Saturday, May 4, 2019

Bird Watching in Eagle's Nest, Sela, Mandala

If somebody plans a birding trip to West Arunachal - Eagle's Nest (Lama Camp and Bompu Camp) and Sela Pass Mandala Pass, then here are the most important species that define those places.

Lama Camp is known for the Bugun Liocichla
Bompu Camp is known for the Blyth's Tragopan
Sela Pass is known for Snow Partridge

Appraently, luck was so good to us that we managed to click all the above. A big part of the credit goes to Micah aka Kami who is a research assitant working at Eagle's Nest and was also our guide during this trip. He knows the forest in-and-out and exactly knows where and how to spot the rare ones. This made our first challenge (to spot the birds) very easy, however the difficult part was to click those in low light and dense vegetation. Now that is where Eagle's Nest is tough and sometimes so tough that even my 400mm f/4 prime lens was not enough to pull-in adequate light to get a decent exposure.

Enjoy the video and clicks below.

The most important bird of Lama Camp: Bugun Liocichla. We were hearing stories that bird watchers make 4-5 visits to Eagle's Nest and yet they are not able to see the Bugun, forget clicking it. They are so rare. But Micah was so adept with the forest and he showed us the Bugun so easily that we never felt it was such a huge challenge.
Bugun Liocichla (lifer)

The most important bird of Bompu Camp: The call of Blyth's Tragopan is heard almost every morning at 5 am in Bompu Camp but nobody knows how to reach the bird through the forest trek. Micah knew the way and I was also ready for one of the toughest birding trek I ever did. The reward was a sighting and a click of Blyth's Tragopan Male. The steep trek all through the mountains and through those dense foliage wasn't easy. It was not only steep and we also had to do it very fast to catch up with the bird call. Finally when I reached the spot from where we could spot the bird, it was sitting under a very dense canopy - making it almost impossible to click. The below shot was at 1/15 shutter speed and 3200 ISO at f/4 400mm. Now you can imagine how tough the conditions were.

Blyth's Tragopan male (lifer)
Anybody who visits Sela Pass, only desires to click the Snow Partridge. But then again, they don't oblige anybody and everybody. We were the selected few who managed to click them up-close. Once again thanks to Micah who made this possible.

Snow Partridge (lifer)
Let's go into these three locations one by one and see in details what all we saw. Our lifer count wasn't much on this trip as we already did Mishmi and Sikkim. Still we managed to get 45 lifers in all. A lot of repeatitions were there from Mishmi and Sikkim, hence we didn't click the ones that we already found elsewhere. Only on a few occasions, when the birds were very near to us or in good light, that we clicked it again.

Bird Watching in Eagle's Nest Wildlife Sanctuary (Lama Camp and Bompu Camp): Altitude of around 10,000 feet.

Bay Woodpecker male

Bhutan Laughingthrush (lifer)

Golden-naped Finch male

Common Rosefinch male

Scarlet Finch male (lifer)

Maroon Oriole female

Yellow-rumped Honeyguide female (lifer)
Yellow-rumped Honeyguide female (lifer)

Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler (lifer)

Beautiful Nuthatch (lifer)

Wreathed Hornbill (lifer)

Long-tailed Broadbill (lifer)

Red-billed Leiothrix

Rufous-throated Wren babbler (lifer)

White-tailed Robin male (lifer)

Yellow-throated Fulvetta (lifer)

Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill (lifer)

Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill (lifer)

Grey-headed Parrotbill (lifer)

Rufous-necked Hornbill male

Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike (lifer)

Pale-headed Woodpecker female (lifer)

Hill Blue Flycatcher male (lifer)

Rufous-backed Sibia (lifer)

Blue-capped Rock Thrush male

Large Woodshrike 

Yellow-bellied Warbler (lifer)

Pale Blue Flycatcher male (lifer)

Black-throated Sunbird male

Tickell's Thrush female (lifer)

Red-throated Thrush female

Snowy-browed Flycatcher male (lifer)

White-tailed Nuthatch

Grey-headed Bullfinch female

Rufous-winged Fulvetta

Long-tailed Shrike

Himalayan Cutia male (lifer)

Greater Yellownape male (lifer)

Brown-throated Treecreeper (lifer)

Himalayan Swiftlet

Grey-bellied Tesia (lifer)

Slaty-bellied Tesia (lifer)

Chestnut-headed Tesia (lifer)

Spotted Nutcracker

Red-headed Trogon female

Sultan Tit

Green-tailed Sunbird male

Barred Cuckoo Dove (lifer)

Beautiful Sibia

Streak-throated Barwing (lifer)

Mountain Imperial Pigeon (lifer)

Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo (lifer)

Golden Babbler (lifer)

Black-chinned Yuhina (lifer)

Blue-throated Barbet

Crested Serpent Eagle

Mountain Hawk Eagle

Silver-eared Mesia

Elephant sighted from lama camp dinner area

Bird Watching in Sela Pass: Altitude of 13,600 feet above mean sea level. We started early morning at 3 am from Dirang to reach Sela before the sunrise with the objective to see the Snow Partridge and what a sight it was to spot 3 of them so close. The light was a little tricky in the early hours, but we managed some good sightings and clicks. We spotted the last Grandala flock in Sikkim before they went off to higher altitude, however here the Grandala was foraging almost everywhere.

Snow Partridge

Black-lipped Pika

White-browed Rosefinch male

Rufous-breasted Bush Robin

Fire-tailed Sunbird female

Fire-tailed Sunbird male

Himalayan Buzzard

Rufous-breasted Accentor

Red-billed Chough

Golden Bush Robin male (lifer)

Alpine Accentor

Winter Wren

White-capped Redstart

Grandala female

Grandala male

Rosy Pipit

Griffon Vulture (lifer)

Bird Watching in Manda La Pass: Altitude of 9000 feet above sea level. Once again to reach Mandala from Dirang, we had to start at 3-30 am. this time we were trying for the Temmick's Tragopan, although many advised us that it was a tough sighting these days because of the road construction. We didn't hear it call all morning so we started focussing on the other avenues. Also tried a lot for the Myzornis, searched for it in atleast more than 1000 Rhododendrons but it was nowhere to be seen. Also missed the Goldcrest which is a pretty regular sighting otherwise. The weather in general was good and we managed some good sightings and decent clicks.

Grey Bushchat male

Russet Sparrow male

Long-billed Plover (lifer)

Dark-sided Flycatcher

Black-eared Kite

Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush male

Eurasian Jay

Grey-sided Bush Warbler

Slaty-blue Flycatcher female (lifer)

Tibetan Siskin or Tibetan Serin female (lifer)

Eurasian Cuckoo male (lifer)

Slaty-blue Flycatcher male (lifer)

Little Bunting (lifer)

Oriental Skylark

Aberrant Bush Warbler (lifer)

Whistler's Warbler

Rufous-capped Babbler

Himalayan Buzzard

Bar-throated Siva
Blyth's Leaf Warbler

Blue-fronted Robin male (lifer)

Red-tailed Minla male

Red-tailed Minla female

Blue-winged Siva

Rufous-bellied Niltava
Some tips for those who are planning a trip to Eagle's Nest, Sela and Madala.

  • Be ready to put in the hard yards, no effort no gain. It's easy to have a wish list of birds and it's tough to actually see it and sometimes almost impossile to click. So be ready for some extensive trekking and mountain climbing and low light photography challenges. 
  • If booking a trip, never go directly through Indi Glow, he owns Lama camp but is least bothered about the guests. Book the trip directly through a Bird Guide. It will be less expensive and more rewarding.