White-bellied Heron and winter specialities
This tour has come off the back of our highly successful custom tour in December 2023, the tour report of which will be available shortly. The tour centres around the Critically Endangered White-bellied Heron, a bird so many birders want to see, but due to the best timing of the year for the bird, haven't got many options. This tour is designed around seeing now just this stately bird, but also a number of others likely not seen on your previous visit to the Eastern Himalaya in the spring. Namely, Snowy-throated Babbler, Tawny-breasted Wren Babbler and a very real opportunity to see Sclater's Monal.
On top of that, a post-tour extension has been set-up to see the 'Lisu Wren Babbler', a bird currently undescribed but once it is, will be a nice way to reflect on the tour from the comfort of your armchair!
Day 1: Arrival into Guwahati Airport in the morning. We then head south into Meghalaya, in time for late afternoon birding. Our primary reason for being here is the near-state endemic, Tawny-breasted Wren Babbler. Night in Meghalaya.
Day 2: If required we return to the forest for Tawny-breasted Wren Babbler, before taking the long journey east through Assam till we reach the eastern side of the state later in the day. We do drive past Kaziranga National Park, so a tea stop here will likely mean we see Indian Rhinoceros, and perhaps Swamp and Hog Deers. Night in Tinsukia.
Day 3: Morning birding at Maguri Grasslands in search of Swamp Grass-babbler, a species that went largely missing between 2009 and 2019, so for those that visited Northeast India during those years, a new bird is likely! In addition, Jerdon’s and Marsh Babbler could be possible, and wintering species here including a variety of buntings, Chinese Rubythroat, Spotted, Baikal, and even West Himalayan Grasshopper Warbler, though these wintering skulkers are obviously difficult at this season.After our morning here, we head north, across the Brahmaputra, and into Arunachal Pradesh. Depending on our time will depend what we do during the afternoon. Night in Roing.
Days 4-5: Two days at Mishmi Hills. For those that have visited Mishmi Hills before, there will no doubt be new species still possible, particularly here in the winter, when many wintering migrants are present. However, we’re here with a primary target, Sclater’s Monal. During a 10-day period every year, in mid-November, the species becomes semi-regular in the area, and this will be our priority as we wait at the designated area and hope for views of a regal male. Away from the monal, typical Mishmi species are also possible, including Mishmi and Bar-winged Wren Babblers, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, and all the classic Eastern Himalaya species. Nights in Roing.
Day 6: Depending on our previous days successes will dictate our morning, but at some point we head back south, into Assam and across the Namdapha, and plan to have at least part of the afternoon at Dehing Paktai. Dehing Paktai is an area of lowland forest that is still home to a number of rare and highly-sought after species, including White-winged Duck, White-cheeked Partridge, Pied Falconet, Austen’s Brown Hornbill, Chestnut-backed Laughingthrush and Grey Peacock Pheasant. Night near Dehing Paktai.
Day 7: After a morning at Dehing Paktai, if required, we head towards Namdapha National Park, back inside Arunachal Pradesh. Namdapha National Park is a huge area of forest, covering 1,985 km2, straddling the Myanmar border. We will only be nibbling away at the edges, but this is where majority of our targets lie. In the afternoon we’ll have our first foray along the river in search of Blyth’s Kingfisher and the Critically Endangered White-bellied Heron. Night at Deban.
Days 8-10: We have three full days in-and-around Namdapha National Park. What we do will be dictated by the current whereabouts of the White-bellied Herons. We might get lucky, and bird from the guesthouse most days, or, more likely, walk and camp inside the park. The Critically Endangered White-bellied Heron – that occurs from Bhutan to Myanmar, is our primary focus. Its numbers have plummeted due to hunting (first and foremost) and more recently by habitat alteration (primarily the construction of dams along forested tributaries). While searching for this holy grail of Eastern Himalayan birds, we have chances of Blyth’s Kingfisher, Austen’s Brown Hornbill, and a bird only realistically possible at Namdapha – Snowy-throated Babbler.
Day 11: Morning drive back from Deban to Dibrugarh Airport for flights out.
Post-tour extension Day 11: From Deban we drive into a remote area of Namdapha National Park, and hike up for half a day to our camp site.
Day 12: Morning in search of the ‘Lisu Wren Babbler’. Named after the local tribe of the area, the Lisu, this Spelarornis appears to be an undescribed species. Having first been noted in 1988, it is only recently that photographs and sound recordings have been widely analysed and its true status realised, Shashank found the species in 2009 in a remote area of Namdapha (part of a 50-day expedition into the interior of the park). After a morning with the species, we head back down to the village.
Day 13: Drive back to Deban, and Dibrugarh. Night in Dibrugarh.
Day 14: Flights out of Dibrugarh 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, internal flights to/from start/end of tour, 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.
In Namdapha, possibility of camping depending on current conditions and location of White-bellied Heron.
Walking difficulty: easy to moderate throughout, mainly on wide tracks and roads, with few forest trails.
Depending on the location of White-bellied Heron, using recent information, long walk with camping might be required.
Maximum elevation on the tour is 3,500m.
Lisu Wren Babbler extension: half day hike, with elevational gain of 800m.
Expected number of species: under 250 species.
Number of endemics and range-restricted species: a whole host of sought-after Eastern Himalayan jewels, and regional endemics sprinkled throughout the tour, especially targeting those unlikely or not possible on our spring Northeast India tours.
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