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North Bengal & Sikkim : Hot Spots 

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Darjeeling & Kalimpong Himalayas

This area - particularly Mahananda sanctuary, Lava, Neora National Park, and the Singelila National Park, is a birders delight. Some exotic birds such as Satyr Tragopan, Khalij Pheasant, Fire tailed Myzorinis, yellow-throated Fulvetta, and Blue fronted Robin and others have been recorded.

Mahananda Wild Life Sanctuary

Located just outside Siliguri astride the Mahananda river, this

Hornbill at Mahananda WLSsanctuary is well known for its large population of Elephants. As a result it has not yet been explored by birders. T he deciduous forests and riverine belt provides habitat for a rich variety of birds in the sanctuary, A hours birding foray restricted to the fringes of the sanctuary, revealed that the forests were teeming with bird life. Some of the birds we saw: Lesser Adjutant, Red Naped Ibis, Black Baza, Besra, Greater Coucal, Large Cuckoo Shrike, Black hooded Oriole, Indian roller, Green billed Malkhoa, Red Jungle Fowl, Indian Grey Hornbill, Himalayan Griffon, Jungle and Asian Barred owlet, various Bee eaters, Egret, Common Hill Myna and more.

We are working on a joint project with the Wild life Department for a bird survey to identify species and safe areas for birding. On completion of this project more details will be made available.

Darjeeling

Darjeeling Town 7 Mt. KanchenjunghaLocated at an altitude of 2130 m, Darjeeling is a good starting point to discover the avifauna of the Eastern Himalayas. The Zoological Park, the botanical gardens and Tiger hill are good birding sites. Yellow-billed Blue Magpai, Red and chesnut tailed Minla, Maroon backed Accentor. Red headed Bullfinch, Satyr Tragopan, and the rare Broad Billed Warbler, Hill partridge, Kalij Pheasant, Large Hawk, Oriental and Lesser Cuckoos, Spot bellied eagle owl, Himalayan swift let, Darjeeling Woodpecker, various Babblers, and other colorful species are to be seen.

The gateway airport is at Bagdogra, close to the town of Siliguri. It takes 3.30 hrs to reach Darjeeling by car. The alternative is eight hours journey by the World heritage Himalayan Railway "toy train" - but this means an overnight halt at Siliguri as the train does not connect with incoming flights.

There are several good hotels in Darjeeling. At the top end, our choice is New Elgin, and Cedar Inn. In the mid range the Dikeling Hotel has comfortable rooms and friendly management.

Darjeeling weather allows limited birding hours in the mornings. You will need a minimum of two mornings.

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Singelila (Sandakphu) Range

Samthar viewThe Sandakphu Ridge of the Singelila Range at an elevation of 3600 m provides good birding in Bamboo,Oak and Rhododendron forests between 2000 and 3000 m elevation. The best species recorded are:Cinereous and Himalayan Vulture, Blood Pheasant, Satyr Tragopan, Hill Partridge, Collared Pygmy Owlet, Rufous-bellied, Crimson-breasted & Darjeeling Woodpecker, Spotted Nutcracker, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Streak-breasted & Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler, Brown & Black-throated Parrotbill, Red-capped Babbler, Black-faced, Spotted and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Green Shrike-Babbler, Whiskered, Stripe-throated & Rufous-vented Yuhina, White-browed & Orange-flanked Bush Robin, White-browed & Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Grey-sided Bush Warbler, Ashy-throated, Buff-barred, Blyth’s & Lemon-rumped Warbler, Blue-fronted Redstart, Little Forktail, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, White-collared Blackbird, Plain-backed Thrush, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Green-backed, Grey-crested, Rufous-vented, Rufous-fronted & Yellow-browed Tit, White-tailed Nuthatch, Nepal Treecreeper, Hoary-throated Barwing, Plain Bar-throated MinlaMountain Finch, White-winged Grosbeak, Dark-breasted & White-browed Rosefinch. There is also the attraction of breathtaking views of KhangchenDzonga, and glimpses on Mount Everest, apart from the delightful forests. Maneybhanjan, 30 kms from Darjeeling (02 hours by jeep) is the starting point for a 5-8 days trek. It is also possible to avoid the steep climb by driving up to the top of the ridge in a jeep along a very bumpy track and then walking.

We will arrange fully serviced trek or drive cum trek to the several birding sites on this circuit On our tours we use a combination of Family lodges, trekker's huts, and fully serviced camping close to birding sites.

The full trek takes 08 days. Shorter versions of four, five, and six days are also available. Drive cum trek requires a minimum of 04 days for productive birding. 

Lava, Neora and Kalimpong

 

Kalimpong is another hill station of the colonial period, which was once the trade center for natural wool from Tibet. The town is located at an elevation of 1200-1400 m, 52 kms from Darjeeling ( 2.30 hrs). It is 8o kms from Bagdogra airport. ( 2.30 hrs) It retains a lot of evergreen trees, and there are protected forests close by. There are several sites for birding close to the town.. Most sites are approachable by jeep, but be prepared for some walking.

 

On our tours we base birders at Kalimpong for birding in the Lava area. However arrangements can be madeat Lava for those who are willing to sacrifice comfort.

Golden Fronted Leafbird

Lava is the prime birding destination in this region, located 35 Kms from Kalimpong.( 1.15 hrs) It is 85 Kms  from Darjeeling via Kalimpong. ( 04 hrs)  Alternativly it is 115 Kms from Bagdogra Airport via Kalimpong (04 hrs). It is a small bazaar 0nce a halting place for caravans on the trade routes to Bhutan and Sikkim. It is now a forest Village with a Buddhist Monastery amidst a sea of evergreen forests at an elevation of 2100 m. Surrounded by very large tracts of protected forests ranging in elevation between 1600 and 2400 m, it includes the remote and uninhabited Neora National Park, and it is a bird watcher's delight.

There are several sites for bird watching and photography around Lava and the adjoining Neora National Park.

The forests have rough roads and walking trails. Birding is feasible from the main roads, however for deeper entry, forest department permission and a guide is required.

Birds recorded during our first tour are:-

Oriental White EyeBar headed Goose, Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Goshawk, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Buzzard, Black Eagle, Mountain HawkEagle, Kalij Pheasant, Oriental Turtle Dove, Spotted Dove, Barred Cuckoo Dove, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Common Cuckoo, Oriental Cuckoo, Greenbilled Malkoha,  Greater Coucal, Brown Wood Owl,  Asian Barred Owlet, Himalayan Swiftlet, Great Barbet, Golden throated Barbet, Grey capped Woodpecker, Greater Yellownape, Barn Swallow, Grey Wagtail, Olive backed Pipit, Black winged Cuckoo Shrike, Short billed Minivet, Striated Bulbul, White cheeked Bulbul, Red vented Bulbul, Black Bulbul, Maroon backed Accentor, Chestnut bellied Rock Thrush, Blue Whistling Thrush, Plain backed Thrush, Grey winged Blackbird, Grey sided Thrush, Dark throated Thrush, Grey bellied Tesia, Brownish flanked Bush Warbler, Aberrant Bush Warbler, Tickell’s Leaf Warbler, Buff barred Warbler, Ashy throated Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, Golden spectacled Warbler, Grey hooded Warbler, Grey cheeked Warbler, Chestnut crowned Warbler, Black faced Warbler, Broad billed Warbler, Siberian Flycatcher, Rufous gorgeted Flycatcher, Snowy browed Flycatcher, Whitegorgeted Flycatcher, Little Pied Flycatcher, Slaty blue Flycatcher, Sapphire Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, Large Niltava, Rufous bellied Niltava, Grey‑headed Canary Flycatcher, Red flanked Bluetail, Rufous breasted Bush Robin, Blue fronted Redstart, White capped Redstart, Plumbeous Redstart, Little Forktail, Spotted Forktail, Common Stonechat, Grey Bushchat, Yellow bellied Fantail, White throated Fantail, White throated Laughingthrush, Striated Laughingthrush,Grey‑sided Laughing Thrush, Scaly Laughingthrush, Blue winged Laughingthrush,  Chestnut crowned Laughingthrush, Red faced Liocichla, Spot breasted Scimitar Babbler, Rusty cheeked Scimitar Babbler, White browed Scimitar Babbler, Long billed Wren Babbler, Rufous throated Scimitar Babbler, Spotted Wren Babbler, Rufous capped Babbler, Golden Babbler, Grey throated Babbler, Silver eared Mesia, Red billed Leiothrix, Black headed Shrike Babbler, White browed Shrike Babbler, Black eared Shrike Babbler, Rusty fronted Barwing, Hoary throated Barwing, Blue winged Minla, Chestnut tailed Minla, Red tailed Minla, Yellow throated Fulvetta, Rufous winged Fulvetta, White browed Fulvetta, Nepal Fulvetta, Rufous Sibia, White naped Yuhina, Whiskered Yuhina, Stripe throated Yuhina, Rufous vented Yuhina, Black throated Tit, Black browed Tit, Coal Tit, Green backed Tit, Yellow cheeked Tit, Yellow browed Tit, White tailed Nuthatch, Eurasian Treecreeper, Rusty flanked Treecreeper, Brown throated Treecreeper, Green tailed Sunbird, Fire tailed Sunbird, Little Spiderhunter, Bay backed Shrike, Long tailed Shrike, Ashy Drongo, Hair crested Drongo , Green Magpie, Grey Treepie, House Crow, Large billed Crow, Common Myna, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, White rumped Munia, Plain Mountain Finch, Crimson browed Finch, Dark breasted Rosefinch, Dark rumped Rosefinch, Tibetan Serin, Brown Bullfinch, Red headed Bullfinch, Gold Naped Finch, Little Bunting.

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Other birds that can be seen: -Hill Partridge, Rufous throated Partridge, Satyr Tragopan, Wedge tailed Green Pigeon, Speckled Wood Pigeon, Ashy Wood Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Lesser Cuckoo, Mountain Scops Owl, Fork Tailed Swift, Ward's Trogon, Great Hornbill, White browed Piculet, Crimson breasted Woodpecker, Lesser Yellownape, Long tailed Broadbill, Mountain Bulbul, Orange bellied Leafbird, Long billed Thrush, Chestnut Thrush, Eyebrowed Thrush, Dusky Thrush, Rusty
bellied Shortwing, Gould’s Shortwing, Lesser Shortwing, White browed Shortwing, Chestnut headed Tesia, Slat bellied Tesia, Russet Bush Warbler, White spectacled Warbler, Pygmy Blue Flycatcher, Golden Bush Robin, White browed Bush Robin, Blue fronted Robin, Spotted Laughingthrush, Coral billed Scimitar Babbler, Scaly breasted Wren Babbler, Cutia, Golden breasted Fulvetta, Fire tailed Myzornis, Black Throated Sunbird, Streaked Spiderhunter, Fire breasted Flowerpecker, Maroon Oriole, Common Rosefinch, Red Crossbill.

At Lava, the reasonable  accommodation is in the Forest Rest House, but the number of rooms is limited, and availability is at a premium during the season. On our tours we stay at Gurudongma House, Kalimpong hosted by General "Jimmy" Singh. We also provide fully serviced camping trek to the Neora National Park

Lava will need at the least four days. Do remember that densities are not high, and birding is slower. In March 2002, Jan Vermeulen, Eric Willie , Vittal Van Gorp and Peter Lobo   recorded    156 species over 05 days. Click on trip reports for more details.

Samthar-Ponbu

Samthar ViewThis is still an unexplored area, and birders with a pioneering spirit and strong legs will love the experience. The terrain around Samthar comprises interlocking ridges with forest cover on the top and terraces lower down. Water courses ( local name “Jhora” for smaller ones and “Khola” for larger ones) form deep valleys, with bio-diverse flora. They feed the Samthar Khola on the North, The Lish River in the East, the Suruk Khola in the West and the Ponbu Khola in the South. All lead to the Teesta River. Large tracts of reserve forest also exist. The area is criss-crossed by many easy walking trails. One of these trails descends to the Teesta Valley and provides access to the Sikkim Highway via a hand pulled ropeway over the Teesta River. Scattered homesteads are the usual form of habitation.

We have identified several birding hot spots. Several virgin areas remain. Birders are welcome to explore these virgin areas.

Long-Tailed BroadbillMost of the species occurring below 2500 meters around Lava are present around Samthar -Ponbu- Dong areas. Species recorded by us :   White browed shrike babbler, Blue throated barbet, Longtail Broadbill, Ashy bulbul, Brandt’s mountain finch, Pygmy blue flycatcher (female), Verditer flycatcher, Greater yellownaped, Common Kestrel, Orange bellied leafbird, Red billed leitohrix, Common green magpie, cGreen billed malkoha, Blue winged Minla, Chestnut tailed Minla, Red tailed Minla, Hill Myna, Velvet fronted nuthatch, Spotted owlet, Paddy field pipit, Fire tailed sunbird, Mrs Gould’s sunbird, Streaked spiderhunter, Little spiderhunter, Yellow bellied flowerpecker, Orange bellied flowerpecker, Blacklored tit, Yellow cheeked tit, Blue whistling thrush, Grey treepie, Rufous treepie, Grey capped pygmy woodpecker, Lesser yellownaped woodpecker, Grey cheeked              wabbler, Tickell’s leaf wabbler, Lemon rumped wabbler, Ashy throat wabbler, Greenish wabbler, Large cuckooshrike, Small Minvet, Short-billed minvet, Long-tailed minivet, Scarlet minivet, White bellied yuhnia, Bar-winged flycatcher shrike, Bay - backed shrike, White capped water redstart, Common Stonechat, Rufous sibia. There are many more.

The Samthar area is connected to Lava by a 52 Kms forest road, which is partly a wilderness trail. This forested drive via Lolegaon, offers good birding. Two short two hours each, treks are in- cooperated to make it a full days excursion. The route traverses evergreen forests, terraced fields, and small hamlets making it a nature & culture experience apart from the birding enroute.

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Tour options for non-birding spouse/friends: www.gurudongma.com.
 
 

Bird photographs by Yashodhan Bhatia,

Ronald Saldino,  Niels Poul Dryer, Ketil Knudsen
Kalypso Adventures & Gurudongma Team
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Gurudongma Tours & Treks

Gurudongma House

Hill Top, Kalimpong, 73430, India

 

Phone & Fax: +91-3552-255204

Mobile: +91 94340- 47372

 

E-mail: guruttbsnl.in

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