Welcome to Birdquest
Thursday 13th March - Thursday 3rd April 2014
This was the eighth Birdquest tour to the remote, wonderfully bird rich north-east corner of the Indian subcontinent, and the fifth to take in the rugged Mishmi Hills. This year the weather was exceptionally fine and sunny, and there was no sign of the "pre-monsoon" rains that can last for days and ruin birding completely. However, there were man made safety issues that made it impossible for us to visit the tea gardens at Kaziranga and the Digboi Oilfields near Tinsukia, both of which are important birding sites, but thanks to the group being both keen and physically fit we were able, for the first time, to trek the whole 25 kilometres to the Firm Base camp in Namdapha, THE place to see the enigmatic White-bellied Heron in India. Some of the more memorable bird highlights of the tour included White-bellied Heron, Greater Adjutant, Jerdon’s Baza, Changeable, Mountain and Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagles, the critically endangered Slender-billed and White-backed Vultures, Pied Harrier, Pallas’s and Grey-headed Fish Eagles, Oriental Hobby, a heard only Sclater's Monal, Swamp Francolin, White-cheeked Partridge at its roost, Grey Peacock-Pheasant, Watercock, great views of a male Hodgson’s Frogmouth, memorable encounters with Dark-rumped Swifts, five species of hornbill including some really obliging Rufous-necked Hornbills, a lovely male Ward’s Trogon, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide (a new bird for the tour), Long-tailed and Silver-breasted Broadbills, Long-billed and Plain-backed Thrushes, Pygmy Blue, Sapphire, Pale-chinned, Snowy-browed, Pale Blue, White-tailed, White-gorgeted and the very little known Large Blue Flycatchers, Siberian Rubythroat, Rufous-breasted Bush Robin, Rufous-necked, Black-faced, Grey-sided, Chestnut-crowned and Assam Laughingthrushes, amazing views of Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Rusty-throated, Bar-winged, Long-billed, Streaked, Eye-browed, Tawny-breasted and, the very special, Spotted Wren-babbler, which is now known to belong to a new single species bird family Elachuridae, a very obliging Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, Jerdon’s, Marsh and White-hooded Babblers, Streak-throated Barwing, Golden-breasted, Yellow-throated, Manipur, Brown-throated, Rusty-capped, and Rufous-throated Fulvettas, Grey, Beautiful, Rufous-backed and Long-tailed Sibias, White-naped Yuhina, Rufous-headed and Black-breasted Parrotbills, all three tesias, Collared Treepie, Smoky Leaf-, Yellow-vented, Buff-throated, White-spectacled, Grey-cheeked, Rufous-faced, Black-faced, and Sichuan Leaf Warblers, which is apparently the standard "lemon-rumped warbler" in this part of NE India. Mammals were a big deal on this tour of course, and we had some great encounters with Hoolock Gibbon, Asian Elephant, Asian One-horned Rhinoceros, Swamp Deer, wild Water Buffalo and many others.