Birding North Bengal & Sikkim (6-24 November, 2003)
New Trip Report : by Mike Prince
I have just returned from a tour of North Bengal and Sikkim with Sujan Chatterjee, Bikram Grewal, Bill Harvey, Alpana Khare and Sumit Sen, plus Raj Basu of Help Tourism who arranged the necessary logistics. A full trip report will be produced and circulated in a couple of weeks, so this email just presents very brief highlights of what was a very successful and fantastically enjoyable trip. In all about 320 species were recorded.
I met up with Sujan on 6 November for a week's birding in some under-watched sites in North Bengal before the rest of the party arrived on 13 November. Sujan and I first went to Suntalekhola where, despite the unseasonal rain, we saw plenty of good birds including GreyNightjar, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Maroon Oriole, Grey-chinned and Short-billed Minivets, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, the first of many Slaty-backed Forktails, Sultan Tit, Ashy Bulbul, Yellow-vented, Golden-spectacled and Chestnut-crowned Warblers, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, Long-tailed Sibia, White-naped and Black-chinned Yuhinas. Nearby Samsing produced Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Green-billed Malkoha and Thick-billed Warbler. We then spent two nights at Bindu on the Bhutan border, new birds here (and at nearby Todey) included Wryneck, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Crested Kingfisher, Brown Dipper, Large Niltava, Hodgson's Redstart, Little Forktail, Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush (actually over the border in Bhutan) and Black-throated Sunbird.
We then headed to Karmi Farm at Kolbong near Darjeeling, stopping briefly in Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary en-route where we briefly saw both Chestnut-headed and Grey-bellied Tesias and Long-tailed Broadbills. Around Karmi were Speckled Piculet, Northern Goshawk, Black Eagle, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Yellow-browed Tit, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, all three Minlas, Nepal House Martins and Fire-tailed Sunbirds.
On 12 November we visited Tiger Hill near Darjeeling in the afternoon. The undoubted highlight was a Gould's Shortwing which sat in the open giving me excellent views for about 30 seconds, plus a few seconds for a breathless Sujan who arrived just in time after I shouted to him! Other good species here that afternoon and the following morning were Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, White-collared Blackbird, Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler, Broad-billed Warbler, Spotted and Blue-winged Laughingthrushes, Golden-breasted Fulvettas and Brown Parrotbills.
On 13 November we met up with the rest of the group and birded at Kalijhora, seeing Oriental Pied Hornbill, White-rumped Vulture, Black Stork, Grey-backed Shrike, and Brown Dipper. The following morning there produced two migrating Greater Spotted Eagles with one Steppe Eagle, Maroon Oriole, Short-billed Minivet, Orange-flanked Bush Robin, White-rumped Shama, Hill Myna, Yellow-vented Warbler, Striped Tit Babbler, Crimson Sunbird and Streaked Spiderhunter.
We then went into Sikkim, spending two nights at Pemayangtse and birding there and at nearby Pelling. Birds included Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Mountain Hawk Eagle, migrating Oriental Honey Buzzard and Steppe Eagles, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Long-tailed Minivet, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Large Niltava, Golden Bush Robin, Striated Bulbul, Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler, Blyth's Leaf, Whistler's, Grey-cheeked and Chestnut-crowned Warblers, Grey-sided and Black-faced Laughingthrushes, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Streak-breasted and a Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Scaly-breasted and Pygmy Wren Babblers, Rufous-capped Babbler, White-browed and Black-eared Shrike Babblers, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Rufous-breasted and Maroon Accentors, Dark-breasted Rosefinch and Little Bunting. Interesting to note was a flock of at least 40 parakeets, any species of which is unusual here. Whilst Slaty-headed was definite we also saw at least one bird with a paler head and yellowish bill which we believe to have been a female Blossom-headed Parakeet (subject to checking the literature - further details will be in the full trip report).
The next stop was Kechepuri Lake which had one Mallard and nine Goosander on it, plus Bay Woodpecker, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Hodgson's Redstart, Chestnut-headed Tesia and Little Bunting in and around the nearby forest. We then stayed near Rabangla (seeing Barred Cuckoo Dove there) and visited Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary. The weather was windy and cold, but we still saw a few good birds here including Kalij Pheasant, Ashy Wood Pigeon, four Broad-billed Warblers, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Hoary-throated Barwing, Fire-tailed
Myzornis, Rufous-breasted and Maroon-backed Accentors and Dark-breasted and Pink-browed Rosefinches. After Maenam we stayed one night in Gangtok and visited the outskirts of Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary the next morning. This was an excellent site with Golden Bush Robin, Striated and Mountain Bulbuls, Brownish-flanked and Grey-sided Bush Warblers, Yellow-browed Warbler, several Laughingthrushes including Blue-winged, Black-faced and, best of all, five Red-faced Liocichlas. From Rumtek we saw several Whistler's Warblers, five migrating Oriental Honey Buzzards, Himalayan Griffon, Common Buzzard, Sapphire Flycatcher, Buff-barred and White-spectacled Warblers, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush and Striped Tit Babbler.
Then we headed back into North Bengal and spent a couple of days in Lava and the Neora Valley National Park. Eurasian Woodcock was an excellent sighting here, flushed from the roadside where it was feeding. Orange-flanked and White-browed Bush Robins, Plain-backed Thrush, White-collared Blackbird, Winter Wren, Rufous-vented Tit, Goldcrest, Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler, Grey-cheeked Warbler, Grey-sided Laughingthrush, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Golden Babbler, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Black-throated Parrotbill, Mrs Gould's Sunbird, lots of Maroon-backed Accentors and Spot-winged Rosefinch were among the good birds here. Overall though bird densities were low (certainly compared to our trip at the same time last year) - probably a combination of the late rains and disturbance due to logging plus an army camp set up in the National Park for a couple of months.
Back to the lowlands we then visited Gorumara National Park. Here a long list of good birds included Red Junglefowl, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Lesser Coucal, Green-billed Malkoha, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Red-breasted Parakeet, Himalayan Swiftlet, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Green Imperial Pigeon, River Lapwing, Greater Painted Snipe, Lesser Fish Eagle, Common Buzzard, Peregrine, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Long-tailed Broadbill, Ashy Woodswallow, Large and Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Lesser and Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, Large Woodshrike, Grey-bellied Tesia, Thick-billed Warbler, Yellow-vented Warbler, Pygmy Wren Babbler and Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker. Our last main site visited was the Teesta Barrage at Gazoldoba and this proved excellent. Sixteen species of ducks were seen including Common Shelduck, a fantastic pair of Falcated Duck, Garganey, Red-crested Pochard and Ferruginous Pochard. A few waders included a Lesser Sand Plover and a remarkable count of 200 Northern Lapwing. Raptors included Osprey, both Western and Eastern Marsh Harriers (the latter, Circus (aeruginosus) spilonotus, a female bird, clearly showing pale patches on the primaries below like a buteo, plus whitish upper-tail coverts), a male Hen Harrier and Peregrine. Eight Great Crested and three Black-necked Grebes were seen as well as a number of passerines otherwise not recorded on our trip. The final birds of note were a flock of 24 White-rumped and five Slender-billed Vultures at Bagdogra.
All in all a superb trip to some underwatched areas. The 294 species was excellent considering we did only one afternoon visit to a wetland. Coupled with my recent north India tour it means I personally saw a total of 450 different species in less than 30 days! Details of the complete trip report will be posted here when available.
Find details Trip Report @ http://www.kolkatabirds.com/netrip1.htm
Also visit our dedicated birding website EastIndiaBirding.com