Day 1 - Arrive Delhi in afternoon and transfer to hotel.
Day 2 Post Breakfast transfer to airport to connect fight to Dibrugarh in extreme northeast Assam. From here we will drive across the border into Arunachal Pradesh and proceed to Namdapha National Park for a seven nights stay. Our .rst two nights and our last night will be spent at the simple but wonderfully-situated Deban resthouse, with the other four nights under canvas as we explore the park.
Days 3-8 Namdapha National Park is a most remarkable place. Almost 2000 square kilometres in extent, this immense sanctuary is the only protected area on earth that has an altitudinal variation from only 200m above sea-level to over 4500m! Habitats range from virgin lowland broadleaved evergreen forest to hill evergreen forest, temperate mixed forest, alpine meadows, rhododendron scrub and rocky, snow-covered mountain tops. It is this remarkable diversity, together with the park’s strategic position in the far eastern Himalayas, adjacent to northern Myanmar and not far from the hills of Nagaland, that accounts for the richness of its avifauna, amounting to perhaps 300 species or more. The virtual lack of roads or even trails in most of the park means that the higher altitude habitats are effectively out of reach, but in any event many montane species occur at remarkably low altitudes in this area. During our stay at Namdapha we will trek to Hornbill Camp and back via Haldibari. The pace will be fairly easy going, and our luggage will be carried for us by local porters. Our accommodation will be in tents erected for us by our local out.tters and we will dine under the stars. On clear days, the view from our base at Deban (at about 305m) is stunning. Continuous forest stretches into the distance over the rolling hills, forming a vast haven for Eastern Himalayan bird specialities, and the fast-.owing Noa Dihing River sweeps down through this landscape before opening into a broad stony riverbed. Along the river we will search for wintering Ibisbills, for Long-billed Plovers and especially for the little known White-bellied Heron, which is regularly seen here, but is very erratic in occurrence. We should also .nd Great Cormorant, Goosander (or Common Merganser), River Lapwing, Green and Common Sandpipers, Pallas’s Gull, Crested and Common King.shers, jaunty Brown Dippers, Blue Whistling Thrush and smart White-capped River-Chats and Plumbeous Water-Redstarts, while Little, Slaty-backed and Spotted Forktails are all possible. Overhead, we will keep a lookout for raptors such as Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Goshawk, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Rufous-bellied and Mountain Hawk-Eagles, and also for Himalayan Swiftlet, the skinny Asian Palm-Swift, Silver-backed Needletail, and Nepal House Martin. Entering the forest, the bird possibilities dramatically increase. There is only one main trail and we are unlikely to encounter any other humans! To begin with the forest is fairly light, with clearings and patches of bamboo, as far as our .rst camp at Haldibari (situated at about 475m), some .ve kilometres from Deban. The forest becomes more ‘primary’, with taller trees, during the six kilometres walk from Haldibari to our second camp at Hornbill (at about 610m). Hornbill has a wonderful and very remote feel, being just a small clearing by a stream amidst a huge expanse of primary forest. We will spend three nights here, exploring low forested ridges and an excellent area of bamboo beyond our camp (reaching a maximum of about 910m elevation). Some of the more colourful and attractive species that we should encounter include Red-headed Trogon, Silver-breasted and Long-tailed Broadbills, the dazzling Asian Fairy-Bluebird, Blue-winged, Gold-fronted and Orange-bellied Leafbirds, dashing Scarlet Minivets, Asian Paradise-Flycatcher, Sultan Tit, Maroon Oriole and the pea-green Common Green Magpie. Feeding in the treetops will be Ashy-headed and Pin-tailed Green-Pigeons (the former split from Pompadour), Mountain Imperial-Pigeon, cackling Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, Great, Blue-throated and Blue-eared Barbets, magni.cent Great, Wreathed and Rufous-necked Hornbills, the rarer White-throated Brown (or Rusty-cheeked) Hornbill (split from Brown), Ashy and Himalayan Black Bulbuls, Ashy and Bronzed Drongos, Common Hill-Myna and the restless Streaked Spiderhunter. A good variety of woodpeckers occur here and we should .nd Grey-capped Pygmy, Rufous, Grey-headed, Bay and Great Slaty Woodpeckers, Speckled and White-browed Piculets, Lesser and Greater Yellownapes, and Greater Flameback. As usual, mixed-species feeding .ocks form an important component of the forest avifauna and often include such species as Grey-chinned Minivet, Large and Black-winged Cuckooshrikes, Large Woodshrike, Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Yellow-bellied and White-throated Fantails, Golden and Grey-throated Babblers, Silver-eared Mesia, White-browed and Black-eared Shrike-Babblers, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Blue-winged and Red-tailed Minlas, Nepal Fulvetta, Rufous-backed and Long-tailed Sibias, Striated, Black-chinned and Whiskered Yuhinas, White-bellied Erpornis, Grey-headed Parrotbill, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch and, sometimes, the much sought-after Beautiful Nuthatch and White-naped Yuhina. Some of the birds that we will be trying to .nd live on the ground or skulk in low undergrowth. Nevertheless we have a good chance of .nding White-cheeked Partridge, Grey Peacock-Pheasant, Lesser Shortwing, White-tailed Blue-Robin, Scaly Thrush, the perky Chestnut-headed, Slaty-bellied and Grey-bellied Tesias, Rufous-vented Laughingthrush, Puff-throated Babbler, the near-endemic Snowy-throated Babbler (one of the prime specialities of Namdapha), Large Scimitar-Babbler, Streaked, Eyebrowed, Pygmy and Spotted Wren-Babblers, and Rufous-throated Fulvetta. Flycatchers are very well represented, with Asian Paradise-Flycatcher, Rufous-gorgeted, Red-throated (or Taiga), Snowy-browed, Little Pied, Slaty-blue, Sapphire, White-tailed, Pale Blue, Pygmy Blue and Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers and Large, Small and Rufous-bellied Niltavas all possible. There is also an incredible variety of warblers at Namdapha, including Yellow-browed, Blyth’s Leaf, Yellow-vented, Grey-hooded, Grey-cheeked, White-spectacled, Chestnut-crowned, Rufous-faced, and Yellow-bellied, and Mountain and Common Tailorbirds. Bamboo provides habitat for an interesting range of seldom-seen species, including Pale-headed Woodpecker, Red-billed and Coral-billed Scimitar-Babblers, White-hooded Babbler and both Lesser and Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbills, while clearings and more open areas typically hold Olive-backed Pipit, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Grey Bushchat, Siberian Stonechat, Striped (or Pin-striped) Tit-Babbler, Grey-backed Shrike and Eastern Jungle Crow (split from Large-billed). With luck we will also come across the localized Pied Falconet, Spotted Dove, Indian Roller, Bengal Bush Lark, Olive-backed Pipit, Oriental Magpie Robin, Daurian Redstart, Grey Bushchat, Common Stonechat, Hill Prinia, Striped Tit Babbler, Grey –backed Shrike, Large-billed Crow, Black Drongo, Common Jungle Mynas and White-rumped Munia. We will make night-time sorties in search of Oriental Bay-Owl, Mountain and Collared Scops-Owls, Brown Boobook (or Brown Hawk-Owl) and Grey Nightjar, while Collared and Asian Barred Owlets are crepuscular or even diurnal. Other species that we should see during our stay in Namdapha include the rare Collared Treepie and Beautiful Sibia, as well as Green-billed Malkoha, Barred Cuckoo-Dove, Emerald Dove, Grey Treepie, Hair-crested and Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, Common Iora, Blue Rock-Thrush, Himalayan Red-flanked Bluetail (split from Northern), White-crowned Forktail, Black-crested, Red-vented and White-throated Bulbuls, White-crested, Lesser Necklaced and Greater Necklaced Laughingthrushes, and Black-breasted Sunbird. If we are lucky, we will find few of the parks’ more elusive inhabitants which incudes Hill Patrtridge, Lesser Fish Eagle, Oriental Hobby, Plain-backed and Dark-sided Thrushes, Rusty-bellied Shortwing, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Bluefronted Robin, Green Cochoa, Black-headed Shrike Babbler and Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker.
Day 9 After some final birding at Namdapha we will drive to the bustling town of Tinsukia in eastern Assam, our base for sorties into Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and to the Digboi oil.elds, for a four nights stay.
Day 10-12 Situated in the Brahmaputra flood plain and wedged between two major rivers, the Dibru and the mighty Brahmaputra, is the recently gazetted Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, which protects an extensive mosaic of swamp forest, grassland and shallow wetlands. With a motorized boat at our disposal, most of our time in and around the park will be spent in search of the grassland specialities along the ever-changing banks of the Dibru River, particularly three northeast Indian endemics, Swamp Prinia (formerly often lumped in Rufous-vented), the highly skulking Marsh Babbler and the impressive Black-breasted Parrotbill, as well as the somewhat more widespread Jerdon’s Babbler. Other interesting residents include Indian Spot-billed Duck, and Sand Lark, as well as grass-loving species like Lesser Coucal, Zitting Cisticola, Yellow-bellied and Plain Prinias, and Chestnut-capped and Striated Babblers. The open wetlands and rivers inside the park usually hold a variety of wintering waterfowl, waders and large waterbirds, and we should .nd Little Cormorant, Oriental Darter, Little, Intermediate and Great Egrets, Indian Pond-Heron, Striated (or Little) Heron, Black Stork, Asian Openbill, Ruddy Shelduck, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Pintail Snipe, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Temminck’s Stint and Brown-headed Gull. There will be a whole new range of raptors to scan for and we may well see Oriental Honey-Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, White-rumped Vulture, the rare and restricted-range Slender-billed Vulture, Shikra, Common Kestrel and the sleek Red-necked Falcon. A host of interesting passerine migrants winter here, including the restricted range Smoky Warbler, and we will also be on the lookout for Richard’s, Paddy.eld and Rosy Pipits, Citrine and Grey-headed Wagtails, Bluethroat, Chestnut-crowned and Grey-sided Bush Warblers, Paddy.eld, Dusky and Smoky Warblers, and Black-faced Bunting. Patches of epiphyte-festooned woodland provide habitat for Greater Coucal, Rose-ringed and Red breasted Parakeets, Lineated and Coppersmith Barbets, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Green Imperial Pigeon, Rosy Minivet, Black-hooded Oriole and Rufous Treepie. Other Species that we should encounter include White-throated and peid Kingfishers, House Crow, Asian Pied Starling, Plain Martin, Great Tit, Oriental Skylark, Plain and Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers, ruby-cheeked and Crimson Sunbirds, Oriental White-eye and Long-tailed Shrike. The Dibru River, which forms the southern boundary of the park, is an excellent site for the scarce Gangetic River Dolphin. One day we will make a day trip to the Digboi Oilfields, some of the oldest in the world and still with some interesting relics of the original infrastructure. The logged but nowadays undisturbed forests here are one of the best places to see the little-known Chestnut-backed Laughingthrush, as well as Rufous-necked Laughingthrush and Collared Treepie. The rare White-winged Duck is also a possibility, while Asian Elephants are common, though not often seen.
Day 13 Leaving eastern Assam behind, we will drive southwestern to Kaziranga National Park for three nights stay. In the afternoon we will make our first excursion into the park.
Days 14-15 The fantastic Kaziranga National Park needs little introduction. It is one of the most important reserves in the world, let alone the Indian subcontinent, being one of the last refuges for large numbers of Indian (or Asian One-horned) Rhinoceros, Swamp Deer and wild Water Buffalo. Roughly three-quarters of the surviving populations of each of these species live in the park. We will have opportunities to admire these impressive animals along with Indian (or Asian) Elephant, which is still common here. (Tigers still occur at Kaziranga, but we would really count ourselves extremely lucky if we came across one!) All of our excursions into the park will be by open-topped jeep, with regular stops at watch-towers and other vantage points, where we will be treated to some superb panoramic views of the grassland, marshes and lakes dotted with herds of large mammals and an impressive array of waterbirds. Although annually burnt to provide grazing for mammals, the extensive grassland in the park holds some rare and restricted-range birds. We will have a very good chance of seeing three threatened species, Swamp Partridge, Slender-billed Vulture and Bengal Florican, and may also come across more skulking and rarely seen birds such as Slender-billed Babbler and Bristled Grassbird. The rare and localized Finn’s Weaver is an outside possibility. Scattered throughout the grassland tracts are a series of shallow wetlands which support good numbers of waterfowl, waders and other waterbirds during the winter months, including the endangered Spot-billed Pelican, Grey and Purple Herons, Eastern Cattle Egret (split from Western), Woolly-necked and Black-necked Storks, Lesser Adjutant, the critically endangered and decidedly ugly Greater Adjutant (now largely restricted to Assam and Cambodia), Lesser Whistling Duck, Bar-headed Goose, Garganey, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, White-breasted Waterhen, Grey-headed Swamphen, Bronze-winged Jacana, Grey-headed and Red-wattled Lapwings, Spotted and Common Redshanks, Marsh Sandpiper, and River and Whiskered Terns. There is a good chance that we will come across one of the park’s rarer visitors, such as Falcated Duck. The sky will be .lled with yet more new raptors and we will be on the lookout for Osprey, Black Baza, Black, Black-eared and Brahminy Kites, Pallas’s and Grey-headed Fish-Eagles (both still fairly common here), Red-headed Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Eastern Marsh, Hen and Pied Harriers, Greater Spotted Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle and Peregrine Falcon. Small areas of open woodland and belts of trees shelter plenty of interesting landbirds and we have a good chance of seeing Kalij Pheasant, Red Junglefowl, Yellow-footed Green-Pigeon, Green Imperial-Pigeon, Oriental Turtle-Dove, Banded Bay and Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoos, Alexandrine, Rose-ringed, Red-breasted and Blossom-headed Parakeets, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Lineated and Coppersmith Barbets, Streak-throated and Fulvous-breasted Woodpeckers, Black-rumped Flameback, Pale-footed Bush Warbler, Velvet –fronted Nuthatch, Yellow Vented Flower-pecker, Ashy Woodswallow and Spot-winged Starling. Other species likely at Kaziranga include Red Collared-Dove, Plaintive Cuckoo, Greater Coucal, Stork-billed King.sher, Green Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe, Bengal Bushlark, Small Minivet, Brown Shrike, Greenish and Tickell’s Leaf Warblers, White-tailed (or Himalayan) Rubythroat, White-rumped Shama, Black-naped Monarch, Abbott’s Babbler, Yellow-vented Flowerpecker and White-vented Myna. Nightbirds include Dusky Eagle-Owl, Brown Fish-Owl and Spotted Owlet, and we will endeavour to find some of these at their daytime roosts. Venturing further afield to some evergreen forest adjacent to the park, we will search for Violet Cuckoo, Dollarbird, Balck-naped Monarch, White-rumped Shama, Balck-backed Fortkail, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Golden-spectacled Warbler, Abbott’s Babbler and White-browed Scimitar Babbler.
Day 16 After some final birding at Kaziranga we will drive to Shilong for a three nights Stay.
Days 17-18 Situated in the mountainous state of Meghalaya, Shillong is home to the largely Christian Khasi people and is a popular hill station and regional education centre. The fresh mountain air, variable weather and mosaic of pine and broadleaved forests have given rise to the rather grand title ‘Scotland of the east’ for the Shillong uplands. Much of our time here will be spent exploring pockets of montane broadleaved evergreen forest, focussing on a search for the enigmatic endemic Tawny-breasted Wren-Babbler. Typical montane, mainly Himalayan, species that we should encounter are Black Eagle, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Golden-throated Barbet, Crested Finchbill, Flavescent and Mountain Bulbuls, Golden Bush Robin, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Straited Prinia, Brownish-flanked and Russet Bush Warblers, Buff barred and Ashy-throated Warblers, Verditer Flycatchers, Chstnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Red-billed Leiothrix, Rusty-capped Fulvetta, Grey Sibia, Green-backed Tit, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Gren-tailed Sunbird and Russet Sparrow. We should also find House Swift, Striated Swallow, Grey Wagtail, Orange-headed Thrush, Hume’s Leaf Warbler and Little Bunting. We will also make an excursion to the small town of Cherrapunjee, which is perched on a plateau bounded by dramatic steep wooded slopes and cliffs, cut-through by numerous spectacular waterfalls, overlooking the plains of Bangladesh. The cliffs in this area are the best-known breeding area of one of the world’s rarest APUS species the Dark-rumped Swift.
Day 19 After some final birding in Meghalaya we will leave the hills behind and descend to Guwahati in time to catch an early evening fiight to Delhi where, after dinner, we connect with our onward flight to London.