Northeast India - Mishmi Hills and the Brahmaputra
India's remote northeast corner is a true frontier region with over 4500km of international borders with neighbouring Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Dominated by both the rugged Eastern Himalayas and the floodplain of the mighty Brahmaputra River this celebrated yet somewhat unexplored corner of India allows easy access across the altitudinal gradient and to a cross-section of habitats from marsh, elephant grass and vast wetlands into montane rainforest up to 2655m. These habitats are an exciting prospect, hosting grassland endemics and enigmatic Himalayan specialities as part of an interesting avifaunal community, where several species occur at the westernmost or easternmost extension of their ranges.
Our comprehensive birding tour begins at little over 100m in the rich alluvial plains of the Brahmaputra at Tinsukia, our base for exploring this region’s productive grasslands, open wetlands and lowland tropical forests. We will explore Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri Beel on foot and by boat, in search of waterfowl and grassland species, including the endemic Swamp Prinia and Marsh Babbler, while Dehing-Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary hosts a range of Eastern Himalayan forest specialities, including Pale-capped Pigeon, White-throated Brown Hornbill, Grey Peacock-pheasant and the reclusive White-winged Duck together with Western Hoolock Gibbon. Over the next six days we ascend from little over sea level to 2655m in the Mishmi Hills, occupying India’s extreme northeast corner and the junction of the Eastern Himalaya with the Indo-Burma hill ranges. At the base of these hills, the grasslands of the Lower Dibang Valley are home to Bengal Florican and the endemic Black-breasted Parrotbill. Higher up, in the sub-tropical forests of the most pristine tract of the entire Himalayan chain we will come across numerous Himalayan specialities. Key among these are the endemic Mishmi Wren-babbler, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler Rusty-bellied and Gould’s Shortwings and sought-after Temminck’s and Blyth’s Tragopans among a tantalising selection of laughingthrushes, scimitar-babblers and parrotbills and accompanied by a small selection of large mammals that includes the endemic Mishmi Takin.
This tour provides wide coverage of India’s diverse and bird-rich northeast hill states, combining a variety of areas and habitats within the eastern Himalaya up to 2655m with associated hill ranges and the Brahmaputra valley that divides them.
*November departures may be combined with NE India - Nagaland's Amur Falcon Migration
5 November - 16 November 2019
23 March - 3 April 2020
(also available as a custom tour)
Ground price: £ 1905
Single room supplement: £ 325
Deposit: £ 500
The price includes: Accommodation, all meals, bottled drinking water, all ground transport, all birding/wildlife activities as described, state permit, entry fees, guiding, pre-tour information, species checklists.
The price excludes: Flights, visa fees, travel insurance, drinks other than water, tips and any other expenses of a personal nature.
Maximum group size: 8
Accommodation: Basic lodge rooms in the Mishmi Hills; comfortable rooms with private facilities elsewhere.
Tour grading: Moderate. Most birding will be on foot, some by boat; the tour is intensive in terms of time spent in the field.
Key species: Mishmi Wren-babbler, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, Brown-throated Fulvetta, Pale-capped Pigeon, Temminck's and Blyth's Tragopans, Grey Peacock-pheasant, Bengal Florican, Black-breasted Parrotbill, Swamp Prinia, Marsh Babbler, Mishmi Takin, Western Hoolock Gibbon.
Day 1-4: Dibrugarh to Tinsukia
Arrivals into Dibrugarh airport this morning. We set out on the short drive east to Tinsukia for a four-night stay, with the reminder of the afternoon and a further three full days to explore this region of Upper Assam. In the marshy grasslands that flank the Brahmaputra River at Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and at nearby Maguri Beel we will go in search of three northeast Indian endemics, Black-breasted Parrotbill, Swamp Prinia and Marsh Babbler, alongside a selection of waterfowl, while in patches of lowland forest within Digboi Oilfields where we hope to encounter Rufous-necked and Chestnut-backed Laughingthrushes, and Collared Treepie. We will also visit a vital remnant patch of lowland tropical forest at Dehing-Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary for an exciting selection of Eastern Himalayan and more widespread forest specialities, with birds such as Pale-capped Pigeon, Silver-breasted Broadbill, White-crowned Forktail, White-cheeked Hill-partridge, Grey Peacock-Pheasant, White-winged Duck, up to five species of hornbill including White-throated Brown Hornbill, various flycatchers, warblers and sunbirds in fast-moving feeding flocks, and vocal troops of India’s only ape, Western Hoolock Gibbon.
Day 5: Tinsukia to the Mishmi Hills (Roing)
An early start for the journey northeast, crossing the Brahmaputra River as we head into the Mishmi Hills of Arunachal Pradesh, making our way to the small town of Roing at 400m in the Lower Dibang Valley, the last major township in India’s northeast frontier and our base for a three-night stay. We will spend a total of six-nights in the Mishmi hills, dividing our time between two bases to enable a thorough exploration of the subtropical broadleaf forest and bamboo of the foothills and their flanking grasslands before ascending into coniferous forest and rhododendrons of higher elevations. Around Roing, exploring the transition zone from these plains into the foothills will provide a tantalising introduction to the diversity of this region and we will encounter a good selection of Himalayan specialities during our stay here, including various tits, yuhinas, fulvettas and barwings.
Day 6-7: The Mishmi Hills (Roing)
Two full days exploring the diverse birdlife of the mosaic of floodplain grasslands and forest-flanked outer foothills of the Lower Dibang Valley from our base at Roing. Key targets in grassland areas include the endemic Black-breasted Parrotbill and Bengal Florican. In the low hills we will explore the sub-tropical forests in search of a broad range of species associated with these moderate altitudes, key among which are Red-headed Trogon, Green Cochoa, White-browed Piculet, Red-billed Scimitar-babbler, Pygmy Wren-babbler and all three diminutive tesias.
Day 8-10: The Mishmi Hills (Mayodia)
We move higher into the hills to Mayodia at 2655m to spend these three days birding through a succession of incredible and largely undisturbed Himalayan forest habitats. We will explore these on foot from the paved but relatively quiet road that ascends from Roing to its highest point at Mayodia, and beyond. This is one of Asia’s least-explored birding areas, and birding here is both exciting and productive, with an extensive list of potential species that includes some of the most sought-after specialities of the Himalaya. Among our key targets will be the endemic Mishmi Wren-babbler, and both Temminck’s and Blyth’s Tragopans, with other possibilities including Spotted and Grey-sided Laughingthrushes, Long-billed and Bar-winged Wren-babblers, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, Gould’s and Rusty-bellied Shortwings, Manipur and Brown-throated Fulvettas, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Ward’s Trogon, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Himalayan Cutia and a variety of shrike-babblers, bullfinches, bush-robins, thrushes, redstarts and accentors, plus mammals that include the endemic Mishmi Takin.
Day 11: The Mishmi Hills to Tinsukia
We will spend the morning making our way back into Assam, birding across the elevations as we descend from Mayodia back into the alluvial plains of the Brahmaputra basin to Tinsukia for a one-night stay, where time-permitting we may have the opportunity to re-visit sites during the afternoon.
Day 11: Tinsukia to Dibrugarh, depart
Spend a final few hours around Tinsukia focusing on any species we may have missed. Departures from Dibrugarh airport this afternoon.