Plain-backed Thrush that gave point-blank views as it fed in the leaf litter beside the road. Our first flock of the day held two Black-eared Shrike-babblers, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, Yellow-browed and Black-spotted (Yellow-cheeked) Yellow Tit, Rufous-capped Babbler and several Rufous-winged Fulvettas. A group of demure Manipur Fulvettas also fed unobtrusively on the bank above us and belied their impressive reputation! We had a few more small flocks later on but found nothing new for a while apart from an impressive male Green- tailed Sunbird. So we continued walking down and had the first of 5 Rufous-breasted Bush-robins to be seen today, more bluetails, White-tailed Nuthatch, and a flock of Chestnut- tailed and Red-tailed Minlas. Peter picked up a male Chestnut-bellied Rock-thrush way up in a tall tree on the hill above us and also a flock of Brown Bullfinches which we scoped. With the rain finally reaching us we drove down some way and were greeted by our ground crew who had erected a dining tent for us to shelter in and eat our excellent hot lunch. Flocks of Olive-backed Pipits flew by, with a male Blue- fronted Redstart sat on the wall below us. After we had finished a calling Sultan Tit led us to a massive mixed flock where we also saw lots of Rufous-winged Fulvettas, Grey- chinned Minivet, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, lots of Red- tailed Minlas, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, and a selection of common species. With the cloud descending we drove down to the Bamboo zone and found several obliging Yellow-bellied Warblers, Hodgson’s Redstart, a few White-crested Laughingthrushes, a flock of Black-chinned Yuhinas that gave very close views much to Roy’s delight, Asian Barred Owlet, a flock of Rufous-necked Laughingthrushes and a perched Mountain Imperial-pigeon spotted by Abid.