Birds of Mishmi Hills & Namdapha

Silver-eared Mesia

The main focus of this tour is a birding trek through the largest protected area in the Eastern Himalayas, and third largest in India, the Namdapha National Park. However, we will have time to start with a short trip to ascend the Mishmi Hills, most notably looking for the highly localised Mishmi, or Rusty-throated, Wren-babbler. First described from one specimen collected in 1947, it was not seen again until 2004.

Spread over an area of 1,985 sq km in extreme eastern Arunachal Pradesh, Namdapha National Park is seldom visited due to the difficulty of access. The area is mountainous, crisscrossed by many watercourses forming part of the catchment area of the Brahmaputra through the Noa-Dihing (Diyun) river system. The park is named after the Namdapha river, a major tributary of the Noa-Dihing. It is unique in harbouring all four big Himalayan cats: Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard and the rarely seen Clouded Leopard. However, the higher elevations of the park are inaccessible and our chances of seeing any of these are minimal.

A great diversity of birds however is guaranteed. This is the best site in India to see the critically endangered and declining White-bellied Heron, and we will check many of the rivers for it. Other birds could include Blyth’s Tragopan, Rufous-throated and White-cheeked Hill Partridges, Ward’s Trogon, Brown, Rufous-necked and Wreathed Hornbills, Bay Woodpecker, Pied Falconet, Blue-naped Pitta, White-crowned Forktail, Green and Purple Cochoas, Long-tailed Broadbill, Sultan Tit, Beautiful Nuthatch and Snowy-throated Babbler.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Kolkata

For those joining this tour directly, you will arrive in Kolkata today, with some time for local birding depending on your arrival time.

Day 2: Arrive in Tinsukia, from Kolkata or Jorhat

From Kolkata you will fly to Dibrugarh and drive to Tinsukia, meeting those of us who have been enjoying the amazing experience of Amur Falcons in Nagaland. Hopefully we will all have time in the late afternoon to bird the grassland periphery of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and the wetland of Maguri Beel. Some difficult to see resident babblers – Marsh and Jerdon’s – and wintering bush warblers – Baikal and Spotted – are our key targets.

Day 3: Tinsukia to Roing

After some early morning birding at Maguri Beel, we will drive north-east, across the Brahmaputra on the new Dhola–Sadiya Bridge, the longest bridge in India, to the town of Roing at the base of the Mishmi Hills. The northern tributary, the Dibang river, provides access to extensive swampy grasslands. We will spend some time birding these areas, probably near Jia or Nijamgarh, in particular looking for Bengal Florican. Always difficult to find due to their secretive habits, our best chance is often for a bird flying over the grassland or, with luck, from a small watchtower constructed by enterprising locals. Lesser Coucal, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Spotted Bush Warbler, Jerdon’s, Chestnut-capped, Marsh and Striated Babblers, and Black-breasted Parrotbill, are all key birds to look for here.

Day 4: Mishmi Hills: Roing to Tiwari Gaon to Mayodia

Today we head up in altitude, birding at various elevations as we go and noting changes of birdlife throughout. We will look for birds such as Red-headed Trogon, White-browed Piculet, Long-tailed Broadbill, Blyth’s Shrike-Babbler, Sultan Tit, Mountain Tailorbird, Grey-bellied Tesia, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, Long-billed Wren-Babbler, Spot-throated Babbler, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Silver-eared Mesia, Red-faced Liocichla, Beautiful and Long-tailed Sibias, Beautiful Nuthatch, Purple and Green Cochoas, White-gorgeted Flycatcher, Hill Blue Flycatcher, Large Niltava, White-tailed Robin and Slaty-backed Forktail.

We will continue up to our overnight halt for the next three nights, the bizarre Mayodia Coffee House!

Day 5: Mishmi Hills: Mayodia Pass

The Mayodia Pass at 2,666 m is the highest point on the road in this part of eastern Arunachal Pradesh. Sclater’s Monal is a very rarely encountered species in India, with the few records usually coming from near the Mayodia Pass. Other good species here include Blyth’s Tragopan, Himalayan Owl, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Ward’s Trogon, Grey-sided and Spotted Laughingthrushes, Gould’s and Rusty-bellied Shortwing, Fire-tailed Myzornis and, of course, our main target, Rusty-throated or Mishmi Wren-Babbler. This was known from just a single specimen collected in the 1940s until it’s rediscovery in 2004. It appears to be locally common although, as with all wren-babblers, we might need some luck to get clear views.

Day 6: Mishmi Hills to Deban, Namdapha National Park

Our day to leave Mishmi Hills and our birding plan will largely depend on what we have and haven’t managed to see over the past few days. We may spend more time at Mayodia Pass (maybe for a final attempt at Sclater’s Monal!) or again try one of the grassland areas near Roing, before we enter the Namdapha National Park.

Namdapha National Park and Tiger Reserve in eastern Arunachal Pradesh is one of the largest wilderness areas in south Asia. Thick and often impenetrable tropical rainforest is broken by bamboo thickets and numerous rivers and streams of the Noa-Dihang and Namdapha rivers. The park covers a vast altitudinal range, up to about 4,500 m, and supports more than half of India’s land mammals, including being the only place in the world with four species of big cats.

It is no surprise that Namdapha harbours an impressive bird list, and we will search throughout for species including Grey Peacock Pheasant, Ibisbill, the highly endangered White-bellied Heron, Red-headed and Ward’s Trogons, hornbills including Great, Brown, Rufous-necked and Wreathed, Blyth’s Kingfisher, Pied Falconet, Blue-naped Pitta, Grey-headed Parrotbill, Red-billed Scimitar Babbler, Snowy-throated Babbler, White-hooded Babbler, Rufous-vented Laughingthrush, Rufous-backed Sibia, Beautiful Nuthatch, Purple and Green Cochoas and White-crowned Forktail.

Day 7: Deban to Haldibari

After some initial birding around Deban, we will cross the Noa-Dihang River by boat and trek along the North bank to our camp at Haldibari, c 6 km.

Day 8: Haldibari to Hornbill

Birding trek from Haldibari to Hornbill camp, c 5 km.

Day 9: Hornbill to Bulbulia

Birding trek from Hornbill to Bulbulia camp, c 3 km.

Day 10: Bulbulia to Firm Base

Birding trek from Bulbulia to Firm Base camp, c 3 km.

Day 11: Firm Base to Embeong and back

Birding trek from Firm Base camp to Embeong and back, c 6 km.

Day 12: Firm Base to Hornbill

Birding trek from Firm Base camp to Hornbill, via Rani Jheel and Bulbulia, c 7 km.

Day 13: Hornbill to Deban

Birding trek from Hornbill camp to Deban, via Haldibari, c 11 km.

Day 14: Deban to Tinsukia

We will be flexible today, with either one last morning birding around Deban before driving to Tinsukia, or leave early to allow for birding at elsewhere. This could be some exploratory birding en-route, or a further visit to Maguri Beel. Alternatively, we could head inland to the lowland wet forests of Dehing-Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, particularly the areas of the Jeypore or Soraipong areas where some key targets include White-winged Duck, Brown Hornbill and Pale-capped Pigeon. Another option, subject to permissions, is to bird inside the Digboi Oilfields complex where the excellent lowland forest hosts the localised Chestnut-backed Laughingthrush, as well as Collared Treepie. Other possibilities include White-cheeked Partridge, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, and Blue-throated and Pale-chinned Blue Flycatchers.

Day 15: Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

Our final full day’s birding also has some flexibility in the plan, but we will probably explore the alluvial flood plains of the Brahmaputra, in the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. The landscape consists of wetland, grassland and small patches of forest, but it is likely to be the grassland we concentrate on, visiting by boat and on foot. A major target here, seldom seen elsewhere in India, is the declining Jerdon’s Bushchat. We’ll also be looking for the rare Swamp Grass-Babbler, previously treated as a subspecies of Rufous-vented Prinia, now split with both forms being recategorised much more appropriately. Baer’s Pochard is occasionally found on the wetlands here, whilst we may also find Black-breasted Parrotbill and Indian Grassbird.

Alternatively, we could try Dehing-Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary or Digboi Oilfields, if we didn’t stop there the previous day.

Day 16: Depart from Dibrugarh

Our tour has unfortunately come to an end, and we will make our way to Dibrugarh for our flights to Kolkata and onward.

Target Species

  • Rufous-throated Partridge
  • White-cheeked Partridge
  • Blyth's Tragopan
  • White-bellied Heron 
  • Ward's Trogon
  • Austen's Brown Hornbill
  • Rufous-necked Hornbill
  • Wreathed Hornbill
  • Bay Woodpecker
  • Pied Falconet
  • Long-tailed Broadbill
  • Blue-naped Pitta
  • Sultan Tit
  • Rusty-throated Wren-Babbler 
  • Snowy-throated Babbler 
  • Beautiful Nuthatch
  • Purple Cochoa
  • Green Cochoa
  • White-crowned Forktail
  •   Endemic
  •   Near Endemic

Species Checklist

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Important information

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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 approximate prices per person, assuming an exclusive 2 person tour. Larger group sizes attract a discounted per person price, e.g. at least 25% cheaper for 4 persons. International flights are excluded. 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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