Amazing Amurs of Nagaland

Amur Falcon

This is a very special tour to experience one of the birding wonders of the entire world. Only in the last few years have Amur Falcons been known to congregate in such large numbers on migration. For just a few weeks at the end of October and early November in Nagaland, in India’s Northeast, phenomenal numbers of this beautiful falcon gather together to feed and roost during their remarkable migration from eastern Russia and China to southern Africa.

Just as remarkable is the turnaround from a horrific story of large-scale hunting to a local community conservation success: read more about the Amur massacre from Conservation India. In this tour we will stay in local homestays near Doyang Reservoir and understand more about the Naga communities in this area, whilst enjoying what very probably will be the most amazing birding experience you have ever had. To stand at dusk with hundreds of thousands of Amur Falcons swirling around above our heads, and in total silence except for their calls, is truly awe-inspiring.

Before we enjoy our Amur spectacle, we will spend some time birding in the Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctuary, set up by the local village council, from the first Naga village to ban hunting, in 1998. Unfortunately, hunting is so engrained in Naga culture that birds outside of the few protected areas are hard to find. Here though we, and the birds, benefit from this protection, and we hope to find Mountain Bamboo Partridge, Black-tailed Crake, Grey-headed Parakeet, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Naga Wren Babbler, Striped, Spot-breasted and Brown-capped Laughingthrushes, Spot-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Rusty-capped Fulvetta and Crested Finchbill.

This tour is specially arranged so that you can take just one week off work (or school: Autumn half-term is the perfect time to catch the peak of Amur migration!) and be back in the office (or school) on Monday morning to regale your colleagues (or school friends, if they’re interested!) with stories of an unforgettable week! However, do consider coming earlier to enjoy some more great birds, and mammals, in Assam and Meghalaya, or staying on to visit the wonderful landscape and birding of eastern Arunachal, with the Mishmi Hills and Namdapha National Park. (Note that we do not condone bunking school for the extensions, so recommend them only to those who are not studying or teaching!)

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Delhi

After your international flight, the night will be spent in a comfortable airport hotel ready for the early morning flight to Nagaland tomorrow.

One good flight option currently, assuming you are coming from the UK, is to fly Air India from London Heathrow at 09:45, arriving 22:50.

Day 2: Fly to Dimapur, on to Khonoma

All flights to Dimapur in Nagaland are via Kolkata, and arrive just after midday. We then drive to the village of Khonoma, where we stay at a homestay just outside the sanctuary for the next three nights.

Days 3 – 4: Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctuary

Khonoma, like much of the rest of Nagaland, has strong traditions of hunting. Locals from the Angami tribe were known to have killed as many as 300 Blyth’s Tragopans in one week! All this changed in 1998 when the tribe themselves decided to stop hunting and instead established the Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctuary. At 1,400 m altitude, this relatively small sanctuary hosts many special birds difficult to find elsewhere. We have two full days to explore the area around Khonoma, and nearby Dzuleke, in search of species such as Mountain Bamboo Partridge, Naga Wren Babbler, Moustached, Striped, Assam and Brown-capped Laughingthrushes, Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Grey Sibia, Crested Finchbill, Striated Prinia, Rusty-capped Fulvetta and Mrs Gould’s Sunbird.

Day 5: Khonoma to Pangti

We have time for a final morning’s birding at Khonoma before our long drive north to the village of Pangti, arriving in time to see streams of falcons coming to roost.

Day 6: Pangti and Doyang Reservoir

Most of the day today is devoted to one of the world’s most amazing bird spectacles, the enormous roost of Amur Falcons that use the Doyang Reservoir as a staging post on their migration from eastern Russia and China to southern Africa. Expect to see at least tens, and probably hundreds, of thousands of these beautiful small falcons, and test your counting skills – some estimates suggest a million or more are present each autumn! This is truly an awe-inspiring and unforgettable sight – and sound.

The scale of this migration has only been known in the last ten or so years, when it was also discovered that birds were being hunted in alarming numbers: it was estimated that as many as 140,000 birds were slaughtered every autumn. Thankfully a remarkable and rapid conservation success story means that hunting has been stopped completely, and the locals now provide protection for ‘their’ falcons. We will be able to enjoy the privilege of their hospitality and find out more about this fantastic effort, and the culture of these tribal communities.

Amur Falcons are by far the key species here, but we also have a chance to see the difficult, restricted range, Yellow-throated Laughingthrush, with Green-billed Malkoha, Black-throated Prinia, Buff-chested Babbler, White-tailed Robin, Crested Finchbill and Flavescent Bulbul all possible.

Day 7: Pangti to Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary

We leave early this morning to head north and into Assam, where we have some time for afternoon birding in the Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary. Most of the semi-evergreen forest in this area has long been converted to tea plantations, but this small sanctuary provides a remnant patch with excellent low elevation birding. We have a chance of seeing Green-billed Malkoha, Red-headed Trogon, Great and Oriental Pied Hornbills, Large Niltava, Beautiful and Long-tailed Sibias, Sultan Tit, Collared Treepie, Mountain Tailorbird, both Greater and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes, Pale-chinned Flycatcher, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and Ruby-cheeked Sunbird.

As you’d expect from its name, the sanctuary is also an excellent place to see India’s only species of ape, the Western Hoolock Gibbon (there are unsubstantiated records of the Eastern Hoolock Gibbon from eastern Assam and Arunachal Pradesh). There are also six other species of primates that occur here: Capped Langur, Pig-tailed, Stump-tailed, Assamese and Rhesus Macaques, and Bengal Slow Loris.

We will spend the night in a nearby heritage tea estate bungalow, convenient for a further short birding session for our final morning.

Day 8: Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary to Jorhat and Delhi (or Tinsukia for Mishmi and Namdapha)

After a brief morning’s birding at Hoollongapar, those of us leaving now drive to Jorhat for our flight to Delhi and an overnight stay there, whilst the rest of us head northeast to Tinsukia to continue on our Mishmi Hills and Namdapha tour.

Day 9: Depart from Delhi

There may be some time for productive local birding in the Delhi area before onward international flights.

However, the most convenient international flight to the UK currently is Air India at 02:30. This clearly means no birding in Delhi before departure, but the 06:35 arrival does mean you have plenty of recovery time before work the next day! The 14:45 Air India departure will allow a morning’s birding, most likely at either Okhla Bird Sanctuary or Sultanpur National Park, but is currently about £100 more expensive.

Checklist

View species bar chart on eBird.

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Important information

Asian Adventures logo

As with all Bubo Birding tours, your booking is handled by Asian Adventures.

This tour is guided by Mike Prince, plus local birding guides.

  • Prices quoted are per person, assuming an exclusive 2 person tour. Larger group sizes attract a discounted per person price, which we will confirm to you on enquiry.
  • International flights are excluded.
  • We may change the itinerary described due to various reasons such as latest birding information, availability of accommodation, state of the roads, and other unexpected factors that, this being India, do pop up from time to time!
  • The final price and itinerary will be confirmed before booking and depending on your expected arrival and departure plans.

See Asian Adventures for full tour details, including accommodation, what's included, other exclusions, prices for larger groups, single room supplements, and booking details.

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Are you interested in doing this tour, or something similar? Maybe the scheduled dates don't suit you, but different dates would? Let us know by sending a message below and we will reply soon to discuss further.





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