EAGLE NEST BIRDING TOUR – THE HIDDEN GEM OF NORTH-EAST INDIA

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I was recently in India on my first expedition to this beautiful country. And what I explored were not just amazing monuments and landscapes, but something which has put India on the international Birding Map. In the one month I spent here in 2012, I went birding for 12 days to the North East through Asian Adventures who are experts in experiential tourism. And my journey below in text and images will reveal how well the trip was conducted.

The trip began from Guwahati in Assam via Delhi where we landed the first day of the trip. And we were straightway escorted to the Nameri Tiger Reserve where we to enjoy the next two days amid nature, birds and cozy, well-equipped, tented camps. We saw  Spotted owlets at the property itself. But the real adventure here began with river Jia Bhoroli. The aim was to enjoy the wild, walk through little-trodden paths, and enjoy the sights in completely non-orchestrated conditions. And we followed the calls of the great Indian hornbill. And a walk into the deeper reaches of the reserve in two days revealed the -throated barbet, orange-bellied leafbird, Spot-winged starling, brown-capped pygmy and lesser yellow-nape woodpeckers and a red-breasted parakeet. We would raft ride, have boat fun, walk and do what not, just to get a glimpse of amazing birds of the region. No wonder, we even captured the rare elusive White Winged Wood Duck in our camera along with some 250 other species! The days here would culminate into cultural evenings organized by locals of the region at the bonfire. An out-of-the-world experience.

The next three days’ adventure was dedicated to exploring Sela Pass and Mandala via Shangti Valley and Mandala. After a long yet very beautiful drive and some more camera-captures of rare birds, we reached Dirang, our base for exploring Mandala, Sela Pass and Sangti Valley, home to the rare Long-billed Plover. Our trip guide decided to take us to Mandala first since Sela Pass and Shangti Valley were reported covered in dense mist that day. As we drove up the winding roads, a buzz stopped us – we spotted lovely Tits – Coal Tits, Rufous-fronted and Rufous Vented, a Spotted Nutcracker. In short, the drive itself was a lovely birding experience. Mandala welcomed us with Fire-tailed Sunbirds dancing around bright Rhododendrons, beautiful Russet Sparrows buzzed hither and tither while Bar-winged Wren Babblers called in the undergrowth! A scene straight out of National Geographic! Mesmerising! We spotted an uncountable number of species here – Bhutan Laughingthrush, Brown-throated Fulvetta, a flock of Brown Parrotbill inside a bamboo patch and what not. At the end of the day, we had become a small family of child-like adults exchanging notes, identifying species…in short playing without collection in the camera, sitting in a circle. I will never forget this night which dawned into a beautiful time spent at Sela Pass and Sangti Valley. The first bird we picked out was a male White-browed Rosefinch, who happily posed for us! And flew away only when its ears picked up a very interesting sound. Blood Pheasant! And then flew in a  flock of beautiful Snow Partridges! What a morning it was. And then we entered Sela Pass itself, the amazing Grandala flew ing along some White-throated Dippers. And as we maneuvered through the landscapes our hearts danced at the sight of an entire flock of Grandala! We spotted more than 100 species in this region. But we were not done for the day. After a quick lunch, we headed to look out for the rare Long-billed Plover. It took us four hours, before we actually managed to spot the Long-billed Plover, cautiously picking its food through the pebbles that camouflaged it amazingly. Ah, it was time to call it

a day and trip, to this region. So we celebrated the last night here with “Thonga Beer.’

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The next three days were dedicated to spending quality time with birds at the Lama Camp and Bompu. My most favorite memory of the region would always be bamboo thickets amid high altitude alpine forests where we captured some 50 species! There were Temminck’s and Blyth’s Tragopans, Hodgson’s frogmouth, Yellow-bellied flowerpecker, Golden Bush Robin, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Grey Treepie and Yellow-throated Fulvetta. Time just flew in these three days spent amid nature and birds.

But it wasn’t the end! The finale was the icing on the cake. We were heading to Kaziranga National Park – the land of the one horned Rhino. Not many know that the park has about 478 bird species including residents and migratory birds, making it a prime birding spot of India. The lush green vegetation of Kaziranga is home to the most fascinating birdlife in Asia.

The park is divided into four zones, namely Central, Eastern, Western and Ghorakati range. And we had a great time spotting birds like Spot-winged Starling, Swamp Francolin etc. A walk towards the huge Brahmaputra river revealed the most fascinating ones –  like Lesser-white Fronted Goose, Bear’s Pochard and Ferruginous and forest birds like Blue-naped Pitta, Green-billed Malkoha, Black-breasted Parrotbill etc. In the interiors, we also saw many one-horned Rhinos and Pompadour Pigeon, Wreathed and Great Hornbills playing and flying around them or amid the forests. The delight of the days spent here was the rarely spotted dollar bird, Chestnut-headed, Blue-bearded Bee-eater and Daurian Redstart. Ah, what an experience. The best part of the tour was our guide, who knew each bird inside out! And ensured we missed no spotting. Thanks to him we even spotted Pratincoles and various barbets. And also did some Owl spotting near our lodge at Kaziranga before retiring for the final day. On the final morning of our day-break’s birding trip, offered us great shots of Asiatic Water Buffalo, Swamp Deer and Hoolock Gibbon as well.

Time had come to fly back home. And I was feeling so good that I decided to do this birding trip through Asian Adventures. Our land Australia is so nature loving. Thus, not a single day I missed home; it was such an overwhelming experience. Thank you India, thank you Asian

 

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