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, 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:

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:

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. 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:

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:

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:

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:

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 *

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Let's get the party started!

 It was now time for the meat and potatoes part of the trip, Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary. Mike said the typical way to do the trip we were doing was to go to Eaglenest first to get the hard part of the trip out of the way, and then relax at Nameri and Kaziranga. But Kaziranga closed in May, so we had to do it first. Eaglenest is hardcore. The accommodations are extremely basic, but it is well worth the effort. This reserve has recorded over 350 species of birds, including one of the rarest birds in the world, Bugun Liocichla, which was only discovered in 1995 and described as a new species in 2006. I will write more about this later. 

We started the day walking down the four floors of stairs again. (I wonder if the elevator is fixed yet?) After a cup of tea we left to pick up Mike at his home stay. It sounded like he had a wonderful time with the family there the night before. As I had predicted the previous evening, there were a couple of Black-tailed Crakes in the pond by the house. It was not fully daylight, but I was able to get a few photos. Crakes can be so sneaky it was great to see them out in the open! 

I am going to be honest, I don't remember much of the drive to Eaglenest. I know from the eBird lists that we saw a lot of birds, but the locations are not that clear in my mind.gray We stopped to eat and had some of the prettiest momos of the trip, as well as a cup of Nescaff. No, I didn't misspell it. The cups said Nescaff! We stopped at a "wine shop" for another bottle of whiskey and headed up the road to Lama Camp, where we were spending the night. We had to pass through a gate, which took a little time, getting permits in order. 

We stopped to bird a couple of times and saw a number of really nice birds, including Striated Laughingthrush, and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker. A stream crossing had a beautiful Spotted Forktail. When we went to Thailand we had looked hard for one of the forktails, but had no luck, so I was excited to see this one. We came to a trail where the Bugun Liocichla is routinely found. We walked down and Dorjee and Mike quickly found a couple. Willie saw one, but guess who didn't? And guess who had a very bad attitude about not seeing one? Mike assured me we would be laughing the next day when I saw it, but I was not convinced that would happen. I was feeling really incompetent. There are estimated to be between 50 and 100 of these birds in existence. Mike said that may be a high estimate. I REALLY wanted to see this bird. 

We arrived at Lama Camp and checked into our accommodations, which are pictured above. This camp is at about 7,700 feet. It is very cold at night. The tents do have cots with several incredibly heavy blankets, so we did stay warm, though I couldn't move under the weight! The building on the right is the bathroom, which did have western style toilets, a real luxury! Bathing was only with a bucket of hot water and a mug. Due to the chilly nature of the weather I decided I was going to be grungy. We had to climb a rather rickety staircase up the hill to the tents. There was no electricity in the tents, though they provided a solar charged lantern. In the evening they run a generator in the dining room where you can charge any cameras, phones, or other devices. Meals were vegetarian, but very satisfying. I didn't miss meat at all! For someone who considers camping to be staying in a hotel outside the loop, this was going to be challenging! I still was certain I wasn't going to get the star bird in the morning. 

Photos from the day:

Bird list for the day:

1. Kalij Pheasant

2. Oriental Turtledove

3. Square-tailed Drongo-cuckoo

4. Large Hawk-cuckoo

5. Lesser Cuckoo

6. Indian Cuckoo

7. Himalayan Cuckoo

8. Common Cuckoo

9. Black-tailed Crake *

10. Great Barbet

11. Golden-throated Barbet

12. Rufous-bellied Woodpecker *

13. Short-billed Minivet

14. Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike

15. Slender-billed Oriole

16. White-throated Fantail

17. Ashy Drongo

18. Yellow-bellied Fairy-fantail

19. Gray-headed Canary-flycatcher

20. Green-backed TitBrown

21. Black-throated Prinia

22. Russet Bush Warbler

23. Red-vented Bulbul

24.  Black Bulbul

25. Buff-throated Warbler

26. Gray-cheeked Warbler *

27. Blyth's Leaf-warbler

28. Black-faced Warbler *

29.  Brownish-flanked Warbler

30. Whiskered Yuhina

31. Streak-breasted Scimtar Babbler

32. Striated Laughingthrush *

33. Bhutan Laughingthrush

34. Beautiful Sibia

35. Rusty-fronted Barwing *

36. Red-billed Leiothrix *

37. Gray-sided Laughingthrush *

38. Gray-winged Blackbird *

39. Dark-sided Flycatcher

40. Small Niltava *

41. Rufous-bellied Niltava

42. Verditer Flycatcher

43. Indian Blue Robin

44. Spotted Forktail *

45. White-tailed Robin

46. Slaty-blue Flycatcher

47. Gray Bushchat

48. Mrs. Gould's Sunbird

49. Green-tailed Sunbird

50. Russet Sparrow

51. Olive-backed Pipit

Friday, May 20, 2022

Well, that's a little creepy...

 We had another "late start". I don't think we left the hotel until after 500AM. The elevator was still out, but walking down four floors at the beginning of the day wasn't as bad as walking up at the end of the day. We really hoped it would be fixed by the time we got back. We grabbed some more tea and took for Thembang Road, a location that Dorjee knew well, but isn't on the regular birding circuit. It was a good choice!

We had not gone far at all when we saw a Crested Bunting sitting on a wire singing. It is a striking bird, rufous and black, with, believe it or not, a crest! We were really surprised to find it there as it did not seem to be the right habitat. It was accompanied by some Russet Sparrows, which didn't surprise us at all, as they are all over the place. A few other birds were nearby, a Long-tailed Shrike, Black Bulbuls, Ashy Drongo, a Blue Whistling-thrush, and some other common species.

We quickly turned onto Thembang Road and started picking up birds right away. Most of the birds were ones we had seen before, but Gray-hooded Warbler was a new one for me. We had a Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike, which is such a great name! We had seen them in Thailand, but it was a new bird for India and a real looker. We had a little blue theme going on with Blue-winged Minla, Blue-capped Rock-thrush, and Verditer Flycatcher, which is almost the same color as our Mountain Bluebirds.

As we moved up in elevation we found more and more species. The blue theme continued with Ultramarine Flycatcher and Indian Blue Robin. A Yellow-breasted Greenfinch was a nice addition to my life list. Some swifts flew overhead and I was very happy to see White-throated Needlettails.  I was extremely excited when a Himalayan Cutia flew into the top of a tree. This was another of my most wanted birds. I got good looks at it, but I didn't try to photograph it, ,as the bird guide we had talked to a couple of days previously told us they were all over Eaglenest, where we were heading the next day. A rather disreputable looking Black-throated Prinia popped up, one of the few birds I actually photographed on this day.

I did take a lot of photos of different shrines and memorials along the road. We came across some prayer wheels, which Mike and I turned. I kind of expected to be hit by lightening, but nothing happened. I also found a few butterflies, including a stunning Indian Tortoiseshell. I also photographed some really spooky looking scarecrows in a field. We had seen a couple the day before on Mandala Road, but one of these was even scarier looking. 

After lunch we drove to Sangti Valley to look for Long-billed Plover, which is found along rocky river banks. There were a couple of spots where they are normally seen. We parked along the river and walked and scanned. I mistook a White Wagtail for a forktail and felt a little dumb. Common Sandpipers caught me out a couple of times, but we couldn't find a plover. We stopped at another spot which involved climbing down an extremely steep slope. I know my limitations so I said I would have to stay up top. Mike said that was fine, as he and Dorjee would go down and find one and Willie and I should be able to see it from where we were. They scrambled down and did find one pretty quickly. Willie saw it right away, but I could not find it anywhere. Dorjee came up to help me. I was getting extremely nervous. Finally, I was able to get on it. It was almost exactly the same color as the sand it was standing on.

We drove back into town. Unfortunately Mike had not been able to get a room at the same hotel we were at for the night. We dropped him at a home stay that looked very nice. I noticed a pond with reeds across from the place and said we needed to look for Black-tailed Crakes in the morning. Willie and I went on to the hotel, where we discovered the elevator was still broken, so we trudged up the four flights of stairs. Maybe Mike was actually lucky to be staying where he was!

The few photos I took this day:

Bird list for the day: 

1. Large Hawk-cuckoo

2. Himalayan Cuckoo

3. Common Cuckoo

4. White-throated Needetail *

5. Blyth's Swift

6. River Lapwing

7. Red-wattled Lapwing

8. Long-billed Plover *

9. Common Sandpiper

10. Great Barbet

11. Golden-throated Barbet

12. Long-tailed Minivet

13. Slender-billed Oriole

14. Maroon Oriole

15. Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike

16. Ashy Drongo

17. Long-tailed Shrike

18. Gray Treepie

19. Large-billed Crow

20. Gray-headed Canary-flycatcher

21. Green-backed Tit

22. Black-throated Prinia *

23. Russet Bush Warbler *

24. Striated Bulbul

25. Red-vented Bulbul

26. Black Bulbul

27. Mountain Bulbul

28. Buff-barred Warbler

29. Buff-throated Warbler

30. Whistler's Warbler

31. Greenish Warbler

32. Large-billed Leaf-warbler

33. Byth's Leaf-warbler

34. Gray-hooded Warbler *

35. Russet Bush-warbler *

36. Black-throated Tit

37. Whiskered Yuhina

38. Indian White-eye

39. Streaked-breasted Scimtar-babbler

40. Himalayan Cutia *

42. Bhutan Laughingthrush

43. Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush

44. Blue-winged Minla

45. White-tailed Nuthatch *

46. Verditer Flycatcher

47. Indian Blue Robin

48. Blue Whistling-thrush

49. Slaty-backed Flycatcher

50. Ultramarine Flycatcher

51. Plumbeous Redstart

52. Blue-capped Rockthrush

53. Gray Bushchat

54. Fire-breasted Flowerpecker *

55. Mrs. Gould's Sunbird

56. Orange-bellied Leafbird

57. Rufous-breasted Accentor

58. Russet Sparrow

59. Gray Wagtail

60. White Wagtail

61. Paddyfield Pipit

62. Olive-backed Pipit

63. Common Rosefinch *

64. Brown Bullfinch *

65. Yellow-breasted Greenfinch *

66. Crested Bunting *

67. Little Bunting *

Life birds marked with *

Thursday, May 19, 2022

I can see the Himalayas!


Mandala Road was our destination for this day. Luckily, we didn't have to get as early. I think it was about 5AM. One of the hotel staff gave Willie and I a cup of tea made with ginger and black pepper. It was wonderful! We headed out for another road full of switch-backs and some very nice birds. It was a bit of a climb to Mandala Top which is about 10,000 feet. 

The weather was wonderful, with bright sun and an almost clear sky. As we drove up the road we were thrilled to see the snow-covered Himalayas. I am not sure if these mountains were in India or Tibet, but we were really lucky to have a clear day to see them. We stopped several times to take photos. We also started seeing birds pretty quickly. Russet Sparrows, Gray Bushchats, Blue-capped Rockthrush, and a Common Cuckoo were seen before 6AM. There were a number of Mrs. Gould's Sunbirds, a stunning bird that I had seen in Thailand but was extremely happy to see again. Verditer Flycatchers, which remind me of Mountain Bluebirds, and an Ultramarine Flycatcher, which reminds me of a Black-throated Blue Warbler, perched up for us. 

I was particularly happy to see a couple of Eurasian Nutcrackers, a bird Martin saw in Belarus, but I missed. A Short-billed Minivet put on a nice show, flashing a lot of red. A Chestnut-tailed Minla was very cooperative. And then there were the warblers. I have to admit I have a very hard time getting excited about phylloscopus warblers. I have a terrible time determining which are which. Luckily, Mike loves them and was good at IDing them. 

We reached Mandala Top by mid-morning. Prayer flags surrounded a stupa, which is a Buddhist mound housing relics. This part of India is heavily Buddhist instead of Hindu. I have to admit I am a typical American, ignorant of other cultures, but from my little exposure to Asia, this put me in mind of Tibet or Nepal. I really hate feeling like an ugly American. We ate our box breakfast, prepared by the hotel, and, as always, I gave my hard-boiled eggs to some sweet dogs. 

There was a small cafe and we had tea. We were going to have our lunch there and they asked us what we wanted, either chicken or yak. Mike and I immediately said "YAK!" Willie wasn't as enthused, but when do you get a chance to have yak for lunch? We left to do some more birding. I was really looking foward to my yak lunch!

The birds continued to delight. My favorite sighting was a Slender-billed Scimtar-babbler. Isn't that a great name? It was a great bird, too. It sat out in the open for a few seconds and sang. I was able to get a video, which isn't great quality, but scimtar-babblers were very skulky, so I was more than happy. Hill Partridges were calling all along the road. Then we heard an even better bird, a Temminck's Tragopan. Tragopans are pheasants, and I badly wanted to see one. It was calling down-hill from where we were standing. We jumped in the car and drove down, but were unable to re-find it. We did have several laughing-thrushes, a number of Blue-winged Minlas, and more sunbirds. 

We drove back to the cafe for lunch. The yak was tasty, but extremely tough. I was offered a bowl, but just put it on my plate with rice and dal. I realized later I should have taken the bowl and eaten the broth. The meat itself was on the bone and was chewy, to say the least. Would I order it again? Maybe. I love eating foods that almost nobody else I know has eaten! 

We birded our way back down the road to Dirang. I have to be honest, my memories are bit fuzzy. I remember the birds, including Beatiful Sibia, but not much else. The sibia is not flashy, but on reflection, it is rather beautiful,  I do recall seeing a couple of very creepy scarecrows, which Mike said he thought were to protect the fields from evil spirits, rather than crows. I regretted not getting some photos. We got back to the hotel and discovered that the elevator was not working, so we walked up four flights to our room. At least we were spared from more Kenny G! We had a couple of celebratory whiskeys and went to dinner.

Photos from the day, most of which suck!

Bird list for the day:

1. Hill Partridge *

2. Temminck's Tragopan *

3. Oriental Turtle-dove

4. Large Hawk-cuckoo

5. Lesser Cuckoo *

6. Himalayan Cuckoo *

7. Common Cuckoo

8. Mountain Hawk-eagle

9. Himalayan Griffon

10. Great Barbet\

11. Short-billed Minivet

12. Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike

13. Green Shrike-babbler *

14. Ashy Drongo

15. Long-tailed Shrike

16. Gray-backed Shrike

17. Yellow-billed Blue-magpie *

18. Eurasian Nutcracker *

19. Large-billed Crow

20. Green-backed Tit *

21. Brown Bush-warbler *

22.  Red-vented Bulbul

23. Black Bulbul

24. Ashy-throated Warbler

25. Buff-barred Warbler *

26. Lemon-rumped Warbler *

27. Buff-throated Warbler

28. Whistler's Warbler *

29. Greenish Warbler

30. Large-billed Leaf-warbler *

31. Blyth's Leaf-warbler

32. Chestnut-crowned Bush-warbler *

33. Brownish-flanked Bush-warbler *

34. Black-browed Tit *

35. Brown-throated Fulvetta *

36. Striated Yuhina *

37. Whiskered Yuhina

38. Stripe-throated Yuhina *

39. Rufous-vented Yunina

40. Rufous-capped Babbler *

41. Bar-winged Wren-babbler *

42. Slender-billed Scimtar-babbler *

43. Streak-breasted Scimtar-babbler * 

44. Bhutan Laughing-thrush *

45. Black-faced Laughing-thrush

46. Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush *

47. Beautiful Sibia *

48. Blue-winged Minla

49. Chestnut-tailed Minla

50. White-collared Blackbird

51. Dark-sided Flycatcher

52. Verditer Flycatcher

53. Indian Blue Robin *

54. Slaty-blue Flycatcher

55. Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher

56. Ultramarine Flycatcher

57. Blue-fronted Redstart

58. Chestnut-bellied Rockthrush

59. Blue-capped Rockthrush

60. Gray Bushchat

61. Fire-tailed Sunbird

62. Mrs. Gould's Sunbird

63. Green-tailed Sunbird

64. Russet Sparrow

65. Olive-backed Pipit