Report: Birding in Mishmi Hills, Arunachal Pradesh, March 2018

Author: Ravi Kailas

Ward’s Trogon, an inhabitant of the moss-laden, temperate broad-leaved forests of the Eastern Himalaya

This is brief note from a bird-watching oriented trip to Roing Grasslands and Mishmi Hills (Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary), in the Eastern Himalayas of Arunachal Pradesh 

Please follow link for a complete picture gallery from this trip

Dates: 17th to 23rd March 2018

Locations: Roing Grasslands – Sally Lake – Mishmi Foothills – Tiwari Gaon – Coffee House – Myodia Pass. This is among the classic birding itineraries, where a broad elevational gradient, its associated diversity of habitat and birdlife, is traversed on a relatively easy road (elevational range from around 200m near Roing to 2655m at Myodia pass, encompassing Terai Grasslands, Sub-tropical Evergreen and Temperate Broad-leaved Forests)

Accommodation: DS Hotel (Roing); Coffee House (Myodia Pass)

Highlights: Over 170 species of birds* in five days of intense birding, including excellent species such as Ward’s Trogon, Red-faced Liochicla, Bengal Florican, Mishmi Wren Babbler, Jerdon’s and Marsh Babblers, Black-throated Parrotbill, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Scarlet Finch, Gold-naped Finch, Himalayan Cutia, Barred Cuckoo Dove, Lesser Coucal, Golden Babbler, Rufous Backed Sibia, Slaty-backed and Black-backed Forktails, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Black Eagle (and numerous birds of prey), various Laughingthrushes/Bulbuls/Flycatchers/Warblers, a plethora of Fulvettas, Yuhinas, Sibias, Parrotbills, Minlas, other Babblers etc whizzing around, often in famed ‘waves’, in the forest understory as is typical of these superbly diverse Eastern Himalayan Forests. We heard, but could not see the iconic Blyth’s Tragopan. Hats off to Adesh Shivkar (from Nature India) and Ravi Meloka (local bird guide), whose phenomenal ears for bird calls and behaviour of the region unravelled this incredibly rich, but impossible to find by sight alone, birdlife. Alas, the splendid birding of India’s northeast is rarely easy given the difficulty of finding birds in the undergrowth, and also the inevitable confusion of which ones to focus on when those waves whizz past you!

Strikingly, but not unexpectedly (given the local propensity to hunt), barring few and far between sightings of Hoolock Gibbon, Himalayan Marten and a handful of forest squirrels, mammal sightings were nil, in what appeared to be an extensive, albeit disturbed wilderness of the Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary.

A distant Eastern Hoolock Gibbon at Sally Lake – one of the few mammal sightings of the trip

The hill forests itself appeared superbly diverse, with many species in spring inflorescence – but threats in the form of the traditional practise of slash and burn agriculture and other ‘development’ oriented activities such as road widening can potentially whittle away the riches of these forests. The Roing Grasslands – typical Terai habitat – home for rarities like Jerdon’s and Marsh Babblers, Black-throated Parrotbill and Bengal Florican – seemed relatively pristine, but without protection, could soon disappear under expanding demand for farmland from a growing local population.

While it rained the evening we arrived in Roing and, intermittently, the following day, we were lucky to have dry, crisp, clear days (and star filled nights) subsequently – a blessing in a region known for unpredictable weather. We were so far east, that our days started very early and given the logistics of distances, long. Food while on the road, was often simple, packed rotis-subji-rice substituted with goodies (read, largely namkeen Gujarati style!) from afar. When we had to stop to eat in the few and far between local outlets, food was usually Maggi, Dal, Chawal and some local greens (for the veggies), with an addition of pork and eggs for the non-veggies. The adventurous may want to try the local version of raw beetlenut – quite a sensation, but cant say all pleasant! In all this a special mention of Coffee House (be warned, the name somehow conveys things about the place, which is the exact opposite of what it actually is) – our accommodation up in the hills for three, err, unpleasant nights. Pretty much the only thing going for it is its lovely location close to Myodia Pass and all else goes hurtling downhill from there – the mouldy bed ‘linen’, broken toilet, the cold that somehow seems to sneak through the ramshackle building to get under your thermal clad skin … ! But it is all worth it, when you exploring the among the most biodiverse regions on Earth.

Cobra Lily. The Eastern Himalayas are known to host among the greatest diversity of plants on Earth

*Checklist (incomplete) of Birds Sighted

Row #SpeciesCountLocationS/PDate
1Oriental Turtle-DoveRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
2Barred Cuckoo-DoveSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
3Bengal Florican1RoingIN-AR23 Mar 2018
4Lesser Coucal1RoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
5Banded Bay CuckooMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
6Large Hawk-CuckooMehao WLSIN-AR22 Mar 2018
7Himalayan SwiftletMehao WLSIN-AR22 Mar 2018
8White-breasted WaterhenMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
9Common SandpiperRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
10Black-winged KiteRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
11Crested Serpent-EagleMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
12Short-toed Snake-EagleRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
13Mountain Hawk-EagleMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
14Rufous-bellied EagleMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
15Black EagleMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
16Eurasian SparrowhawkMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
17Black KiteRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
18Ward’s TrogonMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
19Common KingfisherSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
20Great BarbetMehao WLSIN-AR22 Mar 2018
21Golden-throated BarbetMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
22Fulvous-breasted WoodpeckerMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
23Darjeeling WoodpeckerMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
24Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrikeMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
25Short-billed MinivetMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
26Black-eared Shrike-BabblerMehao WLSIN-AR22 Mar 2018
27Ashy DrongoSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
28Bronzed DrongoSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
29Lesser Racket-tailed DrongoSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
30Hair-crested DrongoSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
31White-throated FantailSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
32Eurasian JayMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
33Yellow-billed Blue-MagpieMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
34Bengal BushlarkRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
35Yellow-bellied Fairy-FantailSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
36Yellow-browed TitMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
37Sultan TitMehao WLSIN-AR22 Mar 2018
38Yellow-cheeked TitMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
39Black-throated TitMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
40White-tailed NuthatchMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
41Striated BulbulMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
42Red-whiskered BulbulSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
43Black BulbulSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
44Ashy BulbulMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
45Mountain BulbulMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
46Scaly-breasted CupwingMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
47Gray-sided Bush WarblerMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
48Yellow-bellied WarblerSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
49Black-faced WarblerMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
50Mountain TailorbirdMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
51Ashy-throated WarblerMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
52Gray-cheeked WarblerMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
53Chestnut-crowned WarblerMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
54Gray-hooded WarblerMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
55Striated GrassbirdRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
56Hill PriniaMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
57Yellow-bellied PriniaRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
58Fire-tailed MyzornisMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
59Golden-breasted FulvettaMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
60Jerdon’s Babbler1RoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
61Streak-throated FulvettaMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
62Rufous-headed ParrotbillMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
63Black-breasted ParrotbillRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
64Black-throated ParrotbillMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
65Striated YuhinaMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
66White-naped YuhinaMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
67Stripe-throated YuhinaMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
68Oriental White-eyeSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
69Chestnut-capped BabblerRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
70Pin-striped Tit-BabblerRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
71Golden BabblerMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
72Rufous-capped BabblerMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
73Rusty-throated Wren-BabblerMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
74Bar-winged Wren-BabblerMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
75Slender-billed Scimitar-BabblerMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
76Streak-breasted Scimitar-BabblerMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
77Gray-throated BabblerRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
78Yellow-throated FulvettaMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
79Marsh BabblerRoingIN-AR23 Mar 2018
80Long-billed Wren-BabblerMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
81Ludlow’s FulvettaMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
82Nepal FulvettaMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
83Himalayan CutiaMehao WLSIN-AR22 Mar 2018
84Striated BabblerRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
85Spot-breasted LaughingthrushMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
86Rufous-necked LaughingthrushRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
87Gray-sided LaughingthrushMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
88Black-faced LaughingthrushMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
89Beautiful SibiaSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
90Long-tailed SibiaSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
91Silver-eared MesiaMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
92Red-tailed MinlaMehao WLSIN-AR22 Mar 2018
93Rufous-backed SibiaMehao WLSIN-AR22 Mar 2018
94Red-faced LiocichlaMehao WLSIN-AR22 Mar 2018
95Streak-throated BarwingMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
96Rusty-fronted BarwingMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
97Blue-winged MinlaRoingIN-AR23 Mar 2018
98Blue-throated FlycatcherMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
99Large NiltavaMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
100Small NiltavaMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
101BluethroatRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
102Blue Whistling-ThrushMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
103Black-backed ForktailSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
104Slaty-backed ForktailSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
105Himalayan BluetailMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
106White-browed Bush-RobinMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
107Slaty-blue FlycatcherMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
108Rufous-gorgeted FlycatcherSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
109Little Pied FlycatcherSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
110Hodgson’s RedstartSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
111Daurian RedstartSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
112Chestnut-bellied Rock-ThrushMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
113Chestnut ThrushMehao WLSIN-AR22 Mar 2018
114Common MynaRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
115Jungle MynaRoingIN-AR23 Mar 2018
116Great MynaRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
117Orange-bellied LeafbirdSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
118Fire-breasted FlowerpeckerMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
119Fire-tailed SunbirdMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
120Black-throated SunbirdMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
121Green-tailed SunbirdMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
122Crimson SunbirdMehao WLSIN-AR22 Mar 2018
123Streaked SpiderhunterSally LakeIN-AR18 Mar 2018
124Olive-backed PipitRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
125Scarlet FinchMehao WLSIN-AR19 Mar 2018
126Dark-rumped RosefinchMehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
127Gold-naped Finch2Mehao WLSIN-AR21 Mar 2018
128Dark-breasted RosefinchMehao WLSIN-AR20 Mar 2018
129Little BuntingMehao WLSIN-AR22 Mar 2018
130House SparrowRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018
131Eurasian Tree SparrowRoingIN-AR18 Mar 2018

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