Northeast India Highlights: Eaglenest & Kaziranga Birds & Mammals

Ward's Trogon

Northeast India is one of the most bird-rich regions in the world. The dense forests are home to various species of skulking babblers and similarly plumaged warblers, but also beautiful pheasants and other stunners such as Fire-tailed Myzornis, Himalayan Cutia, Beautiful Nuthatch, Ward’s Trogon and, of course, the recently discovered Bugun Liocichla.

We start this tour with a visit to lowland Nameri National Park on the Jia Bhoreli river, which has a wide variety of species and some key targets we are unlikely to see elsewhere, including Pied Falconet, Oriental Hobby, Wreathed Hornbill and White-winged Duck. We could easily spend a few days here enjoying a great variety of species, but such is the lure of the northeast that we have to move in in search of more fantastic birds!

Dirang is our next stop, the base for exploring the Sangti Valley, Mandala Road and, weather-permitting, the high-altitude Sela Pass. At 4,200m and accessible by road, there are birds here that are extremely difficult to find elsewhere in Arunachal and we will hope to connect with Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Solitary Snipe, Grandala, Rufous-breasted Bush Robin, Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch and Rosy Pipit.

Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary needs little introduction to birdwatchers. Unusually for Arunachal Pradesh, this montane forest has the advantage of easy access to a wide altitudinal range thanks to a jeep track which cuts through its heart from Eaglenest Pass at 2800 m down to the flood plains of Assam at 100 m. Close to the Bhutan border, Eaglenest gained fame when Bugun Liocichla was described, new to science, in 2006. As well as that, we will hope to see many other excellent birds, including Blyth’s and Temminck’s Tragopans, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Ward’s Trogon, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Blackish-breasted Babbler (Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler), Bar-winged, Long-billed and Eye-browed Wren-babblers, White-hooded Babbler, Red-tailed Minla, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Beautiful Sibia, White-breasted and Pale-billed Parrotbills, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Broad-billed Warbler, Beautiful Nuthatch, Red-headed Bullfinch and many more.

Leaving Eaglenest we will stay overnight at Nameri again to break the journey, and head to Kaziranga National Park. We are actually likely to see our first Indian One-horned Rhinoceros from the car before we reach the park! As well as the rhino this is one of the best places to see wild Water Buffalo and Asian Elephants, and there is a chance of seeing a Tiger. Several localised and endangered grassland birds such as Swamp Francolin, Bengal Florican, Greater Adjutant, Pallas’s and Grey-headed Fishing Eagles will be amongst our targets, whilst we will also try for the difficult to see Blue-naped Pitta in areas outside the park.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Delhi or Kolkata and on to Guwahati

Depending on flight arrival time, today will either include a flight on to Guwahati or a stay overnight, with a late morning flight the following day.

Day 2: Guwahati, drive to Nameri National Park

We will drive to Nameri National Park and Tiger Reserve and get as much birding done in the afternoon as time permits. This could include crossing the Jia Bhoreli river by boat and approaching quietly to some of the swampy pools to get a glimpse of the endangered White-winged Duck, and watching the evening flight of Wreathed Hornbills heading to roost. Nameri is the best place in India to see White-winged Duck, although they are shy forest-dwelling ducks and often fly off at the slightest noise on approach to one of the other many, inaccessible, pools deep within the forest.

Day 3: Nameri National Park

Today we have a full day birding in Nameri National Park. This lowland forest with its swampy pools, river and riverine scrub will produce a fantastic day list, including species such as White-cheeked Partridge, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Lesser Coucal, Great Thick-knee, Ibisbill, River Lapwing, Long-billed Plover, Small Pratincole, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, White-rumped and Slender-billed Vultures, Great and Wreathed Hornbills, Crested Kingfisher, Pied Falconet, Oriental Hobby, Maroon Oriole, Sultan Tit, Spot-winged Starling, Scaly Thrush and Siberian Rubythroat.

Day 4: Nameri to Dirang, Arunachal Pradesh

A long drive to Dirang today, our base for access to various sites further north and east in Arunachal Pradesh. Assuming we didn’t delay our departure from Nameri by being distracted by yet more good birds, we should have time for some afternoon birding, probably in the nearby Sangti Valley.

Day 5: Sela Pass from Dirang

Early this morning, we will leave for the drive up to the spectacular snow bound and cold Sela Pass. (‘La’ actually means pass, so this tends to be erroneously referred to as the ‘Se Pass Pass’!) The birdlife here is completely different to anything we will encounter elsewhere on the trip, and includes several specialities. With luck we could find Blood Pheasant, Himalayan Monal, Snow Partridge, Snow Pigeon, Solitary Snipe, Himalayan Buzzard, Rufous-vented Tit, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Winter Wren, White-throated and Brown Dippers, Grandala, Rufous-breasted Bush Robin, White-throated Redstart, Alpine Accentor, Fire-tailed Sunbird, White-winged Grosbeak and Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch.

Day 6: Mandala and Sangti Valley, from Dirang

The Mandala Road leads up from Dirang through mixed forest, and we will stop at several points where we are likely to find mixed species flocks. In higher elevations much of the pine habitat has unfortunately been cleared but it can still provide good birds, and even the chance of a Red Panda. Birds here may include Large Hawk Cuckoo, Golden-throated Barbet, Green Shrike Babbler, Grey Crested Tit, Russet Bush Warbler, Yellow-vented Warbler, Ludlow’s Fulvetta, Bar-winged Wren Babbler, Spotted Laughingthrush, Himalayan (White-browed) Shortwing, Alpine and Dusky Thrushes, and Grey-headed Bullfinch. The Mandala Road is also the location to see Buff-throated Warbler, only recently discovered in India.

If we didn’t manage to do justice to Sangti Valley on our arrival in Dirang we will visit again in the afternoon today. Ibisbill and Long-billed Plover will be our main targets here, whilst we will also hope for Black-tailed Crake, Himalayan Cuckoo, Crested Kingfisher, Daurian Redstart and Crested Bunting.

Day 7: Dirang to Lama Camp, Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary

We drive to Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary today, across Eaglenest Pass. We will have our first attempt to see Bugun Liocichla here, a bird we may well have to try for several times in our stay as it is rarely easy to see. (It took Mike 17 hours of exclusively searching for it on his first visit, but thankfully hasn’t taken that long since!)

Days 8 – 11: Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary

We have four full days inside Eaglenest, birding different elevations and staying at two different serviced tented camps. Starting at the higher elevations around Lama Camp, down to Bompu, and back up to Eaglenest Pass at 2900 m, we will hope to find mouth-watering species such as Temminck’s Tragopan, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Chestnut-breasted Hill Partridge, Ward’s Trogon, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Blackish-breasted Babbler (Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler), Bar-winged, Long-billed and Eye-browed Wren-babblers, Himalayan Cutia, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Collared Grosbeak, Beautiful Nuthatch, Red-headed Bullfinch and, of course, Bugun Liocichla. This is an incredibly rare species, with surveys elsewhere in Arunachal Pradesh not finding anyway, and nearly all sightings from an area of just a few square kilometres around Lama Camp.

At lower elevations around Sessni and down to Khellong the habitat is mixed and somewhat degraded, although with extensive stands of bamboo. The variety of species is very good though, and we will look for Blyth’s Tragopan, several laughingthrushes including Grey-sided and Blue-winged, Red-faced Liocichla, Coral-billed and Slender-billed Scimitar Babblers, White-hooded Babbler, Red-tailed Minla, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Beautiful Sibia, White-breasted and Pale-billed Parrotbills, Slaty-bellied Tesia and Broad-billed Warbler. Blyth’s Kingfisher has been seen along the river here.

Day 12: Eaglenest to Nameri

We have time for a final morning’s birding targeting any key species we may have missed before we leave and overnight halt at Nameri once more.

Day 13: Nameri to Kaziranga National Park

We will leave Nameri early in time to get to Kaziranga for lunch, and a jeep safari inside the park for the afternoon.

Days 14- 15: Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park extends over 480 sq km with the great Brahmaputra River as its northern boundary and the Karbi Hills fringing the southern. The name Kaziranga means means ‘where the mountain goat drinks water’ in the language of the Karbi tribe. It used to be an inaccessible swampy land covered with tall elephant grass and jheels (water bodies). Now a National Park, it is famous for its 1,000-strong population of Indian Rhinoceros, wild Water Buffalo and wild Elephants.

Kaziranga is divided into three ranges. The central range is usually the best to see Rhinos, Water Buffaloes and Elephants in the water. The eastern range offers some of the most exciting and varied wildlife watching, with a possibility of seeing Otters and, with luck, a Tiger. A great variety of waterfowl should be present at Sohola Bheel, where we also hope to see Greater Adjutant Stork, Pallas’s and Grey-headed Fishing Eagles and Spot-billed Pelican. Overall an impressive list of species could also include Falcated Duck, Ferruginous Duck, Swamp Francolin, Bengal Florican, Lesser Coucal, Plaintive Cuckoo, Black-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Great and Oriental Pied Hornbills, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Blossom-headed Parakeet, Blue-naped Pitta, Chestnut-capped Babbler, Great Myna, Pale-chinned Blue Flycatcher, Crimson Sunbird and Finn’s Weaver.

Day 16: Kaziranga to Guwahati or Tinsukia

The final day of the tour for those who are not continuing on our extension to Mishmi Hills sees us drive to Guwahati for the flight back to Kolkata.

The rest of us will continue to the town of Tinsukia, where we will 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.

Target Species

  • White-winged Duck
  • Snow Partridge
  • Swamp Francolin 
  • Rufous-throated Partridge
  • Chestnut-breasted Partridge 
  • Blood Pheasant
  • Blyth's Tragopan
  • Temminck's Tragopan
  • Himalayan Monal 
  • Grey Peacock-Pheasant
  • Greater Adjutant
  • Rufous-bellied Eagle
  • Pallas's Fish Eagle
  • Grey-headed Fish Eagle
  • Himalayan Buzzard 
  • Black-tailed Crake
  • Black-necked Crane
  • Ibisbill
  • River Lapwing
  • Long-billed Plover
  • Solitary Snipe
  • Snow Pigeon
  • Asian Emerald Cuckoo
  • Mountain Scops Owl
  • Hodgson's Frogmouth
  • Grey Nightjar
  • White-throated Needletail
  • Silver-backed Needletail
  • Blyth's Swift 
  • Ward's Trogon
  • Blyth's Kingfisher
  • Rufous-necked Hornbill
  • Wreathed Hornbill
  • Golden-throated Barbet
  • Yellow-rumped Honeyguide 
  • White-browed Piculet
  • Pale-headed Woodpecker
  • Pied Falconet
  • Oriental Hobby
  • Blue-naped Pitta
  • Black-winged Cuckooshrike
  • Black-headed Shrike-babbler
  • Maroon Oriole
  • Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
  • Collared Treepie
  • Spotted Nutcracker
  • Red-billed Chough
  • Fire-capped Tit
  • Grey Crested Tit
  • White-throated Bulbul
  • Ashy Bulbul
  • Scaly-breasted Cupwing
  • Rufous-faced Warbler
  • Broad-billed Warbler
  • Slaty-bellied Tesia
  • Chestnut-crowned Bush Warbler
  • Rufous-fronted Bushtit
  • White-browed Tit-warbler
  • Buff-throated Warbler
  • White-spectacled Warbler
  • Yellow-vented Warbler
  • Russet Bush Warbler
  • Red-billed Scimitar Babbler
  • Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler
  • Bar-winged Wren-Babbler
  • Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler 
  • Chestnut-capped Babbler
  • Eyebrowed Wren-Babbler
  • White-hooded Babbler
  • Long-billed Wren-Babbler
  • Spot-throated Babbler
  • Himalayan Cutia
  • Scaly Laughingthrush
  • Red-tailed Minla
  • Rufous-backed Sibia
  • Silver-eared Mesia
  • Bugun Liocichla 
  • Beautiful Sibia
  • Spotted Laughingthrush
  • Fire-tailed Myzornis
  • Golden-breasted Fulvetta
  • Brown-throated Fulvetta 
  • Brown Parrotbill
  • Pale-billed Parrotbill
  • White-breasted Parrotbill
  • Spotted Elachura
  • Beautiful Nuthatch
  • Long-tailed Thrush
  • Grandala
  • Tibetan Blackbird
  • Dusky Thrush
  • Purple Cochoa
  • Green Cochoa
  • White-gorgeted Flycatcher
  • Large Blue Flycatcher 
  • Gould's Shortwing
  • Lesser Shortwing
  • Himalayan Shortwing
  • White-tailed Robin
  • Rufous-breasted Bush Robin
  • Blue-fronted Robin
  • Snowy-browed Flycatcher
  • Hodgson's Redstart
  • White-throated Redstart
  • Mrs. Gould's Sunbird
  • Alpine Accentor
  • Maroon-backed Accentor
  • Rosy Pipit
  • White-winged Grosbeak
  • Brown Bullfinch
  • Red-headed Bullfinch 
  • Blanford's Rosefinch
  • Golden-naped Finch
  • Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch 
  • Crimson-browed Finch
  • Tibetan Serin
  •   Endemic
  •   Near Endemic

Species Checklist

eBird India logo

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 are per person, assuming a total group size of between 4 and 8 people, and exclude international flights. They are approximate and 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 smaller groups, single room supplements, and booking details.

Interested in this tour?

Are you interested in doing this tour, or something similar? Let us know by sending a message below and we will reply soon to discuss further.