Eastern Himalaya

Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Nagaland

Eastern Himalaya

Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Nagaland

Eastern Himalaya

Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Nagaland

Eastern Himalaya

Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Nagaland

Eastern Himalaya

Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Nagaland

Eastern Himalaya

Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Nagaland

Eastern Himalaya

Eaglenest, Mishmi Hills, Assam and Nagaland

18th April - 8th May 2022

Yellow-throated Laughingthrush extension: 16th - 18th April 2022

Leader: Mike Nelson

Situated along the southern frontier of the mighty Himalaya, Arunachal Pradesh was for many years cut-off from the birding circuit due to red-tape and access restrictions, and birders visited the neighbouring country of Bhutan to explore this fascinating region. With the restrictions lifted, we are finally able to reach Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the least-known yet biologically most diverse regions in the whole of Asia.

We start off in Nagaland, itself largely cut-off from many years until access restrictions were lifted. A pre-tour extension south towards Manipur takes us to the scrub and roadside grassy slopes in search of one of the least-known laughingthrushes of the world; Yellow-throated Laughingthrush. A shy bird that roves around the slopes in large groups, we hope to see this elusive skulker before meeting with the rest of the group at Khonoma. An idyllic village that has set-up its own non-hunting zone. Here, we bird the forest and orchids above the village; Naga Wren Babbler being the main target before we sweep up through Assam, and on to Arunachal Pradesh.

The topography is truly amazing; stretching from the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam up through tangled ridges at elevations of around 1,500m before rising to 3,080m. A jeep track runs from a pass at 2,800m down to the flood plains of Assam at 100m. This easy access, excellent forest and wide altitudinal range is a unique combination that makes Eaglenest one of the premier birding sites in the whole of Asia. The Bugun Liocichla, a completely new species to science, was discovered here and described as recently as 2006. It will be one of our main targets. However, the seemingly endless list of potential species also includes three species of tragopan, seven species of wren babbler, ten species of laughingthrush, four species of shortwing, six species of parrotbill and the stunning Fire-tailed Myzornis. Before Eaglenest we venture into remote Nagaland, where after successful scouting we have found a site to search for Yellow-throated Laughingthrush, while we also search for Naga Wren Babbler, Blyth's Tragopan, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler and Moustached, Striped, Assam and Brown-capped Laughingthrushes.

Following on from Eaglenest we head down into the Brahmaputra floodplain, visiting the World Heritage Site of Kaziranga and Dibru-Saikhowa. Kaziranga is famed for its population of Indian Rhinoceros and Bengal Tiger, but also has an impressive range of bird life. We will search diligently for Bengal Florican, Pallas's Fish Eagle and Swamp Francolin. Dibru-Saikhowa is home to a whole host of threatened and range-restricted species including Black-breasted Parrotbill, Marsh and JerdonÕs Babblers and Swamp Prinia. A visit to the Digboi Oilfields allows an opportunity to see the range-restricted Chestnut-backed Laughingthrush, along with Collared Treepie and Rufous-necked Laughingthrush.

Finally, we bird an area that until recently was off-limits, Mishmi Hills. This area has a single endemic, Mishmi Wren Babbler, as well as being one of the few accessible sites for a range of mouth-watering species - Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, Rusty-bellied Shortwing, Blyth's Tragopan and Yellow-rumped Honeyguide with an outside chance of Sclater's Monal and Gould's Shortwing to wet the appetite.

Pre-tour extension, 1:
Arrivals into Dimapur Airport (currently all airlines arrive between 1200-1300 from Kolkata). Rest of the afternoon and early evening drive south to our guesthouse perched high above the valley.

Pre-tour extension, 2:
A full days in search of Yellow-throated Laughingthrush in roadside scrub and tall grasses. A shy bird that roves around the slopes in large groups, we hope to see this elusive skulker. In addition, Dark-rumped Swift, Himalayan Prinia (split from Striated), Grey Sibia and Spot-breasted Scimitar-babbler are possible, along with a slim chance of Moustached Laughingthrush.

Pre-tour extension, 3 (18th):
After early morning birding, drive to Khonoma to meet with the main group

Day 1:
Arrivals into Dimapur Airport (currently all airlines arrive between 1200-1300 from Kolkata). Rest of the afternoon drive to Khonoma. Night in Khonoma Homestay.

Day 2:
Full day above Khonoma village. The villagers of Khonoma have agreed on a strict no-hunting zone in the surrounding forest. Birding above the village we go in search of Naga Wren Babbler and Blyth's Tragopan in the morning, with additional possibilities including Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler and Assam and Brown-capped Laughingthrushes. Back at the forest edge in the late afternoon there is a chance of the elusive and local Spot-breasted Laughingthrush, Naga Wren Babbler and Mountain Bamboo Partridge. Night in Khonoma Homestay.

Day 3:
After early morning birding in the forest immediately around the village for Spot-breasted Laughingthrush again, we head north, to Kaziranga. Night outside Kaziranga National Park.

Day 4:
We have at least a day to explore the national park and its surroundings. Inside the park we search for such rarities as Slender-billed Babbler, Bengal Florican, Spot-billed Pelican, both Greater and Lesser Adjutants, Black-necked Stork, Pallas's Fish Eagle, Swamp Francolin and Black-breasted and even an outside chance of Finn's Weaver.
The surrounding forest holds such specialties as Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Great Hornbill, Jerdon's Baza and the localised Pale-chinned Flycatcher.
After birding we drive across the Brahmaputra to Tezpur. Night in Tezpur.

Day 5:
An early start to head in to Arunachal Pradesh; the gateway to the foothills of the Himalaya. We drive to the town of Dirang, situated at 1,500m, for a three-night stay. Birding en route will give glimpses of this incredibly diverse region. We shall search for species such as White-hooded Babbler, Yellow-vented Warbler, Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Bhutan Laughingthrush, River Lapwing, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Brown Dipper and the spectacular Crested Kingfisher. Night in Dirang.

Days 6-8:
During our three days birding around Dirang we visit up to three sites, including the scenically spectacular Se la. At 4,200m above sea-level it is one of the few areas at this elevation accessible by road. We spend the day here searching for some classic Himalayan species; Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Rufous-breasted Bush Robin, Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch and the stunning Grandala.
A day at Manda la, a long, winding road going through forest, bamboo and eventually reaching patches of rhododendron. A huge ranch of species are possible here, but our main targets include Bar-winged Wren-babbler, Black-throated and Brown Parrotbills, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, White-collared Blackbird, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Blue-fronted Robin, a variety of Laughingthrushes, Crimson-browed and Gold-naped Finches, Hume's Bush-warbler and Slender-billed Scimitar-babbler.
Towards the late afternoon of day 9 we drive back south to Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary to begin our five-night camping, starting at Lama Camp.

Days 9-12:
We have four full days inside the fabulous Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, made famous by the discovery of the Critically Endangered Bugun Liocichla, described as recently as 2006 and currently known only from this area.
We will spend our time along several different sections of a jeep track which cuts through this rich forest from the pass at 2,900m descending to the scrappy though productive foothills at 800m. Our accommodation will be in serviced tented camps, where we split our time between two camps.

Starting from high altitudes and working our way down the track to the lowlands, we pass through a wide range of avifaunal zones and the bird life will vary noticeably during our descent. The bird list for the sanctuary is huge, and includes many species which can no longer be considered Bhutan specialities.
Among the huge list of potential species are such mouth-watering possibilities as Blyth's and Temminck's Tragopans, Chestnut-breasted and Common Hill Partridges, Kalij Pheasant, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Ward's Trogon, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Collared Grosbeak, Blue-fronted Robin, Golden, White-browed and Rufous-breasted Bush Robins, Green and Purple Cochoas.

There are also a whole host of laughingthrushes with Grey-sided, Blue-winged, Chestnut-crowned, Scaly, Striated, Bhutan, Spotted all possible and, of course, the recently discovered Bugun Liocichla and its commoner cousin, the Crimson-faced Liocichla. Both Coral-billed and Sickle-billed Scimitar Babblers favour the tracts of bamboo, the mind-blowing Fire-tailed Myzornis, seven species of wren babbler, the amazing Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler, Himalayan Cutia, Beautiful Nuthatch, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, six species of parrotbill and a whole host of sibias, tits, flycatchers, warblers, yuhinas, niltavas, flowerpeckers, sunbirds, accentors and finches.

Day 13:
Following a mornings birding the lowest elevations inside Eaglenest we head down into Assam, crossing the mighty Brahmaputra and venture east till we hit Kaziranga. Night outside Kaziranga National Park.

Day 14:
Early morning at Kaziranga once again, followed by driving to Dibru-Saikhowa for late afternoon birding. This little-known site a biodiversity hotspot situated in the alluvial flood plains of the Brahmaputra. We will search the swamp and grasslands for two threatened species - Marsh Babbler and Jerdon's Babbler.
While searching for these localised species, we will come across a large variety of other species which might include lingering winter visitors such as Baikal and Spotted Bush Warblers and Smoky Warbler. Night at Tinsukhia.

Day 15:
We start today by heading for a small patch of lowland forest inside the Digboi Oilfields complex in search of three species unlikely to be seen elsewhere on the tour; Collared Treepie, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush and the rare and local Chestnut-backed Laughingthrush. Other possibilities include Blue-throated Flycatcher, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Blue-bearded Bee-eater and an outside chance of White-cheeked Partridge.
After our morning here we spend the full afternoon driving north-east, across the Brahmaputra to the town of Roing, situated at the base of the Mishmi Hill. Night at Roing.

Days 16-18:
Three full days birding along the road in Mishmi Hills.
Birding along the forest-clad roadside we give us our first introduction to Himalayan birding, though despite the continual distractions of the more numerous Himalayan species we will attempt to locate such gems as Mishmi Wren Babbler, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Rusty-bellied Shortwing, BlythÕs Tragopan, Sclater's Monal (very unlikely unless we trek where chances increase to possible!), Bar-winged Wren Babbler, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, Ward's Trogon and Blue-fronted Robin.
We also visit two different areas of grassland. One for the Critically Endangered Bengal Florican, and the other for Black-breasted Parrotbill. Night in basic guesthouse in the Mishmi Hills.

Day 19:
After a final mornings birding we depart Mishmi, and head back south across the Brahmaputra, to Tinsukia. Depending on what we have left to see, we either return to Dibru-Saikhowa, or spend more of the morning at Mishmi. Night in Dibrugarh.

Day 20:
Departures from Dibrugarh Airport.

Tour details

Cost: £ TBC or $ TBC

extension: £ TBC or $ TBC

Deposit: £ 500 or $ 700

Single room supplement: £TBC/$TBC

Maximum group size: 7

Tour cost includes: all accommodation, main meals, internal flights, overland transport, entrance fees, drinking water, tips to local drivers and guides, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes: international flights, flight to Dimapur and flight out of Dibrugarh, visa, travel insurance, drinks, tips to tour guides, and other items of a personal nature.

Accommodation: comfortable twin, and single, rooms with private facilities when in towns and Kaziranga. Khonoma is with shared facilities.
Eaglenest: comfortable permanent tented camps with shared washing facilities.
Mishmi: an old guesthouse, situated above 2,000m, with very basic conditions. Lighting can be dim, due to use of a generator.

Pre-tour extension: single rooms may not be available, along with shared facilities.

Walking difficulty: easy to moderate throughout, mainly on wide tracks and roads, with few forest trails.
One exception is at Khonoma, with a narrow, slippery trail, walking up 500m in elevation. There is lovely roadside birding for those not joining.

Maximum elevation on the tour is 4,200m.

Expected number of species: 480-510 species; the most of any of our tours.

Number of endemics and range-restricted species: a whole host of sought-after Eastern Himalayan jewels, and regional endemics sprinkled throughout the tour.

Map of the tour

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