We had a bit of a break from the early starts this morning as we were travelling to Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh a sensitive area that borders China. This would allow us access to the foothills of the Himalayas which was the highlight for me. The reason for the early start was that the road wasn’t due to open until 9.00am!
While we were still in Assam we stopped to scan an area of open country attracted by a perched Himalayan Buzzard in a nearby tree. Whilst there I had another tick with a Striated Grassbird which was singing about 50 yards away.
We arrived at the roadblock and whilst waiting we birded the ravine by the side of the road and a couple of other points on the journey adding the following species: Mountain Hawk-eagle, Blyth’s Swift, Short-billed Minivet, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Black-faced Warbler, Brown-flanked Bush Warbler, Ashy-throated Warbler,Yellow-vented Warbler, Golden Babbler, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Golden-breasted Fulvetta and the impressive Streaked Spiderhunter.
We arrived at the hotel just before dark, the room was comfortable, the shower didn’t work and the food was luke warm and to be honest crap! However, there as no time to worry about that as we had to be up at 2.45am to meet for coffee at 3.15am as we had a three hour drive to Sela Pass, which at 13,680ft would be the highest I have ever been.
Day 5 – Sela Pass
We loaded onto the vehicles and made our way deep into the Himalayas we arrived before the sun had risen and straight away we were onto one of our targets the Blood Pheasant which played a game of hide and seek with us, eventually we all got good views of this enigmatic species.
|Sunrise over the Himalayas|
|Typical birding habitat with stunning views|
|Sela Pass, not what I expected – a little tacky|
|The group at the entrance to the pass.|
A little further on we came across another group of birders who were watching a group of Snow Partridge and a mixed flock of Accentors, also at this point we picked up a White-winged Grosbeak. We also had a flyover flock of Granada and Plain Mountain Finch. We then carried on to Sela Pass where we saw the impressive Snow Pigeon. Birds at this altitude are few and far between, so we headed downhill to a small area of marshy ground where we saw a Solitary Snipe. Back to the pass we again tried to find the main target species – Himalayan Monal, much to everyone’s disappointment we were not to see this bird despite a lot of searching. We did see Alpine Thrush, Alpine Chough and a Himalayan Gryphon Vulture. As we returned from our latest search for the Monal, Keith shouted what is that, I got on the bird straight away and it perched up and showed itself as a Little Owl, one of the pale races. This was new for Leo (our guide) and a third record for India!
By mid-morning we made our way downhill looking for a place to stop for our picnic as we were all starving, the food was laid out on the bonnet of one of the vehicles and we tucked into Rice and mixed Vegetables – again!!! At this point a steady drizzle started to fall but the birds kept coming and we added more new species.
We arrived back at the hotel elated but tired, it was soon time for dinner – Rice and Dall plus more mixed vegetables including a bowl of Cauliflower! I hate Cauliflower!!!!
Day 6 – Mandala Road
After yesterdays exertions we spent the day birding Mandala Road which was close to the hotel. It did rise to nearly 10,000ft but it was a good road, we had some good birds near the start of the road with Little Pied Flycatcher and Ultramarine Flycatcher plus Grey-headed Bullfinch. The village of Mandala was like going back in time 600 years with wooden shacks passing as houses and most of the surrounding trees being harvested, it must be a hard life!
|The village of Mandala|
|Posing with the Himalayas in the distance.|
To cut a long story short the birds were hard work and later we heard that one of the drivers had seen a Red Panda but his message was relayed wrongly and we were all gutted.
Towards the end of the day we visited a site for Black-necked Crake seeing two.
|Little Pied Flycatcher|
|Grey Crested Tit|
|Some local’s complete with Party dress|