India - northeast:
Assam Plains and the Eastern Himalayas
A 16-day, small group birdwatching tour of the Eastern Himalayas, from the Brahmaputra basin to over 4000m.
Our tour of the western corner of the state of Assam and neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh take us to what is justifiably considered to the richest birding area in India. Here, the Eastern Himalayas climb steeply out of the Brahmaputra floodplain and distinct communities of species can be found within unusually close proximity of one another. We will explore a cross-section of elevations and habitats in this bird-rich environment, from swamp forests and wetlands at little over sea-level through dense montane rainforests to the arctic cold of Sela Pass, one of the highest motorable passes in the entire Himalayan chain. We will visit in spring, when temperatures are comfortable at all altitudes and many species in the hills associate in exhilarating mixed feeding flocks. We will be looking for Ward’s Trogon, Himalayan Cutia, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Grandala, Blood Pheasant, Swamp Francolin, White-winged Duck and Ibisbill among a fine selection of enigmatic specialities and regional endemics, accompanied by altitudinal migrants and visitors from the wider Palaearctic, and mammals including Indian One-horned Rhinoceros and Asian Elephant.
Day 1: Guwahati to Nameri National Park
Arrivals into Assam’s Guwahati airport this morning. We halt briefly on the outskirts of the city for Greater Adjutant before spending the remainder of the day driving northeast to Nameri for a three-night stay, with time for some late afternoon birding around our lodge.
Day 2-3: Nameri National Park
Two full days exploring Nameri. In these incredible and largely undisturbed sub-Himalayan forests, which we will explore on foot, we will go in search of Pied Falconet, exceptional numbers of Wreathed and Great Pied Hornbills, White-browed Piculet, Abbott’s Babbler and the elusive White-winged Duck in secluded forest pools. We will also explore the Jia Bhorelli River by rubber dinghy in search of overwintering Ibisbill and hope to locate Oriental Scops-owl and Brown Hawk-owl around our lodge after dusk.
Day 4: Nameri to Dirang
An early start for the journey north into Arunachal Pradesh and the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas, making our way to the small town of Dirang at 1495m, our base for a three-night stay. Birding en-route as we make the transition from the plains into the hills will provide a tantalising introduction to the diversity of this region. We will encounter a good selection of the Himalayan specialities, such as Brown Dipper, Crested Kingfisher, Bhutan and Grey-sided Laughingthrushes, Pale-billed Parrotbill and a variety of warblers, yuhinas, tits and sunbirds.
Day 5-6: Dirang
From our base at Dirang we will visit three sites at a range of elevations, including nearby Sangthi Valley where we hope to encounter Black-tailed Crake and overwintering Long-billed Plover. Further afield, we will spend a day along the Mandala Road which cuts through a succession of habitats from temperate broadleaf forests to rhododendron and birch scrub towards Mandala Pass (3200m). The list of potential species here is extensive, with many birds associating in waves that sweep through the forest. Key among these will be Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Bar-winged Wren-babbler, Golden Bush-robin, Brown-throated Fulvetta, White-collared Blackbird, Spotted Nutcracker, and a selection of finches and parrotbills. The highlight of our stay will be the morning spent at Se La. At 4176m the pass is one of the highest accessible parts of the Himalayas and hosts an array of unequivocal montane specialities in alpine meadows and barren scree slopes. We will search for some of the most enticing birds of the tour in this spectacular setting, including Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Snow Partridge, Snow Pigeon, Grandala, Spotted Laughingthrush, Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch and Alpine Accentor.
Day 7-11: Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary
Today, after a final few hours around Dirang, we make our way back south to Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary for a five-night stay. At Eaglenest, a jeep track winds it ways through the primary forests of the sanctuary from Eaglenest Pass (2780m) down as far as 750m in the foothills. This allows unrivalled access to the entire range of elevations and our nights will be divided between two tented camps at 2350m and 1940m to enable a thorough exploration of both the coniferous forest and rhododendrons of higher elevations and subtropical broadleaf forest and bamboo of the foothills. Birding here is exceptional with an extensive list of potential species that includes some of the most sought-after Himalayan specialities, and birdlife will vary noticeably as we move between elevations. Among our key targets will be the recently (2006) discovered Bugun Liocichla, still known solely from this area. Possibilities include Temminck’s and Blyth’s Tragopans, Chestnut-breasted Hill-partridge, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Bay Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Ward’s and Red-headed Trogons, Beautiful Nuthatch, Himalayan Cutia, Coral-billed Scimitar-babbler, Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler, Scaly Thrush, Himalayan Forest Thrush, a host of bamboo specialists such as Pale-headed Woodpecker, and an impressive selection of laughingthrushes, wren-babblers and flycatchers.
Day 12: Eaglenest to Kaziranga National Park
We spend a final few hours in the outskirts of Eaglenest before driving back south into Assam and east into the alluvial plains of the Brahmaputra basin to Kaziranga National Park for a four-night stay.
Day 13-15: Kaziranga National Park
Kaziranga is dominated by fertile grasslands and extensive wetlands known as beels. Birding from jeeps, we will go in search of grassland specialists including Bengal Florican, Striated Grassbird and Finn’s Weaver among numerous waders and waterfowl such as Greater Painted-snipe, Marsh Sandpiper, Grey-headed Lapwing, Bar-headed Goose and Ferruginous Duck, scanning in search of rarities such as Falcated Duck. These will be complemented by a selection of passerines in small patches of mature woodland, such as Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and Himalayan Rubythroat, and a great diversity of birds of prey, with Eastern Imperial Eagle, Pied Harrier and both Black and Jerdon’s Bazas all possible here. Large mammals are abundant, most notably including Indian One-horned Rhinoceros and Asian Elephant, and with the chance of Tiger.
Day 16: Kaziranga to Guwahati, depart
Before leaving for Guwahati we will have time for some final birding in the tea estates adjacent to our lodge, where we will search for Greater and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes, Common Green Magpie and the elusive Blue-naped Pitta. Departures from Guwahati airport this afternoon.
6 March - 21 March 2021
with Leio De Souza
6 April - 21 April 2021
with Lokesh Kumar
11 March - 26 March 2022
with Lokesh Kumar
5 April - 20 April 2022
with Leio De Souza
Duration: 16 days
Maximum group size: 8 with 1 leader
2021: £ 2380 (Guwahati/Guwahati)
2022: £ 2450* (Guwahati/Guwahati)
Single room supplement 2021: £ 330
Single room supplement 2022: £ 340*
Deposit: £ 500
Estimated flight costs: £ 800
Estimated visa costs: £ 35
Custom tours (November, March to May)
2021: from £ 3375 per person
2022: from £ 3450 per person*
[prices are per person based on 2 people travelling together; costs for other group sizes on request]
Information on what's included
*2022 costs provisional
Tour grading: Moderate. Most birding will be on foot along quiet, paved roads or well-marked forest trails, some from open-topped jeeps; the tour is intensive in terms of time spent in the field. Note we bird to 4176m where altitude makes walking more strenuous.
Accommodation: Fully serviced permanent tented camps in Nameri (private facilities) and Eaglenest (shared facilities), comfortable good to medium standard hotels and wildlife lodges with private facilities in Dirang and Kaziranga.
Photography: Good to excellent
Key species: Bugun Liocichla, Himalayan Cutia, Beautiful Nuthatch, Ward's and Red-headed Trogons, Wreathed, Rufous-necked and Great Pied Hornbills, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Grandala, Blood Pheasant, Snow Partridge, Snow Pigeon, Bhutan, Spotted and Grey-sided Laughingthrushes, Slender-billed and Coral-billed Scimitar-babblers, Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler, Abbott's Babbler, Himalayan Rubythroat, Himalayan Forest Thrush, Pale-headed and Bay Woodpeckers, White-browed Piculet, Spotted Nutcracker, Pied Falconet, Wallcreeper, Ibisbill, Long-billed Plover, Black-tailed Crake, Greater Adjutant, White-winged Duck, Indian One-horned Rhinoceros, Asian Elephant, Asiatic Wild Buffalo, Tiger.
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