I visited these two north-east Indian national parks in late 2002 with my partner, Stephanie Fudge. Independent travel to both parks has apparently become easier of late following recent changes to access formalities for foreigners. For Namdapha, it is now much cheaper to enter the state of Arunachal Pradesh, and it would also appear that group travel (of four persons minimum) is no longer a requirement. At Manas, the park has at last reopened following a long period of effective closure due to security fears. A week behind us were two birding groups (one British, the other Swiss) whose reports (see References), should usefully be read in conjunction with this. The breakdown of costs will assist would-be visitors to budget their trip (£1=Rs74; $1=Rs45 in late 2002).
2. Namdapha National Park
It is assumed that the reader will already be familiar with the background information to visiting Namdapha National Park in Kazmierczak & Singh's A Birdwatchers Guide to India. A Restricted Area Permit (RAP) to visit Arunachal Pradesh remains a necessity, obtainable concurrently with your Indian visa application at no extra charge. The RAP allows for a maximum stay in the State of just 10 days (presently non-extendable) however. At the Indian High Commission in London, this took a mere five working days to issue (we had been warned it could take much longer). When completing our RAP application forms, we stipulated an intention to only visit Namdapha (other destinations elsewhere in the state could have complicated matters, who knows). We used the address of a senior civil servant in Itanagar for our in-country reference, and implied that transport would be arranged through the Wild Grass Resort (at Kaziranga National Park in Assam); perhaps one or both of these factors greased the bureaucratic wheel somewhat. Being so easy to obtain, I remained rather sceptical that our permits would allow us into the state until we were actually there.
Having obtained your RAP, there is also a 'royalty' of $50 per person/visit to be paid (in dollars) to the Arunachal Pradesh state government. Up until 2002, this charge was around $55 per person, per day. This cannot be collected at the border, so having obtained permission to do so from the AP Home Secretary in Itanagar (tel. 0360 212339), we paid the royalty fee to the Deputy Resident Commissioner (one Mr K S Gogoi, tel. 0373 2382738) at the Arunachal state offices at Mohanbari Airport as we passed through Dibrugarh. Although not relevant to us, I was informed that it is possible to pay the royalty at the equivalent office in Gauhati (presumably where ground agents based there sort such things out). Having set a precedent in Dibrugarh at least, things should be simpler for others; the civil officials were not aware of recent changes to the royalty charges and presumed initially that we were paying to stay for only one day. We stood firm and convinced them otherwise.
At the Kharsang police checkpost just inside the Arunachal Pradesh border with Assam we had our passports/RAPs checked, we also registered as foreigners entering the state, and a letter issued by the Deputy Resident Commissioner at Dibrugarh authorising our passage was collected by a senior police officer. Copies of this letter had to be dropped off at the Namdapha Forest Office and at a Home Affairs office in Miao (the gateway town to the park) on our way through.
We flew into India at Kolkata (Calcutta), taking an onward domestic flight with Jet Airways to Jorhat in Assam (only two hours by bus/car from Kaziranga National Park). Having stayed a few days at the ever-welcoming Wild Grass Resort, we began our journey to Namdapha. Regular long-distance buses take six hours from Kaziranga to Dibrugarh, although we had a subsidised lift with a resort car that was making the journey anyway.
Wild Grass' agent in Dibrugarh assisted with our hiring a reliable diesel 4-WD (with its driver, as is the way in India), to take us from there to Namdapha. The cost of this was roughly £24/$33 per day (including fuel and driver's expenses). We had the car for 3 days (1 up, 2 back - the driver is obliged to overnight on your last in the park due to the distances involved). We bussed it cheaply from Dibrugarh back to Kaziranga (via a short stay on Majuli Island in the Brahmaputra, but that's another story). If time is not important, it is possible to take public transport (daily buses) from Dibrugarh to Miao, and then hire a jeep to/from the park. I do wonder how the border formalities would go if crossing by bus, however.
Park entry fees were collected on entering Namdapha; Rs125 per head (with a camera), plus Rs100 for your car. We had reserved our accommodation at the main Deban rest-house in advance, by writing from the UK to the Field Director at the Namdapha Forest Office in Miao. The accommodation here is clean if a little spartan, with solar power and hot water available on request and costs Rs220/person/night for a room; Rs35/night in a dormitory. There are also nominal charges for camping in the park and for river crossings.
We had stocked up with food and drink for our time in the park at the bazaar in Dibrugarh. The Deban rest-house has a restaurant however, and although most of our supplies were handed over to the cooks there we still ended up paying something for meals taken at the rest-house (around Rs25 for breakfast, Rs35 lunch/dinner). To trek in the park, you will need to hire porters (Rs100/day is the going rate), and one or more cooks (Rs150/day). As is customary, you must supply food for these people as well. But don't stress overmuch estimating quantities, as extra supplies are available at Deban. If you have not brought your own tent(s) these can be supplied.
On the trekking trails, the leeches can be bad. There had been rain just before we entered the forest proper and when we did they were literally throwing themselves at us. There is no real leech-free season at this altitude, although we were told that late January-early February is a lot easier on the nerves. The porters have it all worked out; solution of tobacco juice, mixed with salt and mustard oil, zealously applied is a far more effective repellent than DEET.
Note that there is no public telephone service beyond Miao, although Deban is in radio communication with the Forest Office there. For the present mobile phones are useless beyond Gauhati in Assam.
29/11; Dibrugarh to Deban rest-house, via the Dihing Protected Forest, Digboi, the border and Miao. Arrival around 3pm, allowing time to settle in and explore the Noa Dihing riverbank towards dusk. White-bellied Heron duly obliged, along with Crested Kingfisher and Sand Lark.
30/11; A highly productive day birding around the rest-house, and later along the main jeep-track beyond Deban to the 22nd Mile viewpoint and back (approx. 8 miles). Highlights included Chestnut Thrush, Beautiful Nuthatch, Red-billed Scimitar Babbler, White-hooded Babbler, Black Bulbul, Slaty-bellied and Chestnut-headed Tesias, and an unexpected Green Shrike Babbler. Close views of Hoolock Gibbons, Yellow-throated Martens and Capped Langurs all helped make it a true red-letter day.
1/12; Across the river to trek past Haldibari camp (the hut now demolished) through to the Hornbill campsite (hut still intact, just). The birding quite slow compared with the previous day, but the tally still included Rufous-necked Hornbill, Rufous-vented Laughingthrush, Long-tailed Broadbill, Rufous-faced Warbler and Black-throated Parrotbill.
2/12; Awoke to heavy rain which lasted disappointingly until 11am. The foreshortened day was therefore spent birding to Bulbulia campsite and back, yielding Spotted Forktail, more Rufous-necked Hornbills, and back at camp Himalayan Flameback and Pied Falconet. The mammal highlight was definitely a small group of Gaur that passed us at alarmingly close range.
3/12; After some early birding around the campsite we broke camp and returned to Deban. A good if somewhat frustrating day early on, with several prize birds being heard but just out of reach (for example Brown Hornbill and Great Slaty Woodpecker). These were later redeemed by Wreathed Hornbill, Broad-billed Warbler, Grey Peacock Pheasant, Red-tailed Minla and Green Cochoa, however.
4/12; I was determined to try the main jeep-track again today, but as we also wanted to explore the river in the afternoon an early start saw us back from the 22nd Mile viewpoint by late lunchtime. Inevitably, the birding was not as good as on Day 2, but both Coral-billed and a difficult Large Scimitar Babbler were good finds. After lunch a walk beside the river produced Black Stork, Brown Dipper, Green-billed Malkoha, Tawny Pipit, Lesser Coucal, Little Heron and Goldeneye, though not the hoped-for Ibisbill.
5/12; Up for a final short bird around Deban before departing Namdapha, to be back at Dibrugarh for nightfall. White-bellied Heron appeared again, standing (very) tall on a shingle island in the middle of the river. I also added both Whistler's and White-spectacled Warblers to the list before breakfast, packing gear and the requisite settling-up with porters, cooks, accommodation clerks, etc.
3. Manas National Park
There are presently no special permits required to visit Manas (being in Assam), although you must request permission to stay in the park by writing as early as possible to its Field Director at the Forest Office in Barpeta Road. It would be best to re-confirm a positive, or check again a negative response to this with a follow-up telephone call when you are in country (Mr Raba, tel. 0366 6260288/9). The Field Director is a very helpful and dedicated man, but with limited resources for enforcing his vast estate. It is partly the lack of guards available to ensure visitors' safety that has caused the park to be closed for so long.
It would be possible to bus or train to Barpeta Road (not Barpeta) if coming from West Bengal or Gauhati, but we hired a car & driver as we had limited time. This was arranged for us by Wild Grass in Gauhati (tel. 0361 2546827), and cost significantly less than the Namdapha round-trip. From Gauhati a car takes 4-5 uncomfortable hours to reach Barpeta Road, and another 2 to the park accommodation at Mothanguri rest-house overlooking the Manas River. If coming by bus to Barpeta Road you could probably hire a local car/driver to get up to Mothanguri. We only had two days (one night) here which was criminal considering the journey time, not to mention the stunning beauty of the place but such is life. Unlike Namdapha, you would be advised to keep your vehicle with you (charged per day) for the duration of your stay, as at present there appears to be no other way of getting around the park (there are no elephant rides here any more, for example).
The dormitory-style Mothanguri rest-house is basic but clean, and is in a truly idyllic spot. Food must be brought along for yourself and for the forest guards with you. Barpeta Road has shops enough to stock up, but if coming from Gauhati in private transport it may be as well to avail yourself of the more ample shopping there. We had no less than four guards assigned to our case, boarding the vehicle at the Forest Office and staying with us throughout. Extra provisions were bought in Barpeta Road to be sure there was enough to go round. There are cooks and a caretaker at the rest-house who cater diligently to every need, even obtaining beer from the small Bhutanese shop at the border check-post if so required. Accommodation rates for the rest-house are Rs120/room/night. Park entrance fees are Rs250/person, plus Rs300 for your vehicle.
The guards like to keep an eye on you at all times, so even if birding for a quick ten minutes down the track bear in mind you must be escorted. This is somewhat merited if only as Tiger appear to be regularly seen fairly near the rest-house. When you go off around the park in your vehicle, expect the whole crew to jump in with you. Ask the caretaker to boat you across the river to Bhutan for a wander on the far (western) bank. Formalities for this extend to signing a visitors' book at the border check-post. The dirt road from here into Bhutan carries on along the eastern bank, apparently gaining altitude but as we did not try I am unsure if access here is permitted.
11/12; Gauhati to Manas, via Barpeta Road. Approaching the Mothanguri rest-house we were extremely fortunate to see two Pygmy Hogs cross the track in front of the vehicle. We arrived at the rest-house around 3.30pm, being immediately struck by the serenity of the place. An Osprey fished the river, while a lone Wallcreeper flew upstream late in the day. Having settled in, we took a dusk drive to some wallows a few kms back down the forest track, seeing Sambar and wild Water Buffalo.
12/12; Up early for another run down the track, returning for breakfast. After this we crossed the river to Bhutan to look mainly for the Golden Leaf Monkeys, with which we finally connected after a tense search. Black-backed Forktail, Pallas's Fish Eagle, Long-billed Plover and Great Hornbill were the day's birding highspots. We left soon after lunch to start the long drive back to Gauhati.
4. Systematic List
[Note Deban, the 'jeep-track', Haldibari, Hornbill and Bulbulia are familiar localities at Namdapha NP.]
Kalij Pheasant Lophura leucomelanos A pair on the park entrance road to Deban 29/11. Grey Peacock PheasantPolyplectron bicalcaratum 1 flushed between Haldibari & the river 3/12. Several others heard. Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula 2 on the Noa Dihing River upstream from Deban 4/12. An interesting winter record. Common Pochard Aythya ferina A small flock on the Manas River 11/12. Common Merganser (Goosander) Mergus merganser Regular on both the Noa Dihing and Manas Rivers, flocks of up to 12 birds often seen. Rufous WoodpeckerCeleus brachyurus 1 on the jeep-track 4/12. Great Slaty WoodpeckerMulleripicus pulverulentus Heard only, between Hornbill/Haldibari 3/12. Lesser YellownapePicus chlorolophus Singles around Deban 30/11 and 1/12. Also at Manas 12/12. Greater Yellownape Picus flavinucha Singles between Haldibari/Hornbill 1/12, and on the jeep-track 4/12. Also at Manas 12/12. Grey-headed WoodpeckerPicus canus At Manas, 2-3 birds seen 11-12/12. Himalayan FlamebackDinopium shorii From the hut at Hornbill camp 2/12, 2 flamebacks clearly showing the D. shorii head/neck pattern. Lineated Barbet Megalaima lineata 1 at Manas 12/12. Blue-throated BarbetMegalaima asiatica 1-2 birds seen most days in Namdapha. Blue-eared Barbet Megalaima australis Seen once, on the jeep-track 30/11. Brown HornbillAnorrhinus tickelli Heard only, between Hornbill/Haldibari camps 3/12. Oriental Pied HornbillAnthracoceros albirostris A single bird in flight over the river, 4/12. Flock of 6 at Manas 12/12. Great HornbillBuceros bicornis Excellent views of a pair on the Bhutan bank, Manas 12/12. Rufous-necked HornbillAceros nipalensis 3 approaching Hornbill on 1/12, with a huge male passing low over the camp on our arrival. More birds between Hornbill/Bulbulia on 2/12 including excellent views of a pair perched side-by-side. Wreathed HornbillAceros undulatus A large (15+) flock seen several times, overflying the river 30/11. This species appeared to have displaced the previous around Hornbill on 5/12, with birds seen throughout that day including a roosting flock of 8 between Haldibari and the river. Red-headed TrogonHarpactes erythrocephalus 1 on the jeep-track 30/11; and 4 together near Deban 1/12. Indian RollerCoracias benghalensis Several birds before the Namdapha park entrance 29/11 and 5/12. Also at Manas 11-12/12. Common KingfisherAlcedo atthis 1 on the Noa Dihing 4/12. Crested KingfisherMegaceryle lugubris Singles on the Noa Dihing 29/11, 3/12 and 4/12. Pied KingfisherCeryle rudis 1 on the river at Deban 29/11. Also on the Manas River 11-12/12. Blue-bearded Bee-eaterNyctyornis athertoni 1 near the Namdapha park entrance 5/12. Green bee-eaterMerops orientalis 1 at Manas 12/12. Large Hawk CuckooHierococcyx sparverioides 1 between Hornbill/Haldibari 3/12. Green-billed MalkohaPhaenicophaeus tristis 1 in river-bank scrub 4/12. Also in similar habitat at Manas 12/12. Greater CoucalCentropus sinensis 1 at Manas 11/12. Lesser CoucalCentropus bengalensis Several in riverside grassland near Deban 29/11 and 4/12. Red-breasted ParakeetPsittacula alexandri Common at Manas 11-12/12. Asian Barred OwletGlaucidium cuculoides 1 on the jeep-track 4/12. Ashy Wood Pigeon Columba pulchricollis Several overhead 30/11; and 1 roosting near Haldibari 2/12. Mountain Imperial PigeonDulcula badia 1 at Hornbill 3/12. Oriental Turtle DoveStreptopelia orientalis Singles near the rest-house at Manas 11-12/12. Spotted DoveStreptopelia chinensis 2-3 near Deban rest-house 29-30/11 and 6/12. Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica Singles near Bulbulia 2/12, and at Hornbill 3/12. Pompadour Green PigeonTreron pompadora 5 in a mixed flock with the following species at Hornbill camp 2/12. Pin-tailed Green PigeonTreron apicauda A large flock on the Namdapha entrance road 29/11; 5 between the river and Hornbill 1/12; and 3 at Hornbill with the previous species 2/12. Green SandpiperTringa ochropus Several at Manas 11-12/12. Common SandpiperActitis hypoleucos Singles on the river at Deban 29/11 and 4/12. Long-billed Plover Charadrius placidus 2 on the Manas River 12/12. River LapwingVanellus duvaucelii 2 on the Noa Dihing 3-4/12. Also on the Manas River 12/12. OspreyPandion haliaetus 1 on the Manas River 11/12. Pallas's Fish EagleHaliaeetus leucoryphus 1 on the Manas River 12/12.
[Vulture species Gyps sp.] 3 griffon vultures flew high overhead at Manas 12/12. Crested Serpent EagleSpilornis cheela Singles at Manas 11-12/12. Changeable Hawk EagleSpizaetus cirrhatus1 at Manas 12/12. Pied FalconetMicrohierax melanoleucos 4 together in a dead tree at Hornbill 2/12. Common KestrelFalco tinnunculus 1 on the Noa Dihing between Miao and the Namdapha park entrance 29/11. Great CormorantPhalacrocorax carbo Regular on both the Noa Dihing and Manas Rivers, 2-3 birds typically seen together. White-bellied HeronArdea insignis In all probability the same bird on the river at Deban, on the evening of 29/11 and early morning 5/12. Little Heron Butorides striatus 1 on the Noa Dihing River 4/12. Black StorkCiconia nigra 1 on the Noa Dihing River at Deban 4/12. Silver-breasted BroadbillSerilophus lunatus Heard only, between Bulbulia/Hornbill 2/12. Long-tailed BroadbillPsarisomus dalhousie 1 on the Jeep-track 30/11; 3 between the river and Haldibari 1/12, and a large flock of 30+ birds at Hornbill camp later that day. Asian Fairy Bluebird Irena puella A 5+ flock seen distantly between Hornbill/Bulbulia on 2/12. 3 at Manas 12/12. Golden-fronted LeafbirdChloropsis aurifrons 1 between Haldibari/Hornbill 1/12. Also at Manas 12/12. Orange-bellied LeafbirdChloropsis hardwickii 1 on the jeep-track 30/11; 2 between Haldibari/Hornbill 3/12. Blue-winged LeafbirdChloropsis cochinchinensis 1 with the previous species on 3/12. Brown ShrikeLanius cristatus 1 in the rest-house garden at Deban 1/12. Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus Singles at Deban 30/11 and 3/12. Also at Manas 11-12/12. Common Green Magpie Cissa chinensis 2 on the jeep-track 30/11, and 1-3 birds daily around Hornbill camp 1-3/12. Grey TreepieDendrocitta formosae Singles on the jeep-track 4-5/12. Large-billed CrowCorvus macrorhynchos Singles approaching Namdapha 29/11, and near Deban 30/11. Also at Manas 11-12/12. Ashy WoodswallowArtamus fuscus c.10 birds feeding on swarming insects at Manas 12/12. Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus 1 near Hornbill 3/12. Also 2 at Manas 11/12. Maroon OrioleOriolus trailii 1-3 birds daily 1-4/12, all female or immatures. Large CuckooshrikeCoracina macei 2 at Manas 12/12. Short-billed MinivetPericrocotus brevirostris Flocks of 6-10 birds on 30/11 and daily 2-4/12. Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus 5 between Hornbill/Haldibari 3/12. A 12-strong flock at Manas 12/12. Yellow-bellied FantailRhipidura hypoxantha Up to 5 birds daily 30/11-4/12. White-throated FantailRhipidura albicollis 3 on the jeep-track 30/11, 1-2 birds around Hornbill 2-3/12, and singles around Deban 4-5/12. Black DrongoDicrurus macrocercus Frequent at Manas 11-12/12. Ashy DrongoDicrurus leucophaeus 2-3 birds on all days 30/11-4/11. Bronzed DrongoDicrurus aeneus 2 on the jeep-track 30/11, and 2-3 around Hornbill daily 1-2/12. Lesser Racket-tailed DrongoDicrurus remifer Singles beyond Haldibari 1/12 and in the same area 3/12. Also at Manas 12/12. Greater Racket-tailed DrongoDicrurus paradiseus 1 on the jeep-track 30/11. Spangled DrongoDicrurus hottentotus 2 at Manas 12/12. Black-naped MonarchHypothymis azurea 1 at Manas 12/12. Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis gularis 2 at Haldibari 3/12. Common Woodshrike Tephrodornis pondicerianus A party of 8 birds forming the core of a mixed flock on the jeep-track 30/11. Brown DipperCinclus pallasii 1 on the Noa Dihing 4/12. Blue Rock ThrushMonticola solitarius 1 around the rest-house at Manas 11-12/12. Blue Whistling Thrush Myophonus caeruleus Singles near Deban 3/12 and 6-7/12, and between Hornbill/Haldibari 3/12. Chestnut ThrushTurdus rubrocanus 1 (race r. gouldi) near Deban 30/11. Red-throated FlycatcherFicedula parva 1 near Hornbill 2/12. Several at Manas 11-12/12. Little Pied FlycatcherFicedula westermanni 1 female in the Deban rest-house garden 1/12. Slaty-blue FlycatcherFicedula tricolor 1 female between Hornbill/Haldibari 3/12. Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis Several birds on most days, at Namdapha and Manas. White-capped Water RedstartChaimarrornis leucocephalus Singles on the Noa Dihing 30/11-1/12 and 3/12. Also on the Manas River 12/12. Plumbeous Water Redstart Rhyacornis fuliginosus Singles on the Noa Dihing near Deban 29/11 and 3/12, with a pair higher up 4/12. A pair near the rest-house at Manas 11-12/12. Black-backed ForktailEnicurus immaculatus 1 at Manas 12/12. Slaty-backed ForktailEnicurus schistaceus Singles on many of the streams crossing the entrance road to Namdapha 29/11 and 5/12; near Deban 1/12, and on the Noa Dihing 3-4/12. Spotted ForktailEnicurus maculates Singles on streams around Hornbill 1-2/12. Green Cochoa Cochoa viridis 1 female between Haldibari and the river 3/12. Chestnut-tailed StarlingSturnus malabaricus Several together at Manas, 12/12. Jungle MynaAcridotheres fuscus Several at Manas 11-12/12. Hill MynaGracula religiosa 3 around Hornbill 2-3/12, and 2 at the Deban rest-house 4/12. Chestnut-bellied NuthatchSitta castanea 4 (2x2) in separate mixed flocks on the jeep-track 30/11. Singles between Hornbill/Bulbulia 2/12, and Hornbill/Haldibari 3/12. Beautiful NuthatchSitta formosa 2 in a mixed flock with the previous species and Sultan Tits, on the jeep-track 30/11. A probable 3rd bird quickly left the main flock in view but was not followed to confirm its identification. The locality lay ½-1 km beyond the small concrete bridge crossing a stream, which is some 2 km before the river viewpoint. WallcreeperTichodroma muraria 1 flying upstream over the Manas River, 11/12. Sultan TitMelanochlora sultanea Common at Namdapha; up to 6 birds on all days 30/11-4/12. Plain MartinRiparia paludicola Several birds over the river at Deban, 1/12. Nepal House MartinDelichon nipalensis Small flocks over the Noa Dihing on 4/12 and 5/12. Black-crested BulbulPycnonotus melanicterus Several at Manas 12/12. Red-whiskered BulbulPycnonotus jocosus Several in mixed flocks at Manas 12/12. Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer Common at Manas 11-12/12. White-throated BulbulAlophoixus flaveolus The commonest bulbul at Namdapha; up to 10 birds daily 30/11-4/12. Ashy BulbulHemixos flavala 6+ birds in a mixed flock with other bulbuls on the jeep-track 30/11; 2-4 birds daily 1-2/12 and on 4/12. Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus A flock of 10+ birds on the Jeep-track 30/11. Hill PriniaPrinia atrogularis Heard only, on the jeep-track 30/11. Slaty-bellied Tesia Tesia olivea 5(-1? see below) around Deban and the jeep-track 30/11; 1-2 birds daily 1-3/12 and on 5/12. [Grey-bellied TesiaTesia cyaniventer] One of the previous may have been confused for this species close to the Deban rest-house 30/11. Chestnut-headed TesiaTesia castaneocoronata Surprisingly numerous. Up to 5 birds around Deban and especially on the first km of the jeep-track 30/11, and again 4-5/12. Singles heard around Hornbill 2-3/12. Mountain TailorbirdOrthotomus cuculatus 2 between Hornbill/Haldibari 3/12. Common TailorbirdOrthotomus sutorius At Manas, 11-12/12. Ashy-throated WarblerPhylloscopus maculipennis 1 between Hornbill/Haldibari 3/12. Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus Singles daily, 1-3/12. Whistler's Warbler Seicercus whistleri 1 on the jeep-track 5/12. Grey-hooded WarblerSeicercus xanthoschistus 1 with a confusingly broad, blackish eyestripe on the jeep-track, 30/11. Another between Hornbill/Haldibari on 3/12. White-spectacled WarblerSeicercus affinis 1 on the jeep-track 5/12. Grey-cheeked WarblerSeicercus poliogenys The most frequently seen Seicercus; 2 between Hornbill/Bulbulia 2/12; 1 Hornbill/Haldibari 3/12; and 2 on the jeep-track 4/12. Chestnut-crowned WarblerSeicercus castaniceps 1 between Hornbill/Haldibari 3/12. Broad-billed WarblerTickellia hodgsoni 1 between Hornbill/Haldibari, on what eventually came to be known as "Warbler Day" - 3/12. Rufous-faced WarblerAbroscopus albogularis Several in a small mixed warbler flock on the way to Hornbill, 1/12. White-crested LaughingthrushGarrulax leucolophus Heard and individuals frequently seen within large flocks, on 30/11 & every day 1-3/12. Lesser Necklaced LaughingthrushGarrulax monileger Several with many more of the following species at Deban, 30/11. Greater Necklaced LaughingthrushGarrulax pectoralis 20+ at Deban 30/11; and a large noisy flock around Hornbill 2-3/12. Rufous-vented LaughingthrushGarrulax gularis Approaching Hornbill 1/12, a raucous and apparently very large flock of this species (c.50?) accompanied us on the last 200m or so, occasionally streaming across the path to offer fleeting views. Large Scimitar BabblerPomatorhinus hypoleucos 1 on the jeep-track 4/12; and still there on 5/12. Red-billed Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ochraceiceps 5 on the jeep-track 30/11, possibly with 1 or 2 of the following species in tow. Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ferruginosus At least 2 on the jeep-track 4/12, close to where the possibles of 30/11 were seen. Pygmy Wren Babbler Pnoepyga pusilla Singles seen at Deban 30/11 and 1/12; many more heard daily. Spotted Wren Babbler Spelaeornis formosus 1 on the jeep-track 30/11. Rufous-fronted Babbler Stachyris rufifrons c.3 together at Hornbill 3/12. Golden Babbler Stachyris chrysaea Heard only, on the jeep-track 30/11 and near Haldibari 3/12. Grey-throated Babbler Stachyris nigriceps 3 between Haldibari and the river 3/12; 4 on the jeep-track 4/12. Silver-eared Mesia Leiothrix argentauris Common; large flocks (20-30 birds) seen daily at Namdapha. Red-billed LeiothrixLeiothrix lutea 1 immature on the jeep-track 4/12. White-browed Shrike Babbler Pteruthius flaviscapis 3 in a mixed flock on the jeep-track 30/11; and at least 2 on 4/12. Green Shrike Babbler Pteruthius xanthochlorus 1 (race x. hybridus) on the jeep-track amongst Yuhinas, 30/11. White-hooded BabblerGampsorhynchus rufulus 1 seen (probably more present) with the Scimitar Babblers on the jeep-track 30/11. Red-tailed MinlaMinla ignotincta Singles in mixed flocks between Haldibari/Hornbill 1/12; and at Haldibari, 3/12. Whiskered YuhinaYuhina flavicollis Several 15+ flocks, sometimes with other Yuhina species, on the jeep-track 30/11 & 4/12. Stripe-throated YuhinaYuhina gularis 1 noted amongst other Yuhinas at Deban 1/12. Black-chinned YuhinaYuhina nigrimenta Flocks of 15-20 birds near Deban and on the jeep-track 30/11, 1/12 & 4-5/12. White-bellied YuhinaYuhina zantholeuca Singles in a mixed flock on the jeep-track 30/11; between Haldibari/Hornbill 1/12 and again 3/12. Black-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis nipalensis 8+ in bamboo before Haldibari, 3/12. Sand LarkCalandrella raytal Several on the river at Deban 29/11. Purple SunbirdNectarinia asiatica Singles near Deban 30/11; between Hornbill/Haldibari 3/12; and on the jeep-track 4-5/12. Black-throated Sunbird Aethopyga saturata 1 at Deban 1/12. Streaked SpiderhunterArachnothera magna Singles on the jeep-track 30/11 & 4/12; and between Hornbill/Haldibari 3/12. White WagtailMotacilla alba Several regularly on the Noa Dihing, and on the Manas River 12/12. Tawny PipitAnthus campestris 1 on the river near Deban, 4/12. Olive-backed PipitAnthus hodgsoni 2 in the rest-house garden at Deban 30/11-1/12. White-rumped MuniaLonchura striata 1 on the jeep-track 4/12.
Assamese MacaqueMacaca assamensis A troop on the opposite bank of the Noa Dihing river, 1/12. Capped Leaf MonkeySemnopithecus pileatus A small troop on the jeep-track 30/11, and in the same place 4/12. Golden Leaf MonkeySemnopithecus geei 3 at Manas, on the opposite bank to the rest-house but just inside Indian territory. Hoolock GibbonHylobates hoolock Heard and usually seen as well, on all days in Namdapha and at close range in the Dihing Forest Reserve 29/11. Yellow-throated MartenMartes flavigula 2 in a tree on the jeep-track, 30/11.
[Flying-squirrel Petaurista sp.] A large flying-squirrel was seen at Hornbill 1/12. Orange-bellied Himalayan SquirrelDremomys lokriah Several at Namdapha 1-3/12. Hoary-bellied SquirrelCallosciurus pygerythrus 1 at Namdapha, 3/12. Himalayan Striped SquirrelTamiops macclellandi Several at Namdapha 1-3/12. Malay Giant Squirrel Ratufa bicolor Singles at Bulbulia 2/12 & near Haldibari 3/12. Gaur Bos gaurus 2, possibly 3, between Bulbulia/Hornbill 2/12. Water BuffaloBubalus arnee 5 at Manas 11-12/12. SambarCervus unicolor 1 at Manas 11/12. Indian MuntjacMuntiacus muntjak Heard daily at Namdapha. 1 seen at Manas 12/12. Pygmy Hog Sus salvanius The mammal coup of the trip. 2 animals crossed the track on the way to Mothanguri, 11/12. Unequivocal views were obtained of this highly endangered, diminutive pig as they paused briefly beside the track. Apparently observed very seldomly, we were indeed blessed with this sighting. Indian Flying-foxPteropus giganteus An enormous roost of several thousands of bats is unmissable in a large tree, close to the junction of M G and M N Roads in Gauhati.
Grimmett R, Inskipp C & Inskipp T (1998). Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. Helm
Hornbuckle J, et al. (1998). North-East India, 20/02-13/03/98. Unpublished trip report
Kazmierczak K & Singh R (1998). A Birdwatcher's Guide to India. Prion
Lewis I (2001). North-East India 23/01-11/02/01. Unpublished trip report
Prater S H (1971). The Book of Indian Animals. BNHS Oxford
Ritschard M, et al. (2003). North-East India: Assam & Arunachal Pradesh 21/12/02-03/01/03. Unpublished trip report on Birding Switzerland website [www.chclub300.ch]
Robson C (2000). A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia. New Holland
Spinks G, et al. (2003). North-East India, 15/12/02-01/01/03. Unpublished trip report
Thanks for travel, birding and other invaluable advice to Manju Barua and his highly knowledgeable son Maan, and to Bubu Bharali of Wild Grass based in Dibrugarh. We must also thank Manas National Park's tireless Field Director, and Bibhuti Prasad Lahkar of the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme based at Gauhati for advice and information.