Saturday, June 4, 2022

My impressions of India.


This is going to be a bit rambling. Please forgive me.  We only saw a small part of India, mostly in the far northeast, a part the average American would never visit. It was very different than the mental images I have had of India most of my life. This was not the "Junglebook", or the slums with Mother Teresa standing in the middle of a throng of people. It was not "filthy", a term an American birder had used describing India. Obviously, there was some culture shock, but I felt very comfortable in the towns and countryside. The northeast has some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen.  The parks in Assam made me feel like I was in a safari movie, with the rhinos, elephants, and water buffalo. Parts of Arunachal Pradesh put me in mind of Tibet, with the gorgeous mountains, Buddhist shrines and stupas, and prayer flags draped everywhere.


Almost everyone spoke English and most of the signs were in English, though sometimes with very amusing misspellings. I am embarrassed that I sometimes had difficulty understanding people due to their accents.  I hated feeling like an ugly American when that happened, but everyone was very patient with me and didn't seem to mind too much repeating themselves. I don't recall a single person who was not very nice to me. 


Traffic in this part of India is insane, but not because it is bumper to bumper. How can you drive down a two lane road, with people passing in both lanes and cows standing in the middle of the road and not have accidents? I am sure they must, but we didn't see any while we were on the road. The drivers seemed to be very aware of what other people were doing and adjusted their speed and their position on the road. One thing they do, though, is honk their horns continuously, which was a bit jarring for me, initially. Most of the trucks have "BLOW HORN" painted on the back of them, and people do all the time! Mike said that this is because the truck drivers want to be aware of people behind them and passing them.  

The food in India was so incredibly good. I eat at Indian restaurants here fairly often, but we had so many more dishes than the standard curries we get here. The heat level of the spice was less than I expected. We ate quite often at tiny restaurants on the side of the road, which were all great. In Arunachal Pradesh there is a Tibetan influence in many of the dishes, with dumplings being one of the mainstay foods. I am very much a carnivore, but I was quite happy eating vegetarian for much of the trip. Coffee was a bit of a problem. I am not a huge fan of instant coffee, which is what we had mostly. I learned very quickly to enjoy hot tea. Don't expect to get wine at the "wine shops." They are small liquor stores and I was disappointed that they don't carry gin, either, but the whisky was OK.

I mentioned this a couple of times in my day by day posts about the trip, but I wanted to talk again about people taking our pictures. There were a number of places where we were asked to pose for photos. Sometimes when we were walking on roads I would see people driving by snapping shots with their phones. Anyone who knows me is aware I HATE having my picture taken, but I didn't mind. I figure who do I know who will see them?  I found it really funny that we were such a novelty. 

I was really surprised at how relaxed people were about things we would have apoplexy over in the United States. Kids, even preschoolers, played and walked along the roads. It wasn't unusual to see a family of four crammed on a motorcycle with no helmets. Of course everywhere we went cows and other animals were wandering in the streets. 


Speaking of animals, I was so surprised at how sweet the dogs were. Of course, some of this was probably because I was constantly slipping them part of my breakfast when we ate on the road. Most of the dogs in the lower elevations reminded me of Basenjis,  short-coated, medium sized, with pricked ears and tightly curled tails. If I could have a dog, I would have one of them in a minute! The dogs are higher elevations had much thicker coats, for good reason, with floppy ears, and seemed a bit more aloof, though not unfriendly. The smaller ones reminded me of Tibetan Spaniels.

Our trip was set up by Mike Prince of Bubo Birding, and Asian Adventures. The two local guides we had were great! We were so lucky to have Mike go along with us, both for his skill and great company. The accommodations were a mixed bag, ranging from a very nice resort, to a hotel with sketchy electricity, to a thatched roof cabin, to tents with rock hard cots. Bathing with a bucket of hot water and large mug was not as bad as it sounds. It was the most adventurous trips I have ever done. Willie says it was the best birding trip he has ever done, and I think I agree. I would very highly recommend going to northeast India.

I saw 371 species of birds,  which I won't list here for brevity's sake, with 162 of those new for me. We spent two weeks actually birding, so I feel this was great. My mammal list is much, much lower, but every bit as exciting to me! Here is my list:

1. Rhesus Macaque

2. Capped Langur

3. Red Panda

4. Smooth-coated Otter

5. Yellow-throated Marten

6. Mountain Weasel

7. Indian Elephant

8. Indian Rhinoceros

9. Indian Boar

10. Indian Hog Deer

11. Swamp Deer

12. Indian muntjac

13. Guar

14. Nilgai

15. Wild Water Buffalo

16. Orange-bellied Himalayan Squirrel

17. Indian Palm Squirrel

18. Black Giant Squirrel

19. Himalayan Striped Squirrel

20. Royle's Pika

 



Sunday, May 29, 2022

The final chapter: Somtimes you have to do tourist stuff, May 6-7


 The next step to our trip home had come. I got up before everyone else and did some birding around the camp. I didn't find anything new, but it was still nice to see and hear most of these birds for the last time. We had breakfast and then took off for the airport at Guwahati to go back to Delhi. The drive must have been pretty uneventful because I remember very little of it.

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time for our flights, Willie and me going to Delhi, and Mike back to Bangalore. We got through the lines and spent our time talking about the trip and what we would be doing in the future. We enjoyed Mike's company so much. I was sorry to have to say good bye. Mike has a web site by the way, https://bubobirding.com/. I would highly recommend checking it out. 

Willie and I flew back to Delhi on Air India. We scored exit row seats, which was great! It was much more comfortable than our SpiceJet flight when we first arrived. The flight took us over Nepal. Willie had the window seat and he said "Look! Isn't that Mount Everest?" I leaned over and looked out the window and we could see the top of Everest sticking out above the clouds! I never thought I would get to see it. Even from a plane it was amazing.

We were staying at the Holiday Inn near the airport. I arranged with the hotel to have a car pick us up, rather than dealing with a taxi, which I understand can be challenging in Delhi. We met the driver and we quickly arrived at the hotel. I have never seen security at a hotel like they had there. Before we entered the hotel grounds security guards checked under the hood and the trunk, I guess for bombs, and this was the hotel's car! Then before we entered the hotel our luggage had be scanned like at the airport. We checked in and went up to our rooms. This was by far the nicest Holiday Inn I have ever been in. We were both amazed! I would HIGHLY recommend it if you are in Delhi. It was comparable to some five star hotels I have stayed in. I had a very rare steak for dinner and a nice glass of red wine. I had missed my red wine terribly!

Our original plan for the following day was to arranger for a birding guide to take us around Delhi. Willie and I had discussed this before we left home and decided we really wanted to see the Taj Mahal instead. I contacted Asian Adventures and they set us up with a driver and guide. It is about a four hour drive to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is, so we had to leave at 5AM. The driver was there right on time. We were extremely glad to have an air-conditioned car, as there was a horrific heat wave in Delhi, and the air quality was worse than usual due to a bad land-fill fire.


The drive was really nice. We stopped a nice road side shopping center for tea and breakfast. It is funny, I have never been a big tea drinker, but I really enjoyed it in India. Our driver actually knew birds and pointed out Saurus Cranes! That was a life bird for both Willie and me. Shortly after that we had some Egyptian Vultures, another new bird. As we arrived in Agra we had some Bank Mynas, which I had seen at the Delhi Airport when we first arrived, but Willie had not.


We picked up a private guide, Satendra Jain, who is on Instagram and Facebook, if you need a guide there. We then headed to the Taj. As it was a Saturday, the lines were more than daunting. Satendra got our tickets and we went through the gates. There was a separate entrance for women, so I got through pretty quickly, but Willie and Satendra were not so lucky. The heat was already a bit oppressive. The building pictured above is one of the great gates, which was beautiful on its own. 



I won't go through all the details, but it was more than impressive. I couldn't help but gasp when we walked in and I saw it for the first time. Satendra was extremely knowledgeable. He explained the huge cost of building it, and described how the intricate inlay work was done. He also told us in detail how the British took so much from the Taj, including jewels and gold. I was kind of glad Martin wasn't there. It was built in the 17th century by the Mughal emperor Shah Jehran as a mausoleum for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. I had heard for years that there was supposed to be a black mausoleum built for him opposite the Taj. I asked Satendra about that and he rolled his eyes and said it was not true. 


After going inside, where photography is not allowed, we walked around the grounds. There were actually some birds and a cute Eurasian Palm Squirrel. One thing that was really amusing to me was how often people asked us if they could take our pictures. I guess old white people are a novelty! We posed over and over again. The heat was becoming unbearable and Willie wasn't feeling great, so we decided to go. I made the mistake as we were leaving in buying a cheap tacky souvenir for fun. Then all of the hawkers descended on me. Do not do this! 

Satendra asked if we would like to go shopping before lunch, and of course we said yes. I had not been able to buy gifts  yet to take home. He asked what we were interested in and took us to a fabulous shop with beautiful Indian clothing. I won't say what I bought, as I haven't given those gifts to my kids yet. I also bought myself a stunning silk tunic. Don't ask me where I am going to wear it, I have no idea! We then went to a place where inlay work in marble is done. They showed us how the tiny pieces of semi-precious stones were cut, inlaid, and finished. It was done the same way the inlay work at the Taj was done. It was fascinating.

We had lunch in a really nice restaurant, and were supposed to go to the red fort in Agra, but since Willie wasn't in top form we decided to head back to Delhi. We also had to do Covid tests online that evening in order to get back to the United States the next day. I am very glad we made that decision as traffic was brutal going back and we probably would have been late for our Covid test appointments. As we were driving through the city, I added one more bird to our list, an Indian Gray Hornbill flew over, right in the middle of the hospital district!

I will be writing a summary of the trip shortly, with my impressions of India, which were extremely positive. 

Photos for the two days:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sngcanary/albums/72177720299352276

Bird list for May 7:

1. Rock Pigeon

2. Laughing Dove *

3. Asian Koel

4. Saurus Crane *

5. Black-winged Stilt

6. Red-wattled Lapwing

7. Intermediate Egret

8. Black-headed Ibis

9. Egyptian Vulture *

10. Black Kite

11. Eurasian Hoopoe

12. Indian Gray Hornbill *

13. Rose-ringed Parakeet

14. Black Drongo

15. House Crow

16. Red-vented Bulbul

17. Common Myna

18. Bank Myna

19. Purple Sunbird

Life birds marked with *



Saturday, May 28, 2022

From Lama Camp back to Nameri, May 5, 2022


 I came out of the tent right after dawn and was blown away by what I saw. The sky was cloudless and the sun shining. The Himalayas were glowing across the valley! It had been cloudy at best during the time we were at Lama Camp. I had no idea we were that close to the high mountains. I was feeling a bit sad to be leaving Eaglenest. 

We wanted to get to Nameri in time to do an afternoon trip across the river to try for the White-winged Duck again, so we packed up quickly. I took a good-bye photo of the rest of the crew under the entrance to Lama Camp. Hey, look! There are a couple of Red Pandas over Willie's shoulder! We decided to eat on the road and found a place to get our last meal of momos. 


We did stop by the Sessi River where Blyth's Kingfishers were being seen. Despite some serious searching we had no luck. But, I was happy to see quite a few butterflies, including this Panther. We also had a bunch of Himalayan Swiftlets and some Nepal House-martins feeding overheard. There was a work crew at the site of a recent landslide working. I had noticed that a lot of the work crews were mostly women throughout this area. It was somewhat disturbing seeing some of them with babies strapped to them, or with small children playing next to the busy roads. Here we saw a woman breaking off branches and covering a car with them. As we walked by I saw two small children in the car. She was trying to sheild them from the sun. I guess daycare is not just a problem in the states.

We arrived at Baligora Camp where we had stayed earlier in the trip. We got settled in and then went to cross the river back to Nameri. Willie decided to not go, as it was very hot and the previous trip had been a real slog.  Maybe I should have made the same choice. We stopped and picked up the armed guard and drove down to the river. We made the crossing and started the walk to the pond where the ducks are seen. Mike, laughing, said you knew things were serious when the guard was wearing leech socks. I certainly had mine on this time. I

The guard was really good with birds. He heard a Hooded Pitta calling and took us into the woods where we got good looks. We had a couple more as we neared the pond. Suddenly my middle back started seizing up. I had done really well, for me, the entire trip. I had kept up pretty well and had not had any real problems. Dorjee offered to carry my camera, which was a big help. There were no ducks on the pond, unfortunately. 


We worked our way to a place on the river where we could look for shorebirds. The guard found a huge soft-shelled turtle on the path to the bank. My back was only getting worse. We did see a several Great Thick-knees, which we had missed on our first trip. There were some other shorebirds and a River Tern, along with a Pied Kingfisher. We started back and the guard offered to take us on a loop further into the forest. At that point the pain in my back was really bad. I offered to stay put while they went on and they said "You can't do that! You have to be with a guard." I was really embarrassed to be holding them up, but they agreed to go back. We did do some birding around the camp where the guards stay, with me sitting off and on to rest. 

After we got back to camp I laid down for a while,  and then cleaned up. Then I laid down again. By the time we got together for dinner my back spasms had stopped. We heard a Brown Hawk-owl calling behind the cabins. It was our last dinner together, as we were flying back to Delhi the next afternoon. I went to bed and hoped the Indian Cuckoo that had kept me awake when we were there before would keep quiet.

Photos from this day: 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sngcanary/albums/72177720299306640

Bird list for the day:

1. Indian Spot-billed Duck

2. Red Junglefowl

3. Spotted Dove

4. Asian Emerald Dove

5, Thick-billed Green-pigeon

6. Wedge-tailed Green-pigeon

7. Green Imperial Pigeon

8. Green-billed Malkoha

9. Indian Cuckoo

10. Himalayan Swiftlet

11. Great Thick-knee*

12. River Lapwing

13. Little Ringed-plover

14. Common Sandpiper

15. Common Greenshank

16. River Tern

17. Asian Openbill

18. Little Cormorant

19. Indian Pond-heron

20. Striated Heron

21. Oriental Honey-buzzard

22. Black Kite

23. Asian Barred Owlet

24. Spotted Owlet

25. Brown Hawk-owl

26. Great Hornbill

27. Wreathed Hornbill

28. Common Kingfisher

29. Ruddy Kingfisher

30. White-throated Kingfisher

31. Pied Kingfisher

32. Blue-bearded Bee-eater

33. Green Bee-eater 

34. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater

35. Indochinese Roller

36. Blue-eared Barbet

37. Lineated Barbet

38. Blue-throated Barbet

39. Gray-capped Pygmy-woodpecker

40. Greater Flameback

41. Greater Yellownape

42. Rose-ringed Parakeet

43. Red-breasted Parakeet

44. Vernal Hanging-parrot

45. Hooded Pitta *

46. Large Cuckooshrike

47. Black-hooded Oriole

48. Common Iora

49. Ashy Drongo

50. Bronzed Drongo

51. Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo

52. Black-naped Monarch

53. Large-billed Crow

54. Yellow-cheeked Tit

55. Bengal Bushlark

56. Common Tailorbird

57. Black-throated Prinia

58. Golden-headed Cisticola

59. Gray-throated Martin

60. Nepal House-martin*

61. Red-vented Bulbul

62. Red-whiskered Bulbul

63. Greenish Warbler

64. Black-faced Warbler

65. Indian White-eye

66. Pin-striped Tit-babbler

67. Striated Laughingthrush

68. Red-billed Leiothrix

69. Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch

70. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch

71. Chestnut-tailed Starling

72. Common Myna

73. Great Myna

74. Oriental Magpie-robin

75. Pale-chinned Blue-flycatcher

76. Plumbeous Redstart

77. White-capped Redstart

78. Black-throated Redstart

79. Paddyfield Pipit

80. Scarlet Finch

Life birds marked with *


Thursday, May 26, 2022

Starting the long trip back. Time for more expletives! May 4, 2022

 


It was time to start working our way back for our trip home, though it was still going to take few days before we flew home to Texas. We were driving from Bompu back to Lama Camp for one night. The weather on our trip had been pretty consistent, nice mornings and wet afternoons, though not heavy rain. The precipitation was taking a toll on the roads. Bompu was very muddy, and so was the jeep track heading back. Unlike other mornings, this one was rather misty and foggy. 

We were still able to bird along the way. We finally saw a wren-babbler really well, a Rufous-throated actually popped out and let me get this brief video. We also actually saw Gray-bellied Tesia, which is a really cute bird. Then we had another pair of Ward's Trogons. This time they hung around and Willie saw them, too. I felt better when he got it, too. It is never fun when one person in a group misses a bird.

Then we heard a very much wanted bird, a Blyth's Tragopan. Tragopans are Asian pheasants. I have wanted to see one ever since I hosted the AOL birding chat room back in the late 90s and there was a guy whose screen name was Tragopan. (Yikes! That was a few years back.) I didn't know birds outside of the United States and when I looked up tragopans I was stunned. I really wanted this bird! It came in closer and we got glimpses of it walking very deep in the under-story. We stayed there for quite a while, while it teased us. Then all of the sudden it walked across the road, maybe 50 feet away. It was gorgeous! Unfortunately, it was foggy and my camera wouldn't focus on it, so I did not get a picture, but Mike did, and it is embedded in our eBird list. https://ebird.org/checklist/S108969294 We also heard a Temminck's Tragopan, which we had heard earlier in the trip, but it never showed.


The mist and fog turned to a steady rain. The jeep track started getting very slick. There are spots where there are very steel drop-offs right next to the road. We were fish-tailing in spots and having trouble getting up inclines. The car was only two wheel drive, as I said previously. I was really sweating it. Mike had said earlier in the trip if we had a lot of rain we might not be able to get out. I was now starting to wonder. Willie and I said we were glad we were leaving when we did. In a few days, if the rains continued, we might not have been able to. Our driver really was amazing, but I did let loose with a few four letter words. 


Tbe rain finally slowed and we stopped. Dorjee pointed to something hanging off the window frame. It was the biggest leech I have ever seen! He put his finger near it and it twisted trying to get to him. I am not sure how it got on the window frame, but I was very glad it was not on me. I was not going to miss leeches when I got home!



We got out to walk and bird. I noticed a weird looking line of something across the road. I went over to check it out and was surprised to see it was made up of caterpillars, nose to tail. I couldn't help think of the Human Centipede movie. (No, I didn't see it. I only heard about it.) I had never seen caterpillars do this before. I called Willie and Mike over and they had never seen it before, either. The car had been parked behind us while we walked. The driver started to come up to catch up with us and Mike signaled him to drive around the line. Then we realized there were lines of them on other parts of the road. I am still trying to find out what they were and why they were doing this. If you know, please tell me!
 


We went over the pass and then found a Dusky Thrush. It showed very well, hopping around on the open ground.  The rain slowed down and we were able to get out for a bit. I was feeling a bit more comfortable with our situation. A couple of Barred Cuckoo-doves flew over,  which was another new bird. So was Chestnut-headed Tesia.  Despite the weather I was enjoying everything.

We got to Lama Camp and it was raining so hard I didn't want to get out of the car. We went into the dining area and there was a film crew who must have been doing some kind of documentary. I shouldn't say this, but they were one of the sourest groups of people I have ever seen!. I hope they didn't come across that way on their video. We had lunch and watched the mists come up through the valley below us. It finally stopped raining and we went down to our tents. The path was steep, muddy, and slick. My fear of falling came rushing up to the surface, and I said a few choice words.


The rain finally stopped and it cleared a bit. We decided to walk the road above the camp. It was a good choice. We found another pair of Ward's Trogons. I can't believe I was worried we wouldn't see them. I got to see a star anise tree. I have used star anise, but somehow didn't know it grew on trees! The weather had cleared enough that we had a nice sunset. We had run out of whiskey, so we only had dinner that evening. I have to say, I was glad it was our last night sleeping in tents.

Photos from the day:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sngcanary/albums/72177720299277290

Bird list:

1. Hill Partridge

2. Blyth's Tragopan *

3. Temminck's Tragopan

4. Barred Cuckoo-dove *

5. Mountain Imperial-pigeon

6. Large Hawk-cuckoo

7. Indian Cuckoo

8.  Himalayan Cuckoo

9. Collared Owlet

10. Ward's Trogon

11. Great Barbet

12. Ashy Drongo

13. Yellow-bellied Fairy-fantail

14. Gray-headed Canary-flycatcher

15. Green-backed Tit

16. Pygmy Cupwing

17. Ashy-throated Warbler

18. White-spectacled Warbler *

19. Whistler's Warbler

20. Large-billed Leaf Warbler

21. Chestnut-crowned Warbler

22. Blyth's Leaf Warbler

23. Gray-bellied Tesia

24. Chestnut-headed Tesia *

25. Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler

26. Whiskered Yuhina

27. Stripe-throated Yuhina

28. Rufous-vented Yuhina

29. Rufous-capped Babbler

30. Rufous-throated Wren-babbler

31. Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler

32. Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush

33. Beautiful Sibia

34. Hoary-throated Barwing

35. Blue-winged Minla

36. Dusky Thrush *

37. Verditer Flycatcher

38. Lesser Shortwing *

39. Himalayan Shortwing

40. White-tailed Robin

41. Blue-fronted Robin *

42. Chestnut-breasted Rock-thrush

43. Gray Bushchat

44. Mrs. Gould's Sunbird

45. Green-tailed Sunbird

46. Russet Sparrow

47. Olive-backed Pipit

48. Scarlet Finch

 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Tying things up at Bompu Camp, May 3, 2021


 This was to be our last full day at Bompu Camp. We headed back down-slope where we had been the day before. We did not get far when we found the road blocked by a downed tree. An elephant, possibly the same one whose footprints we had seen in the nearby mud the morning before, had pulled the tree down. Our driver jumped out with a machete and hacked away at the tree, finally clearing the road. It was pretty impressive! Elephants are very powerful animals. People who live in the same areas with them know this and do not take their presence lightly. According to CNN about 500 people a year are killed by elephants in India. This number is growing due to habitat destruction, causing increasing contact between elephants and people. This also results in the deaths of many elephants. 



The areas we finally got to go birding were great. Having been in Eaglenest for several days we had a lot of repeat birds, but I was not complaining. The first life bird I got for the day was a Broad-billed Warbler. Unlike many of the warblers seen in India, this one is a real looker, with a rusty crown, gray head, greenish back, and yellow belly. We had two species of minivet, Gray-chinned, pictured above, and Scarlet. A Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler was not a new bird for me, having seen it in Thailand, but it is a stunning creature. It was buried in the forest, so I was not able to photograph it, like so many of the birds we had.




I paid more attention to the forest itself on this day. It is no wonder some of the birds were difficult to see. The under-story is thick, with plenty of places to hide. I noticed some fruit in a number of places. I asked about it and our driver said he didn't know the name of it, but it made a great juice. He brought some to us when we got back and it was fantastic! It was similar to apple juice, but better. Mike, Willie, and I speculated one what spirits would go well with it. I settled on vodka. If anyone knows what this is, please let me know. The forest not only held birds, but lots of insects, spiders, and a few leeches. I had learned my lesson at Nameri and wore my leech socks faithfully.

The forest not only held birds, but lots of insects, spiders, and a few leeches. I had learned my lesson at Nameri and wore my leech socks faithfully. As we were driving Willie yelled "Hornbill!" Right by the road a gorgeous male Rufous-necked Hornbill was perched. We had seen a couple the day before, but because of where I was sitting in the car my views were not great. This one was amazing! He sat and posed for quite a while. We had a discussion about if there was any significance to the number of stripes on the birds' bills. After I got home from India I did some research and read that young birds have no stripes, and as the bird ages more stripes appear, usually limited to about seven. What I read did not say how long this takes. Anyway, he was a pretty boy!


 

As we drove back to camp I glanced down at my arm and said "#$&!(!*@!" My leech socks did not protect me from getting one on my arm. I must have brushed some branches where one was waiting for me. It was a tiny one, but still. The worst part of leeches is pulling them off. They are so squishy!


After we got back we walked down the entrance road to the camp. It was the most productive part of the day! We discovered a pair of Ward's Trogons, one of our main targets for Eaglenest, but they flew before Willie could see them. He handled the miss much better than I had with other birds. A Sikkum Wedge-billed Wren-babbler was fairly cooperative. His photo is above. This was, in Mike's words, a "brilliant look." Honestly, it was a much better look than we got at some of the other birds Any bird with babbler in its name is going to be a sneaky little bastard. A gorgeous male Scarlet Finch sat up on a tree top and made us very happy!


When we got back to camp I was feeling exceedingly gross and decided I would have to bite the bullet and do a bucket and mug bath. The bath house is the little building to the left with the blue tarp roof. There are a couple of "shower" stalls. I got two buckets of water, one scalding hot, one ice cold, along with a big plastic cup. I had to mix the water in the cup, hoping for a decent temperature, and pour it over myself. Luckily, it wasn't cold outside. When I finished I felt like a new woman! I imagine I smelled like one, too. 

The building to the right is the upper dining hall. It looks a bit rough, both inside and out, but the food was so good. All of the food at Eaglenest was vegetarian. I am very carnivorous, but I didn't miss meat at all. I did say, though, that I badly wanted three things, a decent cup of coffee, a Coke Zero, even a mediocre glass of red wine. I let Martin know that he should have them in stock when I got home. 

Photos for the day: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sngcanary/albums/72177720299224171

List of birds: 

1. Hill Partridge

2. Kalij Pheasant

3. Gray-peacock Pheasant

4. Wedge-tailed Green-pigeon

5. Mountain Imperial-pigeon

6. Large Hawk-cuckoo

7. Indian Cuckoo

8. Black Eagle

9. Ward's Trogon*

10. Rufous-necked Hornbill

11. Great Barbet

12. Golden-throated Barbet

13. Blue-throated Barbet

14. Greater Yellownape

15. Gray-chinned Minivet

16. Scarlet Minivet

17. Black-headed Shrike-babbler

18. Maroon Oriole

19. Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike

20. White-throated Fantail

21. Ashy Drongo

22. Bronzed Drongo

23. Yellow-cheeked Tit

24. Pygmy Cupwing

25. Striated Bulbul

26. Black Bulbul

27. Gray-cheeked Warbler

28. Blyth's Leaf-warbler

29. Gray-bellied Tesia*

30. Slaty-bellied Tesia

31. Black-faced Warbler

32. Mountain Tailorbird

33. Broad-billed Warbler*

34. Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler

35. White-breasted Parrotbill

36. Whiskered Yuhina

37. White-naped Yuhina

38. Golden Babbler

39. Rufous-capped Babbler

40. Rufous-throated Wren-babbler

41. Coral-billed Scimitar-babbler

42. Sikkim Wedge-billed Wren-babbler

43. Yellow-throated Fulvetta

44. Rufous-winged Fulvetta

45. Striated Laughingthrush

46. Long-tailed Sibia

47. Beautiful Sibia

48. Blue-winged Minla

49. Rusty-fronted Barwing

50. Silver-eared Mesia

51. Verditer Flycatcher

52. White-tailed Robin

53. Black-throated Sunbird

54. Green-tailed Sunbird

55. Streaked Spiderhunter

56. Orange-bellied Leafbird

57. Olive-backed Pipit

58. Scarlet Finch



Monday, May 23, 2022

Holy @#!%@*&@!&%@!!!! DID YOU SEE THAT???? May 2, 2022


 This was a day I will remember for the rest of my life. We took off from Bompu heading downhill to Doimara Bridge. We left fairly early, between 5AM and 530AM if I recall correctly. We were bumping along the jeep track when we spotted a bird sitting in the middle of the road. We stopped and it flew up into a tree, giving us great looks. It was a Blue-naped Pitta, the bird we had looked so hard for near Kaziranga early in the trip. Pittas can be real P.I.T.A.s (Pain In The Ass) to see, so we were more than surprised to have it out in the open like that. We found fresh elephant footprints in the mud, which was a bit worrying.

I am sure we had a few more birds, and maybe some butterflies, but it is all a blur now. We rounded a corner on the road and right in front of us was a round furry red rear-end and a bushy striped tail. I gasped "PANDA! "It was a Red Panda, an animal I had only dreamed of seeing. It ran off the road, heading down hill into the forest. We all were in complete shock. After I said a couple of expletives we jumped out and ran to see if we could see it in one of the trees, thinking it may have climbed up. Unfortunately, it must have kept going. The funny thing was this was Mike's third trip to Eaglenest. He had seen a panda on one of his other trips, so he had a pretty good record! He did say he saw more of this one, as it turned to run we could see the side of its face.


We did see a lot more birds as we went down slope. A beautiful juvenile Black Eagle perched up giving us great views. An Asian Emerald Cuckoo flew over us and perched in a distant tree. We got it in the scope. Who wouldn't like a green cuckoo? We had a Pale-headed Woodpecker, which I believe was a life bird for Mike, and of course Willie and me. We came up to a ringing station, banding station for us in the states,  and the guys were nice enough to show us a White-hooded Babbler. So cool! An Ashy Bulbul perched up, allowing me to photograph it, though the light made it less than a perfect photo. A Scarlet Minivet flashed its red breast in the leaves of a tree.



We arrived at the river and got out to walk the sandy banks, hoping for a kingfisher, but had no luck. We did have a lot of butterflies, including an Indian Purple Emperor, a Common Nawab, and an Angled Peirrot. We headed back towards Bompu. We had fantastic looks at a Crested Serpent-eagle, another great name. We saw another Rufous-necked Hornbill and several Kalij Pheasants, one of the few pheasants that actually show themselves fairly often.

We got back to camp and the moth sheets were gone. I was still not ready to take a mug and bucket shower, so I am sure I wasn't too pleasant to be around. As it was getting dark I went into the dining room to see if the generator was on so I could charge my camera battery. A group of Indian birders were already in there. As I walked in one of them asked me if I was the "moth lady". I laughed and said no, but I wish I was. We talked a bit about what we had seen. When I said we had a Red Panda every one of them had a shocked look on their face. It was great! 

Photos for the day: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sngcanary/albums/72177720299205588

Bird List: 

1. Hill Partridge

2. Rufous-throated Partridge*

3. Kalij Pheasant

4. Gray Peacock-pheasant

5. Red Junglefowl

6. Mountain Imperial-pigeon

7. Asian Emerald Cuckoo*

8. Square-tailed Drongo-cuckoo

9. Large Hawk-cuckoo

10. Himalayan Cuckoo

11. White-throated Needletail

12. Crested Serpent-eagle

13. Black Eagle

14. Crested Goshawk

15. Asian Barred Owlet

16. Collared Owlet

17. Rufous-necked Hornbill*

18. Great Barbet

19. Golden-throated Barbet

20. Blue-throated Barbet

21. Speckled Piculet

22. Greater Flameback

23. Pale-headed Woodpecker*

24. Lesser Yellownape

25. Greater Yellownape

26. Blue-naped Pitta

27. Scarlet Minivet

28. White-bellied Erpornis

29. Large Woodshrike

30. Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike

31. White-throated Fantail

32. Ashy Drongo

33. Bronzed Drongo

34. Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo

35. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

36. Gray Treepie

37. Gray-headed Canary-flycatcher

38. Sultan Tit

39. Black-throated Prinia

40. Asian House Martin

41. Black-crested Bulbul

42. White-throated Bulbul

43. Black Bulbul

44. Ashy Bulbul*

45. Mountain Bulbul

46. Greenish Warbler

47. Yellow-vented Warbler*

48. Yellow-bellied Warbler

49. Rufous-faced Warbler*

50. Pale-billed Parrotbill

51. Striated Yuhina*

52. White-naped Yuhina

53. Pin-striped Tit-babbler

54. Golden Babbler

55. Rufous-capped Babbler

56. White-hooded Babbler*

57. Eyebrowed Wren-babbler*

58. Nepal Fulvetta*

59. Long-tailed Sibia

60. Rusty-fronted Barwing

61. Silver-eared Mesia

62. White-crested Laughingthrush

63. Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch

64. Small Niltava

65. Verditer Flycatcher

66. Black-throated Sunbird

67. Streaked Spiderhunter



Sunday, May 22, 2022

We're going in!


 Technically, Lama Camp is not actually in the Eaglenest Sanctuary. We had to drive up to reach the sanctuary and our next destination, Bompu Camp, about 30 km away. The road is called a jeep track. That is putting is nicely. I can't believe where we went in our vehicle, which was only two wheel drive. We had to gain a good bit of elevation and some of the road had sharp drop-offs. 



But there was some other business to take care of first. We returned the trail where the others had seen the Bugun Liocichla the previous afternoon. Being my normal pessimistic self, I didn't have a lot of hope, but Dorjee and Mike quickly located three, including a very showy female. Instead of diving into the undergrowth, this one was, as my friend Matt Hale says, a real tart! She showed off for quite some time, allowing photos and even some video. I was greatly relieved. We had some other great birds near by, including Red-billed Leiothrix. (I dare you to try and pronounce Liocichla and Liothrix three times quickly after drinking a bottle of wine!)



The birds in this area can be incredibly difficult to see. This is understandable as even the small birds have been hunted for so long. Now the birds are protected in the sanctuary, but their instinct to hide is still strong. So many birds were skulking deep in the under-story. We would hear them singing just a few feet away, but only get quick glimpses. It was very frustrating at times. But some birds were very showy, particularly sunbirds. We had so many Green-tailed Sunbirds working the flowers we started sighing saying "It's another sunbird." 

We crossed into the sanctuary and had a lot of interesting birds. An Ashy Wood-pigeon was a bit of a prize.  A Yellow-cheeked Tit showed well. (I am resisting make a juvenile joke about a tit showing.) One of my favorite birds of the day, a Hoary-throated Barwing picked around on a mossy tree. It is not a rare bird, but I really loved the plumage. It is well named, with a pale throat and barred wings.  We also had a Yellow-bellied Fairy-fantail, who has one of the best names ever!


We got to Bompu Camp at about 300PM. I was so excited to see someone had put up sheets with lights to study moths. Even though it was mid-day the sheets were still covered with bugs. We were surprised that the birds were not coming in and eating them. After we got into our tents, I climbed the hill and took way too many photos. Getting IDs on them is going to be fun. I am not going to start processing those photos until after I get my posts on the trip finished. Butterflies are hard enough to get identified. But there were some really cool moths there! 

After we got settled in we went down hill from the camp to do some more birding. Again, most of the birds were very difficult to see, but we lucked out with a Chestnut-breasted Partridge, which is not an easy bird to get. We also had a gorgeous Red-headed Trogon. We heard a lot of good birds, like Himalayan Cutia, Long-billed Wren-babbler, Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler, Slaty-bellied Tesia, a super cute bird that I really wanted to actually see. Our plan was to drive down that road the following morning, looking for some of the lower elevation birds. I could not wait!


Bompu was very similar to Lama Camp. We slept in tents with cots. There were western type toilets in the outdoor bathroom. It wasn't nearly as cold there. It had been wet and there was a lot of mud, but that wasn't difficult that difficult to deal with. We had a nip of whiskey, plugged in everything that needed charging when they turned on the generator, and had a very nice dinner. They even had dessert! 

Photos from the day: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sngcanary/albums/72177720299163181

Bird list for the day: 

1. Hill Partridge

2. Chestnut-bellied Partridge *

3. Ashy Wood-pigeon *

4. Wedge-tailed Green-pigeon *

5. Large Hawk Cuckoo

6. Lesser Cuckoo

7. Indian Cuckoo

8. Himalayan Cuckoo

9. Common Cuckoo

10. Red-headed Trogon

11. Great Barbet

12, Golden-throated Barbet

13. Bay Woodpecker

14. Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike

15. Black-headed Shrike-babbler *

16. Green Shrike-babbler

17. Black-eared Shrike-babbler *

18. Maroon Oriole

19. White-throated Fantail

20. Ashy Drongo

21. Gray-backed Shrike

22. Yellow-bellied Fairy-fantail

23. Gray-headed Canary-flycatcher

24. Green-backed Tit

25. Yellow-cheeked Tit

26. Russet Bush Warbler

27. Pygmy Cupwing

28. Gray-cheeked Warbler

29. Whistler's Warbler

30. Large-billed Leaf-warbler

31. Chestnut-crowned Warbler

32. Blyth's Leaf-warbler

33. Slaty-bellied Tesia

34. Black-faced Warbler

35. Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler

36. Black-throated Tit

37. Golden-breasted Fulvetta *

38. White-breasted Parrotbill *

39. Black-chinned Yuhina *

40. Whiskered Yuhina

41.  White-naped Yuhina *

42. Stripe-throated Yuhina

43. Rufous-vented Yuhina

44. Golden Babbler

45. Rufous-throated Wren-babbler *

46. Coral-billed Scimitar-babbler

47. Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler *

48. Yellow-throated Fulvetta *

49. Rufous-winged Fulvetta

50. Long-billed Wren-babbler

51. Striated Laughingthrush

52. Himalaya Cutia

53. Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush

54. Beautiful Sibia

55. Hoary-throated Barwing *

56. Chestnut-tailed Minla

57. Rusty-fronted Barwing

58. Red-billed Leiothrix

59. Red-tailed Minla *

60. Bugun Liocichla

61. Gray-sided Laughingthrush

62. Gray-winged Blackbird

63. Rufous-bellied Niltava

64. Verditer Flycatcher

65.Blue Whistling-thrush

66.  White-tailed Robin

67. Blue-fronted Redstart

68. Chestnut-bellied Rock-thrush

69. Green-tailed Sunbird

70. Orange-bellied Leafbird

71. Olive-backed Pipit

72. Common Rosefinch

73. Gray-headed Bullfinch *

Life birds marked with *