Myanmar - one of the most ornithologically diverse countries in south-east Asia, is still relatively unexplored, yet offers some of the most exciting birding in the region.
Our tour concentrates on the dry interior around the temples and ruins of Bagan and the magnificent Mount Victoria, the highest peak in the Chin Hills, a mountain range with a distinctive Himalayan avifauna.
We will concentrate on searching out the endemics and regional specialties in the lowlands these include Burmese Bushlark, White-throated Babbler and the semi-nomadic Jerdon,s Minivet and Hooded Treepie while in the mountains we will be looking in particular for the enigmatic White-browed Nuthatch, near-endemic Chin Hills Wren Babbler and Mount Victoria Babax and a whole host of Himalayan species including Brown-capped and Striped Laughingthrushes, Grey Sibia and Black-headed Shrike Babbler.
We then head to the hills of Shan state in search of the near-endemic Burmese Yuhina and finish our tour at the picturesque Inle Lake hoping for the scarce Jerdon's Bushchat.
International arrives into Yangon International Airport. Night in Yangon.
Early morning visit to Hlwaga Park, an hour from Yangon. The main target here is the little-known davisoni race of Stripe-throated Bulbul that is endemic to a small area of central Myanmar but highly distinct and likely to be elevated to full species status. The bird is found at low densities and hard to find so as we explore the park in search of this we should come across a variety of waterbirds and familiar passerines. In the past the park has recoded Pale-capped Pigeon and wintering Two-barred Warbler.
Following the mornings birding we head directly to the airport to fly to Bagan, for late afternoon birding.Bagan is one of the cultural highlights of Asia, with the thousands of ancient Buddhist monuments and temples dotting the arid landscape providing a wonderful backdrop for our birding exploration of the area. After lunch we spend the rest of the day exploring the area and we should find our first dry-zone specialities which could include Burmese Bushlark and White-throated Babbler both of which are common is the area.
We will be looking in particular for the exquisite Jerdon's Minivet and the smart Hooded Treepie - both endemic to Burma - although the latter is rather nomadic and unpredictable. Other species possible here include Rain Quail, Burmese Prinia (split from Brown), Indian Nightjar, 'Burmese' (Vinous-breasted) Myna, Lagger Falcon and Burmese Shrike.
Migrants here may include such delights as Daurian Redstart, Taiga Flycatcher, Yellow-streaked Warbler, Thick-billed Warbler and Siberian Rubythroat. Night in Bagan.
A full day around Bagan in search of the dry-zone endemics, should we have seen them already then we take a boat trip along the nearby Irrawaddy River, otherwise we will do this in the afternoon. River Lapwing, a classic Asian big-river species will be a target, waterbirds include good numbers of Indian Spot-billed Ducks an. wintering Ruddy Shelduck, Sand Lark can be seen scuttling along the sand-bars alongside roosting Small Pratincoles and forays ashore should produce the handsome White-tailed Stonechat.
If we have been successful, the afternoon will take us various parts of Bagan, taking in some of the 2,200 stupas and pagodas that make Bagan such a spectacle, and enjoy the beautiful sunset over them. Night in Bagan.
We will leave early today, initially travelling south to cross the Irrawady at Chauk before heading west. We will look for White-rumped Falcon and Neglected Nuthatch in the dry deciduous forest.
We also have a good chance of seeing all five species of Parakeet; Alexandrine, Red-breasted, Rose-ringed, Blossom-headed and Finsch's, which still occur in good numbers here, having declined in many other areas of Asia. Though much of the taller, teak forest here has been cut, we still have a few birding stops to make.
In the late afternoon we will arrive at the hotel above Kampetlet, our base for the next four nights.
We have three full days to explore Mount Victoria, the focal point of the tour. At 3,095m Mount Victoria is the highest Peak in the Chin Hills - this fascinating area forms a southward extension from the Eastern Himalayas and contains several exciting Himalayan species together with some regional endemics and distinct sub-species.
During our time here we will explore all the habitat zones associated with different altitudes on the mountain ranging from stunted, mossy oak forest and rhododendrons at the highest altitudes, through evergreen broad-leaf with montane bamboo patches, Pine forests, grassy clearings and scrub to dry deciduous forest at the foot of the mountain.
Arguably the star bird here is the endemic White-browed Nuthatch, which is known only from the higher reaches of Victoria and surrounding peaks. We will also search in particular for two recently split species; Mount Victoria Babax and Chin Hills Wren-babbler, both true specialties of this area.
The list of potential species here is large and we will hope to locate some of the scarcer species among these which may include some of the following; Brown-capped, Assam, Blue-winged and Striped Laughingthrushes, Crimson-faced Liocichla, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Black-headed and Green Shrike Babblers, Elachura, Himalayan Cutia, Streak-throated and Rusty-fronted Barwings, Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Black-browed Bushtit, Grey-hooded and Broad-billed Warblers, Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker (though this is primarily an early winter visitor), Mrs Hume's and Kalij Pheasants. Night at Mount Victoria.
Today we return to Bagan, making birding stops in the dry deciduous forest. White-eyed Buzzard, roosting Indian Nightjars and Long-billed Pipit occur in the more open areas after birding the dry deciduous forest if required. Here amongst an abundance of woodpeckers including Himalayan Flameback, Large and Common Woodshrikes and other birds typical of this habitat we have further opportunities to see the elusive Jerdon's Minivet and Hooded Treepie along with White-rumped Falcon. Night at Bagan.
Following breakfast, we take a flight to Heho, in eastern Shan State, then continuing to the scenic former hill-station of Kalaw. With a full afternoon at our disposal we shall visit Yay-aye-kan reservoir near Kalaw. The area still holds some good evergreen forest and it is here that we will be searching in particular for the near-endemic Burmese Yuhina. Other possibilities in the area include Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Spectacled Barwing, Scarlet-faced Liocichla, Silver-eared and White-browed Laughingthrushes, Rusty-cheeked and White-browed Scimitar Babblers, Black-headed Greenfinch and Crested Buntings. Night in Kalaw.
A morning at Yay-aye-kan reservoir near Kalaw. The area still holds some good evergreen forest and it is here that we will be searching in particular for the near-endemic Burmese Yuhina. Other possibilities in the area include Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Spectacled Barwing, Scarlet-faced Liocichla, Silver-eared and White-browed Laughingthrushes, Rusty-cheeked and White-browed Scimitar Babblers, Black-headed Greenfinch and wintering Buntings.
In the early afternoon we drive two hours to our hotel close to Lake Inle, in time for a late afternoon boat ride across Lake Inle, at the floating gardens in search of Collared Myna. Night at Nyuang Shwe.
This morning we will take a boat out to explore the lake, famous for its unique leg-rowing boatmen. We will of course be focused on the birds and will be looking in particular for the rare Jerdon's Bushchat which still occurs here in good numbers but often requires diligent searching to locate. Other possibilities include Indian Reed Warbler, Eastern and Western Marsh Harriers, Indian Swamphen and the near-endemic Collared Myna.
After lunch we head back to Heho to connect with flight back to Yangon. Night in Yangon.
International departures from Yangon International Airport. For those not on the extension, afternoon international flights out of Yangon.
Southern Myanmar extension
We take a midday flight into southernmost Myanmar, then drive for a full afternoon into we reach our remote campsite, in preperation for our exciting exploration to the little-known forests that until recently were off-limits to foreigners.
We spend 3 1/2 days in the deep south of Myanmar in search of the endangered Gurney's Pitta, now more-or-less disappeared from Thailand. We hope the tour coincides with peak-calling season as we search for the jewel of the forest. The forests down here are fascinating, harbourng many of the sundaic, Malayan peninsula specialities, as well as species more that generally have a more northerly distribution including Tickell's Brown Hornbill. The other main target in the area is Plain-pouched Hornbill that is found in small numbers here, while even Helmeted Hornbill persists in this area. Night-birding is also exciting here with Large Frogmouth and White-fronted Scops Owl even being possible, though Blyth's Frogmouth is more likely!
Early morning flight back to Yangon to connect with our international departures from Yangon International Airport.
Deposit: £ 500 or $ 700
Single room supplement: £TBC/$TBC
Maximum group size: 8
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, visa, travel insurance, drinks, tips to tour guides, and other items of a personal nature.
Accommodation: comfortable twin, and single, rooms with private facilities throughout main tour.
Gurney's Pitta extension: this is comfortable forest camping; using river for washing, and wooden structures with tents inside.
Walking difficulty: easy to moderate throughout, mainly on wide tracks, with few forest trails.
Maximum elevation on the tour is 3,050m.
Extension is mainly forest trails.
Expected number of species: 300-340 species during main tour. An additional 100-120 possible on extension.
Number of endemics and range-restricted species: 10 or so Myanmar and near-Myanmar endemics unlikely to be seen elsewhere, along with a further 10 range-restricted species.
On the extension our primary focus is Gurney's Pitta, at its only accessible area.