NORTHEAST INDIA: Mishmi Hills and the Brahmaputra
A 12-day birding tour of India's extreme northeast, from the grasslands of upper Assam to 2,655m in the Mishmi Hills, where the Himalayas meet the Indo-Burma ranges.
Our tour to extreme north-eastern India takes us into a celebrated yet somewhat unexplored region encompassing parts of the state of Assam and neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh. We combine a variety of areas and habitats within the bird-rich Eastern Himalayas and associated hill ranges with the Brahmaputra valley that divides them, exploring productive grasslands and vast wetlands, lowland tropical forests and some of the most intact subtropical forests in the entire Himalayan chain. We visit in November or late spring, when temperatures are comfortable at all altitudes. We will be looking for a selection of waterfowl, grassland endemics and specialities including Marsh Babbler, Swamp Prinia, Black-breasted Parrotbill and Bengal Florican, White-winged Duck, White-throated Brown Hornbilll, Grey Peacock-pheasant, and Eastern Himalayan specialities such as Mishmi Wren-babbler, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, Rusty-bellied and Gould's Shortwings, Temminck's and Blyth's Tragopans among a tantalising selection of laughingthrushes, scimitar-babblers, and mammals including Mishmi Takin and Western Hoolock Gibbon.
A diverse selection of birds, with around 300 species in diverse habitats from the grasslands of the Assam Valley to the hills of the extreme northeast Himalayas, including the stunning Fire-tailed Myzornis, Himalayan Cutia, the chance of both Temminck's and Blyth's Tragopans, five hornbills, up to eight wren-babblers and cupwings, up to four enigmatic shortwings, more than a dozen laughingthrushes, seven parrotbills, and more.
Several regional specialities of the Eastern Himalayas Endemic Bird Area and associated hill ranges, including the highly localised Mishmi Wren-Babbler and Brown-throated Fulvetta, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, Rusty-bellied Shortwing and Ward's Trogon.
Three grassland specialist northeast Indian endemics; Black-breasted Parrotbill, Marsh Babbler and Swamp Grass Babbler, plus the chance of Bengal Florican.
A small selection of mammals with a good chance of the endemic Mishmi Takin, and Western Hoolock Gibbon, India's only ape.
Access to pristine Eastern Himalayan habitats across the altitudinal gradient, from near sea level to over 2,600m, in one of the least-visited parts of India.
Day 1: Dibrugarh to Tinsukia
Arrivals into Dibrugarh airport this morning. We set out on the short drive east to Tinsukia for a four-night stay, with the reminder of the afternoon and a further three full days to explore this region of Upper Assam. In the marshy grasslands that flank the Brahmaputra River at Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and at nearby Maguri Beel we will go in search of three northeast Indian endemics, Black-breasted Parrotbill, Swamp Prinia and Marsh Babbler, alongside a selection of waterfowl, while in patches of lowland forest within Digboi Oilfields where we hope to encounter Rufous-necked and Chestnut-backed Laughingthrushes, and Collared Treepie. We will also visit a vital remnant patch of lowland tropical forest at Dehing-Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary for an exciting selection of Eastern Himalayan and more widespread forest specialities, with birds such as Pale-capped Pigeon, Silver-breasted Broadbill, White-crowned Forktail, White-cheeked Hill-partridge, Grey Peacock-Pheasant, White-winged Duck, up to five species of hornbill including White-throated Brown Hornbill, various flycatchers, warblers and sunbirds in fast-moving feeding flocks, and vocal troops of India’s only ape, Western Hoolock Gibbon.
Day 5: Tinsukia to the Mishmi Hills (Roing)
An early start for the journey northeast, crossing the Brahmaputra River as we head into the Mishmi Hills of Arunachal Pradesh, making our way to the small town of Roing at 400m in the Lower Dibang Valley, the last major township in India’s northeast frontier and our base for a three-night stay. We will spend a total of six-nights in the Mishmi hills, dividing our time between two bases to enable a thorough exploration of the subtropical broadleaf forest and bamboo of the foothills and their flanking grasslands before ascending into coniferous forest and rhododendrons of higher elevations. Around Roing, exploring the transition zone from these plains into the foothills will provide a tantalising introduction to the diversity of this region and we will encounter a good selection of Himalayan specialities during our stay here, including various tits, yuhinas, fulvettas and barwings.
Day 6-7: The Mishmi Hills (Roing)
Two full days exploring the diverse birdlife of the mosaic of floodplain grasslands and forest-flanked outer foothills of the Lower Dibang Valley from our base at Roing. Key targets in grassland areas include the endemic Black-breasted Parrotbill and Bengal Florican. In the low hills we will explore the sub-tropical forests in search of a broad range of species associated with these moderate altitudes, key among which are Red-headed Trogon, Green Cochoa, White-browed Piculet, Red-billed Scimitar-babbler, Pygmy Wren-babbler and all three diminutive tesias.
Day 8-10: The Mishmi Hills (Mayodia)
We move higher into the hills to Mayodia at 2655m to spend these three days birding through a succession of incredible and largely undisturbed Himalayan forest habitats. We will explore these on foot from the paved but relatively quiet road that ascends from Roing to its highest point at Mayodia, and beyond. This is one of Asia’s least-explored birding areas, and birding here is both exciting and productive, with an extensive list of potential species that includes some of the most sought-after specialities of the Himalaya. Among our key targets will be the endemic Mishmi Wren-babbler, and both Temminck’s and Blyth’s Tragopans, with other possibilities including Spotted and Grey-sided Laughingthrushes, Long-billed and Bar-winged Wren-babblers, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, Gould’s and Rusty-bellied Shortwings, Manipur and Brown-throated Fulvettas, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Ward’s Trogon, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Himalayan Cutia and a variety of shrike-babblers, bullfinches, bush-robins, thrushes, redstarts and accentors, plus mammals that include the endemic Mishmi Takin.
Day 11: The Mishmi Hills to Tinsukia
We will spend the morning making our way back into Assam, birding across the elevations as we descend from Mayodia back into the alluvial plains of the Brahmaputra basin to Tinsukia for a one-night stay, where time-permitting we may have the opportunity to re-visit sites during the afternoon.
Day 12: Tinsukia to Dibrugarh, depart
Spend a final few hours around Tinsukia focusing on any species we may have missed. Departures from Dibrugarh airport this afternoon.