18 day Himalayan birding tour - April 2003

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT surfbirds.com)


by Niels Poul Dreyer with assistance from Gurudongma Tours and Treks


This tour was tailor-made to the requirements of the birding group, and evolved after exchange of some 50 e-mail messages over a period of more than a year. The design of the tour was focused on Himalayan upper altitude species with special attention to pheasants.

Thus the trip was mainly a birding tour with little sightseeing. Niels Poul Dreyer organised the trip from Denmark and Peter Lobo from Gurudongma Tours and Treks was the operator and leader on the tour. I can only say that the service and logistics provided by the operator and Peter Lobo was outstanding and consequently Gurudongma Tours and Treks is highly recommended. There were no delays or hick-ups on the tour and everything especially the food was a delight.

Gurudongma Tours and Treks
Gurudongma House, Hilltop, Kalimpong, 734301
Telfax: 91-23552-255204, Web: www.gurudongma.com
E-mail gurutt@satyam.net.in and gurut@sancharnet.in

The birding guests of Gurudongma Tour and Treks have on an average recorded 200 species over 3-4 days. For detailed bird list go to www.allindiabirding.com. /Sikkim and North Bengal/Bird List

Tour Design

The tour was organised in two parts:

Part 1: 5 April to 13 April: Looking for Himalayan Monal and other pheasants at the Great Himalayan National Park in the Western Himalayas

Part 2: 14 April to 24 April: In North Bengal in the Eastern Himalayas visit, visiting Mahananda Wild Life Sanctuary, Lava Forests, Singelila Range and Darjeeling

Participants: Ole Michael Lemming, Jørgen and Bodil Nørgård went on the Western Himalayan tour only. Niels Poul Dreyer, Hans Meltofte, Ebbe Alfred Hansen and John Damgård Nielsen took both the Western and the Eastern Himalayan tour.

Information on weather and climate

In brief the weather in the plains was warm ( 20-36 °C) and only T-shirts were required with sun hats.. For GHNP and Singelila trek the temperature range was 6-20 °C . We brought sun hat, woollen cap, underclothing and track suits, thermos underwear, heavy socks, ( with spares), trekking boots, sleeping bags and outer waterproof jacket with lining. Only in the Eastern part we had regular thundershowers- usually in the late evening, but apart from one thunderstorm in the morning of 19 April we did not have rainy weather while we were in the field.

Part 1: 9 nights Western Himalayas

Description of Locality

The Great Himalayan National Park is located 530 Km. from Delhi. It is 60 Km. from Kulu in Himachal Pradesh. Covering an area of 765 sq. Km., it is enclosed on the northern, eastern and western boundaries by the Greater Himalayan range. The variation in altitude is great - 1300 m to 6100 m. More than half the area is above 4,000m with most of the eastern part perennially under snow . Glacial advances have given the region its unique topography. It is characterised by dazzling high ridges, glaciers, deep gorges. Alpine meadows and valleys with closed virgin forests. It is arguably one of the largest areas of relatively undisturbed Western Himalayan Eco-systems. With its stunning natural beauty, and dedicated conservation, the Park is a virtual treasure for the researcher, the sensitive nature lover and the adventure seeker.

The park comprises of the upper catchments areas of the Tirthan, Sainj, Parvati and the Jiwa Rivers - all are tributaries of the great Beas River. On this trip we will be exploring a small part of the catchments areas of the Tirthan River.

The forests comprise sub-tropical alpine, and dry alpine shrub types. 'Chir' Pines, Conifers, Oaks, Firs, Rhododendrons and Junipers can be seen. Alpine meadows hold a high diversity of herbaceous species.

The excellent habitat shelters a large number of mammals. It is possibly the only place in the Himalayas where the 'Bharal' (blue sheep) occurs virtually side-by-side with the Himalayan 'Thar'. The largest population of the Himalayan Thar - endemic to India is in this park. The endangered Musk Deer can also be found here. The elusive and highly endangered Snow Leopard has also been reported

The park is a delight for Himalayan avifauna watchers with over three hundred species that can be sighted. One of the few known viable populations of Western Tragopan, a highly endangered species of pheasants, lives in this protected environment. Out of the seven pheasants found in the Western Himalayas, six of them, the Western Tragopan, Monal, Cheer, Koklass, Khaleej and Himalayan Snow-cock can be found in the park. It also has an unexplored treasure of butterflies and a variety of insects. The return road journey to the park from Delhi takes 02 full days. We did trekking in the park for birding for 05 days.

Daily Log
5th April : Reception and overnight at Delhi

We arrived at Delhi airport by Swiss Air Flight LX 172 from Zurich. at 2310 hrs (local time). We had to fill in forms to verify that we had not caught Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Zurich before we could enter the country. We were received by Peter Lobo and transferred by 02 cars/mini bus to Hotel Jukaso Inn.

6th April: Delhi - Chandigarh

After breakfast we departed at 10.30 hrs by 02 x 4WD Toyota, from Delhi to Chandigarh on 250 Km., long highway. The weather was unusually cool and pleasant in New Delhi. We did some short stop birding enroute and saw a Lesser Spotted Eagle just before Chandigarh. After a bit of confusion we found Hotel Quality Regency.

7th April: Chandigarh - Sai Roopa

We left 0600 hrs at sunrise through Indian traffic towards Sai Roopa in Thirthan Valley. On the way we stopped for breakfast and refreshments just before the foothills. A tied monkey posed a health hazard for us as it went out to chase us every time a person entered within it's reach. We spotted Plum-headed Parakeet, Crested Bunting and Large Grey Babblers along the hedges and fields. Spring was underway and birds active in the foothills. We continued our way for 257 Km. along the Sutlej River Valley to Mandi - an ancient city on the confluence of the Sutlej and Beas Rivers. The highway follows the Beas River Valley up to Aut along a new hydroelectric project. Thereafter we branched off up the Thirthan River Valley - a tributary of the Beas River to Ghusiani and Sai Roopa. We arrived at Ghusiani /Sai Ropa by 1400 hrs, in time for a late lunch. For drinking we got the local, tasty applejack.

Upon arrival we had to be transferred in a hanging wire chair across the river. During that process Ebbe's new Leica scope was demolished by one of the porters, who did not know how to dismantle it, before sending it across the river. In the afternoon we did some birding in the Lower Thirthan Valley. We had dinner and an overnight stay at the Sai Roopa Forest Bungalow, a very nice place with spring flowers in the garden. We were fortunate not to have been here the previous week in the middle of a rainstorm. We had splendid clear sunshine every day during our 5 days stay in the Great Himalayan National Park..

8th April: Birding trek Sai Roopa, 1540 m - Rolla, 2040 m - 15 Km.

In the morning we started out on a nice birding trek along Thirthan River bed in spring weather. He we spotted Ultramarine Flycatchers, Pink-browed Rosefinches, several laughing-thrushes, warblers, bush warblers etc. We had lunch at the rangers station. Here we spotted an Asian Barred Owlet and big flocks of Slaty-headed Parakeets. As they flew around several parakeets tried to mate. Strangely, despite of big blooms, we did not see much activity in the rhododendron.

It was a nice walk along the river occupied with by Brown Dippers, Plumbous Redstarts and White-capped Water-redstarts. The trail has a gradual gradient all the way through coniferous and broad-leafed forests and it took about 5-6 hrs to reach our destination at Rola Rolla. During the trek we spotted about 45 species. We had a nice overnight sleep in tented camp and the food was splendid. On initiative of Hans Meltofte the porters had to bring 34 large 1 litre beer glass bottles all the way to 3000 meters.

9th April: Birding trek Rolla, 2040 m - Shilt, 2900 m - 04 Kms

Just after breakfast we commenced a short but very steep trek along a difficult and challenging route. First we had to cross a slippery wet rock using a wire, as the trail had been washed away the previous week. This crossing caused the group some trouble, but even worse, one of the porters slipped over and fell down 25 meters and broke his leg. Fortunately we managed to pass this crossing and thereafter we were rewarded with a sighting of Himalayan Goral (Naemorhedus goral) a nice goat with horns. Thereafter we climbed for about 04 4 hrs uphill to reach Shilt, through coniferous and broad leafed forests with occasional meadows. Just before we reached a meadow we saw a Monal flying beautifully out of the trees and we could see all its splendour as it took a big swing across an opening among the trees.

We had a nice long rest in a meadow where Lammergeiers, Golden Eagles and Himalayan Griffons came close to us in full display. In the afternoon we went out along the ridge behind the camp in order to look for Monals. We were not disappointed as 12 Monals was spotted during that afternoon. Shilt is a grassy meadow surrounded by trees and rhododendron but few flowers appeared as the snow had just disappeared. We had a beautiful view in full moonlight across the valley towards the snow covered mountains reaching highs of 4000 meters on the other side of the valley in full moonlight.

10th April: Birding around Shilt, 2900 m

At dawn we went downhill to look for pheasants including the Western Tragopan. We never got close to the elusive species, as it prefers to rest in an inaccessible spot in thick dwarf bamboo in steep ravines. It is however a very sought after bird. For example, an Australian guy by the name John Penhallurick went to the GHNP just as we left to seek it out the bird during a planned 12 days stay. Peter Lobo will try to locate the Tragopan with the help of a local priest in another valley next May (2004). If successful, maybe some of us will return to this marvellous place to see it the bird.

Later in the season the snow disappears and the flowers will come out in full bloom, so it would be worthwhile to return to find the Tragopan and other species at a higher elevation. Very few tourists venture into this place as no overnight facilities exists.

After breakfast we walked along a ridge through bamboo and forests. More Monals were spotted sitting on a cliff face, but the highlights were a flock of Collared and Spot-winged Grosbeaks in a conifer tree spotted by Hans. Ebbe was happy with the sighting of a flock of Plain Mountain-finches, which was a top bird for him. I was thrilled by a view of Red-eared Buntings and several rosefinches in a bamboo thicket. We continued birding along the same ridge east to Chowder for 4 hours through mixed forest and enroute we had hot cooked lunch at a sacred site. In the afternoon we returned back to Rolla in 02 hours for overnight in camp at Shilt.

11th April: Birding trek Shilt, 2900 - Chowder, 2800 - Rolla, 2040 - 10 km.

Our local guide never gave up on the Tragopan, so consequently some of us ventured back again to the spot were I had heard it the previous morning. Hans was keen just to hear it, but the local guide believed it had moved further away, so we rushed further down the valley. Unfortnately, no Tragopan called and if it did, it would have been impossible to locate it in the thick scrub below. Hans was very disappointed not to hear it, but I think many of us were a little frustrated as well. Additionally, I later got a report from the Australian (John Penhallurick from Canberra ). He saw it a week a week after we had been there. Apparently, the bird calls more in overcast weather conditions. It is also more difficult to see it when travelling with 7 people. As a bonus we spotted a few Koklas pheasants and I got a view of the Bar-tailed Treecreeper . Ole Lemming who likes to venture out independently photographed a pair of Himalayan Woodpeckers and a pair of Long-tailed Minivets. He also saw a White-cheeked Nuthatch. In the afternoon we returned downhill back to Rolla.

12th April: Birding trek Rolla - Sai Ropa ( 15 Kms). Drive to Kullu ( 36 Kms)

We returned the same way back towards the road at Sai Roopa during a 4 hrs birding walk. The highlights were a flock of 3 species of Laughingthrushes in a rhododendron tree. Among these we all saw a few Variegated Laughing-thrushes. A young pair of Kalij Pheasants with blue tail confused us. We first thought it was Koklass pheasants. We arrived at the luxury Hotel by the name Apple Valley Resort in Kullu around 5 PM. In the hotel garden there were several Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, and Ebbe spotted an owlet.

13th April: Kullu -Delhi 530 Kms

We drove back to Delhi in 2 jeeps for 10 hrs, but at a different pace. As result only Jørgen, Ole and Bodil were lucky to spot a pair of Rock-Bushquail which could be observed for several minutes.

Back at the Hotel Jukaso Inn we shaked hands with general Gupta. After dinner Ole, Jørgen and Bodil went to the airport to board departure flight, while the four people due to continue on Eastern Himalayan trip stayed overnight at Jukasu Inn.

Part 2: 11 days Eastern Himalayas

This region comprising Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Lava and The Singelila range, nestles in the lush green midranges with a stunning backdrop of towering snow capped peaks, topped by the crowning glory of the 8534 Meters high Mount Khangchendzonga. It has been blessed by nature. Fast flowing rivers, terraced fields, vast tracts of protected forests with exotic flora, Buddhist Monasteries, miles of tea gardens, colonial buildings, exotic bazaars, are all there to explore.

Out of the 11 days in this region we spent 02 days for entry and exit, and spent a day birding in the foothills in the Mahananda Wild Life Sanctuary, followed by 02 full days birding around Lava forests. Thereafter we undertook a 05 days birding trek in the Singelila Range, and finally a day at Darjeeling.

Description of Locality

The Mahananda River Wild Life Sanctuary Located just outside Siliguri, it is well known for its large population of Elephants. As a result birders have not yet explored this area. T he deciduous forests and riverine belt provides habitat for a rich variety of birds in the sanctuary. A river runs through the park and is a good venue to do birding. Lesser Pratincoles nest in the riverbed and large yellow orchids growth on the trees. We have made short birding forays over one morning, and found that the forests were teeming with bird life. Some of the birds we saw: Black Stork, Black Baza, Besra, Greater Coucal, Large Cuckoo Shrike, Black hooded Oriole, Indian roller, Green billed Malkhoa, Red Jungle Fowl, Indian Grey Hornbill, Himalayan Griffon, various Bee eaters, Barbets, Common Hill Myna and more.

Kalimpong, is an exotic town of beautiful people, mystical and enchanting. Ruled by Bhutan for 155 years, and annexed by the British in 1865, it was developed as a centre of the wool trade with Tibet. This trade flourished until the Chinese took control of Tibet, in the 1950's The Lepchas, who were the original inhabitants, were subjected to Bhutanese, Tibetan, British, and Nepalese influences. A gentle and docile people, they have almost lost their identity, and are now called "The vanishing tribe". However history has left behind a fascinating ethnic blend of Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepalese people. Here Buddhism rubs shoulders with Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Gumpas, churches, temples, monasteries, monks and missionaries; all coexist in a jovial and tolerant society. Flower and orchid nurseries, colonial bungalows, churches of the "Raj", and Buddhist monasteries are there to explore. A quaint bustling bazaar, is a Pandora's box of surprises. Kalimpong is a wanderer's delight. Buddhist tankhas, hand beaten silver, Bhutanese weaves, Chinese lamps, hand crafted paper, Lepcha daggers, Nepali Khukaris and Buddhist masks, are some of the shopping attractions. The town is located at an elevation of 1200-1400 m. On this tour we will be based at Kalimpong for birding in the Lava area

Lava is the prime birding destination in this region,. It is a small bazaar once a halting place for caravans on the trade routes to Bhutan and Sikkim. It is now a forest Village with a Buddhist Monastery amidst a sea of evergreen forests at an elevation of 2100 m. Surrounded by very large tracts of protected forests ranging in elevation between 1600 and 2400 m, it includes the remote and uninhabited Neora National Park, and it is a bird watchers delight. Some of the most sought after and least known birds of India can be spotted here. Satyr Tragopan, Ashy Wood Pigeon, Rufous throated and Spotted Wren Babblers, Yellow- throated Fulvetta, Red- faced Liocichla, Cutia, Rust- belied Shortwing, Blue- fronted Robin and Long-billed Thrush are some of the rare birds.

The Sandakphu Ridge of the Singelila Range at an elevation of 3600 m provides good birding in Bamboo, Oak, Silver fir, birch, and Rhododendron forests between 2000 and 3000 m elevation. There is also the attraction of breathtaking views of Khangchen Dzonga, and glimpses on Mount Everest, apart from the delightful forests. The National park is situated along the deforested Nepal. Most of the accommodation and teahouses are found on the Nepalese side of the jeep track. It is necessary to register at the border/immigration office in Maneybhanjhan. The trek took us from 2000 meters to 3650 meters along a 30 km. long jeep track, but we climbed more than 2100 meter as we descended 500 meters in altitude from Magma to Garibas. The huts were primitive, but fortunately we could stay in the more comfortable Wildlife Guest House at Sandakapu. The best species seen: Cinereous and Himalayan Vulture, Satyr Tragopan, Crimson-breasted and Darjeeling Woodpecker, Spotted Nutcracker, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Streak-breasted and Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Scaly-breasted and Rufous throated Wren Babbler, Black-throated Parrotbill, Red-capped Babbler, Black-faced, Striated, Spotted and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Slender-billed Scimitar-babbler Whiskered, Stripe-throated and Rufous-vented Yuhina, Golden and White-browed and Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Large-billed, Ashy-throated, Buff-barred, Blyth's and Lemon-rumped Warbler, Blue-fronted Redstart, Little Forktail, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, White-collared Blackbird, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Green-backed, Grey-crested, Rufous-vented, Rufous-fronted and Yellow-browed Tit, White-tailed Nuthatch, Hoary-throated Barwing, Plain Mountain Finch, Edwards, Dark-breasted and White-browed Rosefinch.

Darjeeling: The town derived its present name from the Tibetan Dorjee-Ling, meaning Place of the thunderbolt. It is located in the state of West Bengal. It has a population of 200 000, comprising an ethnic mix of Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha and some Bengalis. Common language is Nepali. Until the nineteenth century, it was a part of the kingdom of Sikkim, but was overrun by the Nepalese. The British intervened in 1835 to broker peace and in return pressurized the Sikkim raja, to gift Darjeeling, to the British for an annual sum of Rs 3000. Finally in 1861, after a short war, the British annexed Darjeeling and the adjoining territory upto the Rangit River. The British developed Darjeeling, due to its strategic location, as a base for future trade with Tibet. In early 1840's, tea plantations were developed, extensively, and Nepali labor was imported.

This resulted in a change in the demographic balance, with Nepalese gradually gaining ground over others. In 1989 after a violent agitation, for formation of a Gorkhaland state, the Darjeeling District, was granted autonomy, under a Gorkha Hill Council, with limited powers. It remains a part of Bengal state Darjeeling retains it colonial flavor, and the region grows the best quality of tea. The fantastic views of the great snow capped ranges, is a major tourist attraction, along with Buddhist monasteries and exotic bazaar. The Zoological Park, the botanical gardens and Tiger hill were good birding sites in the past, but are now too crowded. We saw 200 vehicles on return from Tiger Hill. We went to the wildlife sanctuary instead to see Yellow-billed Blue Magpai, Large Hawk, Common and Oriental and Large Hawk-cuckoo Cuckoos, Himalayan Swiftlet, close views various Babblers and Laughingthrushes and Buff-barred Leaf-warbler, and other colourful species seen. All sites were approachable by jeep with little walking

Daily Log

14th April: Delhi- Bagdogra-Siliguri

We transferred to airport after breakfast in order to fly to Bagdogra on Jet Airways Flt 9W 601. Departure at 1010 hrs. We arrived in Bagdogra at 1340 and went directly to Buddist hotel Cinderella. Only vegetarian food was offered here. In the afternoon we went a short trip at Mahananda WLS just up the road. We had good views of Red-breasted Parakeets and Alexandrine Parakeets among a few Jungle Owlets. Up in the mountains we heard thunder rumble and Peter reported from the General Jimmy Singh that they have had a massive hailstorm in Kalimpong

15th April: Siliguri -Birding Mahananda WLS - Kalimpong, 1400 m

As the sun rises one hour earlier we rose at 4.30 am to check out before going by jeep to Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary. Peter had arranged through his connections at the Wildlife Department that we could enter the park 2 hours earlier than the usual official scheduled 8am opening. We had a nice morning looking for birds along the riverbed. Although we did not see the famous elephants in the 280 sq.km large reserve, we had to be careful not to enter too far into the forest.

In the late afternoon we continued uphill towards Kalimpong at 1300 meters elevation along a winding ascending route for 80 Km which followed Tista River most of the 02.30 hrs drive. Unfortunately, the Government of India has decided to build 189 dams in the Himalayas and this beautifully free flowing river will be dammed at no less than 6 locations. We could see that this river was pristine and very suitable for rafting and sportfishing.

We had a nice overnight stay at Gurudongma House, Kalimpong, as guests of General Jimmy Singh. The house was beautifully decorated with all the gifts and medals the General had received during his time at the Chinese border in Aruschal Predesh.

16th April: Kalimpong - Birding Lava, 2200 m- Kalimpong

We departed early and drove along the highway to Lava. When we reached some degraded forest without middle story vegetation, but nevertheless we were overwhelmed of the teeming birdlife. Everything went so fast that some of us were frustrated not getting on the birds. However after some time we scored most what we wanted such as the rare Blue-fronted Robin. John claimed to have seen some white in the tail which no other saw when it flew. As soon a White-tailed Robin appeared next to the Blue Robin, John had to succumb to reality and admit he had seen wrong. Any doubt was eliminated when the two species was sitting next to each other. Shortly after having sorted out the 35 species spotted during our stay, we continued uphill in order to have a nice breakfast at the top of a hill overlooking the whole area.

Peter Lobo had brought chairs and porcelain in order to create a colonel style effect. The sun appeared from a partly overcast sky while he and his driver prepared both the toast, fruit salad and eggs for us. Although we were at 2000 meters altitude, it was no longer possible to see the third largest mountain in the world Kangchingzonga 8580 m clearly. In April it was quite hazy despite of the rain we had the previous night. In order to clear the 3 km thick haze over the plains, which also penetrate into the foothills, a widespread rainsystem is needed to drench the area. Peter told us that the infamous Indian haze has got worse during the last 10 years due to pollution, dust from deforestation and higher temperature.

After breakfast we descended through a plantation where we saw a flock of Little Buntings and thereafter we had opportunities to sort out several species of Laughingthrushes and Scimitar-babblers in the Khampung Reserve Forest. We returned to Gurudongma House Kalimpong in the late afternoon for overnight stay.

17th April: Kalimpong- birding Lava - Kalimpong

Once again we drove towards Lava for a 06 hrs birding trek along a isolated forest trail. It was very successful as we spotted 75 species during 8 hours of birding. The highlight was a close up encounter of the rare and mostly wanted Yellow-rumped (Himalayan) Honeyguide, as it flew right towards us and landed 4 meters from the trail. Ebbe saw a weasel or a mongoose at the same moment. Perhaps the honeyguide would like to lead the beast to a bee nest. The bird's yellow rump came in clear view as it started to get agitated. What a crippler and views!

18th April: Kalimpong- Maneybhanjhan, 2134 m - birding trek to Meghma, 2900 m

We arrived to Maneybhanjhan by jeep in 4 hrs from Kalinpong. It was a cold overcast day when we met the porters. The first part of the trek was steep through partly reforested pine plantation until we reached the first teahouse at the cloudbase at 2400 meters.

We later continued into the mist and cloud and reached some good forest. Here John spotted a Spotted Laughingthrush which for while could resist to be chased away by a squirrel. It was a wonderful and handsome bird which was a lifer for everyone. In the late afternoon we arrived to Maghma which was a desolated, clamp place with a rough tone to it. We slept on second floor in dormitory settings. As the bedding conditions were less than desirable John did not sleep well. Peter got in contact with a guy who claimed to know the whereabouts of the Satry Tragopans and consequently promised to show us 2 days later. If we had accepted this offer, we would not have reached the Sandakphu peak, so we politely asked him whether we could do this quest the following morning instead, which he reluctantly accepted. He was a bit cross that we did not stay at his tea house.

19th April: Birding trek Meghma - Garibas, 2621 m

We raised to bright sunlight to meet with the teahouse man who came 20 minutes late. Shortly after we heard a Hill Partridge which he claimed to be the Tragopan. It took us ½ hour to figure out that the whole project was a flop, so we concentrated on finding other birds. We soon were rewarded with sightings of a pair of White-browed Shortwings attracted by tape playback. Later Ebbe found a Large-billed Leaf-warbler to us and not long after a Darjeeling Woodpecker sat right out in the open in a small tree ready to be photographed. As I thought we were looking for Tragopans I did not bring the camera. After breakfast we started our climb up to Tonglu 3070 m and then trek down through Singelila National Park to Garibas in 4-5 hrs. A flock of school kids and 3 teachers followed us.

During our trek down to Garibas we passed some nice forest areas with bamboo. Here we found two really rare birds: Rufous-throated Wren-babbler chased out of the bushes by one of our porters and a fast moving Slender-billed Scimitar-babbler.

We arrived to Garibas around 3.30, just in time before a massive monsoon like downpour started. It rained for 6 hours on and off in massive waves. It was concerning, as we thought the monsoon has started early. This year the dry summer was quickly interrupted by early pre-monsoon weather which normally is due to arrive mid May. We later found out a massive cyclone hit the Bengal Bay flooding huge areas and killing 350 people. A cyclone of this magnitude made the weather pattern unusually unstable at Sandakphu despite being 1000 km away from the scene of chaos.

20th April: Birding trek Garibas - Sandakphu, 3636 m

We woke up to a misty but not to dark morning. We could even see the moon and blue sky through the light mist, unsure how the weather would behave we started our 1000 meters altitudal climb. As the morning progressed it got darker in the mist, it became so dark that I thought the sun would set and the earth had started to rotate faster. After a massive thunder rumble in the mist it suddenly cleared and a large thunderstorm was moving in. A little ray of sunlight behind the monsoon clouds made the scene dramatic especially when the lighting display started. We found refuge in a teahouse. After 2 hours of thundery weather it suddenly cleared. Unfortunately the wind picked up at the same time, so the birding was very poor that day. During our ascent to the top of Sandakphu we could see Kangchingzonga 8580m appear out of the clouds in the north. A massive mountain which is unnaturally large in comparison to the mountain chain of peaks of 6000 meters. We had a confortable but chilly overnight stay in Wildlife Guest House. It was cold inside so we had to organized firewood. Alternatively we would have to stay in overcrowded and noisy huts nearby. We were all grateful to Peter.

21st April: Birding trek Sandakphu- Garibas

In the morning we went out to see spectacular views of Everest and Kangchinzonga at sunrise and the view was fantastic. As the sun rose lincecularis wave clouds (whale-back) ware forming over the peaks which indicated a very unstable airmass. Shortly afterwards we went down to a meadow to look for birds. The wind was quite strong, but we managed to find a pair of Fire-tailed Sunbirds, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Edward's Rosefinches and best of all a singing Spotted Laughingthrush. First we thought it was a beautiful female human singer. I have never heard such a sweet and complex song from a bird before. Even better I went down a got close up views of this crippler!

After breakfast we went down hill to return to Garibas. The birding was poor due to the strong wind. First when we got down to 2800 meters, we took another remote but very birdy route back to Garibas. As we descended, the sky became more or more cloudy and misty. Peter went ahead as it became late in order to ensure that we could keep our booked rooms in the crowded Garibas hut. Nut long after Peter left with a porter, the latter rturned to get us quickly. Peter had just down the bend found a family of Satyr Tragopans, but unfortunately the male had disappeared just before we managed to reach the spot. However 3 females reappeared and at least we got the species nailed down on our lifelists!

Just after that sighting we managed to spot a flock of Black-throated Parrotbills in the bamboo. Peter told us that it would be unsafe to stay out in the forest after dark, because the area has a quite large Black Bear population. The evidence for this warning came clearly to our mind when we found a few of footprints on the path. Just before it got to dark, we just reached the trekkers hut at Garibas, just in time before the heavens opened up for another massive downpour and associated thunder.

22nd April: Birding trek Garibas - Maneybhanjhan. Drive to Darjeeling

The next morning we had bright sunshine and we had a pleasant walk for about 6 hours downhill along a small river towards Pos Basti. We did not see too many birds before reaching 1800 meters. Just near a village we found White-throated Laughingthrushes and got nice views of a Golden-throated Barbets. Higher op in a tree a brownish pink orchid was spotted. Unfortunately people collect orchids and they have become much rarer in recent years.

During our transfer in jeeps towards Darjeeling we passed through a hailstorm, which had ravaged the area with 5-10 thick layer of hail downpour. Several tree, leaves, flowers and bamboo was damaged and washed down on the road or destroyed by lighting strikes and the 4 cm. large hail stones We arrived in late afternoon to an old but refurbished colonial english tea hotel.

23rd April: Darjeeling with birding options

We had a day to relax and explore Darjeeling. In the early morning and late afternoon we had an option of birding around Darjeeling. Birding is quite good as the birds have become approachable from adaption to people and traffic. Not much virgin forest is found around town, but the scrubby thickets were quite good for many species such as laughingthrushes. We found an Indian Blue Robin, 2 Chestnut crowned Laughingthrushes, several Golden Fulvettas and a flock of the Black-throated Parrotbills.

In the late afternoon we went to the wildlife reserve outside the town, where we spotted 3 Barking Deer and a few cuckoos including Large Hawk Cuckoo and Common Cuckoo.

24th April: Darjeeling - Bagdogra - Delhi

After breakfast transfer to Bagdogra by jeeps to board flight to Delhi. We had to take a detour by the plane to the east before heading west to New Delhi. Fortunally, we spotted a Lesser Adjudant Stork in the Gauhati airport.

Peter had organised a pickup in the late afternoon and we went to Orkla near the river east of the city. The highlights were Painted Stork and Demoiselle Crane. The water level was very low so the flats were almost dry. After 1 hours birding we went to a county club for a farewell dinner. The food was superb.


Richard Grimmett, Carol and Tim Inskipp, 2002. Birds of the Indian Subcontinent, HELM
Krys Kazmierezak, 2002: A field Guide to the Indian subcontinent.
Krys Kazmierezak, 1998: A birdwatcher's Guide to India.
Hoyo, J del, Elliott, A.,Sargatal,J., 1994. New world Vultures to Guineafowl. The Handbook of Birds the World. Vol 2:, Birdlife Int. and LYNX Edicions.
Clement, P.,Harries A. , Davs, J.,1993. Finches and Sparrows, An Identification Guide, Princeton Uni Press. New Jersey.
WB PLUS North America version bird database based on Peter's taxonomy 1998.

Species Lists

Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger 1: 6/4, 4: 7/4 on the plains before and after Chandigiah, 1 Kullu-Delhi 13/4

Grey Heron 1 6/4 Delhi-Chandigarh, 2: 7/4 and 2: 13/4 enroute Chandiah-Sai Roopa, 3: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Great Egret Ardea alba 2: 7/4 Chandiah-Sai Roopa, 2: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Little Egret Egretta garzetta 5: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Intermediate Egret Mesophoyx intermedia About 20 Kullu-New Delhi 13/4, 3: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Common on the plains

Indian Pond-Heron Ardeola grayii 1: 7/4 and 8/4 Enroute to GHNP, 13/4: 2 Kullu-Delhi, +10: 14/4 and 24/4 Bagdogra

Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 1: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve (Ebbe)

Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala 20: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi (Cought a 15 cm fish)

Asian Open-bill Anastomus oscitans 27: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Black Stork Ciconia nigra 1: Mahananda Wildlife Reserve 15/4

Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus 1 Gauhati Airport 24/4

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 5: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber 1: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Black Baza Aviceda leuphotes 1 pair: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve, close view in understory

Oriental Honey-Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus 2:7/4 enroute to GHNP, 1 pair: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus 1: 6/4 and 7/4 enroute to GHNP on the plains

Black Kite Milvus migrans Common on the plains and towns

Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus In total+15 seen during 5 days in GHNP

Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus 1:6/4 and 7/4 on plains, 8/4 1 Sai Roopa-Rolla

Long-billed Vulture Gyps indicus 5 positively identified. Mahananda Wildlife Reserve Reserve 15/4

Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis 6: 6/4 +10: 7/4 in foothills, +20 GHNP (5 days), +10 seen on return to Delhi on 13/4, 3 seen at 3000 m. around Sandakphu on both 20/4 and 21/4

Crested Serpent-Eagle Spilornis cheela 2 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve, 2: 16/4 Lava

Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus 1: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve, 1: 20/4 close up at 3000 m. around Sandakphu.

Shikra Accipiter badius 6: 6/4 Plains, 1:9/4 and 1: 12/4 GHNP, 1: 13/4 Plains

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 1: 9/4 female GHNP, 1: 12/4 Lava, 1: 21/4 Sandakphu, 1:23/4 Darjeeling, .

White-eyed Buzzard Butastur teesa 1: 6/4 Plains (Ole, Hans, John and Ebbe)

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo 1: 21/4 Sandakphu

Black Eagle Ictinaetus malayensis 1 GHNP 7/4 and 1: 8/4, 1 : 16/4 Lava

Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina 1 Chandigarh Hills 6/4

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos 1 Roopa - Sai Roopa (throughout), 1 pair seen every day at 2900 m in GHNP:

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus 1 enroute to Roopa, 9 counted during our 5 stay in GHNP (2 light phase, 7 dark)

Mountain Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus nipalensis 1 Mahananda wildlife Reserve 15/4 , 1:Lava 16/4 and 17/4

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus +10 enroute to Roopa, 8 seen from 1700-2100 m. GNHP, none seen at the high camp

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 1:8/4 and 11/4 GHNP

Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope 10: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Gadwall Anas strepera 3: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha 20: 100: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Northern Pintail Anas acuta 4: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Garganey Anas querquedula 20: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata 30: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Common Pochard Aythya ferina 1: in a hydroelectric dam enroute to Roopa 7/4

Rock Bush-Quail Perdicula argoondah 2: 13/4 foothills enroute to Chandigharh (Jørgen, Bodil and Ole)

Hill Partridge Arborophila torqueola 2 seen, 3 heard: 10-12/4: GHNP, heard every day on Lava and Sandakphu trek

Western Tragopan Tragopan melanocephalus Heard a clear "Mega-Mega- Mega" one morning by Ole, Niels and the local guide: 11/4 GHNP

Satyr Tragopan Tragopan satyra 3 females seen, 1 male by Peter: 21/4 Garibas

Himalayan Monal Lophophorus impejanus +32 seen and heard in total above 2700 meters GHNP

Kalij Pheasant Lophura leucomelanos 2 (ad.female+juv.) on slope: first thought to be Koklass P. but one had blue tail, Rola to Sai Roopa 12/4, 2 Lava : 17/4, 1 enroute to Maneybhanjhan : 22/4

Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus 1 pair crossed the road enroute to Roopa 7/4, 1: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia macrolopha heard 9/4, 2 heard 10/4, 2 seen 11/4, GHNP mainly above 2400 m.

Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus 4 Chandigarh 6/4, 10: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Demoiselle Crane Grus virgo 2: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 2: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio 20: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus Seen enroute to GHNP: 6-7/4 and 13/4, 2 Bagdogra 14/4, 5: Orkla, New Delhi 24/4

River Lapwing Vanellus duvaucellii 10: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 2: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve, 1: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Common Redshank Tringa totanus 1 enroute to Chandigarh 6/4

Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatalis 1 enroute to Chandiah 6/4

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 1: 24/4 Orkla, New Delhi

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola 1: 5/4 and 3: 13/4 enroute to Chandiah

Common Sandpiper Tringa hypoleucos 2: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Little Stint Calidris minuta 10 New Delhi 13/4 , +100 Orkla 24/4

Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii 7: 24/4 Orkla

Ruff Philomachus pugnax +30 : 24/4 Orkla

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Found in a channel in New Delhi and a few enroute to Changidah

Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta +35: 24/4 Orkla
Small Pratincole Glareola lactea + 200: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve (nesting), +40: 24/4 Orkla

Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica 2: 24/4 Orkla

Yellow-footed Green-Pigeon Treron phoenicoptera 1 spotted by Ebbe in the Himalayan foothils from GHNP- Chandigarh 13/4

Snow Pigeon Columba leuconota +100: 9/4 GHNP

Oriental Turtle-Dove Streptopelia orientalis 2-4 seen every day in GHNP, Lava and Sandakphu trek

Eurasian Turtle-Dove Streptopelia decaocto several enroute to Changidarh 6/4

Red-collared Dove Streptopelia tranqebarica +4 near Changidarh 6/4

Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis +50 : GHN, 1 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve 12/4, 1 Lava 15/4 and 2 Lava 16/4, 1 Darjeeling

Alexandrine Parakeet Psittacula eupatria +50: 14/4 Silligun Forest, +25: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri Nesting several places enroute and near Chandigarh 6/4, +50: 7/4 and 13/4 several enroute to and from GHNP, +10: 24/4 Orkla

Red-breasted Parakeet Psittacula alexandri +25 Siliguri forest 14/4

Plum-headed Parakeet Psittacula cyanocephala 2: 7/4, before foothills near Chandigarh, 4: 8/4 GHNP at 1800 meters, 1: 12/4 GHNP

Slaty-headed Parakeet Psittacula himalayana Big flocks in GHNP, perhaps +100 especially below 2200 meters, nesting and mating, we observed one pair on a 15 longterm mating. After copulation the male fed the female just after copulation!

Large Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides Heard on the lower part of Sandakapu trek: 22/4, 2 seen: 23/4 in Dardejeeling

Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus Heard in Lava 16 and 17/4 and several times on the lower Sandakphu trek, finally one observed in Darjeeling on 23/4

Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus saturatus 1 seen and several heard GHNP, Heard every day on Western trip, +7 seen in Lava, 1: 18/4 Maghma

Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus 2 Heard 16/4 at 1850 meters Lava

Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris 1: 16/4 seen well by some at 2000 meters Lava

Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea 2 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve Reseve 15/4

Green-billed Malkoha Phaenicophaeus tristis 3: Mahananda Wildlife Reserve 15/4

Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis +7 Delhi to GHNP and return, 25: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Jungle Owlet Glaucidium radiatum 5: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Asian Barred Owlet Glaucidium cuculoides 1 seen at check point to GHNP 8/4, heard same place 12/4

Spotted Owlet Athene brama 1 seen by some in Kulo: 12/4

Gray Nightjar Caprimulgus indicus Heard 1 seen by Ole in camp at Shilt, GHNP 9/4 and 11/4

Himalayan Swiftlet Aerodramus brevirostris several seen every day in GHNP, Lava area, +30 Sandakphu

Little Swift Apus affinis between 10-25 seen every day at lower attitudes

House Swift Apus nipalensis 50: 6/4 evening at Chandigarh , 2 seen by John at Sai Roopa, GHNP 10/4

Crested Treeswift Hemiprocne coronata 3: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis About 5 seen every day at lower altitudes, 5 Kulo, 3 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater Merops leschenaulti 3: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Little Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis 10 : 7/4 near the Himalayan foothills and Chingidarh

Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis 6 Chandigarh -. Sai Roopa 7/4

Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis 4: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1 Orkla, New Delhi 24/4

Indian Gray-Hornbill Ocyceros birostris 1: 14/4 and2: 15/4 Mahananda wildlife Reserve

Oriental Pied-Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris 4 : 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis 5: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Great Barbet Megalaima virens +40 GHNP, 1: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve, several in Lava and heard often in the Sandakphu area

Lineated Barbet Megalaima lineata 2 : 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Golden-throated Barbet Megalaima franklinii 1 seen in Lava, 1 seen at close range near Pos Basti at 1860 meters 22/4

Blue-throated Barbet Megalaima asiatica 2 seen well 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala Only heard the first day (during a shortstop enroute Chandigarh-Sai Roopa), to our surprise we did not see this common bird on the whole trip.

Yellow-rumped Honeyguide Indicator xanthonotus 1 Lava 17/4

White-browed Piculet Sasia ochracea 1 seen after Sai Roopa on 8/4

Rufous Woodpecker Celeus brachyurus 1: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Gray-headed (faced) Woodpecker Picus canus 2 seen on tree limps in the top of a large tree calling Lava at 1950 m. altitude at forest edge.

Greater Yellownape Picus flavinucha 2 males and 1 females looking for nesting hole together, but chased away from a hole by something, maybee a roosting Jungle Owlet in Mahananda Wildlife Reserve 15/4, 1 seen on both days in Lava

Lesser Yellownape Picus chlorolophus 3: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Himalayan Flameback Dinopium shorii 1: 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Himalayan Woodpecker Dendrocopos himalayensis 15/4 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Darjeeling Woodpecker Dendrocopos darjellensis 1 male Magma 19/4

Crimson-breasted Woodpecker Dendrocopos cathpharius 1 pair Lava 17/4

Brown-fronted Woodpecker Dendrocopos auriceps 2 Sai Roopa (GHNP) 12/4

Gray-capped Woodpecker Dendrocopos canicapillus 1 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve 15/4

Greater Flameback Chrysocolaptes lucidus 2 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve 15/4

Plain Martin Riparia paludicola 20 Orkla, New Delhi 24/4

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica foothills enroute 13/4, 2 Pos Basti 22/4, Darjeeling 23/4

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica enroute 13/4, 2 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Gray Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 2 Sai Roopa on 7/4 and 12/4, 2 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve 15/4, a few seen every day in Lava and Sandakphu trek

White Wagtail Motacilla alba 1 breakfast stop at the foothills enroute to GHNP 7/4

Black-backed Wagtail Motacilla lugens 1 New Delhi 6/4, 2 enroute to New Delhi 13/4

Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni +6 seen at Shilt GHNP 10/4 and 11/4, +30 Lava, 10 Magma, a few seen every day on the rest of the sandakphu trek and in the Dajeeling area. More common above 2000 meters

Rosy Pipit Anthus roseatus 2 at the summit of Sandakphu 3800 meters

Large Cuckooshrike Coracina macei +5 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve 14/4 and 15/4

Long-tailed Minivet Pericrocotus ethologus common in GHNP about 45 counted during our 5 days stay, +20 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve, 15 Lava (2 days), +25 during our 5 days Sandakphu trek

Short-billed Minivet Pericrocotus brevirostris 15 Lava 17/4, 1 male above Garibas 21/4

Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus 2 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis gularis Mahananda Wildlife Reserve

Striated Bulbul Pycnonotus striatus 4 seen Lava 164 and 17/4

Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotus melanicterus 3 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve 15/4

Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus +12 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve 15/4

Himalayan Bulbul Pycnonotus leucogenys common between 1000- 2000 meters in GHNP, common in Lava

Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer common in foothills in the west, Lava area

Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus +10 Sai Roopa 7-8/4 and 12/4, 6 Darjeeling

Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons 5 12 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve 15/4

Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 3 Lava 16-17/4, 1 Darjeeling 22/4, 1 Orkla 24/4

Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii +15 seen along the river from Sai Roopa to Rolla 8/4 and 13 on the same route back again on 12/4

Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes 1 seen by Ebbe at 2000 meters Garibas - Pos Basti

Rufous-breasted Accentor Prunella strophiata 2 at camp Shilt 10/4, 2 summit of Sandakphu 21/4

White-browed Shortwing Brachypteryx montana 1 pair and anothe one Magma attracted by tape playback 19/4

Siberian Rubythroat Luscinia calliope 1 seen by J.Damgård at 2500 meters enroute to Magma

Indian Blue Robin Luscinia brunnea 1 male singing from a telephone line early in the morning outside Dajeeling 23/4

Orange-flanked Bush-Robin Tarsiger cyanurus +10 seen during our 5 days stay in GHNP, 1 Lava 18/4

Golden Bush-Robin Tarsiger chrysaeus 1 fist stop at 1850 meters altitude in thinned out forest Lava 16/4

Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis Fairly common in the Himalayan foothills mainly to the east

Indian Robin Saxicoloides fulicata 4 seen enroute in the first Himalayan foothills enroute from Chandigarh to GHNP

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 1 foothills 7/4, 1 female nest enroute to Magma 18/4

Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 17 counted during our 5 days stay in GHNP, 1 pair Garibas 19/4 and 21/4

Plumbeous Water-Redstart Rhyacornis fuliginosus 1 pair occurs every 30 meters in the river along the Sai Roopa to Rolla route GHNP, 1 Lave 16/4, 5 Garibas to Pos Basti

White-tailed Robin Cinclidium leucurum 1 male together with a much different Blue-fronted Robin at 1850 m Lava 16/4, 1 Garibas- Pos Basti 22/4

Blue-fronted Robin Cinclidium frontale 2 at 1850 m Lava 16/4

Little Forktail Enicurus scouleri 2 Rolla, GHNP 8/4 and 12/4, 2

Slaty-backed Forktail Enicurus schistaceus 1in a ravine between Pos Basti and Manebhanjang 22/4

Spotted Forktail Enicurus maculatus 3 near a village just before park entrance GHNP 8/4

Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata 5 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve 15/4

Grey Bushchat Saxicola ferra 1 pair at Sai Roopa nest, +7 seen in the GHNP, 2 Lava 16-17/4 and 2 Dajeeling both days.

White-capped Water-Redstart Chaimarrornis leucocephalus about 15-20 along the river sai Roopa - Rolla GHNP, 1 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve 15/4, 1-2 Garibas 19/4 and 21/4, Pos Basti 22/4

Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush Monticola rufiventris Very common above 2000 meters

Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius 2 Mahananda Wildlife Reserve 15/4

Blue Whistling-Thrush Myiophonus caeruleus Very common, a flock of about 10-20 birds chased every other bird away near Rolla, GHNP.

Scaly Thrush Zoothera dauma 1 seen (crippling views for a very long time) Lava 17/4

Tickell's Thrush Turdus unicolor 2 (a pair) at 1850 m Lava 16/4

White-collared Blackbird Turdus albocinctus +10 seen, some nice females above 2500 meters, they like to feeed in Rhododendrons, +12 seen Sandakphu trek, females can be confused with Chestnut thrush, which we did not see!

Gray-winged Blackbird Turdus boulboul heard and seen a single GHNP, 7 Lava, 7 Sandakphu summit 20/4 and 21/4

Dark-throated Thrush Turdus ruficollis 2 Shilt in GHNP (Ebbe) 10/4, Common and in flocks at Magma 3000 meters 19/4

White-browed Scimitar-Babbler Pomatorhinus schisticeps 2 Lava 16/4

Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis 2 Lava 16/4

Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler Xiphirhynchus superciliaris 1 good but breef look in bamboo about 2700 elevation above Garibas 19/4

Scaly-breasted Wren-Babbler Pnoepyga albiventer Heard and seen by Bodil 8/4 GHNP, 1 top of sandakphu, 1 seen well above Gambrias 21/4 (race albiventer fulvous morph)

Pygmy Wren-Babbler Pnoepyga pusilla Heard both in Lava and in forest of Sandakphu.

Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler Spelaeornis caudatus 1 pair of this mouse like bird was chased out in the open by one of the porters at 2900 meters, between Magma and Garibas, rous throat was seen well by some of us.

Black-chinned Babbler Stachyris pyrrhops 2 seen by Meltofte and Ebbe at 1700 meters near Sai Roopa, GHNP 8/4

Golden Babbler Stachyris chrysaea 10 Lava 17/4, 5 Magma 19/4, 2 Sandakphu-Garibas 21/4

Large Gray Babbler Turdoides malcolmi A flock at the breakfast stop before the foothills from Chadigarh

Jungle Babbler Turdoides striatus 5 seen same place as Large grey Babbler

White-throated Laughingthrush Garrulax albogularis a flock of 3-4 at 1800 meters Garibras - Pos Basti 22/4

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush Garrulax pectoralis 1 seen breafly and several heard Lava 16/4

Striated Laughingthrush Garrulax striatus +5 seen in Lava, very responsive to tape playback and like to climb trees, onley laughningthrush which as a crest, 5 near Garibas 21-22/4

Variegated Laughingthrush Garrulax variegatus a flock og 5-6 together with Chestnut-crowned L. in a rhodedendron tree near the river Rolla- Sai Roopa GHNP12/4

Spotted Laughingthrush Garrulax ocellatus nice bird spotted by John before Magma, we had a 3 minute observation of this bird, 19/4, one heard singing and seen very well by NPD from a juniper tree below sandakphu summit 21/4 (. The bird's voice is like a human child)

Black-faced Laughingthrush Garrulax affinis Fairly common above 3000 meters about 14 counted sandakphu

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush Garrulax erythrocephalus 1 Sai Roopa 8/4, 2 together with Varigated LT Rolla-sai Roopa 12/4, 6 Lava 16 and 17/4, 4 på vejen Darjeeling 23/4

Silver-eared Mesia Leiothrix argentauris 8 Lava 17/4

Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix lutea 6 +4 Lava 16/4 and 17/4, 4 Darjeeling 23/4

Cutia Cutia nipalensis 2 great flocks of 10 each Lava 17/4

White-browed Shrike-Babbler Pteruthius flaviscapis +18 Lava 16/4 and 17/4, 1 Garibas - Pos Basti 21/4

Black-eared Shrike-Babbler Pteruthius melanotis 4 Lava 17/4

Rusty-fronted Barwing Actinodura egertoni +15 Lava 17/4, 1 Darjeeling 23/4

Hoary-throated Barwing Actinodura nipalensis 5 Magma 2900 meter 18/4

Blue-winged Minla Minla cyanouroptera about 30 Lava 16/4 and 17/4

Chestnut-tailed Minla Minla strigula 5 sai Roopa 8/4, 1 Sai Roopa 12/4, +15 Lava 16/4 and 17/4, +35 sandakphu trek below 3200 meters, 10 Darjeeling 23/4

Red-tailed Minla Minla ignotincta +5 Lava 16/4 and 17/4, 3 Magma 18/4, 5 Garibas 1974 and 21/4

Golden-breasted Fulvetta Alcippe chrysotis 2 at 2850 meter Garibas to Sandakphu, 2 Darjeeling 23/4

Rufous-winged Fulvetta Alcippe castaneceps 7 Lava 16 and 17/4, 2 Magma 18/4, +20 Sandakphu summit, 10 Garibas, 2 Darjeeling

White-browed Fulvetta Alcippe vinipectus +30 seen on Sandakphu trek (5 days)

Nepal Fulvetta Alcippe nipalensis 2 at the breakfast site Lava 16/4

Rufous Sibia Heterophasia capistrata 7 seen GHNP, 30 seen (A common species heard all the time like the Oriental Cuckoo in Lava, more commen lower down about 30 seen on the Sandakphu trek, 2 Darjeeling 23/4

White-naped Yuhina Yuhina bakeri 1 Lava 17/4

Whiskered Yuhina Yuhina flavicollis 2 Rolla-Shilt, 3 sai Roopa, 35 Lava, 5 Magma 18/4, 10 Magma-Garibas 19/4, 5 Garibas-Pos Baasti 21/4, 2 Darjeeling

Stripe-throated Yuhina Yuhina gularis 2 Magma, +50 before and at the summit Sandakphu, 16 Darjeeling

Rufous-vented Yuhina Yuhina occipitalis 2 Lava 17/4, 4 enroute up to Sandakphu 20-21/4

White-bellied Yuhina Yuhina zantholeuca 2 Lava 16/4

Black-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis nipalensis +10 in bamboo above Gambias at 2650 meters 20/4 (Old route back), +25 Darjeeling close up in bamboo 23/4

Chestnut-headed Tesia Tesia castaneocoronata Several heard but one seen at 3100 metrers Magma-Garibas

Slaty-bellied Tesia Tesia olivea 6 seen or heard Lava 16/4 and 17/4, one attracted close upo with tape playback, heard below Garibas

Pale-footed Bush-Warbler Cettia pallidipes One heard and breefly seen at Darjeeling waterworks above town, voice recorded 23/4

Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler Cettia fortipes 3 at parkgate sai Roopa-Rola, taped, 4 same place 12/4, 2 Lava 16/4 (first stop at 1800 meters)

Gray-sided Bush-Warbler Cettia brunnifrons 1 at Magma seen well and recorded 19/4

Striated Prinia Prinia criniger 1 seen by Hans Meltofte sai Roopa-Rolla 8/4

Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 2 seen 6/4

Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius 2 plains 6/4

Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita 1 at 2000 meters in juniper trees Lava 17/4

Tickell's Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus affinis +6 Shilt GHNP 9-11/4

Buff-barred Warbler Phylloscopus pulcher 1 Rola-sai Roopa 12/4, +5 seen Sandakphu trek (3 days observation), 2 Darjeeling (very close views) 23/4

Ashy-throated Warbler Phylloscopus maculipennis 7 Lava 16/4 and 17/4, +20 sandakphu trek (4 days observation),

Lemon-rumped Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 3 sai Roopa - Rola 8/4, 1 below Shilt, 4 return to sai Roopa 12/4, 1 Lava 16/4

Hume's Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus humei 3 Sai Roopa 8/4, 2 same place 12/4, 1 Lava 16/4

Large-billed Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus magnirostris 1 Lava (Ebbe), 1 close views Magma 19/4

Western Crowned-Warbler Phylloscopus occipitalis 2 pairs nesting on a ravine Shilt 11/4, 5 before Sai Roopa 12/4

Blyth's Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus reguloides 2 sai Roopa 7/4, 2 Rola, 2 Shilt, 2 Rola-Sai Roopa 12/4, 6 Lava 16-17/4, 2 Garibas 20/4

Golden-spectacled Warbler Seicercus burkii 3 Shilt 11/4, 11 Lava 16-17/4, +15 seen on Sandakphu trek (5 days observation)

Gray-hooded Warbler Seicercus xanthoschistos very common in GHNP, mainly below 2300 meters, 10 Lava 17/4

White-spectacled Warbler Seicercus affinis +10 Lava 17/4

Gray-cheeked Warbler Seicercus poliogenys 2 together with White-spectacled Warbler Lava 17/4

Chestnut-crowned Warbler Seicercus castaniceps 5 together with White-Spectacled Warbler Lav 17/4

Black-faced Warbler Abroscopus schisticeps 6 Lava in another warbler flock 17/4

Rusty-tailed Flycatcher Muscicapa ruficauda +15 Sai Roopa- Rolla and return 8/4 and 12/4, 1 Darjeeling 23/4

Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea 4 Lava 16 and 17/4, 1 Garibas both on 20/4 and 22/4

Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassina +25 counted during the 5 day trek in GHNP, 20 Lava, +15 Sandakphu trek (5 days observation), 5 Darjeeling 23/4

Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher Ficedula strophiata 7 GHNP (3 days), seen every 100-200 meter along the Sandakphu trek which is equal to 60 km/ 0,2 = 300-500 birds!!

Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva 1 female Mahanada WR 15/4

Little Pied Flycatcher Ficedula westermanni 1 Lava 16/4

Ultramarine Flycatcher Ficedula superciliaris +23-25 GHNP (5 days)

Rufous-bellied Niltava Niltava sundara 12 Sai Roopa- Rola and return on 8/4 and 12/4, 2 Lava 16/4 and 17/4, 1 Magma 19/4, 2 Garibas - Pos Basti 22/4

Gray-headed Canary-Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis 5 GHNP (3 days) , +20 Lava 16 and 17/4, 4 Magma-Garibas 19/4

Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea 2 Mahanada WR 15/4

Asian Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi 1-2 Sai Roopa 7/4

Yellow-bellied Fantail Rhipidura hypoxantha 3 Shilt in GHNP, 8 Lava 16 and 17/4, 10 below Garibas 22/4-

White-throated Fantail Rhipidura albicollis 7 Lava 16 and 17/4, 4 Garibas area 22/4, 3 Darjeeling 23/4

Black-throated Tit Aegithalos concinnus +20 or more GHNP (5 days) +15 Lava (2 days), 2 Magma 18/4, 3 Darjeeling 23/4

Black-browed Tit Aegithalos iouschistos 17 sandakphu trek (3 days)

Fire-capped Tit Cephalopyrus flammiceps 2 Shilt in GHNP 11/4 (NPD)

Rufous-naped Tit Periparus rufonuchalis 9 GHNP Shilt area 9-11/4

Rufous-vented Tit Periparus rubidiventris 4 GHNP Shilt and Rola, form rubidiventris, 10 Sandakphu summit form beavani with gry belly.

Spot-winged Tit Periparus melanolophus +18 Shilt in GHNP 9-11/4

Gray-crested Tit Lophophanes dichrous 2 Shilt in GHNP, 11/4, 2 Magma-Garibas 19/4, 2 Sandakphu-Garibas 21/4

Great Tit Parus major 1 Kullu (ebbe) 12/4

Green-backed Tit Parus monticolus Common in GHNP, 5 Lava 17/4, 4 Magma 18/4, 4 Garibas 22/4, 1 Darjeeling 23/4

Yellow-cheeked Tit Parus spilonotus 7 Lava 16 and 17/4

Yellow-browed Tit Sylviparus modestus 4 Magma- Garibas 19/4, 5 sandakphu-Garibas, 2 Garibas - Pos Basti 22/4

Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch Sitta castanea 4 Mahanda WR 15/4, 4 lava 16 and 17/4

White-tailed Nuthatch Sitta himalayensis 6 Magma 1874, 2 Garibas 20/4, 3 Darjeeling 23/4

White-cheeked Nuthatch Sitta leucopsis 1 Shilt in GHNP 11/4 (Ole Lemming)

Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris 3 Shilt GHNP (3 days), 2 Lava (2 days)

Bar-tailed Tree-creeper Certhia himalayana 1 close up view Shilt in GHNP 11/4 (NPD)

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker Dicaeum ignipectus 2 Sai Roopa- Rola GHNP 8/4, 2 Lava 17/4, 2 garibas - Pos Basti 22/4

Purple Sunbird Nectarinia asiatica 1 female foothils after Chandigah, 4 Mahanda WR 15/4, 2 Orkla, New Delhi 24/4

Gould's Sunbird Aethopyga gouldiae Only 3 seen above Gambias 22/4

Green-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga nipalensis 7 Lava (2 days), about 25 counted Sandakphu trek (5 days), 5 Darjeeling 23/4

Fire-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga ignicauda 3-4 pairs Sandakphu summit 21/4

Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus 8 Sai Roopa (2 days), 5 Lava 17/4

Rock Bunting c.30-40 seen during our 5 days trek in GHNP

Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 2 together with a female Dark-breasted Rosefinch in bamboo Shilt in GHNP 10/4

Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla a flock of 10 birds in Juniper trees Lava 16/4

Plain Mountain-Finch Leucosticte nemoricola a large flock of 50 in a dead tree Shilt, GHNP 10/4, 10 near camp Shilt 11/4

Dark-breasted Rosefinch Carpodacus nipalensis 1 female with chestnut-eared Bunting Shilt 10/4, 5 (one male) Lava (2 days)

Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus 1 Sai Roopa 8/4 (Ole Lemming), heard by Ebbe, 1 Sai Roopa 12/4

Pink-browed Rosefinch Carpodacus rodochrous 2 Sai Roopa- Rolla in a meadow near fields and bushes 8/4

Dark-rumped Rosefinch Carpodacus edwardsii 1 Pair at the summit of Sandakphu 21/4

Vinaceous Rosefinch Carpodacus vinaceus 1 female close up views for 30-50 seconds observation, all olivish green and brown, underparts streaked mainly on sides, no eyebrow, very weak pale marking in the wing and a dark bill, perfect according to description and illustrations in Clement, P. et al. 1993. Darjeeling Wildlife Reserve Sanctuary 23/4 (NPD)

White-browed Rosefinch Carpodacus thura 1 female Sandakphu summit 21/4

Red-headed Bullfinch Pyrrhula erythrocephala 15 seen Sai Roopa-Rola 8/4, about 10 on return 12/4, 1 male Shilt 10/4, 3 Lava 17/4

Black-and-yellow Grosbeak Mycerobas icterioides 1 male fly over and seen well later Shilt in GHNP 10/4

Collared Grosbeak Mycerobas affinis 4 in a tree together with a group of Spot-winged GB near Shilt 10/4, 1 seen by Ole Lemming 11/4

Spot-winged Grosbeak Mycerobas melanozanthos 4 Shilt 10/4

House Sparrow Passer domesticus Common in open country

Russet Sparrow Passer rutilans 10 sai Roopa 7-8/4, 2 Sai Roopa 12/4

Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus common in villages

Chestnut-shouldered Petronia Petronia xanthocollis 2 breakfast stop at foothills 1½ hours from Changidarh

Brahminy Starling Sturnus pagodarum Only 3 seen on the first day on the plains, back in 1980 it was a very common bird!!

Asian Pied Starling Sturnus contra common but less so than before on the plains

Common Myna Acridotheres tristis Common, but numbers are down probably because of pesticide use!!

Bank Myna Acridotheres ginginianus Only seen the first day on the plains, but so common

Hill Myna Gracula religiosa 15 Manebhanjan Wildlife Reserve 15/4

Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus 2 seen in a park just before Changidarh

Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus 4 Manebhanjan Wildlife Reserve 14-15/4

Maroon Oriole Oriolus traillii 2 pairs Lava 17/4, 1 Dajeeling 22/4

Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus Common

Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus +8 or more, below 2300 meters GHNP, 4 days observation, +10 Lave area (2 days), common Garibas- Pos Basti 24/4

Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans 5 Lava 17/4

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus 1 Lava 17/4

Ashy Woodswallow Artamus fuscus 2 Manebhanjan Wildlife Reserve (Riverbed) 15/4

Gold-billed Magpie Urocissa flavirostris +12-20 Sai roopa- Rola and back 8/4 and 12/4, 2 Kullu, +10 Sandakphu trek (5 days observation)

Green Magpie Cissa chinensis 2 Lava 16/4

Rufous Treepie Dendrocitta vagabunda 1 Breakfast stop, 4 Manebhanjan Wildlife Reserve 14-15/4

Gray Treepie Dendrocitta formosae 2 Lava 17/4, 1 Garibas 22/4

Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes +20 GHNP (3 days above 2300 m), +10 Sandaphu Trek (3 days)

Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax +10 Shilt GHNP 10/4

House Crow Corvus splendens common in Plains

Jungle Crow Corvus levaillantii Common everywhere

Common Raven Corvus corax 2 Dajeeling 23/4


Indian Mongoose (Herpestes edwardsii) Enroute to Sai Roopa 7/4
Yellow-throated Martin (Martes flavigula) 1 Shilt 10/4
Himalayan Giant Squirrel (Ratufa bicolor) 3 Rola 8/4
Striped Squirrel (Tamiops macclellandi) 3 Lava (2 days) 16/4 and 17/4
Hoary-bellied Squirrel (Callosciurus pygerythrus) Lava 17/4
Goral (Naemorhedus goral) 1 Rola 8/4
Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntjah) 3 Dajeeling Wildlife Reserve Reserve 23/4
Common Langur (Semnopithecus entellus) 10 Rola 8/4, 3 Rola 11/4, 20 Rola-Sai Roops 12/4
Assamese Maquace (Macaca assamensis) common Manebhanjan Wildlife Reserve 14-15/4
Rhesus (Macaca mulatta) Common in villages
Siberian weasel (Mustela sibirica) 1 Rola- sai Roopa 12/4
Flavermus (pipistrella) Several seen Darjeeling and Sandakphu