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INDIA

Assam and Mishmi Hills

5–17 April 2021

This tour will take us to the extreme corner of northeast India at the junction of the Eastern Himalayas with Indo-Burma. In the Brahmaputra floodplain and sub-tropical forest of the Mishmi Hills we will search for grassland endemics and Himalayan specialities such as Swamp Prinia, Marsh Babbler, Black-breasted Parrotbill, Bengal Florican, White-winged Duck, Blyth’s and Temminck’s Tragopans, Mishmi Wren-babbler and Chevron-breasted Babbler.

Combine this tour with our tour to India – Eaglenest and save £500 on the combined total if flights from London are arranged by us.

Day 1 Overnight flight from London to Dibrugarh Airport in Assam.

Days 2–5 Upon arrival at Dibrugarh Airport we will make the short drive east to Tinsukia for a four-night stay, with the remainder of the afternoon and a further three full days to explore this region of Upper Assam. In the marshy grasslands that flank the Brahmaputra River at Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and at nearby Maguri Beel, we will go in search of three northeast Indian endemics – Black-breasted Parrotbill, Swamp Grass Babbler (Swamp Prinia) and Marsh Babbler. Other species we may encounter in this area include the range-restricted Jerdon’s Babbler, Pied Harrier, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Cotton Pygmy-goose, Fulvous Whistling-duck, Grey-headed Lapwing, Striated Heron, Cinnamon and Yellow Bitterns, Baya Weaver, Striated Grassbird, Swamp Francolin, Watercock, Asian Openbill, Falcated and Ferruginous Ducks, Bar-headed Goose, Yellow-eyed and Chestnut-capped Babblers, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Little Cormorant, Citrine Wagtail, Pallas’s Gull, Oriental Honey-buzzard, Indian Roller, White-throated Kingfisher, Smoky Warbler, Sand Lark and, with luck, a Graceful Prinia or Spotted Bush Warbler. In patches of lowland forest within the Digboi Oilfields, we hope to encounter Rufous-necked and Chestnut-backed Laughingthrushes and Collared Treepie. Other species to look out for here will include Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Jerdon’s Baza, Blue-naped Pitta, Grey-throated Babbler, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Plain Flowerpecker and Blue-throated Flycatcher. At some point during our stay we will also visit a vital remnant patch of lowland tropical forest at Dehing-Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary for an exciting selection of eastern Himalayan and more widespread specialities, with birds such as Pale-capped Pigeon, Silver-breasted Broadbill, White-crowned Forktail, White-cheeked Partridge, Grey Peacock-pheasant, White-winged Duck, Black Baza, up to five species of hornbill including Brown Hornbill, Nepal Fulvetta, Sultan Tit, Greater and Lesser Racket-tailed Drongos, Blue-winged and Golden-fronted Leafbirds, Scarlet and Long-tailed Minivets, Large Scimitar-babbler, White-hooded Babbler, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Dollarbird, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Small Niltava, Pin-striped Tit-babbler and maybe even the extremely skulky Rufous-throated Fulvetta and Streaked Wren-babbler all on our radar. Vocal troops of India’s only ape, Western Hoolock Gibbon, and Asian Elephants are also present in the Sanctuary. Four nights Tinsukia.

Day 6 An early start this morning will see us leave Tinsukia and head northeast, crossing the Brahmaputra River as we head into the Mishmi Hills of Arunachal Pradesh. We will make our way to the small town of Roing at 400m in the Lower Dibang Valley, the last major township in India’s northeast frontier and our base for the next three nights. We will spend a total of six nights in the Mishmi Hills, dividing our time between two bases to enable a thorough exploration of the subtropical broadleaf forest and bamboo of the foothills and their flanking grasslands before ascending into coniferous forest and rhododendrons at higher elevations. Around Roing, exploring the transition zone from the plains into the foothills will provide a tantalising introduction to the diversity of this region and we will encounter a good selection of Himalayan specialities during our stay here, including Beautiful Sibia, Black-throated Sunbird, Black-chinned and Striated Yuhinas, Blue-throated Barbet, Rusty-fronted and Streak-throated Barwings, Black-backed Forktail, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Silver-eared Mesia, Grey Treepie and Yellow-bellied Fairy-fantail. Three nights Mishmi Hills Camp.

Days 7–8 We will spend these two full days exploring the diverse birdlife of the mosaic of floodplain grasslands and forest-flanked outer foothills of the Lower Dibang Valley from our base at Roing. In the grassland areas we hope to encounter Pale-billed and White-breasted Parrotbills and Bengal Florican. In the low hills we will explore the subtropical forests in search of a broad range of species associated with these moderate altitudes, key among which are Red-headed Trogon, Green Cochoa, White-browed Piculet, Red-billed Scimitar-babbler, Pygmy Cupwing and Chestnut-headed, Slaty-bellied and Grey-bellied Tesias. Other species we may find over the course of these two days include Streaked and Little Spiderhunters, Rufous-faced Warbler, Greater and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes, Blue-winged Minla and several woodpeckers including Bay, Grey-headed and Pale-headed.

Days 9–11 On Day 9 we will move higher into the hills to a new base at Mayodia (2655m), where we will spend three days birding through a succession of incredible and largely undisturbed Himalayan forest habitats. We will explore these on foot from the paved but relatively quiet road that ascends from Roing to its highest point at Mayodia, and beyond. This is one of Asia’s least-explored birding areas and birding here is both exciting and productive, with an extensive list of potential species that includes some of the most sought-after specialities of the Himalaya. Among our key targets will be the endemic Rusty-throated (or Mishmi) Wren-babbler, which was only rediscovered in 2004, and both Temminck’s and Blyth’s Tragopans. The myriad other avian possibilities include Spotted, Grey-sided, Chestnut-crowned, Black-faced, White-crested, Scaly and Blue-winged Laughingthrushes, Long-billed and Bar-winged Wren-babblers, Chevron-breasted (or Cachar Wedge-billed) Babbler, Gould’s and Rusty-bellied Shortwings, Streak-throated (or Manipur), Ludlow’s (Brown-throated), Golden-breasted and Yellow-throated Fulvettas, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Ward’s Trogon, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Himalayan Cutia, Rufous-throated Partridge, Rufous-vented, Stripe-throated, Whiskered and White-naped Yuhinas, Himalayan Bluetail, White-browed and Rufous-breasted Bush-robins, Grey-headed and Brown Bullfinches, Red-faced Liocichla, Dark-rumped and Spot-winged Rosefinches, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Chestnut, Long-tailed and Himalayan Thrushes, Alpine and Maroon-backed Accentors, Coral-billed, Streak-breasted and Slender-billed Scimitar-babblers, Fire-tailed, Green-tailed and Mrs Gould’s Sunbirds, Crimson-browed and Gold-naped Finches, Long-tailed Sibia, Black-browed (Rufous-fronted), Rufous-vented and Yellow-cheeked Tits, Daurian and Blue-fronted Redstarts, Black-eared Shrike-babbler, White-tailed and Beautiful Nuthatches, Eyebrowed Wren-babbler, Grey-chinned Minivet, Golden-throated and Great Barbets, White-gorgeted and Rufous-gorgeted Flycatchers, Collared and Asian Barred Owlets, Golden Babbler, Spotted Elachura, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, Chestnut-tailed and Red-tailed Minlas, Grey-cheeked, Chestnut-crowned and Black-faced Warblers, Mountain Imperial-pigeon, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Hodgson’s Hawk-cuckoo and, if we are extremely lucky, maybe even the majestic Sclater’s Monal. Mammals may include the endangered endemic Mishmi Takin. Three nights Mayodia Resthouse.

Day 12 We will spend the morning making our way back into Assam, birding across the elevations as we descend from Mayodia back onto the alluvial plains of the Brahmaputra basin to Tinsukia for a one-night stay. Time permitting, we may have the opportunity to re-visit one or two sites during the afternoon.

Day 13 We will spend a final few hours around Tinsukia, focusing on any species we may have missed before departing for Dibrugarh Airport this afternoon for our flight back to London, arriving on Day 14.

General Information Temperatures will vary from hot in the lowlands to cold, particularly at night, in the mountains where snow is a possibility at higher altitudes. The pace is moderate, with no long treks involved, and on most days we will take a break at midday to relax. The highest altitude to which we will ascend is 2655m. There are a number of health requirements and you must consult your GP in this respect. You will need to apply for a one-year visa at a cost of approximately US$40 to enable sufficient time after receipt for us to further apply for a regional area permit.

Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 4; maximum group size: 10 with 2 leaders.

Red-billed Scimitar-babbler

Red-billed Scimitar-babbler

Recommended books available from NHBS