Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tractor Egrets and Cattle Drongos?! A Trip to Nedumpara

My dad's side of the family stems from a place called Puttenvariyam in the village of Nedumpara near the city of Shoranur in Kerala. PHEW.

Anyway, this summer (May 7, May 8, May 9) , we (my dad and I) took a train there to spend 3 days with my uncle and aunt there.

The odds of getting the train were very low in the first place, when we booked the ticket, we saw that our waitlist was 17! That meant 17 people had to not go by that train for us to have a chance. But the gods of fate smiled down upon us, and somehow, we got the train!

We reached Shoranur, and were picked up by my uncle in his white Ambassador car. Soon, we reached Puttenvariyam, and had some legendary dosas for breakfast. Then, we went birding for the first time.

It was AMAZING. It seemed as if every bird in Nedumpara had come to greet us upon our arrival. We saw birds like Woolly-necked Stork, Asian Openbill, Waterhens, Needletails, and Munias. A small bird hopping around the field was a Paddyfield Pipit. Ashy Woodswallows (which my dad calls Whooshy Adswallows) flew around, along with a few Indian Swiftlets and Barn Swallows. Suddenly, a small black-and-yellow bird alighted on a telephone pole. I looked at it closely. A Streaked Weaver: a lifer for me! Totally, we saw 54 birds on that single hour-long outing to the paddyfields. Wow!

2 interesting 'new species' were seen on that trip: what my dad calls Cattle Drongos and Tractor Egrets.

The Tractor Egrets were the Cattle Egrets that followed the harvesting tractor while harvesting the rice and caught up the insects jumping out. All birds, of course, eventually adapt to modern technology.
The Cattle Drongos filled in the role of the egrets and decided to firmly stick to the cows on the field and feast on insects.

The peacock appeared for the first time around 9 in the morning. We had heard its raucous call on our first outing, but this time we could actually see it. We went into the field to get a better look. It was a peahen, calmly pecking at the (insects?) in the grass without a care in the world. We discovered that there was a resident waterhen in the farm, and it would run around helter-skelter and hide in the cow's hay when alarmed.

Speaking of the cows, there are 5 there. Two black-and-white cows, one huge black one, a brown one and a calf I call Daredevil.Why, you ask? When my uncle let him out to see his mother for the first time after we came, he went sort of hyper. He started jumping about and skidding in the mud and generally having a whale of a time. Finally, it took the combined efforts of my cousin and uncle to rein him in.

The afternoon was searing hot, not to mention humid. You go out, you sweat like crazy. The next time we could go birding was only at 4 in the evening. Not much was seen: the sun was still there, and there was little to hear as well. it began to rain quite heavily around 5.

The next morning, we ditched birding to visit the nearby temples. There are 2 temples very close to the house, the Kulashekharanelloor Shiva temple and the Chirakkulangara Bhagavati Temple. The Shiva temple is said to be one of the 108 temles built by Parashurama, the incarnation of Vishnu in kerala. The Bhagavati temple is even more fascinating. The stone idol there is 'SwayamBhoo' or self-born. My father (who has been coming to this temple since his childhood) says it's true and as time passes, he can actually see the image of the goddess emerging from the stone. After praying there, we headed towards the Katyayini Bhagavati Temple in Cheruthuruthy, the nearest town.

At the Katyayini Temple, there is actually no idol: there is just a Valkannadi, which is said to be a representation of the goddess. When we returned, it was too hot and humid to bird. We eventually ended up going at around 4:10 to bird. Only the general species were seen though.

The next morning, we visited the Mookuthala Temple, opposite which is my grandmother's ancestral property. We have been there many times before, and I know that it was one of tthe places the great Bhakti saint Adi Shankaracharya visited. It is also the place where the legendary poet Melpattur Narayana Bhattathiri spent his last few years. There was a huge variety of different species there. My dad snapped an amazing photo of 3 birds on a single tree: A Black Drongo, Racket-tailed Drongo and an Indian Grey Hornbill! We saw a shy Red Spurfowl and 2 Orange-headed Thrushes on our way back.

We paid a visit to my 3rd cousins opposite the temple, who live right next to my great-grandfather's house. Sadly, my great-grandfather's plot (which got sold when he died) is now the centre of a hollow-brick producing unit.

The next day, we did not bird much in the morning; the afternoon was the only time we could bird because we were leaving in the evening. However, a very obliging Black-rumped Flameback gave us good views. Suddenly, a Rufous Woodpecker alighted on the branch right in front of us. Wow!

It started raining extremely heavily around 4 in the evening, and persisted till seven or so. No just-before-leaving birding. :{

We boarded the Sam Tourist bus, which strangely chose its pickup point at a pub near Thrissur (30 km away). We reached home, happy to return but sad to have left Kerala at the same time.


Black-hooded Oriole

Whooshy Adswallows: No Third Wheels here!

Jackfruit: the world's largest fruit
Grown at home in Nedumpara. Delicious!

Triple Treat: Treepie, Hornbill and Drongo

A game of cricket in the fields

A Woolly Necked Stork (I believe someone calls it Wholly Naked Stork)

The uncomparable Peacock

The Not-so-Common Iora
Tractor Egrets (Egretta tractoricus)

A Hornbill wolfing down ants

The rice harvest kept to dry in the attic

The Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo

My mom's favourite: Greater Flameback

Munia Party

The Cattle Drongo (Drongo moomoo?)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

On the Quest for the Booted Warbler: A narrative in 3 Days

Day 1

After birding at the lake, I was returning home on my cycle when I heard a squirrel making loud sounds, being chased by a Black Kite. I went to see, and the squirrel saved itself and scurried into a hollow in a Cassia tree.

As I saw this, I heard a dull buzzing in a flower-bearing bush nearby. I went to investigate, and sure enough, soon saw a small bird hopping about quirkily, never staying for more than a second on a branch. I made a soft 'chik' noise, and it (sort of) came out to investigate. I saw a dull brown colour, and a visible 'eyebrow'. I immediately recognized it as a Booted Warbler! This was a miracle: it is summer in India now, and this warbler should have left here in February and went to North-western India and Pakistan. But for some reason, it decided to stick around and enjoy the weather. I rushed home and went to get my camera. I dashed back (with my pet stray dog Bruno and his mate Sky following against my wishes) to the spot and began to aim the camera.

I nearly got it many times: it was just a tad too fast for me. Then, disaster struck, kind of. Bruno and Sky began to parade through the bushes, and now there was no hope for finding it. I gave up.

Day 2

Today, we went in the evening with our sole aim to photograph it. I stood there a while, rooted to the spot, saw it a few times, and it ultimately disappeared. I gave up.

Day 3

Today, we went at 10 in the morning, this time without Sky and Bruno and with my dad. The photo was taken rapidly, and an endeavour lasting for 3 days had finally ended.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Land of the Dawn-lit Mountains- My Trip to Arunachal pradesh

   I had been itching to go to the North-east parts of India for a long time. The variety of birdlife there is found nowhere else in India. When IT Nature Club, a reputed tour company based in Bangalore, organized a tour to the Mishmi Hills, a location in the extreme Northeast of India, we packed our bags and were ready to go.

The Mishmi Hills is probably one of the most little-known birding hotspots in India. It has over 700 different species, and often existence of new species comes as a surprise . It is best-known for being the home to the Rusty-throated Wren-babbler, a minuscule bird (only 9 cm long), which was described from a single netted specimen by Salim Ali and SD Ripley all the way back in 1947. However, it wasn't till 2006 when Ben King and Julian Donahue visited this area and found a fairly large population near the Mayodia Pass, at 2666m (8742 feet) above sea level.

                                Location of Mishmi Hills

Anyway, we set off on our trip, beginning with a 55 kilometre drive to the Bangalore airport at 4:30 in the morning. From there, we took a flight to Kolkata, and yet another one to Dibrugarh in Assam. We stepped out of the plane, officially in one of the states called the 7 Sisters of the Northeast (Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh). We met our driver, Prashanto, who would take us till Arunachal Pradesh, up to Mayodia, through Mayodia to Hunli, and all the way back!

He drove us to our accommodation in Dibrugarh, the Club House. It was a simple room, with 2 beds, a TV, a closet, a sofa, and the like. We met the other people coming with us- Gitanjali, the owner of IT Nature Club, who has been here before 3 times already, and Mr. Saroj and family, also from Bangalore.


We spent the night in Dibrugarh, and woke up at 5:00 in the morning.

In the northeast, the sun sets at about 4:30 PM and rises at 5:30 AM. This is because it is one of the eastern-most states, but still follows the Indian Standard Time. We woke up with the sunrise, and found that it was very cold. My sister began shivering, and only 4 layers could keep her warm! But little did we know how cold it would get in Arunachal Pradesh. We left Dibrugarh and began to head for the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. On the way to the next large town, Tinsukia, 47 km from Dibrugarh, Prashanto stopped and said "Vultures!"

We disembarked and grabbed our binoculars. Sure enough, there were close to hundred vultures, gathered around on the trees on either side of the road. Possibly, a creature like a cow had died in the distance, and the vultures had come to feast on it. Himalayan Griffons, majestic, huge birds, abounded. There were a few critically endangered Slender-billed Vultures also there. A lifer for me. Way to start. 

Turtledoves cooed from the trees, long-tailed shrikes hopped around.

Despite the cold and having just woken up, we felt awakened.

As my dad said, "There's nothing like vultures to wake you up in the morning." :)

We crossed Tinsukia, a small town with a lot of small automobile retailers. There were lots of myna flocks on the side of the road- Great Mynas and Common Mynas. We went through agricultural lands and tea plantations until we reached Dirak Checkpost, the border to Arunachal Pradesh. Non-residents of Arunachal Pradesh need an Inner Line Permit (ILP) or a RAP (Restricted Area Permit) to let you in for a short period of time. (IT Nature Club had already arranged RAPs for all of us)

There is a marked difference in the landscape the moment you enter Arunachal Pradesh.- green plantations and local village stilt houses made of bamboo. The stilt houses are a kind of construction exclusive to the North East. The local streams could overflow and flood into the villages during the rains. So, the stilts, on which the houses are balanced keep the house above water. Older houses had the stilts also made of bamboo, but the modern ones had the stilts made of concrete. 

We continued the drive, eventually reaching a monastery on the banks of the river Teang, a tributary of the river Lohit, which in turn is a tributary of the mighty river Brahmaputra. There was a giant Buddha statue inside the monastery, and it was very peaceful. The Himalayan or Crested Kingfisher was sighted flying past. After a drive through fields and houses, we stopped at a bridge over the Teang, where we saw a group of Small Pratincole, Common Sandpiper, and Siberian Stonechats. 

We crossed the massive, fast-flowing Lohit river on a ferry.

We went past the moderately large town of Roing, and then crossed the massive Deopani river on a bridge made of sheets of iron welded together! Prashanto said that in the rainy season, the water rose 15 feet, and sometimes even flooded Roing. But the mighty Deopani, in the winter, was just a small stream through rocks. There is a very shaky bamboo walk bridge across the river, for the locals to cross during the rains. While we found it very rickety, the local residents were crossing this with ease. 

Finally, we reached our stay, Dibang Valley Jungle Camp, where we would stay for the next 2 days.The moment we reached, we met our guide, Jayanta Manna, who would take us up to Mayodia, looking for the Wren-Babbler, and the elusive but stunning Sclater's Monal.

The first bird we saw was a Eurasian Sparrowhawk, silently patrolling the skies. What a way to start! There are orange orchards all around, and these orchards are rich in bird life. A grey-backed shrike made its sharp, creaky call, surveying us from its perch in a nearby tree.We saw the first of many red-vented bulbuls in the orchards. They would become the most common bird on the course of the 9 days in Arunachal. We sighted an Ashy Drongo. A barbet began to call, very much like the call of the White-cheeked Barbet in the south, but up here, it is a Blue-throated Barbet.

A bamboo thicket full of Red-whiskered Bulbuls and Oriental white-eyes yielded an unexpected surprise when a colourful Long-tailed Minivet offered a tantalizing glimpse of its orange colours before it returned to the foliage. We heard a small flock of Fantails, mainly Yellow-bellied and white-throated. The bird that gave the background music to the whole trip with its omnipresent call- the Great barbet, was first heard here.

A small bird darted across the path, jumped around on a few leaves, and disappeared as mysteriously as it came. Jayanta said that we had just seen the Yellow-bellied Warbler, one of the hardest birds in the world to photograph! A rustle in the leaves caused us to look up, and we were treated by a glimpse of the Hoary-bellied Squirrel, also known as Irrawaddy Squirrel.

We went on, keeping a keen lookout for any movement. An extremely tiny bird shot out of the bushes, and moved to another one; it was the notoriously-difficult-to-spot Pygmy Cupwing! The forest erupted with bird calls. A flock of Black Bulbuls had arrived, and were making lots of noise. Jayanta picked out a reedy whistle in a ravine in the midst of the calls, and called me over. A white-browed shortwing's call it was!

Jayanta has a remarkable ability gained from years of experience in the field- he can tell what any bird is just by hearing its call! Even a small chirp in the bushes can be identified with surety. It is amazing when it is just a very generic call you hear and Jayanta tells you exactly which species it is!

A buzzing noise was followed and we chanced upon a Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher in the bushes. Jayanta thought he heard a dull chirping from a bamboo thicket, and we followed him to it. It was really awesome when we saw a flash of white-and-rufous before the very rare White-hooded Babbler disappeared. A noisy group of new arrivals in the canopy were looked at thoroughly with our binoculars before we determined that it was a mixed flock of Striated Yuhinas and the irregular Silver-eared Mesia. The yuhinas were perpetually there, and we would see many more and other species as well on the course of the trip.

A loud, raucous call from deep in the forest was identified by Jayanta as a White-crested Laughingthrush, a bird that we heard numerous times over the trip. We got one picture in a later birding trail. 

Another, rather different, raucous call erupted from a nearby tree. Following this, Gitanjali, Jayanta and I saw a flash of red and brown and an ivory-white beak. We were one of the lucky few in the world to see a Pale-headed Woodpecker!

The sun began to go down, as the clock touched 4:30. We trudged back to the camp, tired but satisfied by the day's findings.


We woke up with the sunrise, at 5:30. We had some tea, and left for another walk down the same trail. The tribals of Arunachal Pradesh do not believe in milking animals. They feel that milk is for calves and calves alone. 

We left on the trail and soon were met by Red-vented Bulbuls and Bronzed Drongos. A flock of Streaked Spiderhunters alighted on a bare tree. Their silhouetted sickle-like bills was a sight in the morning light. Long-tailed Sibias chattered, their alarms calls echoing across the forest. At the next bamboo thicket, we were in for a pleasant surprise. 

A Spotted Wren-babbler had come outside and was jumping around on the bushes near the road. It was too fast, though, and nobody could get a photo. We walked on, hearing the constant bickering of yuhinas and the ever-present yet faraway call of the Great Barbet. 

A rustle in the bushes made everyone think that there must be a squirrel, but  Jayanta thought otherwise. He said that it was the rarely-seen Buff-breasted Babbler! We tried to get a few shots, but failed. Also in that bush was a Puff-throated Babbler, the Buff-breasted's close relative. We heard a Scaly Laughingthrush in the distance. An iridescent male Black-throated Sunbird flew out from a tree and crossed the road. 

A green bird with a red head, as small as a warbler, poked its head out a bush for the briefest of seconds, and then disappeared. It was a Mountain Tailorbird! A Maroon Oriole flew past, its red colour glistening in the pale morning sun. A shouting noise began rumbling out of the forest, audible even from far away. A Hoolock Gibbon troupe was making a ruckus, their screamed calls heard by probably everyone in a 5 kilometre radius. We returned, satisfied, for breakfast. But just as we were entering, we saw a small flock of birds on a dead tree. We clicked them, and zoomed in. Black-breasted Thrush! Wow!

Breakfast held the first of our many meetings with the resident Hodgson's Redstart in the area. After breakfast, we decided to go to higher-altitude areas to see if there were different species. It proved to be worthwhile, as the first bird we saw was the rare Jerdon's Baza, followed by a Collared Treepie and a Mountain Hawk-eagle. 

A velvety-black butterfly resting on the ground was the uncommon Black Prince. We saw our first Mithun of the trip just then. Mithuns are a domesticated descendant of the Indian Gaur and are found only in Arunachal. They are huge animals, with giant black bodies. 

There was a manic chirping coming from the bushes near the Mithun, and to our surprise, another Mountain Tailorbird flew out! The Hoolock Gibbons began calling, and this time they were close. We ran to the spot and caught a very quick glimpse of a black male and an orange female disappearing into the canopy. Amazing!

We returned, the day steadily getting hotter. Near the orange orchards, something blue-and-orange came, perched on a branch, and disappeared; a Rufous-bellied Niltava! Another one; a Small Niltava! 2 Niltavas in 1 place; we decided to call that place 'Niltava Point'.

Day 3

We began by heading to Sally Lake, a nearby artificial lake that also had a nearby stream that was good for forktails. On the way, we saw Olive-backed Pipits, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrikes, Daurian Redstart, and Long-tailed Minivets.

At Sally Lake, we paid a guy at the entrance Rs. 20 for entry, and we were in. There is a government bungalow in Sally Lake, but since nobody ever really comes there, it has fallen into a state of disuse. We proceeded towards the stream, and saw a Black-backed Forktail cut across the water to a dead tree. Its black-and-white tailed looked awesome. We went to the stream, and waited. All of a sudden, a White-crowned Forktail poked is head out from behind a rock and began hopping around. Soon, a Spotted Forktail also joined it. 3 different species of Forktail in 15 minutes! The White-crowned was the most stunning. It had the longest black-and-white tail, and was amazingly beautiful. 

We left Dibang Valley Jungle Camp, and we set off for the village of Hunli, 85 km away and over the 8700 feet-high Mayodia Pass. On the way, we saw Long-tailed Sibias, Orange-bellied Leafbird, White-naped Yuhina, Beautiful Sibia, Himalayan Buzzard, Green-tailed Sunbird, Brown-throated Fulvetta, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, and Striated laughingthrush, while Saroj Uncle got a picture of a Rusty-fronted Barwing.

We reached Mayodia, and it was freezing; the temperature was about 5 degrees celsius! Mayodia, as jayanta said, is an Idu Mishmi (The local language) word meaning 'That which has snow on the top'. We saw a huge flock of Brown-throated Fulvettas just past the road sign indicating the Mayodia Pass. We heard a Hill Partidge, with its repititive call, down in the valley. A long-tailed bird flew overhead, and we did not realize that it was a Yellow-billed Magpie until it had cleared the ridge and disappeared.

We had lunch at Maya Hotel, the only commercial establishment in Mayodia. They serve tea, a local pork dish, and omelettes from a ramshackle building. Not much of a menu, but to find such ingredients in a cold, barren place like this truly made you value the food. The entire shack is made of metal sheets and the bathroom, which is a tiny unit outside the main section on a rocky overhang, probably has the best view from any bathroom anywhere in the world. Some of the iron sheets have rusted and given away to form a window of sorts, with a commanding view of the entire Dibang Valley. The residents of the hotel sit close to a roaring fire all day long, and a huge can of water is constantly heated. 

We went down to Hunli, 30 km away, and reached the Government Circuit House, and took rooms. The rooms had 4 names- Chopo, Ethun, Thuwu and Kupu. I don't know what they mean. We were in Thuwu. It was pitch dark, and no electricity to light up the few bulbs. The night sky was amazing for the little while we could bear to stand out and watch.

Day 4

I was so sleepy that I missed the morning's birding at Hunli. I woke up at about 7:00 and began birding in the vicinity of the Circuit House. I was with my sister and mom, feeling sad that the group would probably be seeing the stunning Fire-tailed Myzornis, when a small green bird alighted on the wire-netting fence in front of me. I grabbed my binoculars and looked at it. An emerald-green body, a black eyebrow... Could this be? It turned around. A red tail! I was elated. Just the very bird i had been thinking of! A Fire-tailed Myzornis! I couldn't take a shot though, but seeing this brilliantly coloured bird just hopping around near the Circuit House is a feeling too great to describe with mere words alone. We returned, happy, waiting to tell the news. 

Later, we decided to go up to the Hunli-Mayodia road. We went out, and heard a buzzing call. We turned around, to find the ultra-rare Hill Prinia perched on a tree. We got some excellent shots! This bird has a disproportionately long tail in comparison to its body. I have put the picture taken below. (after report)

Leafbirds were common on the trail, as were Yuhinas. We heard the tiger-like roar of a Barking Deer and the muffled whistling of a Collared Owlet. A mixed flock, apart from yuhinas, contained the vividly-colored Golden Babbler, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, and Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher. A huge flock of Barwings flew past, and was quickly identified by Jayanta as Rusty-fronted. We heard a faint call of Dark-breasted Rosefinch. On the way back, we saw 4 Grey Bushschats and a Little Bunting in Hunli.

In the evening, we returned to the Hunli-Anini road (where we went in the morning) and began to bird. A pigeon-like shape burst across the bushes, dropping a few feathers. Jayanta examined the feathers and said that it was the elusive Speckled Wood-pigeon! He let me keep the feathers too. Thank you Jayanta!

We finally saw a Great Barbet and witnessed a flock of Mountain Bulbuls settling to roost. We also decided that it was our time to roost and returned to Hunli. 

Day 5

Today was the day we were leaving Hunli, and were going to spend the night at Mayodia, to see the Sclater's Monal. However, my sister couldn't bear the cold at Mayodia, so we decided to bird at Mayodia for the day and spend the night at Dibang (30km away). 

However, just before leaving, we decided to take a quick walk outside. Near a hut in Hunli, there was a buzzing, chirping call. We waited there quietly, and a small brown bird showed its head for a a second or two before disappearing. Jayanta said it was a Mishmi Hills Wren Babbler! We had not seen this bird in any of the forests on the trip but we saw near a hut in a village! Miraculous.

A small flock of Lemon-rumped Warblers flew past. Rufous-capped babblers hid in the bushes, never showing themselves. I heard a whistling bird in the distance and began to imitate its call. To my surprise, it responded! We kept up 'conversation' for a few minutes, until Jayanta told me that I had been conversing with the uncommon Blue-winged Laughingthrush! A small flock of birds alighted on a wild rice plant were identified as White-rumped Munias, not usually found in this area! On the way back, we saw our only Spotted Dove of the trip, including a flock of Red-billed Leiothrixes, which has an awesome name!

We drove up to Mayodia, stopping on the way to look for birds. One such stop stemmed from an attempt to take a picture of a Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo but culminated in seeing a group of one of the rarest birds in India. The drongo flew off, but in a ravine, we saw a rapidly-moving flock of small birds; Black-throated Parrotbills! It was impossible to get even close to a photo; they never sat, just flitting from one place to another so fast, it was very hard to keep track! They seemed as if they might cross the road, but just when they were on a tree right next to it, they turned around and went downward into the ravine. 

We went on to Mayodia, and there, we were treated by a huge flock of the Brown-throated Fulvetta, a bird that likes high altitudes. We had lunch at Maya Hotel, and took a few pictures with the sign that said "Welcome to Mayodia Pass". We bid goodbye to Jayanta, Gitanjali, Saroj uncle and his family as we went to Dibang while they stayed at the Mayodia Pass.  

We reached Dibang and the day passed uneventfully.

Day 6

We were alone at Dibang. My dad, mom, sister and I decided to go birding, and we went to a nearby stream. We heard a Pale-headed Woodpecker, and hoped to see it. So, we spent 45 minutes there, waiting for the woodpecker to come out in the open. And then, somehow, we saw it on a dead tree on the other side of the trail! It was very far away, and my dad could only get a very grainy photo. Still, a photo is a photo; 16th picture of Pale-headed Woodpecker from my count on the Internet!

The cook told us that there was a fish pond nearby, but while looking for it, we got lost. We managed to get back by following the orange trees until we reached the dining area. 

Day 7

The rest of the group came to Dibang today. They did not see monals, or tragopans, or trogons, but they saw many high-altitude species like Manipur Fulvetta. We left back for Dibrugarh, bidding goodbye to Arunachal Pradesh. "I'll be back..." I whispered, " I shall look upon your snow-capped mountain peaks again... And that time I shall see a Monal too..."
We bid goodbye to Jayanta. He is really amazing, I learnt a lot from him - especially identifying birds by their calls, distinguishing a mimic from the real bird. I hope that I can meet him again.

We crossed the Dirak checkpoint into Assam and reached Dihing River Camp in Dibrugarh, a 7 hour drive. We took the ferry across the Lohit river. Finally, at 10:00 PM, we reached. We were staying in a traditional Assamese stilt house, with everything made of bamboo; the foundation, the walls, the roof, the beds, the verandah outside.

Day 8

One of the people at the camp, Mr. Bhavesh, said his village was very nearby and he would take us there to get a taste of Assamese culture. We walked along the Dihing River, seeing Sand Martins, Ruddy Shelducks, and Great Cormorants all around. There were many wagtails around. We walked 4 kilometres, finally reaching the village of Devari. It looked like a village seen straight out of a movie. Villagers walked around to and fro, either going about their daily hustle and bustle, or talking with a friend. There were goats and kids and pigs and piglets and cows and calves and dogs and hens and chicks ... domesticated animals all around. 

We met Mr. Bhavesh's wife, who taught my sister and Saroj uncle's daughter how to weave, and said that she weaves her own dresses; in fact, what she was wearing was woven by her! We went around the village, and as we left, Bhavesh's wife gave my sister, my mom, Saroj uncle's wife and her daughter (the women of the group) hand-stitched cloth to tie around the head. She explained that if you wear it, it's called a tokoya, and when you take it off, it's called a gamusa. My sister didn't take it off until she went to sleep that day!

In the evening, we had some Bihu dancers come to the camp and give a performance. Bihu is the local harvest festival. Even though it isn't now, some people had come. We went out to see and were pleasantly surprised to see that they were kids! The dance was amazing. My sister went to dance too!

Day 9

We finally said goodbye to the North-east, its trees, its people, and its lack of internet connectivity (:D). We drove to Mohanbari airport in Dibrugarh, and took a flight to Kolkata, and then back to Bangalore.

It was an amazing trip, one that I will remember and cherish for as I long as I can.   

This has been a long one, so I have not been as elaborate as I wanted to be. Feel free to comment if you want more details. I would love to hear from you. 



Short forms
BAN: Bangalore Airport
KOL: Kolkata Airport
DIB: Dibrugarh
DIR: Dirak Checkpost
TEA: Teang River
MONA: Monastery
DVJC: Dibang Valley Jungle Camp
LOH: Lohit Ferry
MAY: Mayodia Pass
HUN: Hunli
ANI: Hunli-Anini Road (just outside Hunli)
SAL: Sally Lake
TIW: Tiwarigaon (small village on way to Mayodia)
DIH: Dihing River Camp

  1. 2 White wagtail (kol, loh)
  2. 4 House Sparrow (ban)
  3. 2 common myna (ban))
  4. 1 Black drongo (kol)
  5. 3 house crow (kol)
  6. 10 eurasian tree sparrow (dib, teang)
  7. 1 Whitebrowed wagtail (dib)
  8. 2 jungle myna (dib)
  9. X great myna (dib)
  10. 9 asian pied stsrling (dib)
  11. X himalayan griffon (dib)
  12. 2 longtsiled shrike (dib)
  13. 1 Slenderbilled vulture (dib)
  14. 1 eastern jungle crow (dib)
  15. 3 indian roller (dib, dir)
  16. 2 oriental turtledove (dib)
  17. X redvented bulbul (everywhere)
  18. 6 little egret (dir)
  19. 4 barn swallows ( dir)
  20. 2 scalybreasted munia (dir) HEARD
  21. 8 roseringed parakeet (dir)
  22. X spangled drongo (dir, dvjc, may, hun)
  23. 2 little cormoramt (mona)
  24. 1 crested kingfisher (mona)
  25. 3 warbler sp. (Teang)
  26.  1 common sandpiper (teang)
  27. 1 siberian stonechat (teang)
  28. 1 yellow wagtail (teang)
  29. 1 common tailorhird (teang)
  30. X small pratincole (teang)
  31. 2 grey backed shrike (dvjc, hun)
  32. 1 eurasian sparrowhawk (dvjc)
  33. 1 Blue throated barbet (dvjc)
  34. X ashy drongo (evetywhere)
  35. X redwhiskered bulbul (everywhere)
  36. 11 oriental whiteeye ( dvjc)
  37. X longtailed minivet (everywhere)
  38. 2 white throated fantail (may, dvjc)
  39. X yellow bellied fantail (everywhere heard, seen at sal)
  40. X great barbet (everywhere heard seen at ani)
  41. X black bulbul (everywhere)
  42. Yellowbellied warbler (dvjc)
  43. X Golden fronted barbet (heard everywhere  see at dvjc)
  45. 1 Pygmy wren babbler (dvjc)
  46. 1White-browed shortwing (heard @dvjc)
  47. 2 Grey headed canary flycatcher ( sal,dvjc)
  48. 1 coralbilled scimitar babbler (heard at dvjc)
  49. X bronzed drongo ( everywhere)
  50. 1 whitehooded babbler (dvjc)
  51. X silvereared mesia (ani, dvjc)
  52. X striated yuhina ( mainly dvjc)
  53. 3 rufouswinged fulvetta (may, ani, dvjc)
  54. 1 lesser rufousheaded parrotbill (heard at dvjc)
  55. X whitecrested laughingthrush ( heard everywhere)
  56. Paleheaded woodpecker (heard at ani hun and dvjc, seen at dvjc)
  57. X streaked spiderhunter (dvjc)
  58. X longtailed sibia ( heard everywhere alarm call, seen at tiw)
  59. 1 redbilled scimitar babbler (heard at dvjc)
  60. 1 spotted wren babbler (dvjc)
  61. 1 buff breasted babbler (dvjc)
  62. 1 puff throated babbler (dvjc)
  63. X black throsted sunbird (dvjc)
  64. 1 scaly laughingthrush (heard at dvjc)
  65. X lesser racket tailed drongo ( evrryehere)
  66. 2 mountain tailorboird (seen at dvjc)
  67. 2 shprtbilled minivet (dvjc)
  68. 1 lesser yellownape (dvjc)
  69. 2 maroon oriole (dvjc)
  70. 1 chestnut tailed minla (dvjc)
  71. 2 blackchinned yuhina (dvjc)
  72. 4 HOOLOCK GIBBON (dvjc, hun, sal)
  73. 1 wedgetailed greenpigeon (dvjc)
  74. 8 blackbreasted thrush (dvjc)
  75. 2 hodgson's redstart (dvjc)
  76. 1 collared treepie (heard dvjc)
  77. 1 jerdon baza ( dvjc)
  78. 2 mountwin hawkeagle (may  dvjc)
  79. 2 ashy throated warbler (hun dvjc)
  80. 1 Wren babbler sp. (Dvjc heard)
  81. 1 phylloscopus sp. (Dvjc heard)
  82. 1 slaty bellied tesia (dvjc heard)
  83. 4 nepal house martin (hun dvjc)
  84. X chestbut hesded tesia (hesrd everywhere)
  85. X whitenaped yuhina (hun, may, dvjc)
  86. Omr (niltava point (nil), dvjc)
  87. Rufousbellied niltava( nil)
  88. Small niltava (nil)
  89. 4 grey bushchat (hun, dvjc)
  90. 2 blyths leafwarbler (ani, dvjc)
  91. 12 olivebacked pipit (may, dvjc)
  92. 5 barwinged flycatchershrike (ani, dvjc)
  93. X blue whistlingthrush (dvjc, ani, hun, may)
  94. 2 daurian redstart (dvjc)
  95. 1 chestnut tailed starling ( dvjc)
  96. 1 pin striped tit babbler ( heard at sal)
  97. 1 blackbacked forktail (sal)
  98. 1 whitecrowned forktail (sal)
  99. 2 spotted forktail (dvjc-may drive, sal)
  100. 1 common kingfisher (sal)
  101. 1 greycheeked warbler (heard at sal)
  102. 1 grey bellied tesia (sal)
  103. 1 hill blue flycatcher (h) (dvjc)
  104. X orange bellied leafbird (ani, hun, may, dvjc)
  105. 21 mountain bulbul ( ani, hun, may)
  106. X blue winged lesfbird (dvjc, may ,hun)
  107. 3 Mishmi hills (rustythroated) wren babbler ( 1 seen at hun, 2 heard at tiw, hun)
  108. 3 striated laughingthrish ( 2 at may, 1 h at hun)
  109. 1 nepal fulvetta (heard on way to hun)
  110. 1 grey bellied babbler (heard on road to hun)
  111. 2 beautiful sibia ( may)
  112. X brown throated fulvetta ( may)
  113. 3 green tailed sunbird (may)
  114. 18 rusty throated barwing ( may, hun)
  115. 1 rufous gorgeted flycatcher (may)
  116. X rufous vented yuhina (may)
  117. X stripe throated yuhina (may)
  118. 1 hill partridge (may heard)
  119. 2 yeĺowbilled blue magpie (may)
  120. Pied thrush??????
  121. 1 fire tailed myzornis (hun)
  122. 3 thick billed flowerpecker ( hun, ani)
  123. 1 hill prinia (hun)
  124. 2 golden  breasted fulbetta (hun)
  125. 3 darkbreasted rosefinch (hun)
  126. Collared owlet (hesrd @hun)
  127. 6 yellow throated fulvetta (hun)
  128. X golden babbler ( hun, may ani)
  129. 1 white spectacled warbler (hun)
  130. 3 darkthroated thrush (hun)
  131. 2 rufous bellied bushrobin (hun, may)
  132. 1 littld bunting hun)
  133. 1 blackthroated thrush (heard ani)
  134. 1 Speckled woodpigeon (ani)
  135. 7 lemonrumped warbler (hun)
  136. 2 firebreasted flowerpecker (ani, hun)
  137.  1 Rufous capped babbler (hesrd at hun)
  138. Common chiffchaff??
  139. 11 white rumped munia (hun)
  140. 1 spotted dove (hun)
  141. 3 redbilled leiothrix ( hin)
  142. 1 grry treepie (h @ hun)
  143. 1 Himalayan buzzard (hun)
  144.  1 Eurasian blackbird (hun)
  145. 5 blackthrosted psrrotgill ( may)
  146. 1 rufous woodpecker (dvjc)
  147. 1 scalybellied woodpecker (dvjc)
  148. Small Pratincole (TEA)

A few PICTURES below....

Himalayan Griffon
Slender-billed Vulture

The Buddha at the Monastery

Grey-backed Shrike

Me and Jayanta

Long-tailed Minivet

Black-backed Forktail

The elusive White-crowned Forktail

Long-tailed Sibia

The bathroom at Maya Hotel

The snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas

Black Bulbuls in flight

The rare Hill Prinia

Colorful Great Barbet

At Mayodia

The Godfather Collection: Much more than a trilogy now!
Godfather is the cheapest beer you get here. 

Whiskered Yuhina

White-rumped Munia

Frost on a leaf at Mayodia

A photo of the Pale-headed Woodpecker

Rufous Woodpecker

Ruddy Shelduck

Asian Openbill

A pink dragonfly?!

Common Pochard and possibly a third Baer's

Eurasian Tree Sparrow

The Mayodia Pass from far away, looks like the Goddess Lakshmi!

Edit: 20 Jan 2015

Received a gift from IT Nature Club. "Of Birds and Birdsong" by M. Krishnan.
Look forward to reading it.
Thank you, Geetanjali, for the gift and the great trip to Arunachal Pradesh. It was perfect! Looking forward to coming with you on more 'off-road' trips. My Thanks to Jayanta Manna also for helping me with so many birds and of course, birdsongs.